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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Communion: Special Collector's Edition
Communion: Special Collector's Edition
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Review by G. Noel Gross | posted July 1, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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When are these city folks going to learn? STAY HOME!!! Haven't they seen Deliverance? I've lost count of the number of flicks where rich urbanites load up their SUVs and trudge into the wilderness only to get their hineys kicked -- or WORSE. Just TRY and look Ned Beatty in the eye without giggling. I dare you. Well, a New York City writer had a similar experience and WROTE A BOOK about it. Some folks made a movie out of his story, that no one went to see, but it became a cult hit on video. That's right, Communion (1989, 101 minutes), the disgusting tale of alien abduction, little blue men and, gulp, anal probes. The film came to DVD almost by accident, when director Philippe Mora got cornered by a Elite Entertainment fan while in post-production of his latest project. The technician encouraged Mora to approach Elite about producing this disc and here it is. A true word-of-mouth success story.

The movie: The great Christopher Walken was in rare form for this one. He portrays real-life author, Whitley Strieber, who penned "The Hunger," and also claims to have been visited by space aliens. He's now something of a guru of such things, and even co-authored a book with former late-night radio host, and beloved kook, Art Bell. Strieber translated his "true story" novel into a screenplay, which Walken must never have read, and Mora never bothered to make him follow. Walken's dialogue is erratic, and when he does talk, you're never quite sure what the hell he's going on about. But he's REAL good at being intensely weird, making him perfect for the subject matter. Strieber carts his nuclear family to their country home, where in the dead of night, a brilliant light engulfs their cabin, waking Whitley. He inspects the house, finding nothing he returns to the bedroom, and sits silently in a chair. With the soundtrack swirling, Walken, er, Whitley asks aloud, "Is that someone there?" And whoa, Nelly, there is! It's the best moment of the flick. The rest sort of meanders (and is supposed to). You're never quite sure if Whitley is dreaming, or if space aliens REALLY ARE collecting him from his bed, or if he's losing his mind. And neither is he. His story is in keeping with the classic abduction story, but before Whitley published his best-selling novel, few spoke about their experiences. Possibly disappointing to some, is the fact Strieber describes a variety of space men ... the traditional big-eyed, delicate greys, insect-like creatures and "little blue [email protected]#%ers." The blue fellas look a lot like The Tall Man's dwarves from the immortal Phantasm films. Lindsay Crouse plays Whitley's exacerbated wife, Anne. Then there's one of the world's most annoying child actors, Joel Carlson, as their little yard monster who can't keep his trap shut. CineSchlockers will remember the director's Howling Numero Two-o AND Three-o. But his greatest achievement was probably The Beast Within. That's the one about a gal who gets raped by a giant katydid on her wedding night. It's one of my personal favorites. Way to go, Phil.

Notables: No breasts. Eric Clapton guitar picking. One roasted duck. Gratuitous Yiddish. Nose miner Halloween party. Shotgun brandishing. Multiple probing. Fun with hypnosis. Dancing space aliens. Interstellar day care center. Spooky bright lights. Gratuitous magic show. Martian high five. Gratuitous raccoon skin cap.

Quotables: Most anything Walken says is quotable -- that is if you can make sense of his muttering. When Whitley's wife suggest he continue seeing a shrink, "I'd stick pins in my eyeballs before I'd let that wacko woman fool with me!" and shortly before that, "Can you say ERECTION?!" The best, is when the aliens pull out an anal probe and he whimpers, "Can we talk this over?!" and "How dare you!"

Time codes: Space alien peek-a-boo (12:45). Whitley undergoes hypnosis (49:20). Alien-abductee Anonymous meeting (1:12:30).

Audio/Video: This is Elite's FIRST anamorphic widescreen disc, and the company has expressed a commitment to enhance future discs for 16x19 TVs. They've also remixed the film's original audio track into Dolby Digital 5.1. There's something odd about the 2.35:1 transfer, though. Instead of the letterboxing being completely black, at times, 90 percent black bars appear at top and bottom (sort of like you're watching a 1.85:1 film). However the quirk isn't overly distracting and probably won't be noticeable at all for 16x19 folks. The theatrical trailers look as though they were transferred from home video. Better source material would have been nice, but not at the cost of their exclusion from the special edition.

Extras: This is where the disc really shines. Foremost, is a unique take on a traditional director's commentary. Philippe Mora is joined by William J. Birnes who co-authored "The Day After Roswell" and is the publisher of UFO Magazine. Instead of a shot-by-shot commentary, Mora and Birnes use the film as a starting point for a very broad discussion of alien abduction and other UFO phenomena. Mora professes to be a skeptic, but knows a great deal about our modern mythos. Birnes is a fount of weird theories and second-hand stories -- my favorite describes a meeting between President Eisenhower and extra-terrestrial visitors. Or that materials salvaged from the saucer crash near Roswell, New Mexico were reverse engineered by U.S. companies -- including the transistor, which was suddenly perfected just six months after the crash in 1947. The disc also features nearly 15 minutes of outtakes, with commentary by Mora. Plus, a five-minute look behind the scenes of the shoot. Footage includes the Whitley family and Walken's thoughts on the subject matter. There are the theatrical trailers mentioned above, as well as gobs of photos and story boards. Another fascinating addition, is a brief excerpt from Mora's According to Occam's Razor, which shows un-edited, real footage of a tiny foreign object being surgically removed from the arm of someone who claims aliens put it there.

Final thought: A must for Christopher Walken fans and those interested in UFO lore. Others are cautioned to rent before purchasing this odd and lethargically-paced movie. A unique array of extras earns the disc an elevated grade. Highly recommended.

Check out CineSchlock-O-Rama
for additional reviews and bonus features.

G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.

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