When a DVD has the names "Troma" and "Herschell Gordon Lewis" on the cover any seasoned film fan should have precise and clear-cut expectations of what the content will be like.
Troma consistently provides a maniacal catalog of subversive films awash in blood/gore/boobies and Mr. Lewis, well he's an icon, a genre god known reverentially as "The Godfather of Gore" responsible for some of the most memorably twisted films of the 1960s and early 1970s (The Wizard of Gore, anyone?). The required lather-rinse-repeat formula of blood, gore and humor - seemingly shot as cheaply as possible - will be the order of the day. There is a faithful film cult that naturally gravitates towards this kind of specialized material, and if it's not you then I'll come right out and say that The Chainsaw Sally Show: Season One from director Jimmyo Burril is not for you, nor will it ever be. Run far away and don't look back.
Not to be confused with the 2004 film Chainsaw Sally - also directed by Burril - this eleven episode series is really its own standalone entity, a blood-soaked, gore-filled monstrosity anchored by a spirited, high-camp performance from April Monique Burril, reprising her titular character from the film. Living with her equally unhinged, human-corpse-pinata-creating brother Ruby (Azman Troy) in mild-mannered Porterville, MD, Sally exacts her own special deadly vengeance on any number of people who rub her the wrong way, using a chainsaw, reciprocating saw, an ax, a knife. You name it and she'll use it. And use it to the extreme. All of that excessively gory mayhem happens before, during or after her stint as the town librarian, and as season one unfolds her free-killing lifestyle is threatened when the mysterious and monosyllabic Cowboy (Bill Price) rolls into town investigating a murder.
Make no mistake: this is low-brow stuff, cheaply shot and full of the entrail-filled exuberance that has become the Troma trademark, buttressed by a wealth of sloppy line reads and corny jokes. The weird thing is that for all of the coarse editing, poor lighting, inadequate sound recording or mangled corpse money shots there is a certain undeniable macabre charm to Chainsaw Sally. Part of that may come from the fact that each episode runs just about 20 minutes, so in small batches it is somehow more inherently - ahem - digestible. Much of the credit goes to April Monique Burril and Azman Troy, both of whom manage to turn their reprehensible characters into the most endearing and likeable on the show. They may be cannibalistic killers, but there is a wonderfully askew family dynamic between them, and amidst all of the human carnage I would find myself looking forward to their scenes together at home. Dark, silly and perversely Rockwellian, the moments between Sally and Ruby were easily the best parts of the entire series. Unless of course I think of the hypnotically jiggly bosom of Jordan Wyandt, who plays a private eye who pairs up (pun intended) with Cowboy.
My once rabid appreciation and love the gore genre has waned somewhat as the years have gone by, and for whatever reason I find myself less and less engaged by scenes of horrific murder. Not from a prudish standpoint - far from it in fact - it's just that it tends to bore me a little. Maybe I've been desensitized over the decades, or maybe it just doesn't wow me like it used to because it's been done to death. The presence of April Monique Burril, decked out in her tattered thigh-high stockings, blood-soaked ripped top and tiny skirt, is a fresh twist on a long-tired genre, and while Chainsaw Sally isn't necessarily reinventing the format there is enough youthful energy here to make me think that maybe Jimmyo Burril is on to something.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is surprisingly respectable - not great, mind you, but respectable - though night scenes really fare the worst, often blocky, muddy and difficult to follow. This isn't a videophile presentation by any means, and the transfer reflects that. It's low-budget filmmaking - good sometimes and wonky others - but the encouraging news is all that blood looks very, very red.
The 2.0 stereo track is a mess, plagued by frequent bouts of muffled dialogue, assorted hums, odd echos and the like. The imperfections are inconsistent, but nagging when present. While this isn't a series that demands perfection, I'm still somewhat shocked at the crap quality of the audio here.
This two-disc set sports a generous block of supplemental material, beginning on disc one with a superb Troma highlight reel of sorts, as well as the obligatory rambling rant for Lloyd Kaufman, here going after Jay Leno. Each episode features an optional laugh track, and there also six loosely constructed commentary tracks (eps 1-4, 7, 9) hosted by an array of folks, including Jimmyo Burril, April Burril, Azman Troy and a gaggle of others. The content is hardly the stuff of Filmschool 101 - this is Troma, after all - and the audio quality is often sketchy, at best.
Disc one has the aforementioned commentaries for eps 1-4, and also features a hodgepodge of behind-the-scenes footage entitled 21 Weekends in Porterville (18m:43s), a peek at the makeup effects for one of Sally's attacks called Anatomy of a Kill (04m:09s), a collection of stills and promo shots known appropriately as The Sexy Slideshow (04m:37s), a music video for Brian Huddell's catchy theme song Shattered and Blue (03m:41s) and the bonus short film (I mean REALLY short) Can You Hear Me Now? (04m:49s), in which Sally exacts vengeance on a large-breasted woman who is enamored with her Bluetooth headset.
Disc two - in addition to commentaries for eps 7 & 9 - has a batch of Troma trailers, a wonderfully gratuitous segment featuring a topless Troma girl and the grand capper being a 52-minute bonus Chainsaw Sally murderous adventure entitled Grindhog Day. More blood. More murder. More Sally.
This ain't high art, nor does it claim to be. It is Troma, after all. Blood. Gore. Comedy.
An easy recommendation for Team Troma faithful. All others: proceed with caution.