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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Exploitation > Vietnam > War > Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (1985/aka Stryker’s War/Synapse Blu-ray w/DVD)

Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (1985/aka Stryker’s War/Synapse Blu-ray w/DVD)


Picture: B-/C+     Sound: B-/C+     Extras: C+     Film: C



By the 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.


In this 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.


The real 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.



The 1080p 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.


Extras 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


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