Calman Films // 2010 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // May 7th, 2010
Echoing the improvisational nature of The Howard Stern Show show, this movie was created in that spirit.
Wait...what? Fairly, that statement makes about as much sense as the entirety of The Calistra Zipper Story, a work that is part baffling, part boring, and all lame. The film is presented as a straight documentary which details the aftermath of the death of Calistra Zipper, a young woman from L.A. who dies from a strange illness. She was beautiful, but strange, and her post-mortem wishes reflected that. Instead of burial or cremation, Calistra wanted to be stuffed, preserved forever so her beauty could be remembered forever. Her father, Anthony Zipper, complied with her wishes and became so obsessed with the idea of human taxidermy that he started an organization based around it: The Humanistic Taxidermy Society of America.
Completing this classy family is Calistra's little brother, Marco, who is the spitting image of Darlene's boyfriend in Roseanne. He was always jealous of Calistra and the attention she received both in life and in death, but he's starting to come around. He now believes the same as his father, that taxidermy is the only humane way to deal with death. He's willing to prove it too; though, maybe not in the most constructive way. He's decided that he's going to describe his love of mummification by starting fires across Hollywood. A tip from Calistra's grandmother, though, ruins his party as the authorities now suspect both him and Anthony of arson in Calistra's name.
Once we have that setup, the film starts to get confusing. Blurring the line between fantasy and reality, Anthony Zipper appears on The Howard Stern Show to increase awareness of human taxidermy and to display his daughter, for whom he just bought breast implants. Of course, Stern, Robin Quivers, and the rest realize how ridiculous this is, but they play along, acting shocked at seeing Calistra's waxy face and admonishing Anthony for what he's done. There's no question that the incident on the radio show happened; the video footage is provided here and is available on the internet. It's nothing more than a stunt though, and a pointless stunt at that. If the aim was to get footage for this video, that's fine, here it is. It's a lot of trouble for the final result, though; it isn't convincing or funny, just a stupid waste of time.
With its zero budget, amateur acting, and menagerie of transvestites, director Craig Calman seems to be going for a kind of John Waters thing, if Waters made a really stupid version of Grizzly Man. The Calistra Zipper Story is an obnoxious and poorly made project with absolutely nothing going for it on any level. You have a real problem when you aspire to be camp trash and you totally fail. Maybe everybody involved had a great time. I certainly hope they did, but I sure didn't.
The DVD from Calman Films is what you might expect; it's as awful as the film. The full frame transfer is ugly and grainy, with washed out colors and transfer errors throughout. The stereo sound fares no better, with nearly inaudible dialog at times and hiss galore. Surprisingly, the disc actually features some extras; not that they're welcome, but they're here. Presented as one full program, the disc starts with a trailer for the film and some comments from the director. The feature film follows, and we finish out with a pair of featurettes. The first is footage from the world premiere of The Calistra Zipper Story, but there doesn't appear to have been a premiere at all. Instead, we have film of the director and some of the stars coming out onto a stage with the mummified Calistra. They are showered in applause by a filmed gala audience that was clearly shot in the '70s. Lame, but finally we finish out with a series of short interviews with fans who have agreed to espouse their support for human taxidermy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Calman Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Director Comments
* Official Site