Sunday, 5 June 2011

Video Nasty #1 - Absurd

The international title of this 1981 Joe D'Amato film is both meaningless and instructive at the same time. It applies little to the actual film - seemingly plucked from a stray line at the beginning when a doctor comments on the regenerative powers of George Eastman's fatally wounded lunatic - "It's absurd, completely absurd!". On the other hand the title appropriately enough, the first on the list of the Director of Public Prosecution's 39 outlawed films, sums up the whole ridiculousness of the Video Nasty scare.


The film written by its star, Luigi Montefiori (aka George Eastman) is about a maniac who has the ability to miraculously heal himself after serious injuries. After escaping from the institution that engineered him, the maniac arrives at a small town where he goes on a killing spree...

Halloween seems to have been the inspiration for this minor classic of Italian Exploitation, although at times it feels like D'Amato is not entirely sure whether he's making a slasher film or a zombie flick. Either way, D'Amato covers all bets - George Eastman's lumbering wordless monster kills just about everything that crosses his path, with admirable inventiveness (saw, axe, surgical drill), and can only be stopped by destroying his brain. In pursuit of the monster are a cantankerous cop and a shadowy Greek priest who spouts lines like "He is creature of evil. The spark of God was smothered the minute the Devil took possession of him", lending the film a slight supernatural bent which is never explored.


Absurd was one of 7 films D'Amato made in 1981 and it looks a quickie. The film is not especially pretty to look at - it's poorly lit, and the art direction is impoverished to say the least - the mansion where the final act of the film takes place, with its dreary decor looks impossibly dated (and probably so in 1981). Still, such depressing visuals work in Absurd's favour and invests the film with something of a grim power, the film feels especially uptight in the scenes where one of the monster's would-be victims, a teenage girl recovering from a spinal injury, is cruelly strapped to a hospital bed. It's an excessively violent film too, D'Amato makes no bones about being in the Exploitation business, and the gore effects are gleefully sadistic and spectacularly disgusting. The scene where the monster shoves a women's head into a hot oven feels uncomfortably realistic, and remains one of the more memorable sequences of this era of Italian Cinema. Of course George Eastman's towering presence always guarantees interest even when the film is not awash in splatter.


Worth mentioning also D'Amato's quite bizarre attempts to make this film look every inch an American product. In perhaps another lift from Halloween the events of the film seem to be taking place on superbowl night - there's repeated references to the "game" and one sequence has a bunch of people sitting around watching some innoccous football on TV, which always seems be taking place in slow motion (?). Even if the tawdry dubbing had fooled audiences, D'Amato ultimately gives the ruse away by having his avid football fans chow down on spaghetti - surely the film's catering staff could have whipped up a couple of hamburgers ?


Absurd made its DVD debut in 2009 on the Mya Communications label under the French title Horrible. The film is actually owned by MGM (?) so I'm not sure how legit this DVD is. The non-anamorphic 1.66 transfer is mostly fine - taken from a good Italian print which had some very minor cuts to tighten up a few dialogue scenes. These inconsequential trims have been reinstated from a lesser VHS source, but all the gore remains intact and looks splendid. Audio is serviceable, with a choice of watching the film in English or Italian, the Italian track is a bit of an empty gesture on Mya's behalf seeing as they didn't furnish the disc with English subtitles. No extras at all, and the disc comes in a terrible sleeve - a shame no one at Mya suggested the excellent French poster, below


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Notes
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Medusa released Absurd on VHS in the UK fully uncut in 1982. The following year the film was singled out under the Obscene Publications Act and the VHS edition was revised with almost 4 minutes of cuts. However, the uncut and cut tapes are difficult to tell apart making this one of the more trickier titles for Nasty collectors.

3 comments:

  1. I have not seen this one - but definitely want to check it out. In addition to the Halloween allusions - it sounds like it has ties to Silent Rage - the Chuck Norris movie where he first touches on horror - with an axe-wielding psycho medically engineered to be able to bounce back from the devastating roundhouse kicks Chuck delivers. Putting this on on the "track it down" list.

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  2. Craig, that's a great analogy, and I know Silent Rage by name. In fact I came close to grabbing the film on DVD after an adrenalized encounter with Missing In Action and Invasion USA, but something inevitably got in the way, but I'll defo add it to my list !

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