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DEADBEAT AT DAWN (1987)
Directed by Jim Van Bebber
Starring Jim Van Bebber, Paul Harper, and Megan Murphy
Ketchum Video (old shitty VHS), Synapse Films DVD (2000)
Goose (Van Bebber) is the leader of a street gang called The Ravens. They are engaged in an ongoing turf battle with a rival gang, The Spiders, led by scumbag Danny (Harper). At the insistence of his girlfriend, Chrissy (Murphy), Goose quits the gang to get a new start on life. Danny orders a couple of his thugs to "waste" Goose. The punks arrive at Goose's apartment only to find Chrissy home by herself. They decide it would be a waste of time if they left without leaving some sort of a calling card, so using a nine iron and a one wood they they do quite the number on the poor girl and leave her to die. When Goose returns home he is utterly crushed and quickly heads down the road to ruin. What follows has got to be seen to be believed so I won't spoil it for you... see it yourself!
DEADBEAT AT DAWN is the be-all-end-all of low budget action movies. Director Van Bebber does a wonderful job of masking budgetary constraints by putting believable characters into realistic situations. Dayton, Ohio provides perfect locations for the "wrong side of the tracks" settings that this film demands; trash lined streets, dirty railway stations, abandoned buildings, ahh... you get the picture. Van Bebber is a jack of all trades for DEADBEAT: Actor, director, writer, stuntman, SFX person, cinematographer, and who knows what else. My only beef with this movie is that there is too much time wasted with Goose and his girl spending "quality time" together near the middle of the film, which seemed to detract from the overall fast pacing of the rest. Other than that this was a perfect film. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good action film.
1-18-2000- After getting Van Bebber's "Answering Machine" recordings a few days ago (we'll get to that later), I've been dying to see the Synapse films DVD of "Deadbeat at Dawn." Well, it arrived in the mail today. The packaging is nice, with a good layout and cool red keepcase. I was hoping for some printed material, but all I got was an insert with the cover art and a chapter list. No big deal, what's on the disc is what really counts.
"Deadbeat at Dawn" has never looked better. I have the Ketchum Video version (which is less than impressive) and a color corrected version I got some years back which, although it showed noticeable improvement, pales in comparison to the DVD. I think it looks the best it possibly could, considering it had to be transferred from the A-B rolls rather than the interpositive.
Extras include "My Sweet Satan", the "Chunkblower" promo, and full audio commentary throughout the disk. There is also some outtakes and a filmography. If they could only have included "Last Days of John Martin" to fill it out. Overall it's a great package and should not be overlooked by the collector. You can get it from Blackest Heart Media and other purveyors of fine filth
BUT VAN BEBBER DIDN'T LIKE THE TRANSFER!
This came from a post by Don May Jr. (president of Synapse Films) in the alt.horror newsgroup:
The first (and possibly ONLY pressing) of the DVD has shipped as of last week and I figured I'd give everyone a little update. If you want it, you better order one FAST! All distributors should have their copies now and preparing it for release next Tuesday. These are going fast folks and I may never press it again.
The threatening phone calls have stopped. Probably because we sent him a "cease-and desist" letter. I really don't understand the mind of Jim. I mean...HE wanted Karim Hussein to do the transfer. Karim (the telecine supervisor) gave check tapes of the transfer to the producer and the producer never gave copies to Jim (because Jim was in jail, I guess). I was only using the final product they gave me and, suddenly, ITS ALL MY FAULT!!! The Director of Photography, Mike King, didn't think it was bad and never said anything derogatory to me. I also hear that Jim is now unhappy with the commentary. Mike King also spent almost 20 hours of his own time mixing the various audio commentary tracks for the DVD...When I spoke to Jim about a week before Christmas and mentioned that I thought the commentaries were fun and informative, he said he thought they were good, too. What an interesting change of heart....Perhaps Jim should realize that the people who SPEAK on the commentaries are the ones who make it good or bad and, obviously, he was there. We announced this DVD over a year ago and he had plenty of time to prepare for the commentary session.
You know, when this whole thing started, I asked Jim about the Interpostive element for the movie (the most practical and ideal film element for a film transfer) and he told me that it didn't exist anymore. This element, had we used it, would've saved Karim a lot of time, money and grief. Of course, Jim made me SPECIFICALLY mention in the contract that the transfer would be done from the A/B roll reversal from the camera and not use anything else. After spending 200 hours of personal time on the project both Karim and I were informed that the Interpostive was in storage the whole time!!!!!
Karim did what he could with the untimed A/B rolls and, in giving permission to Karim to do the transfer, Jim trusted Karim to do the job correctly. In my opinion, the film looks better than it ever has. Everyone I've shown the DVD to also agrees. Jim has every right to be upset with the transfer if he doesn't like it...it's his opinion. I can't do anything about that. What IS wrong, however, is his phone calls to my answering machine and to various publications to "defame" both myself and my DVD and try to put negative thoughts into people's minds about the DVD before they have a chance to objectively view it themselves. What he is doing is defamation and intentional interference with business relations and prospects and is against the law. Anyone who has heard these messages left by Jim (I've played them for many people) will tell you that they ARE pretty amazing and totally unprofessional....perhaps I'll transfer them to RealAudio format and put them on my site for the whole world to hear. What do you say, folks? Wanna hear em?
The bottom line is...the DVD is LOADED with extras and a few secrets and I am extremely pleased with it. I like the transfer. I like the commentaries. I like the extras. I mean, really, the movie was shot for a really low budget on 16mm and was stored in someone's house for about 10 years. Karim did the best he could with what he was given. They couldn't even provide me with any original audio mags/optical tracks for my transfer and Jim is upset with ME???? They had a few lights and some microphones and made a GREAT movie. I guess Jim thinks it should look like STAR WARS and, unfortunately, it never will.
People who know me know EXACTLY what kind of quality to expect from one of my releases and this DEADBEAT AT DAWN DVD is something I am extremely proud of. I'm sure, if you are lucky enough to find one, you will be pleased as well.
Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me anytime. I will be updating my website sometime next week (as usual, something that is LONG overdue, but I've been a bit busy lately).
Kindest Regards, Don May, Jr.
President, Synapse Films
Van Bebber's shooting himself in the foot going off like this. He finally gets the chance for his work to be seen by a larger market and he raves like a madman about the transfer quality and is paranoid about getting paid. I think the film looks great! What was he expecting from 16mm A-B rolls anyway? Did he think it was going to look like Star Wars or something? I scored recordings of his answering machine messages and had a little fun with them. If you'd like to listen to all 7 rolled into one with musical accompaniment, listen to the RealMedia feed here
If you enjoy it, you can download a CD quality mp3 here
I also have RealMedia versions of the original message for your listening pleasure