Synapse has nev­er been afraid to take an off­beat, demand­ing for­eign film as part of its cultish reper­toire.  They just tack­led one of their most unique endeav­ors in this area with their blu-ray release of The Life And Death Of A Porno Gang.  Despite some seri­ous tech­ni­cal chal­lenges, they’ve man­aged to pro­duced a worth­while disc from dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances — and they’ve added one of the year’s most unusu­al bonus fea­tures to accom­pa­ny it, as well.

The trans­fer doesn’t look like what you would expect from a blu-ray but to real­ly size up what’s going on here, you need to under­stand what kind of ele­ments Synapse was deal­ing with.  It was shot on low-tech dig­i­tal equip­ment and it was also shot using the PAL sys­tem, thus ensur­ing that the result would def­i­nite­ly have a lim­it­ed res­o­lu­tion when con­vert­ed to NTSC.  That said, Synapse has got a solid trans­fer out of this film despite the cir­cum­stances: the detail lev­el is lim­it­ed because the medi­um it was shot on doesn’t offer much detail but the col­ors are often quite vivid and the image is nev­er less than watch­able.

The audio uti­lizes a loss­less pre­sen­ta­tion of the film’s stereo mix and the results work nice­ly, ensur­ing the dia­logue is easy to dis­cern and the sub­tle music score has some need­ed heft when it appears.  English speak­ers will be hap­py to hear that a fresh set of English sub­ti­tles are pro­vid­ed.

There’s also a decent amount of extras pro­vid­ed.  There is a mak­ing-of fea­turet­te: this is not the usu­al mini-doc­u­men­tary but actu­al­ly a kind of fly-on-the-wall piece that focus­es on how the actors dealt with the dark mate­ri­al and also has some of the grue­some make­up effects were achieved.  Viewers might be sur­prised at how light the on-set atmos­phere is but then again, that’s how film­mak­ers and actors usu­al­ly cope with doing dark mate­ri­al.

There is also a quar­tet of delet­ed and extend­ed sce­nes.  It’s easy to see why most of the­se bits were trimmed but the extend­ed ver­sion of the events lead­ing up to one killing are inter­est­ing because they show a true alter­na­tive take on that sequence.

However, the most note­wor­thy of the extras is Made In Serbia, a pseudo-doc­u­men­tary project by direc­tor Mladen Djorjevic that pre­ced­ed The Life And Death Of A Porno Gang.  Using the fic­tion­al frame­work of a doc­u­men­tary film­mak­er look­ing for a girl­friend who joined Serbia’s porn scene, it explores the some­times humor­ous, some­times qui­et­ly trag­ic lives of peo­ple who risk becom­ing out­casts to pur­sue work in the country’s less-than-glam­orous porn indus­try.  The film­mak­ing is rather prim­i­tive here and the blend of fact and fic­tion shows obvi­ous seams but it has its moments (an abortive porn shoot involv­ing a real hus­band and wife is par­tic­u­lar­ly mem­o­rable).  More impor­tant­ly, it shows Djorjevic test­ing out a num­ber of con­cepts that he would lat­er use to more suc­cess­ful effect in The Life And Death Of A Porno Gang.  In any event, it’s hard to imag­ine any cult movie disc this year hav­ing a more unusu­al bonus fea­ture.

To sum up, Synapse has man­aged to pro­duce a qual­i­ty disc from a dif­fi­cult title with their blu-ray edi­tion of The Life And Death Of A Porno Gang.  If you’re a col­lec­tor of unortho­dox for­eign fare, you’ll want to give this one a look.

(Note On Differing Editions: it’s worth not­ing that Made In Serbia, a two-hour doc­u­men­tary, only appears on the blu-ray ver­sion of this title and not on the DVD due to space lim­i­ta­tions.)

To read Schlockmania’s film review of The Life And Death Of A Porno Gang, click here.