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Burglar From Hell (Saturn’s Core) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Burglar From Hell (Saturn’s Core) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Saturn’s Core
    Released on: April 26th, 2022.
    Director: Phil Herman
    Cast: Debbie D, Bryant Sohl, Barry Gaines
    Year: 1993
    Purchase From Amazon

    Burglar From Hell – Movie Review:

    Directed by Phil ‘Chip’ Herman for his own Falcon Video Productions, 1993’s Burglar From Hell opens with a huge guy in a ‘KOOL’ cigarettes shirt named Frank The Tank (Bryant Sohl) breaking into an old lady’s home hoping to make off with the valuables that he’s sure she’s stashed away somewhere. It doesn’t end well for Frank when the old lady grabs her shotgun and shoots him dead. Rather than call the cops, however, she buries him nearby. Then she dies of a heart attack.

    A few years later and roommates Mike (Matt O'Connor) and Jake (Ben Stanski) are squabbling about issues revolving around Mike’s girlfriend being around all the time. Shortly after, they get a visit from their pal Conrad (Barry Gaines) and his new girlfriend Token (Angela Jackson), who just so happens to be a witch of some sort and who was once involved with a dangerous gangster named Weller (Zane Copper). Mike decides to leave his girlfriend alone for the weekend and head out with Jake, Conrad, Token and their friend Rich (Sean Lytl) to an old house that they were able to rent on the cheap. They figure that they can party down for a couple of nights and that it’ll also be a good spot for Token to practice her magic.

    When a trio of girls from the place next door, claiming to be models, stops by, Token winds up the victim of a joke that rubs her the wrong way and she curses the rest of the crew. A short time later, not only are people shitting their brains out, but Frank has come back from the grave intent on killing anyone he can. Meanwhile, a nerdy guy Bookworkm (Paul Amerigo) tutors a hot chick named Heather (Debbie D in her feature film debut!) who he fantasizes about. Eventually, Frank will attack Heather, she will kick his dick off and he will say ‘Oh, my pipi’ as something that looks like a dong made of turds flops onto the floor out of his pants.

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    Shot entirely on location in and around Rockaway, Queens, in the great state of New York, Burglar From Hell suffers from some pretty obvious pacing problems and less than professional acting. Production values are slim and the whole thing was very, very clearly made on the cheap. It’s full of crass, lowbrow humor and it plays out as a very ‘by the numbers’ slasher movie. At the same time, it was clearly made by some people who were having an absolute blast getting out there with a camcorder and making a movie, and that gives Burglar From Hell some infectiously wonky charm. Even during the many scenes in the first half of the movie where nothing is really happening, it’s entertaining to watch the cast bring their goofball characters to life, even if it’s obvious that there aren’t a whole lot of professional actors up there on the screen.

    The real star of the movie, aside from Debbie D’s gratuitous nudity, is Frank The Tank. Bryant Sohl lurks around a residential area of Rockaway looking like he’s got old pizza glued to his face, offering up forced maniacal laughter every couple of minutes looking resplendent in all his early 90s glory. While his one-liners never aim higher than the lowest common denominator and his delivery is never less than stilted, the guy is just really fun to watch.

    Is this movie going to win over those not already enamored with no-budget SOV oddities? Not likely, but if you fall into that camp, Burglar From Hell is, ultimately, really a bit of a gem.

    Burglar From Hell – Blu-ray Review:

    Burglar From Hell comes to region free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080i high definition transfer that was transferred from the original S-VHS master tape. Framed at 1.33.1 and taking up 21.5GBs of space on the 50GB disc, this looks very much like the micro-budget SOV production that it is, but it’s more than watchable if you keep its low budget origins in mind. Detail can’t surpass the source material but the disc is well authored and compression is obviously much better here than had the movie been put onto a DVD. Colors and black levels look alright, skin tones too. Again, don’t expect a revelation here but those accustomed to the way that camcorder epics such as this look on optical discs will be more than happy with this way this has turned out, so long as expectations are kept in check.

    The 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 audio, available with optional English subtitles, sounds fine in both cuts. Levels are balanced well enough and there isn’t much in the way of hiss or distortion to complain about but there are definitely scenes where you wish they’d had a wind sock on the microphone. Again, the limitations of the source material do factor into the equation here, but overall, given the film’s roots, the audio is decent.

    Writer / director Phil Herman is on hand for a quick optional into to the feature as well as a full length commentary. It's a fairly scene specific talk, with Herman talking about how he got his mother to play the old lady in the opening scene and how she insisted that her dog be in the movie. As the track plays out, he talks about how his childhood home was the main location, how much Bryant Sohl loved playing Frank The Tank, writing specific parts in his movies for people that he knows, his own cameo in the movie, how he got Debbie D in the movie while she was still working on her singing career, how the cameras used for the movie were not good at night hence some of the lighting issues, shooting certain scenes with people in the neighborhood in the background just sort of watching, how the movie has been received and how this movie is his bestselling title, details on shooting specific scenes and lots more. It's a pretty interesting track, Herman is a good storyteller and he's got a great memory.

    A Chip Off The Old Block is an eleven minute interview with Herman who talks about loving movies as a kid and getting into filmmaking when his cousin got ahold of a Super 8 camera and then getting his first video camera, a two-piece Hitachi that connected to a deck, and how this opened the gates for him. He then talks about doing shorts and then going on to do longer projects, shooting Hell On Earth over six years and all the problems that this entailed, making Burglar From Hell simply because he wanted to make a slasher movie, working with the main cast and crew on the picture, getting Debbie D in the movie and shooting her scenes in Philadelphia, using locations that were available to them, the effects featured in the movie and the film's legacy and cult following.

    From Pop Scene to Scream Queen gets actress Debbie D. in front of the camera for ten minutes. She talks about joining her first band in high school, how her music career started to take off, getting into acting, how Herman found her through a modelling magazine, why she took the part in the movie, how everyone was very nice on the set, playing her role seriously, her thoughts on doing nudity, what it was like being a scream queen in the 90s and how it differs from today and more.

    Rockaway Beach Memoirs is an interview with actor Barry Gaines who speaks for twelve minutes about how he learned a lot working for Falcon Video and Phil Herman, how he and Herman met each other when they were kids, early projects that they worked on together, how most of the cast and crew knew each other before making the movie, thoughts on his character, how though the scheduling was during the making of the movie due to jobs and other real world responsibilities, shooting his death scene and what it was like to work with the other cast members.

    Bryant Sohl himself shows up in an interview called Frank the Tank Speaks! Here he spends four minutes talking about how he has known Herman since he was three, making the Hell On Earth series with him, having a lot of fun making movies with Herman, how the part of Frank The Tank was written specifically for him when he asked for a lead role, shooting the scene with Debbie D in Philadelphia and trying not to come off as a creep when working with her, the makeup he had to wear and how amazing it is to him that the movie still lives on.

    The disc also includes a sixty-four minute bonus movie in the form of 1989’s The Wrong Side Of Town, Herman’s previously unreleased feature film debut taken from the existing SVHS master. Just like Burglar From Hell, this looks to have been shot in the Rockaways and stars Herman (as Chad Bradster III!), Gaines (as Rob Marlay) and Sohl (as Rexx) alongside Matt O'Connor as Chase and Richard Minalapin as The Bum as well as a few others. It opens with a pretty dramatic scene where a guy is assaulted by a group of other guys and then lit on fire on the beach. Later, Chad, who has nice shoes, rocks out to some loud music as he gets ready to hit the scene, much to the dismay of his mom. It seems that Chad needs a car so he borrows his friends ride and heads to a bar where he tries to pick up a hot goth chick. When she responds in kind, he doesn't realize it's a setup and that he's.... on the wrong side of town! It’s a fun time capsule of sorts, a snapshot of one of Queens’ more remote areas in the late eighties complete with big hair, dive bars and big cars.

    Picture and sound quality is a bit below Burglar From Hell and there are no subtitles included here, but given the movie's origins, it looks and sounds as good as you can probably expect it to even if the dark scenes are really, really dark.

    Mercenary is an early short film by Phil Herman that runs nineteen minutes and stars Sohl, Herman and Gaines in the lead roles. In the movie, a trio of guys sits around and drinks beer. Two of them beat up the third and hang him out a window before taking off. The one who was beaten up hires Sohl to take care of the other two guys, which he does... with a vengeance! It's an amusing enough short with some fun amateur gore effects and goofy characters in it. The wig that Herman's mom wears in the opening of Burglar From Hell makes an appearance in the movie.

    Rounding out the extras are trailers for Burglar From Hell and The Wrong Side Of Town, trailers for a few other Saturn’s Core releases, menus and chapter selection options. This release comes packaged with some nice reversible cover sleeve art.

    Burglar From Hell – The Final Word:

    Burglar From Hell is patently ridiculous but it’s also a lot of screwy fun. Saturn’s Core has done a great job bringing this SOV oddity to Blu-ray in a proper special edition loaded with extra features and even a bonus film. All in all, this is a great package for a film that most probably never expected to hit Blu-ray!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Human Lanterns Blu-ray screen caps!

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