Blu-ray Review: Shriek of the Mutilated

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During the ’80s, movie fans didn’t have the internet to explore the world of cult films. We had the Wikipedia in book form with the release of The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film in 1983. This was the Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide for sickos who wanted to find out what gems played the creepiest of theaters on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Author Michael Weldon didn’t care about Oscar winners. He wanted you to find out about the bizarre films that ran your local UHF station to run at 3 a.m. and a quite a few that were too much for TV. The first time I flipped through the illustrated tome, my eyes locked on a photo of a hairy monster charging up the stairs. The still came from Shriek of the Mutilated. Now that monster is being unleashed on Blu-ray that more vivid than my memory.

Dr. Ernest Prell (Alan Brock) is taking a group of four graduate students onto Boot Island to look for the Yeti. This is a six-hour journey that’s desolate and lonely. Keith (Michael Harris) gets invited to a special dinner with the Professor where he enjoys the rare Gin Sung. The rest of the kids go to a groovy party where they play Gershon Kingsley’s “Popcorn.” During the party, one of the people freaks out when he finds that Prell is taking more kids to find the Yeti. Turns out the last trip led to several students dying. Which reminds us all how universities in the ’70s didn’t seem to care if a professor lost a lot of students. The latest batch of potential victims load up into a van that’s like the low budget Mystery Machine covered in flower stickers to find the Yeti in a rather non-snowy terrain of the private island. Things go wild as the grad students poke around the island and the estate. The professor’s local friends are rather weird although they swear to have heard the creature’s growl. Are they really going to find the monster or will this end up like one of those cable channels shows that look for Bigfoot and find 12 episodes of nothing? Or is there something more frighting in the woods than the Yeti?

Not to spoil the film, but this is a brilliant bloody mess thanks to a great pedigree of indie filmmakers. First is director Michael Findlay who also directed The Touch of Her Flesh, Snuff, and Virgins in Heat. His movies looked perfect on Grindhouse cinema marquees. The cinematographer was his wife Roberta Findlay. She would go on to direct Tenement, Blood Sisters and Lurker after her husband was sliced apart during a helicopter disaster on the top of the Pam Am building in Manhattan. Screenwriter and Producer Ed Adlum had previous written Invasion of the Blood Farmers. They were a Psychotronic Triple Team Champions.

What’s rather shocking is that during a big scene, they a piece of classical music that sounds a bit like the theme to The Shining. Did Kubrick get a little inspiration for The Shining from Shriek? Had composer Wendy Carlos seen the movie since “Popcorn” was featured on Music to Moog By during those early days of synth records that Carlos dominated with Switched On Bach. There doesn’t seem much talk of this, but I’m guessing academic Kubrick fanatics weren’t into the cinema of Michael Findlay to raise this question.

Shriek of the Mutilated is as bizarre and fun as I imaged all those years ago staring at the picture in the Psychotronic. The movie goes beyond just chasing the Yeti in the woods. The plot explores what happened to the previous graduate students. You can feel the cheesy, roughie charms as the next set of students meet their fate. Shriek of the Mutilated will cause you to roar.

Video is 1.33:1 anamorphic so you can see all the monster in the frame. The 4K scan was taken off the original negative so this look so good. The image is so clear you can feel your shoes sticking to the floor. The audio is DTS-HD MA mono. You’ll hear clear shrieking. The movie is subtitled.

Commentary track with cinematographer Roberta Findlay, moderated by film historian Casey Scott. Roberta recounts how she had left Michael Findlay at this point. She came back to shoot it as a favor for Ed Adlum. She doesn’t have many memories of the shoot, but Scott gets her to talk about her life. She reveals the secret of the armadillo.

Yeti Again (12:36) an interview with Roberta Findlay. She talks a bit about how she met Michael when he hired her to be the piano accompanist to silent films. She became the cameraman when they started shooting Snuff because he couldn’t speak with the original cameraman. She didn’t have many memories of the film.

So Bad So Great (22:07) catches up with producer & co-writer Ed Adlum. He like to be called Eddie. He is happy that his film has been remembered and upgraded over these decades.

The Wilds of Westchester (14:05) revisits the locations of Shriek of the Mutilated. The college they used is Fordham. They even find the original gas station. The place used to service wagons and Model Ts. Boot Island isn’t six hours from New York City. Most of the action is in Yorktown. They match up the movie angles with the view of today. There’s so much still around you could have a Shriek of the Mutilated vacation.

Audio Essay (30:05) by Cryptozoology author David Coleman. He wrote a book about Bigfoot in movies.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Shriek of the Mutilated. Directed by Michael Findlay. Screenplay by Ed Adlum & Ed Kelleher. Starring Alan Brock, Tan Ellis, Darcy Brown, Ivan Agar, Jennifer Stock, Michael Harris and Jack Neubeck. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 87 minutes. Release Date: July 19, 2022.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.