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.