Jeff Lieberman, the man who gave you Squirm directed Blue Sunshine in 1977. One of those odd films that just can't seem to figure out where it really belongs, you could classify it as a sort of pseudo-political horror film making an attempt at something socially relevant to the time it was made, but that takes some of the fun out of it and it works better as a freakish exploitation film with some really strange anti-hippy undertones.
The story revolves around Jerry Zipkin (played with no small amount of sweaty overacting by Zalman King, the creator of such cheesy sex films as 9 ½ Weeks and a whole whack of Red Shoe Diaries episodes). Jerry, while at a party, witnesses an old friend named Frannie Scott (played by Billy Crystal's brother Richard) murder three of the party guests by pushing them into a roaring fireplace when his toupee is ripped of his head. Jerry ends up in a brawl with Frannie and the two of them end up duking it out in the middle of a road where Jerry kills him by pushing him into the path of a tractor-trailer. Of course, it comes to pass that Jerry is on the line for not only the death of his friend, but also those killed at the party as well. With the help of a few Hitchcockian plot devices, Jerry ends up on the run and having to clear his name for the crime he didn't commit.
After doing some detective work, Jerry finds out that his friend was one of the unlucky few who dosed on 'Blue Sunshine' ten years earlier - a batch of bad LSD sold by a pusher who has since cleaned up his act and is now a politician running for congress named Ed Flemming (played by Marc Goddard of TV's Lost In Space). It turns out that 'Blue Sunshine' was far from a harmless little narcotic and in fact, those who took it are starting to lose their hair and turn into raving homicidal maniacs exactly ten years later from the date they ingested the drug. Ten years is now coming up for most of the former hippie types and there seem to be that quite a few bald headed killers are now starting to go insane all over the city.
When Jerry and lady friend Alicia Sweeny (Deborah Winters) meet with a former line backer who is now a bodyguard for the aforementioned congressman, Jerry's lady convinces him to meet her in a disco. The giant of a man goes ape and trashes the disco in one of the films more delirious scenes that's a bit reminiscent of an episode of The Incredible Hulk gone very, very wrong. This also marks one of the earliest disco scenes in a film, so all you disco historians out there may want to take notes. Things only get more complicated from here on in, and any more information would be spoiling it for those who haven't seen it.
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it - Blue Sunshine is a weird movie. Lieberman's direction though is quite solid and there's just enough plot coherence mixed in with ample amounts of delirious insanity to make the movie work. Well, maybe it doesn't work in the traditional sense, but it'll keep your attention and entertain you from start to finish. It's also quite creepy in a few spots, particularly the opening half hour or so (seeing this as a child quite possibly messed up some of us for life). These freaky scenes are only enhanced by the genuinely bizarre musical score from Charles Gross (which was included on the previous DVD release from Synapse but which sadly is not included on this re-release).
Sure, the acting isn't Oscar worthy, but King is pretty good in the lead and does a fine job portraying his character's frustration and increasing stress load. Some of the sets come across as hokey (more in part to the fact that discotheques don't really age well than any fault of the filmmakers) but if the idea of seeing a man and his woman taken on an army of bald acid eaters is your bag, then you really can't go wrong. On an interesting side note, Steven Severin of Siouxise and the Banshees and Robert Smith's collaborative music project, The Glove, were so taken with the film that they named their album after the film.
Blue Sunshine looks pretty good in this 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Compared to the Synapse release, this disc starts off with a BBFC 'X' Classification and then the old Warner Brothers logo before the movie starts, the Synapse version does not. Aside from that though, the transfers look pretty similar (and given that the Synapse release was taken from the best surviving 35mm print which was found in the UK, it stands to reason they're from the same source). Some mild print damage is present throughout and some moderate grain is present but detail is pretty solid and colors look fine. For a semi-obscure thirty-five year old film, there's not much to complain about really.
The only audio option on the disc is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, in English. No alternate language options are provided, nor are there any subtitles available. The track is pretty clear, and there aren't any problems with any hiss or distortion to complain about. The score sounds nice and bouncy and dialogue is pretty clear and always discernable.
The only substantial extra is a forty-minute interview with director Jeff Leiberman in which he talks about the inspiration for the movie, what it was like working on the picture and more. It's a pretty solid piece and worth watching. Aside from that, there's a still gallery, some static menus and chapter stops. For those keeping track, the now out of print Synapse release had a commentary track, a short film, the aforementioned soundtrack CD, some liner notes, a still gallery, the theatrical trailer and a different interview with the director. None of the extras from the Synapse release have been carried over.
If you don't already have the previous release, this is a good way to add Blue Sunshine your collection but it doesn't offer much reason to double dip. Regardless, the movie itself is a kick, equal parts creepy and campy and comes recommended for genre fans, particularly those with an affinity for seventies cinema.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.