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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Project: Valkyrie
Project: Valkyrie
Tempe Entertainment // Unrated // June 13, 2006
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted May 19, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Movie: Pop culture is replete with examples of comic books converted into movies. While most of them are really bad or fall far short of the imaginary mark we all make in our heads about what should happen, there are sometimes surprises that come out of left field, really deep left field at that. The latest X-Men flick, Spiderman, or even Batman blockbusters aside, the majority of efforts in this genre tend to be modest budget releases that go relatively unnoticed by the throngs of masses at the local megaplex cinemas. Thankfully, mall movies aren't where the creative forces outside of Hollywood cut their teeth these days. No, that'd be the purview of the indie filmmaker who doesn't rely on tens of millions of dollars in special effects, big name stars, or even high end production values. Such was the case with Project: Valkyrie; a labor of love by director Jeff Waltrowski..

Before I get too far into describing the movie, I feel obligated to mention that it took a couple of years to make (part time moviemaking is standard in true indie film), the budget probably wouldn't cover my bar tab, and the acting was…er, suitably campy. To get your head in the right place, consider this one a combination of Kevin Smith's Clerks meets Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead with healthy doses of Tetsujin 28 (the remake of Gigantor) meets Captain America. Waltrowski appears to be a movie buff par excellence as well as a comic book fan given his homage to so many pop culture heroes and the benefit of this fact is that the cheesy aspects of the movie work far better than average; certainly better than the Hollywood hired guns that direct solely based on the paycheck rather than a love of making movies supplemented by a fandom mindset that accepts the limitations up front and works with them to make for a hilarious movie.

The story might sound familiar to some of you. Jim Cranston, a weak willed loser of a guy (seen on the front DVD cover smoking a cigarette) is having cash flow problems. Essentially, he owes some thugs money and they aren't too picky about how they extract it from him. Being broke, he resorts to selling off his dead grandfather's old science projects, one of which has the nasty side effect of changing humans into mindless Nazi cyborgs. This sets in motion a chain of events where Jim also comes across a humanoid (not "giant" as advertised on the back cover) robot that was programmed to fight the Nazi scourge during WWII. The formula turns one thug into a modern day Red Skull (looking similar enough that I'm half surprised Marvel Entertainment didn't slap a restraining order on the project or distributor) and dopey Jim has to team up with the thug's sister Anne and the robot Valkyrie in order to prevent the rise of the Nazi party once more (they spit on you or exchange bodily fluids and you become one of them). With acting as wooden as any of the old Wonder Woman television show episodes but a modern day cynicism straight out of any of the low run B&W independent comic book releases from the mid 1980's, Project: Valkyrie shows the world that the rollercoaster blockbusters have nothing on the kind of fun factor it has to offer.

In case you're getting the vibe that I'm describing a parody piece, let me make it clear; there was a lot of humor in the movie, even self deprecating humor, but it never seemed to jump the shark in that sense. Let's face it; most adults don't identify with the kind of hero that dons a cape, mask, or other colorful apparel to fight crime, corruption, and evil. That's where Steve Foland's character of Jim comes in particularly handy because he's a schlub, a loser, and has few redeeming qualities. The resurrection of Valkyrie shows him that deep down inside he might not be so bad even if his intellect is still akin to a twelve year old. The two highlights of the film for me were the male bonding scene (if you've ever watched Terminator 2 where Edward Furlong teaches Arnold's T-800 a few things about human nature, you'll know what I mean) and when Jim goes hunting the super enhanced Nazi's with his chainsaw (ala Evil Dead's Ashe character). I'm not going to spoil all the little insider movie jokes and references, nor am I going to suggest that the ultra gore-fest hacking up of bad guys looked any better than the scores of cheap horror crap you'll find on the shelves of your discount rental outlet but there was so much going on at any time that you'd need to watch it repeatedly to dig out some of the gems.

So while Project: Valkyrie sounds like the worst movie of all time (a martial art trained robot from the 1940's on a show string budget), if you don't laugh out loud repeatedly, you either have no soul, no sense of humor, or desperately need to get laid. As far as rating the movie goes, that's a tough one but the hardcore music track alone should warrant hooking this puppy up to your computer to sample the tunes and with a few drinks or other intoxicating substances coursing through your veins, you'll probably figure it should get at least a Recommended. The pacing was off at times (the commentary suggested the entire movie was set to music, real or imagined, driving the cadence better than the "let's fit in a number of crappy songs to sell soundtracks with" style the blockbusters go for) and it had more rough edges than a truckload of rusty razor blades but if you're a fan of schlocky horror films, comic books (not the glossy corporate rags either), and low budget indie style productions, this one will be right up your alley.

Picture: Project: Valkyrie was presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen color (with liberal amounts of flashback footage in B&W) with the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Most of the movie looked like a low budget film school project, complete with cheesy special effects, employing the kind of reality TV camera action as often as not. It looked like the crew had a lot of fun with the project but no one should be under the misconception that the film looked like anything you'd see on prime time television.

Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital English. There wasn't a lot of separation between the channels but the vocals were clear enough. The music was fitting (the score was kind of generic but the rock seemed pretty interesting and edgy) and the use of noticeable overdubs pretty frequent but it added to the level of wacky charm presented here.

Extras: Most of the time you get a low budget flick, the extras are nonexistent on the DVD but that wasn't the case here. The audio commentary seemed to have all the important players participating, discussing the finer points of making low budget movies, offering up tidbits of wisdom concerning homages in the film, and rambling on about whatever suited them. On a positive note, unlike so many other commentaries I've listened to of late, they stayed on topic far more often than not and it was interesting to listen to. There was also a 25 minute long Making of the movie feature (by Michael Sunseri) that showed the production in progress, an 11 minute blooper reel (you have to watch this one folks, it's a killer), some trailers (2 for this movie and one for Dawn), and an 8.5 minute long short film called Electric Club which alternated between being a prequel for the movie as well as a work print for his creative process.

Final Thoughts: Project: Valkyrie was a swell tribute to all the things in life worth living for; gore, robots chopping the heads off of zombie Nazis and good times. The dialogue ran the gamut of bizarre to clever (Anne, after kicking the shit out of Jim upon first meeting one another, asks him: "Does it hurt?" He answers: "No, I love it. You hit my face with a fucking iron."). The movie might not change the course of human events but if you've ever seen an Ed Wood movie (Plan 9 From Outer Space for example) and liked it; this one will leave you in stitches. I look forward to a sequel that doesn't use up half the movie establishing the characters, giving more freedom for the crew to expand on some of the hilarious interactions. Give this one a shot and I think many of you will find it a kick ass tribute to the little guy!

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