Color, 1968, 83 mins. 24 secs.
Directed by Byron Mabe
Ronny Runningboard, Merci Mee, Acee Decee, Forman Shane
Color, 1970, 73 mins. 26 secs.
Directed by Charles Nizet
Starring Pierre Agostino, Lynn Hayes, Luanne Roberts, Jo Long
American Arcana (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9) (1.33:1), Something Weird (DVD-R)
The history of the legendary Something Weird Video is studded with mind-melting discoveries packed with sex, violence, or some seedy combination of the two. Case in point: The Bushwhacker and The Ravager, a pair of late-period roughies that seemed to be lost films until prints finally turned up and made their way to DVD-R from the company in 2007. Lean, mean, and completely devoid of any socially redeeming value, they're part of the same foul-tempered wave that would go on to inspire more overtly explicit fare the following decade like Zero In and Scream, A Climax of Blue Power, and Booby Trap. Fortunately both films were shot for pocket change out in the middle of nowhere and also have a kind of grubby charm in their cheap-jack commitment to delivering the cheapest thrills possible.
First up is The Bushwhacker whose title character ("Ronny Runningboard," a.k.a. Dave Friedman cohort Dan Martin) is an apparent Davy Crockett fashion aficionado and a total psychopath whose sanity has long gone during his indefinite time out in the wilderness. He decides to pump a couple of rifle rounds into a low-flying charter plane, which strands the pilot, Dan (Sassy Sue's Shane), with his all-female passengers: Sherry (uncredited), lesbian Maureen (the amusingly named "Acee Decee"), and Dawn (Montello). The new arrivals decide to spend their time coupling and skinnydipping in various combinations, but soon the bushwhacker shows up for a nonstop assault on human decency as he stabs, slices, and bites with wild abandon before a final confrontation. A twisted concoction from Byron Mabe (also a Friedman buddy and star of The Defilers), this one really delivers the goods in its final 20 minutes with a cascade of perverse twists (including bondage and necrophilia) you have to see to believe.
"Joe was still a very sick man... with a very sick mind." No freaking kidding! That's how we first meet the titular character from The Ravager, a guy so messed up by witnessing atrocities in Vietnam that he comes home and decides to keep the carnage going. Joe (Agostino) decides to put his skills as a demolitions man to the worst use possible by blowing up anyone he can find who's having sex. Soon humpers all over the desert are getting blasted to bits by this indiscriminate maniac, with no preference shown to race, creed, or sexual orientation. Even more absurd, hateful, and cartoonish than its companion film, this one really defies description with the bald, creepy Agostino chomping the scenery to pieces in a performance that's unlike anything else you've ever seen. No wonder both of these films nearly vanished off the planet entirely as turn of the decade audiences likely had no idea how to even remotely process what was unfolding in front of them.
Available as a limited 1,000-unit red case limited edition, the 2019 Blu-ray double feature is the inaugural venture from Mondo Macabro sub-label American Arcana in a partnership with Something Weird. Again, these are the only prints left so this is definitely a "take what you can get" scenario. The new transfers are certainly better than the earlier DVD-Rs but still sport faded color and a flood of damage and debris (with The Ravager containing green scratches throughout). It's a miracle we have them at all though, much less in the glorious modern miracle that it is 1080p. Best of all, The Bushwhacker also reinstates a brief but shocking bit of extra business to the climax, adding yet another entry to its catalog of grisly perversities. This bit is pulled from a different SD master, but it's smoothly integrated and not all that noticeable. The English mono audio is also in "as is" condition, listenable enough but hardly demo material. The U.S. theatrical trailer is included for The Bushwhacker (it's astonishing) and a German, VHS-sourced one is also tossed in for The Ravager (as Bestie der wollust); bonus, very long trailers are also included for The Scavengers, Hot Spur, Nazi Love Camp 27 and The Pick-Up. The package also comes with reversible cover art for whichever film tickles your fancy more, along with a batch of German lobby card reproductions for The Ravager. However, the best part of all may be the insert booklet with a fascinating essay by the always enjoyable Robin Bougie about the director of The Ravager, Belgian-born Charles Nizet, who also directed Help Me... I'm Possessed (featuring Agostino as well) and lived a colorful life full of boisterous claims, grandiose real estate and movie production plans, and bizarre twists of fate that ultimately led to an unsolved murder. It's great reading and a perfect companion to a pair of films that will burn their way into your brain for eternity.
Reviewed on March 16, 2019.