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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Clown Murders
The Clown Murders
Image // R // June 12, 2007
List Price: $9.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted August 24, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Clown Murders:
John Candy rates a posthumous headlining gig in this minor Canadian potboiler of the sleazy crime caper variety. Too bad a new generation of low-rent horror aficionados are going to become enraged when picking up this repackaged film based on its awful and awfully misleading cover that features a maniacally evil clown creeping through a cemetery with a blood-soaked machete. It's just more Cinevision International money-grubbing malfeasance, misrepresenting and giving ultra-short shrift to a decent psychological thriller.

Candy plays Ollie, the whipping boy in a quartet of man's-men losers - a bunch of has-beens bitter about their employers' success (and all the polo-playing, hot wife-having joy it brings).

While sitting around 'having a few' they hatch a scheme to kidnap Charlie's (the brains of the group) ex-girlfriend, now married to a wealthy real-estate mogul.

We all know how well kidnappings usually go, but with a prank pedigree like this, whoo-boy! As the foursome begins bickering in earnest about how to handle the situation, an actual creep in a clown mask begins to interfere and everything spirals out of control.

The Clown Murders is an admirable effort; the relatively simple plot machinations torque just enough to keep things interesting, then weird, and finally a bit creepy for the third act. Plus, all the performances come across as quite genuine, from Charlie's good-looking stoicism (he doesn't know what he's doing) to the witty guy's histrionics (he doesn't know what he's doing either) to the crazy guy's unhinging (he REALLY doesn't know what he's doing) to Ollie's whimpering (bewildered doesn't begin to cover it). Candy's role is minor but pivotal, and he makes the most of it, taking the viewer places an adult male should never go, with genuine emotion.

Starting slowly, The Clown Murders plays out like a slightly longer, R-rated version of a 1970s cop show, with a little bit of blood and adult situations thrown in. The scheming and progression to bickering is somewhat slow and tiresome at first, but as the guys start unraveling, just enough sleaze and human cruelty emerges to keep fans of grubby cinema entertained. The usual ambiguous ending, essaying the human damage done, is also spot on, though pretty low-key for the genre.

The DVD

Video:
Cinevision International tosses the first brick by way of another sloppy digital mastering job. In addition to film grain and dirt, specks and scratches from a poor source, the lack of definition is intense. Details are fuzzy and colors are washed out. Making matters worse is the fullscreen 1.33:1 ratio presentation. It's almost like this was sourced from a videotape of a television broadcast, as occasionally shots are framed in a strange manner, with details crammed up against the periphery of the frame as you might see in pan-and-scan. I was hard pressed to even tell if the ratio was correct, as fullscreen mode looked a little squished, while in 16x9 mode things looked slightly stretched. I ended up watching in 'side-stretch' mode for a half-hearted compromise. At least the blacks, in this very dark movie, were deep.

Sound: Dolby Digital Mono sound is simply adequate, not horrible, but not great by any means.

Extras: More demerits for Cinevision International, in addition to the lousy transfer, the slate of extras includes chapter stops only.

Final Thoughts:
The Clown Murders is almost worth a rent for Canadian Cinema scholars or rabid fans of '70s sleazo-crime dramas in this incarnation, but it stinks so much as is that it's really hard to go out on that limb. A barely watchable bare-bones transfer just insults everyone. The movie itself represents a pleasant way to pass 90 minutes while doling out a few cool and grimy thrills - if you like that sort of entertainment - which I do, and hope someday The Clown Murders gets better treatment. A high quality special edition sure couldn't hurt, but for now, you super fans might, with caution, choose to rent this canuck-crime-capsule.

- Kurt Dahlke

~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com

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