Destroyer / Edge of Sanity (Blu-ray)


Destroyer / Edge of SanityStarring Anthony Perkins, Clayton Rohner, Deborah Foreman

Directed by Robert Kirk, Gerard Kikoine

Distributed by Scream Factory

An accomplished actor can play dozens of parts throughout a lengthy career, but if they happen to fall into a signature role it is almost guaranteed that’s how they will be remembered. On one hand, being pigeonholed can sometimes lead to offers of one similar part after the next with little variation, preventing a good actor from showing off capable range. But on the other hand, considering how many actors would kill for something so memorable it is a blessing to play a character that will last a lifetime and then some. Take Anthony Perkins, best known as Norman Bates, doting son to his lifeless, desiccated mother, Norma, in Psycho (1960). Perkins is a great actor who has done solid work in a lot of pictures, but the shadow of Norman loomed large over his filmography. Even the trailer for one of the films included here makes mention of “Mother” despite having no connection to Perkins’ most famous film. This is not to say Perkins was trying to shed that image just that it reigned over virtually everything else he ever did. Scream Factory has, thankfully, seen fit to bring illumination to a couple of Perkins’ lesser known works – Destroyer (1988) and Edge of Sanity (1989) – the former is a fun clone of Shocker (1987), while the latter sees Perkins pulling some double duty in a dual role that doesn’t stray too far from his work as Norman.

When walking meat mountain Ivan Mosier (Lyle Alzado) is taken from his death row cell to the electric chair, his fearsome reputation is further cemented when a mishap causes the circuitry to short out during the execution – and it only makes the mad murderer even angrier! Turns out that was all just part of a nightmare… or was it? The night Mosier was set to be killed a riot broke out, with the prison closing down soon after the melee. All parties involved just assumed Mosier was killed because, you know, why bother conducting a manhunt for one of the most vicious, roided-out serial killers ever? 18 months later a small film crew has taken up temporary residence at the prison, filming a softcore women-in-prison picture under the direction of Robert Edwards (Anthony Perkins). The location is ideal but the crew… not so much. Rigged FX gags are failing left and right, the lead actress is performing like a wet paper bag, and now there’s a power failure, trapping everyone within the charred walls.

Warden Karsh (Pat Mahoney) shows up to check on the filming progress before being scorched alive by an unseen person. While everyone on the crew is busy trying to make a movie, David Harris (Clayton Rohner) is convinced something sinister is afoot. He pokes around the prison, questions the warden and, as luck would have it, grabs a bite to eat at a nearby diner where the prison’s former executioner just so happens to be flipping burgers. And, boy, does he have a tale to tell. Mosier might not be as dead as people have been told, and what’s more he has an insider helping him continue on with his reign of terror.

Credited here under the title Shadow of Death, Destroyer is a fairly standard run-of-the-mill slice-and-dice horror film, albeit with a couple of fun elements to set it apart. I dug the moviemaking angle used here, especially with Perkins as the frazzled director who is so desperately trying to hold this production together until they can wrap at the prison location. Obviously filmmakers know better than anyone what it’s like to be on a set and the personalities, sharp dialogue, and constant setbacks are very representative of the process. It also makes it easy to understand why everyone is so self-obsessed they barely pay attention to the warning signs that death may be imminent.

Lyle Alzado didn’t live a long life – steroids will do that – but he sure makes for one helluva intimidating killer. There isn’t much explanation as to why or how Mosier survived his jolt in the chair and, really, does it even matter? Shocker had the wherewithal to give Horace Pinker some back story that might explain how he continued to live after being put to death. Mosier has no such background. He’s just a big, pissed off sack of muscles that – believably enough – was too tough to die. And although the cover art misrepresents him being a gleaming white skull attached to a hulking body, know that he does at least use a jackhammer to kill someone. And it is gloriously violent.

Perkins goes from supporting actor to lead for the second picture, Edge of Sanity. This is a well-crafted picture that conflates two infamous characters to make for one interesting movie – Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and Jack the Ripper. The conceit here is that Dr. Jekyll (Anthony Perkins) has been experimenting with cocaine use – snorting it, smoking it – and recording the effects. When a batch of cocaine is accidentally exposed to a caustic chemical, creating a smoky reaction in the lab, Jekyll is transformed into Jack Hyde. The metamorphosis is sort of like Tobey Maguire’s in Spider-Man 3 (2007), with Hyde looking like he just left an AFI concert; all pale and gangly, with black hair drooping into his eye line. This effect probably looked a little less humorous before being “emo” was a thing.

Jekyll is a well-respected scientist, but Hyde isn’t just a raving lunatic as he’s been portrayed in the past. Here, he’s every Jekyll is not – charming, evocative, sexual, and, yes, sadistic. But his sadism seems to be a latent effect of the drugs; his primary interests seem to lie in weird sexual encounters, of which he has more than a few. He seems to almost have a fear of women, especially those who are aggressive. Hyde likes to have the upper hand, but once the tables get turned he becomes uncomfortable and is only able to carry out his dastardly deeds when the women have returned to a state of fear. There are plenty of fascinating psychological underpinnings at work here, allowing this film to be much deeper than the average slasher.

Perkins gets the perfect opportunity to flex his acting chops here, even if the role is a bit like Norman Bates. He’s a benign, genial guy one moment; a perverse maniac the next. The setting here is Victorian era England, though it just as easily could have been modern day and nothing much would have changed. Tying Jack the Ripper into the plot is a stroke of genius, since it allows for Perkins to add some subtleties to his performance instead of having to play both characters as such absolutes.

Destroyer is rocking a new HD transfer from the only surviving film elements (as per a title card shown before the film starts) and the results are perfectly fine. The 1.78:1 1080p image comes from a print that is in good shape, with only minor damage to be seen. Colors appear natural but lack a vivid pop. A few random shots are bogged down by heavy film grain, possibly due to optical zooming or just bad lighting. Definition is average but there is no mistaking this is clearly an HD image.

Edge of Sanity features a 1.85:1 1080p picture that is equally as good. The print here is also very clean, with slightly less damage than Destroyer. Black levels look solid and dark, and definition is average with detail fluctuating sporadically. Film grain appears naturally resolved. The overall aesthetic is a little dated looking, which is about the worst I can say.

Both films get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo mix, with equal results. The dialogue levels on Destroyer are a tad low, but this is a simple no frills track with a brooding synth score and little in the way of bombastic moments. Edge of Sanity registers a little higher, with a better sound mix and an excellent operatic score, courtesy of composer Frederic Talgorn. Subtitles are available on both films in English.

The only included extras here are a single trailer for each film.

Special Features:

  • DESTROYER trailer
  • EDGE OF SANITY trailer

  • Destroyer
  • Edge of Sanity
  • Special Features
User Rating 3.55 (11 votes)


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