Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 19th, 2015
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1972
Director: Joy N. Houck Jr.
Writers: J.J. Milane, Robert A. Weaver, Jeffrey Newton
Cast: Micky Dolenz, James Ralston, Michael Anthony, Chuck Patterson, Susan McCullough, Katie Tilley, Ann Barrett, Warren Kenner, Ed Brown, Harold Sylvester
DVD Release Date: June 16th, 2015
Approximate Running Times: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $16.98
Synopsis: A young woman’s interracial relationship sets in motion a series of murders were all the victims have a connection to her.
Night of the Strangler was directed by Joy N. Houck Jr. (Creature from Black Lake). The score for Night of the Strangler was composed by Jim Helms whose other notable scores include, The Psycho Lover and the T.V. series ‘Kung Fu’. Other titles that Night of the Stranger is also known under include, Dirty Dan’s Women, Is the Father Black Enough? And The Ace of Spades (the film’s reissue title).
There are so many things that went wrong with this mess of a film. First off, its title Night of the Strangler is misleading since no one ever gets strangled and about 4/5’s of the film takes place during the daytime.
And things only get worse as the narrative progresses. With the opening setup leading one to believe that this film is going to be a melodrama about racism. In these opening moments we are introduced to a dysfunctional family made up of two brothers and their sister Denise, who has come for their blessing to a black man. Her older brother Dan a racist threatens to harm her and her lover is she doesn’t have an abortion and end her relationship with him. While her younger brother Vance is more supportive of her decisions. From there her lover is killed by a gunman and it appears that he brother has followed through on his threat. Then the narrative begins to go awry as an unseen assassin kills Denise. And though this death could easily fall into her older brothers earlier threats. This premise quickly goes out the window as everyone in their family or close to them become targets of this unseen assassin. Needless to say that there is never a shortage of red herrings and this ultimately convoluted the story at hand.
Though the performances in this film leave a lot to be desired and are best decided as wooden. This should not come as a surprise since for the majority of the cast this was either their first film or only appearance in a film. With the only two acting in this film having a substantial career being Micky Dolenz (‘Circus Boy’, ‘The Monkees’, Linda Lovelace for President) in the role of Vance and Harold Sylvester (Vision Quest, ‘Married with Children’) in the role of a police detective named Jim Bunch. And if there was one performance that stood out above all others that would be James Ralston in the role of Dan, the racist older brother. Though this is the performance that leaves the strongest lasting impression is not due to acting and it has more to do with the personality traits of the character. Another performance of note is Chuck Patterson in the role of Father Jessie, a black priest who is an old family friend of the trio of siblings at the center of this most unusual film.
Vinegar Syndrome presents Night of the Strangler in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s intended aspect ratio. This brand new 2k transfer was sourced from a 35mm print. Quality wise this is by far and away the best this film has looked since its original theatrical release. With that being said, colors tend too look faded, image clarity fluctuates throughout as the daytime scenes look crisper then the darker / nighttime moments which at times look murky. Fortunately the bulk of the film takes pace during the daytime. Also this a well authored disc and there are no issues with compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Dialog comes through clearly and background noise that varies in degree throughout this audio track. Also range wise this audio mix is very limited.
This release comes with no extra content. Just a menu that has two options, a play the film or chapter selection. Overall Vinegar Syndrome rescue another film from obscurity and give it its best home video release to date.