Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 6th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1975
Director: James H. Kay
Writer: James H. Kay
Cast: Katharine Houghton, Joe Dallesandro, Rita Gam, James Congdon
DVD released: February 28th, 2006
Approximate Running Time: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English, Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Subversive Cinema
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: Ellen while visiting the home of her recently deceased friend meets a Gardener named Carl who can work miracles with any garden. She offers Carl employment when he is let go by his former employer. The next day Carl shows up for work and with in no time he has worked wonders in her garden. Ellen after finding a dead cat in the garden becomes suspicious of Carl and his past. So she with the help of her friend Helena investigate Carl by visiting his former employers who all had wife’s that died mysteriously like Ellen friend.
The Gardener plays out like a melodrama from the beginning tell the very end. The film spends way to much time focusing on two bored house wives that lead extremely dull lives. There are no affairs or murder plots to speak of in this film they mostly talk about the next party they are going to or Ellen beautiful garden. One minor plot device that might have added more to the film if it was used better was Ellen and her husbands’ trouble conceiving a child. The opening scene sets up this premise later but then nothing really comes about when all is said and done. The film barley runs eighty seven minutes in length even though it feels like it was much longer.
The films main leading man actor Joe Dallesandro of Andy Warhol fame is as lifeless as a mannequin with his wooden performance. Dallesandro spends the whole film standing around looking pretty while he shirtless and wearing the same jeans. Near the end of the film right after a dead cat is found there is a brief attempt to add some blood and other frightful devices in an attempt to make this a horror film. Overall The Gardener never really establishes its identity as its tries to mix several genres into the pot and by the time things start to get moving the film is nearly over.
Subversive Cinema presents The Gardener in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85: 1 aspect ratio. The colors are nicely saturated and details remain stable and sharp through out. Overall this transfer is in exceptional shape.
This release comes with two audio options Dolby Digital stereo and mono. Both audio mixes are in English and free of any hiss or distortion. The dialog is crisp and the music and effects sound evenly balanced.
Extras for this release include a trailer for The Gardener and five other trailers for other Subversive Cinema releases. There cast and crew bios as well as a photo gallery that plays music from the film in the background. Other extras include two documentaries the first one titled “Planting the Seeds of Evil” which runs about thirty five minutes in length and includes interviews with most of the cast and crew. The various participants are candid in their remarks about the film and why it wasn’t a success. The second documentary is titled “The Distribution of Low Budget Films or The Gardener’s Seeds of Evil Killed My Million Dollar Dream” and it is a thirty minute documentary that was out together by the films producer Chalmer Kirkbride Jr.’s. This documentary was made five years after the film was finished who gives a detailed history about making The Gardener. Rounding out the extras is two audio commentary tracks the first one is with the films star Joe Dallesandro and Subversive Cinema’s Norman Hill who moderate’s the discussion and keeps things lively by periodically asking Dallesandro questions. The second audio commentary is with director James H. Kay. This audio commentary is not as lively as the other one and tends to be on the dull side.
The DVD comes in a slip case that has an outer card board slip cover which is similar to the slip cases box art and text. Inside the DVD case Subversive Cinema has included a mini replica poster and three lobby cards for The Gardener.
Subversive Cinema continues to do amazing restorations on all their DVD’s transfers that will leave you breathless. They all go the extra mile and then some with a bounty full of informative and entertaining extras. Unfortunately The Gardener is a tedious film that never seems to be going anywhere and the extras are the best part of this release.