BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

Rat Fink (1965) - Blu-ray Review

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Rat Fink (1976) - Blu-ry Review

 

5 beersRat Fink lives in the shadows.  It is a film about risk.  And it lives in another time and another place, where classic cars travel high speeds and loners ride the rails as Ricky Nelson-like pop songs live and breathe as more than mere background music.  It is a dangerous place as shady deals are made in skyscrapers; women, young and old, are manipulated for money and for sex.  Murder and rape are daily prayers here.  Backroom abortions involving sketchy-looking four-eyed veterinarians are common.  And a desire for fame eclipsed by always wanting more and more and more and never willing to pay the consequence outlives everyone and everything.  This is the territory of Rat Fink

And maybe now you get why some people wanted to bury this film.

I think it is safe to say that an impressive talent like Schuyler Hayden SHOULD have been a major Hollywood player during the 1960s and the 1970s.  Sadly, he was not.  We were robbed of his extraordinary talent in acting because, apparently, his good looks were not enough to keep Hollywood’s interest.  Neither was his impressive leading role debut in writer/director James Landis’ Rat Fink, a film that was EASILY ahead of its time by at least a good decade. 

Rat Fink, a superb black-and-white rugged-ass movie about a sadistic young man who escapes his rural existence as a nobody among the chickens in the field and the hen house to be a capital SOMEBODY in California’s burgeoning pop music scene is easily among the best cinematic discoveries of the year.  Long thought lost to fires and other ravages of time, cult filmmaker Fred Olen Ray's Retromedia label, after an extensive restoration from a recently unearthed print, have just released this film on blu-ray. 

Rat Fink is truly a masterpiece of independent filmmaking.  There are no other words to describe it. 

In spite of the highly charged performance (and singing) from Hayden and the STUNNING cinematography from Vilmos Zsigmond (who famously photographed Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Rat Fink was not received warmly due to its edgy content and lack of enthusiasm surrounding its two releases.  Self-financed and self-promoted by Hayden, the struggling actor believed the film was his salvation from obscurity.  He sold everything he owned and took out billboards overlooking Hollywood Boulevard and still, unbelievably, the film failed to make a splash.

In fact, it did the opposite.  Hayden, due to the content of the film, lost everything.  From his parents to his family, ties were cut completely.  He gambled and he lost.  The talented singer/actor certainly had Variety in his corner, who raved exclusively about his performance as a sadistic pop singer who did whatever was necessary to make a name for himself, but none of that mattered.  Rat Fink disappeared quietly and quickly. 

It was soon forgotten.  Excuses were made up.  Stories were told.  And, just like that, Rat Fink, which played at the drive-in for one week only, was no more.  That is until now. 

And, damn, I wish we did live in a world in which this dark film had been received better than it was.  It’s an impressive film that still shocks with edgy direction from Landis (known for The Sadist) and impressive cinematography that is downright poetic as one down-to-earth (but inherently damaged) man uses and abuses women and men alike, burning one man to death, in order to get what he wants.  But, no, Rat Fink tanked and the callous business of Hollywood went on and on as usual.  No one gave two shits about the fate of this movie.  Only Hayden did and, with nothing but debt to show for it, he skipped town. 

Hayden’s tragic fate was sealed over the skies of sunny California in 1979.  On September 25th – ten years after Hayden left Hollywood for Hawaii due to Rat Fink’s failure – a PSA Boeing 727 clipped a Cessna as it made its landing approach.  The Cessna simply wasn’t seen by the eyes on the ground and those in the air.  It was the worse plane crash in California as wreckage fell from the clear sky all over the North Park area.  And, yes, Hayden was on board, finally returning to California to get back into the game…

…it is indeed a sad tale with an unpleasant ending.  The silver lining is with this release. 

Rat Fink lives on!

Rat Fink (1965) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
80 mins
Director
: James Landis
Writer:
James Landis
Cast:
Schuyler Haydn, Hal Bokar, Warrene Ott
Genre
: Crime | Drama
Tagline:
A "Rat Fink" likes women, bars and expensive cars. How do you describe a movie like this... you don't... you see it! Even if we could... we wouldn't dare!.
Memorable Movie Quote: "It smells like gasoline"
Theatrical Distributor:
Cinema Distributors of America
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 22, 1965
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 13, 2017
Synopsis: Surely one of the most exciting cinematic finds of the year was the discovery of a 35mm print of Rat Rink. Considered lost for over 50 years, its original elements destroyed in a fire, a print was recently located in an old warehouse. The film, severely damaged by crippling arc burns, was successfully restored to its present condition by Retromedia and represents the final "missing link" in the stellar career of Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Heaven's Gate).

Rat Fink (1976) - Blu-ry Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Retromedia
Available on Blu-ray
- June 13, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.78:1 1080p High Definition
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
2.0 mono
Discs: Blu-ray disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

Retromedia limits their release of Rat Fink to 1000 copies, but their efforts are to be commended.  I’m not sure I even want to see what the film looked like after being lost and damaged by arc burns.  Little of that is evident by this release, though.  The black-and-white photography is crisp and feels newly minted in areas; other scenes have noticeable defects.  All and all, it’s truly a fine, fine release.  Black AND gray levels are strong throughout.  The shadows – which also play heavily in this gritty tale – are sharp and dynamic.  They certainly add a lot of patterns and diffusion to the look of the movie.  The sound – featured here in a front-loaded mono track – is appropriate for the movie.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

These include a new 2K HD 16x9 transfer, a poorly recorded video featurette with Hayden's daughter, Ursula Hayden, and a video “Look Back" which briefly covers the film’s history.  A 35mm Widescreen Trailer rounds out the collection.

  • Remembering Schuyler Hayden
  • Rat Fink: Look Back
  • Trailer

Rat Fink (1965) - Blu-ray Review

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