Death Game BluRay Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Peter S. Traynor’s DEATH GAME is a movie I had previously seen once several years ago in a terribly blurry VHS quality version. Recently I received the 2 disc 4K BluRay edition from our friends at Grindhouse Releasing. First off, I have to say that the new transfer looks absolutely gorgeous. It really is like seeing the movie for the first time. The widescreen cinematography by David Worth (Bronco Billy, Bloodsport) is breathtaking and elevates the movie with its creatively stylized visuals.
The story, which takes place in the home invasion subgenre (Fight For Your Life, The House On The Edge of The Park) provides a nice twist. Instead of the typical male criminals wreaking havoc, this time it's two beautiful blonde women (The Swinging Cheerleaders' Colleen Camp and Willard's Sondra Locke) who are the intruders with Seymour Cassel (Faces, Minnie & Moskowitz, Rushmore) as their hostage. Cassel plays George, a San Francisco area businessman whose wife has left town on a family emergency. He is alone during his 40th birthday on a dark rainy night when he discovers two young babes, Jackson (Locke) and Donna (Camp), at his front door after they get lost. He invites them in so they can dry off and call for help but things soon take a steamy turn and they have a menage a trois in George's jacuzzi. As the film progresses, the two women are eventually revealed to be out for retribution due to traumatic events in their past. What starts off as two innocent looking women seeking a helping hand becomes an all out sadistic attack on the patriarchy.
Once their true motive is in motion, Colleen Camp and Sondra Locke are in a frenzy as Jackson and Donna, the bisexual lovers/psychotic hellcats that completely take over George's safe personal space. There's entertaining elements of both dark humor and unhinged mayhem as Cassel's George is treated like a punching bag and a piece of garbage by the women. While I think much of the movie works quite well, other parts do get a bit over the top and plain silly. Regardless of any of the flaws it has, it definitely holds your attention and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the running time. You never know where things will go or what will stop the crazy train Jackson and Donna are on.
One detail that is really important to keep in mind about the film while watching is that it was made in about 2 or 3 weeks mostly on a small set with a very low budget. Yet, it actually looks just as amazing as any Hollywood studio film from the time. It certainly makes you wonder what Peter Traynor might’ve done next if he had continued working in film with even better scripts and bigger budgets. It turns out that this production was a bad experience for him (which included an on set battle with Seymour Cassel) and he moved on to other things because of it.
2 Disc BluRay Review
PICTURE: Presented in (2:39:1) 1080p High Definition - As far as modern home video transfers go, this is another stunner by GR. The original Death Game video that had been released was bottom of the barrel, all faded and murky. Grindhouse Releasing used the original camera negative to breathe new life into this forgotten, underseen 70s psycho-thriller. Now film fans can see it the way it was meant to be seen, in gleaming high definition with vibrant photography that was so good it got David Worth notice from major filmmakers like Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood.
AUDIO: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0- The audio mix sounds wonderful and all dialogue and music is clear of any artifacts.
- AUDIO COMMENTARY with Eli Roth and Colleen Camp - Eli and Colleen have a lively discussion about the production of the film and go through the trials and tribulations of bringing it all together. It was a quick shoot and Colleen was fresh off the 1975 film SMILE and new to the movie biz. Her energy and devil may care attitude certainly showed on the screen. Director Peter Traynor was making his directorial debut, and while his creative vision was strong, on set tensions between him, Seymour Cassel and Sondra Locke was a negative and and the movie ultimately had to be saved in the editing room by David Worth who also served as cinematographer, mediator and even provided the voiceover for Cassel's performance when the actor refused to do the ADR.
- AUDIO COMMENTARY with Larry Spiegel & David Worth - The Producer and Cinematographer/Editor of Death Game deliver some intriguing information on the production which was both difficult and rewarding creatively.
- INTERVIEWS with Director Peter Traynor, star Colleen Camp, Producer Larry Spiegel, DP/Editor David Worth, screenwriter Michael Ronald Ross - A collection of really entertaining and informative interviews with the main cast & crew. One of my favorites was the interview with Michael Ross who explains the entire history behind the Death Game screenplay. It was actually inspired by a real incident that happened to him with a hippie girl named Donna (the name used in the film). The story started out much darker and over several drafts with titles like "Freak", "Mrs. Manning's Weekend" it finally became the Death Game we now know, even passing through the hands of Clint Eastwood at one point.
- AUDIO INTERVIEW with Sondra Locke- The late actor discusses her character and shares her views on working with Peter Traynor, Colleen Camp and Seymour Cassel. She's at her best in this film and would go on to star in classic films like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Any Which Way But Loose and others.
- EXTENSIVE STILL GALLERIES & GRINDHOUSE RELEASING THEATRICAL TRAILERS - A full reel of Grindhouse Releasing's roster of titles.
- LINER NOTES BOOKLET by cinema historian David Szulkin
- BONUS FEATURE: Little Miss Innocence- A 1973 film that was a precursor to Death Game and covers the same type of story albeit on an even lower budget but in a slower paced, softcore fashion. This film was discussed on an episode of our 42nd Street Forever podcast.
- THE FINAL WORD: DEATH GAME is another forgotten genre film that has been saved and reinvigorated by the film lovers at Grindhouse Releasing. As usual, their dedication to preserving and celebrating cinema is really what it's all about. It's a treat to finally get to see this movie at its apex in terms of visual and audio quality. While I had reservations on my earliest viewing, and wasn't totally sold I can now say I have a new appreciation for it. This BluRay reveals the movies best qualities from the acting to the direction to the cinematography. If you're a fan of crazy thrillers, you're sure to have a fun time with it. This release gets our highest recommendation!
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He holds an AS with Highest Honors in Communications and Interactive Media Design.