The blu-ray format has been really kind to slasher movie fans in the last few years: beyond the obvious Halloween/Friday The 13th-level choices, there have been beautiful special editions of deep catalog fan favorites like The Burning, The Dorm That Dripped Blood and The Final Terror. Vinegar Syndrome has thrown its hat into this ring by doing a blu-ray/DVD combo set for Graduation Day – and the results are high-def manna for the stalk & slash faithful.
The Vinegar Syndrome crew starts things with a bang by serving up an excellent transfer drawn from a new 4k restoration of the film. The blu-ray was viewed for this review and it’s gorgeous: the heavily diffused style of cinematography registers with a nice level of detail and the colors look spot-on. This transfer features the film’s mono mix, presented in lossless form on the blu-ray: a little background hum can be heard in a few spots but this vintage mix comes through nice and clear. Overall, this presentation is several miles ahead of the crummy old Troma DVD version.
This transfer is backed up by an impressive number of extras. The bonuses begin with not one but two commentary tracks. The first features producer David Baughn with moderator Elijah Drenner. Baughn provides a lot of nuts-and-bolts production info in a cheerful manner, including the clever financing/distribution model he created to raise the film’s budget and how they replaced one troublesome cast member without having to cut her from the film.
Drenner asks questions at a steady pace, giving the track direction without ever stepping on Baughn’s toes. You’ll even learn where Baughn makes an oddball cameo in the film and how an unproduced sequel script for the film was co-written by Clint Howard(!). In short, it’s a relaxed and fun listen that will amuse slasher buffs.
The other track features The Hysteria Continues, a podcast troupe led by slasher movie expert Justin Kerswell (who wrote an excellent book on the subject). He takes the lead, doling out plentiful trivia about the cast, filmmakers and a few production stories. The other participants aren’t as impressive – one forgets the film’s ending and another carps pointlessly about plotting issues, a silly complaint when regarding an obviously daft film like this – and things slow down as the film moves into its final half hour. That said, Kerswell manages to carry the track to the finish line and reveals some interesting trivia, like why the film’s killer uses a stopwatch.
A quartet of video interview featurettes are also included. Star Patch Mackenzie gets a 9 minute segment in which she reveals she took the role to rebel against her prim upbringing and how she disagreed with director Herb Freed about her character’s “red herring” moments. She admits to being bemused yet pleased by the film’s enduring fanbase. Freed gets about 12 minutes. He talks fondly of the glory days of independent film production and admits how the audience’s excited response to the film’s violence turned him off from doing further horror films. Freed also discusses approaching the horror genre like a commercial formula and offers his thoughts on various cast members.
Baughn supplements his commentary with an 11 minute segment. He expands on a lot of stories from that commentary but he also tells some tales about his early days in distribution, including a successful partnership with Russ Meyer, and discusses the massive changes in independent film distribution since his heyday. The last interview features Martin Jay Sadoff. In seven minutes, he covers a lot of ground: he goes into detail about how and why he used such unorthodox editing techniques and how he got involved with the Friday The 13th series.
The final extra is the original Graduation Day theatrical trailer and it’s a doozy: this red-band item makes excellent use of intricate optical effects to insert various highlights from the film onto the pages in a yearbook, intercutting these beats with Felony’s “Gangster Rock” performance from the film. It’s the kind of bombastic, clever exploitation flick trailer editing that you never see today.
In short, Vinegar Syndrome’s edition of Graduation Day is a winner for the ’80s horror crowd. It does well by a film that has never gotten good home video treatment and delivers a nice package of extras, to boot. Slasher fanatics will want to add this to their blu-ray shelf.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Graduation Day, click here.