Vinegar Syndrome’s ‘Deadline’ (1980) 2K Restoration DVD/Blu-ray Review

While you’re stuck at home and running out of things to do, take a moment to check out what’s going on over at Vinegar Syndrome. You’ll be glad you did. Just this month, they’ve released DVD/Blu-ray combos of Olivia (1981), Deadline (1980) and Malabimba (1979), plus a very special limited edition of 1984’s Hell Riders. Today, we’re going to talk about Mario Azzopardi’s Deadline, which was blessed with a 2k restoration from our favorite film restoration company.

Vinegar Syndrome, Deadline 1984, cover art
Vinegar Syndrome Deadline (1984) cover art

From the Vinegar Syndrome release of Deadline:

This special limited edition embossed slipcover (designed by Earl Kessler Jr.) is limited to 2,000 units and is only available here at VinegarSyndrome.com!

The limited edition Deadline slipcover designed by Earl Kessler, Jr.

Steven Lessey (Stephen Young: Soylent Green 1973, Patton 1970) makes his living as a horror writer who has learned that the bloodier the story, the bigger the market. But Steven has also hit a personal crisis wherein he yearns for artistic recognition and an escape from the brutality he conjures up to earn a living. All the while, his horrifying and murderous fantasies begin to blend into his day-to-day life, numbing him to his crumbling marriage, until a shocking tragedy occurs, from which he has no escape…

One of the true hidden gems of Canadian horror cinema, Mario Azzopardi’s Deadline is an unflinchingly grim, twisted, and cynically comedic study of a man’s slow descent into madness, punctuated by expertly rendered and creatively staged  gory deaths. Featuring elegant and colorful cinematography by Fred Guthe (The Pit), tightly paced editing, and even a surprise musical sequence featuring acclaimed New Wave band, Rough Trade, Vinegar Syndrome proudly brings this gruesome masterpiece to Blu-ray for the first time, newly restored from 35mm vault elements.

Vinegar Syndrome, Deadline 1984), alternative cover art
Vinegar Syndrome Deadline (1984) alternative cover art

Directed by: Mario Azzopardi
Starring: Stephen Young, Sharon Masters, Marvin Goldhar, Jeannie Elias, Cindy Hinds
1980 / 90 min / 1.85:1

Special features:
• Region Free Blu-ray/DVD combo
• Newly scanned & restored in 2k from 35mm vault elements
• “Producing Something Horrific” – an interview with producer Henry Less
• “Embracing the Horror” – an interview with cinematographer Manfred Guthe
• Reversible cover artwork
• SDH English subtitles

Anyone who’s ever had to pass in an assignment knows the stress of a deadline. No matter what else is happening in your life, the knowledge that you have something else that you should be working on will wiggle its way into your subconscious is the most unnerving ways. You just can’t escape it, and everything else falls by the wayside.

In Writer/Director Mario Azzopardi’s (RoboCop TV series) Deadline, author Steven Lessey (Stephen Young: Soylent Green 1973) should be on top of the world. His books are best sellers, he drives a Mercedes, and he has a wife and loving children. Rather than be grateful, however, Lessey is pissy that he’s only known for his B movie-esque gore stories. He wants to write something that will make a splash in the literary world, but one that doesn’t involve scenes of sanguinary schlock. Unfortunately for him, his publisher is making major bank on the author’s previous books and wants him to keep going in the same direction. The students at his Alma mater have already labeled him as a shock writer with no redeeming values, and his wife has been neglected for so long she’s turned to coke and adultery to get through her day. Even his kids don’t seem to like him. And through it all, the only thing he can think about is that fricking deadline. It’s enough to make a guy go absolutely insane.

This was the story I had wanted to see with Deadline. I knew I could relate to the guy. Well, except for the whole money angle… and the cheating wife… and the pushy publisher who loves me books. But I digress. I was hoping to see an In The Mouth Of Madness type of spiral into blood-drenched insanity. What I got was a stressed out guy with a messed up life who couldn’t stop imagining ghastly, grisly scenes. The film is more like a drama with horror elements than anything else. I can’t tell if Deadline is supposed to be a “Look out or this could happen to you!” warning or a social commentary on the destructive nature of horror movies. As the film rolls, on, both ideas cancel each other out at every turn.

That’s not to say that the film is completely without merit. The gore that we do see in Deadline is blood-drenched and macabre. In the author’s mind, a telepathic goat controls Department of Transportation machinery, a Nazi punk band plays music that not only hits the Brown Note but makes listeners’ stomachs explode, nuns take the idea of the living flesh of communion literally and children light their grandmother on fire. Any one of these stories would have been preferable to watching Steven and his cigar-chomping publicist talk shop or kick off a rather tame, drug and booze-drenched party with random, nameless women.

Because the Vinegar Syndrome 2k restoration of Deadline is so crisp, these memorable, gore-tastic scenes are even more flamboyant and gut-churning. They’re totally worth the price of admission right there.

Grab your copy of Deadline with the brand new slipcover designed by artist Earl Kessler, Jr. at the Vinegar Syndrome website or pre-order the film on Amazon.

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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