Color, 1989, 98 mins. 26 secs.
Directed by Thomas R. Rondinella
Starring Robert North, Jeremy Whelan, Victoria Scott, Holly Stevenson, William Towner
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Troma (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

By the time the '70s Bladescame to a close, Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Jaws had been imitated and parodied to death with everything from straight-up copycats (Grizzly, Piranha) to porn spoofs Blades(Gums), with even Spielberg himself ribbing it in the opening of 1941. Proving that the concept hadn't been exhausted yet even in the following decade, 1989's Blades takes a cue from the made-for-TV film Killdozer by using sentient killer machinery instead of a predatory shark; what makes this one especially amusing is how closely it sticks to the original template, albeit with a concept so gleefully ridiculous it mostly plays like high comedy.

When a young couple making out in the weeds near a lake get chewed to shreds late at night, that's just the latest problem at the nearby Tall Grass Country Club. Experienced Kelly Lange (Scott) is miffed at still being relegated to assistant pro in favor of newcomer and hard drinker Roy Kent (North), one of many questionable decisions by owner Norman Osgood (Towner). As the big tournament approaches, the body count begins to mount including a pint-sized caddy who gets pureed in the brush before a line of astonishing golfers. BladesCalls for hunters to dispatch with the oil-drizzling menace just lead to vigilante mayhem, with Kelly and Roy deciding to recruit jaded ex-groundsman BladesDeke (Whelan) to hop in a van and go after the whirring menace themselves.

Highly amusing with its references played with an admirably straight face, Blades is a lively New Jersey-shot horror comedy featuring some of the same personnel from the more straightforward Girls School Screamers). Fans of Jaws will have a particularly good time figuring out the parallels here, including a great twist on the grieving Mrs. Kintner scene. The running time is a bit indulgent for the material (pruning off ten minutes or so from the first 45 minutes would've been a good idea), but once it kicks into gear there's lots of fun to be hard here including a few generous dollops of gore. (The variation here on Robert Shaw's fate is especially juicy.) Even the electronic score does its best to ape a certain composition by John Williams, which seems only fitting.

Barely shown in theaters, Blades made the rounds on VHS from Media and then Troma for years before hitting DVD in a triple feature with Blood Hook and Zombie Island Massacre. This was the last of the three to get a Blu-ray upgrade from Vinegar Syndrome, and its 2021 edition is as good you'd expect with a stellar 2K scan from the 35mm original camera negative. The older scan we've had around for decades looks positively sickly by comparison, and it's an upgrade in Bladesevery possible respect Bladesthanks to the restoration of the intended matted framing, far superior colors, and a big jump in detail. Director Thomas R. Rondinella and writer William R. Pace participate in both a new audio commentary and a video featurette, "Fore! Warning" (21m32s), the latter also bringing along producer John P. Finegan (whose own golf background was a big part of the conception). Between the two you get a little bit of repeat but they're full of stories about the production including anecdotes about a prison inmate vital to getting the production launched, the guy named "Boom Boom" who built the trick lawnmower, and the continuity issues with shooting during short days that time of year. They also note some of the material that had to be chopped from the script when they ran short on time, including an intended riff on "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Finally the disc wraps up with a fun photo gallery (2m11s) of behind-the-scenes shots from Pace's personal collection.

Reviewed on October 10, 2021