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The Bushwhacker / The Ravager (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Bushwhacker / The Ravager (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: March, 2019.
    Director: Byron Mabe/Charles Nizet
    Cast: Dan Martin, Merci Montello, Barbara Kline, Harvey Shain / Pierre Agostino, Jo Long, Lynn Hayes
    Year: 1968 / 1970
    Purchase From Mondo Macabro

    The Bushwhacker / The Ravager - Movie Review:

    The debut release from Mondo Macabro's American Arcana line (a sublabel dedicated to only the finest in 'U.S. trash and genre films' offers up a pair of seventies shockers unearthed from the vaults of the mighty Something Weird Video.

    The Bushwhacker:

    First up, Dan (Harvey Shain, of The Lustful Turk and The Secret Sex Lives Of Romeo And Juliet, credited as Forman Shane) is piloting his plane with a few hot chicks on board. Those hot chicks are Marueen (Barbara Kline of Henry's Night In, credited as Acee Decee), Dawn (Merci Montello, of Erika's Hot Summer and Space-Thing, credited as Merci Mee), and Sherry (played by… Rita Roundheels). Dan's a lousy pilot and soon enough, the plan crashes in the middle of the vast wilds of California - but was it shot down by a crazy hermit? They're completely unaware that this territory belongs to The Bushwhacker (Dan Martin, the director of The Big Snatch, credited as Ronny Runningboard)!

    Who is The Bushwhacker? He's a leering, lecherous old dude who has been hanging out in the woods for far too long. Decked out in a Davey Crocket-style coonskin hat and brandishing a giant knife, he's got his eyes on those ladies! Of course, the crash survivors don't realize this… yet. They walk around for a long time and uber-hunk Dan gets it on with one of the gals. Later, while everyone is sleeping, The Bushwhacker fondles one of the girls. She wakes up and then makes out with another chick for a bit. All the while, the dreaded Bushwhacker is still leering - he leers a lot. Eventually, our titular lunatic abducts one of the girls and runs off with her - it does not end well for her and the movie gets fairly graphic here. You kind of figure he's just really horny and that all he wants to do is get it on, but nope, he's got a lot more on his mind than that and it seems to involve hanging her upside down from a tree and punching her in the stomach. When the girl she was previously making out with finds her corpse… she rubs her breasts on it? It gets nuttier from there.

    Dan and the other girls, of course, realize now that they're in grave danger and the movie shifts from a softcore walk in the woods to a fight for survival!

    Made for a few bucks by the director of Nude Django and Space-Thing, The Bushwhacker can't even try to hide its modest budget but the film gets plenty of bonus points for some pretty damn memorable scenes of creative cinematic depravity! A latter-era roughie, this picture from Byron Mabe (who also did a bit of acting in his day, having appeared in The Defilers and The Beast That Killed Women) does take a little while to get going, preoccupying itself with a lot of wandering around in the woods and some softcore bumping and grinding, but once The Bushwhacker himself decides that it's 'go time' well, this one barrels along pretty nicely as far as exploitation films go. From the opening titles, hand painted on what looks like a piece of plywood, the whole thing has a seedy vibe to it, the kind that you just can't fake. The content is pretty strong stuff by the standards of 1968 - the sex is more graphic than you'd expect and the violence gets pretty strong in parts too, not quite getting to the levels of something like the H.G. Lewis films being made around the same time but definitely harder edged than what was happening in the mainstream films of the era.

    Speaking of, it's important to note that the version of The Bushwhacker presented here on this Blu-ray release does include some missing gore scenes. These have been reinserted into the movie (from a standard definition source) and, as such, this is “the most complete version of this film ever presented on video.” You can tell from screen caps #24 and 25 below where some of the SD inserts are used, it's basically the breast slicing/eating scene.

    As to the acting, well, it's fairly terrible across the board but all involved get an A for effort. If the cast is uniformly bad, at least it appears that they're trying. Harvey Shain is the best of the group, he plays macho man Dan well enough, while the three actresses were clearly hired for their physiques and willingness to disrobe rather than their thesping abilities. As to Dan Martin as the titular killer? He's a kick. He's appropriately gross and slobbery, sweat beading up on his bad spot and creating a seriously greasy vibe that works well for his character. He's not genuinely scary but when he goes off the rails and starts brutalizing anyone that he can get his hands on, he is fun to watch.

    The film disappeared for forty-years after its initial (and seemingly quite limited) theatrical run. It wasn't until Something Weird Video found a print back in the 2000s that it was given a home video release. The fact that it's now out on Blu-ray is something of a minor miracle in and of itself.

    The Ravager:

    Up next, 1970's The Ravager, directed by Belgian filmmaker Charles Nizet, the man who gave us Slaves Of Love and Help Me… I'm Possessed. The film follows an American demolitions expert named Joe (Pierre Agostino of Red Heat and a few other Ray Dennis Steckler movies, credited as Piere Gostin) serving the land of the free and the home of the brave overseas during the Vietnam War. When he gets separated from the other grunts in his platoon, he witnesses two Vietnamese soldiers forcing themselves on an unlucky civilian woman and then blowing her up with dynamite once they've had their fun!

    When Joe makes it back stateside, he's clearly scared by the things he witnessed in The 'Nam. But rather than being given proper treatment, Joe is instead released from a brief stint at a hospital. On his own, he rents a crummy room from an obnoxious landlady (Jo Long) and buys himself a case of top-quality dynamite. From here, Joe decides to embrace his delusions and sets out to peep in on couples going at it, raping women and blowing them up with dynamite and homemade bombs! He spies a couple going at it in the car… and he blows them up. He heads off to an island, blows up a guy, gawks at some lesbians and gets rid of them too (“girls who make love to each other” are one of Joe's many hang-ups, the film's ridiculously serious narration explains) and then he accidentally blows up a lady and her kid. Joe blows a lot of people up, eventually running out of dynamite and having to come up with other, more creative ways to kill people.

    This one is pretty depraved and completely mean spirited, but so too is it hard to take anything here all that seriously - the narration makes sure of that, but then we get Gostin's performance on top of that. Running about like a man possessed and looking all the world like he's about to lose control of his bowels at any given moment, Gostin, for better or worse, gives 100% in this film. He's truly the star of this film, though exploitation aficionados may recognize lovely Luanne Roberts here after seeing her in Psycho Lover and Trader Hornee as one of Joe's unfortunate victims. Ann Hollis of Dracula The Dirty Old Man also shows up and gets killed off in the film.

    Nizet keeps the action coming pretty consistently. The film is fast paced and plenty sleazy, surprisingly enough predating 'damaged vet' films like Taxi Driver, Rolling Thunder and, ummm… Forced Entry by a few years. The fact that it was shot around Las Vegas gives it a bit of character and the wonky lounge music background score definitely stands out. The film may lack polish in every conceivable way, but it doesn't lack in sleazy entertainment value!

    This is another one that had no VHS release at all and only surfaced for the first time on home video in 2004 when Something Weird finally found a print and released it on DVD-R.

    The Bushwhacker / The Ravager - Blu-ray Review:

    Both films are transferred in 2k from 35mm prints and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc. The Bushwhacker is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen whereas the older DVD-R release was 1.33.1 fullframe. There are a couple of spots where the new framing looks a bit tight but thankfully most of the time the compositions look just fine. The Ravager is presented in 1.33.1 fullframe, the same aspect ratio as its older DVD-R release. Both films are taken from prints that are in less than perfect shape, but this really is a case of doing the best with what's available - and it would seem that the elements used here are the best around. If these are a bit tattered and worn, so be it. Fans of old exploitation fans already know that when it comes to some of these more obscure pictures that it's a minor miracle that any elements exist at all, and that we are in fact quite lucky to have these available at all. So yeah, print damage abounds and sometimes the colors are a bit faded, but the transfers are more than watchable and they show much better detail than we've seen in the past. There's no obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement here and there are no noticeable problems with any compression artifacts to complain about.

    Some comparison shots between the old Something Weird Video DVD-R releases and the new high definition transfers can be seen below:

    English language LPCM audio tracks are offered up in 2.0 Mono. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. Audio quality is on par with the transfer quality - less than perfect, but serviceable enough. Again, we're at the mercy of the available elements here, so expect a bit of hiss here and there and the occasional pop as well. Still, the levels are properly balanced and the dialogue, if a bit flat, is always easy enough to understand.

    As far as extra features go, there are some very cool trailers includes on the disc - Hot Spur, Nazi Love Camp, Ravaged, The Scavengers, The Pick-Up, The Bushwhacker and an amazing German language trailer for The Ravager (Bestie Der Wollust)!

    Menus and chapter selection are also included.

    As to the packaging for this release, Mondo Macabro offers a reversible cover sleeve option with the artwork on both sides unique to this release. Additionally, a set of postcards that reproduce artwork for both films will be included. And last but certainly not least, we get a booklet with brand new essay on The Ravager by Cinema Sewer's Robin Bougie entitled Help Me… I'm A Filmmaker: The Strange Story Of Charles Nizet. Here, over the span of ten-pages, Bougie talks about how he became familiar with and obsessed with the film thanks to its ludicrous poster art. He then tells a great story about winning the one-sheet on eBay before SWV had discovered and released the film, before then going on to share his thoughts on the film, it's significance as an early film to deal with Vietnam vets and then, most interestingly of all, the story behind the director of the film and his eventual assassination!

    Note that this limited-edition release is limited to 1,000 numbered copies and is available only through the Mondo Macarbo Big Cartel Store.

    The Bushwhacker / The Ravager - The Final Word:

    Mondo Macabro's Blu-ray release of The Bushwhacker and The Ravager offers up two seriously demented roughies in high definition for the first time anywhere on the planet. Both films deliver pretty much exactly what you'd expect, and exactly what you want - sex, violence and sleazy aplenty! The fact that these are now on Blu-ray is kind of mindboggling, but hey, who are we to look a gift horse in the mouth? Highly recommended for those who can appreciate low budget trash epic obscurities and with an affinity for bad taste!

    • Toyboy
      like a hole in the head
      Toyboy commented
      Editing a comment
      Not that it matters all that much but Something Weird was still offering VHS at the time both of these movies came out so they were available in both formats, for a few years at least. I was silly enough to keep buying tapes from them till they completely phased them out. But to your point they debuted on home video from SWV regardless.

    • Mark C.
      Mark C.
      Senior Member
      Mark C. commented
      Editing a comment
      Nice review, More films like this Mondo Macabro. I'll try and snag the limited edition today.
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