Something Weird Video // 1971 // 81 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // July 5th, 2002
The Austrian Sweeny Todd!
Otto Lehmann has spent the last three years in a sanitarium for hitting an ugly old bat with an oversized piece of foie gras. Lucky for him, he is about to be released into the care of his wife, who is just as shrewish and henpecking as before. Returning to his homey little butcher shop, he notices that the price of sausages has skyrocketed, along with the offensiveness of his Peter Lorre-in-training brother-in-law. What brilliant scheme will Otto use to increase sales and lure back a liver assault wary public? Charge three crowns a pound for forcemeat that costs five crowns to make. Overcoming the short fall in the profit margin will require intensive marketing studies, advanced economic theory, and a skill at inventory control. Otto says NEIN to all that and decides to substitute long pig for Viennese ham. Thus, well-marbled members of his family start disappearing. While the police are baffled, and a smarmy reporter investigates the giant meat grinder, Otto continues to add a wide selection of human variety meats to his tremendously successful schnitzels. When a sexy civil servant finds herself prisoner in the hovel of our engorged Escoffier, it's up to the Inspector and his journalistic shadow to prevent her from being served up, link style.
The Mad Butcher is a horror film that wants to get by on its premise alone. The filmmakers must have thought that, as long as the tone is bleak, the humor dark, and the notion unsettling, there is no need for gore, or excessive nudity. Unfortunately, these things would have helped the film. This movie reeks of an overlong skit by the host of your local 1960s UHF Creature Features spook show. However, the acting here is very good (all except Brad Harris as the reporter, who looks like he got lost in one too many protein shakes) with Victor Buono a standout. He is convincing as a deranged, detailed-oriented maniac. His size adds mounds of menace and his fussy nature makes him a fascinating character to watch. Also entertaining are the scenes where well fed Nazi sympathizers glut themselves on real life FRANKfurters and demand sekunden. This is a fun film to watch for those very reasons. However, as horror, this is evil lite, a movie that wants to be a rich Bavarian scream pie when it's really an overly processed Pillsbury toaster strudel.
This film sees a major DVD revamp and release from Something Weird Video. Previous incarnations have been shabby full screen videotapes. Taken from producer Harry Novak's original negative, the widescreen image, while not anamorphic, still looks virtually brand new. It is especially effective during the opening credit meat cutting montage, where the deep blacks and vibrant crimsons make the species of animal being carved unsettlingly suspect. The sound, while mono, also adds a great deal to the presentation: the sharp and metallic rasp of knives against honing blades creates an eerie sense of danger. The extras here are plentiful, if a little dubious at times. The trailers for several Novak produced horror features are wonderful, but the archival shorts (one featuring a very homoerotic massage) will leave you perplexed and unsatisfied. Along with the standard gallery of exploitation art (complete with long lost radio spots), this is another winning package from SWV. For fans of the atypical, Victor Buono, and old style black humor/horror, this DVD is a must own. Others may find it as tasteless and tough as Lehmann's brother-in-law.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Archival Short Subjects
* Gallery of Exploitation Art
* Radio Spot Rarities