Director: Olaf Ittenbach
Intervision Picture Corp.

Heroin-addicted punk Peter resentfully stays home to read his frightened kid sister some “deadtime” stories in Olaf Ittenbach’s SOV gore hit THE BURNING MOON, on DVD officially from Intervision Picture Corp.

In “Julia’s Love,” the lovelorn titular protagonist (Beate Neumeyer) goes out on a date with the charming Brian (Bernd Muggenthaler), who she had only met the night before. Things go swimmingly until Brian goes to get cigarettes, and Julia hears the radio report about maniac Cliff Parker who has hacked up twenty-one victims, and has just escaped the asylum after murdering his doctors and some guards. The description matches Brian and his stolen car. Julia gets out of the car and hitches a ride home; however, she has left her wallet in the car and Parker now knows where to find her. Julia gets home and is conflicted about telling her parents about her experience since she has a history of dating “crazy” guys. Unfortunately, when she finally decides that she needs to tell them, Cliff has hacked them (as well as her sister) to pieces and has a very special treat in mind for her.

Set in 1957, “The Purity” follows the exploits of Father Ralf (Rudolf Höß) as he rapes and murders his way through his village congregation in the name of Satan. Outcast Justuz (Andre Stryi) is suspected of the crimes and victimized by village tough Frank (Kurt Nauder), but Ralf assures Justuz that anyone who harms him will be damned for passing judgment. For no apparent reason, Ralf decides one night that it is time for him to be received into the kingdom of hell and blows his brains out. The villagers once again suspect Justuz and pay Frank to slaughter him, but Ralf is still watching over his flock from hell…

The two stories of this shot-on-video anthology film have nothing in common other than opportunities to showcase Ittenbach’s self-created gore effects; however, they do so “Julia’s Love” parcels out the gory effects evenly throughout its runtime by throwing in flashbacks and random extra victims to beef up the body count, while “The Purity” focuses largely on setting up its story and saving most of its gore for its final third (which includes a trip to hell with mutilation aplenty, culminating in a gory body bisection that is meatier than the Deodato CUT AND RUN and Fulci DEMONIA scenes that probably inspired it). Indeed, “The Purity” is on the whole the more accomplished production with moderate attention to period detail, formal camera compositions, and an attempt to eke out some sympathy for its scapegoat victim. None of the performances in either story could be said to be good, but none of them are distractingly bad; they are simply flat for the most part, aside from the nutsos essayed by Muggenthaler and Höß. That said, gore fans won’t find “Julia’s Love” lacking for its flat characters and predictable storyline. The raison d’etre for both stories is the gore, and it is laid on with gusto. Limps are chopped off, heads are decapitated or blown off, faces are smashed or ripped off, eyeballs are eaten (which includes a camera POV trip down an esophagus a la THE STENDHAL SYNDROME utilizing an oversized red jelly-lined prop rather than CGI), guts are strewn, and real and fabricated torsos take multiple squib-hits. None of it is terribly convincing, but the cumulative effect is nauseating (it’s kind of like a Troma gore film without the humor, and they probably would have picked it up had it been dubbed into English), and it probably pales next to Ittenbach’s subsequent more accomplished work (Ittenbach’s CHAIN REACTION and GARDEN OF LOVE are available stateside as, respectively, HOUSE OF BLOOD and THE HAUNTING OF REBECCA VERLAINE, but they may or may not be uncut) along with the hardcore sex and gore films that followed by fellow countrymen Andreas Schnaas (ANTHROPOPHAGUS 2000) and Andreas Bethmann (ROSSA VENEZIA). Director Ittenbach plays Peter in the bookending segments, and closes the film on a somber note. Comprehensive horror fans should experience it at least once, while gore aficionados will consider it an essential title in their collection.

Since the film was shot on videotape, Intervision’s transfer retains the PAL running time, but the conversion artifacts are minimal. The transfer has been encoded at a high bitrate, but only so much can be done given the source: highlights bloom, fine patterns exhibit aliasing despite the bitrate, and detail is non-existent. It probably looks better than the bootleg VHS editions that made the rounds previously, but is probably on par with the other DVD editions. The Dolby Digital mono audio cleanly renders the dialogue, music, and sometimes overemphatic ambient effects (tons of footsteps and background chatter even in sparsely populated exteriors). The optional English subtitles have a couple grammatical errors, but are easy to follow (Justus is also referred to in the subtitles as Justuz, despite the correct spelling in the end credits). The disc’s major extra is the inclusion of the lengthy “The Making of BURNING MOON” (46:32) which shows just how much work and ambition went into creating this small film, depicting the creation of effects props and Ittenbach performing stunts (like taking a crash through a plate glass window for Neumeyer). We see camera jibs and dollies in use (where I would have just guessed that they put the cameraman in a wheelchair for some of the tracking shots), and editing at a professional video switcher. The bathroom for “Julia’s Love” turns out to be a large fabricated set (to allow Ittenbach to get high angles, and no one involved with the production would likely let their real bathroom be splashed in gore and have prosthetics set on fire). Ittenbach comes across as affable and enthusiastic as he talks about creating effects and shooting without permits on public streets (including the scene of a guy getting run over with fake body parts and blood strewn on location). Some of his collaborators and cast members are also on hand, but no one seems to be under the illusion that this is a masterpiece in the making. Burnt-in English subtitles are provided for the interview footage and the clips (with the translation differing slightly from the subtitles on the main feature). The featurette also includes a montage of gory clips from Ittenbach’s previous SOV feature BLACK PAST (that film’s Andrea Arbter plays victims in both BURNING MOON stories). The film’s trailer (0:39) and trailers for THE ABCs OF LOVE AND SEX and THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMER round out the extras. (Eric Cotenas)