Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Night of the Strangler (Vinegar Syndrome DVD) or Watch Mickey Dolenz Drink J&B

Hey hey it’s the strangler, and people say he strangles around… I mean or not at all. Night of The Strangler is somewhat of a misnomer when it comes what the killer in the picture actually does. Good thing for you is that this plays out like a low budget slasher film (though you’ll note the year is 1972 which puts it before Black Christmas) with at least one interesting cast member (see if you can guess who from the opening sentence/song) with some interesting kills an overall dirty, gritty, grindy feel that epitomizes that late 70’s deuce. Fans of the new grindhouse, meet the old grindhouse. Vinegar Syndrome continues their partnership with the AGFA library to bring you a pre-slasher, murder romp with a hefty twist.

In case you haven’t guessed who are actor du jour is, it’s Mickey Dolenz. Yes, that Mickey Dolenz. From The Monkees…. You heard me right.  Once you see him in this post-TV show/band film you’ll wonder if you can ever take Night of the Strangler seriously. Now Dolenz has done plenty of acting and voice work outside of The Monkees, so it shouldn’t be as if he was just a one hit wonder and then fell off the face of the planet. Dolenz does comedy well, but his dramatic acting comes off like comedy. When he’s on screen in Night of the Strangler, you are pretty much forced to laugh. Good thing for you, his role in the picture is somewhat limited. For the novelty of his appearance alone you can pick up this one and feel satisfied with the watch, but it’s actually a great movie.

If you can get past the Monkee in the room than you’ll have to also get past the racial slurs with the incessant use of the phrase “nigga lovin’”. It can put you out. In the first ten minutes I was wondering if this thing could get beyond novelty actor #1 and uncomfortable n-word usage. It’s a great thing that people start dying soon thereafter. The killings are racially motivated and almost has a bit of the old Toolbox Murders feel. There’s a great bathtub kill scene that really sets the grind tone. Night of the Strangler has a strong endgame with nice surprise.

The transfer is good, but the source material is marred up. This is a DVD release from Vinegar Syndrome, and I think it shows the limitation of preservation/restoration efforts. There’s some damage to the print. Fortunately it can actually lend itself to making the movie feel filthier and thus more effective. The movie itself suffers from focus issues and low light, but it’s not related to the transfer of the film; that’s simply the way the movie was made.

Just a warning to ye old animal lovers… a snake gets it… for real. Also, for fans of the gialli, enjoy Dolenz hitting the J&B hard.  Joy N. Houck Jr. made Night of Bloody Horror and Women and Bloody Terror before jumping into this thriller with a bit of a moral message. Houck then immediately went back to Creature from the Black Lake. I guess Joy found his calling in strange monster pictures rather than more realistic psycho thrillers.

From Vinegar Syndrome:

Interracial baby-makers vs. insanely racist strangle-ragers in this southern-fried whodunnit hatewave. Everyone’s second favorite Monkee (Micky Dolenz) stars in Louisiana’s premier bloodletting blowout: Guns! Knives! Drowning! Venomous snakes! Absolutely zero strangling! It’s a sweat-soaked, sleazoid slay-ride through segregated ’70s slaughter!

Now available on DVD for the first time ever in its original aspect ratio!

The American Genre Film Archive houses one of the world’s best collections of 35mm exploitation prints and now Vinegar Syndrome is bringing the weirdest, rarest and most outrageous movies in their archive to DVD!

D: Joy N. Houck Jr. / 1972 / 90 min / Color / 1.85:1

Features Include:

+ DVD | Region Free | 1.85:1 OAR
+ Restored in 2k from a rare 35mm theatrical print

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