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Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker AKA Night Warning (Special Edition)

Code Red // R // August 3, 2021
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted July 15, 2021 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:


Directed by William Asher and also known under the alternate title of Night Warning, 1981's Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker opens with a scene where two parents, Anna (Kay Kimler) and Bill Lynch (Gary Baxley), hand off their young three-year-old son, Billy, to Cheryl Roberts (Susan Tyrell) as they head off for a vacation together. Shortly after they leave, they realize the breaks aren't working and crash into a track carrying some logs. The man is decapitated and the woman, still in the car, goes over a cliff and dies.


Fourteen years later and young Billy (Jimmy McNichol) is now a seventeen-year-old high school senior and a VIP on the school's basketball team. He's dating Julie Linden (Julia Duffy) and appears happy at home with his aunt Cheryl, who has raised him all these many years. Cheryl, however, has issues. She asks Billy to send over Phil Brody (Caskey Swaim), the local TV repairman, to look at their set and, once she's alone with him, tries quite aggressively to coerce him into having sex with her. When it doesn't go the way she wants it to, she stabs him to death… just as Billy comes home from school. She tells him he tried to rape her and just as Billy pulls the knife out of Phil's corpse, friends Margie (Marcia Lewis) and Frank (Cooper Neal), swing by for a visit. The cops are called and Detective Joe Carlson (Bo Svenson) knows right away that something is wrong with the story.


When Carlson, with some help from Sergeant Cook (Britt Leach), finds out that Phil was gay and having a clandestine affair with Billy's coach, Steve Eastin (Tom Landers), he starts to wonder if Billy was gay too, unsure if he was the one who killed Phil or if he was covering for his aunt. Meanwhile, word gets out about Eastin, which leads Billy into getting into a fight with mouthy teammate Eddie (Bill Paxton). When Cheryl finds out that Billy might be getting a basketball scholarship and leaving town, her behavior becomes increasingly unhinged.


Part horror picture and part over the top melodrama, Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is a showcase for the insane acting abilities of the late Susan Tyrell. Here, as Cheryl, she chews through the scenery with reckless abandon and we're all better off for it. Whether it's one of the many moments where she creepily consoles or comforts Billy, her attempt to seduce Phil Brody or her twisted attempts to literally eliminate her problems in the latter half of the film, Tyrell just goes for it here and she's a blast to watch. Bo Svenson gives her a run for her money, with his portrayal of the blatantly homophobic cop in charge of the investigation, but as surly and dislikeable as his Detective Carlson may be, he still stands squarely in Tyrell's shadow.


The rest of the cast do decent work here as well. Jimmy McNichol is likeable enough as the male lead here, playing his part well. He has decent enough chemistry with Julia Duffy, who is also quite likeable here. A young but instantly recognizable Bill Paxton plays the school bully pretty effectively and Tom Landers makes for a pretty sympathetic gay character. Maria Lewis and Cooper Neal are, intentionally or not, rather comedic here and it's fun to see Britt Leach from Silent Night, Deadly Night show up in the film.


Production values are pretty solid. There are a few decent gore effects in the film and the main house where Cheryl and Billy live and where much of the movie takes place looks right. The cinematography is good and the score works quite well. Overall, this one is a bit of a gem.


The Video:


Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is reissued on Region Free Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and Code Red in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 that appears identical to the Blu-ray release that Code Red put out independently in 2017. The transfer takes up just under 21GBs on the 25GB disc and is, according to the packaging, taken from a 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. For the most part, it looks quite nice and offers a solid upgrade over the previous DVD release. There is some mild trailing noticeable in a few spots but the image is nice and clean and shows virtually no print damage at all. Colors are also reproduced quite nicely and black levels are strong.


The Audio:


A 24-bit English language DTS-HD options is provided in 2.0 Mono format. There are no alternate language or subtitle options offered on this release. There's some occasional sibilance and few instances where the dialogue sounds just a tad muffled but otherwise the track is balanced well enough. Dialogue is generally, with a few exceptions, pretty easy to follow and the score sounds fine.


The Extras:


Extras are all carried over from the DVD release These means we get a commentary track with actor Jimmy McNichol moderated by Jeff McKay and Bill Olsen as well as a second track featuring producer/writer Steven Breimer and co-writer Alan Jay Glueckman moderated by Nathanial Thompson. These are both worth listening to if you haven't already, with the McNichol track discussing what it was like acting in the film at a young age, working with the cast and crew and thoughts on Tyrell specifically. The second track is a bit more focused on the behind-the-scenes aspects, the casting, the marketing of the film and how it all came together.

On top of that, the disc includes a few interviews. Jimmy McNichol spends eight-minutes talking about his career, how he got cast and what it was like working on the film, it covers some of the same ground as the commentary track. The ten-minute interview with Susan Tyrell is fairly insane as she's clearly playing a character here and having a lot of fun doing it. She doesn't offer up much in the way of memories from the shoot but it is amusing to see her reacting to the film, which she claims she'd never seen before. Actor Steven Eastin speaks for nine-minutes about how he landed the part on the movie, thoughts on his character and working with the rest of the cast, Tyrell in particular. Makeup artist Allan A. Apone gets a quick five-minute piece where he talks about some of the effects work in the film, what it was like on set, and how Bo Svenson wound up in some hot water with a hairdresser. Producer Steve Brimer gets twelve-minutes on camera to talk about the film's marketing campaign, how it wound up being such an obscure title for as long as it was and how he feels about the movie overall.


Also be on the lookout for a theatrical trailer under the alternate Night Warning title, menus and chapter selection. Code Red packages this with a nice slipcover and some cool reversible cover art that includes the Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker art on one side and the alternate Night Warning art on the reverse.


Overall:

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is worth seeing for Tyrell's delightfully unhinged performance alone! Overall, it's a really entertaining mix of over-the-top histrionics, melodrama and horror movie tropes that results in something pretty unique in genre cinema. Code Red's Blu-ray release presents the film in a decent presentation and carries over all of the extras from the previous release, resulting in a pretty solid effort. Recommended.


Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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