Plot: What’s it about?
The high school years are tough on everyone, with all the peer pressure, awkwardness, and stress of getting prepared for college. But at one high school in Italy, the students face not only all those problems, but ones which are much more stressful. The teachers muddle through lessons and take forever to grad & return papers, so that they can spend their time giving expensive, pointless private lessons. These lessons cost a small fortune and the teachers bamboozle the parents into shelling out the cash. One student’s father even had to rob a bank to finance these lessons, an act which landed him behind bars. But these lessons aren’t educational in most cases, as teachers take the extra time to insult, torture, and even assault the students. Some students have been beaten, others raped, and in some extreme cases, the students have never returned from the lessons, at least not in one piece. Not that the school itself is much better, as both students and teachers engage in all sorts of violent, sadistic actions. On a routine day, it would be no shock to see a teacher carving through walls with a chainsaw, sexual activity in the bathrooms, and rampant chaos around almost every corner. But will this madness last forever, or will a conflict arise that will be so bloody, no one will survive?
The topic of violence in schools seems ripe for motion picture exploitation, but few filmmakers have delved into the controversial waters. A few bold movies have been released, none by the major studios of course, but a few entries from the underground & independent circuit. Now we have Medley on DVD, an Italian import from 2000 that puts on a blood soaked, violent satire of life as a student. Just as the case claims, the teachers in this movie would make the Trenchcoat Mafia run for cover, as the educators in Medley are sadistic, twisted individuals. But the students aren’t angels either, as violence and sex floods these hallways, from the lockers to the dressing rooms to the bathrooms. I am pleased to see a school violence epic available on DVD, although Medley isn’t as good as it could have been. The violence is often senseless, but lacks the brutal presence such material demands. I mean, the blood and gore is ample and well crafted, but this just doesn’t seem to be as ruthless as I expected. In addition, the performances are pretty rank, even for a low rent effort like this one. I knew Medley would be on the cheap, but I expected at least passable turns, which isn’t the case. Even so, I know folks will be interested because of the school violence content, so if you’re in that group, then give Medley a spin.
Video: How does it look?
Medley is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, which has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions. This movie was made with no money and no technical “know how,” which we know because the director tells us so in his included commentary track. So while Troma has done some good work here, Medley will never look pristine or even refined, as the production methods limit the visual potential of the material. The image has a video-like appearance, so you can tell it was made without high-end equipment, but it makes for a more surreal, immersive experience, especially in the death sequences. But if you’re looking for clean, crisp visuals, then Medley isn’t the transfer to pop in your system. However, given the circumstances involved, I think Troma has given us a solid presentation in most respects.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original Italian soundtrack is preserved here, via a track that shows the low budget roots of the material. In addition to lack of audio resources, you can tell experience is limited in this case, as the audio is as basic as can be, though it all works out well enough. So there is a rough texture to the audio elements, but the rawness kind of adds to the experience in some ways, so no need for complaints here. If a well funded movie sounded like this, then I would be concerned, but in this case, I see no reason for panic. The English subtitles provided seem acceptable, but since they fall into the black widescreen bars, users of widescreen televisions are unable to zoom in, which could cause some negative feedback.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary with director Gionata Zarantonello is up first, in which he talks about the production. Zarantonello is open and candid, detailing how Medley was made on a tight budget with very limited resources. I also want to mention that he speaks in English here, so no subtitles are needed. This disc also includes an interview with Zarantonello, an introduction by Lloyd Kaufman, and the film’s trailer.