Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (1985/aka Stryker’s
War/Synapse Blu-ray w/DVD)
B-/C+ Sound: B-/C+ Extras: C+ Film: C
mid-1980s, the reactionary wave of films about Vietnam that totally misunderstood
them or intentionally revised history in the worst possible way was in full
swing. Suddenly, it was a war (versus
never being declared), “winnable” as if there was something to win, the U.S. couldn’t
possibly be guilty of any kind of genocide and anything liberal or different
had to die. Josh Becker’s Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (1985) is a
low budget exploitation film imitating that trend.
case, soldiers return from ‘Nam
only to have to battle a Charles Manson-like gang of psycho-killers. Usually, the ideological message would be
that anything counterculture or affiliated with hippies “must die” but this
film is not that smart or coherent enough to be about that. Instead, it is an overly simple, silly
cowboys vs. “Indians” fantasy that might work for some, but only could come up
with so much to do in 83 minutes of screen time.
reason this is getting the Blu-ray treatment is because Director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) is the head of the killer cult, Campbell did the original short and he
co-wrote the feature version shot around his property and that it showed how
serious they and their friends were about making a film. In that, it is interesting, but has not dated
too well, yet it is more than just a passing curio. There is actually more ambition and effort here
than in most smaller and some larger such productions we have seen in recent
years and serious filmmakers (even if shooting in HD) because they are for
real, even if the results are inconsistent.
Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except reminds us of what true independent
filmmaking is really all about.
1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer comes from a new 2K transfer of
the Super 16mm film negative that looks good for its age and despite some
normal grain (and attempts to make it look like the late 1960s), Director
Becker also served as his own Director of Photography and did a good enough job
that this looks good enough to have a HD version to begin with. The anamorphically enhanced DVD version
included is not bad, but it cannot handle the color range and nicer shots that
the Blu-ray offers. The DTS-HD MA
(Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix is as good as the low-budget sound is ever
going to get, with obvious sonic limits, especially since location audio is not
miked closely enough and who knows what condition the original materials were
in. Still, this is still fuller and
warmer than the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the DVD version.
include two feature length audio commentary tracks with Director Becker,
Co-Writer Bruce Campbell and Star Brian Schulz, the original Super 8mm short
film version of Stryker’s War with
Bruce Campbell in the title role, Alternate Title Sequence, Deleted Scene with
optional Director commentary track, Reversible Cover Artwork in the Blu-ray
case, Original Theatrical Trailer, all new Campbell video interview and Made In Michigan making of featurette.
- Nicholas Sheffo