Director: Jack Bravman
Code Red DVD

Unreleased films have always fascinated me. It’s hard for me to fathom a studio or a producer investing so much time and money into a project, only to turn around and decide not to release it, be it theatrical or otherwise. I can remember reading about an unreleased Roger Corman produced "Fantastic Four" film back in the 1990s and absolutely chomping at the bit to get me hands on it. The simple fact that the movie existed had my brain whirling. Why would they choose not to release it? Was it really that bad? I had to see this movie! A buddy of mine was eventually able to acquire a hazy VHS copy of said film and well… it’s still better then those two turds Jessica Alba was in. That day I learned a valuable lesson. There is generally a very good reason why a producer or a studio would decide to sit on a film rather than release it to the public.

Stan Bates (Gregory Calpakis) has gotten used to riding the bench, but this year looks likes it’s going to be his season to shine. Not because he’s stepped up his game or because his jump shot has improved, but because a killer who calls himself the Dribbler has been killing his team mates, one by one. Donning a comical basketball mask, the Dribbler has been taking his anger out on which ever poor sap happens to be team captain at the time. Despite his chances of getting to play increasing with each murder, Stan's lack of confidence has him doubting both himself and his abilities as a baller. Taking extreme measures Stan undergoes hypnosis to boost his confidence, hopeful that he will finally get a chance to prove to his father, Master Bates - who with his pipe always at the ready bears a remarkable likeness to J. R. "Bob" Dobbs, the iconic figurehead of the Church of the SubGenius - and his introverted goth girlfriend, that he has what it takes to lead the school to victory.

I’ve seen much worse mind you but NIGHT OF THE DRIBBLER is pretty damn bad. The picture's biggest problem is that it falls into the unfortunate category of "just plain forgettable". If Code Red hadn’t released it, I doubt this title would have shown up on anybody's radar, whether they had seen it before or not. Horror elements are almost non-existent as the film's kills are played for comedy rather than scares, establishing shots establish absolutely nothing and the gratuitous shower scene, the one place in which the film could have found itself a saving grace, features no gratuitous nudity! Considering it’s supposed to be a comedy, one would at least hope that a few of the jokes would strike a chord but sadly most deflate before their punchlines get a chance to hit their mark. The few moments of levity that do briefly raise their head are almost always thanks to comedian and impressionist Fred Travalena, who sadly passed away in June of 2009.

DRIBBLER is structured as a showcase for Fred, who plays multiple roles throughout the film, including hardnosed detective Danny Gibson, an obvious nod to LETHAL WEAPON, and stern Coach Cherry. Both characters have running gags that are, in a word, tedious. Travalena’s best character is the appropriately monikered, Dick Airhead, a sports radio caster in desperate need of ritalin. As Dick, Fred rattles off one impression after the other, occasionally educing a harrumph or two but any chance of an actual laugh or even the hint of a giggle are quickly shot down by the film's general lack of appeal.

Released for the first time anywhere, NIGHT OF THE DRIBBLER is presented full-frame in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, per the director’s request. Having been locked in a vault for close to two decades, I imagine the picture looks as good as it’s ever going to. The print shows no signs of wear or tear and coloring is sufficient, though the image does often lack detail. Audio is on hand in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track.

Extras include an audio commentary track with star Fred Travalena and Scott Spiegel (INTRUDER), moderated by “Beat the Geeks” Movie Geek, Marc Edward Hueck. The three men spend most of the track pointing out the film's obvious flaws and in doing so, are a thousand times funnier than the film itself. Fred also gets a chance to talk about his career, including his many late night television guest appearances as well as showcasing a number of his impressions. A six minute on camera interview with Gerorge Thomas allows the actor to explain why his character “Hi Top” walks and talks like Elvis and is presented alongside the film's original trailer. Trailers for CHEERLEADERS WILD WEEKEND, DEVIL'S EXPRESS, STUNT ROCK, WEEKEND MURDERS, THE INTERNECINE PROJECT and RITUALS, whose DVD release was recently delayed by Code Red (a damn shame since the trailer does such a tremendous job of wetting one's appetite), are also included to round out a rather befuddling release from Code Red. (Jason McElreath)