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directed by Ulli Lommel
USA 2006

 

A psychotic, Satan-worshipping schoolgirl (Elissa Dowling) and two hulking psychopaths dupe bimbos into auditioning at an abandoned prison for the role of the Black Dahlia in order to disembowel them and leave the parts strewn across modern-day Los Angeles. As more experienced detectives mill around the crime scene talking about "bangers and mash" rookie cop Kevin (Sutton Christopher) approaches a 92 year old film producer - whose caregiver is the psychotic schoolgirl - who knew the Dahlia pretending to be an obsessed fan but Kevin himself might be getting a little too obsessed as the Dahlia haunts his dreams. Meanwhile, the ghost of Elizabeth Short (Ivy Elstrom) - the Black Dahlia - wanders around the Hollywood cemeteries and seems to show up in the flesh for the final audition (along with Kevin who may end up her gore-streaked co-star). The entire exercise is an excuse to repeat the same torture-porn scenario of bimbo wandering corridors, manhandled, screamed at, stripped, bound, and mutilated - there are some exceptions including an enthusiastic participant and a black actress who is turned away for being the wrong ethnicity - followed by skipping torturers dropping body parts around the city (in bright daylight) without being noticed interspersed with some underdeveloped expository scenes featuring cops making the connection of the killings to the sixty-year old cold case. Lommel likens his ending to a Greek tragedy but the development of this particular thread seems thrown in (and I have to wonder if some intercut footage was shot later to underline this idea). Lead Christopher comes off best only because he doesn't overact and his dialogue is free of forced quirkiness but the script never seems certain whether his character becomes genuinely obsessed with the Dahlia or if he's just following a hunch. Dowling's psycho schoolgirl is also never boring (she is also seen in flashes wearing army gear for some reason which may also explain the film's opening quotation of ). The entire cast wear the same wardrobe in every scene no matter how many days pass (even the killers don't appear to wash off the blood from previous killings although it is always fresh). Although the Brian DePalma film was certainly no masterpiece (not anywhere close despite its pedigree), I certainly can't say whether the Lommel film is actually worse (certainly not better). It may have been made to cash in on the bigger film but it might have also been just another in the string of Lommel true serial killer pics distributed by LionsGate (he's done two Zodiac pics, a Son of Sam, the D.C. Snipers, the Green River Killer, the B.T.K. killer, the Baseline killer, and a Juarez one suggesting a cult is responsible rather than an atmosphere of massive government/corporate corruption and socioeconomic marginalization). Lommel has done some good films in the past (his THE BOGEY MAN was a cheesy yet atmospheric flick that transcended its HALLOWEEN rip-off motives while the sequel - despite tons of recycled footage from the first film - was a neat black comedy and THE DEVONSVILLE TERROR actually had some relevant points to make about the bigotry, sexism, and sadism underlying superstition and persecution) but his digital video productions seem to be sloppily developed and shot and then spruced up with video editing software template effects (I've only seen this film and his Poe "adaptation" THE RAVEN but he's apparently also done an H.P. Lovecraft "adaptation" of THE TOMB that looks like a SAW rehash) with some of the most random black and white freeze frames punctuating nothing in particular most of the time.

Eric Cotenas

Theatrical Release: 10 October 2006 (USA)

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DVD Review: LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

LionsGate

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:21:24
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.7 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: LionsGate

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by director Ulli Lommel and producer Jeff Frentzen
• Trailer (16:9; 0:43)

DVD Release Date: October 10, 2006
Amaray

Chapters 16

 

Comments

LionsGate's DVD probably looks as good as this digital video production can. While not particularly stylish (unless one counts the sometimes pretentious angles and extremely aggressive, flashy video effects as artsy rather than distracting), the photography is reasonably proficient and seems well-rendered in MPEG2 although highlights still blow out (the interlaced image fares better on a non-progressive TV screen). The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is bigger on music and a couple scare foley effects than atmosphere (ambient effects are likely the ones picked up in the location dialogue recording).

Lommel and producer Frentzen provide a somewhat embarrassing (or embarrassed, in Frentzen's case towards the end) audio commentary. Frentzen tells us that this is one of the more disturbing and original of the recent Black Dahlia pics while Lommel name-checks Fassbinder with whom he had indeed worked with in the seventies as an actor, director, and in various crew positions. The only extra is a trailer for the film itself (and this may be one of the very few times I was disappointed that I wasn't bombarded with start-up trailers for other LionsGate dreck).

  - Eric Cotenas

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

LionsGate

Region 1 - NTSC


 




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