Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 4th, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: USA, June 15th, 1979
Director: Abel Ferrara
Writer: Nicholas St. John (Abel Ferrara)
Cast: Jimmy Laine (Abel Ferrara), Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, Harry Schultz
DVD released: June 29th, 2004
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: Spanish, French
DVD Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: Reno Miller is a down and out artist that is desperately trying to finish a painting that he is working on before his landlord evicts him for not paying his rent. To make matter worse Reno has two roommates who have been making way too many long-distance calls and now the phone is being disconnected since he neglected to pay off what he owes. Reno works night and day on what he feels is going to be his greatest work as a painter. More bad news in the form of Punk band that has recently moved in downstairs and they practice night and day. Unable to concentrate and finish his painting due to the loud music from his neighbors’ Reno quickly becomes unstable. Reno acquires a Porto-Pak to help him power his drill and then he stalks the streets of New York in search of the homeless who he then kills with his power drill.
Abel Ferrara is not a conventional filmmaker by any means. His films are gritty depictions of New York City in its rawest form. His is virtually a one man show as he has not only directed but written, acted and edited many of his films including The Driller Killer as film which first gained notoriety as a video nasty in England in the early 1980’s. Despite obtaining the video nasty tag this film is surprisingly tame when it comes to violent content. Nothing about The Driller Killer is polished and in fact it is this rough around the edges look that makes what is going on during the film so compelling. The plot is average at best and it even feels padded with scenes that include the punk rock band in the film. Ferrara’s direction does manage to crack out some really impressive shots despite the films lack of budget and time constraints.
Acting wise none of the performers really stood out or caught my attention except Abel Ferrara who plays the films lead character Reno Miller under the pseudonym Jimmy Laine. Ferrara is intense throughout and even in his characters lowest moments he manages to gain is just a little of my sympathy. Abel Ferrara is a maniac throughout the film and it is obvious that he is enjoying this role he is playing. There is something fascinating about this film despite its flaws as it moves along at a brisk pace. There is a few similarities Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver most notably in how one the scene’s in The Driller Killer is edited. The Driller Killer is an interesting cult film oddity that opens with an appropriate message that says that this film should be played loud and of course they are right. Ultimately The Driller Killer is a tale about a man who fear of becoming what he most despises drives him to murder.
Cult Epics presents The Driller Killer in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This transfer has not been flagged for progressive playback. This transfer is a slight improvement over previous releases that only presented the film in a letterboxed widescreen.
This release comes with one audio option the film’s original English language track presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. The dialog sounds thin at times and the music and effects tend to overpower the dialog. There is some minor hiss the noticeable throughout. Removable Spanish and French subtitles have been included with this release.
Extras for this release are as follows, a theatrical trailer for the film, the Porto-Pack commercial, a trailer for the Abel Ferrara’s XXX film Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy, liner notes written by Brad Stevens, Author of Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision, The Early Short Films Of Abel Ferrara Could This Be Love, The Hold Up and Nicky’s Film with Audio Commentary By Abel Ferrara and an audio commentary with director Abel Ferrara who remembers a lot about the making of this film including continuity goofs and details about things that happened on specific shooting days. Even though there are moments when Ferrara seems to lose focus and ramble on about whatever pops into his head at that moment. The overall tenor of the audio commentary is always entertaining as Ferrara even shows his great sense of humor when he makes fun of his own film. The film and commentary end with a confusing bit when the movies fades to black Ferrara says “who the fuck did that to my movie?” Apparently there are versions’ of The Driller Killer that end with a fade to red instead of black. Through the years Cult Epics has released this title three times on DVD with this edition being the most coveted in for nothing more than its extra content. This release is limited to only 10,000 pieces and has been in circulation for over three years so if you are looking to pick up a copy better do so quickly.