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Abel Ferrara
Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day
Writing Credits:
Nicholas St. John

An artist slowly goes insane while struggling to pay his bills, work on his paintings, and care for his two female roommates, which leads him taking to the streets of New York after dark and randomly killing derelicts with a power drill.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min. (Theatrical Cut)
101 min. (Pre-Release Cut)
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 12/13/2016

• Both Theatrical and Pre-Release Cuts of Film
• Audio Commentary with Director/Actor Abel Ferarra
• “Laine and Abel” Featurette
• “Willing and Abel” Featurette
• “Mulberry St.” Documentary
• Trailer
• Booklet
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Driller Killer [Blu-Ray] (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 22, 2016)

Back before he directed cult hits like 1990’s King of New York and 1992’s Bad Lieutenant, Abel Ferrara made his mainstream directorial debut with a horror thriller: 1979’s The Driller Killer. The film introduces us to Reno Miller (Ferrara under the alias “Jimmy Laine”), a New York artist who struggles to pay the bills.

Reno finds himself subjected to other pressures as well, stresses that make it difficult for him to complete his work. In a reaction to all of this, an alter ego emerges, one who kills vagrants at night.

Reno doesn’t realize these murders occur, but he enjoys the boost in his creative output. Eventually the various aspects of Reno’s personalities seem likely to clash and force him to confront his violent identity.

What goes right with Killer: Ferrara’s ability to capture the ugly side of New York City. He delivers a convincing sense of the seedy elements and makes these facets realistic.

Ferrara also gives the movie’s violent scenes real impact. These don’t arrive as often as one might expect, but when Reno goes on a rampage, his killings feel brutal, as they should – we don’t get glamorized violence.

What goes wrong with Killer: everything else.

Presumably shot for about $12 and made by a rookie filmmaker/actor, Killer lacks much real sense of cinematic competence. As an actor, Ferrara stinks. His performance feels like a Ben Stiller mockery of 70s Al Pacino, as Ferrara brings no sense of personality or talent to the part. Reno is a one-note Noo Yawk punk artiste with nothing beyond the broadest of notes on display.

Not that any of the other actors fare better than Ferrara. They’re all just as bad as Ferrara – if not worse.

Of course, Ferrara gained his fame as a director, not an actor, so perhaps I should concentrate more on that side of Killer. If I do so, I can’t be any kinder, as the filmmaking aspects of the movie seem almost as rough as the acting.

Killer offers a totally self-indulgent movie with little dramatic purpose. Across its 95 minutes, it boasts maybe half an hour of actual story/character material - maybe.

Much of Killer just rambles incoherently. Ferrara dallies on moments that go nowhere and demonstrate no obvious reason to exist.

In particular, we see an awful lot of the Roosters, the punk band who rehearse in Reno’s building. Some of this seems to serve a purpose: to show the irritations that provoke Reno’s stress levels to spike.

Which is fine, but Ferrara doesn’t know when to quit. We see shot after shot of these rehearsals, and we get more of the Roosters as they play at a club.

Why? To fill space, I guess – there’s no logical reason for the movie to focus so much on the band, so we get endless shots of the Roosters without anything to advance the narrative.

As I said, some of this material tries to antagonize Reno, but even in that regard, it doesn’t work. We don’t see Reno’s mental disintegration because he always seems “on the edge” from the very start. Ala Jack Nicholson in The Shining, Ferrara starts at “11” and gives himself nowhere to go, so we don’t sense a psychological decline in his character.

Killer also suffers from clumsy exposition. For instance, we spend too much time on a scene in which Reno and his girlfriends watch TV. This segment exists solely so Reno can see an ad for a portable electricity device, a gizmo he can later use to power his drill.

I understand the film’s desire to include this information, as we otherwise might wonder how Reno can use a corded drill while on the streets. However, when he goes to buy the power pack, we see the same information listed on a sign, and that gives us all we need. This makes the earlier TV sequence a waste of time.

Throw in Ferrara’s penchant for silly surreal imagery and other irrelevant scenes and Driller Killer turns into a mess. Abel Ferrara eventually became a noteworthy director but his debut shows little evidence of talent. It’s a mess.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C/ Audio C-/ Bonus B

The Driller Killer appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 and of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the film’s roots and budget, I expected a mediocre image, and that’s what I got.

Sharpness was adequate. Not much of the movie looked soft, but not much of it boasted especially strong delineation, either. Still, the movie offered reasonably positive accuracy. I saw no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and the transfer lacked edge haloes.

Print flaws caused occasional distractions. Throughout the film, I noticed sporadic instances of specks and marks. These remained fairly minor, though, and didn’t create notable issues.

Killer went with a fairly natural palette but delivered lackluster hues. The colors seemed passable but failed to display much vivacity. Blacks were on the inky, flat side, and shadows showed passable delineation. A product of its origins, this became a watchable transfer but not much more.

Expect similar issues with the limited LPCM monaural soundtrack of Driller Killer. Speech suffered from a distant quality and could be on the edgy side. I could understand the lines but they failed to seem especially natural.

Effects tended to be rough and a bit distorted, while music felt somewhat shrill. A bit of background noise crept into the audio as well. As with the picture, the audio represented the source, warts and all.

Among the set’s extras, we find two editions of the film itself. In addition to the theatrical version (1:35:52), we discover a pre-release cut (1:40:53).

Virtually all of the movie’s added five minutes appear in its opening one-third. We get a prologue before the initial scene at the church, and we find more of Reno’s girlfriend Carol.

She’s the character who becomes the main beneficiary of the extra footage, but these scenes don’t improve the movie. The theatrical Killer feels padded and rambling as it is, so more doesn’t become better. The material exclusive to the “pre-release” version does nothing to improve the film.

Alongside the theatrical cut, we get an audio commentary from actor/director Abel Ferrara. Along with moderator Brad Stevens, Ferrara discusses locations, cast and performances, the filming conditions, story/characters, and related elements.

Early in the chat, Stevens asks Ferrara what he recalls about actor Carolyn Marz. The actor/director replies "I remember how her tits felt!"

If you want to know what to expect from the commentary, that crass statement should suffice. Ferrara occasionally gives us moderately informative notes about the movie’s creation, but more often, he rambles semi-coherently about what we see on the screen.

Ferrara spews incomplete sentences packed with profanity and delivers little of use. Stevens occasionally attempts to keep Ferrara on topic, but he seems to abandon hope before long and leaves the filmmaker to his own devices. This ends up as a poor track – it may not be the worst commentary I’ve heard, but it’s close.

A few video pieces follow. Laine and Abel runs 17 minutes, 31 seconds and provides more info from Ferrara. He discusses his early exposure to movies and how he got into filmmaking, developing Driller Killer and aspects of the shoot.

Ferrara remains a less than focused interview subject, but with the probable help of good editing, he seems more on-target here. This allows “Laine” to become a decent chat.

With Willing and Abel, we get a “visual essay guide to the films and career of Abel Ferrara”. This 34-minute, 19-second program offers info from film author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. She gives us a basic biography and overview of Ferrara’s career in this brisk, informative piece.

Mulberry St. gives us Ferrara’s 2010 documentary about the New York location. It lasts one hour, 27 minutes and 52 seconds as it examines Ferrara’s New York neighborhood, with an emphasis on the local Feast of Saint Gennaro celebration.

Essentially “Mulberry” provides a fly on the wall piece that shows Ferrara and the NYC residents, intercut with occasional pieces of media related to the director’s career. Unsurprisingly, it’s a loose and unusual documentary, one that often seems to lack purpose.

And by “often”, I mean almost all the time, as Mulberry never really attempts to tell a clear tale. That said, it gives an unvarnished and sporadically interesting look at Ferrara in his element. It probably works best for the director’s bigger fans, though, as it’s too self-indulgent and unstructured to do much for a more general audience.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a booklet. It offers photos, credits and essays to finish the set on a good note.

A second disc offers a DVD copy of Killer. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray – and both cuts of the film as well.

Filmmaker Abel Ferrara debuted with 1979’s The Driller Killer, a terrible effort that provides no hints of his future success. Amateurish, rambling and borderline pointless, the movie goes nowhere. The Blu-ray brings us adequate picture and audio along with an erratic but occasionally useful set of supplements. Serious Abel Ferrara devotees will want to give the flick a look, but I suspect it’ll disappoint them as well as the rest of us.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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