Vinegar Syndrome just released a Blu-ray/DVD pack of the 1987 comedy Deathrow Gameshow. Does it have a “Monopoly” on game show comedies or does it need to retire and get a “Clue”? Read on to find out how many more board game puns I can get away with!
Deathrow Gameshow‘s name sounded really familiar to me although I was certain that I had never seen it. Apparently I already own an earlier version of the film in one of those Mill Creek 50 packs. That in and of itself should tell you what kind of budget this had, if nothing else. I’m trying to say that this is a low budget B-movie.
The film was birthed from the loins of writer/director Mark Pirro who, if nothing else, is known for his colorful movie titles. Some of his other titles include: A Polish Vampire in Burbank, Curse of the Queerwolf, Nudist Colony of the Dead, Buford’s Beach Bunnies, and Rectuma.
If you are like me you probably wanted to quickly jump on the internet movie database and research the plot of Rectuma. Let me save you a couple steps. “Waldo Williams is infected by a Mexican butt humping bull frog and soon his butt grows a mind of it’s own as well as twenty feet in size and terrorizes Los Angeles.”
Anyway enough about films I will not mention in the rest of the article, let’s get back to Deathrow Gameshow. The premise is pretty straight forward. The title would lead you to believe that the film is about people on death row that must be playing in some sort of game show. That’s exactly what it is. Also, if you didn’t at least smirk at the plot of Rectuma then not only am I disappointed in you but you should probably just pass the rest of his film’s off as something you won’t like.
John McCafferty stars as Chuck Toedan. He is the host of the controversial TV show: Live or Die. This is where death row inmates compete in a game show for a chance to beat the executioner and get more time to live. If they don’t get that then the inmates at least hope to get nice consolation prizes for their relatives.
Chuck’ show is a big hit, but he has made quite a few enemies. He is under constant pressure from people trying to get his game show off the air. At the same time unhappy members of the mafia want him dead. Will Chuck be able to use all the techniques he learned on his show to defeat them or will his final prize be death? You’ll just have to tune in to find out!
As you might expect there isn’t a lot of depth to the plot. The game show section is mostly a skeleton with which to wrap gags and character interactions around. The film sort of grazes past some interesting points about the entertainment industry but the focus is on the camp and silly nature of the premise. There is nothing wrong with doing that, I just think it is good to be aware of it.
This is not a movie to take seriously. It almost comes across as a parody. So in that way I always felt like I was laughing with the movie rather than at it. Deathrow Gameshow feels like the kind of film that friends get together to make and then laugh about later with a cold beverage.
Audio and Visuals:
Deathrow Gameshow is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It was restored and scanned in 2k from the 35mm original camera negative. This movie came from Crown International Pictures which typically has very poor DVD releases of their films. Vinegar Syndrome has cleaned up the picture nicely and I personally think it looks very good considering the age and budget of the film.
The sound is presented as English DTS-HD Master Mono with English subtitles. This is a dialogue heavy comedy and therefore your speaker system will be of little use here. However the sound is crisp and clear, and fans should be happy with the presentation.
Commentary track with director Mark Pirro, John McCafferty (actor) & Robyn Blythe (actress)
“Revisiting Deathrow Gameshow” – 32 minute modern making-of documentary
2015 director’s cut of DEATHROW GAMESHOW (SD cut of the movie)
Multiple director introductions
“Buns” 1978 (short film directed by Mark Pirro)
“The Spy Who Did it Better” 1979 (short film directed by Mark Pirro)
Original theatrical trailer
Deathrow Gameshow Final Thoughts:
After watching the film I was kind of surprised that I had not heard about it before. There are a few genuinely laugh out loud moments. Of course there are also jokes that fall flat and even with a 81 minute run time gags can go on just a little too long. People interested in this film hoping to find gore or creative ways of killing contestants will be disappointed. It’s a fairly bloodless affair with the rating being more for language and topless ladies. It is a campy comedy that is mostly playful with it’s premise in bad taste.
This film would probably not be made today, because of it’s political incorrectness and “offensive” humor. Deathrow Gameshow is a film of it’s time period. It seems to me to be a cross between UHF and a Troma movie. I thought it was funny and silly, while still bringing up interesting points about entertainment. This isn’t a movie for mainstream audiences but I do think certain people can appreciate what is on offer here. Vinegar Syndrome did a fine restoration job and the special features are a great reason to buy this version, especially if you are already a fan! If any of that does interest you then I suggest picking it up here on Amazon for your collection.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.