VICTORY OVER VHS OBLIVION! After 70 weeks among CineSchlock-O-Rama's Most Wanted, the unyielding vigilance of all CineSchlockers has been rewarded with the capture of ... THE HILLS HAVE EYES!!!
That strange affinity might also explain the appeal of the motocross sequel in which Mr. Berryman makes a miraculous return. As does Beast who may well boast the only canine flashback in cinema history. Robert Houston whines his way only as far as the first reel, while Janus Blythe discovers you really CAN go home again! Those anxious to see quite a bit more of Ms. Blythe should note she worked with Saw maestro Tobe Hooper that same year in Eaten Alive as Robert Englund's exuberant bunk buddy. A second Hills sequel mutated into The Outpost (a.k.a. Mind Ripper) with Lance Henriksen who decides to swing by a secret desert research facility before heading on for a family vacation. Not quite Disney Land for them either.
No breasts. Seven corpses. Tarantula stomping. Pornographic dirt doodling. Multiple explosions. Gratuitous cartwheel acrobatics. One prayer circle. Diddling. Crucifixion. Ankle noshing. Trailer trashing. One rattlesnake necktie. Crowbar impalement. Disemboweled pooch. Attempted suicide. Wild driving. Human puppetry. Boozing. Canary slurping. Retirement is no treat for Big Bob (Russ Grieve): "Twenty five years I'm a cop in the worst goddamn precinct in Cleveland. [email protected]##%&* shoot arrows at me. Hillbillies throw dogs off the roof at me. I'm even shot at by my own men. But none of these bastards have ever come as close to killing me as my own goddamn wife and her goddam roadmaps and her wrong turns and her goddamn hysterical screaming!!!" Even cannibal mamas like Cordy Clark make you clean your plate: "What's the matter? You don't like DOG anymore!?!" Lance Gordon's Mars licks his jagged chops: "Baby's fat. Youuuuuuu fat. FAT 'N' JUICY!" At least Papa Jup has hobbies: "I fixed Grandpa Fred good. I like fixin' people good!" and "I'll eat the brains of your kids' kids! I'M IN! YOU'RE OUT!!!" Pluto attempts some impromptu obedience training: "You [email protected]#*ing devil dog! You son of a bitch! You piece of [email protected]#$! I killed your bitch! I'll kill you! I'll eat your heart! ... Puke eater! I'll strangle you with your own GUTS!!!"
One bit of scolding before launching into further frantic praise for this two-disc triumph: the box cover fibs when it claims to be "Uncut and Uncensored." In fact, just inches below, it's clearly noted to be Rated R. Craven and producer Peter Locke's commentary even confirms that when they recollect all the cutting they had to do to avoid an X rating. (Jupiter waving Bob's severed arm in his own face. Extra stab wounds in the finale.) Yet, it's still the flick as we've all seen it. Just not a ratingless reconstruction as the box verbiage implies. Back to that commentary, though, whata gem! Craven and Locke remind even the most spoiled DVD fanatics of what a JOY and rare privilege it is to listen in on the behind-the-scenes skinny on our favorite flicks. Wes brings his delish sardonic wit to the proceedings alongside innumerable bits of trivia such as his early inspiration, the influence of his own family and even the grandiose notion of the film as an allegory for the world's rage against the United States. Locke's no wallflower either. As producer, he's quick with financial, casting and production insights.
Both also contribute to the set's second finest asset "Looking Back at The Hills Have Eyes." The hour-long documentary offers an enthralling, again often witty, reconnection with key cast members (Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace-Stone, Susan Lainer, Robert Houston and Janus Blythe). Due to their candor and time-hewn appreciation of the experience, its typical formula of talking heads, onset photos and film clips avoids straying into the chirpy tedium of the typical featurettes foisted by major studios. "The Directors: The Films of Wes Craven" seems vacuous in comparison, despite the same running time, with its haste to post script Craven's early grit in favor of star-studded odes to more bankable features like Scream. There's also a hilariously awful alternative ending in which the surviving characters lock hands and skip into the sunset. (Well, practically.) Another short reel offers a split-screen look at the film's restoration, reportedly from the original negatives. (Likely the initial 35 mm blowups from 16 mm.) Regardless, the transfer, while tending to significant dust and scratches, isn't going to knock anyone breathless. What'll probably be more impressive to longtime fans are the new DTS ES and DD EX mixes that have fun with Pluto and Mars' midnight taunts. Don't despair, ye purists, the original mono's included as well. Finally, there's the makings of a first-rate digital scrapbook with oodles of photos, foreign poster art and Craven's downright comical storyboards. The excruciating wait's clearly been worthwhile as Anchor Bay's delivered one of its best sets yet -- a must-own disc for any self-respecting CineSchlocker! (1977, 89 mins, 1.85:1 anam, DD 5.1 EX & DTS 6.1 ES & mono, Commentary, Featurettes, Alternate ending, Image gallery, DVD-ROM doodads, Trailers, Printed booklet with excellent liner notes.)
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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.