Color, 1983, 89 mins. 53 secs. Directed by Paul Nicholas
Starring Anthony Franciosa, Sybil Danning, Isabelle Mejias, Paul Hubbard, Cindy Girling Code Red (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
A year after appearing in Dario Argento's Tenebrae, actor Tony Franciosa made a return to twisted thriller territory with a particularly sleazy twist in Julie Darling, a warped offering from the director of Chained Heat. The premise here revolves around dysfunctional teenager Julie (Mejias), who freaks out her classmates by feeding live rats to her pet boa constrictor and turning down dating opportunities so she can hang out with her dad (Franciosa). Julie's mom, Irene (Girling), is disturbed by the whole situation and arranges to have Julie shipped off to boarding school, even sending her pet snake off for good measure. Before the plan can come to fruition, however, Irene is assaulted by a nasty grocery deli very man (Hubbard) and accidentally killed, all of which Julie observes armed with a hunting rifle she never uses. Things seem to go better for Julie, at least until daddy decides to bring home a new girlfriend, Susan (Danning), and her little son. Not surprisingly, Julie doesn't take too kindly to Susan's offer to become friends, and after a nasty game of hide and seek that puts the two females on guard against each other, Julie comes up with a diabolical plan to wipe out her newest rival.
This film is, to put it mildly, completely messed up. The entire premise revolves around the astoundingly amoral decisions of its young female lead character, who has no problem kicking back while her mom is being attacked downstairs, mentally substitutes herself for her dad's girlfriend in the bedroom, and enlists the aid of a psychopath in a plan that would put most erotic thriller screenwriters into a state of shock. Fortunately Mejias is up to the task and delivers a memorably creepy performance, even when the script doesn't come close to bothering to give her any sort of plausible motivation apart from "I really love my daddy." Danning looks great as usual and was having one of the standout years of her drive-in career, also appearing in Nicholas' Chained Heat and the tinker toy cult favorite Hercules the same year. (And for all you fans, she has a steamy topless love scene with a grinning Franciosa.) Yes, it's all complete trash, but it's fast-moving early '80s trash with a nasty edge; watch this back to back with the undervalued '80s kitsch classic Scream for Help for a sicko suburban double feature you'll
A longtime under-the-radar video staple since the VHS days (often under the title Daughter of Death), this film was recycled from ancient tape masters on a string of PD and bootleg DVD labels but made its official debut from Code Red with a fresh transfer from the interpositive in 2011. The film itself suffers from some obvious flaws, mainly a film stock that clearly can't adapt to some of the low lighting in a few scenes, but overall it looks quite nice and clean, certainly blowing away any version before it. The opening and closing titles are windowboxed, while the film itself unspools at 1.78:1 and seems accurately composed.
That's just the start of the all the fun, however, since the disc also packs in video intros, audio commentaries, and video interviews with Danning and Mejias. The Danning chat track with director David DeCoteau is laid back and a lot of fun, with the pair chatting about her career for the first third (by necessity, since she doesn't enter the picture for quite a while). You know it's going to be great when one of her first lines about her career is "I get raped by an albino." On the other hand, Mejias flat out hates the film and spends most of the time trashing it, which makes for entertainment of a very different kind as she talks about her reluctant dive into acting, the Canadian and German filming locales, and her memories of her fellow actors. (Her video intro is pretty priceless, too, and will probably shock some people who buy this disc blindly.) The Danning interview also goes into more depth about films like Meteor, The Concorde: Airport '79, and They're Playing with Fire, while her commentary already covered films like Warrior Queen and Battle Beyond the Stars as well as other directors like Chuck Vincent. The Mejias track (moderated by Scorpion's Walter Olsen, recorded quite some time ago) covers most of her Canadian career and goes into detail about all the reasons she thinks the screenplay doesn't work. Most of her points are valid, but that doesn't make the film any less of an outrageous good time if you're in the right mood. The disc closes out with the usual reel of bonus trailers including Horror High, Caged Men, Brute Corps, Stigma, and Mean Johnny Barrows.
Code Red revisited the title six years later in 2017 for a Blu-ray edition that takes an already solid presentation and makes it even more vivid and impressive, especially the exterior scenes where foliage and architecture really shine through impressively with a similarly strong DTS-HD MA English audio track. A handful of minor celluloid blemishes pop up here and there, but it's fleeting for a frame or two at a time and nothing significant. Both audio commentaries and featurettes are carried over here, and also added are bonus trailers for Nightfall, Acapulco Gold, Mind Ripper, and The Terror Within II.