Color, 2000, 85 mins. 38 secs.
Directed by Mark Savage
Starring Robin Brennan, Colin Savage, Peter Beitans, Nene Powell, Simon Wood, Adam Batt
Intervision (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Originally sent straight to video as Masked Avenger Versus Ultra-Villain in the Lair of the Naked Bikini, this deliberately over-the-top crime film was the third feature for Australian director Mark Savage, made in the wake of Sensitive New Age Killer and Marauders. That lengthy title was conjured up by EI Video (one of the incarnations of Alternative Cinema) back in the waning VHS days to sell a gory and gleefully ridiculous, ultra-cheap production meant to be titled The Masturbating Gunman, an homage to exploitation cinema of many stripes with a barrage of verbal and sight gags pulled off on a student film budget.
The evil, megalomaniac Helmut (Beitans) is obsessed with taking down modern consumerist culture and dreams of bringing his offspring, the next messiah, into the world: "a god... a perfect being!" That means finding a virgin who hasn't been "polluted by beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking, party-loving, tabloid-reading degenerates," so he sends his ski-mask-wearing cohorts to find the ideal candidate. That turns out to be Sister Mary van Hootin (Powell), who happens to be the sister of Robin (Brennan), alias the Masturbating Gunman, a righter of wrongs who uses the money he captures to help fund her orphanage. His only kryptonite is his compulsion to whack off furiously in the presence of women even in the middle of a mission, which he tempers by keeping clotheslines filled with used panties back at home. Oh, and he can fire buckets of scalding acidic semen. Determined to track down his sister, our hero must learn to overcome his weakness and find the true self-abusing hero inside himself.
Though definitely an acquired taste, this one is quite the amusing party film in the right frame of mind complete with a hero who snatches guns with intestines and beats guys across the face with their torn-out hearts. The film wears its influences on its sleeve right down to naming one character "Mr. Nikkatsu," in case the panty-sniffing motif wasn't enough to have pink film fans giggling, but the Melbourne setting gives it a unique feel especially when our main character is seen tracking his way across the city. It's all pulled off with gusto but laced with Savage's trademark use of meditative moments laced with electronic music, so anyone familiar with his other films will feel right at home here. He even has a highly unique cameo here, doing a part nobody else wanted to do.
Brought back into circulation by Intervision on Blu-ray after decades wandering in the wilderness, The Masturbating Gunman is obviously limited by the nature of the original video production; you'll see plenty of aliasing and ringing baked into the source here, but it's a case of "it is what it is" and no doubt the best it can possibly look. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 track is also perfectly fine and comes with optional English SDH subtitles. A new commentary with Savage conversing with Severin's David Gregory is very lighthearted and informative as he touches on the very degraded reputation of horror and exploitation in Australia at the time, the gender elements in fandom and collecting, the casting process of even the tiniest parts, the location scouting, the film's marginal video release, and lots more. The rest of the bonus features (accessible through an appropriately panty-centric menu) include an archival making-of featurette (29m45s), which shows the cast and crew at work and frequently goofing on the film's title and performing some of the more out-there moments, and the alternate U.S. opening sequence.
Reviewed on June 27, 2021