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Combat Shock (1984) - Bluray

***Dear Reader, I owe you an apology with this review.  It should be noted that, at the time of this writing, the special bundled edition (of which I am in possession of), with individually numbered slipcases signed by Buddy Giovinazzo, is completely sold out.  Back in June, when Combat Shock was originally released, I was in the middle of a BIG move and fell behind in getting the new releases covered.  I am only now getting this release written up.  But, on a happier note, Severin does suggest a streamlined release of Combat Shock AKA American Nightmares is still forthcoming so, if you did miss out on this release, your chance to score a copy of this cult classic is still out there.***

The past is never dead.  Paraphrased from William Faulkner, this line is directly stated in the absolutely gut-wrenching brutality that is Combat Shock.  Written and directed by Buddy Giovinazzo, this intense film follows one Vietnam veteran as he, a one time prisoner of war, comes home to witness some of the same savagery that he fought off overseas.  Simply put, there is no break from the effects of war for Frankie (Ricky Giovinazzo) . . . not even in the good old USA. 

"Any war film buff should witness this grizzly testament to travesty at least once in his or her life.  Truly."

Suffering from PTSD, Frankie is nagged to death at home by his wife.  She is always carrying around his deformed son.  Sometimes, as is explained here, heavy exposure to Agent Orange can cause damage to the offspring of soldiers.  (On a personal note, I should know, being the son of a Vietnam veteran who was also exposed to the chemical, as I have MS and my father suffers from severe neurological issues, too.)  As a result, the alien looking baby is always crying.  Everyone in the shabby apartment is hungry and, with no job in sight, Frankie, his wife, and his son go without a lot of the basic necessities. 

If you are looking for any hope in this gritty 16mm-shot film, you should look elsewhere.  The film, full of flashbacks to horrific scenes in Vietnam, offers this veteran and the people around him – including pimps, prostitutes, druggies, and a social worker – absolutely no hope whatsoever.  Even Frankie’s father denies that he made out of Vietnam alive.  Heavy with the social commentary, Giovinazzo’s film is probably Troma’s first masterpiece.  It’s deadly serious and, as it feels very inspired by David Lynch’s Eraserhead, unrelenting in the vision it presents from the other side of America circa 1984. {googleads}

Think Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and you get the picture: only darker and a hell of a lot more brooding.  The torture scenes – including the scenes of rows and rows of headless and dismembered corpses – will leave you panicked and clutching your own chest.  There’s a great scene about 40-minutes into the film in which war scenes are flashed across Frankie’s sweaty face while he is being held captive.  His face, as we hear his father arguing over Frankie dating a girl, says it all: here there be monsters.

And he is about to rage.  You can feel his angst in singeing the air around his head.  Think you know poverty? Hopelessness?  You haven’t seen the face of true ugliness until you’ve seen it from the endless squalor in the Port Richmond section of Staten Island; Frankie's world.  Hell itself couldn’t possibly be any warmer than the locations included here.

Combat Shock (1984) - Bluray

Severin Films, presenting both the film and the incredible electronic soundtrack (by Ricky Giovinazzo), serve fans of this apocalyptic film about veterans and their families a solid.  The film, never a looker thanks to its incredibly low budget and its 16mm shoot, looks absolutely stunning.  Sure, grain is present but the colors are truly statements of warm saturation.  The film, presented with a new scan supervised by Buddy Giovinazzo, received a new release back in June of this year.  Limited to just 2000 units, it was packaged with a 96-page scrapbook of sorts and filled with hours of supplemental material. 

Sometime next year, a streamlined release is due out from Severin Films.  In the meantime, you have this review with which to kick yourself by.  Any war film buff should witness this grizzly testament to travesty at least once in his or her life.  Truly.

American Nightmares are born in Combat Shock.

5 beers


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Combat Shock (1984) - Bluray

MPAA Rating: R.
91 mins
: Buddy Giovinazzo
Buddy Giovinazzo
Rick Giovinazzo, Veronica Stork, Mitch Maglio
: War | Military
Fighting, killing, maiming. Agent Orange and the torture cages were the easy part!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I see it all so clearly now."
Theatrical Distributor:
Troma Entertainment
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 14, 1986
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 22, 2018
Synopsis: A dangerously disturbed Vietnam veteran struggles with life 15 years after his return home, and slowly falls into insanity from his gritty urban lifestyle.


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Combat Shock (1984) - Bluray


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Severin Films
Available on Blu-ray
- June 22, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
: English
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Combat Shock is yet another masterpiece of cult cinema from Severin Films.  Their care in the handling of the 4K scan speaks volumes about how seriously they take their jobs.  The result is a 1080p transfer that looks and feels brand new again.  There isn’t a lifeless moment in this image-heavy transfer.  With crisp edges and inky blacks, the low budget film offers film bucks a super gritty look at the harsh reality that greets many a soldier returning from the horrors of war.  The film is scanned from a 35mm Inter-negative with 2k inserts from the Director’s personal 16mm answer print. The crisp mono audio has been remastered from the original mag tracks and the brand new color corrections included have been  supervised by the film’s director. 



  • See Special Features.

Special Features:

This release is a thing of beauty.  Look below and you will see just how important this film is to independent filmmaking.  As if this wasn’t enough, the film comes with a CD that includes the soundtrack.

  • American Nightmares Director’s Cut (new 4k scan from 35mm Inter-negative with 2k inserts from the Director’s personal 16mm answer print. Mono audio remastered from original mag tracks. New color correction supervised by Director Buddy Giovinazzo)
  • Audio Commentary With Writer / Producer / Director Buddy Giovinazzo, Actor / Composer Rick Giovinazzo and Special Makeup Effects Artist Ed Varuolo
  • The Brothers G – Interview with Buddy & Rick Giovinazzo
  • Nightmare Effects – Interview with Special Makeup Effects Artist Ed Varuolo
  • Combat Shots – Interview with Director of Photography Stella Varveris
  • Playing Paco – Interview with Actor Mitch Maglio
  • Mike the Junkie Memories – Interview with Actor Michael Tierno
  • American Deep Red – Interview with Artist / Critic Stephen Bissette
  • Shock Xpression – Interview with International Film Journalist Alan Jones
  • Out-takes and Tests
  • Post Traumatic – An American Nightmare Featurette
  • Hellscapes – Locations Then And Now
  • Buddy Giovinazzo and Jörg Buttgereit at 2009 Berlin Film Festival
  • Combat Shock Trailer    


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Combat Shock (1984) - Bluray


Combat Shock (1984) - Bluray