Digi-Schlock: MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (Synapse Blu-Ray)

For many years, Massacre At Central High drifted in home video limbo. It never received an official DVD or blu-ray release in the U.S., with fans left to watch boots derived from an ancient standard-def master that was drained of color and fuzzy on detail.

Thankfully for fans, Synapse Films acquired this title, releasing it first in a limited steelbook blu-ray edition and more recently in a standard edition blu-ray release. The major differences between the two releases are that the steelbook is limited to 4000 units and also contains a DVD version of the film plus a liner notes booklet. The following review refers to the standard edition.

Transfer: the disc sports a new high-definition transfer supervised by writer/director Rene Daalder. It’s a gorgeous transfer with details that are as sharp as a pin and rich, vivid colors. Many viewers will be able to appreciate how skilfully shot this film is for the first time while watching it. The original mono soundtrack is included in lossless form for this transfer and it does a great job with this vintage track, getting the maximum clarity and crispness from the mix.

Audio Interviews Track: In lieu of a commentary track, this disc includes a set of audio interviews that can be listened to over the film with actors Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Rex Steven Sikes and Derrel Maury. These were derived from Mike White’s The Projection Booth podcast and run the full length of the film. Stevens and Carradine don’t have particularly vivid memories of the production but White leads them into interesting talk about their other work: Stevens gives insight into why and how he transitioned from acting into a prolific producing career and Carradine has cool memories of The Long Riders and how it raised his profile as an actor.

Sikes and Maury both have stronger memories of Massacre At Central High. Sikes offers interesting tales on how he was cast and a mishap on set that gave him a broken nose. Maury has the most interesting comments, offering a vivid portrait of the surprise nature of how we won the lead, the close relationship he built with director Rene Daalder and a frank assessment of his choices as an actor. It all makes a very compelling listen for the film’s fans.

Audio Interview with Rene Daalder: this is presented as a second supplemental audio track and runs for roughly the first 25 minutes of the film. The director is interviewed by Michael Gingold and reveals himself to be an intriguing subject, both intelligent and irreverent. It’s a career-minded chat that covers a few different films but Daalder offers up some worthwhile commentary on Massacre, specifically providing insight into how he took an exploitation gig and craftily reshaped it to fit his own artsy interests. You’ll also learn why you don’t see any adults in the film until the last few minutes.

Hell In The Hallways (44:27): an in-depth retrospective featurette helmed by Michael Felsher that includes interviews with Daalder, Stevens, Maury, Carradine and Sikes plus supporting cast members Jeffrey Winner and Tom Logan. A few crew members are also included: cinematographer Bertram Van Munster and assistant director Eugene Mazzola. It’s an informative, snappily paced oral history of the film that covers casting stories, the way multiple locations were pieced together to create the title location, Daalder’s laid back yet specific approach to direction, hair-raising tales of a few stunts involving explosives and the film’s winding path to cult fame. They even work in some bemused tales from the cast members about the film’s notorious Italian version Sexy Jeans, an unauthorized re-edit that works in newly shot pornographic sequences. It breezes by quickly with the nostalgic warmth of its participants providing a nice through-line.

Additional Extras: the slate of bonus features is rounded out with trailers and an image gallery. The original theatrical trailer plus half-minute t.v. spot and radio ads are included: all give the film a classic exploitation ‘hard sell’ approach playing up the sex and violence. The image gallery is animated and includes stills, candid shots from the set, movie posters and video box art all set to the film’s theme song (in a nice touch, a poster for the infamous Sexy Jeans is included here).

Summation: this is a fantastic release, presenting a stunning transfer of a forgotten but deserving film and supporting that transfer with extras that give you a multidimensional portrait of the film’s production and legacy. It’s a must for any serious student of exploitation cinema. You can purchase the standard edition directly from Synapse by clicking here – and while supplies last, you can also get the deluxe steelbook version by clicking here.

To read Schlockmania’s film review for Massacre At Central High, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.