You might think that yet another Troma acquisition, marked by intermittently recurring haze, light flicker and grain issues might get something of a bemused dismissal, particularly in light of the usual crispness and quality Vinegar Syndrome gives to their hardcore obscurities.
But you’d then need to have been unfamiliar with this selfsame film’s prior DVD iteration.
Coming on one of those cheapie “Toxie’s Triple Terror” sets (much akin to numerous Vinegar Syndrome Troma ports to date), Henry Sala’s Nightmare Weekend was an amusing oddity. A very 80’s production lensed in Florida (but well after that state’s exploitation boom of the 60’s and 70’s, helmed by the likes of Doris Wishman, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Barry Mahon and “Wild” Bill Grefe) by a French crew, cult film aficionados should already be cocking a curious eyebrow.
But then you add the whole computer science/videogame angle ala The Dungeonmaster. All the topless softcore business, inclusive of such era-appropriate teen sex comedy settings as pool parties, aerobics classes, roller skating, public sex in the back of a car, and teenagers hanging out at pool hall/arcades. And weird, ineptly staged grossout horror, managed by a Kukla-esque hand puppet that thinks and operates on its own (to no apparent reaction from the gamer girl it lives with!)
Seriously, what the fuck?!?
I always had a soft spot for this bit of freakout cinema, despite its horrific presentation on DVD. Likely sourced from VHS, the Troma release was so dark and hazy as to leave the viewer feeling like they were either going blind or groping in the dark after the onset of cataracts.
Could a film requiring a seeing eye dog to navigate possibly still feature such defects as vaselined cheesecloth, digitizing and grain in its few properly visible sequences? Well, damn if Troma didn’t manage it. This film looked fucking horrible, in fact one of the worst things released on DVD short of the dollar bin or much despised ripoff artists MYA, Substance or Jef. Hell, even Retromedia and Videoasia put out better quality prints!
And so we come to the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray remaster of the picture. While still marred by occasional light flaws as noted at the outset, we’re literally talking night and day here – pun intended.
First off, while the running time appears identical to the earlier DVD release at 1:26, this is the uncut version, filled with topless and even full-body nudity (sadly no full frontal, but even so) from a cast filled with attractive girls. Sure, the curly haired, prominently mustachioed female baddie is fucking gross, but there are more than enough fine looking ladies of the 80’s to keep survivors of that decade and MILF lovers more than satisfied.
Director Henri Sala appears to have been an exclusively softcore erotica if not hardcore porn director in his native France, so in this more unexpurgated cut, the man is clearly in his element. Those more accustomed to the earlier R-rated release should find themselves surprised by this more skin-inflected, nigh-Skinemax variant. The marked improvement in how the film plays between its more straightforward ersatz “horror” version and this more sexed up take thereon simply cannot be understated.
But even more importantly, the restoration, particularly by comparison with the abomination that came before, is absolutely stellar. When sequences look good? They look very, very good. Yeah, it’s not perfect. But it’s one hell of a job on what viewers of the Troma release would certainly have considered a lost cause.
There are several extras, including separate interviews with “gas pump attendant #1 and 2” Dean Gates and Marc Gottlieb, the former of whom also worked makeup effects, with the latter involved in casting and production. Both men prove quite chatty, offering several amusing anecdotes from behind the scenes on the production, inclusive of a Cannes-based rendezvous with an at the peak of their fame Duran Duran(!)
Also included are some of the R-rated edits that appeared on the earlier DVD release, for those so inclined. Trust me, the film plays far better this way.
Definitely one of the more entertaining Vinegar Syndrome releases of late, you really have to love a film that gives credits to “tarantula…himself” and “George as George” – George being, of course, the Italianesque hand puppet!
Utterly bizarre, visually appealing and strangely enjoyable. Quite recommended.