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on 21 September 2012
Whats really cool about Arrow's releases of cult titles,goo flicks,cheesy horrors is how by buying one title it can introduce you to another.I first came across director Buddy Giovinazzo in an interview segment on the Street Trash dvd where he was standing by a bin.I had seen Arrows release of Combat Shock whilst i was plunging amazon for more former vhs marvels but kinda overlooked it thinking it was a Rambo knock off.
What it actually is is a gritty,cheap movie concerning an ex vietnamsoldier character based on the band Suicide's terrifying number Frankie Teardrop off their classic debut album.Released in 84 by Troma its a meandering,grubby movie.Put it this way it starts off with flashbacks to Vietnam with half exploded bodies to only get even MORE bleak.
Frankie lives in a filthy apartment with a nagging wife and screaming deformed baby,its all very kitchen sink stuff with a great big nod to Eraserhead,the place literally hums with paranoid claustrophobia.Frankie embarks on a day wondering the streets looking for a job bumping into junkies,pimps with the backdrop of a beautifully dilapidated Staten Island,i mean the screen virtually stinks.No one looks like they have seen the inside of a bathroom for a year or two.I really liked the soundtrack....the clamped out car alarm style synths.
Buddy made this movie whilst still a film student so it is very basic but what redeems the film is the potency of the story,its rather serious subtext of what traumatised soldiers come back to and where they go.Its a film that whilst there are wars can stay relevant.
Some of the narration is hamfisted but i always try to see the ideas rather then the execution.Especially in a movie with budget limitations.I would say the deformed baby may have been a mistake,it would have been infinitely more powerful if the baby wasn't.Arrow have added a few nice extras,i really enjoyed seeing Buddy's early shorts including Mr.Robbie with Maniacs Joe Spinell and Jonathan Of The Night.You got a really good documentary that unfortunately is only half an hour but i love seeing the assorted film fanatics rave and seeing the inimatable Jim Van Bebber chainsmoking.
You will already know if you will like Combat Shock.For me it was a curiosity piece which has its place.I like Buddy Giovinazzo hes a cool bloke,i recently read a novel he wrote called High Times In Crack City which was cool.More please Arrow...
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on 6 April 2017
Everything good product seeled .
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on 28 January 2010
Combat Shock/American Nightmares 25yrs on is still as powerful as I first remembered it on an old vhs copy I owned in the late 80s. Its unparalled cinematic portrayal of grinding poverty and despair is so brutally gruelling, that after viewing it I felt like I'd just emerged from some kind of tepid sludge bath.

This film wears its influences lightly enough to make it more than simply another 'Nam or Schlock film. There is much more going on here. Its not just its honest directness that all independent films have in common or even its defiant refusal to give us final redemption. Many films before this one used that device but it didn't leave such a lasting impression.

It was even more relevant in the 80s when homelessness was a significant problem in the states because of the Reagan administration's social policies. This was a snapshot of what happens to a person when they fall through the cracks in a system with little or no safety net. Even if they had served in a war.

This is real social critique and powerful stuff.
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on 5 December 2014
Look in the dictionary under sleaze and if you find Combat Shock, I wouldn't be surprised. This is a wonderful film and a great package by Arrow. However this is super grade low budget stuff and hence will not be for everyone. But if you want to take a trip to Staten Island in the 1980s, where streets decay faster than a homeless man's teeth, and where grass grows out from the never ending slabs of concrete then enter please.

Rick Giovinazzo plays a Vietnam vet hounded by nightmares who is now set up in a dingy hole in New York with his unemployed fatigued wife and his mutated baby which spends its days crying in pain. Rick goes out walking the streets, anything to get away from the shocking reality of what his life has become. The streets are filled with broken shops, broken dreams and broken people not to mention thugs and junkies.

Buddy Giovinazzo has created a monster of a movie, a commentary on Ronald Reagan's America and the state of the jobless plight- has much changed that's the question? The climax is harrowing and a scene involving sour milk may turn heads.

A shocking but very relevant movie, certainly Giovanazzo's tour de force. As for this release, Arrow have done themselves proud. This is a 2 disc editon which includes commentary, documentary etc, but the creme de la creme is the 5 short stories Giovinazzo did with his brother and friends- all included here. Bizarre for sure but gold.
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on 8 August 2009
Combat shock is a movie I like but never enjoy. Grimy and nhillistic its dipiction of urban hell and it's juxtoposition of the vietnam nightmare are certainly valid but this is a film that clearly gives eraserhead a run for it's money in the depressing stakes. One scene especially pretty much sums up the films experience, Our grizzled nam vet is walking down the street when he comes across two little girls arguing, admonishing them the younger girl runs off, "wanna date" asks the older girl. Assuming this is some kind of childish game our disturbed vet shows a sweeter side talking to the young girl, until her pimp arrives and offers a savage beating! Yep this is a relentless film that refuses to show the positive side of anything!(though those of us with shady looking bootlegs already new this!)
The above review sums up the film well but does not give adequate details on the actual disc itself so here goes...

Disc 1: American Nightmares: The origional directors cut.
Combat shock: The origional theatrical version.
Audio commentary track on combat shock with director Buddy Giovinazzo and Jorge Buttgereit.

Disc 2. Post Traumatic: an american nightmare.
Full documentary on the movie with directors like john mcnaughton and scott spiegel, william lustig, jim van bebber.

Early short films.
Interviews and discussions with Director/loyd kaufman and jorge buttgereit.

overall then a packed disc! Troma have gone the criterion route with this giving it a full restoration and packed with features. Essentially then if you like the film this is THE version to own. If your not sure, then I leave you with this caveate the film is GRIM and deeply unhappy and you will not feel very good (or clean) after viewing, but is a trash masterpiece for cult cinema buffs regardless.
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on 10 August 2012
I was somewhat floored by this dread ridden slice of Namsploitation. Here i am expecting some tromatastic Taxi Driver clone and what i got was a surprise sense of substance with Combat Shock. This is the textbook definition of "grunge art". Along with "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia", here's a film choking itself with so much nihilism, it creates a tone of hopelessness so constant and relentless, you are enticed nonetheless.

The production values are piss poor and could not be more fitting. Non actors, tone deaf mood synth and low, even for troma standard of cinematography all combine to immerse you into one mans constant nightmare existence.

Arrow Films is possibly one of the greatest labels around, knowing their target audience like they were family and have treated this release perfectly in keeping with the tone of the product, simple, yet respectable. Both primary versions (Director's cut and original Troma release) are here as well as a few little extras for, God forbid, fans of this eye drying scrapbook of sorrow.

I cannot recommend this film on any level of entertainment or conventional basis of merit. It's just an experience so devoted to its depression, it comes off as potent, even moving.

Still, for die hard celluloid cynics only.
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on 25 November 2011
By all rights this should be a dismal film, minimal budget, some awful acting and laughable special effects. However the incredibly grim storyline, grim urban backdrop, grimy photography and even the insidious electronic music all combine somehow to make it a hidden classic. A pure slice of misery that really should not be watched if you suffer from depression.
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on 10 February 2005
A film of spiraling depression. Ricky Giovinazzo plays an ex war vetran struggling to make ends meet with his nagging wife and mutated baby.
The film opens with Giovinazzo having a flash back to the war. The scene is crudly shot to say the leased, comprised of stock footage, and what looks like people jumping over flour bombs. Thoughout this opening Giovinazzo reads from a crass, unimaginative script, telling us about the "Madness of War." The script suffers in these respects throughout the film, further hampered by Giovinazzo's wooden delivery (This is a shame as he plays a likeable, yet dim-witted lead.)
We cut to Giovinazzo's flat where we learn of his reaccuring nightmares, (the effect of the atrocities projected on his face works excellently, giving a trully nightmarish impression.) and meet his nightmarish baby. (I couldn't decide who I would leased prefer to be related to, the bloated, nagging wife or "toxic" baby.) The scenes with the baby seem to be lifted straight from Eraserhead and seem a little out of place.
Our lead is given an eviction notice, so he takes to the streets of New York to find a job to pay the rent. This is what most of the film is dedicated to, Buddy Giovinazzo foucuses in, and attempts to magnify the violent, seedy and drug infested side of the city as he follows Ricky G. What we meet on the way is the usual ghetto despots, and druggies (some of which are acted so poorly they verge on the ridiculous, and with such a "cheesy" soundtrack you would be forgiven in thinking that at times this was being played for laughs.) This has been portrayed far more effectivly in films like Taxi driver and Bascketcase, where the Directors imply the tone, rather than adding a moralising monologue.
The end of the film is worth the money for the DVD on its own. After failing miserably to gain employment our hero is driven to stealing a ladies handbag (que more sanctimony "Ive been in the jungle." ie, concrete.) And, unfortunatly, gets beaten by a loan shark and his goons. But Ricky G manages to conceal a gun and kill the aggressors, and totally lose his mind in the process. Now equipped with a demented, God-head type ego, he goes back home, shoots his family and puts the babies corpse in the oven before putting a bullet in his head.
The final scene is very stark and unflinching, the realism just about compensates for the clumsy sanctimony and poorly acted stereotypes.
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on 27 June 2016
Excellent movie under the Troma label, known for excellent 80's shlock-fests such as Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke 'em High and Surf Nazis Must Die. However, this film takes a more depressing turn than the other movies.
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on 25 December 2014
Exceptional but bleak
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