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I Was a Teenage Strangler Uncut!

Other // Unrated // March 11, 2008
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted April 14, 2008 | E-mail the Author
I Was a Teenage Strangler:

The Factory 2000 production of I Was a Teenage Strangler pulls off the queer trick of evoking two different eras while (at least in the liner notes) claiming to be from an era that never existed. That, and it unselfconsciously stinks like Limburger cheese on its way to triumphal destruction of the stinky-cheese trash heap. No mistake, this is a movie for a viewing audience that numbers in the low-thousands, and there's no way to rate it in any rational fashion, but for those who 'like' that stuff (yours truly included) this one's a corker. Imagine early John Waters, Richard Kern and Nick Zedd, then imagine them lobotomized, and you'll begin to get the picture.

'Writer' and director William Hellfire (the name is your first clue) aims to shock and shame the sleaze-seeking crew of the late '90s with this shot-on-super-VHS atrocity. Liner notes only validate the shoestrings and sycophants aesthetic hearkening back to Warhol's original Factory, the art combine that moved from assembly-line lithographs to Trash Cinema classics like Bad, and ... well ... Trash - lazy shockers peopled by outrageous characters. Taped in 1997 (sort of the last hurrah for the VHS backyard auteur of the '80s - though the liner notes mark this effort as being on the vanguard) Teenage Strangler is populated by a new breed of neo-Factory wannabes, downtown, downtrodden scenesters with names like Freak Nasty, Tim Tomorrows and Joey Smack.

No point in talking production values - there aren't any, Hellfire's avowed mission was simply to stick it to the porno punters with scenes of rape, coprophilia and abortion. Put lightly, the movie looks terrible, sounds abysmal, and acting? There isn't any. The entire effort is improvised - with bits of mere 'acting' filler to move us from one transgressive sex-scene to the next, with gut-wrenching gross-outs betwixt and between, like frequent dashes of cold water to your feebly twitching nether regions. The scenario is this: Winston Strange throws a party so that his deranged brother Myles can kill everyone. What this accomplishes no-one understands, but it sets up license for numerous soft and semi-hardcore scenes of carnality including lethargic lesbianism, girl-scout rape, bloody blowjobs and other fun stuff. Some of that fun stuff includes vomiting, eating crap straight from the source, boiling oil facials and more!

They just don't make movies like this anymore (and probably never should have). There isn't an ounce of self-conscious parody, there are no smirking asides, no attempt to satirize or generate a pastiche of bygone gross-out sex and death comedies. Teenage Strangler simply is what it is; a completely sincere/insincere dramatization of casual debasement made by people with nothing to lose and seemingly nothing to gain - except maybe another month's rent. Instead of pushing the envelope Hellfire wants to incinerate the sucker, and only the fact that stuff this so far gone, so low rent and grubby, and performed with such one-take, I'm drunk zeal makes it remotely watchable.

That said, it really is a terrible movie. When you pick your jaw off the floor at the 45-minute mark, there's an enervating half-hour still to slog through, with the charm worn off (well, the pissing scene might zap your brain cells momentarily). The final remarkable surprise is the debut of Misty Mundae, (billed here as Erin DeWright and looking absolutely adorable in a short shag haircut) the soon-to-be queen of Seduction Cinema soft-core, a gal who turns in what can only be called the sole professional-quality performance in the movie. When Misty Mundae is your top performer, you trash fans know what you're getting; the absolute worst trash there is to offer. And if you've read this far, and you still want to see I Was a Teenage Strangler, then, my friend, the worst trash is probably the best.


This section really should resemble a document released by the Federal Government under the Freedom of Information Act; nothing but a bunch of black bars with a few conjunctions visible here and there. The source material is so abysmal, there's no point in discussing this from an HD standpoint. The movie is shot on super-VHS handycam and presented in fullscreen 1.33:1 ratio. The transfer may or may not be OK, there's no way to tell. Colors range from green-tinged to yellow-tinged consistently, videotape dropouts crop up occasionally, the image is soft and washed-out, lighting is poor and many extreme close-ups are out-of-focus. There's a good chance that if you have old home movies on VHS they look better than this. It's not to say Hellfire didn't understand the basics of film-technique, it's just that the priorities and money were elsewhere. Nonetheless, this is a brand-new digital edit from the original ½" video masters, so I guess it could be a lot worse.

I believe the audio source is from the handycam's built in microphone. There is plenty of background music (according to the liner notes one of the reasons to even make the movie was just to have a place to put Hellfire and friends' musical output). To that end, this is likely a stereo audio track. It's barely adequate. The music is mixed in well, and sounds the best. Dialog drops out on occasion, and is often too quiet or overcome by ambient noise. On balance, the feel of the movie is probably helped by the poor audio and video quality.

Extras are limited to a stellar 6-page set of Liner Notes written by Media Funhouse host Ed Grant, and trailer galleries. The Factory 2000 Trailer Vault has trailers for 8 reprehensible releases, (including Teenage Strangler) with the option to play them all in sequence with one click. Such titles as Duck! The Colombine High Massacre and Snuff Perversions are there for your degenerate pleasure. Likewise in presentation is the Seduction Cinema Trailer Vault, with only three trailers including the ultra-lowly Bikini Girls on Dinosaur Planet. A Get The Catalog link has Internet and mail-ordering information for Alternative Cinema releases. No subtitling, chapter menus or closed captioning are available.

Final Thoughts:
I Was a Teenage Strangler is the uncut, unedited freak show behind the freak show, if you catch my drift. It's a virtual non-narrative trip down dirt bag alley, full of wretched behavior meant to terrorize (in Hellfire's words) the trench coat contingent. It is awful on many levels, but so circumspectly awful that it really is a towering, anomalistic achievement in transgressive cinema, the likes of which has essentially been destroyed by 5-minute-long mpegs for cowardly pervs created by and trolling the 'Net. But the Factory 2000 kids meant well, in their own horrific way. Movie fans with special collections of the forbidden will enjoy it; they'll buy it or rent it with sweaty, gleeful grins. For obvious reasons, most everyone should Skip It, but that rating (and the sad little half star I've granted) should be turned on its head for a select few - and you know who you are.

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