When they have a sub­ject that inspires them, Severin Films can do amaz­ing work. The lat­est exam­ple of this is their blu-ray spe­cial edi­tion of Axe and Kidnapped Coed. Not only does it res­cue the­se two deserv­ing films from out-of-print DVD obliv­ion, it gives them a strong hi-def makeover and a Criterion-lev­el bar­rage of extras that extends all the way to a bonus sound­track CD.

Axe-KidC-bluThings start swim­ming­ly with new trans­fers for both films. Both look pret­ty impres­sive, offer­ing lev­els of col­or and detail the old Something Weird DVD couldn’t get near. These films are also trans­ferred at a 1.78:1 ratio for the first time here. Lossless ver­sion of the orig­i­nal mono sound­tracks for each film are includ­ed and both do well by the sim­ple mix­es, adding some nice depth to the syn­th-lay­ered musi­cal scores.

Severin has also stacked on as many extras as a dual-lay­er blu-ray can sup­port. It all begins with com­men­tary tracks for both films fea­tur­ing writer/director Frederick Friedel, cam­era assis­tant Phil Smoot and make­up artist Worth Keeter. It’s a reunion for all three and they offer up a vari­ety of shoot mem­o­ries, details on cast and loca­tions and fond thoughts of learn­ing their craft on the job. Friedel is tough on his own work but appre­ci­ates the expe­ri­ence of mak­ing the­se films. All in all, you get a nice per­spec­tive on what mak­ing a region­al hor­ror film in the ‘70s was like.

Axe-01This disc also sees the debut of Bloody Brothers, a com­pos­ite fea­ture that Friedel edit­ed togeth­er from both movies. The ini­tial moti­va­tion for this was to reclaim some lost prof­its from his work but it’s actu­al­ly an inter­est­ing exer­cise in cross­cut­ting that works sur­pris­ing­ly well and makes the most of Jack Canon’s pair of effec­tive yet dif­fer­ent per­for­mances in the two source films. Stephen Thrower pro­vides a com­men­tary track for this re-edit: as usu­al for Thrower, it’s a thought­ful and insight­ful com­bi­na­tion of his­tor­i­cal details and crit­i­cal analy­sis. It com­ple­ments the oth­er two com­men­tary tracks nice­ly.

And that’s not all for the extras. Next up are a pair of excel­lent, in-depth fea­turettes. “At Last… Total Terror” runs 62 min­utes and cov­ers the pro­duc­tion of both films, their dis­tri­b­u­tion trou­bles and their even­tu­al redis­cov­ery. Friedel, Smoot and Keeter all Axe-adplay a vital role here, even revis­it­ing sev­er­al loca­tions to share fun pro­duc­tion anec­dotes. Thrower pops up to dis­cuss how he sought out Friedel for his clas­sic tome Nightmare U.S.A., which start­ed a chain of events lead­ing to the res­cue and remas­ter­ing of the films. Along the way, you also get intrigu­ing por­traits of indie gen­re fig­ures like Pat Patterson and Harry Novak. It’s a cap­ti­vat­ing seg­ment, both for its exploita­tion flick his­to­ry and the cau­tion­ary tale it offers for indie film­mak­ers.

Axe-ad2The oth­er seg­ment is a 38-min­ute piece enti­tled “Moose Magic” and is devot­ed to George Newman Shaw and John Willhelm, the duo who com­posed the scores for both of Friedel’s films. These two gift­ed musi­cians died in a car acci­dent short­ly after work­ing on the sound­tracks so this ret­ro­spec­tive piece col­lects their fam­i­ly and friends to pay trib­ute to their lives. The result­ing seg­ment paints a touch­ing, some­times wit­ty por­trait of a pair of friends who bal­anced each oth­er out and became ace musi­cians along the way. Friedel also appears to dis­cuss how Shaw trans­formed a sound record­ing job on Axe into doing both scores and there are plen­ti­ful clips of the two musi­cians play­ing their com­plex jazz songs. Overall, this piece is the unex­pect­ed but wel­come sur­prise amongst the extras.

KidCoed-adThrower returns near the end of the extras for a nine-min­ute piece offer­ing his thoughts on Friedel’s work. His lit­er­ate com­ments make inter­est­ing points about Friedel’s enig­mat­ic, visu­als-dri­ven sto­ry­telling approach and how the tyro film­mak­er turned his lack of expe­ri­ence into a virtue with his unortho­dox sto­ry­li­nes. The blu-ray extras are round­ed out by a trail­er gallery that includes the­atri­cal, t.v. and radio spots. You get to see the mul­ti­ple titles and mar­ket­ing approach­es, all of which are geared towards the dri­ve-in audi­ence.

KidCoed-vhsThis set clos­es out with one final, jum­bo-size extra in CD form: it col­lects the Shaw/Willhelm scores for both films and also sev­er­al of the orig­i­nal songs by this duo that appear in the “Moose Magic” fea­turet­te. It’s a nice trib­ute to the lega­cy of two com­posers who deserved more time to cre­ate.

In short, this is an excel­lent spe­cial edi­tion that will delight any­one who devoured the tales of indie hor­ror in Nightmare U.S.A. Severin Films and Stephen Thrower are a team made in obscure gen­re-flick heav­en and their col­lab­o­ra­tion here is one of the best cult movie blu-ray releas­es of 2015.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Axe, click here.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Kidnapped Coed, click here.