Color, 1973, 83m.
Directed by Thomas S. Alderman
Starring Deborah Walley, David G. Cannon, Paul Carr, Marvin Kaplan, John Crawford, Vince Martorano, Ray Dennis

Color, 1975, 90m.
Directed by Harry Thomason
Starring Lori Saunders, Dean Jagger, Robert Ginnaven, Lou Hoffman
Code Red (US R0 NTSC) / (1.78:1) (16:9)

The Severed ArmA double feature of "minimalist" low-budget '70s horror, this Code Red release is distinguished by its presentation of the long-sought gory version of The Severed Arm, a familiar staple from countless public domain releases over the years. Often seen in very substandard condition, the film has taken more than its share of hits from both critics and fans during its video lifetime, but it's a substantially more interesting film than its reputation might lead you to believe. The film was subsequently released uncut on Blu-ray by Vinegar Syndrome; read more about that release here.

The Code Red presentation of The Severed Arm comes as a double feature with So Sad about Gloria, which was widely released on VHS under the title of Visions of ESo Sad About Gloriavil but receives its first DVD release here under its original title. This PG-rated thriller features a little more axe mayhem as Gloria (Petticoat Junction's Saunders) goes from a stint in an insane asylum into the care of her uncle Frederick (Alligator's Jagger). She winds up meeting a guy named Chris (White Lightning's Ginnaven), and though she keeps suffering from traumatic visions and nightmares apparently brought on by her dad's mysterious death years before, she goes ahead and marries him. Meanwhile someone's running around hacking up young women, and it all builds to a twisty double-cross climax in which the terrible truth is finally revealed.

The actual story here is familiar potboiler material (you'll be able to see the twist ending coming about 15 minutes in), but don't let the PG rating fool you. The big axe attack in the first act is a real doozy, and the whole film has a weird off-kilter ambience switching from surrealistic nightmares to soft-focus love montages straight out of Play Misty for Me (complete with tinkly pop songs). The last five minutes are a good payoff, too, including a bizarre final sequence very similar to the same year's The Bell from Hell. Visually speaking this is well below The Severed Arm as it has a gritty veneer closer to a storefront porn film, but of course that just adds to the charm and separates it a bit from the glossier psycho-shockers being cranked out by studios at the time. None of the skilled actors are called on to do much besides Saunders, who looks great and goes through the paces of acting stressed and terrified quite well. The transfer here is about as good as the original materials will allow; it'll never be a pretty film, but at least this looks a lot better than the old Prism tapes. Again you can watch this with or without Maria (still cutting up with a fake arm and pickax), while other extras include trailers for Blood Mania, Caged Men, and Devil's Express. The film was subsequently issued on Blu-ray by Dark Force with God's Bloody Acre.

Reviewed on July 30, 2012.