SNAPSHOT (1979) Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Director: Simon Wincer
Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome tackles Ozploitation with their Blu-ray/DVD combo of the thriller SNAPSHOT.

Put-upon nineteen-year-old Sydney hairdresser Angela (Sigrid Thornton, MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER) gets the opportunity of a lifetime when glamorous model Madeleine (Chantal Contouri, BARRY MacKENZIE HOLDS HIS OWN) offers her work not as her personal hairstylist but as a model. Angela is hesitant to accept her offer of help; after all her mother (Julia Blake, PATRICK) says she’s plain, her boss (Jon Sidney, THE LIGHTHORSEMAN) says she’s stupid, her creepy older Mr. Whippy truck driving boyfriend Daryl (Vincent Gil, ENCOUNTER AT RAVEN’S GATE) thinks she’s frigid, her bratty younger sister Becky (Jacqui Gordon, THIRST) doesn’t think she anyone would want her for anything, and she’s flat-chested (Madeleine reassures her that “Tits went out with Jayne Mansfield!”). Madeleine introducers her to eccentric photographer Linsey (Hugh Keays-Byrne, MAD MAX) who specializes in photographic “still death” (as opposed to “still life”), and he decides to use her in a cologne shoot taking place the next day. Angela is hesitant about doing a beach shoot requiring nudity, but she is assured that her face will not be shown and money is also tempting: $1000 for half-a-day (double for nudity). Of course, it should come as no surprise that she discovers her face plain as day in a fashion magazine’s two-page spread ad which she learns will soon grace four hundred billboards throughout Australia. Locked out of the house by her mother, Angela asks to crash at Linsey’s studio. Settling into her adventurous new life surrounded by models and Bohemian artists, Angela finds that photographers and advertisers are not exactly knocking down her door. Linsey, Madeleine, and others promise her that she will be a smash once the campaign’s demographics get back to the advertisers. When her snooping mother drops by and steals her cash while hypocritically judging her new sinful lifestyle, Angela is desperate to find work to pay the rent and could easily be duped into doing anything. Oh, and someone is stalking her every move and leaving grisly presents for her in her loft. Is it Mr. Whippy, eccentric Linsey, ambiguous Madeleine, Madeleine’s producer husband Elmer (Robert Bruning, NED KELLY), sleazy lawyer Roger (Peter Stratford, DAMNED BY DAWN), or a host of other shady characters who would take advantage of Angela’s naiveté and desperation?

Despite the US release title being THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN, do not go into SNAPSHOT expecting a teen slasher (obviously); despite the fashion milieu, don’t go into the film expecting an Australian THE EYES OF LAURA MARS. SNAPSHOT was the film was the sixth feature produced by Anthony Ginnane, following the sexploitation duo FANTASM, the dramas SYMPHONY IN SUMMER and BLUE FIRE PLADY, and international horror hit PATRICK. It was also the second of a sextet classic Ozploitation pics including the aforementioned Richard Franklin film, the vampire pic THIRST, David Hemmings’ THE SURVIVOR (based on the novel by James Herbert), the modern-day telekinetic Rasputin tale HARLEQUIN/DARK FORCES, the pseudo-slasher STRANGE BEHAVIOR/DEAD KIDS, and Brian Trenchard-Smith’s futuristic ESCAPE 2000/BLOOD CAMP THATCHER. Director Simon Wincer’s film is more of a drama about the price of fame with a subplot in which the heroine is not so much menaced as intermittently annoyed by a stalker (it's no THE FAN either). Angela spends more time fending off advances from dirty old men (and more subtle ones from Madeleine) and alienating her clueless loft mates (including Lulu Pinkus, then-wife of Yahoo Serious). Despite being a piece of Ozploitation and having a script shot through with provocative elements, SNAPSHOT is rather tame with little bloodshed and sex. PATRICK didn’t need much of that because – like director Richard Franklin’s later ROAD GAMES – its Hitchcockian borrowings were stimulating (so much so that Franklin was chosen to direct PSYCHO II), THIRST had an unpredictable paranoia-driven plot to keep things interesting, while the others had their share of nudity and bloodshed. SNAPSHOT has a passive heroine who has to be shoved into action, although the script does effectively convey how her mother, sister, boyfriend, and boss have worn her down while blaming her for her attitude. While her monumental naivety allows for some exploitation-worthy scenarios (being convinced to take some cheesecake photos for a producer, actually believing that her face won’t be shown in the ad, and being oblivious to ballsy Madeleine’s advances), the stalking element is more of an infrequently recurring subplot rather than part of the main storyline, and the first sustained suspense sequence does not occur until more than an hour into the film. The ending is surprising, not so much for the revelation of who is behind all (or at least some) of Angela’s frights but for an additional subversive twist which comes just after Angela finally finds her resolve and lets one of her browbeater have it.

Thornton had been acting in television and TV commercials – where she met Wincer – since the early seventies; but before SNAPSHOT she had received greater recognition with a role in Bruce Beresford’s THE GETTING OF WISDOM. She also did a stint on the popular Australian “women in prison” TV series PRISONER (better known to UK viewers as PRISONER: CELL BLOCK H). Thornton is married to producer Tom Burstall – son of director Tim Burstall (ATTACK FORCE Z) – who, at the time, was first assistant director on this film as well as THIRST and PATRICK. Thornton would reunite with Ginnane and Wincer in the eighties for the WWI film THE LIGHTHORSEMAN. Madeleine is a more interesting, if rather clichéd, ball-breaking lesbian character, and Contouri looks great in every shot and has some of the best lines. Contouri had won the Australian equivalent of an Emmy for a TV series before SNAPSHOT and would take the lead in Ginnane’s next production THIRST as well as Wincer's DARK FORCES. Blake was memorable as the matron in PATRICK and her single long scene (most of which was trimmed in the US version) with Thornton is one of the better dramatic ones. The only other interesting performance comes from Keays-Byrne as the photographer, but he – like the other supporting characters – is underused out of necessity to make them suspicious with very little basis. Cinematographer Vincent Monton – who also lensed PATRICK and THIRST as well as the Ozploitation classic LONG WEEKEND – keeps the film visually interesting a handful of crane shots, suspense-lighting in the loft and studio scenes, saturated gels in the club scenes, and balanced scope compositions (into which the Mr. Whippy van either creeps into the background or is glimpsed reflected in a window). Production designer Jon Dowding (THE BLUE LAGOON) was also a Ginnane regular and the décor of the studio and loft is appropriately eclectic (the commentary reveals that it was the home shared by Thornton and her husband). Regular Ginnane composer Brian May (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD) is on hand for another orchestral score, but it only really comes to life during the infrequent suspense scenes. Pop group Sherbet contributes an AM-radio-esque theme song for Angela heard in its three-and-a-half minute entirety during the beach photo shoot montage.

Group 1 released the film domestically in 1981 as ONE MORE MINUTE (an important phrase used late in the film) before retitling it to THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN in order to cash in on the slasher cycle (the latter title appeared on Varese Sarabande’s LP of Brian May’s soundtrack), and it was under that title when the film was first released on VHS in 1983 by Catalina Home Video (who also distributed the Group 1 acquisitions AMUCK, ALLIGATOR, Lucio Fulci’s THE PSYCHIC, DR. TARR’S TORTURE DUNGEON, and MANSION OF THE DOOMED among many others). Presumably, that tape featured the same fuzzy, panned-and-scanned transfer that Magnum Entertainment released a couple years later in a big box under the title THE NIGHT AFTER HALLOWEEN (the onscreen title remained THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN, however). The film was released twice under its original title (once the rights reverted) by Platinum Disc Corporation in 2002 and then again as part of Elite Entertainment’s AUSSIE HORROR COLLECTION VOL. 2 in 2004. While no one could expect much of a Platinum Disc release (even though it was legitimately licensed from the Australian rights holder), Elite’s non-anamorphic, semi-cropped transfer was particularly disappointing after the beautiful 16:9 original aspect ratio transfers of THIRST and STRANGE BEHAVIOR released individually and together in Elite’s AUSSIE HORROR COLLECTION VOL. 1 as well as the 16:9 transfer of DARK FORCES. The Australians themselves offered no better with their two Region 4 DVDs from Magna Pacific and Umbrella Entertainment. Although anamorphically-enhanced, the Australian master was cropped to 1.74:1 from its original Panavision aspect ratio, interlaced, and generally fuzzy-looking. Presumably the BritFilms UK DVD release is the same master as the running time is identical to the Magna Pacific edition.

The first respectable presentation of the film was Scorpion’s progressive, anamorphic transfer of film’s US cut (92:21) which presented the Panavision frame at 2.45:1 while also including the longer Australian cut (100:12) from the video master which was also accompanied by an audio commentary by Ginnane and hostess Katarina Leigh Waters. The DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN title sequence was included as an extra. When Vinegar Syndrome announced their Blu-ray/DVD combo, it was hoped that we would see the Australian cut in a new transfer but from them we have discovered that the shorter American version is actually the film's international cut and that the original negative and other intermediary materials were conformed to this version (which may have been reissued in Australia theatrically as well). The new 2K-mastered transfer of the international cut reveals a sliver more information on the left of the frame, a margin along the top, and slightly less on the bottom compared to the Scorpion transfer but the color correction is superior with more healthy skin tones, less saturated but still candy-colored gel lighting, and an overall brighter image that give the film the classy look intended to attract international buyers. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track boasts clear dialogue and music. Optional English SDH subtitle are included.

By comparison, the Australian cut's 16:9-enhanced, 1.78:1 cropped transfer is darker, softer, subject to pan-and-scan movements across the width of the image. As on other panned-and-scanned transfers for the film, the end credits take place over black since the stills of Angela on the right side of the frame are cropped off (they are visible on the international cut's widescreen image). Viewers looking for more salacious or violent material in the international version will be sorely disappointed. The difference between the two cuts on disc is roughly eight minutes, but it is actually closer to eleven or twelve minutes when the running time of the international cut is adjusted to 24fps playback. The missing footage is comprised of: 1) roughly a minute-and-a-half scene where Angela and Madeleine run into a Lily (TV comic actress Denise Drysdale) when they first arrive at Linsey’s studio, as well as Linsey setting up a “still death” shot before Angela and Madeleine enter the room; 2) the first half of the sequence in which Angela and Madeleine unwind at a disco, including most of the footage of an extremely annoying cabaret singer (approximately three minutes); 3) twenty second of Angela walking through Linsey’s dark studio in search of him; 4) nearly four minutes from the scene in which Angela finds her mother waiting for her in her loft room and argues with her (the scene is well-played but the short remainder of the scene pretty much reiterates everything they’ve already argued about); 5) a minute-and-a-half sequence starting with Angela waking up from a fiery nightmare and later telling her loftmates – who are watching PATRICK on TV – that she is going out; and lastly 6) a fifteen second scene in which a drunk Angela and Madeleine stumble in on two of Angela’s loftmates having sex (apart from Angela’s photo shoot and the several times the photos are shown, the film’s only other instance of nudity). It seems as if the drastic amount of trimming was done for the dual purposes of speeding up the film and shortening it by an entire reel. Some of this additional footage underlines some character aspects such as the clash of lifestyles between the communal loft residents and Angela’s concerns about privacy given how her mother, sister, and ex-boyfriend have all constantly invaded her privacy and her growing fear that she is being stalked); however, one rarely feels like they are missing anything watching the shorter cut.

Vinegar Syndrome has recorded a new commentary track with producer Ginnane, director Wincer, cinematographer Monton, and actress Thornton. There is a lot of overlapping discussion throughout that becomes a tad annoying but they usually stop as one voice asserts itself. Ginnane reveals that the film was mounted quickly following the success of PATRICK domestically and in international sales. The project began under the title CENTERFOLD, but the original script that Ginnane paid for proved problematic and the development fell through, so he employed Everett De Roche to bang out a thriller with some of the same elements (De Roche recruited his wife Chris because of the film's emphasis on female characters). He also reveals that the project was mounted quickly in the wake of PATRICK's international sales to keep the momentum going and that Richard Franklin was supposed to direct the film but ended up doing ROAD GAMES for Avco Embassy, so Ginnane looked at other directors from television (where he found Colin Eggleston to director FANTASM COMES AGAIN). Wincer and Monton discusses how getting their start in Australia's unofficial "film school" Crawfords TV had them accustomed to short shooting schedules (directing 46 minute episodes every six days), and that Monton was already experienced with anamorphic photography after doing LONG WEEKEND (Ginnane wanted Franklin to shoot PATRICK in Panavision but was talked out of it). Monton reveals that he used film stock and filters to emphasize the color blue in collaboration with the production designer and costume designer. Thornton reveals that she grew up in a hippie-ish environment so had no qualms about doing nudity and makes some astute observations during the discussion of why genre films were so unpopular to native Australians at the time as they were seen as pandering to American audiences. Ginnane is of the opinion that Group 1 was smart to try to tie the film with the successful John Carpenter film and discusses how it was more successful in certain territories than others, as was the case with other titles (noting PATRICK's success in Italy and the unauthorized sequel).

The other newly-produced extra is "Producing SNAPSHOT" (27:56) with producer Ginnane which repeats a lot of the information from the commentary track but also addresses the original CENTERFOLD project in more detail, revealing that it was originally a vehicle for Lynda Stoner (TURKEY SHOOT) who refused to do nudity. He also reveals that the film's accelerated fifteen week schedule from scripting to production and editing was necessary to have the film ready for MIFED. As with other Ozploitation releases on Blu-ray of late, Vinegar Syndrome was able to make use of extended interviews from Mark Hartley's documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (36:30) with Thornton, Ginnane, Wincer, Monton, assistant director Burstall, and De Roche along with a brief appearance from Stoner who notes that Ginnane was not her favorite person for his reaction when she refused to do nudity. There is a lot of overlap from the commentary but Burstall notes the differences between Melbourne's Crawfords TV and Sydney's Film Australia in shaping Australian filmmakers, Monton reveals that the four week shoot was a luxury while De Roche confirms that he did indeed knock the script off in four days with a fifth day for revisions. Also included are a poster & still gallery (4:04) as well as two Australian TV Spots (0:58) for the film. The first 1,000 copies are available with a limited edition slipcover but the reversible THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN artwork is far more eye-catching than the new artwork by Speed Blur. (Eric Cotenas)