Plot: What’s it about?
In Shell Shock, we watch as a soldier reaches the depths of mental anguish, only to be pushed even further beyond his limits. Johnny Wade (Carl Crow) took a mean smash to the head in the Battle of Bronson Canyon, so he is a little off balance since. As with his fellow soldiers, Wade is worn down, tired, and wants to leave the German lands behind. But his service comes first, even if he is about to crack under the pressure. His sadistic leader, Sgt. Rance (Beach Dickerson) sees the turmoil within Wade, but still pushes him and sends him out to capture a German ammo dump. The mission results in a mental breakdown for Wade, though Rance is unphased. Wade is in dire need of mental help and guidance, as he turned into a lunatic of sorts. But Rance helps him escape from a makeshift holding area, in order to use his insanity as a weapon. Will the plan work, or will Rance end up burned by his own sadistic plan? In Battle of Blood Island, an invasion of thousands of American soldiers was met with brutal force. As a result, the Japanese fought off the invaders and out of the thousands, only two men survived. Moe managed to play possum, keeping himself alive at all costs, while Ken is alive, but wounded. Can these two strangers work together to survive, despite their many differences?
The folks at Something Weird have been drafted, so all the naked women, monsters, and sleaze merchants have been left behind. The label has been ordered to dish up a double feature of war movies, which it has done with pride. I have to admit, I was a little surprised with this change of pace, but it was a pleasant surprise. I do love the B movies and schlock the label is known for, but I would love to see more varied releases from Something Weird. The realm of eclectic, campish cinema isn’t limited to sleaze and gore, after all. But if you’re concerned, don’t be, as both of these movies belong on Mystery Science Theater 3000. So the bad movie parade continues, this offbeat jaunt through the trenches just provides a scenic route. Shell Shock is hilarious, but that isn’t good news, as it is supposed to be a serious look at the trials of warfare. The producers tried to pass off California as German lands, with laughable results. I had fun with the action scenes and when the drama kicks in, the fun increases by tenfold. Battle of Blood Island has an excellent premise and with Roger Corman behind the scenes, you know its worth a look. The lack of budget limits the battle scenes, but the story is solid and the movie is decent. So I give this double feature a twenty-one gun salute, not to mention a recommendation to those interested.
Video: How does it look?
Shell Shock is presented in full frame, while Battle of Blood Island is presented in 1.66:1 widescreen, not enhanced for widescreen televisions. These are both low budget quickies from the 60s, the kind of movies no one preserves. As such, the prints aren’t in great condition and signs of wear are evident. The grain and debris never become that bad however, so all things considered, the elements have held up rather well. There is some softness to be seen, but nothing serious and on the whole, detail is more than passable. The contrast is solid too, which is good news, since both movies were filmed in black & white. In the end, I feel these presentations are up to snuff, when you think about the age & nature of the materials involved.
Audio: How does it sound?
A mono option is used is both cases and while the audio isn’t too remarkable, the elements come across in solid, passable fashion. The production limitations are evident at times, with thin audio in some scenes and some muffled moments, but on the whole, these are acceptable presentations. I mean, we can’t expect these movies to sound pristine, as they’re low rent war flicks from the 60s, ones which probably haven’t been that well cared for since release. So hiss, muffled dialogue, and thin moments are simply unavoidable in this case, as the film’s appeal doesn’t warrant a restoration. The audio is basic and unmemorable, but since the material wasn’t created to push surround channels, the flaws never detract that much.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes three war themed bonus short films, Information Please, a half hour piece on how to keep a secret, Our Job in Japan, a politically incorrect look at the Japanese, and We’ve Got Another Bond to Buy, an ode to war bonds with Bing Crosby. You can also watch a slew of war movie trailers, but the movies featured on the release have been left out. Not a boom of extras, but a more than solid assortment.