PIGS (1972) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Marc Lawrence
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome restores character actor Marc Lawrence's tour-de-force theatrical effort PIGS to long unseen original director's cut on Blu-ray/DVD combo after years of availability in severely compromised forms.

Having escaped from an extended hospital stay disguised as a nurse, young Lynn Webster (Toni Lawrence, SOLE SURVIVOR) ends up at the desert café of reclusive Zambrini (Marc Lawrence, MARATHON MAN) in search of a job and boarding. She is not the only one disturbed in the night by the squeals of Zambrini's giant pigs, whose nocturnal feedings have lead to the believe among his superstitious neighbors that he feeds them human corpses and their spirits become the pigs (which the former circus performer then eats). Far from afraid of her boss, Lynn starts to see him as a father figure and becomes fascinated with daddy's razor. The local sheriff (Jesse Vint, MACON COUNTY LINE) answers repeated complaints from spinster Miss Macy (Katherine Ross, HARLOW) and invalid sister Annette (Iris Korn, WHITE LIGHTNING) that Zambrini lets his ghost pigs run loose at night, but he does not take the rumors seriously until he is called to investigate a number of disappearances, including that of randy oil worker Ben (Don Skylar) and a hospital representative (Jim Antonio, FUTUREWORLD) who comes in search of Lynn.

PIGS was released, recut, reshot, and reissued throughout the 1970s and early 1980s under about as many titles as Tobe Hooper's EATEN ALIVE, with which it shares some of the same queasy atmosphere. The film's sound design is largely composed of a sort of musique concrete of human screams and pig squeals (anticipating in a way the score of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) along with some supportive but unobtrusive cues by Charles Bernstein (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) who also contributes the catchy theme song "Somewhere Down the Road" and penned the "Papa Bear" lullaby woven throughout the scenes of Lynn's psychosis. Lawrence the elder – who directed a handful of episodic television shows and co-directed NIGHTMARE IN THE SUN with John Derek (BOLERO) before this – turns in a jittery performance, kinder to the corpses he cuts up than the nosy living. He seems to be directing the other actors through his performance, challenging their line readings as vague statements and seeming to enact a strange psychodrama with his daughter until they eventually do seem to be feeding off each other's madness. The film's loose construction is alternately dreamy and haphazard, assembled out of a ten day shoot with Lawrence (according to the disc's interviews) believing his cut to be a failure until the music and effects were added. In its original director's cut (more on the various reissues below), PIGS is a one-of-a-kind piece of quasi-arty psychodrama with elements ripe for the grindhouse that the distributors would soon exploit.

Released by distributor Classic Films as PIGS, the distributors – as explained in the intertitles for the poster gallery – eventually bought out Lawrence's interest in the film and recruited him to shoot a new opening with an exorcism for which they then released the film again in 1974 throughout the 1970s under variations of THE STRANGE EXORCISM OF LYNN HART, LOVE EXORCIST, and BLOOD PEN. Donald Reynolds acquired the film and reshot the opening and closing for a release as DADDY'S GIRL and the film was later bought by Terry Levene's Aquarius Releasing who put it out in 1984 under the better-known DADDY'S DEADLY DARLINGS title using the DADDY'S GIRL re-edit (see below). The film went out on video under as many retitlings including Paragon's DADDY'S DEADLY DARLINGS, Nite Flite's THE KILLER, Simitar's PIGS, and a UK release as ROADSIDE TORTURE CHAMBER. The film eventually came under the ownership of Troma and their "digitally remastered" DVD was anything but (its running time was roughly the same as the 80:36 running time here, but it is the DADDY'S GIRL version with part of the Reynolds prologue lopped off, presumably an augmentation by Aquarius). Vinegar Syndrome has reconstructed the film's director's cut (in a 1.85:1 ratio and 1080p) from a 2K scan of the 35mm interpositive with select shots derived from theatrical prints. The variations in quality are not as easy to distinguish from the original cinematography which sports heavy underexposure grain in the night scenes and even some of the deep shadows in the sunny exteriors; nevertheless, I have no doubt that this is the best the film has ever looked on home video formats (probably theatrically too considering cheap processing, the recutting, and the heavy theatrical play). The improved detail also reveals sculpted wounds in a razor slashing where before there seemed to be just brushstrokes of fake blood. The onscreen title for this version is THE 13th PIG, the meaning of which is revealed in the final scene. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track is clean and quite effectively renders Bernstein's score and the ear-splitting pig squeals and screams of the soundtrack. Optional English SDH credits are included that make a couple minor transcription errors but also transcribe all of the song lyrics.

The film can also be viewed with an audio interview over the phone with cinematographer Glenn Roland (R.O.T.O.R.) who discusses his beginnings shooting 16mm shorts as a kid with a friend whose father was a special effects cameraman, his education, his first feature credits as a cameraman and gaffer like CLAY PIGEON, and his other DP credits including the first two ILSA films. Actress Lawrence (14:15) appears in a new interview in which she suggests that her father's "fractured" psyche after his experience during the McCarthy era – which lead to a six year stay with the family in Italy during which he appeared in a handful of American co-productions like CUSTER OF THE WEST and some bottom-of-the-barrel Italian exploitation like THE KING OF KONG ISLAND – shaped his concept of the film. She also discusses the emotionally draining ten day shoot, acting opposite her father and receiving direction from him (she characterizes herself and her father as instinctual actors, meaning that his direction consisted of telling what he wanted rather than guiding his performers to where he wanted). Composer Bernstein (13:35) recalls how he met Lawrence through his artist son Michael (who painted the circus backdrop artwork seen in the film as a gift intended for Fellini but misspelled his first name), and how Lawrence the elder pitched the film initially and how his concept of it changed throughout the shooting. He does not think much of the film but admires Lawrence for putting his all into it (including his home mortgage) and also discusses the theme song which he performed for lack of funds to hire another vocalist and the "Papa Bear" song performed by Toni Lawrence. The poster and artwork gallery (4:20) is more than a montage of posters and video covers, including some promotional articles on the film that quote Lawrence as well as intertitles that chart its distribution history and the chronology of its various titles.

The alternate "Exorcism" opening (3:12) comes from a print bearing the title BLOOD PEN and is even more shameless an addition than Alfredo Leone's augmentations to the HOUSE OF EXORCISM version of LISA AND THE DEVIL. Even more cynical and intelligence-insulting are the opening and closing scenes (5:49 and 5:12, respectively) for the reissue version is Donald Reynolds' DADDY'S GIRL release which opens with a series of moments with Lynn at various ages with her father before an incredibly ridiculous title card that makes it seem like a sex comedy. Lawrence is then doubled by a man in a wig approximating her hairstyle for some added inserts and the ending dumps the tie-in to the 13th PIG title in favor of a "surprise" ending. The results are so awful they must be seen to be believed (and you probably have seen them if you've seen DADDY'S DEADLY DARLINGS). The PIGS theatrical trailer (1:41) is the only place on the disc where you will see the disc's title attached to the film (apart from the poster and video gallery art). The "Love Exorcism" theatrical trailer (2:13) comes from the reissue version titled LOVE EXORCIST, a variation on the LYNN HART retitlings. The combo comes with a reversible cover. (Eric Cotenas)