ZP International // 2006 // 106 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Russell Engebretson (Retired) // July 13th, 2007
Who would you bring back?
A recently discovered machine built by Thomas Edison to communicate with the dead is used for unsavory criminal activities.
Henry Shackleford (Stacey T. Gillespie, Forever in Black Hills), the director of a small museum, is hit on at the local watering hole by a cute gal (Ashley Arkles) with ulterior motives. She coyly suggests he give her an exclusive late-night tour of the museum. Our not-too-savvy hero, stewed to the gills and cogitating with his little head, unwisely agrees to her request. Turns out she is part of a gang of thieves all set to steal a Renoir painting, but their plans are foiled by a locked vault and an unexpected alarm. As a consolation prize the villains cart off the closest unsecured item, a machine purported to have been invented by Thomas Alva Edison to contact the spirits of the departed. Being technologically-challenged, they also kidnap Henry to operate the gadget.
Events accelerate when the thieves realize they can do more with Edison's invention than merely chat with the dead. By simply cranking the volume knob to the max, they can reanimate any corpse of their choosing. The handy device allows them to retrieve priceless artifacts buried with famous corpses without worrying about bothersome grave robbing laws. Things are going swimmingly until one of the gang members is skewered on a Samurai zombie's sword, and his unpaid 11 million dollar debt is later called in by a vicious New York mobster. General mayhem ensues.
As this no-budget movie lurched from scene to scene, I began to fear that my head might explode, Scanners-like, from the sheer badness of it all. Yet, in dazed disbelief, I found myself helplessly in the clutches of its sleazy charms. Perhaps it has something to do with a misspent youth watching late fifties and early sixties Roger Corman flicks and similar exploitative fare in the local run-down movie house. I began to wonder what turns the absurd plot would take, who would survive the wrath of the zombie pirate, and how many actors the director could stuff into a 4:3 frame before they became a human pyramid. Who cares if the crypt wall was a painted canvas flat, or the Osaka, Japan meditation garden looked suspiciously like every other outdoor location (that is, some place in Lexington, Kentucky)? Director George Bonilla delivers the goods. Somewhat shoddy goods, perhaps, but neatly wrapped up and packaged for your viewing pleasure.
The Edison Death Machine was shot with a Canon XL-1, and it displays that sort of flat video look one sees on daytime soap operas. Despite its video pedigree, the colors are bright and solid, and the shadow detail and contrast are decent. Audio is generally fine with a few lines of muffled dialogue in spots. The only extra to speak of is an enthusiastic and fun commentary from Director/Screenwriter George Bonilla.
It's easy enough to poke fun at low-budget sets, but I should give credit where it's due. The coolest prop in the movie was the simple but elegant Edison Death Machine itself. It was a hand-crafted wooden box adorned with a trio of old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs, turn-of-the-century rheostats, and some unidentifiable cylinder record-like gizmos on top. The whole affair exudes a quaint late 19th century vibe.
I'm curious as to what kind of film Mr. Bonilla might produce with a major wad of folding green in hand. Would his creation be a mere clone of one of the latest mind-numbingly vulgar, gazillion dollar action pictures (Smokin' Aces and Crank come to mind), or something in the style of a Kill Bill extravaganza? I don't care to even hazard a guess. Maybe the world will never be ready for a multi-million dollar Bonilla epic. In the meantime, one can only marvel in slack-jawed amazement at the trashy joys of The Edison Death Machine. I'll sum it up this way: It's 1958, a broiling hot summer afternoon, and you're a kid watching a battered print ofAttack of the 50 Foot Woman in a frosty air-conditioned theater, floors sticky with pop, your heart beating like the wings of a bird trying to escape from its cage. You will never experience anything this wondrous again, but The Edison Death Machine reminds you.
I doubt if you can find this DVD as a rental, but you can pick up a copy at ZP International's website. While you culture vultures are browsing the site, I'm sure the proprietors will be delighted to sell you copies of Zombie Planet parts one and two as well.
What the Hell. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ZP International
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Blooper Reel
* Commentary by Director George Bonilla
* Official Site