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Sixteen Tongues (Saturn’s Core Releasing) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Sixteen Tongues (Saturn’s Core Releasing) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Saturn’s Core Releasing
    Released on: September 27th, 2022.
    Director: Scooter McCrae
    Cast: Jane Chase, Crawford James, Alice Liu
    Year: 2005
    Purchase From Amazon

    Sixteen Tongues – Movie Review:

    Scooter McCrae’s Sixteen Tongues is a dirty film. It’s a filthy, dirty, impure, unclean, soiled and sullied film and it’s one of those weird oddball movies that wallows in its own filth and it’s very unapologetic about it. It is, at times, hard to watch. The characters evoke little to no sympathy and it’s all rather complicated but at the same time ridiculously simple.

    The story, set somewhere in the not too distant future, follows an angry cop named Adrian Torque (Crawford James). We find out that he was injured in the line of duty when a bomb went off and because of that he needed some serious surgery in the form of a skin graft in which the tongues of the sixteen people who were killed in the same explosion were melded to his body. These tongues have sort of melded with his psyche and, as such, his body is in almost constant pain and he is prone to fits of anger and rage. In short, he’s not quite himself.

    Torque spends his free time in a flea-trap hotel where most of the customer are more interested in living out their sadomasochistic fantasies than in getting a good night’s rest. Pornographic imagery literally litters the hallways and the rooms, and there’s a constant barrage of smut present on every television screen and computer monitor in the place. It’s in this hotel that Torque meets a killer hooker named Ginny Chin-Chin (Jane Chase). She’s on a mission to find and kill the scientist who altered her body and mind to make her into the deadly living weapon that she has become.

    Ginny’s not without her strange body modifications either. Like Torque, she’s had some surgery though hers is quite different – she’s got a clitoris under each of her eyelids and because of this she’s completely wired all of the time and unable to control many of her emotions. She lives with a computer hacker named Alik Silens (Alice Liu, who also contributed to the soundtrack and has had some interesting bit parts doing voice work in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and in She Hate Me!) who is out to get revenge for her brother who was killed by a cop. As Ginny and Torque’s relationship grows in a literal and phallicly symbolic way, the three main characters become entwined in each other’s lives whether they like it or not.

    For a movie made for less than $10,000.00, Sixteen Tongues sure is an ambitious picture. The makeup effects alone for most movies would cost way more than the total budget of this film, let alone the performers’ salaries. It’s not a stretch to say that the film does, at times, bite off more than it can chew. It attempts a lot with its ambitious psycho-sexual science fiction story and it while sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it falls a bit short of the mark. The single setting of the film is an obvious and instant notification that this film was made with modest means, and that does take away from things a bit. The makeup effects (especially in the finale) don’t look very realistic at all, but they are unique and memorable, and maybe that’s more important. Some of the acting is less than perfect (though most of it is actually pretty good) and there are a few moments where the dialogue sounds just plain awkward.

    But don’t let that put you off of the movie because there’s no denying the creativity and originality on display in the movie. Given a bigger budget and access to better technology, McCrae’s film could have been a minor masterpiece. The potential is certainly there and it’s quite obvious that there’s a lot going on under the surface, especially if you start to think about the character development, the use of technology and the relationships that evolve as the story plays out. In order to get a bigger budget, however, you’d probably have to pander to the masses and soften a lot of the material to make the movie more accessible. If you did that, you’d more or less render the movie impotent.

    That being said, if Sixteen Tongues isn’t a perfect movie, it is a really interesting movie and one absolutely worth seeing if you’re fan of stranger, more confrontational SOV cinema. If you’re able to get past the low budget, you’ll find a pretty unique story that melds aspects of David Cronenberg’s work and the cyberpunk aspects of William Gibson’s novels with some slapdash pornographic imagery that would maybe feel more at home in some of Michael Ninn’s more unusual and boundary pushing XXX work than anywhere else. Sixteen Tongues is also a very dark film and, as such, if deals in some rather depressing themes and ideas through its use of storytelling techniques and confrontational imagery. The characters are stuck, this isn’t a happy movie and they can’t necessarily win the day like you might hope they do. The soundtrack makes this evident almost from the start of the film, and in a twisted sort of way, with the turns that the world has taken in this dystopian future, it is quite appropriate.

    Sixteen Tongues – Blu-ray Review:

    Saturn’s Core brings Sixteen Tongues to region free Blu-ray in a 1080i high definition presentation framed in the movie’s original 1.33.1 aspect ratio with an AVC encode. This looks quite a bit better than the old Sub Rosa DVD, thanks mainly to the better compression. Detail is still limited by the source material but the image is stable and detail is about as good as you can realistically expect here. Colors look decent and black levels are, if not perfect, pretty solid.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is fine. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only. Audio quality is fine. The dialogue is generally easy to here and the movie’s weirdly effective score sounds quite strong here.

    This disc is loaded with a whole lot of extra features, some old and some new. We begin with the alternate audio tracks we first find an isolated score. The music plays a very important part in the film and it’s always a nice treat when discs allow us to access a film’s soundtrack sans dialogue and effects, as it allows you to really appreciate the score on its own merits. Such is very much the case here.

    After that we’re treated to not one but two commentary tracks. The first track features writer/director Scooter McCrae with set designer Dan Oullette and producer Alex Kuciw. The three are obviously having a good time on this track as it doesn’t slow down at all and is filled with interesting stories and facts about the film and its long production history. All three of the participants have got a sense of humor and there’s a fair amount of amusing material in here as well as interesting technical information and some explanations of some of the film’s more oblique ideas and themes. The second commentary track features Scooter McCrae joined once again by Alex Kuciw. This time out, things are a little bit more formal as Kuciw almost plays interviewer with McCrae and quizzes him on all manner of things Sixteen Tongues related. Taking a very different route than they did in the first commentary, they explain in some very roundabout ways the many different sexual and technological themes running throughout the movie as well as some of the more obscure approaches that the film took to taking those ideas out of McCrae’s head and getting them into a coherent form of cinema.

    Fantasia Or Bust is a twenty-two minute piece that documents the movie’s debut at the 2003 Fantasia Festival. It's an interesting piece that starts off with a voice mail that McCrae got letting him know his movie was accepted at the festival before then going on to show McCrae's trip to Montreal, what it was like attending the festival, jumping from bed to bed in his hotel room, checking out the theater where the movie would screen and then doing a Q&A at the screening itself.

    There are a few archival featurettes here as well. The twenty-six minutes of Behind The Scenes/Bloopers footage gives us a very well rounded look at the making of the film through some fun candid footage and some interesting behind the scenes information. The Makeup And Costume Fitting featurette runs twenty-two minutes gives us a look at how intensive Crawford James’ make up was, as he’s seated for the application which ends up taking up quite a bit of time and effort. The Visual Effects Breakdown featurette lets post FX supervisor Robert Morris spend three minutes exploring how the CGI inserts were handled in the film and how they tied into the movie.

    Saturn’s Core has also included some of McCrae’s early short student films, as well as a video introduction to these student films by director Scooter McCrae that runs eleven minutes. He talks about going to SUNY Purchase outside of New York City for film school, some of the people that he met and collaborated with, being able to work on soundstage for the first time, memories of working on specific projects, working with front projection and how he feels about these student films looking back at them.

    First up is 1987's Only Hell, his junior year project which was shot on 16mm and runs twelve minutes. You can watch this with or without an optional commentary from McCrae that details the film's production history, casting the film, working with the lead actress and the importance of getting the rubber room set just right. The film starts in a rubber room where a woman appears dazed and out of it. A tray with some cigarettes and a lighter appears and she has a smoke. A camera behind a wall observes her as she freaks out, eventually bashing her head into the tray until she bleeds, then deciding to perform for the camera and then masturbate.

    The twenty-three minute db is a 16mm film from 1988, again available with or without commentary from McCrae. The movie sees a man, mostly off camera aside from his hand, smearing white cream on a woman's face and then applying red and blue makeup. We then see a man lying on the floor of some sort of industrial location, gurgling, the woman in the makeup showing concern for him when another man approaches and sexually assaults her, then setting the first man on fire. After the deed is done, she slaps him. They talk for a bit from there he gives her a headset and then tests her depth perception. From here, she explores this dystopian location before things get very, very dark. The commentary talks about how the project was essentially unfinished due to budgetary restraints, his love of Flash Gordon serials that he saw on TV as a kid, shooting the movie with live sound on set and without any dubbing, creating some of the sets and props featured in the movie, working with the different cast and crew members in the movie and his film school experiences overall.

    The disc also includes Scooter McCrae’s 2015 short film, Saint Frankenstein, which runs seventeen minutes and stars Melanie Gaydos and Tina Krause. The movie starts with a woman walking down a dark street and arriving at a door asking for Shelly (Gaydos). She introduces herself as Carla (Krause) and Shelly lets her in and Carla, decked out in a cape and a tight fitting bodice, smokes some weed and with Shelly's permission and approval gets undressed - except for the cape. Shelly touches Carla but once she gets a good look at her, Carla realizes that Shelly is different. "Haven't you ever seen a Frankenstein movie?," Shelly asks her? From here, Shelly tells Carla her story, after which, they have sex - and then there's a twist.

    Saint Frankenstein also gets a commentary from McCrae and producer Alex Kuciw. They talk about the lengthy gap in McCrae's directorial work, how they came to work together, shooting most of the movie in a single hotel room in Long Island, now having as much money as they wanted to make the movie, getting the specific look of the movie down, doing pretty much everything in camera without digital effects, attempting to bring something new to the zombie mythos, having Archana Rajan dub Gaydos' character's voice in the movie, writing Krause's part specifically for her, the makeup work required for the movie and lots more. Additionally, you can access the movie’s isolated score featuring music by none other than famed composer Fabio Frizzi.

    Moving right along, we’re treated to a selection of ten minutes of deleted scenes, a music video for the track “I See The Dark” buy the band Missing Chunk, a pretty sizeable still gallery for Sixteen Tongues and one for Saint Frankenstein, trailers for Sixteen Tongues and McCrae’s earlier Shatter Dead, bonus trailers for a few other Saturn’s Core releases (Mail Order Murder, Burglar From Hell, Sinistre, Psycho Sisters, Duck: The Carbine High Massacre), menus and chapter selection options. This release comes packaged with some slick reversible cover art.

    Sixteen Tongues – The Final Word:

    Sixteen Tongues is weird, dark and challenging, a remarkably ambitious super low budget feature that, despite some understandable flaws, is well worth seeking out if you’re someone who appreciates the stranger side of SOV cinema and science fiction. The Blu-ray release from Saturn’s Core offers up a much improved presentation of the feature, carries over all of the bonus features from the old DVD release and includes some new supplements as well, highlighted by the really cool trio of short films. All in all, another excellent package from Saturn’s Core for an underappreciated weirdo outlaw cinema gem!


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    • cryptkicker_5
      #1
      cryptkicker_5
      Junior Member
      cryptkicker_5 commented
      Editing a comment
      I love this movie, as well as McCrae's Shatter Dead. Both could've used a bit more money, but they're still unique experiences. I have the Sub Rosa DVD but will be picking this up. I interviewed McCrae a few years ago, and he said he would've liked to have added some CGI stuff if he'd had the cash, such as large sentry robots patrolling the streets outside the hotel, glimpsed only through the windows. Plot-wise, this is the kind of film I wish Cronenberg would make.
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