Saturday, September 6, 2014

Graduation Day (1981) Blu-ray Review

Directed by Herb Freed
Theatrical Release date: May 1, 1981
From IFI/Scope III

DVD/Blu-ray release: September 9, 2014
From Vinegar Syndrome 

The fact that Graduation Day was released in the magical year of 1981 should already be reason enough to watch, but, recently exploring the Film, which I admit to having been a fan of for years, has me falling in love all over again. 

My Graduation Day viewing meal. 

Available on September 9th from Vinegar Syndrome on a Combo DVD/Blu-ray, Graduation Day passes any possible exam and graduates with flying colors. Quite simply, this Slasher from the golden era hasn’t looked better, and any fan of the Horror genre should be proud to own a copy of it in their collection. Previously released on DVD from Troma Entertainment, it’s safe to say you should fling that really lackluster version aside and upgrade to this beautiful and thoughtful package the guys at Vinegar have put together. 

Director Herb Freed’s name isn’t as synonymous with others in the Horror genre because he really didn’t explore any more after his brief run in the late 70’s and early 80’s (See also: Haunts and Beyond Evil). After watching Graduation Day, you could say that he had said everything he wanted to about the then popular Slasher genre with this one Movie. It’s fun from beginning to end. Contains imaginative set pieces and kills, and even manages to raise some, gasp, suspense. Of course it’s wrapped in a package that’s very much of it’s time, and totally meant to cash in on the success of cash cows Halloween and Friday the 13th. It’s absurd, dumb, smart and even daring at times. What other Slasher Film boasts a 7+ minute performance by a new wave punk goth glam band slash murder sequence slash roller rink scene? 

Never get into a car with a guy who has a lousy cravat. 

This little Movie has moments that are pure Slasher gold, but i’m most impressed with it’s inventive editing style. Film Editor Martin Jay Sadoff might be best known to genre fans for his work on Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, and he also was responsible for the glorious 3-D process they used on Friday the 13th Part 3. Anyone who was lucky enough to have seen that Movie back in 1982 was kind of blown away by it. My younger self included. I still count it as my favorite 3-D experience of all time. The editing in Graduation Day feels fresh and new and breathes life into the Film which makes it stand out from other meant-to-be Slasher throwaways of the time. We love these Movies for all kinds of reasons, and it’s fun to take away different things from them. The music and songs are also really memorable and I sometimes find myself singing them days after watching. Oh, and genre gods Christopher George, Linnea Quigley and Michael Pataki are in it. Now that’s a Movie that gives you some bang for your buck!

Vinegar Syndrome’s new package boasts handsome artwork which loyally sticks to the original artwork for the Film. The static menus are clean and easy to navigate. The Picture quality is quite frankly outstanding. I know the Film print is a bit jumpy at times, but that’s because of the source. I’ve seen that in a Retro Screening of the Film I caught a few years ago. Vinegar’s clean up and restoration is marvelous and the Audio matches that as well. If you want to be transported back to the very early 80’s you very much will with this Video & Audio presentation. So crank it up! 

Creepy/nerdy music teachers get all the babes. Didn't you know?

I’m so happy that Vinegar managed to put together some pretty great extras for the disc since I’ve been a fan of the Film for so long. It’s so much fun to see some of the Filmmakers and Actors after all of these years look back at their experience making the Movie… 

Four interviews are included. All great and worth diving into. The first with leading Actress Patch Mackenzie (god, I love her name so much I want to name any future children after her). The second interview features Director Herb Freed, third with Producer Dave Baughn and the last is with Editor Martin Jay Sadoff. The interviews run in total about 40 minutes. 

Also included are two commentary tracks. The first features Producer Dave Baughn and is moderated by Elijah Drenner. It’s a pretty fun track considering a Producer is involved (har har) and there’s no shortage of information and background about the Film. I honestly learned more about the Film than I had ever known and I loved every moment of it. 

The second track is by the Slasher Podcast The Hysteria Continues. I’m actually friends with each member of that podcast so I’ll be kind… Just kidding… I don’t really have to tiptoe… The guys at the Hysteria Continues all do a really great job of commenting on the Film and providing background information. And they are fun to listen to. I don’t want to single people out, but I will… Justin & Erik in particular add a lot of tasty tidbits about the Movie even this dedicated fan of the Slasher sub-genre didn’t know. 

Finally, a Trailer is included. 

Graduation Day is worth loving, even hate-liking if you’re not into Slasher Films. At least you’ll see something that’s a little different while trying to capitalize on a previous success. It’s super silly fun and you get to see a pre-Wheel of Fortune Vanna White giggle a lot in a great new shiny, bloody package.

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