Vinegar Syndrome remasters two of David De Coteau's early "erotic thrillers" starring Linnea Quigley in HD for the first time on home video in a Blu-ray/DVD combo of MURDER WEAPON and DEADLY EMBRACE.
In MURDER WEAPON, Dawn (Quigley) and Amy (Karen Russell, VICE ACADEMY) are mob princesses who met in the mental hospital (Amy having a compulsion to date abusive guys and Dawn having been the sole survivor of a fire that killed the rest of her family). Making a deal that the one who gets out first will throw a "hell of a party" for the other, Dawn blackmails her randy therapist (Lenny Rose, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 2) into signing her release. When Amy gets out – after having seemingly satisfied her therapist (THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW's Lyle Waggoner) of her progress despite her recurring nightmares in which unhinged rocker boyfriend Eric (Mike Jacobs Jr., AMERICAN RAMPAGE) murders her – Dawn invites her ex Jeff (Eric Freeman, GHOST WRITER) and Dawn's exes Kevin (Stephen Steward, VICE ACADEMY), Cary (Allen First, AMERICAN RAMPAGE), Billy (Richard Sebastian, DREAM A LITTLE EVIL), Bart (Rodger Burt, LADY AVENGER), as well as Eric over to Amy's father's compound for beer, swimming, tanning, and sex. As the guys pair off with Amy and Dawn and are subsequently brutally murdered, the survivors suspect that a rival of Amy's father has put a hit on Amy and her guests, but the truth may be even more disturbing.
An inversion of the slasher formula in which the scantily-clad guys are murdered after sex or in search of sex – with effects by David P. Barton (HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS) that are alternately accomplished (a gorier take on the arrow through the bed scene from FRIDAY THE 13TH) or ropey (a shotgun to the face effect that is at first laughable but has an icky payoff) – MURDER WEAPON still boasts plenty of T&A from Quigley, Russell, and Victoria Nesbitt (LINNEA QUIGLEY'S HORROR WORKOUT) as Dawn's sister in the extended opening flashback (not to mention clips on TV from NIGHTMARE SISTERS that are careful to crop out Quigley) for those who are not fans of De Coteau's later male-oriented softcore horror films (for those that are, there is a good helping of beefcake on view as well). The film starts out with an extended nightmare flashback shot MOS with droning underscore that looks as though it was composed of every single frame of usable film De Coteau shot for it, but the film livens up once the party gets underway. The flashbacks between Quigley and Rose and Russell and Waggoner are welcome if only because they offer the film's most serious and professional acting bits (with Quigley and Russell attempting to flesh out their characters).
Released direct to laserdisc by Image Entertainment (with a separate video release by Cinema Home Video), MURDER WEAPON's earlier DVD release in 2013 as part of the "Linnea Quigley Grindhouse Triple Feature" with DEADLY EMBRACE and NIGHTMARE SISTERS was derived from the laserdisc master. Vinegar Syndrome's new 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is derived from a 2K scan of the 16mm original camera negatives once thought lost. The image is relatively slick and colorful, grainier than NIGHTMARE SISTERS but in keeping with the "erotic thriller" look of the late eighties and nineties DTV examples of the genre. Although the older video masters were unmatted, the framing here reveals not only a light and stand but also a technician standing beside it in one shot that becomes unintentionally hilarious. While I have not seen the earlier transfer, the main titles seem to have been newly-created. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track clearly delivers the dialogue, droning score, and occasionally under-equipped sound effects track. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.
The film is accompanied by an optional director's introduction (2:26) and an audio commentary by director David De Coteau and actress Linnea Quigley. While the NIGHTMARE SISTERS track had De Coteau delivering much of the factoids and Quigley the anecdotes and drawing from her experience on other shoots to relate to some of De Coteau's technically-oriented discussion, Quigley was co-producer on this film and far more involved from pre-production onward. They recall the original house Quigley secured for the film that they vacated after two days of strange behavior from the owner (along with some distracting pornographic wallpaper in the bathroom briefly glimpsed in the film). Quigley recalls trying to shoo off friends of the crew who showed up for the nude scenes, acting as stand-in for the gore inserts shot on a soundstage used mainly for porn at the time, and her dislike of wearing prosthetic make-up (Barton was hired through her then-husband Steve Johnson). The two also make fun of the preponderance of short shorts and mullets on the guys. De Coteau reveals that he cast Freeman based on his appearance in SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 2 (contacting him through Rose who also appeared in that film) and that the actor insisted on doing his own make-up (which is why De Coteau insists that his make-up artists do not put eyeliner on male actors). The film's video trailer (1:24) is included.
In DEADLY EMBRACE, businessman Stewart Moreland (Jan Michael Vincent, THE RETURN) tires of his wife Charlotte (Mindi Miller, BODY DOUBLE) but learns from his lawyer (Jack Carter, ALLIGATOR) that he will forfeit half of his business empire if he leaves her for secretary DeDe (Ruth Collins, DOOM ASYLUM). Having already hired studly college student Chris (Ken Abraham, CREEPOZOIDS) as pool boy, Stewart hopes to bribe him into having an affair with Charlotte; however, lonely Charlotte has already had similar ideas after spying on Chris in his room through a false mirror. The affair between pool boy and trophy wife, however, comes to an abrupt end when Chris' actress girlfriend Michelle (Quigley) comes to stay for a few days and pushes Charlotte over the deep end. A somewhat more traditional "erotic thriller" than MURDER WEAPON, DEADLY EMBRACE has the formula down for the most part years before BASIC INSTINCT launched an entire subgenre of pseudo-noir unrated erotic thrillers that glutted the video store walls. Guest star Vincent really has about as much bearing on the plot as top-billed Waggoner in MURDER WEAPON, but Miller is a nice discovery and owns much of the picture with a series of longing looks.
DEADLY EMBRACE was released direct to VHS by Prism Entertainment in 1989, and that master was presumably the source for the 2013 DVD edition. Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is derived from the original 16mm materials, and the photography of Thomas L. Callaway (SHE CREATURE) is glossy, glistening, and detailed as the film element allows. As De Coteau mentions in the commentary, the film was shot in 16mm with a CP-16 camera and some shots were unusable because they were scratched in the camera while a few scenes during the climax exhibiting such scratches were left in presumably because they were more essential and could not be reshot. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track is about the same as MURDER WEAPON, rather basic in terms of sound design but boasting clear dialogue and scoring. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.
De Coteau appears in an optional intro (1:55) and with Quigley appear in another commentary track. Both are surprised at how graphic this film was compared to their other eighties works but speaking fondly of Abraham (who De Coteau met as an extra while he was working craft service on TOUGH TURF) – who worked out and starved himself before the shoots to the point that he would actually eat the food provided for the dinner scenes – of Miller's beauty and acting ability, and Vincent who was on hiatus from AIR WOLF but much more professional and well-behaved than suggested by his reputation. Quigley recalls an entire day of changing outfits and rushing into the frame to answer phone calls for Michelle's early scenes apart from Chris while De Coteau reveals that additional scenes of Michelle Bauer as the "spirit of sex" augmenting the fantasy images of Quigley shot by Stephen Ashley Blake (DEADLY PREY) were added when the film ran short. The outtakes (2:53) include the scratched reverse angles of Abraham during the dinner scene (in the finished film, he remains off-screen entirely). The back cover mentions a reversible cover, but it is just a panoramic shot of a still without any alternate artwork or text. (Eric Cotenas)
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