Review Date: October 23, 2000
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 10/24/2000
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: No
What's better than a horror movie starring Christopher Lee? The answer is, nothing. Now, while it was his roles as Dracula in several Hammer films that made him famous, he made several other good horror films during that time period. Some, like 1967's Theatre of Death, even spoofed Lee's more storied roles. And Theatre of Death is a very good film on it's own, but it's Lee's presence that really makes it worthwhile. It's a sold-out show, but Anchor Bay still has some great seats available.
Jack Stryker is a Sergeant in the US army during the Vietnam war. His only outlet during the war are thoughts of Sally (Cheryl Hausen), an old flame. One day during an attack Stryker is shot in the leg. He's saved by Walker, a fellow soldier, but is left with a limp for the rest of his life. Flash forward to 1969 - the war is over, Stryker has returned to his small hometown to try and move on with life and put the war behind him.
Stryker picks up his dog and returns to his cabin in the woods. Otis (Perry Mallette), Sally's grandfather, stops by to see Stryker and drop off some liquor. He suggests Stryker stop by and see Sally sometime, telling him that she's been asking about him. He reluctantly agrees and the two end up reestablishing their love relationship. It seems the future may not be so bad for Stryker after all...
Lieutenant David Miller (John Manfredi) picks up Walker and Tim Tyler (Timothy Patrick Quill) - two soldiers that served under him in Vietnam. David made a big mistake during the war that resulted in many lives being lost. His mistake was also responsible for Stryker's limp. David wants to know if the two hold it against him. After finding out they don't the three agree to go and visit Stryker to make sure he has no bad feelings towards David. Their timing is perfect - a group of killers led by a madman (Sam Raimi) is terrorizing Stryker's town, including Sally. The group of Vietnam vets team together to eliminate the killers and seek out revenge for those killed and terrorized by the killers.
For a low budget movie I have to say that Josh Becker delivers a decent movie with Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except. Everything about this movie has low budget written all over it - the effects, the acting, the story, etc. Most horror fans are used to that, however. What matters is whether it's enjoyable or not and I think most will find it at least moderately enjoyable. Hey, if seeing the now famous director Sam Raimi as a crazed hippy isn't enjoyable, what is? Not only that, but there's a good amount of gore and a few of the effects aren't half bad. Don't expect anything like The Evil Dead, but it's a decent revenge movie. What's most impressive about the movie is how Becker manages to do so much with so little money. It's really a testament to his talent as a low budget filmmaker.
Anchor Bay Entertainment presents presents Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. While the movie itself isn't all that old (1985), it's extremely low budget and it definitely shows in the image department. Colors are faded and the image is soft throughout much of the film. There's a constant haze over the image which was extremely distracting for me. Print blemishes are minimal with only a few scratches and specks appearing. Grain is heavy throughout many scenes, which is part of the reason for the "haze" I describe. It was shot in 16mm, which certainly contributes to the grain factor. Also, I'm a bit surprised about the lack of anamorphic (16x9) enhancement, which seemed to be a norm for all Anchor Bay releases. Still, a decent transfer overall, and I'm sure Anchor Bay did the best they could do with the elements they had.
Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except is presented with a mono soundtrack. I expected to hear some audio problems, only because it's a low budget movie. Surprisingly, none were heard. Director Josh Becker points out a few scenes in the commentary track where the audio didn't initially sync up properly, but that was fixed in post production.
The main extra would be the commentary track with writer/director Josh Becker and writer Bruce Campbell. I'm a huge Bruce Campbell fan, and it was certainly a thrill to find out he was on the commentary track. I noticed on the back of the DVD he's listed before Josh Becker. Personally I think that's wrong, since this is 99% Josh Becker's movie. But hey, that's just my opinion. If listing Bruce Campbell first helps Anchor Bay sell more DVDs so they can continue their great work, then I guess I'm for it. Fortunately, Bruce does contribute a lot to the commentary track and as previous stated, I'm definitely glad he's on it. Both Josh and Bruce enjoyed talking about the film - from goofing on it (as well as Sam Raimi) to explaining various behind-the-scenes aspects. They point out lots of facts that fans will enjoy:
* Many sounds were "borrowed" from the Evil Dead movies
* Why the name of the movie was changed
* Pointed out various cameos - Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell's feet
* Nearly every extra was someone they knew - member of family, friend or associate
Definitely an enjoyable commentary track that fans will enjoy. Doesn't come near the enjoyment level that the Evil Dead 2 commentary track provides, but I'm sure most will enjoy it nonetheless. May not have a high replay value, however.
Also included is a deleted scene, which is short but entertaining. Then there's the alternate title sequence: Sergeant Stryker's War. That's the original title for this movie, but Becker was forced to change it. Personally, I like Sergeant Stryker's War better. Lastly, the theatrical trailer is included on the DVD.
A decent revenge movie that most Josh Becker fans will enjoy. Don't expect too much from it, but it's a fun watch. Video quality isn't up to par with other Anchor Bay releases, but keep in mind this is an extremely low budget movie that was shot in 16mm. A decent amount of extras, highlighted by a good commentary track from writer/director Josh Becker and writer Bruce Campbell. Overall the DVD is a good value at $24.98, and it's definitely worth a rental to see if it's your type of movie.
Movie - C+
Image Quality - C
Sound - A-
Supplements - B-
- Running time - 1 hour 24 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- Dolby Digital Mono
- Audio Commentary with Writer Bruce Campbell and Writer/Director Josh Becker
- Theatrical trailer
- Deleted scene
- Alternate Title Sequence: Sergeant Stryker's War