Over the last nine years, the American Genre Film Archive has taken on the mammoth task of saving the thousands of film prints spread out around the world from certain death by creating a centralized repository for their preservation. Over the last two years, AGFA has added a very important and exciting bullet point to their mission statement, not only are they preserve these prints, they are also beginning the huge job of digitizing and restoring a number of them so that even if they do eventually become too fragile or brittle to project, their wonder isn't lost to the ages.
In the service of sharing their good works with the world, AGFA has created their own brand new home video imprint, often partnering with sympathetic organizations like the legendary Something Weird Video, to get these overlooked and often abandoned gems out into the hands of cult film fans. Today we're looking at a trio of their first releases on Blu-ray: the too-crazy-to-be-true true(ish) crime thriller The Zodiac Killer, the bored splatter artists gone nuts slasher Effects, and bizarro turkish sword and sandal action film, The Sword and the Claw. Check out the gallery below for more details.
The Zodiac Killer has the unique distinction of having probably been the only feature film ever produced for the express purpose of capturing a serial killer.
The film is a ferociously independent production directed by Tom Hanson, who made the picture in the hope that he would capture the real Zodiac at one of the screenings. In order to entice the killer to come to the movies, Hanson had all kinds of gimmicks cooked up, including things like handwriting tests, to try and narrow the field. He even put in some ridiculous fictional habits in which a serial killer may indulge - bunny farming, anyone? - in an attempt to potentially outrage the killer enough that he'd have to speak up that he was being misrepresented. It's enough to make any sane person cock a snook at the person who came up with the idea in the first place, and I definitely cocked more than one.
There's no real plot to the film that needs to be explained. The Zodiac Killer basically follows a man identified as the killer as he meanders from one murder to the next. There are a few recurring characters, and more than a handful of moments that have to been experienced to be believed - think The Room, but on a lower budget - but overall, it's a pretty inept mess of a film that's far more interesting conceptually than in execution.
AGFA restored The Zodiac Killer from surviving 16mm elements, and even those were several generations down the line from the negatives, so the film is not exactly pristine. However, it's about as good as you would probably want to see it anyway. I'm not one of those people who insists that grimy films look terrible in order to preserve the experience, but another few layers of polish won't do much to improve this film. That being said, the colors and detail on this Blu-ray are improved from previous DVD versions available from Something Weird Video (who partnered on this release), so if you're looking to upgrade, here you go.
In what has become a welcome habit for the new AGFA label, the disc has more than enough extras to make a body wonder why they went through all the trouble. However, sometimes these ridiculous risks pay off and in this case the included director commentary sheds a very welcome light on the bizarre production story. There are also a pair of interviews with Hanson and actor Manny Nedwick, and the package is rounded out with a B-side feature called Another Son of Sam. The second part of the double is of pretty much equal quality, but without the benefit of the restoration.