The Film (4/5)
Cult Epics is back with their third release in their "Corpse Fucking Art" Blu-ray series, or as I happily like to refer to them as the film's of Jorg Buttgereit on FREAKING BLU-RAY. This time around we have the director's third feature film Der Todesking ("The Death King"). Der Todesking is broken up into 7 segments, each a day of the week, on each day the viewer is treated to a short vignette regarding violent death and suicide. Between each we are treated to images of a rotting corpse. I will avoid going into more detail to avoid spoiler territory, not that there is too much to spoil, but I do feel with Der Todesking getting it’s first domestic home video release this month through Cult Epics, there are going to be quite a few new viewers (I was one of them) coming to the film that would rather not be spoiled. I will say that the shorts range from the over the top (yet strangely hypnotic) violence that Buttgereit is known for, to other segments that are more subtle, and poetic in tone.
Before this Blu-ray came in the mail Der Todesking was the only film of Buttgereit's I had not seen. Over the years I knew it was well loved by fans of the director, but at the same time I knew it was considered his most accessible work. Having now watched it, I can understand the accessibility element only just slightly. Yes, the film's direct use of violence is toned down directly from what he had done before, but it is still present. On top of that the film offers a look at 7 days of suicide and death. Accessible or not, this is not the type of film that's going to get people to line up around the corner.
It’s really hard to pick a best or favorite film with a director like Buttgereit who made only 4 feature films (until coming back with part of the anthology German Angst this year), but Der Todesking is truly one of Buttgereit's best films. All of his film's in general have qualities that make them stand out from a standard horror feature, and more in line with arthouse experimentation, and it seems like those elements truly come into sharp focus with this film. The film feels like a horror film as if directed by Bunuel or Bergman who are contemplating death on a shoestring budget. The performances in the film aren't going to win any awards for drama, but they work perfectly for what they are, and for what they are meant to do.
Der Todesking from Cult Epics is quite a lovely Blu-ray, of course, in saying that I have to remind the reader that this isn't a reference quality Blu-ray, but an accurate representation on the Blu-ray format of this particular film which is a very soft shot, low budget film from the early 1990's. With that out of the way the film has good fine detail, stable colors, and a healthy grain structure. There is damage from the source, and as stated the film is soft, but that's less a problem of the transfer, and a nature of the production itself.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1, which works well even if it doesn't utilize Blu-ray audio. The dialogue comes through nice and clear, as does the film's quite prominent score. I did not detect any issues with the track, and overall everything sounds fine.
Cult Epics has put together quite a stellar extras package for their release of Der Todesking. The Blu-ray contains an introduction and commentary by the director (both in English), a behind the scenes doc on the film running sixteen minutes. This is narrated by Buttgereit, and also in English. We also get the 60 minute documentary Corpse Fucking Art that details the making of Nekromantik 1 and 2, and Der Todesking. The set is rounded off by trailers, and stills galleries.
I came to the film's of Jorg Buttgereit as a teenager for the splatter. As I get older, I find that his film’s work for me on a much different level, and I appreciate them more, not less than before as an eclectic mix of art and horror. Der Todesking is a fantastic mediation on death and suicide from the director. The Blu-ray looks fantastic, though the audio could have used an HD mix. The extras package is perfectly suited to the material, and is truly excellent. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.