A meat man named Vincent Smith, locally famous for his smoked meat and running the family motel, has been doing business as usual for years. Alone with his sister Ida, the two have been kidnapping people passing through the town and using them for what they feel is a better purpose of their lives. It’s only when Vincent falls for a new young captor that things begin to unravel, and if he gets too careless, the family farm may be closed forever.
“Meats Meat, and Man’s Gotta Eat”- Vincent and Ida Smith
Mini Movie Review
Admittedly, I hadn’t seen Motel Hell until I bought the recently released Scream Factory blu ray. I had always been interested in the title, seeing as it’s a cult horror movie from the 1980s. Sadly my excitement was stopped dead in its tracks, see what I did there, after actually seeing the film. So let’s all leave Elm Street for a bit and get a motel room as I review the Scream Factory blu ray release for the 1980 film Motel Hell.
Motel Hell is a passably directed, mostly horribly scripted, and in parts greatly acted farce; namely by actors Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons. The problem lies in the fact that film is a sum of its parts and Motel Hell is building a narrative with a bunch of broken pieces. The film simply thinks it’s smarter than it actually is and also showcases the villain as the main character, which is a screen writing 101 mistake. Add to that, the film’s score is so reminiscent of Harry Manferdini’s iconic score from Sean Cunningham’s classic Friday the 13th, “coincidentally” released only months before Motel Hell, that it becomes distracting and subconsciously reminds the view of a way better film in the process.
If you’ve seen the 1980 cult classic Motel Hell, you’re already familiar with how wild and ridiculous the film is. It’s a movie that has a lot of problems, has endured for over thirty years, and one that has been given the collector’s edition treatment by the great Scream Factory, a division of parent company Shout Factory. For Scream Factory, this is the best treatment a film can get. When the folks over at Scream says it’s a collector’s edition, it really is just that. What’s inside the beautiful blue clam shell? Let’s grab a plate of barbeque; we have lots to discuss.
Blu Ray Review
Video:The film’s blu ray boasts an overall nice transfer. Presented 1.85:1 widescreen, as well as high definition 1080p, the film looks about as good as I expect it will look for sometime to come. I did notice at points that blacks were a little more active than should be, but this is a film released in October of 1980 after all.The collector’s edition also came with a DVD, presenting the feature in anamorphic widescreen.
Audio:The audio presentation is where the film shines in terms of specs. Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo, my 5.1 channel Sony system was barking like a dog the whole way through. Ironically, some of the films more dramatic points woke up my pit-bull Bailey on more than a few occasions. From the score, to the little cracks that creak in the night, you won’t need to be putting those subtitles on for this bad boy.
It Takes All Kinds: The Making of Motel Hell- The main documentary on the film wasn’t the best I had ever seen, but is certainly something hardcore fans would enjoy. Most of the running time is dedicated to sibling screenwriters Robert and Steven-Charles Jaffe. The two discuss how the film came about, how they became screenwriters, and what they think of the film after all these years. The remainder of the feature focuses on director Kevin Conner; he discusses many aspects of the film that I won’t ruin for my fellow residence of Elm Street. Also interviewed is actor Marc Silver. (24:33)
Shooting Old School with Thomas Del Ruth- What we have here is some nice recounting from Director of Photography Thomas Del Ruth. He comes off very intelligent and the majority of the interview felt as if there were little questions asked and he just spoke about what he felt was important to get out there. It was one of my favorite features on the disk. (15:45)
Ida, Be Thy Name: The Frightful Females of Fear- This features focused on females in the horror genre as a whole. Packed with interviews; including Shelagh M.Rowan-Legg of Twitchfilm.com, the feature was a little hit and miss. I had a problem with the lack of male perspective and with the way the title Scream Queen was used. There is and has been only one true Scream Queen; it rubs me the wrong way when it’s thrown around like a beach ball at a Papa Roach concert. On the whole, it wasn’t a complete waste of my time though. (18:09)
From Glamor to Gore: Rosanne Katon Remembers Motel Hell- This feature is really only for the hardcore fan. Playboy pin-up turned actresses doesn’t really add anything to the film and how you look at it. If you love the film, you will most certainly enjoy the interview; it did little for me. There are some nice pictures of the actress for all of our male deadites on the site. (11:28)
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Another Head on the Chopping Block: An Interview with Paul Linke– This was my favorite feature on the whole disk. Linke, who plays farmer Vincent’s brother Bruce, has such honesty and warmth to him. I honestly didn’t like his performance in the film, but he won me over here. Motel Hell buffs will love his views and casual fans will certainly appreciate his approach to both life and the profession that is acting. He covers what it was like making the film and what has happened in his life in the years that followed. (14:52)
Audio Commentary by Director Kevin Conner with guest moderator Director Dave Parker- If you love the film, I would suggest giving the track a listen. Moderator Parker, who directed 2009’s cult favorite The Hills Run Red, is passionate about the film and engages director Conner throughout; there are only a few moment of dead air. One problem I had is a lot of overlapping information from the disk’s main documentary. You do learn a few new things, but prepare for it to be a refresher course if you have already watched the doc.
The disk is rounded out with the trailer, behind the scenes still, and poster and production images.
Motel hell isn’t a good film by any means. Though it does have a few things going for it, it fails in many of its attempts. As for the Scream Factory release, it’s a welcomed edition to their ever going catalog. The packaging is beautiful, the supplements plentiful, and the feature looks mostly clean given the circumstances. If you love the film, buy this release right away. All others should save their money for a much better feature.
Feature: C-, Blu Ray: B
Motel Hell is now available on blu ray from Shoutfactory.com/ScreamFactory, Amazon.com, and Wal-Mart.