A Pair of Vinegar Syndromes #1: Psychos In Love

Psychos In Love is a weird little film, even within the cult horror genre that's essentially made up of weird little films. I'm not sure I can recommend it, but it's got a definite charm, is at least occasionally genuinely funny, and it has its fans. It's an 80s slasher, which are back in vogue at the moment, and it does make good in all the fundamental departments (i.e. body count). But it's really playing for laughs, right on the line between horror comedy and flat-out parody. Think Pieces meets Eating Raoul (both films even utilize a frying pan as a murder weapon), but even more low budget. Like, right on the edge of home movies.

Update 6/8/16 - 1/4/20: Yeah, this is still our updating marathon, but I've got a couple of Vinegar Syndrome blu-rays that have just been screaming to get added to these pages.  So we're doubling up!  And first to the plate, as you can see, is Psychos In Love, released as a 2017 DVD/BD combo pack.  As you can imagine, VS's 2k restoration renders the old DVDs pretty obsolete, though there might still be reasons to hang onto them as well...
Co-writer Carmine Capobianco is Joe, your average, livin' single in the 80s slasher who gets ladies naked and then does them away. Yes, the gratuitous topless shots are as plentiful as the fake blood. Anyway, his life's in a bit of a rut until he runs into Kate (Debi Thibeault), a young, psycho killer who seduces and murders guys. They're a match made in Heaven! They share in their favorite homicidal pastime, their mutual hatred of grapes, and they even sing the movie's theme song together. Things get super silly: characters get hit in the head with the boom mic, the fourth wall gets broken and lines like "an ounce of prevention is worth a manicure" are bandied about. It's the kind of movie where the film's only Asian character wears a karate uniform in every scene. Anyway. everything's going great until a third mass-murdering maniac (Eric Lutes) stumbles into their little love nest and wants a piece of the action. But nobody likes a third wheel... especially when he's an out of control cannibalistic plumber!
Now, don't say DVDExotica never shows you the rare, little known DVDs. Because I have three editions of Psychos In Love for you today: the latest Vinegar Syndrome combopack, the 2009 Shriek Show release, and the earlier 2005 limited edition sold exclusively by co-writer/ director Gorman Bechard himself! Yeah. long before Psychos In Love was available on DVD in any capacity, Bechard started posting pre-orders on EBay. He was working with the German label CMV Laservision to release a special edition over there, and they were going to allot him 300 discs he could sell himself (mine is #144). This became a real labor of faith that these DVDs would arrive... I believe it was a year or two from when the pre-orders went up to when the discs actually arrived, in custom artwork, signed and hand-numbered by Bechard. So it's a pretty neat collectible, but eventually that version did come out in Germany [pictured right], and I believe the content of the disc is the same.

And that's good, because if you're a serious fan, you might feel the need to import it. While Shriek Show carried over all the extras from the CMV disc to their US release - and even added more - they left off one big thing: only CMV's disc includes the film's alternate rough cut.
a shot only in the rough cut.
Casual viewers can certainly rest easy without it. Most of the noticeable distinctions are technical: it's rougher quality footage without most of the music or sound, and no credits or title cards except for the hand-written title card over [pictured left]. And most of the differences in content aren't very substantive. A lot of the shots have extra frames at the end and the sequence of some scenes is switched around. For example, both Joe and Kate are introduced by showing us three of their murders apiece. But the order in which we see each set is different in the rough and final edits. So not exactly essential viewing; but if you stick with it, there are unique shots, moments and alternate takes that are only in the rough cut. The most notable is a whole comedy bit right near the end involving Grape Nuts cereal and a much longer scene of Lutes eating a severed hand.
1) 2005 CMV DVD; 2) 2017 CMV DVD rough cut; 3) 2009 Shriek Show DVD;
4) 2017 Vinegar Syndrome DVD; 5) 2017 Vinegar Syndrome BD.
So first of all, like I said before, the rough cut is in equally rough quality. The footage is more damaged with all kinds of dirt and scratches on it. On top of that, it seems to be a greenish, murky video-tape source of that damaged print with slightly less picture information all around. And on top of that, it's interlaced to Hell. But, you know, it's essentially a bonus feature, and considering the unfinished nature of it anyway, the quality is kind of fitting.

Between the two official DVD transfers, though, I wasn't expecting such a difference. Never having directly compared them before, I'd always just assumed Shriek Show ported over the transfer made by CMV, but I see now that's not the case. Shriek Show's is sharper, clearer and more detailed, with a lot more detail being found in CMV's crushed blacks. Look at Debi's eyes in the first set of shots - you can actually see them!  It also fixes the aspect ratio a bit from 1.31:1 to 1.33:1.  And then we take another step forward with Vinegar Syndrome's release, which gives us a fresh 2k scan of the original 16mm negatives.  It's still in 1.33:1, but reveals even more picture along all four sides.  The image is a bit brighter and detail is even clearer, with naturally captured film grain, which is clumpy and grungy by comparison on the Shriek Show DVD.

Every version just offers basic, but fine considering the original film's audio quality, mono tracks (in DTS-HD on the blu). Naturally, there are also optional German subtitles on the CMV disc, as well as some German menus (curiously, the crew bios on the CMV disc are written in English). The rough cut doesn't have subtitles, so I guess the Germans were just expected to know English or lump it.  Vinegar Syndrome is the only version to include optional English subtitles.
Extras are pretty extensive. The CMV disc starts out by reuniting Gorman Bechard and Carmine Capobianco on a jovial audio commentary. It also has a vintage 'making of' featurette the guys made themselves back in '87, which doesn't take itself very seriously either. Then there's the alternate set of opening credits Wizard Video made for the original VHS release, a short film by Bechard called The Only Take, which I guess is a student film taking a light-hearted look at the shooting of a horror movie scene, a long slideshow which shows you the cast and crew in substantially higher definition than the film itself does, the aforementioned bios and the original trailer.

Shriek Show keeps all of that and adds some more stuff, including a second audio commentary by Berchard, which is a little more serious. They're distinct enough that you can listen to both without feeling like you're just hearing all the same stuff twice, although there is some overlap. And while Shriek Show doesn't have the rough cut, they do have a short collection of extended scenes, which is essentially all the missing rough stuff spliced together. Then there's about 14 minutes of highlights from a local Wisconsin stage play of Psychos In Love. Two more of Berchards short films are on here, one from 1983 and a newer one from 2003. And that's about it except for a couple bonus trailers for two more Berchard projects, a book he wrote and some other Shriek Show titles. That's a bunch of stuff, but a lot of it's pretty skippable (the 2003 short is all still photos and narration instead of moving video, so it's pretty tough to get through), so I wouldn't say those additional extras are too critical.
Psychos in Love: The Stage Play
But then the arrival of Vinegar Syndrome's release heralds in even more special features.  First of all, everything from the Shriek Show DVD is on here, new and all, except the trailers for Berchard's other projects, and of course the Shriek Show bonus trailers.  In their stead, VS adds a new director's introduction, separate camera interviews with Berchard and Capobianco, a discussion between Berchard and Capobianco and a lengthy (50 minutes) Q&A with Capobianco at a screening where he really breaks the host's balls.  They do come up with some new things to say, and it's nice to see something shot in HD finally, but as you can imagine with a bunch of commentaries and interviews talking to the same two guys, it gets repetitive.  I would've much preferred if VS had talked to Debi Thibeault or some of the supporting cast and crew members instead, though of course I appreciate that could be a lot easier said than done.  VS's release also includes a booklet with notes by Art Ettinger and Matt Desiderio, and comes in a slip cover with reversible artwork.
So Vinegar Syndrome's is obviously the disc to own, with the best (and only HD) transfer and the most extras. It's only missing the rough cut that most viewers can easily live without it, and a few little odds and ends.  But if you're really devoted to this film, it might be worth tracking down a CMV disc.  There are also a couple of foreign discs that have fewer extras, but matte the film down to 1.85.  I'm not sure how worthwhile that is, though, since I'm sure this film was always intended to be seen in 1.33. But it's nice to have options. And as scrappy as the film might be, I still get a little kick each time I revisit it.

No comments:

Post a Comment