Reviewing Vice Squad yesterday, I got to thinking about the straight-to-VHS boom of the mid-80s to late-90s, and the straight-to-DVD industry that of course still persists today, given that the main baddie of that film was portrayed by the one and only Wings Hauser, who absolutely made his living from that point on in direct-to-VHS B-movies, and your inquiring host simply had to find out — what was the first film to be released exclusively on VHS?
It wasn’t an easy thing to find out (and I should make it clear that I’m talking exclusively about movies shot on film here, so the early-years shot-on-video horror “classics” don’t count in this case), and in fact when it comes to haggling over actual release dates and what have you, the jury’s still out on what came first. One thing’s for sure, though — the first movie made specifically for the direct-to-video market, as opposed to films that were made with the intention of being released theatrically only to have those hopes dashed when the DTV boom started was writer-director Tim Kincaid (Bad Girls Dormitory, Riot on 42nd Street)‘s 1986 low-rent sorta-Alien-knockoff sci-fi shlockfest Breeders. In fact, one of the advertising taglines that appeared on the original Breeders VHS box, and in related in-store promos, was “A World Premiere Right In Your Living Room!” Hope you remembered to roll out the red carpet and rent a spotlight.
All in all, Breeders isn’t too bad for what it is — it’s got that cheesy-fun sorta feel to it that so many of the movies we cover here do. And maybe it’s just the New York locations combined with the goofy-ass subject matter, but the whole thing kind of feels like a seriously under-budgeted Larry Cohen production (not that Cohen’s films ever had much of a budget themselves, but they were positively lavish spending sprees compared to this thing). There’s lots of wooden-as-a 2×4 acting, a plethora of less-than-attractive women getting totally naked, some pretty effective, all things considered, creature effects, tons of perfectly serviceable gore, and the story itself is simple yet solid. Nothing much to bitch about, then, right? Aside from the fact that it would be better if the chicks taking off their clothes were actually, you know, hot. But seasoned exploitation veterans know that can be a asking for a bit much sometimes.
We start with a couple of scenes of damsels in distress who are attacked by what appear to be perfectly normal human beings, until slimy tendrils wrap around them, and the screaming starts. Pretty standard Mars Needs Women-type stuff. Later on they start turning up at the hospital in pretty bad shape and suffering from selective amnesia when it comes to — ummm — the “events” in question themselves.
Not to worry, though, Dr. Gamble Price (Teresa Farley, the best-looking woman in the picture by far — but don’t get your hopes up, she remains fully clothed throughout — and check out her ’80s bigger-than-big hair) and police detective Dale Andriotti (Lance Lewman) are on the case. Their ace medical examinations soon discover a few interesting pieces of information —
1) The women who have been raped were all virgins prior to — you know;
2) They’ve all had a strange black substance — ummm — deposited inside them;
and 3) They’ve all been covered in a fine reddish-brown dust that turns out to be — get this — brick dust, and not just any old brick dust at that — we’re talking about some very specific brick dust, the kind found in the bricks that were used in the construction of the city’s sewer systems over a century earlier, only they ran out of the those bricks and switched to another kind.
Now, when the movie you’re making is only an hour and 17 minutes long and at least half that run time is dedicated to various scenes of helpless young virgins being stalked and attacked in the middle of the night, your investigators are going to come to some very quick conclusions, and in this case that means that their first working hypothesis turns out to be correct — namely that alien creatures are living in the sewers and coming up to the surface to take over “host” human bodies and then attack and impregnate human females in order to propagate their species. Little questions like, you know, why they don;t just fuck the opposite-sexed members of their own kind are best not dwelled on for too long.
The trouble really starts, though, when the women who are hospitalized after being alien-raped start to wake up, and head for the old sewer tunnels themselves! Gotta keep things moving, right, and the best way to do that is to have our doctor-and-detective crack investigation team simply follow them and take on the aliens face -to-gross-face.
Since you can pretty well guess how things are going to play out here, or at least you damn well should be able to, I’ll get back to the overall “vibe” of the film itself here for a minute : all dialogue in Breeders is essentially delivered in a flat, unemotive monotone, it’s nearly all disarmingly matter-of-fact, and the acting ability of each and every cast member is — ummm — limited, to put it kindly. We’re pretty much firmly in “so-bad-it’s-good” territory here. The only thing Kincaid and his cohorts seem to have actively given a shit about is coming up with decently-executed creatures, and decently executed gore, given the ultra-tight budget they had to work with, and they certainly did a competent enough job with that.
What’s more than just a bit jarring, though, is to see this type of competent (I won’t go so far as to actually call it good, we’ll just leave it at good enough) effects work sandwiched into such a thoroughly incompetent-in-all-other-respects film. But hey, give them credit for laser-like focus on what really mattered, I guess.
The ultra-’80s hairstyles, clothes, computers and all that cement the “ambiance,” for lack of a better term, and as a super-cheap period piece, Breeders certainly works. It’s not terribly memorable in any respect, and some of the more direct Alien knock-offs (I’m thinking specifically here of Creature and Contamination) were better, but it’s a solidly entertaining enough waste of barely over an hour of your life.
Still, you’d think that, given how ubiquitous the whole DTV industry became, that it would have started off with some a little bit more — I dunno — monumental, I guess, than this — wouldn’t you?
Hell, maybe not.
For whatever reason, MGM ended up with the distribution rights to Breeders here in the DVD age, and have released it in a very apropos bare-bones package. The picture is presented full-frame and I doubt it’s even been remastered, although it looks more or less just fine. The same fgoes for the sound — probably in no way touched up for DVD, but it’s perfectly serviceable enough. The only extra is the inclusion of the (non-theatrical) trailer.
While none of the actors in this flick went on to do much of anything, writer-director Tim Kincaid, who started off his career as an actor, appearing in the blaxploitation quasi-historical flick Quadroon before quickly moving behind the camera and helming the aforementioned Bad Girls Dormitory and Riot on 42nd Street (which is awesome, by the way), also directed a couple of other straight-to-VHS sci-fi cheapies (Mutant Hunt and Robot Holocaust, if you absolutely must know).
Then his resume went strangely blank for just over a decade until he turned up again under the pseudonym of “Joe Gage,” directing a slew of gay porno flicks (and even occsionally starring in them). Rather ironic, I suppose, for a guy who made a movie called Breeders, but hey, whatever pays the rent. I guess Hollywood wasn’t exactly banging down his door in the wake of Breeders – – – even if it is a slice of movie history.