Friday, January 25, 2019

Phil's Horror Watch: DEADBEAT AT DAWN (1988) from Arrow Video - January 14, 2019


Starring Paul Harper, Jim Van Bebber, Megan Murphy, Ric Walker, Marc Pitman, Maureen Gentner
Written by Jim Van Bebber
Cinematography by Michael King
Edited by Jim Van Bebber
Produced by Michael King
Directed by Jim Van Bebber
Originally released by Ketchum Video
Released by Arrow Video

Welcome back to the first installment of Phil's Horror Watch of 2019! Today's feature leans more towards exploitation than horror, however, it exploits the horror of living in the town of Dayton, Ohio during the 1980's.  It's also a great example of the Do-It-Yourself independent filmmaking that was sweeping the nation during the decade. It's depictions of gang violence, lost love, and revenge made it a cult classic when it was first released back in 1988. Over three decades later, the fine folks over at Arrow Video gave the film a new and improved upgrade that it so richly deserved. Now, fans old and new can witness the brilliant and violent cinematic treasure called DEADBEAT AT DAWN!

The film's official synopsis: Written by, directed by, and starring Van Bebber, Deadbeat follows the story of Goose – a gang leader whose girlfriend is brutally slaughtered when he attempts to leave the thug life behind. Pulled back into the gang, who’ve now formed an uneasy alliance with the thugs that butchered his girl, Goose sees an opportunity to exact his brutal, deadly revenge. The very definition of DIY, independent filmmaking (VanBebber quit film school after his first year and used his student loan to fund the movie), DEADBEAT AT DAWN surpasses its low-budget origins to create a revenge movie that delivers more thrills and bloody spills than all of Chuck Norris’ films combined.

When I first watched the movie, I thought it was shot in New York City, but to my surprised, it was filmed in Dayton, Ohio. Van Bebber captures the plight of his city the same way that filmmakers have done prior for the Big Apple. Some of the names that come to mind are Abel Ferrara's DRILLER KILLER and MS.45, Buddy Giovinazzo's COMBAT SHOCK, and Susan Seidelman's SMITHEREENS for example. Van Bebber's style of directing is both beautiful and haunting, grotesque and confrontational. His camera doesn't shy away from those moments of both happiness and sheer violence of gang violence. His style lies somewhere between traditional and documentary, showing us that he isn't afraid of pushing the envelope, and then showing us what's inside. And it's all shot on glorious 16mm filmstock, giving it this aura of sleaze and griminess that looks like it would've been screened at a grindhouse theater on 42nd Street.

Original Theatrical Poster (1988)
Applause goes to Arrow Video for their tremendous job of restoring this beloved cult classic! They did a brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, supervised and approved by Jim VanBebber himself, and looks better than ever in High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation! The discs also offer the original uncompressed PCM mono audio, optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, and a reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain.

The Blu-Ray/DVD also comes with a plethora of awesome special features. Included are a brand new free-wheeling audio commentary with Jim VanBebber ('Goose', The Ravens' Gang Leader), actor Paul Harper ('Danny Carmodi', The Spyders' Gang Leader) and guest Cody Lee Hardin, moderated by filmmaker Victor Bonacore (Diary of a Deadbeat: The Story of Jim VanBebber), Archival 1986 behind-the-scenes documentary Nate Pennington's VHS documentary on a failed Deadbeat shoot, Outtakes, newly transferred in HD, Four newly-restored VanBebber short films Into the Black (1983, 34 mins), My Sweet Satan (1993, 19 mins), Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (1994, 14 mins) and Gator Green (2013, 16 mins), Jim VanBebber Music Video Collection, featuring never-before-seen Director's Cuts, Chunkblower promotional trailer for an unfinished Gary Blair Smith-produced gore-soaked feature film, Extensive Image Gallery Never-Before-Seen Stills, Jim VanBebber, Deadbeat Forever! a brand new retrospective documentary on VanBebber and the Deadbeat legacy by Filmmaker Victor Bonacore, featuring first-time interviews, super-rare footage, VanBebber's college films and much, much more! Plus, a collector's booklet featuring new writing by Scott Gabbey and Graham Rae for the first pressing of the combo only!

DEADBEAT AT DAWN is a tried and true cult classic that examines the hardship of living in Regan's America during the 1980's!! With it's down and dirty gorilla filmmaking and over-the-top violence and brutality, the movie is a time capsule that captures the spirit of independent filmmaking during that decade! It also announces the masses the arrival of a true auteur whose film still manages to shock and surprise   5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

DEADBEAT AT DAWN is available on Blu-Ray from Arrow Video. To purchase a copy for yourself, visit the Diabolik DVD website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

No comments:

Post a Comment