Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 31st, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1986
Director: Buddy Giovinazzo
Writer: Buddy Giovinazzo
Cast: Rick Giovinazzo, Veronica Stork, Mitch Maglio, Asaph Livni, Nick Nasta, Michael Tierno, Arthur Saunders, Jim Cooney, Ray Pinero, Leo Lunney, Eddie Pepitone, Martin Blank, Mary Cristadoro
DVD released: July 28th, 2009
Approximate running time: 97 minutes (Director’s Cut), 92 minutes (Theatrical Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Troma Team Video
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
Synopsis: A Vietnam Vet finds it difficult to fit in after returning from the war.
There are two cuts of this film. The original cut of the film titled “American Nightmare” and the theatrical cut of the film which was re-titled “Combat Shock”, this cut of the film also features ‘Vietnam War’ stock footage and it omits some of the violence that was present in the film’s original cut. This theatrical re-cut / re-titling pale’s in every way to the vastly superior original cut of the film, which finally gets its first official DVD release.
From its opening moments and everything which leads to its unflinching conclusion. This film is a grueling experience that is sure to shock, disgust and most importantly move. The plot is a razor sharp critic of the decaying American dream, with many of its subplots like rising unemployment hitting home with the same resonance today at it did when this film was first released twenty five years ago. If this film has any flaws it would be that it does at times reveals scars, via its limited budget. Shortcomings aside, this film’s positives far outweigh any of negatives. Without a doubt this films greatest asset is the performance of Rick Giovinazzo in the films lead role of a Vietnam Vet named Frankie Dunlan. Even though he never acted in a film before American Nightmare (Combat Shock) and hasn’t appeared in one since. Rick Giovinazzo gives a flawless performance that is utterly believable. Ultimately this is the type of film that within the first few minutes it will either draw you into its web or you will be so revolted by what you are watching that proceeding is no longer an option.
Both versions of the film included for this release are presented in the film’s original aspect ratio. Both versions of this film included with this release have not been flagged for progressive playback. This film was shot on a limited budget and the source materials used for this transfer tend to look rough. Details lack crispness and colors look muted. Overall while not without its flaws this transfer is a more than serviceable presentation.
Both versions of the film each come one audio option a Dolby Digital stereo mix in English. Besides some noticeable instances of background noise and dialog comes through clear enough.
Extras for this release are spread over two discs. Extras on disco one are limited to an audio commentary with writer / director Buddy Giovinazzo and director Jörg Buttgereit. This is an informative and in depth audio commentary with the bulk of the comments come from Buddy Giovinazzo. Also this audio commentary is only accessible while watching the Combat Shock theatrical cut of the film.
Extras on disc two include two trailers for the film, a segment titled “Hellscapes” which shows what locations from the film look like now, two interviews with Buddy Giovinazzo, an interview with Rick Giovinazzo the star of Combat Shock and an interview with Buddy Giovinazzo and Jörg Buttgereit. Other extras included with this release are five short films directed Buddy Giovinazzo, “Christmas Album”, “The Lobotomy”, “Subconscious Realities”, “Jonathan of the Night” and “Mr. Robbie”. Also included with this release are three music videos for Buddy Giovinazzo’s band, Circus 200 A.D. which he also directed. The main extra included on disc two is a twenty nine minute documentary titled “Post Traumatic: An American Nightmare” which features comments from filmmakers David Gregory, Jim Van Bebber, William Lustig, Scott Spiegel, Richard Stanley, John McNaughton, Roy Frumkes, Mitch Davis (Fantasia Film Festival), Rick Sullivan (The Gore Gazette), Justine Stanley (Splatterfest 90) and Joe Kane (Videoscope Magazine). This is a well rounded piece in which the participants candidly talk about Combat Shock and its legacy. Rounding out the extras for this release are liner notes about the film written by Steven Puchalski and trailers for other films also available on DVD from Troma. Overall Combat Shock gets a Definitive DVD release from Troma that stands out as one of the best DVD releases of 2009.