BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Director Abel Ferrara (of Ms. 45 and Bad Lieutenant fame) and his long-time collaborator, screenwriter Nicholas St. John, are certified madmen of the NYC gutter scene. They are art punks through and through, tirelessly splattering their canvas with a bit of the old ultra-violence. They are also super talented motherfuckers, presenting a uniquely grimy vision of New York City on celluloid time and time again. Each new lens, though, is something altogether different and somehow fresh. Not all of their films; however, feature a power tool.
Thanks to Arrow Video, punk rock never looked as good as it does here with their 4K restoration of this infamous and heavily censored black comedy. The Driller Killer, about a struggling artist who turns to murdering derelicts with a power drill after a series of frustrating events in his life, is Ferrara and John’s first widespread joint together and, trust me, its barrier smashing vibes will make you feel wonderfully skuzzy all over.
In a nutshell, The Driller Killer is a b-movie that would be at home inside an arthouse OR a grindhouse. It is a stylistic jolt in the arm to the NYC scene and to much of independent filmmaking during the tail end of the 1970s as it is full of both trippy visuals and cross-cutting POV shots that work in unison to deliver a surreal snack of psychedelic horror.
Artist Reno Miller (Ferrara) can’t catch a break. Drowning in unpaid bills and with this month’s $500 rent due, he is beyond frustrated with modern life. He’s got a solid lead on a money deal, though. A gallery owner will lend him some cash if he can paint his masterpiece within a week. Reno swears he will not end up like the homeless he encounters on the street. They are everywhere and, ultimately, become reminders of just how pathetic he is.
When a punk band disrupts his concentration, Reno snaps and hits the streets with a power tool. He will clean up the derelicts himself and embarks on a killing spree like no other. Enter the censors! Full of great catholic imagery, harsh urban cityscapes, and buckets of gore, The Driller Killer is a preview of what would come in Ferrara’s future films. And, apparently, that includes censors putting in overtime in order to “clean up” his societal views.
Co-starring Carolyn Marz and Baybi Day, The Driller Killer is an independent film that has managed to survive the ravishes of the dangerous NYC streets by word of mouth. You, literally, do not fuck with this flick. Arrow Video has gone out of their way to deliver a splendid and loving upgrade to the film. And, yes, it might be hardcore but it does deserve the attention.
One does not simply forget The Driller Killer. One feels him ripping at the flesh with disgust and revolt.
MPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime: 96 mins
Director: Abel Ferrara
Writer: Nicholas St. John
Cast: Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day
Genre: Horror | thriller
Tagline: It will shatter you!
Memorable Movie Quote: "No, no, no, no. This isn't right. This is nothing. This is shit! Where's the impact? It's just a goddamn Buffalo!"
Theatrical Distributor: Rochelle Films
Release Date: June 15, 1979
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: December 13, 2016
Synopsis: An artist slowly goes insane while struggling to pay his bills, work on his paintings, and care for his two female roommates, which leads him taking to the streets of New York after dark and randomly killing derelicts with a power drill..
Home Video Distributor: Arrow Video
Available on Blu-ray - December 13, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 DVD); DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region A
The independent film was originally filmed on 16mm. The grain is a dead giveaway, but some of us enjoy the textured look of film. The brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative of the never-before-seen pre-release version and the theatrical cut is indeed revelatory. Colors are sharper. Night scenes – as this largely is a night shoot – have plunging black levels that are a bit heavier. They keep their shape and offer a good look at NYC’s underbelly. The film has been remastered exclusively for this release and is presented in 1.37:1 and 1.85:1 with the film’s original mono soundtrack. It should be noted that the restoration on the two discs in this release have been approved by director Ferrara and the film’s director of photography, Ken Kelsch.
The audio commentary by director and star Abel Ferrara, is moderated by Brad Stevens (author of Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision) and is recorded exclusively for Arrow’s release. Honestly, you need to listen to it. Fans of the genre will WANT TO.
Get this release now. The first pressing of Arrow’s release is the ONLY version that will include a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Michael Pattison and Brad Stevens and, trust me, this addition is a nice touch to understanding and enjoying Ferrara’s film. There is also reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil, alongside a NEW interview with Ferrara, a new visual essay, and a feature-length documentary on the location in New York that played a key role in Ferrara’s life.
- Laine and Abel: An Interview with the Driller Killer
- Willing and Abel: Ferraraology 101
- Mulberry St.