Video Nasty, Digital Age: The Toolbox Murders on Blu-ray

For a long time in Britain it was actually illegal to sell certain horror movies on VHS. Most of you know what the term ‘Video Nasty’ means, so I won’t go into a long description of the phenomena here. After all was said and done 39 films had their names added to that illustrious list. While there were many great films on the list that lived up to their government-imposed labels as sick and obscene, there are a few that fizzle once viewed and beg the question “Why the hell was this banned?”

Thankfully, right off the bat, you will know why 1978’s The Toolbox Murders was banned. The bulk of the film’s titular murders are right at the beginning. The young female bodies pile up one on top of the other, until you begin to wonder when the killing is going to end and some characters and plot are going to show up. Eventually they do and the film mellows out into a hybrid of suspense-free whodunit and Psycho-lite family issues.

It’s a structural device that leaves some viewers feeling dirty sitting through the initial rampage (the right response) and some feeling cheated that there is not that level of bloodshed throughout (the, um, wrong one).

Bottom line, I love the movie. I think it’s well made and sports a kooky performance from Cameron Mitchell, and even though it’s as predictable as the sun rising in the east, it gets the job done. But, I can also see how people could hate it. So you’re either along for it’s sleazy late-70s Based on a True Story (suuuuure it is) feel, or you aren’t. You know yourself better than I do, you decide.

Now, that all that messy “is the movie good” garbage is out of the way, here’s the meat of the argument: how is the shiny high def disc put out by Blue Underground? Fantastic.

Many people seem to be arguing that these films work best when watched on VHS with all the noise, washed-out colors and junk native to that format. But I would argue, vehemently, against that overly-romanticized notion. This film was intended to be shown theatrically, or at the very least in a drive-in.

I don’t know about you, but my private 35mm screening room is under construction at the moment. I guess I’ll have to settle for the vibrant colors and clean picture of this Blu-ray disc. If you like the movie, or have never seen it before and it sounds like your thing. I cannot recommend this disc enough. The features are great, but are ports from the old disc, the transfer is the real star here folks. Gore-gee-us!

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