Color, 1974, 87 mins. 1 sec.
Directed by Michael Findlay
Starring Alan Brock, Jennifer Stock, Tawn Ellis, MIchael Harris, Ivan Agar, Darcy Brown, Jack Neubeck, Tom Grail
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Retromedia (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)
After corrupting countless grindhouse patrons with his notorious "Richard Jennings" trilogy (Touch of Her Flesh, Curse of Her Flesh, Kiss of Her Flesh), crackpot director Michael Findlay and his wife, Roberta (a sleaze movie maverick in her own right), entered the 1970s by turning to more mainstream horror fare. Along with the notorious Snuff, their most widely seem film is the wonderfully titled Shriek of the Mutilated, penned by that incomparable Invasion of the Blood Farmers team, Ed Kelleher and Ed Adlum. The result is a Yeti movie unlike any other, stuffed with eye-punishing fashion, twisted violence, loony plot turns, and acting that would make Ed Wood envious.
At a New York university, anthropology expert Dr. Prell (Brock) talks four of his more eager students into a weekend expedition to track down the legendary Yeti, who is apparently stalking one of the area's outlying islands. That night a partygoer issues to them a dire warning about Dr. Prell's field trips, which frequently seem to end in death and dismemberment. Unfortunately the whistle blower meets a nasty end shortly after while trying to kill his wife, in a bravura sequence that could have stepped right out of one of the Flesh movies (or Russ Meyer's Supervixens). So the students pack up in a Scooby-Doo van (and that's not the only similarity this movie bears to that cartoon) for a remote house where they meet another scientist and Laughing Crow, the world's hairiest, least convincing Native American. Before long a fluffy white monster is seen gallivanting in the woods and tearing apart the unfortunate trespassers. However, an even more monstrous secret turns out to be lurking beneath his fanged, furry exterior...
Complete with a sick double-twist ending, Shriek of the Mutilated moves along at a fairly brisk clip and, despite its adorable technical shortcomings, makes for ideal late night viewing. The seedy upstate locales are well used and evoke memories of the Findlay's other nasty softcore gems, while the loopy dialogue offers some of the choicest flesh-eating one liners this side of Cannibal Ferox. Bonus points for the funky pop soundtrack, which alternates from warbly classical music to lounge-inflected party tunes.
The video history of this film is an odd one starting with the VHS from Lightning Video, taken from an edited TV print that took the "Mutilated" part of the title a bit too literally. A subsequent gray market VHS from Sinister Cinema was uncut, while the first DVD on the market from Retromedia had all the violence but was missing the film's signature piece of music, Hot Butter's "Popcorn," which plays during an early popcorn-crazy party scene (now replaced with generic stock music). That disc also includes a TV spot and gushing liner notes by Thorn Sherman.
Subsequently Retromedia reissued it (minus "Popcorn" again) as part of a four-film Bigfoot Terror disc (with two films per side) along with The Capture of Bigfoot, Search for the Beast, and The Legend of Bigfoot.
In 2022, Vinegar Syndrome bowed the film on Blu-ray with a truly stunning presentation from a fresh 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative. No theatrical print or prior video release can even begin to prepare you for how good this thing looks and sounds now with immaculate detail, gorgeous colors, and the longest running time yet (versus the 85m28s DVD) with no damage in sight. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track is pristine as well (with optional English SDH subtitles) and far more intelligible than before-- and "Popcorn" back where it should be. Equal to the a/v quality is a killer of a new audio commentary with Roberta Findlay and Casey Scott; their past chat tracks have been sterling pieces of exploitation scholarship, but this may be their finest hour yet with a very thorough, upbeat conversation. They start off with a lot about Michael Findlay (from whom Roberta had long been estranged at the time and who was too "psychologically damaged" at the time to do the film by himself) before diving into the nuts and bolts of everyone on and off the screen. Fantastic stuff and likely to be remain one of the very best bonus features this year. Equally unmissable is the candid "Yeti Again" (12m36s) with Findlay giving a more general account of her work with Michael starting with their first meeting when he was a teacher (who got in professional jeopardy because of his "trashy" films) and going through the film that became Snuff, her memories of Adlum who talked her into doing Shriek, the manufacture of the Yeti suit (which entailed shooting around the zipper running up the back), and more. Then Adlum appears in "So Bad So Great" (22m7s) covering his previous "schlock" work like Blonde on a Bum Trip, his career in jukebox publications, the story behind Blood Farmers, and his time with the two Findlays as well as the process of marketing this film complete with violent insert shots. "The Wilds of Westchester" (14m5s) features Michale Gingold scouring the locations for both this film and Blood Farmers showing a then and now comparison starting with Fordham University and heading off to the island where all the mayhem erupted. Finally an untitled audio essay by Cryptozoology author David Coleman (30m5s) analyzes this film's peculiar approach to Yeti lore, the background behind the film (including its variant opening sequences) and its "sketchy financing," and its allusions to literature and other films.
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)
Reviewed on August 10, 2022.