If you missed out on Buddy Cooper’s amusing and gory slasher flick The Mutilator way back when it was in theaters or later on VHS, you’re in for a treat thanks to Arrow Video. This one’s got the goofy acting and eyebrow-raising plot holes you’d expect from the genre, but it’s the exceptionally nifty gore effects from Mark Shostrom (Videodrome, Evil Dead II) that will get most viewers on the hook (pun intended).
As for special features, Arrow packs the disc with a raft of bonus content that makes the film a lot more enjoyable thanks to all the great interviews with the cast and crew that participated. These extras are all a great thing as the story here is pretty standard genre wrangling saved by some humor and the aforementioned gore effects.
Ten years after accidentally shooting his mother, Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) gets a phone call from his dad with a request to close up his beach condo for the winter. After his girlfriend Pam (Ruth Martinez), and school chums Ralph (Bill Hitchcock), Sue (Connie Rogers), Mike (Morey Lampley), and Linda (Frances Raines) invite themselves along for a little fun in the cool fall sun, they discover the condo in a rather messy state. Chalking it up to Big Ed being drunk with a few friends, two of the teens commence their usual getting drunk and splitting up for some alone time antics. Let’s just say Big Ed has a little (okay, somewhat large and sharp) axe to grind with his son… and his poor friends just so happen to be in the wrong place at the right time for him to get in some prime chop time.
The most interesting thing about the film outside the creative kills is Pam and Ed Jr’s relationship. She’s a committed virgin and like like Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie character in Halloween, she not only manages to keep her clothes on, she’s also the heroine of the film. You can see that coming from miles away, so it’s not a spoiler at all. The film gets some mileage from her doing her chaste stuff (she and Jr. sleep in the same bead but fully clothed!), but being a *tiny* bit bad drinking a few beers and playing a kooky hide and seek game with the others at one point.
Meanwhile, Big Ed is slowly racking up a small body count using mostly nautically themed murder weapons. While the body count is low compared to say, a Friday the 13th flick, each kill is pretty gruesome with the worst one being an impalement with a gaff hook in a sequence that will have both guys and gals squeezing their legs together. The ending is a total hoot with Big Ed getting his but still managing to get last licks (and the last laugh) before those end credits roll.
As you can see from that video above, the bonus content is fantastic. If you didn’t watch that video for whatever reason, here’s what’s in that case:
- Brand new 2K restoration of the unrated version from original vault materials
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Introduction to the film with writer-director Buddy Cooper and assistant special make-up effects artist/assistant editor Edmund Ferrell
- Audio Commentary with Cooper, Ferrell, co-director John Douglass and star Matt Mitler
- Audio Commentary with Buddy Cooper and star Ruth Martinez Tutterow
- Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator – brand new feature-length documentary on the making of the splatter classic featuring interviews with Cooper, Douglass, Ferrell, Mitler, actors Bill Hitchcock, Jack Chatham and more
- Mutilator Memories – special make-up effects artist Mark Shostrom looks back at one of his earliest projects
- Tunes for the Dunes – composer Michael Minard reveals how The Mutilator’s unique score was created
- Behind-the-Scenes Reel
- Screen Tests
- Alternate Opening Titles
- Trailers and TV Spots
- ‘Fall Break’ Theme Song (Original and Instrumental Versions)
- Opening Sequence Storyboards
- Motion Stills Gallery
- Original Fall Break Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM content)
- Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks
Buddy Cooper comes off as one of the nicest guys who’s ever made a horror film and his interview and commentary are delivered with what appears to be absolute joy that his little film is getting a big deal restoration and a lot more attention. That sense of happiness extends to the interviews with Ruth Martinez-Tutterow, Bill Hitchcock, Matt Mitler (who’s gone on to do some pretty interesting things since making the movie) and everyone else to the point that it’s one of the best set of features on an Arrow disc in this writer’s opinion. If you decide to spoil the film by watching the features first, don’t be surprised to find yourself smiling a lot because you’ll be in on how the kills were done and have an insight into some of the performances from the cast of at the time unknowns.
While it’s not a “classic”, Arrow’s restoration of The Mutilator elevates it from near-forgotten genre flick to a more respectable and fun to watch 80’s horror film that’s worth an immediate purchase and addition to your collection. In a way, it’s also very much like Blood Rage, another horror flick made when the slasher craze was winding down that ended up being remembered for its outrageously inventive gore effects. I say if you’re a fan of the genre, make it a double feature and you’re welcome. Oh, and expect the odd side effect of having Michael Minard’s “Fall Break” theme song looping in your head for about a week or so. It’s a better thing than Big Ed’s machete, that’s for sure.