Posts Tagged ‘john smihula’

To be honest, I was pretty certain that the little retrospective I’ve been doing on the career of Long Island super-8 maestro Nathan Schiff was going to be incomplete. That’s because even though he made one more movie after They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore, namely 1991’s Vermillion Eyes, Image Entertainment chose not to release it as part of their “Cult Cinema Collection” DVD series (under the auspices of which they’ve released all of his other work), even though they’d remastered the entire film, partially remastered the score, filmed cast and crew interviews to be included as extras, and even recorded a commentary track with Schiff himself for the film. In short, it was pretty much all ready to go, and they pulled the plug.

Which, of course, only made me more determined to see it. Reasons for why Image yanked the rug out from under their own release vary — they told Schiff they had “legal” concerns about it, but he’s stated that he feels this was a ruse since no companies, products, etc. that might have a legal objection to it are in any way referenced in the film. IMDB states that it was pulled due to its excessive sex and violence, which made the suits at Image uncomfortable. Hardly a shocker, I suppose — in fact, I’m perfectly comfortable saying that would be a gutless-but-unfortunately-understandable move. And yet it’s considerably less violent than They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore, and probably even somewhat less violent than Long Island Cannibal Massacre  — although in fairness there’s still plenty of splatter and slow-burn disembowelment on display here, and frankly it’s executed a lot better, and with more sadistic and serious intent, than in either of those films,  Schiff’s use of prosthetic innards and fake gore having improved dramatically between 1985 and 1991 and his nihilistic viewpoint  having obviously both broadened and hardened over that interval as well (but more on that in a minute), and while the insertion of an openly sexual component into Schiff’s work is admittedly a new one, there isn’t too much nudity on display here, and what little there is can hardly be considered prurient or titillating in any way (at least if you’re of sound mind). In another interview on the matter, Schiff stated that he felt the film’s humorlessness and experimental style was probably the reason Image ultimately took a pass on the flick, and frankly, that strikes me as the most believable theory of the bunch, because this is a damn difficult film to get a grip on for a variety of reasons and is, in many ways, downright impenetrable. But hey, that didn’t stop Finnegan’s Wake from becoming a literary classic —

My desire to see this film turned into outright obsession, though, when I learned that it was never even released on VHS, nor were bootlegs of it sold and/or traded around in anything like the numbers they were for the rest of Schiff’s work from Weasels Rip My Flesh onwards, so apparently this was one of those things that our guy Nathan was perfectly content to just break out his Super-8 camera and film — the idea of of actually distributing it in any way so that anybody else might actually get a chance to see the thing never even seemed to occur to him.

Now, I have to ask  at this point, my friends — who makes a film just for the sake of making it? To me that sounds like an exercise in therapy more than anything else — Schiff just had to get this thing done in order to expunge something very personal from his system and, hopefully, achieve some sort of mental and/or emotional catharsis as a result. Such was my going theory, at any rate.

And whaddaya know, I was right.  Thanks to the kind intervention of a reader of this very blog who figured I would be interested in seeing it, a ripped-right-from-a-lousy-VHS-dub-of-the-film DVD-R arrived as a “loaner” in my mailbox the other day (it’s on the way back tomorrow, Bill, and thanks!), and now I have can count myself among the — uhhhmmm — “fortunate” few who have seen this truly obscure piece of cinema. I probably won’t spend a tremendous amount of time on this write-up since there’s not much point to writing a lengthy review of a movie that nobody reading this will ever see (you could fairly argue that there’s no point in spending any time on it at all, but hey, I’m a completist), but I will say this — Vermillion Eyes is one of the most harrowing, deeply personal, and downright disturbed (as well as disturbing) things I’ve ever seen committed to film, and I can see both why Schiff felt compelled to make it, as well as why he’s apparently quite comfortable with the idea of pretty much no one else ever seeing it.Vermillion Eyes is the story of an unnamed man (literally — the credits list star John Smihula’s character simply as “The Man”) who has vivid dreams of sex and death in uncomfortably close proximity to each other and has a habit of going around to gruesome death scenes with his Super-8 camera and documenting what he finds there. After some little while, though, that’s just not enough and he begins arriving at his carnage-strewn destinations in a haz-mat suit and making off with loose body parts. Eventually, though, even that  can’t (or won’t) satisfy our protagonist and he begins committing murders himself. Slowly. Painstakingly. Gruesomely. Even though the copy of this film I saw looked like absolute shit, it’s still clear that the gore on display here in the usual Schiff “take-their-heads-apart-slowly” scenes is light years more advanced than anything in his previous efforts (it’s also worth mentioning that Schiff’s skills at scene composition — to the extent that he even had any before — have taken a quantum leap forward here, as well, with the standard “pont-and-shoot” of his prior work giving way to vast, expansive (well, as “vast” and “expansive” as Super-8 can get, at any rate) vistas of bleak and barren Long Island fields, beaches, roads, etc. that provide a perfect visual representation of his protagonist’s desolate inner landscape) and the targets of “The Man”‘s predations (one of whom is his own sister) make it all the more disturbing.

The usual gut reaction here would be to dismiss this all as the usual B-movie misogyny, given that each and every one of “The Man”‘s victims are women, but it seems pretty clear that Schiff has” progressed,” if that’s the term we want to use, from hating only  wealthy elites in Long Island Cannibal Massacre, to hating anyone with money and status in They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore, to hating pretty much all of humanity, especially himself (“The Man” is as obvious a stand-in for a film’s director as you’re ever going to find and is hardly presented as a sympathetic character in any way, shape, or form), and his morbid sexual longing for violent death leads him to focus his outbursts on the fairer sex (if Schiff were gay, I’m sure his cinematic victims would be men). So I’m gonna give Nathan a pass on the misogyny rap here — that would be too simple. In truth, he’s expressing a deep-seated hatred for the entire human race, and a sense of righteous repulsion at his own desire to still have sex with members of a species he has nothing but disdain for. This goes way beyond garden-variety misogyny — this is an exercise in unrepentant and unfettered nihilism of the highest (or maybe that should be lowest) order. Much like They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore, there’s no real “plot” here to speak of, yet the character of “The Man” does have a trajectory — he dreams of violence, then seeks out scenes of violence, then keeps mementos from said scenes of violence, then commits violence, all of which culminates in a frenetic and quite-likely hallucinatory (how much of any of this film is “real” and how much is taking place solely in his stand-in/protagonist’s mind is an open question that Schiff never really answers, hence the “experimental style” he, and by extension me since I was paraphrasing the guy, referred to earlier) orgy of blood, viscera, and sex (here’s where we find most of the film’s nudity that Image claimed to be nervous about) that marks both the film’s climax and “The Man”‘s final descent into oblivion. It’s uncomfortable to watch (and keep in mind that the copy of the film I saw was so bad that it’s not always easy to tell what’s even happening!) to say the least, and will leave most sane viewers feeling like empty, hollowed-out, shell-shocked vessels of flesh and bone. “Feel-good” viewing it most assuredly isn’t.

And yet — even though it’s decidedly mean-spirited and deadly somber in tone, you can’t help but respect what Schiff’s trying to do here, especially since, as mentioned before, he didn’t seem to make this movie with the intent of anyone actually seeing it , consequently giving the entire proceedings the feel of the work of a man desperately trying to get something awful out of his system before he does something he’ll regret. If serial sexual psychopaths like John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy decided to get some friends together (and I’m willing to bet that Schiff had a much more difficult time rounding up his usual Long Island accomplices this go- around — props to Smihula, especially, for being willing to star in a project like this) and make a movie as a last-ditch attempt to work out their issues before they started killing,  I honestly wonder if the end result wouldn’t end up looking a whole lot like Vermillion Eyes.

In summation, then, I’d be tempted to call this movie a cry for help, but given that he didn’t seem to care whether or not anyone was listening, I think my original guess that Schiff was looking to achieve some sort of catharsis just by making Vermillion Eyes and getting his most morbid fantasies (and fears — often there’s not much difference between the two) committed to film is a pretty accurate one. He never went on to commit any crimes (or, unfortunately, to make any more feature-length films), so I’m optimistic  that making this thing did the trick and he’s feeling a whole lot happier now. If this ends up standing as his last cinematic effort, then we can view the entire trajectory of his film career as one long, slow (and yes ,ultra- low-budget) mental breakdown played out in front of a Super-8 camera that ends with him finally, hopefully, expunging all the demons that were clearly eating him up from the inside out before going on to do something else with his life. As with all breakdowns, it wasn’t always easy to watch, especially this last, desperate attempt at cleansing his system, but it was almost always fascinating, even if only as an indulgence in morbid curiosity. It’s hard to believe that Weasels Rip My Flesh and Vermillion Eyes were even made on the same planet, much less by the same person, not only because the technical progression from point A to point B was rather remarkable (the same Super-8 camera aside), but because they seem like products of two entirely different minds when you consider that the first film in Schiff’s oeuvre was an innocent effort at monster-movie homage filtered through the haphazard, low-attention-span sensibilities of a 17-year-old kid, while his last reflects the outlook of a guy seems to believe that quaint concepts such as “innocence” are long since dead and buried — to the extent that they were ever real, or  frankly even possible, to begin with. Each step on the journey of his celluloid-recorded mental deterioration offered something interesting to see, even if They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore veered a little too deeply into self-indulgent territory for my tastes, so Nathan Schiff, wherever you are, thanks — and I sincerely hope you’re doing okay.

DIE YUPPIE SCUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Admit it —that was one clever bumper sticker back in the day. You probably thought those exact same words to yourself on more than one occasion. I certainly did. And the person who came up with the sticker probably made millions of dollars and went on to become a yuppie him or herself. Such is the way of the world. But back in 1985, after half a decade  away from his Super-8 camera, Long Island’s master of no-budget ghoulishness, Nathan Schiff, evidently thought that simple catchphrase was enough to base an entire (in this case “entire” meaning a whopping 70 minutes) film on. The result? The wildly uneven, admittedly nonsensical, essentially plot-free, decidedly mean-spirited, and flabbergastingly- weirdly- titled They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore.First off, a little bit of background — obviously Schiff’s films alone weren’t enough to earn the guy a living, so he took a job at a posh Manhattan hotel, where he was exposed to the absolute worst of the worst of emerging yuppie “culture.”  Frankly,  dealing with the petty whims of the Donald Trumps and Leona Helmsleys of the world would probably be enough to drive anyone over the bend, but when you consider Schiff’s already-ingrained socio-political views, as documented so vividly in 1980’s Long Island Cannibal Massacre, you gotta figure he was probably the last guy who could stomach fetching warm towels and tennis rackets for the hoi-polloi. After five years he decided he’d had enough and went about venting his frustrations in the only way he knew how — he got his friends together, hit the fields, houses, and back yards of Long Island, and made another DIY movie.

This time, though, there was to be a decidedly marked shift in tone from his previous efforts. Oh, sure, you can tell he still didn’t take the whole thing too seriously — with around a thousand bucks and a five-day shooting schedule, how can you? — but nevertheless, this flick about two Texas hired yard-hands, Billy Buck (Schiff mainstay John Smihula) and Jacob (Adam Berke, in a role that was originally conceived for fellow “stock player” Fred Borges, but he had moved out of town, taking a lot of the self-deprecating humor inherent in Schiff’s earlier productions with him — Berke was conscripted into service at the last minute, didn’t know what few lines his character had, and was uncomfortable appearing on camera, so he played the part mute and with a weird-looking mask on the entire time) who make their way north to Long Island to service the lawns of the rich and famous and then take out their country-fried rage on their city-slicker paymasters by using whatever grounds-keeping implements were handy at the time has a decidedly nasty edge to it.

For one thing, there’s essentially no story here to speak of at all, just a rough-looking assemblage of particularly vicious murder set-pieces, and while killing people (primarily women, but a couple guys get whacked in this flick, as well) with lawnmowers, hacksaws, chainsaws, etc. is old hat for a Nathan Schiff movie (although the death-by-firecracker-in-the-mouth is a new wrinkle), the sheer amount of time he spends, not only on the killings themselves but on the innards-removing, head-stomping, face-peeling aftermaths of each is sometimes pretty hard to stomach, even if the gore FX, as always, look more or less completely unconvincing. It’s not so much the execution, then,  as the intent that feels vulgar and, frankly, kinda nasty here.

Which isn’t to say that Schiff’s work has lost all its homemade charm or anything. The delightfully OTT performances, as well as the Z-grade production values,  pretty much guarantee that no matter what you’re still gonna see this thing for the amateurish effort it is, but whereas Long Island Cannibal Massacre had the tone of a cautionary tale of impending social unrest, They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore feels like a violent reaction to the emergence of the haves-vs.-have-nots social order that our guy Nate had been trying to warn us about. Quite clearly, his worst fears about Reaganism had been realized and he was none too happy about it.Confession time — I’m pretty sympathetic to Schiff’s anti-yuppie views (as if you couldn’t tell), and I’m not averse to gory cinematic spectacles, but there is such a thing as piling on. Yes, Nathan, we know this lady your characters are doing in a shallow, superficial, gold-digging bitch, but come on — we knew that before Jacob started digging into the smashed pulp of her skull for five minutes before opening up her stomach with his hands and yanking her entrails out. I hate these uppity sons-and-daughters-of-bitches, too, but I got limits, man! And the sad fact is, by having these Texas yokels cross the line from violent, murdering maniacs into violent, murdering maniacs with a penchant for agonizingly slow disembowelment, you piss away any sympathy your audience might have for their, and by extension your, viewpoint. In short, your excesses become self-defeating in the extreme.

The “story” here “ends” with Billy Buck and Jacob performing a homemade county music number called “We Don’t Cut the Grass Anymore” (hence the movie’s title) before donning three-piece suits, getting on a train into Manhattan, and joining the yuppie world themselves. Which I suppose is a natural enough, ir entirely predictable, ending, but lacks any of the (admittedly meager) resonance it might have had given that there’s no “plot trajectory” here at all. They just kill and kill and kill and kill and then stop one day. Kind of like the movie itself just runs and runs and runs and runs and then doesn’t anymore. So, hey, I guess in that respect, it’s a fitting conclusion.

Like his two previous super-8 efforts, They Don’t Cut the Grass Anymore got seen largely through a small-scale VHS distribution deal that Schiff inked himself and was later picked up for DVD release in 2003 by Image Entertainment as part of their “Cult Cinema Collection” series. It’s presented in a remastered-but-still-rough-and-scratchy full-frame transfer with (again uneven at best) stereo sound, and extras include a 15-or-so-minute interview with the filmmaker, an interview with John Smihula and Fred Borges (not that he’s in this one) of roughly equal length, a feature-length commentary from Schiff that, as usual, can be a challenge to make it through due to his monotonous voice but is actually fairly interesting, and a selection of four of his short films, a couple of which are actually more interesting and engaging than the feature itself.  A pretty decent package that gives you good value for money despite the short run time of the “main product.”

Still, while I admire the guy’s pluck as always, I’d only recommend this one for die-hard Nathan Schiff completists. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for yuppies, and that’s a very strange and alien sentiment for me that I’m still having a difficult time processing — to the extent that an ultimately throwaway piece of DIY moviemaking can, you know, actually cause a person anything resembling actual difficulty at all. Good thing I didn’t get this feeling from a flick that insists on taking itself seriously, much less having anyone else do the same.

The unfortunate few still dim-witted enough to romanticize the Reagan era talk about 1980 as the year everything changed — and they’re right, though it wasn’t in any positive sense. “Morning in America” had arrived, no doubt — if you were rich and not afflicted with too strong a conscience. For the rest of us, though, the process of essentially farming the middle, working, and lower economic classes that continues unabated to this day really began in full swing with the election of “Uncle Ron,” and while terms such as “yuppies” and “leveraged buyouts” were still a good few years from entering into the popular lexicon, Long Island Super-8 auteur Nathan Schiff was one of the first to see the ugly new writing on the wall  and his sophomore back-yard horror effort, Long Island Cannibal Massacre, captures the angst with which many were greeting America’s supposed “return to glory.”

Granted, there’s only so much political allegory one can fit into a flick with a $900 budget, and those who choose to willfully ignore the anti-elitist subtext on display here can do so pretty freely and just kick back and watch a particularly nasty piece of homemade gore cinema. Schiff’s socio-political sermonizing isn’t exactly subtle by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s always going to come in second on a “things I noticed about this movie” checklist when we’ve got stuff like lawnmowers running over heads, faces and bodies being torn into bare-handed a la Herschell Gordon Lewis, and five-minute chainsaw duels commanding our attention.

Nevertheless, you can’t really deny that there are some pretty obvious to parallels to then-contemporary (and, frankly, still contemporary) reality in a story that revolves around a rich clique of Long Island “high society” elitists that have returned from a big-game-hunting expedition in Africa carrying a new and highly powerful strain of leprosy that has stricken them with an insatiable taste for human flesh and blood and who then hire some of the island’s more “undesirable” elements, including a couple of disaffected bikers, to procure food for them by any means necessary from amongst their own lower economic “caste,” can you? Didn’t think so.

Now, whether or not Schiff chose to really — and I do mean really — up the ante in the gore department over his debut effort, Weasels Rip My Flesh, as a way of  displaying in the most stark and unforgiving terms possible the economic violence being perpetrated upon the lower classes by the wealthy, or he did so simply to show off how much better (relatively speaking, mind you — it all still looks pretty damn fake, and around here that’s a compliment) he was getting at these DIY effects is an open question, so it’s possible that he may have furthered the less-than-disguised political allegory in his script essentially by accident just because he felt like pulling out all the stops on the blood, guts, and innards scale.  Nevertheless, whether he intended to or not, he’s certainly delivered what more or less amounts to a no-budget primal scream of deep-seated anxiety against the formative stages of America’s new “me first” mindset.

Oh, sure, there’s still plenty of shit going on here that makes absolutely no sense — why the leader of the cannibal clan has evolved (or maybe that should be de-volved) into some sort of monstrous creature, why his son, Jack (Schiff regular Fred Borges) is so eager to help his old man out, why lawnmowers can run over human heads without jamming up, and why the character of ex-cop-turned-private-investigator James Cameron (yes, really! ), the “head honcho” when it comes to sleuthing out these cannibal murders,  changes so completely and without explanation about 2/3 of the way through the film (then again, maybe that’s just down to the always-less-than-capable acting of fellow Schiff “stock player” John Smihula), but hey, just because ol’ Nathan has chosen to inject some political commentary into the proceedings doesn’t mean we need to go and start over-thinking things too much, does it? The key order of business here is still stupid, lower-than-low-budget fun, after all.Still, it’s nice to see a guy of Schiff’s considerable pluck decide to marry something of a message to his blatantly obvious madness, and thanks to the folks at Image Entertainment, this early piece of decidedly gruesome extremely-early-Reagan-era-nervousness has been preserved for posterity on DVD. The remastered full-frame picture is still incredibly grainy and choppy and the remastered stereo (if you can even believe that!) sound is often wildly uneven, but hey, that’s par for the course (Schiff would probably kill me for using that golf analogy) for super-8 films shot for less than a thousand bucks. For extras, we’ve got a Schiff interview that runs about 15 minutes, a Smihula and Borges interview of about equal length, a feature-length commentary track from Schiff that’s occasionally a bit tedious but mostly pretty interesting, and trailers for this and the other two Schiff titles available under the “Cult Cinema Collection” banner. Given that the actual movie itself runs a full 92 minutes, easily making it the longest of Nathan Schiff’s super-8 less-than-epics,  on the whole you get a considerable amount of bang for your buck here.

For those who think I might be reading just a little too much into things here, rest assured, Nathan Schiff’s next cinematic venture into the Long Island wilds, 1985’s They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore, only reinforces, with less plot and even more gore, the themes he explores here. By then, the “yuppie era” was in full swing and our guy Nate was even more pissed off about the whole thing. But as an early slice of homemade “rage against the machine,” Long Island Cannibal Massacre ain’t half-bad stuff. It’s nonsensical and incompetently-executed on the whole, sure, but it’s also inventive, honest, completely unpretentious, and frankly even a little bit ahead of its time. I’m not saying Schiff’s a modern-day Nostradamus or anything, but he could read the tea leaves and see which way things were heading, and he was one of the first to stand up and say “hey, wait a minute here, these rich SOBs are ripping us all off.” The fact that he chose to slather copious amounts of ultra-cheap gore on top of his rather prescient message is just a nice little bonus.

Try showing this movie at an “Occupy” meeting — it’ll probably be quite warmly received. Hell, if you’re part of the Long Island chapter, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Nathan Schiff himself was even a member.

As a movie viewer, there’s a certain kind of moment that I absolutely live for. It’s not a “damn, this is incredibly good” moment, although those are okay, too. And it’s not a “holy shit, this is awful!” moment, although I’m partial to those, depending on my mood, as well. No, friends, what I prize above all, and it happens all too rarely, are those “dear God, what the fuck am I watching???????????” moments. You know what I mean — those instances where a flick is just so ineptly realized, bizarrely thought-out (assuming it’s thought out at all), or utterly incomprehensible that you feel the person or persons responsible for said film are  either a) brain damaged, b) transported here from not just another planet but an entire other dimension , c) haven’t even seen, much less learned anything from, any other movies, or d) any combination thereof. Rest assured — Long Island zero-budget autuer Nathan Schiff’s 1979 super-8 debut feature,” Weasels Rip My Flesh, is jam-packed with more of these type of instances than any and all known laws of science would dictate that its meager 67-minute runtime could possibly allow for.

Where to even begin? Well, how about some background on Schiff himself. At the time of this film’s amazingly slapdash, flying-by-the-seat-of-its-pants production, he was a high school senior whose sole “qualification” — not that any are necessary — for directing a monster movie was that — well — he loved monster movies and had a super-8 camera. And, apparently, if the title of his little opus is any indication, he was a pretty big Zappa fan, as well. I guess that never hurts, right? Proceeding with (a whole lot) more balls than brains, he cast friends and relatives in all the parts,  made some papier-mache creature costumes, and headed out to his parents’ back yard and other nearby locales to shoot a story about — radioactive slime from Venus that crashes to Earth in a space probe and infects a rabid weasel that turns into a huge mutant creature with a taste for flesh n’ blood.

Oh, sure, there’s more to it than that — but not much more. Two government agents are investigating the case, a mad scientist is experimenting with the weasel’s blood, the sidekick-type agent gets some of said weasel blood injected into him by aforementioned mad scientist and turns into some kind of half-man/half-weasel thing that really looks more like a walking carrot, before it turns mutant the weasel bites a local madman-type who proceeds to assault a drunken college girl — but shit, none of that matters. What matters here is watching how Schiff uses his total budget of $400 (yes, you read that right).

We’ve got a lab that doesn’t look anything like a lab, a couple of monsters that would get laughed off the stage at a special education elementary school production, props haphazardly assembled in extremely — uhmmm — creative ways (look for syringes in a beer stein among other delights), all in service of a script that was completely ad-libbed (characters appear and disappear without explanation in several instances). It all looks — and more importantly feels — like the product of some desperate, lunatic mind with no awareness of its own inabilities or limitations.

All of which means, of course. that I love it to pieces — and yet if Schiff had his way I’d probably never even have seen it. In his defense, he knew he was just making stupid, outlandish stuff here. The whole idea was to show the finished product to the very same friends and family who helped him make it and they’d all sit back and have a good laugh. But somehow, just somehow, a good 30-plus years before YouTube or other “viral” video sensations, this thing got around. It started being shown at regional horror-movie and science fiction-geek get-togethers (they didn’t even really call them conventions or film festivals back then) around the East Coast at first, and from there it just sort of took off. VHS dubs of the original 8mm print made their way westward in the early days of home video, word of mouth about this (admittedly minor) cult phenomenon spread,  and Schiff himself eventually managed to negotiate an (again,admittedly minor) distribution deal for an official videotape release. And rather than shy away from what you or I might consider a youthful cinematic indiscretion, if not an outright embarrassment, our guy Nathan just sort of ran with it for awhile. He would go on to make two other super-8 oddities, 1980’s Long Island Cannibal Massacre and 1985’s They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore, both of which we’ll take a look at here in the next few days. The “stars” of this film, Fred Borges (the mad doctor) and John Smihula (the lead investigator) would form the backbone of his “stock company” of players. And whaddaya know? 33 years later, here we all are, still talking about this thing.

All of which isn’t to say that Nathan Schiff is an especially good filmmaker or anything of the sort. His movies, this one especially, positively reek of amateurism at best, utter cluelessness at worst. And yet there’s an authentically mad vision here that just plain can’t be denied, as well as an earnestness that adds a welcome dash of charm. This is moviemaking on nothing but gumption alone, and if you can’t respect that, then I got no time for ya.

Image Entertainment released Weasels Rip My Flesh, as well as Schiff’s two subsequent efforts, on DVD in 2003 under their “Cult Cinema Collection” banner. It’s presented full-frame (of course) with mono sound, and while both video and audio have been remastered to what I assume is the best extent possible, it still looks pretty damn grainy and you can still hear the camera running in the background fairly frequently. Extras include a hastily-assembled “trailer” for the film, a decent 15-or-so-minute interview with Schiff, a selection of some other super-8 short films he shot, interviews with Borges and Smihula, and a feature-length commentary with Schiff that’s actually pretty interesting despite the fact that he speaks in almost painful monotone. All in all they do a nice job of padding out what would otherwise be an admittedly paltry release, and you definitely get your money’s worth by the time all is said and done.

You may not end up seeing the entirely accidental grandeur of Weasels Rip My Flesh, it’s true. To say it’s not for all tastes would be an understatement of almost criminal proportions. Yet even if you just can’t get past the ineptitude of its homemade severed limbs and copious amounts of red Karo-syrup blood, its premise is so mind-numbingly weird, and its execution so aggressively incompetent in all respects, that even if you just have no heart at all and hate this thing, you’ve still gotta admit that it’s like absolutely nothing else you’ve ever seen — even if, like me, you think that you’ve pretty much seen it all. Whether it’s “good” or “bad” almost doesn’t even matter. Nathan Schiff’s $400 went further than he ever could have dreamed.