Severin has done some stel­lar work this year, par­tic­u­lar­ly with their spe­cial edi­tions of Dr. Butcher M.D. and Burial Ground, but they real­ly pulled off a coup with their release of The Killing Of America.  This shock­ing but smart doc­u­men­tary got only a hand­ful of play­dates in New York dur­ing its orig­i­nal release and has nev­er killam-blubeen rep­re­sent­ed on any home video for­mat in the United States.  Severin has final­ly brought this cin­e­mat­ic prodi­gal son home in an edi­tion that is not only tech­ni­cal­ly accom­plished but fur­ther enriched with some worth­while sup­ple­ments.

The trans­fer sticks to the film’s Academy (1.33:1) ratio and looks pret­ty impres­sive given the film’s mix­ture of footage from var­i­ous sources: there’s lot of video-to-film trans­fers and dif­fer­ent film for­mats in addi­tion to the wrap­around mate­ri­al the film­mak­ers shot.  The new footage and key bits of vin­tage film-sourced footage real­ly look impres­sive here, giv­ing the over­all look a big boost over the old video bootlegs of this title.  The mono sound­track mix is pre­sent­ed in the LPCM for­mat and is free of dis­tor­tion or oth­er defects.

Severin also adds a nice­ly curat­ed col­lec­tion of extras.  Here’s what you can expect…

Violence U.S.A. (1:55:00): this is the Japanese release ver­sion of The Killing Of America, pre­sent­ed in a trans­fer that is of equal qual­i­ty to the main pre­sen­ta­tion.  The nar­ra­tion is in Japanese but English sub­ti­tles have been includ­ed.  Fans of the orig­i­nal cut will want to check this out as there sev­er­al dif­fer­ences that give the film a dif­fer­ent rhythm and mood: sev­er­al sce­nes are recut and length­ened in some cas­es, the struc­ture is altered and the nar­ra­tion has a dif­fer­ent tone.  There are also some new sce­nes, includ­ing a sports-ori­ent­ed mon­tage to show America’s pos­i­tive side, footage of the assas­si­na­tion attempts on Gerald Ford and a mon­tage of police gun-train­ing sce­nar­ios.

Commentary: Co-direc­tor Sheldon Renan does the hon­ors here on the orig­i­nal cut.  It’s a dense­ly infor­ma­tive piece, with plen­ti­ful anec­dotes on the shoots for the new footage, how the shock­ing file footage was sourced for the film, the way cin­e­mat­ic tech­niques were used to achieve a psy­cho­log­i­cal impact and.  You’ll even learn about the film’s con­nec­tions to Blue Thunder, Taxi Driver and Jack Ruby(!).  An impor­tant lis­ten for any­one inter­est­ed in this film.

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Sheldon Renan inter­view (20:22):  Renan offers an ami­able chat that cov­ers a lot of ground.  He starts with how his friend­ship with the Schraders and expe­ri­ence as an archivist led to his work on The Killing Of America.  There are sev­er­al inter­est­ing anec­dotes along the way, includ­ing what Willy Kurant shot in the film and a scary anec­dote about inter­view­ing Edmund Kemper.  He makes a nice case for how the film is designed to force view­ers to con­front the prob­lem­at­ic aspects of the American expe­ri­ence.

Lee Percy inter­view (16:09): the vet­er­an film edi­tor talks about one of his first big gigs in detail.  He starts with a fun anec­dote about how his work on Roar!, anoth­er rarely-seen cult item, got him his start in the busi­ness then goes into detail on how cut­ting The Killing Of America was chal­leng­ing on psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal lev­els.  Along the way, he talks about the dif­fer­ences between the film’s direc­tors and pro­duc­er, explains the curi­ous sports-ori­ent­ed mon­tage in the Japanese ver­sion and offers his thoughts on the film’s recep­tion.

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Nick Pinkerton inter­view (14:48): Pinkerton is a writer and film his­to­ri­an who spe­cial­izes in the mondo/shock-doc area and dis­cuss­es the film from that van­tage point here.  He offers a thought­ful per­spec­tive on this prob­lem­at­ic but impor­tant style of film­mak­ing, includ­ing great obser­va­tions on The Killing Of America, the Jacopetti & Prosperi films that start­ed the­se gen­res and the dif­fer­ences between the mon­do and shock­u­men­tary styles.  A must-watch for any­one inter­est­ed in pon­der­ing the artis­tic valid­i­ty of such films.

Original Trailer: a skill­ful­ly-craft­ed spot that com­mu­ni­cates the film’s themes and its gut-punch effect in just a few min­utes.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of The Killing Of America, click here.

The Killing of America — Severin Films Trailer from Severin Films on Vimeo.