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(aka "The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer" or "The Secret Life")

 

directed by David R. Bowen
USA 1993

 

Carl Crew (BLOOD DINER) - who also scripted - plays serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who makes his first kill at eighteen before a dormant period of several years. When he resumes killing - luring young men to his apartment to pose for photographs - he starts keeping parts of them to be near them. Despite plenty of raised suspicions - including a few close calls that got away, yet apparently never told the police - and an arrest and five-year work release sentence, he continues killing, culminating in a prolific period in which he killed weekly before one of his victims escapes and alerts the cops. A biopic about Jeffrey Dahmer shot so soon after the true events was sure to court controversy, and Bowen and Crew did indeed end up appearing on MAURY POVICH pitted against the families of Dahmer's victims. Although the internet was still in its infancy in the early nineties (as far as public use was concerned), Crew was able to obtain a wealth of research material and the film is reportedly quite faithful to the actual events (although an opening disclaimer states there is an opening disclaimer about why some events might not match the facts). The film was shot and released after Dahmer's capture, but before his death in prison, so it ends on an open note. Director Bowen was originally hired to score the film (and his songs are sometimes too prominent in the mix, muffling Crew's narration), but took over direction when the original Japanese investors pulled out their interest (the film had already been cast and the locations and equipment had already been rented). Bowen cameos late in the film as a priest. The title THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER makes it sound like a TV special, and this low budget film has a TV feel about its sound stage interiors, video generated credits, and interstitial text screens. Indeed, it feels like a TV re-enactment with some hints of gore at the start (nowhere near as gory as stuff on cable now) and it parcels out its progressively gory bits throughout the runtime (I wouldn't however, call it a gore film). The tone is generally somber, save for some broad (possibly unfocused) supporting performances, and a scene where Crew taunts a deaf potential victim behind his back with a power saw, but the scripting becomes episodic, the narration tells more than the film shows in terms of character, and the direction and cinematography fail to make Dahmer's apartment - despite some interesting art direction - the sort of creepy abode urban serial killers are wont to inhabit in other films.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Reviews           DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Intervision Pictures Corp. - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Intervision Pictures Corp.

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:39:21
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.26 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 2.0 mono
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Intervision Pictures Corp.

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by director David R. Bowen and writer/star Carl Crew
• Trailer (4:3; 3:50)
• Trailers for SLEDGEHAMMER (excerpt), THINGS, and A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER

DVD Release Date: 12 July 2011
Amaray

Chapters 23

 

Comments

THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER comes to Intervision DVD with less ballyhoo than their loaded special editions of SLEDGEHAMMER and THINGS, including static menus (unlike the atmospheric motion menus of the other two films) - the main menu unfortunately misspells Dahmer's given name - but is still a respectful treatment of the film itself. Shot on 35mm and edited on video (although some seems to be edited workprint rife with scratches, dirt, and splice marks; the commentary states that the negative of the film was never conformed), the low-def image seems faithfully represented here (including combing if you're viewing it on a progressive monitor). The audio is likely faithful to the original presentation, even though the music occasionally muffles some of the lead's voiceover.

Director David R. (Rick) Bowen and writer/star Carl Crew provide a detached audio commentary. They spend most of the discussion talking about the production problems (fires during the LA riots damaged some of the camera equipment they had reserved and they had to shoot in secret because of rumors of as many as six other Dahmer pics being shot at the same time), the ensuing controversy (including adversarial talk show appearances with the families of Dahmer's victims on MAURY POVICH and other shows), their motives (I'm not quite sure I buy the more altruistic ones), and the research that went into the scripting. They rarely comment about what is actually onscreen (even during the gore scenes) - they do get a little punchy around an hour into the discussion as they start to run out of things to say - and speak highly of the director of photography while mentioning little about any of the other crew or cast members (tactfully, they do not mention the name of the film's first director). The director's and writer/star's appearance on MAURY POVICH would have made an interesting, although perhaps cost-prohibitive, extra (Intervision isn't Criterion, after all, so don't expect any contextual materials to corroborate the film's depiction of the events other than the filmmakers' commentary). The film's trailer and trailers for SLEDGEHAMMER (actually the teaser excerpt Intervision put up on the web prior to its release), THINGS, and A NIGHT TO REMEMBER comprise the rest of the disc's extra material.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Intervision Pictures Corp.

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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