Legion of the Dead
½*/**** Image B Sound B+ Extras B
starring Michael Carr, Russell Friedenberg, Kimberly Liebe, Matthias Hues
written and directed by Olaf Ittenbach
by Walter Chaw Sort of like how I imagine Samuel Beckett would read while huffing accelerant, Olaf Ittenbach's Le6ion of the Dead rips off a couple of Tarantino screenplays en route to winning the title of the most arbitrary and impossible-to-follow film that isn't composed primarily of stock footage. Though the director has tried to have his name removed from the picture, citing unapproved edits made in the struggle for an "R" rating, unless the studio wrote the screenplay, pointed the camera, and hired the actors...sufficed to say that there's enough blame here to go around.
William (Michael Carr) and Luke (Russell Friedenberg) are walking through the desert when a burger-loving serial killer kidnaps them. Meanwhile, Jeff (Hank Stone) and Nicolas (Harvey J. Alperin) are undead Reservoir Dogs rejects wandering around killing people and having conversations about primary colours. Meanwhile again, a Russian-looking guy (Matthias Hues) sits in the middle of a white room while organ music plays on the soundtrack. Meanwhile again again (again), a barmaid (Kimberly Liebe) reveals herself to be some sort of neat-looking vampire thing (think Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors).
Then there's a guy wearing a stupid-looking leather hat wandering about like Kane on the trail of someone or another and a few flashbacks to probably the time of Christ with a bunch of people wandering around in another desert. No fear, though, everything comes together after a fashion in a long-in-coming finale in a closed scenario ripped off whole from Near Dark and From Dusk Till Dawn (and Pulp Fiction and Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, and on and on).
Le6ion of the Dead is dreadful in every aspect save a handful of nifty F/X shots, but what really murders this exercise is its faith in the cleverness of its screenplay. Scenes of endless "wit" drag on for what seems like hours as actors who could butcher a telephone book are asked to demonstrate timing and comprehension. In their defense, no one could make this stuff sound good. It's not that the excrescence of this film surprises me--it's that I'm surprised that even Artisan would send out review copies. It's pointless. The only people who would rent this garbage probably don't rank "reading" very high on their list of pastimes and, again, probably wouldn't mind that Le6ion of the Dead would make nearly as much sense backwards and in Polish.
Released in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer on DVD, Le6ion of the Dead looks fine, with good shadow detail and a pleasing amount of depth and detail. Featuring both 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mixes, the latter demonstrates a nice depth of field, including some excellent rear-channel effects and a throaty rumble from the subwoofer. A lengthy "making of" features a few extended versions of scenes from the film that showcase enough gore to have possibly made the film worthwhile. Without the extravagance of the grue, all the panoply of shortcomings for the film come rushing into sharp focus--the complaints of the director seem ever-more justified the more one appreciates the massive amount of material excised willy-nilly.
Unusually interesting, this twenty-two minute featurette actually functions as a pretty fair explanation for why the film, truncated as it is, stinks to high heaven. It's impossible to comprehend, then, why of the nine deleted scenes included in a separate feature, only one showcases any lost gore. A photo gallery, cast & crew biographies, and a trailer that does more to explain the film's plot (and with more gore) than the movie itself does round out the disc. Originally published: March 11, 2003.
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