The Film (5/5)
Much like fellow New York filmmaker William Lustig, Abel Ferrara began his career working in hardcore porno before making a sleazy horror picture. For Lustig he would make the infamous Maniac, and Ferrara would make Driller Killer which Arrow Video is releasing on Blu-ray this month. Oddly, the comparisons don't end there with both making vigilante films as their follow ups. Lustig with the titular Vigilante, and Ferrara with the rape/revenge classic Ms. 45.
Driller Killer stars Ferrara himself (under the pseudonym Jimmy Laine) as Reno Miller an artist struggling to make ends meet in New York City at the beginning of the 80's. He lives in a run down artist apartment next to a noisy no-wave band who keep him up all night, and distract him from his work. When his work is firmly rejected, and the noise proves to be too much he finally snaps.
Driller Killer fits firmly alongside the sleazier New York Cinema coming out during the 70's and early 80’s like the aforementioned Maniac, and also Fulci's New York Ripper, but also films like Basket Case, and of course, Taxi Driver. The film's basic conceit of an artist on a rampage obviously has parallels with Roger Corman's Bucket of Blood and H.G. Lewis's Color Me Blood Red (also out from Arrow Video), but of course with a much serious tone.
The film has a feeling of late night delirium. The character of Reno Miller is one that the audience can feel keeps all hours to finish his art, especially living the way he does. As such when he is staring at TV commercials with his girlfriend and friend, one can easily see the delirium in his eyes, and begin to feel it through Ferrara's visuals from his colors through to the framing of the image.
Arrow Video continuing their commitment to providing every conceivable option to film viewers presents Driller Killer 4 different ways. We get a Pre-Release version of the film running 100 minutes long. This is not a director's cut, it runs 5 minutes longer then the theatrical version. It is presented 1:37:1 and 1:85:1. We also get the shorter, director approved theatrical version presented in the same AR's, both 1080p AVC encodes.
Driller Killer was shot on 16mm and the transfer reflects that. We get a highly grainy, natural looking film. Colors are well reproduced, detail is excellent, and blacks are solid. There is some damage that could not be repaired, but it's not distracting at all, and feels like part of the film's ambiance.
Audio is handled by a series of LPCM mono tracks in English. The tracks are serviceable with dialogue, score, coming through clearly.
There are 2 versions of the film in 2 AR's. A commentary by Ferrara on the theatrical version, and an 18 minute interview with Ferrara. WE also get a documentary piece on the neighborhood Ferrara grew up in, and features in his films, and a visual essay on the career of the director. There is also a trailer, and booklet of liner notes.
Driller Killer is a sleazy, delirious ride that is indicative of the power the director had early in his career, and would continue to wield throughout his work. The Blu-ray from Arrow Video looks and sounds fantastic, and is loaded up with extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.