MICROWAVE MASSACRE (1983) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Wayne Berwick
Arrow Video USA

Rock bottom goes 2K with Arrow Video's Blu-ray/DVD combo restoration of the undeserving MICROWAVE MASSACRE.

Construction worker Donald (comedian Jackie Vernon, TV's FROSTY THE SNOWMAN) is either starving or getting heartburn from his pretentiously tacky wife May's (Claire Ginsberg) experiments with gourmet "q-sine" and her expensive new Major Electronics microwave oven. While buddies Roosevelt (Roosevelt) and Phillip (Al Troupe) go to Sam's bar for the T&A, Donald just goes there for the junk food (having lost his sex drive along with his appetite for his wife's cooking). It isn't long before he predictably loses it and kills his wife, sawing her up and making room for her in the garage freezer ("I don't want her any more spoiled than she already was"). When he goes for a midnight snack and finds himself eating her hand, he decides to do some experimental cooking of his own. When his buddies sample his sack lunch and remark that the meat is a little tough, Donald starts trolling the streets of the city for hookers and finding his sex drive renewed only with his soon-to-be victims ("I'm so hungry, I could eat a whore"). Soon it seems as though more than his pacemaker is acting up around the microwave oven when his wife's head gets into the habit of turning up in the oddest places. Is he going mad or are his meals repeating on him?

Going direct to video in the early 1980s in spite of the intentions of its producers, MICROWAVE MASSACRE – from second-generation schlock purveyor Wayne Berwick (son of MALIBU HIGH's and MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS's Irv Berwick) – is not quite the BLOOD DINER-esque gorefest expected from the promotional artwork. The horror elements and the impact of what gore is present is undercut less so by the effects than by the film's heavy reliance on both shtick and Vernon's rather hangdog delivery of everything from exposition to one-liners. Rather than livening up the film, the T&A reeks of desperation and from giant but veiny breasts popping through a conveniently-shaped knothole in the construction site fencing to a busty bare torso slathered with mayonnaise and then covered with a giant piece of white cardboard or Styrofoam meant to be a large slice of white bread. Swinger neighbors, Donald's oblivious doctor and his sexy secretary, and the whining of bartender-turned-reluctant confessor Sam (Phil De Carlo, NIGHT RIPPER!) fill out the running time of one-take coverage. Fans of the film on video will get a perverse thrill out of seeing it in HD, and it looks great thanks to the well-lit but otherwise bland photography of Karen Grossman (THE SLAYER) – assisted by Arledge Armanaki (DEATH SPA), Roberto Quesada (PHANTASM), and Daryn Okada (HALLOWEEN: H20) – and deliberately tacky if atypically un-macabre production design by Robert Burns (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE). The music is credited to Leif Horvath, but it all sounds like library music.

Released directly to video after half-a-decade without a distributor in 1983 by Midnight Video (the big box company that put out the Andy Milligan films, not the later mail order company) and then again in 1990 by Rhino Home Video, MICROWAVE MASSACRE looks so spectacular in its 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen encode that it makes one physically ache for like presentations of better 1970s and 1980s horror movies. The English LPCM 1.0 mono track is in excellent condition with the fidelity of the library music dependent on its age of the tracks. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.

Included is an audio commentary with director Wayne Berwick and writer and producer Craig Muckler, moderated by Mike Tristano in which they reveal that they initially wanted Rodney Dangerfield for the lead, using Micky Dolenz's home for the principal setting (presumably the tacky décor was the contribution of Burns since the Monkee was moving out), the original title sequence meant to be shot in a grocery store before the management pulled out, the typically starved shooting ratio, shopping the film around for five years during which they added more and more T&A and gore while cutting down slower bits (while admitting that a lot of slow bits still remain as the script sportswriter Thomas Singer brought them from the outline was pretty much all shtick for Vernon). The featurette "My MICROWAVE MASSACRE Memoirs" (21:05) includes some overlap from Berwick and Muckler while adding actor Schein. Berwick discusses his father's career and appearing in THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS as a child and meeting Schein as teenagers, while Muckler recalls taking a class in producing taught by Berwick Sr. and then hiring him to direct MALIBU HIGH which was co-produced and written by Singer. Schein discusses working with Vernon and the comedian's surprisingly astute observations of the film's unintended subtext. An image gallery and trailer (1:24) are also included. Also included as DVD-ROM .pdf extras are eight- and eighteen-page typewritten treatments of the film. Not provided for review are the combo's reversible sleeve artwork and booklet containing new writing about the film by Stephen Thrower. (Eric Cotenas)