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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Backwoods Massacre" )

 

directed by John Russo
USA 1982

When her drunken cop stepfather Burt (Lawrence Tierney, THE PROWLER) tries to force himself on her, Nancy (Melanie Verlin, MONKEY SHINES) knocks him out, packs a bag, and takes to the road to hitchhike to her sister’s place in California. She gets picked up by Tom (John Hall, SURF NAZIS MUST DIE) and Hank (Charles Jackson), who are on their way to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break. As they make their way through the countryside, they encounter racist, unfriendly locals and are warned about mysterious disappearances and murders (by a reverend [Bob Johnson, the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE tape recorder voice] and his daughter [LaChele Carl, BATMAN] who are subsequently murdered). When they shoplift at a local grocery store, they outrace the cops by turning off into the backwoods. Despite the sighting of a creepy hillbilly (seemingly carrying a corpse in a sheet), they decide it would be the ideal secluded spot to camp for the night. The next morning, Nancy goes for a walk and two sadistic cops show up. They accuse Tom and Hank of a rape/murder and kill them in cold blood. They pursue Nancy, who takes shelter in a farmhouse only to discover that it is the home of a backwoods family of Satanists, including the two fake cops Abraham (John Amplas, MARTIN) and Luke (Greg Besnak, KNIGHTRIDERS), their Leatherface-like (minus the mask) brother Cyrus (David Marchck), and their sister Cynthia (Robin Walsh). Nancy is locked in a cage alongside Gwen (Ellie Wyler) while Abraham and Luke go off in search of another girl, since they need three sacrifices in time for midnight on Easter Sunday on which they hope to resurrect the mummified corpse of their mother (Jackie Nicoll, THE MAJORETTES). Meanwhile, Nancy’s mother (Doris Hackney) has become worried about her absence and has sent Burt off in search of her. Burt tracks Tom and Hank’s van to the other side of the state through the state police. He catches sight of the van and sees Abraham, Luke, and Cyrus burying the body of their first sacrificial victim. He overhears that they have Nancy and that she will be the final sacrifice. He follows them back on foot, but will he be able to save Nancy?

Although made in the early eighties, MIDNIGHT has a very seventies vibe its washed-out photography, dissonant synth suspense cues, and the sub-TEXAS CHAINSAW captivity and crazy family scenario (the theme song “Midnight Again” also sounds very seventies AM radio). The pacing drags a little and the finale is a bit limp, but it is interesting that Russo does not definitively answer whether the Satanists’ powers are real or if they are just a bunch of wackos screwed up by their mother (who is seen in the opening pre-credits sequence instructing her then-young children on sacrificing “demons” – disguised as humans – to Satan). The production was primarily the work of Russo (as writer/director) and Paul McCollough as director of photography, editor, still photographer, and composer (McCollough also composed the score for the 1990 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake). Bill Hinzman (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s cemetery ghoul) is credited as another still photographer. Casting director Raymond Laine – who starred in George Romero’s THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA and had a prominent supporting role in his SEASON OF THE WITCH – is credited alongside Russo, Besnak, and Tom Savini (FRIDAY THE 13TH) with special effects for the climax. Tierney became involved in the low-budget production through mostly hand-off producer Sam Sherman of exploitation great Independent-International Pictures Corporation (Tierney had previously been featured in I-I’s color reshoot framing footage for EXORCISM AT MIDNIGHT, the 1980 reworking of the 1966 British black and white voodoo flick NAKED EVIL). Verlin later Russo’s lesser-known sequel MIDNIGHT 2 (along with most of the first film’s cast as “archival footage”).

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 31 December 1982 (USA)

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DVD Comparison:

Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for all the Screen Caps!

(Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Arrow Video

Region 0 - NTSC

LionsGate
Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:33:47 1:33:42
Video

1.30:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.56 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.31:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.13 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:

 

Arrow Video

 

Bitrate:

 

LionsGate

 

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

Subtitles none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Video

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.30:1

Edition Details:
• Introduction by star John Amplas (16:9; 0:24)
• Vampires, Rednecks and Zombies: The Fear Career of John Amplas (16:9; 31:17)
• Midnight at Your Door: The Shocking Sacrifices of John Russo (16:9; 20:14)
• Easter Egg: John Russo reveals cover of UNDEAD book compilation (16:9; 1:49)
• Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
• Double-sided fold-out artwork poster
• Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by NIGHTMARE USA author Stephen Thrower

DVD Release Date: 5 September 2011
Amaray

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: LionsGate

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.31:1

Edition Details:
• none

 

DVD Release Date: 20 September 2005
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Arrow Video’s fullscreen – original aspect ratio – presentation of MIDNIGHT is not really the hoped-for improvement over LionsGate’s bare-bones presentation. Although it appears to be sourced from an NTSC tape master (the running times between the PAL and NTSC discs are nearly identical), the R1 DVD is also interlaced and drab-looking. There seems to be timecode running across the top of the frame which is either slightly, but not completely, cropped or squished. The R1 is slightly sharper, but not enough to recommend it over the PAL edition since the latter does have the edge in extras, including an interview with writer-director John Russo (in an Easter Egg segment, he also shows off the covers of UNDEAD – a compilation of his long out of print novelizations of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD – and another novelization of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by another author that also features a reproduction of his screenplay).

Also included is an introduction (played before the film, but also available to view from the special features menu) and an interview with actor John Amplas. Besides Arrow’s usual reversible cover and double-sided, fold-out poster, Arrow also includes a collectible booklet that includes writing by Stephen Thrower (whose NIGHTMARE USA is a highly recommended tome on obscure American horror). The booklet was not included with the checkdisc. Despite being an NTSC-PAL conversion with tape damage visible on the top of the frame (your TV’s overscan may render this invisible) – it looks no worse in playback than the awful R1 edition and it offers extras.

 - Eric Cotenas

 


DVD Menus
(
Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC - RIGHT)
 

 
 

 


 

Screen Captures

(Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)
uncropped Arrow capture

 


(Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Arrow Video - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. LionsGate - Region 1 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Draw

Sound:

Draw

Extras: Arrow
Menu: Arrow

 
DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Arrow Video

Region 0 - NTSC

LionsGate
Region 1 - NTSC

 




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