BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
“Get me off this FUCKING show,” mutters one contestant on the television game show Live or Die. With contests like Dance of the Seven Boners and one involving transporting two heavy gas canisters through rings of fire, it is the most controversial show to ever be filmed in front of a live studio audience. The inmates who find themselves on the show have a chance of reprieve, if they don’t die first. Hint: they die; even some of the audience members when they accidentally wind up on the program.
This is the wild territory of Mark Pirro’s Deathrow Gameshow. It is a b-movie that, from the very beginning, is completely off its rocker. It opens with a very live execution as a gameshow contestant loses his head for answering a question incorrectly. Of course, he still has a chance to earn money for his family, if his head lands on the floor face-up. Wipe those tears away, sons, we are going to be rich!
Politically incorrect and gutsy as hell, Pirro’s film is both hilarious and outrageous. It spoofs commercials, pop culture, AND television watching itself. The dark humor is practically stuck to the walls of the soundstage where Live or Die is filmed.
Chuck Toedan (John McCafferty) is a dick. As a host of a television show as mean-spirited as “The Gong Show”, he doesn’t have to be nice. And he makes sure everyone knows he’s a total asshat. Well, that’s our Chuckie. Yuckiity, yuck, yuck. He offers no apology for his show or his behavior, leaving behind a trail of unhappy campers in his wake.
His “perfect” world is about to be rocked, though.
After accidentally frying a mob boss on his show by hooking wires to his junk and then arousing him on live television with a single touch, his time on this planet spent sucking air becomes significantly shortened. The Spumoni Family has a lot of friends with a lot of guns and one of them, Beano Agundez, prides himself on being “da woild’s best” when it comes to killing. Toedan has his attention now. And that’s not good for Toedan. At all.
The slapstick is everywhere. Most of it still works, too. There are gags involving a “Slow Children” crossing sign, multiple execution zingers, and puns that actually bounce twice before landing with a spat. The comedy is aggressive in nature and tugs at the edges of good taste. You won’t care, though, as you will be wiping away the tears of laughter.
White visually dated, the movie MORE THAN makes up for its low budget shortcomings with a continuously charged atmosphere that dares go there with its material. Just ask actress Robin Blythe who does her first nude scene alongside McCafferty on Toedan’s desk. Shocking is a tame term when it comes to describing some of the antics within Deathrow Gameshow.
Complete with a wacky dream sequence, the b-movie never collapses under the weight of the pressure the crew must have felt. Every dime earned went into the four-week shoot. For this filmmaking crew, the $200,000 they scored to make Deathrow Gameshow was a gift they didn’t dare abuse from Crown films. They’d only worked with super 8 and now this crew of friends was diving headfirst into the world of 35mm. They don’t disappoint.
Originally released theatrically in 40 or so cities, Deathrow Gameshow killed it on VHS and on HBO, which is how I originally saw it. Aren’t you proud, mom?! Unfortunately, many print critics unfairly compared the film to Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man at the time of its original release. They saw little good in Deathrow’s cinematic chaos, but now – thanks to Vinegar Syndrome – we can tell all those critics off by purchasing the film on blu-ray.
Deathrow Gameshow. It’s the only way to go.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 83 mins
Director: Mark Pirro
Writer: Alan Gries
Cast: John McCafferty, Robyn Blythe, Beano
Genre: Horror | Comedy
Tagline: A once in a lifetime experience.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Hey, aren't you? You are! You're the host of that sick, twisted, morally fucked up tv show!"
Theatrical Distributor: Crown International Pictures
Release Date: December 4, 1987
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: October 25, 2016
Synopsis: Chuck Toedan is the host of a game show featuring death row convicts competing in life-or-death contests in hopes of cheating the executioner or, at the very least, winning some nice prizes
Home Video Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome
Available on Blu-ray - October 25, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: DTS Master Audio Mono 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc, Single disc
Region Encoding: Region A
Vinegar Syndrome presents Deathrow Gameshow with a restored 2k transfer from the 35mm original camera negative. The results are crystal clear. Black levels could be stronger, but their overall weakness isn’t much of a distraction. Nothing really pops in the set design. Details are more noticeable, but so are the props (and not in a good way). This b-movie through and through, so there are visual limitations. Colors are good. Flesh tones are not as pink as they used to be and, thankfully, the whole tape-sourced problems that long plagued its VHS edition are forgotten. The sound is presented in a dynamic DTS-HD mono track.
The commentary track with director Mark Pirro, John McCafferty & Robyn Blythe is both fun and easy to listen to. They talk at length at some of the guerilla filmmaking that took place in getting the movie made.
Vinegar Syndrome continues to provide the goods to b-movie buffs. This Blu-ray/DVD combo release gives us NEW thoughts into the madness from the original cast and crew and gives us enough short films from Pirro to make us very happy. Most of these, I have never seen before. There are director introductions to both the film and the short films, plus a director’s cut of the movie. Easily watchable, the 32-minute documentary is a fun romp for the crew and the cast as they remember making the movie.
- Revisiting Deathrow Gameshow (32 min)
- 2015 director’s cut of DEATHROW GAMESHOW
- Multiple Director Introductions
- Buns Short Film
- The Spy Who Did It Better Short Film
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spot
- Image Gallery
- Director Bio