Color, 1987, 91 mins. 56 secs. / 88 mins. 54 secs.
Directed by Tom Daley
Starring Deborah Winters, James Huston, Andra St. Ivanyi, Scott Bankston, Red Mitchell, André Chimène
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Scream Factory (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Long before the Wishmaster series there was The Lamp, a supernatural spin on Aladdin better known to VHS hounds as The Outing. Mostly shot around Houston and Galveston, Texas and released by short-lived distribution outfit Moviestore Entertainment complete with an eye-catching poster by the legendary Drew Struzan, this is essentially a body count film in spirit even if it features an evil genie instead of a masked maniac picking off the cast.
Here we get not one but two prologues setting up the mayhem, starting with a ship bound for Texas in 1893 during which a young girl absconds with a mystical bracelet and lamp as the passengers on board are slaughtered. Flash forward as the escapee, now an old woman, has her home invaded by three robbers who get far more than they bargained for when they try to bump her off. Freed from the box in which they've been locked for years, the lamp and bracelet end up at the local natural science museum where Dr. Wallace (Huston) and his daughter, Alex (St. Ivanyi), awaken the powers of these artifacts when she slips on the bracelet and makes a wish. The doc's girlfriend, instructor Eve (Winters), then turns up as the class plans a covert overnight stay in the museum for some illicit activity -- but of course, the genie is waiting to take advantage of their deepest wishes with lots of murderous twists in store.
Quite gory with a slew of impalements and decapitations, The Lamp also outdoes many of its peers in the nudity department as well with a surprising amount of equal opportunity exposure for an R rating (with Red Mitchell in particular as an interloping bully flashing something you really don't see in your average slasher movie). None of the actors really get much of a chance to impress here with their stock characters, but it's all in good fun with the final half hour paying off with a catalog of slayings before the obligatory dry ice and thunder climax with the genie finally seen in all its glory. Along the way you get a cavalcade of amazing late '80s fashions and hairdos, all conspiring to make this a primo party movie that will never win the respect of mainstream critics.
By the time it hit U.S. theaters as The Outing (a year after the 1986 copyright in the credits), this film had already gotten a sliver of overseas distribution as The Lamp in a slightly longer version with the full ship prologue. The subsequent VHS from IVE reflected that shorter cut as well, with the longer international one unseen in the U.S. apparently until ownership passed to MGM. A so-so cable TV master was used for a 2013 DVD release as a four-movie "All Night Horror Marathon" set with The Vagrant, The Godsend, and What's the Matter with Helen; all of these titles were eventually upgraded to Blu-ray, with this one turning up in 2015 (minus any relevant extras) paired up with The Godsend. In 2021, Vinegar Syndrome revisited the film for its first standalone Blu-ray edition, as well as the first one with any special features, featuring a 2K scan from the 35mm interpositive. The nice twist here is that this is an even longer version than we've had before, clocking in three minutes longer than the earlier Blu-ray of the international cut. The extra footage amounts to several little scene extensions, primarily confined to the first 15 minutes with a bunch of added beats throughout. Rather surprisingly for a regional '80s horror film, this was actually mixed in Dolby Stereo for theaters and that's what you get here with an active English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track (with optional English SDH subs) featuring plenty of dramatic channel separation throughout. In addition to the theatrical trailer (as The Lamp), you get two big bonuses here: an audio commentary (with writer-producer Warren Chaney, Winters, and actor Barry Coffing, moderated by Zack Carlson), and a new featurette, "All in the Family: Taking an Outing in the Lamp" (36m36s) with Chaney, executive producer Fred T. Kuehnert, Winters, St. Ivanyi, André Chimène, Hank Amigo, Michelle Watkins and Coffing. Between the two you get a bit of overlap but there's a lot of great material here about the original inspiration to do an evil genie story instead of a standard slasher, the screaming auditions, the financing from parties involving in the original Halloween, the double or triple duties performed by many of the participants on the set, the other endeavors the actors had at the time (including more than one playing in bands), and tons more. The commentary has a lot of quiet space scattered throughout (perhaps due to the usual MGM approval issues), but both are worth checking out and provide some welcome context for a film that seems to be finally finding its audience.
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory (Blu-ray)
Reviewed on September 22, 2021