Written by: George Pacheco on December 22nd, 2015
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1974 (Axe), USA, 1976 (Kidnapped Coed), USA, 2015 (Bloody Brothers)
Director: Frederick R. Friedel (All Films)
Writers: Frederick R. Friedel (All Films)
Cast: Leslie Lee, Jack Canon, Ray Green, Frederick R. Friedel, Douglas Powers, Frank Jones (Axe), Jack Canon, Leslie Rivers, Gladys Lavitan, Larry Lambeth (Kidnapped Coed)
BluRay released: December 15th, 2015
Approximate running times: 68 minutes (Axe), 76 minutes (Kidnapped Coed), 87 minutes (Bloody Brothers)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono German (Axe / Kidnapped Coed), DTS-HD Mono English (Bloody Brothers)
BluRay Release: Severin Films
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $34.95
Filmmaker Frederick Friedel cemented his cinematic legacy in 1974 and 1976 when he released his two defining pictures, both of which have been lovingly restored here by Severin Films, and stacked to the rafters with extras.
Friedel was an actor, writer, director and producer whose two seventies features, Axe and Kidnapped Coed had their run during the drive-in and grindhouse theater days, before vanishing to obscurity before being first rescued during the DVD boom, thanks to Something Weird Video. Severin have outdone themselves here with this Blu-Ray, however, which collects both of Freidel’s films-he only directed one more feature, My Next Funeral, in 2000-together in a prime, high definition restoration.
Axe might be the more infamous of Friedel’s films, thanks to its infamous reputation as one of Britain’s video nasties during the 1980s VHS explosion. The film is a lean, tension-filled 67 minute ride, detailing the exploits of gangsters who hole up in an isolated farmhouse. Their company during this stakeout is provided by a troubled, distant young girl and her invalid grandfather, and it isn’t long before a series of events kicks off what one of the film’s alternate title describes as “The California Axe Massacre.”
The film-which also goes under the title of Lisa, Lisa-is practically dripping with atmosphere from first shot to last, as famed Hollywood DP Austin (The Terminator, Escape From New York) McKinney’s camera almost works as a character of its own, following a group of thug as they more from a hit to the farmhouse, stopping by a convenience store on the way, in order to wreak more terror on the clerk. The farmhouse itself provides plenty of production value on its own, while Leslie Lee is captivating as Lisa, the young girl with terrible ghosts behind her eyes.
Jack Canon stars in both films as one of the hoods, and his screen presence is also quite strong, although this is clearly Lee’s show. Douglas Powers, though he doesn’t speak a line, provides another integral role as the grandfather, whose presence is nearly as haunting as Lee. Friedel gets the best performances he can from the actors, himself getting into the mix as Billy, who has a crisis of conscience with the whole, violent affair very early on the film.
Friedel’s first film may have the name recognition going for it, but his follow-up to Axe was cut from a similarly strong cloth. Kidnapped Coed also stars Jack Canon, this time in a more sympathetic role as kidnapper whose relationship with his target slowly but surely begins to strengthen his sense of morality. Beautiful Leslie Rivers plays Canon’s prey, the daughter of a semi-wealthy family who is taken by Canon during the film’s opening sequence.
Speaking of which, McKinney’s camera captures this opening perfectly, while the scene’s eerie silence ramps up the tension that much more. It isn’t until George Shaw and John Willhelm’s quirky, but successful score kicks in that Kidnapped Coed really begins to take off. Said score combines everything from spacey synth and kinetic funk to mellow country and western instrumentals, adding to the overall atmosphere present within both Axe and Coed.
The film’s second half does become a bit disjointed with regards to the Stockholm Situation going on between Canon and Rivers, with the whole thing coming across as a bit episodic and filler as the duo move from place to place, before ending on a rather drastic, rushed ending. Still, Kidnapped Coed has tons going for it as a crime story drenched in the same sort of bizarre atmosphere as Axe, only achieved more from the unique cast of unexplained ancillary characters and the amazing Carolina locations.
Severin Films knocks it out of the park with this double feature, presenting both Axe and Kidnapped Coed in gorgeous, restored HD transfers which give both of these films the respect they truly deserve. There’s no digital artifacting to report, with nominal print damage never getting in the way of how incredible the skin tones, colors and blacks look here on the disc. The audio is equally strong, with no drop outs or errors to get in the way of viewer enjoyment.
It’s the extras which really kill here, however, as Severin presents audio commentaries for both films with Friedel, his makeup artist Worth Keeter and production manager Phil Smoot, as well as an excellent. hour-long feature titled “At Last…Total Terror!” which documents the history of both films with Friedel, his cast and crew. Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower also weighs in on a featurette of his own, discussing both films, while another featurette documents the tragic history behind the films’ composers Shaw and Willhelm. To boot, a third film is included here which re-cuts both films together to form Bloody Brothers, also with commentary by Thrower. Original trailers, radio spots and T.V. trailers round out the cinematic extras, but Severin didn’t stop there, going the real extra mile by providing a CD with the complete soundtracks to both films, as well as bonus tracks from the vault of Shaw and Willhelm.
Words fail to describe how welcome a release this is for two films which seemed to have finally earned their justified due amongst genre film fans. Severin should be commended for their efforts here for what is easily a top 10 presentation of the year, while fans of both Axe and Kidnapped Coed shouldn’t even think twice about double dipping on this essential release.