Tuesday, June 23, 2009

[Anatomy of a bad DVD] Virgin Terror

Poster Tag: Sweet sixteen ... they'll lose more than just their lives.

DVD Cover Blurb: Terror runs wild at the girls academy!

Theatrical/Video Run Time: U.S. 85 minutes; Italy 92 minutes

DVD Run Time: 81 minutes (movie)

Year: 1978

Country: Italy/ West Germany

Cast: Fabio Testi, Christine Kaufmann, Ivan Desny, Jack Taylor, Fausta Avelli, Bruno Alessandro, Caroline Ohrner, Silvia Aguilar, Taida Urruzola, Helga Liné, et al.

Director: Alberto Negrin.

AKA: Enigma Rosso/ Enigma Rojo/ Orgie des Todes/ Das Phantom im Mädchenpensionat/ Tráfico de menores/ Yön terrori/ Red Rings of Fear/ Rings of Fear/ Trauma/ Virgin Killer

With special thanks to everyone at the Latarnia Forums for their input.

Virgin Terror is a giallo, this being the name given to Italian pulp crime/mystery stories published between the 1930s and 1960s, but which has become a movie genre unto itself. Giallos are hard boiled crime movies that do not shy away from depictions of gratuitous sex or violence, all while throwing red herrings at the audience to keep them guessing. This genre is considered by some to be the apex of exploitation filmmaking with its voyeur raincoat wearing killers who stalk young women (often spying on them in the altogether) and bizarre plot twists that force the protagonists to think outside the box in their desperate efforts to solve surreal, often hideous, sex crimes perpetrated against nubile young women.

I was recently out looking for bargains, as you do, and having discovered that a Goodwill store stocks new items, including DVDs, I decided to stop by. Long story short they stock the type of DVDs that you find at flea markets; only they sell them cheaper. These are DVDs purchased in bulk wholesale lots so you never really know what you might find. It's like a treasure hunt. Usually I don't find anything so imagine my surprise when I found a DVD called "Virgin Terror" whose jacket blurb said.

"A detective investigating the murder of a teenage girl begins to focus his suspicions on the three girlfriends of the victim, who call themselves "The Inseperables""

Not very informative but it sounded interesting. I was reticent as I noticed this was a Passion Productions/Miracle Pictures (scan down) release but, it was Goodwill and only about 2 bucks, so I figured since it was for charity why not?


According to the IMDB this is an Italian/ West German co-production from 1978 originally titled Enigma rosso. The movie begins interestingly enough with the scene of a body being dumped into (what looked to me) like the sea, a body that's soon after discovered washed up on a river bank. Apparently this was the body of a 16 year old girl from an exclusive boarding school. Her young body had been mutilated and sexually violated. But who could have done such a thing and, more importantly, why?

Thus the stage is set for a good old fashioned murder mystery. From what I've watched the movie itself seems to be a fairly decent crime story. Sadly there's one problem. The video. It. .

Alexander the Great's Ghost the Video! It's Frigging Awful!

This has obviously been sourced from a dub of a dub that's been edited on consumer grade VHS decks. There's a bit of speckling (not quite snow), the kind you get when you are recording through cheap coax cables accompanied by intrusive blips that appear as white or black streaks in addition to random white specks. Overall a very poor quality video.

As if that's not bad enough the picture is too dark during the night/ indoor scenes, extremely washed out and hazy during the day scenes, and it's a hack job where even the best edits are readily apparent. .

And the worst edits are pulsating eyesores. .

The segment from which I excised the above, when viewed frame by frame, appears to have been a segment the video hacker was trying to edit out scenes of brutality/nudity while attempting to recycle footage to at least pad the segment out. Certain sections even have a moire pattern! All of which is proof positive this is the end product of a terrible hack job.

So what has been edited out? Having read reviews for the movie the edits cut out some very significant elements of the plot that appear in flashback as pertains to some sort of an orgy. What's left is not just a incoherent mess it's amateurish editing of the lowest caliber.

However it does appear the dub job might have been done using a signal booster as the picture is otherwise relatively stable. Not that it matters much as there's ample compression artifacting in evidence. For instance the video suffers from a double shot of blockiness. First, the block artifacting from being an analog tape source. Second, the block artifacting that's somewhat similar to what you get on a VCD. In other words this is a video that's made the rounds in it's journey to DVD.

How far has it come? Well there's a company logo- "Lettuce Entertain You"- which I initially thought said Lettuce Entertainment, that's how bad the video is, which I have been informed was a Canadian outfit that put out ultra cheap VHS. We're talking video quality that's scraping the bottom of the barrel.

However I'd say this video started life as a recording off either foreign broadcast TV or cable, probably recordr speakers with this kind of shite product.

Also noticeable, as already mentioned, are the edits. I can not stress how badly they were done. The first occurs during the intro. It's hard to say for sure what's going on here but it seems like an attempt to either cut in a new title or cut out something. It's very easy to detect because it's 1) a jump cut, and; 2) the music abruptly changes. As the music is instrumental through out I am guessing whoever did the editing was either tone deaf or just didn't care. But between the visual and audio distortions that occur during edits this is an appalling mess.

Oh, and my favorite, according to VLC media player this DVD runs 2 hours 17 minutes and 6 seconds. How is that possible?

Well, as I said, this is a dub of a dub. The credits roll and fade to black at roughly the 1 hour 21 minute 10 second mark, making for a total actual run time of 81 minutes. And those missing minutes are not because this was sourced from a PAL conversion.

How do we know this? Aside from the numerous snips made here and there the most telling is when the girls at the elite girls boarding school are running into the showers. I am assuming you see them remove their clothes as I found **warning link may be NSFW** this review **warning link may be NSFW** with a screen cap of part of the missing scenery. Sadly the itchy finger of the demented editor leaves us with a series of jump cuts apparently designed to remove as much nudity as possible. Which is baffling because they couldn't get it all since one of the characters has to stumble over to another stall and there is flashes of nudity later in the movie, and really isn't nudity what make most gialli cult favorites?

The point being this is a very obvious and poorly done hack job. There's significant visual and audio distortion, the latter very noticable due to music suddenly skipping stanzas et al. This video is a terrible mangling of what makes a giallo, or any movie for that matter, worth watching as the edits utterly ruin the flow of the movie. Worse, the sound is so bad you can't really hear anything half the time. Thus I would not recommend this DVD to any save the curious. Consider yourself duely warned.

And what's on the rest of the DVD? Believe it or not GREEN SCREEN. Which lasts for a short bit then turns into a test pattern with a gray streak running through the middle of the screen, which goes on for several minutes before the screen goes black. In other words it looks like someone put a VHS tape in a player hooked up to a DVD recorder, hit play, started recording, then left. However the fact that whoever did the DVD authoring didn't even put any effort into editing the video, opting instead to just rip the DVDr and burn it as is, is mind-boggling. That anyone could release such shoddy product if un-effing believable, yet here it is!

Caveat emptor indeed.

# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

[The above was originally posted in April 2007 to the orignal Mise-en-scene Crypt blog.]

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