Color, 1973, 92 mins. 14 secs.
Directed by Mitch Brown1
Starring Richard C. Watt, Frank Himes, Charles Russell, Neil Lifton, Jay Brett, James Hinton, Denise Sondej, Margaret Uharik Features Include:
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC)

Billed Shotas "the first full length motion picture produced at the ShotUniversity of Illinois," this regional action treat mounted by college students is incredibly impressive considering it was reportedly shot for 15 grand with money raised from film festivals. Briskly paced and loaded with character, it's also astonishing given the ambitious nature of the action sequences with lots of locations involving in vehicular mayhem and a helicopter employed for tons of swooping aerial shots. They definitely don't make 'em like this anymore.

After busting a pot-smoking foreign film buff outside a screening of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (at gunpoint!) and hanging out at the local go-go joint, two cops, Bill Hader lookalike Ross and smut book fan Wilson, end up on the scene after a lengthy pursuit of a van driven by some shaggy-haired drug dealers are wreaking havoc in the nearby cornfields and shooting everyone in sight. A reluctant informer named Ruby, who pumped one of the perpetrators full of lead for leaving her behind, ends up putting them on the trail of aspiring crime lord Blasi, whose men like to smoke dope and wear painfully tight pants as they build up a financed base out of a rehab clinic. Another female informant, loads of bullets, police car banter, nose picking, bloody foot chases, and questionable tie choices all figure in the ensuing chaos as the law and the criminals close in on each other.

Despite Shotits fairly generic central conflict, Shot actually has a few surprises up its sleeves (including a nasty violent one just before the big slam-bang finale) and a fine sense of atmosphere including snowy landscapes and lived-in environments like train yards and farms. It's obvious everyone involved had been binging on films like Dirty Harry, Bullitt, and The French Connection Shotbefore they made this, but the execution makes all the difference with a vibe unlike anything coming out of Hollywood before or after. Not to be overlooked is the great, rocking music score by "Area Code 615" (listed as being courtesy of Polydor for some reason), which gives a fun '70s funk flavor to the proceedings.

Screened in the area in which it was filmed (including multiple university play dates), this film dropped off the map entirely before getting a wildly unlikely VHS release from Sony as Death Shot (complete with a ridiculous cover and trimmed down to fit on a T-90 tape). The dual-format Blu-ray and DVD release from Vinegar Syndrome (with the usual reversible art options) is another miraculous rescue operation for a film that seemed to be completely forgotten, featuring a new 2K scan of the original 16mm camera negative. It looks great and totally authentic, with its rough and tumble textures left intact and the expected grain and grit aplenty. An opening disclaimer notes some popping sounds in the audio that are inherent in the original assembly, but they're very minor and probably won't even be noticed by most in the English LPCM mono mix (which also sports optional English SDH subtitles). Extras include “Taking the Shot” (22m19s) with director Mitch Brown and an audio interview with producer Nate Kohn (22m32s), which together provide a thorough portrait of how they wound up coming up with the project together at school, what permissions were granted to get all those insane locations (yes, it was all totally above board), and how they should have channeled the film's positive local reception into another project but couldn't muster up the resources to raise the money again. A promotional still and article gallery (1m20s) is also included with some great college flyers and local press coverage, including the tidbit that Universal apparently snagged this one at the time for college exhibition only.

Shot Shot Shot Shot

Reviewed on August 24, 2018.