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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dance Macabre
Dance Macabre
MGM // R // July 28, 2015 // Region 0
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted November 4, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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After Robert Englund played Freddy Krueger for what he thought would be the last time in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, he traveled to Russia to appear in this little-seen movie produced by Menahem Golan post-Cannon Films. Englund plays Anthony, an American dance choreographer who moves to the Russian city of St. Petersburg to help run Madame Gordento's Academy of Dance. It was said that he and "Madame," a former dancer herself now confined to a wheelchair, were once lovers and possibly still are. Through flashbacks we see that he had worked with dancer Svetlana whom he was also obsessed with, and could have been a huge star had she not been killed in an accident while riding on Anthony's motorcycle after a performance. That accident haunts him to this day.

The Academy has now started admitting dancers from outside Russia for the first time, attracting a number of girls from all over the world, one of whom will get a chance to audition for the prestigious Petersburg Ballet Company. Jessica (played by real-life dancer Michelle Zeitlin) is a last-minute addition to the group as her rich father drags her in and hands over a large amount of cash to ensure that she's admitted, although she's grown bored with ballet dancing and would rather be performing some more modern steps. Anthony lets her in not only because of the money her father hands him, but also because she bears a strong resemblance to his dear Svetlana.

Jessica moves into a dorm room with roommate Claudine (Nina Goldman) from Paris, and the two begin dance classes under Madame, who strictly presides from her wheelchair wearing dark glasses and talking through an electronic larynx. There's something else a bit odd about Madame as well, which is supposed to be a surprise but many viewers will have it figured out within the movie's first few minutes. Dance Macabre quickly becomes a slasher film as Claudine is soon killed by an unseen person, and her disappearance is covered up with an excuse that she simply went home to take care of a sudden problem. A few other girls eventually find themselves killed also after wandering off into isolated places, as typically happens in slasher movies (complete with them asking "Hello, is anyone there?" into the empty space before the killer appears.) While none of the characters seem terribly concerned with finding out who the killer is, there are a few suspects including photographer Alex (Alexander Sergeyev) who captures Jessica's fancy as he frequently shows up at the academy to take pictures despite always being told to leave.

Aside from Robert Englund's presence and the location, Dance Macabre isn't a very remarkable film. I don't remember it getting a theatrical release or even appearing in video stores (Columbia/Tristar Home Video released it on VHS.) It's now appeared on DVD via MGM's "Limited Edition Collection" of DVD-Rs available via mail-order. This is just one of those movies that has you wondering why it was made- the type of audience for ballet likely isn't going to appreciate the violent horror movie-like premise, and the slasher crowd likewise will probably be bored by the movie's attempt at being cultural while the death scenes aren't even gory or frightening. While Englund does what he can with the material, the rest of the cast plays it like the straight-to-video movie this is. Director Greydon Clark at least attempts to make this a step above from his previous works like the low-brow comedy Joysticks or blaxploitation flick Black Shampoo.

Picture:

The DVD is encoded in 16x9 at the proper 1.85 ratio, possibly the first time it's actually been seen that way. The film transfer is adequate although there are some compression artifacts visible in dark scenes.

Sound:

The 2-channel Dolby Digital presents the movie's Ultra-Stereo sound mix (a low-budget alternative to the usual Dolby Stereo which faded out after digital sound on film became prevalent in the 90s) which has a decent enough presence with music (classical pieces and Dan Slider's rather cheesy synth score) filling the front and ambience in the rears, but the sound quality suffers from analog distortion in both dialogue ("Asssh I wassh shhaying") and music that is likely inherent in the original recording.

Final Thoughts:

Dance Macabre isn't really much of a movie but I'm sure there's a few people out there who liked it and should appreciate this very brief appearance on DVD- being a DVD-R release ensures that unsold copies won't be turning up at Big Lots for $3 like many standard MGM titles have. Fans of Robert Englund may also appreciate the chance to see one of his minor performances, but most likely they'll figure out the movie's "secret" right away and just laugh along with it. This is almost worthy of being Bad Movie Night material although its attempts at being a quality film make it drag a bit. Its best attribute (aside from some brief nudity) is a line of dialogue that finally explained to me the meaning of the term "white night" (which is also the title of a more well-known movie shot in Russia)- some parts of the country are only dark for about 30 minutes a day, so that's what they call the nights there when the sun is still out.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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