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German Cult auteur Jorg Buttgereit concludes his post-facto-named 'Sex Murder Art' film cycle with 1993 shocker Schramm. I'm breaking my lazy-writer rule to call Schramm a 'meditation' on the lonely life and death of a serial killer because that's exactly what it is, a meditation, despite its more gratuitous elements (without which it wouldn't be a Buttgereit joint). Like other movies in this grouping, Schramm's brief run-time (66 minutes) in no way diminishes its power to demoralize while gleefully entertaining. Experienced Buttgereit fans might find the shocks tempered a bit, but the movie's power to send viewers off in discomfiting fashion is quite intact.
Told in flashbacks as nominal protagonist Lothar Schramm lies bleeding in a pool of white paint, the movie flits back and forth between varying incidents either banal or brutal. Here, Schramm converses with his hooker friend Marianne (frequent collaborator Monika M.) with what seems genuine interest, though you can never tell when a serial killer is faking it. There, he's beating a Seventh Day Adventist's brains in with a ball-peen hammer. Here, he's running a marathon, or driving his taxicab. There, he's hammering nails through his foreskin in an attempt to feel something. But more than in any other Buttgereit movie, the bits you read about in dread and wonder seem more real, and mean less as enticements, than ever before.
Buttgereit has dialed in his sanguine motifs to near perfection with Schramm, (one wonders if Gaspar Noe is a fan) as we find ourselves pitying the astoundingly lonely man while wishing he would stay around longer, while never really fearing him as a killer. Much of this power comes from Florian Koerner von Gustorf's completely fearless performance as the title character. He does a lot of acting with his eyes. We believe he cares for Marianne simply because of the thoughtful way he watches her as she talks. The two seem to need each other. Yet von Gustorf is also able to convincingly pile-drive, then carefully wash clean, an inflatable sex-toy.
Buttgereit constructs these scenes with the lean efficiency of a man used to tiny budgets, while enjoying more of the same excellent, artful cinematography from longtime cohort Manfred O. Jelinski. Viewers are lured in by the legend of the director, and the unthinkable things he shows. These slimy attractions are not the centerpiece of Schramm, though some of you will flutter to them like moths to a flame: throats cut, genital torture, ocular mutilation, weird toothy vagina-monsters, and the like. However, when Jorg has you in his grasp, he'll hit you with the real deal; you can be evil, and go to hell, and you'll still end up disappointing someone who thinks you care. Highly Recommended.
Presented in a new Director's Approved HD Transfer from the original 16mm negative, Schramm looks really good in its original 1.33:1 ratio form. Of course, this is an almost 25-year-old 16mm movie we're talking about. Colors seem fairly natural, though lighting was likely done on a budget, so nothing really pops or looks super saturated. The grain one might expect is present, but there is surprisingly little, if indeed any, print damage, at least nothing the stood out so strongly that I noticed it. Black levels aren't all that deep, especially since this a 'daylight' horror movie, and transfer problems, such as heavy DNR, etc. aren't to be found. Ultimately, this looks a hell of a lot better than the VHS I rented back in the day.
You can enjoy Schramm in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo or a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround mix (which might seem like overkill). Both tracks sound good from the standpoint of volume levels, distortion or lack thereof, and damage to the source. All is in fine shape. The movie focuses on Schramm's interior world, which is more fully realized through placement in the 5.1 mix, though the 2.0 mix works adequately too. The same can be said for Schramm's typically evocative and off-putting score.
Cult Epics provides us with the usual excellent slate of extras for the Schramm Blu-ray. You get not one, but two Commentary Tracks, from Buttgereit and co-writer Franz Rodenkirchen, and actors Florian Koerner von Gustorf and Monika M. respectively. The first track features the director's mild manners and self-deprecating humor, but is as always fun and informative. Both are well worth the fan's time. The Making Of Schramm's 35-minutes of documentary behind-the-scenes footage highlights the fun and function on set. An isolated Original Motion Picture Soundtrack can be listened to, while JB HD Trailers tout the other Cult Epics releases. A Still Photo Gallery and English Subtitles crop up too. Extras get more personal and significant on this release than on earlier ones, with Short Films. Starting with Horror Heaven in HD (and featuring its own Commentary Track) early JB parodies classic horror films in short, pithy fashion. The Mummy and Frankenstein make their appearances, while a lengthy Godzilla parody stands out. It's great to see Buttgereit's early spark and humor, even if a parody of Hitler's Dungeon (or something) becomes heavily indulgent, as this insight into the director's beginnings is quite enlightening and entertaining. These introspective Extras culminate in the raw, poignant Mein Papi (My Father), a short tribute to Buttgereit's dad.
German Cult auteur Jorg Buttgereit concludes his post-facto-named 'Sex Murder Art' film cycle with 1993 shocker Schramm, combining a deeply introspective look at a serial killer's daily with excellent, artful cinematography from longtime cohort Manfred O. Jelinski. Unlike in the director's first two Nekromantik movies, slimy attractions are not the centerpiece of Schramm, though some of you will flutter to them like moths to a flame: throats cut, genital torture, ocular mutilation, weird toothy vagina-monsters, and the like. But with a meditative air and great performances, Jorg has you in his grasp, in which he'll hit you with the real deal; you can be evil, and go to hell, and you'll still end up disappointing someone who thinks you care. Highly Recommended.