Few labels can approach the eclectic nature of Vinegar Syndrome, and their most recent releases continue that trend. Dear Dead Delilah is a bloody Southern Gothic, Wonder Women is a ridiculously fun piece of Filipino exploitation, and Shot offers a homegrown action film from the wilds of Champaign, IL. As usual, all three releases come to Blu-ray with 2K restorations, extras, and more.
Wonder Women (1973)
Dr. Tsu is part mad scientist and part entrepreneur, and her latest endeavor is a no-brainer. Other body parts are on the inventory, though, as she and her army of “wonder women” mercenaries kidnap international athletes so she can harvest their various parts for sale to the highest bidder. She’s perfected transplants, you see, and she would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for a pesky insurance investigator named Mike.
This Filipino-shot slice of wonder is absolutely my jam. The story is ludicrous and plays like some kind of James Bond riff, albeit with an insurance agent in place of the super spy, as it delivers action, scantily clad women, and goofy plot turns. Tsu more than succeeds as a Bond villain, and while her grand scheme is silly it’s silly to just the right degree. Her science checks out (it does not check out), and even better, her ass-kicking lady mercenaries are always at the ready when it comes time to unleash high kicks and martial arts mayhem.
It’s also worth noting that the film is inexplicably rated PG despite those bare breasts, body parts, and brief subplot involving Dr. Tsu’s love of “brain sex.” The opening credits are literally over footage of topless women swimming underwater before climbing out of the pool to glisten in the sun. It’s nuts. My kind of nuts. That attitude carries over to some of the bigger set-pieces too, and while this is clearly a low budget affair the chase scene through Manila is legitimately thrilling — in part because it looks like director Robert Vincent O’Neill pulled a Friedkin and failed to clear his chase with local officials. There are some very close calls here as cars move in and out of traffic and pedestrian areas, and it’s exciting for reasons both cinematic and concern-based.
Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray disc offers a sharp and bright picture alongside trailers, stills, and the following extra features.
- Commentary with director Robert Vincent O’Neill
- Extended European cut [1:30:15] – The theatrical runs 1:22:11, so there’s roughly eight minutes of additional/extended scenes here.
- Q&A from a 2007 screening at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles [12:44]
Dead Dead Delilah (1972)
Luddy murdered her own mother a quarter century ago, but newly released from a mental hospital she’s ready to give life a second go. An accident finds her invited to a wealthy family’s estate just in time for the matriarch to offer her relatives a chance at a fortune. Somewhere on their plantation is buried a treasure trove of cash, and Delilah (Agnes Moorehead) has invited her family to search. Unfortunately, while some look for the loot, someone else is busy offing the competition with an ax.
Director John Farris is better known as the author behind numerous genre bestsellers including The Fury which was adapted for the screen by Brian De Palma in 1978, but Dear Dead Delilah stands as his singular directing effort. The film is an odd mix of Gothic melodrama, whodunit, and slasher, but it never fully embraces any of the sub-genres choosing instead to tell its story in its own way. It’s admirable, but it’s not clear that Farris felt confident in the story he was telling.
The third act brings most of the film’s fun — a beheading by a killer on horseback is especially noteworthy for the slasher sub-genre — but its strongest moments come in the family dynamic. Moorehead gives a screen-chomping performance as the crusty head of the clan, and her enjoyment in torturing her relatives casts a darkly charming pall over much of the film. She’s an instigator, and watching her family writhe around in pursuit of an inheritance leaves viewers on her side despite our better judgement. Luddy’s presence works somewhat as a mystery element in taht we’re supposed to suspect her of the murders, but she also stands apart as the sanest of the bunch. Well, almost.
Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu-ray shows plenty of unavoidable rough spots in its picture, but the restoration still delivers a better than expected image. It looks and sounds good. The extras are slight with only promo stills and an interview with the film’s creator.
- Family Secrets: The Making of Dear Dead Delilah [21:31] – John Farris discusses the film’s origins, his cast, and his acknowledgment that he was in over his head as director.
Detectives Ross and Wilson are tough cops working the wilds of Illinois, and while they get results it’s only through intimidation, threats, and abuse of power. They wouldn’t have it any other way, though, and when a new drug kingpin starts moving product into the area the cops are forced to step up their game and their misbehaving if they want to stop crime in its tracks.
When it comes to the film’s plot there’s not much to distinguish it from more familiar fare from the 70s including the likes of The French Connection, but what holds this film apart from most other also-rans is the story of its creation. Shot for a mere $15,000 the film was the brainchild of college students at the University of Illinois who wanted to branch out from short docs into feature filmmaking. They succeeded utilizing any means necessary, and the result is a scrappy cop/crook thriller that wears its influences on its sleeves.
Its budgetary limitations are evident, but the ambition on display is impressive all the same. Multiple gun fights, a car chase, aerial work, and plenty of tough talking helps keep the film a lively experience despite its low, low budget. The film never quite overcomes those restraints, but it’s an engaging genre ride for viewers who can do without the usual studio production perks of big talents and bigger stunts.
Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu-ray acknowledges the source material’s limitations in both picture and sound, but the resulting presentation is surprisingly good for a film of this age and history. The disc includes promo stills and the following extras.
- Taking the Shot: An Interview with director Mitch Brown [22:19]
- Audio interview with producer Nate Kohn [22:32]
Related Topics: Home Video