Review Date: March 7, 2000
Released by: Synapse
Release date: 8/24/1999
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
Goose (Jim Van Bebber) is the leader of the "Ravens" gang. The Ravens main rivalry is a gang by the name of the "Spiders", which is led by Danny. When the Spiders enter the Ravens turf Goose and Danny fight it out. Both Goose and Danny end up wounded, and before the battle can continue the police arrive and both gangs flee the scene. Goose's psychic girlfriend Chrissy (Megan Murphy) stitches up his hand and cares for him while he recovers. Once recovered, Goose heads back out onto the street to join up with his gang. Chrissy is furious at this and insists Goose not leave, giving him an ultimatum of her or his gang. At the moment he chooses his hang but soon enough he is convinced that he truly loves Chrissy and that it's time to quit the gang and settle down.
After quitting his gang, Goose decides to sell some drugs so he and Chrissy can have some money. After making the drug transaction, Goose heads home, only to find that Chrissy has been beaten to death with a club. Her face his beaten to to the point where he can't even recognize her and her intestines are hanging out of her stomach. Being the romantic that he is Goose throws her body into a trash compactor and swears revenge against the Spiders, the group responsible for his girlfriend's brutal death.
Goose heads to his junkie father's apartment where he goes on a drug and alcohol binge to help him deal with his loss. Soon he learns that the Spiders and Ravens have joined forces to do an armored car robbery. The new leader of the Ravens forces Goose into joining back up with them for this robbery. Goose, being in a state of confusion, sees no choice but to join. Soon, however, he realizes the Spiders aren't to be trusted and he ceases the opportunity to execute revenge for his girlfriend's murder.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Deadbeat at Dawn. I've heard a lot about it over the past few months, as I usually do with most new DVD releases. I must say that I did enjoy the film quite a bit. It's sort of a cross between a horror film and a kung-fu/gang movie. Given the budget of next to nothing, they really did some convincing stunt work. The main reason for this is thanks to Jim Van Bebber, the writer and director of Deadbeat at Dawn. He played Goose, the main character. He performed all of his own stunts, such as jumping off a bridge, leaping onto a moving train and much more. Jim's portrayal of Goose was fairly convincing, and while I don't think he portrayed the mourning boyfriend so effectively, he still did a terrific job in the part, especially in some of the action sequences.
Deadbeat at Dawn is presented in its original full frame ratio of 1.33:1. The transfer on this DVD is tough to review, mainly because Director Jim Van Bebber has attacked Synapse Films, the company the produced this DVD, for what he calls a "[insert profanity here] transfer". The transfer is far from perfect, but I think Jim Van Bebber is way off on some of his comments on the transfer. Yes, there are some print blemishes such as scratches and nicks that appear throughout the film. Yes, the colors are a bit faded (though much brighter and solid when compared to the older VHS). I also noticed a number of scenes with slight grain. However, lets keep in mind that this was a low budget movie created on 16mm film - you tend to expect these things, to some extent, given those factors. And while there were blemishes, there weren't nearly as many as I expected, and there aren't so many that it causes an annoyance while watching the movie (on a site note, there are a few times that a blemish will appear on the screen for 5 seconds or so, but I didn't find that an annoyance as it only happened a few times).
No doubt further restoration probably could've been done to improve the transfer even more, but given this doesn't have the cult status of something like Halloween, I don't expect any companies to dump tons of money into the film for a major restoration. It's not financially justifiable to do that with something like Deadbeat. There's no doubt in my mind this version of Deadbeat at Dawn is the definitive version in terms of audio/video quality and in terms of extras as well. This version blows the VHS tape out of the water. Kudos to Synapse for a transfer well done. Not perfect, but certainly a job well done.
Deadbeat at Dawn is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. The sound is generally clear and audible throughout the film. There were a few times where I heard some minor distortion, but I don't believe that is a fault of the DVD as it happened in the older VHS version as well.
Deadbeat at Dawn is filled to the brim with extras. Deadbeat has a running commentary by Actor/Director Jim Van Bebber and Product Mike King. It was a good commentary with literally no gaps of silence. Both Jim and Mike seemed proud of their work, and rightly so I believe. They give lots of information about stunts, where particular shots were filmed (in terms of location), the various actors in the film and their performances (and how they all did their own stunts). There are also times when a British film distributor cuts in and gives his comments on the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification [US equivalent of the MPAA]) and the hassle he went through with them to try and get Deadbeat released over in the UK. It's interesting to hear his comments and you can really tell he despises the BBFC (rightly so it seems). Lastly, there are also moments when the actor who played Bonecrusher cuts in to give his comments on the film. All three commentaries are on the same track, it just cuts back and fourth between the various people, with Jim and Mike being the main one.
Also included is the short 20-minute film My Sweet Satan, which is written and directed by Jim Van Bebber and is based on the true story of Ricky Kassao. Jim also stars in the film, playing the lead of Ricky Kassao, a Satan worshipping druggie who brutally murders a fellow druggie for stealing his money. It's quite graphic and contains an actual nipple piercing and tattooing. People thought this piercing to be graphic but I didn't find it to be a big deal (and no, I don't have any piercings myself, nor have I seen it done to anyone before). As a nice bonus, if you hit the AUDIO button on your remote you will hear a commentary track from Jim Van Bebber and other members of the production.
Next up is a short promo film titled Chunkblower. It was created to help get financing to create a feature length film titled Chunkblower. It deals with a crazy tow truck driver who drives around looking for people and their broken down cars on the side of the road. Once he finds them the real fun begins...Again, hit the AUDIO button on your remote to get a nice little commentary by Director Jim Van Bebber.
Also included are outtakes from Deadbeat at Dawn. No sound is available and the video quality is fairly poor, but given there are only outtakes I don't expect much more from it. Nothing too exciting in terms of outtakes, but still a nice little extra. Lastly, there is a complete filmography of Jim Van Bebber.
Definitely a disc that is jammed pack with extras, and I enjoyed all of them, especially My Sweet Satan and Chunkblower. Jim comments during My Sweet Satan that he wishes he could've made it into a feature film and explains some other incidents from the Ricky Kasso story that he would've liked to have included. Unfortunately, Chunkblower never did get the financing it needed so all that is available is the short promo included on this DVD.
Well worth the retail price of $30.00. I recommend everyone go out and buy this today. This disc is jammed packed with extras that I really enjoyed. The extras alone are worth the price of this DVD. Definitely worth at least a rental, but personally I think it's a keeper for any collection. Once again a great job done by Synapse.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B
Supplements - A
- Running Time - 1 hour 20 minutes
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- Dolby Digital Mono
- Commentary by Actor/Director Jim Van Bebber & Producer Mike King
- Short film - My Sweet Satan
- The Chunkblower Promo
- Director Filmography