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Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray of All-American Murder is 12 Pounds of Cheese on One Disc!

Feature Presentations: Episode 73

Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on All-American Murder from Vinegar Syndrome.

The Blu-ray cover for All-American Murder

What is worse for a film: following typical tropes; resulting in a boring, predictable mess, or going off the beaten path and trying something different; and possibly failing in a spectacular failure? When it comes to All-American Murder, the production team must have discussed this idea before looking at the path less traveled and wholeheartedly went down the “something different” route.

In my Halfway to Black Friday pick-ups article, I mentioned I hadn’t seen this movie in many years, and it’s still a curiosity. Was it worth adding to my physical media collection? Let’s get into this bizarre take on the classic serial killer formula.

After being accused of blowtorching his college girlfriend, Artie has 24 hours to clear his name while surveilled by a dogged detective. It sounds like a typical thriller—but writer Barry Sandler and director Anson Williams have something different in mind.

Anyone who has seen more than one serial killer film understands the plot mechanics. The clock is ticking, the main character finds the clues, the bodies pile up, and the film ends with a confrontation between the hero and the villain. And, when one looks at the plot beats, All-American Murder hits those notes; what’s in between those notes that makes the film such an unusual cinematic offering.

Not content with playing by formulaic Hollywood rules, the film has non-stop snappy dialogue. For someone not expecting such witty banter, the idea of every character being a quip machine can be a jarring experience. The film’s creators are more interested in having witty banter than creating an engaging murder mystery. It’s not just zingers, but characters have monologues that no typically-ground character might, including Christopher Walken‘s “12 pounds of cheese” discussion. Oh, did I forget him as the lead detective? He’s here and delivers these quirky lines as only he can.

Eirca looks ahead with her hair in her face.

The other jarring aspect of the film comes from the director’s choice of film angles. In a typical movie, a director blocks scenes to perfect shots and get the most from their budget. Regarding All-American Murder, the finished product has more Dutch angles than Alfred Hitchcock’s complete filmography. There’s nothing wrong with a tilt in the camera; the Dutch angle can visually convey disorientation toward the film’s audience. It’s a tried and true method of filmmaking, but when every third shot is a tilted angle, you’re conveying to the audience that you might not know how to shoot a scene. Depending if you’re on board with a film as off the rails as All-American Murder is, you will either sit back and laugh or throw something at the screen and turn it off. I laughed and kept watching.

Just because I laughed at the film, I also understand that All-American Murder is not good. The film is terrible, but because it didn’t play it safe and went down the kooky and less-traveled path, it’s entertaining in its incompetency. The dialogue is unusually hyper-stylized, the shots are all wrong, and Christopher Walken is in full “Walken-mode,” which creates a serial killer thriller not easily forgotten due to all the unusual choices it makes. And, sometimes, it’s better to be peculiar and remembered than bland and forgotten.

The Vinegar Syndrome release comes with a slipcover featuring newly-commissioned artwork. The disc case art wrap features a reversible design with the slipcover artwork on one side and the home video print on the other. As is typical, if I own the slipcover, I usually put the original marketing on the front-facing of the disc case to get the best of both worlds.

The disc includes a feature-length audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues podcast team. I’ve never been a fan of their tracks, as I prefer those directly associated with the film, but this track was fine enough. The commentators offer plenty of insight including: the allusions of All-American Murder to the works of Dario Argento, specifically his Giallo films, behind-the-scenes information, and opinions on All-American Murder. Occasionally the contributors go into the sillier aspects of the film, derailing the commentary, but overall, for someone who isn’t usually a fan, the track was serviceable.

“Being on a Team” is an interview with actor Charlie Schlatter. Schlatter discusses his time working on the film, the relationships he made, and a handful of Christopher Walken tales. He speaks fondly about his time working on the production—rejoicing at every second of working with Joanna Cassidy, a highlight. His stories about Christopher Walken only help solidify why he is a beloved actor among film fans. “Being on a Team” is a warm and positive interview, and Schlatter does a fine job discussing working on All-American Murder.

“A Valuable Experience” is an interview with director of photography Geoffrey Schaaf. A more technical chat than “Being on a Team,” Schaaf discusses the aspects of working with a tight budget, the assistance of storyboarding the film, and his overall thoughts on the finished product. Schaaf touches upon his impressions of the film being a television original, how color timing affects the mood, and scheduling the film around Christopher Walken’s schedule. For the runtime, “A Valuable Experience” is a solid interview and offers plenty of information for those seeking additional production details on All-American Murder.

Decker holds a bullhorn to his mouth.

And there you have it! While the film has the appearance of your standard issue serial killer movie, All-American Murder is far from it. Featuring quirky dialogue, questionable filmmaking choices, and a vintage Christopher Walken performance, it stands apart from other conventional pictures of the same ilk. While Vinegar Syndrome could have let the film wallow in obscurity, they rescued the movie and (arguably) gave All-American Murder love with a decent commentary track and delightful, if brief, interviews. It would have been a welcome inclusion to hear from the writer or director about the choices made for All-American Murder. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Even still, Christopher Walken enthusiasts and those looking for something off-kilter should seek out this disc and add it to their collection.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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