Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 25th, 2005
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: September 27th, 2005
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 non-Anamoprhic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
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 through out and even in his characters lowest moments he manages to gain is just a little of my sympathy. Abel Ferrara is a maniac through out 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. Overall The Driller Killer is an interesting cult film oddity. The Driller Killer opens with an appropriate message that says that this film should be played loud and of course they are right.
Cult Epic’s present The Driller Killer in a letterboxed format that preserves the films original aspect ratio. The flesh tones look natural and colors are solid as they look the best they ever have on home video. The black levels while not as strong they could have been they do offer a lot of detail especially during night time or darker scenes. There are no problems with compression and edge enhancement is kept to a minimum. There is some minor print damage in the form of dirt and scratches. The Driller Killer was shot on 16mm over two years with little or no budget at times and while the image isn’t flawless the overall presentation of this DVD’s transfer exceeded my expectations.
The Driller Killer comes with one audio option the films 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 through out. Overall the audio the audio is average at best. Spanish and French subtitles have been included for this release that is easy to read and follow.
Extras for this release include the films original trailer in full frame and a promo clip for a Porto-pack commercial that airs during the film. This clip is silent. The main extra for this release is a feature length audio commentary with the films 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.
This is the third time Cult Epics has released The Driller Killer on DVD and this current edition is basically a stripped down version of their excellent special edition 2 DVD set which includes many extras left off this release. If you are an Abel Ferrara do yourself a favor and try to locate yourself a copy of Cult epic’s now out print special edition The Driller Killer DVD. Cult Epic’s latest incarnation of The Driller Killer on DVD gives fans of this film a chance to obtain this film at an affordably priced. The Driller Killer is a unique film that could only come from the demented imagination of Abel Ferrara.
For more information about The Driller Killer and other titles released by Cult Epics visit their website.