SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986) Blu-ray
Directors: George Dugdale, Mark Ezra, Peter Mackenzie Litten
Vestron Video Collector's Series #12/LionsGate Films

"Marty majored in cutting classmates" at SLAUGHTER HIGH, the British eighties slasher on Blu-ray as part of LionsGate's Vestron Video Collector's Series.

Marty Ranzen (Simon Scuddamore) was "The Dork of Doddsville High" and the butt of pranks by the cool clique lead by aspiring actress Carol (Caroline Munro, who actually was closer to being a teenager in DRACULA A.D. 1972) and class clown Skippy (Carmine Iannaccone, MAID TO ORDER). When a particularly cool prank involving a naked Marty and a toilet bowl gets the "kids" punished by their coach (Marc Smith, THE FINAL CONFLICT), they decide to get "revenge" on Marty; however, the prank misfires and Marty gets a face full of nitric acid (although he did store on top of a rickety shelf). Ten years later, star Carol receives an invitation to her high school reunion. Arriving at the now-abandoned school, she and the other guests – Skippy, Joey (Gary Martin, LIVING DOLL), Frank (Billy Hartman, HIGHLANDER), Ted (Michael Safran), Carl (John Segal, INSEMINOID), Stella (Donna Yeager), Shirley (Josephine Scandi), Nancy (Kelly Baker), and Susan (Sally Cross) – they decide to break in to the school to take shelter from the storm while reliving old memories. Inside the rundown building, they discover a surprise party laid out for them with caustic beer, bathtub taps that stream acid, electrified beds, and other deadly tricks for Marty's April Fool's Day revenge.

A slasher film unconvincing set in America but filmed in London with a cast of actors who mostly too old for even a high school ten year reunion, SLAUGHTER HIGH's quirks (this is a Dick Randall production, after all) and excesses have made it quite memorably in spite of some poor acting and an absolutely horrid rock theme song. Co-writing/directing trio George Dugdale (who later married Munro), Mark Ezra (SAVAGE HEARTS), and Peter Litten (RAWHEAD REX) spike the familiar scenario with some creative kills of unlikable characters, the requisite T&A, an atmospheric location creatively lit and framed by Alan Pudney (SCREAMTIME), and a score by Henry Manfredini that cannibalizes his own FRIDAY THE 13TH compositions. The bullying angle is not just disturbing in retrospect but fairly grueling even by eighties standards, and rumors have persisted that the suicide of Scuddamore (who gives the film's most sympathetic performance) a few days after shooting wrapped may have had something to do with his work on the film despite refutation from those involved in the production. Producer Randall can be seen in a guest appearance as Carol's agent calling from his real office which is prominently decorated with a poster for his earlier slasher effort PIECES.

Released theatrically by Vestron Pictures, SLAUGHTER HIGH hit VHS in R-rated and unrated versions. When LionsGate initially put the film out on DVD in 2009, it was the unrated version but sourced from a tape master that literally paled in comparison to the anamorphic transfer – with the onscreen title APRIL FOOL'S DAY – that first appeared on French DVD and then in a special edition UK DVD from Arrow Video with commentaries by Ezra and Caroline Munro and some other video extras. After a search for the elements, the uncut interpositive turned up misfiled under the APRIL FOOL'S DAY title and was mastered in 2K for LionsGate's Vestron series 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray. The eighties cinematography is somewhat softish due to diffusion and some early darker scenes as they enter the school look a little dull but it is still crisper in HD than its previous incarnations, detail improves in the brighter classroom scenes, and most of the gore effects hold up well under the heightened resolution. The sole audio track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track highlights the score and draws attention to the limited selection of source music accompaniment, going back and forth between the awful theme song and an instrumental reggae-esque piece. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.

Extras start off with an audio commentary by co-writer/co-directors George Dugdale and Peter MacKenzie – both of whom were absent from the Arrow release – who recall their dealings with the cheap Randall – who tried to get Telly Savalas and then Peter Lawford for the role of the coach – and financial partner Steven Minasian, a theater chain owner who had invested in both LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and FRIDAY THE 13TH; the latter requesting of them "FRIDAY THE 13TH but different." The film was titled APRIL FOOL'S DAY but fellow FRIDAY series producer Frank Mancuso had announced another slasher film with that title through Paramount. They clear up how the roles of the three writers/directors were divvied up with Dugdale directing the actors, Ezra writing and some directing, and Litten supervising the effects and their filming, and also have some fun at their own expense. They also provide some information on the locations, the exterior of the school being a Victorian asylum, the interior a disused school in the heart of London (requiring much post-synching of the dialogue), and Carol's apartment being the Soho digs of strip club owner and publisher Paul Raymond. Manfredini appears in an audio interview conducted by Michael Felsher that lasts for roughly twenty-three minutes – covering his beginnings, how the success of his FRIDAY THE 13TH score expanded his opportunities while limiting them to the genre, and specifics about the score which was recorded and performed by the same musicians as the former film – followed by selections from the film's score. The original stereo master tapes could not be found so Felsher had to resort to a mono music and effects track.

Co-director Ezra is present in the interview "Going to Pieces" (18:29), recalling that Litten had worked on the effects for the Randall-produced Christmas slasher DON'T OPEN TIL CHRISTMAS, contradicts the other two who mention that none of them had input into the score by revealing that he went to Los Angeles to work on the scoring with Manfredini, and admits that he tacked on the extended chase finale and the twist ending when the edit fell short of the intended ninety-minutes. In "My Days at Doddsville" (14:35), actress Munro discusses shooting the Adam Ant video "Goody Two Shoes" at the same asylum location, keeping her distance from Dugdale during the production for fear of her casting being perceived as nepotism, being aware that she was older than most of the other cast members (the American actors being summer school students at The London Academy of Music and Drama), and her favorable opinion of the film. The alternate APRIL FOOL'S DAY credit sequence (0:41) is also included, along with a poster and still gallery (6:54), the Vestron theatrical trailer (1:43), and radio spots (1:49). The disc comes with a slipcover reproduction of the poster/video artwork. (Eric Cotenas)