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Gone Crazy (Retro Afrika)
In an unidentified South African town, the Mayor and his wife are about to turn in when they're startled by an explosion. The Mayor calls the chief of police, who suspects a disgruntled former employee is out for revenge. Nearby, Professor Gumbi is working on a high-tech bomb for the military known as the ZR710. When the bomb goes missing, Professor Gumbi hires a private investigator to look for the culprit instead of the police, concerned word that her top secret military work might get out, but soon she goes missing as well. Short on clues, the PI and the police chief team up, following the chief's trail to Vusi Ngcobo, who is so bitter over the loss of his job that he's decided to blow up the local dam and flood the town unless the Mayor pays him 50,000 in South African Rand -- and he's gone and kidnapped the professor, as well.
Retro Afrika is a really cool project, and there are still two more of these new movies to watch, so, just to be clear: Gone Crazy isn't bad because the budget is limited, it isn't bad because it was made by amateurs, and it isn't bad because it's got a simplistic or derivative story -- it's bad because it's a bad movie. Even at only 73 minutes, there's the sense of not enough material being stretched over too much film. Frankly, getting the plot to cover the length of a single paragraph is a challenge, and it's not even clear why: Lorraine Philbrick's script has the police chief correctly guessing the motive and the perpetrator -- the only potential suspect in the film, which boasts a total of six cast members -- in the second scene of the movie...and that's before the second detective shows up.
As this is a detective movie that contains literally a single scene of actual detective work (which also ends abruptly and awkwardly), the resulting film is mostly padding. The private investigator hired by Professor Gumbi is stumped immediately, turning to the chief of police (and spilling all about the top secret military equipment) in his third appearance in the film (after the scene where he gets hired and the professor describes the case, and the one where he finds her missing). The police chief is only marginally better: he identifies Ngcobo as the most likely (again, only) suspect, and even interviews him, but does not bother to bring him in for questioning or do anything else to stop him. The filmmakers kill further time with scene after scene of characters latching onto a plot point and repeating it to each other, back and forth, even when there is a literal bomb to find that would apparently kill hundreds of people. Even the film's climactic action sequences are boring -- try not to laugh at a fight scene where almost no punches are thrown, or characters searching for a bomb in the least urgent way possible.
If there is anything to be gleaned from the film, it's the hints of local scenery, style, and culture that are inadvertently preserved. In about half of his scenes, the private investigator wears an incredible sweater that does not convey his profession at all, and the movie's climax takes place on some free production design, in the form of a spectacular dam. Aside from the lackadaisical bomb-hunting acting, the cast (Hector Mathanda, Pepsi Mabizela, Fikile Majozi, Roy Dlamini, and Emmanuel Shangase) are all fine (although the credits don't have character names to go with their actual names, and Gone Crazy is, unsurprisingly, not on IMDb as far as I can tell), and the movie is adequately staged for the most part, aside from some jumpy cuts and budgetary limitations. Sadly, Gone Crazy could sure use more of the insanity promised by its title.
Indiepix brings Gone Crazy to home video with red, black, and white artwork that is reminiscent of some of the posters Tyler Stout created for Mondo, although the image appears to be a digital photo effect rather than an illustration. as with all three of Indiepix's "Retro Afrika" DVDs, there is a template that the rest of the package follows. The one-disc DVD-R comes in a cheap Blu-ray case, and there is a leaflet advertising Indiepix's Amazon Prime selection on one side, and an offer for a free digital movie on the other.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.33:1 full frame and with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, Gone Crazy looks mostly okay, but also should definitely be graded on a curve. For an extremely low-budget movie from a country that did not necessarily have the means to preserve and maintain films that were made there, the basic clarity of the image is strong enough for DVD, with a somewhat soft but consistently clean appearance. Grain is only barely visible in the film's single night scene (it's unclear what format these were filmed on), and the entire presentation is plagued by fluctuating colors that pulse, rolling from accurate-looking skintones to a darker, greenish look. Sound has obvious source limitations, with echo intruding on the production audio, but the film is subtitled in English, so the clarity isn't much of an issue. The synth score sounds adequate.
None, other than a newly-created promotional trailer.
Indiepix's Retro Afrika series promises to contain some otherwise lost cinematic treasures. It'll also likely contain some real duds. Gone Crazy is one of the latter. Skip it.
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