The Burning Moon DVD Review
Written and Directed by Olaf Ittenbach
1992, Region 1 (NTSC), 98 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on March 13th, 2012
Olaf Ittenbach as Peter
Bernd Muggenthaler as Cliff Parker
Beate Neumeyer as Julia
Rudolf Hoss as Priest
When a juvenile delinquent is forced to babysit his younger sister, he passes the time by shooting heroin and telling her a pair of twisted bedtime stories filled with serial killers and demons that will certainly traumatize the poor girl with unimaginable nightmares. Luckily for anyone watching The Burning Moon, director Olaf Ittenbach (Premutos) does his best to present these horrific images in an over-the-top splatterfest certain to satisfy the most ardent gorehound.
Julia’s Love is up first and tells the nasty story of a poor woman on a blind date with a man calling himself Cliff Parker. What Julia doesn’t know is that Cliff has recently escaped from a mental hospital and has resumed his long killing spree. She learns of his identity from newscasts and escapes to the safety of her home. Unfortunately for Julia, she has left her wallet in the man’s car, but luckily he is on his way to return it to her.
The Purity is up next and follows the wicked shenanigans of a priest serving both good and evil. Rape and mutilation are the order of the day and the extended finale is an exhausting journey through Hell that manages to completely destroy the soul of anyone watching. Both tales are pretty light on plot and performance, but equally excel with inventive camera work and an excessive amount of bloodshed and carnage.
Ittenbach plays the role of the scumbag telling the stories and in addition to writing and directing, he handles the special make-up effects that led the film to garner the reputation of having been banned in 14 countries (including Germany!). The Burning Moon is actually quite accomplished in the amount of work that went into the making of the film (as documented in the featurette appearing in the special features). There is an unexpected level of attention paid to elements missing from many similar productions, including the impressive construction of detailed sets and the endless parade of props for the elaborate murder set-pieces.
Graphic violence is the reason audiences searched for this movie. Underground German horror of the late 1980s was pioneered by Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromatik 1 & 2) and quickly followed by Andreas Schnaas (the Violent Shit trilogy), and Ittenbach found a home for his style of filmmaking nestled directly between the two. While this wave of debauchery appeared relatively new out of Germany, the movies fell in line with similarly-themed releases coming from Asia (the Guinea Pig series) and the final wave of the Italian giallo movement (Opera). While the films were either never officially released in the United States or heavily trimmed by the censors, video tapes circulated through mail order catalogs or via the convention circuit and by individuals trading bootleg copies of the next cool thing.
This type of film tends to be interchangeable from one title to the next, but Ittenbach’s debut effort brings a gallows humor to the proceedings that escalate the bloodshed to a level of self one-upmanship for the sheer sake of seeing how far he can push the limits of bad taste within just one film. The editing is particularly strong and keeps the story moving at a steady pace that will keep viewers intrigued as they follow this bizarre trip down a rabbit hole to Hell. So for all of this praise, whatever happened to the film? The Burning Moon celebrates its 20th anniversary with a return to the United States video market after a 19-year absence. Ittenbach has continued to direct various films (Le6ion of the Dead, House of Blood) and also works as an effects artist for other filmmakers including Uwe Boll (Seed).
Underground cinema was largely killed by the arrival of the internet and the attendant ease with which one can locate films that were once hard to find. Now, everything is out there front and center, fighting to stay in the public eye just long enough to latch onto a following. There is something pleasing in the idea that films previously banned are now readily available for expedited shipping to your door or even faster via direct download. Long-time fans will rejoice in knowing that the glut of special edition DVD genre releases have finally gotten around to shot-on-video titles like The Burning Moon, Sledgehammer, and Things and we owe companies like Intervision Picture Corp a great debt of thanks for rescuing these films from the VHS graveyard of obscurity.
Video and Audio:
Nothing fancy here kids as the original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio is pulled from the same VHS transfer of 1992, complete with the occasionally illegible subtitles resulting from a technical glitch, but not a problem to viewers who speak German. If there is a reference quality low-budget movie on DVD, The Burning Moon is as far from it as you are likely to find. While the limitations of 20-year old analog tape masters are abundant throughout, the end result has a certain quaint charm.
Audio is presented in a 2-channel stereo mix that remains faithful to the original sound recordings.
There is really only one supplemental feature on this disc, but it’s a good one, the rare behind-the scenes documentary simply titled The Making of Burning Moon, a 45 minute look at the creation of this shot-on-video production. The doc features interviews with cast and crew, complete with improved yellow subtitles that are easier to read than the white titles that translate the feature. This piece is definitely worth checking out and also serves as a time capsule look at making low-budget movies in 1992.
There is also a trailer gallery featuring The Burning Moon, The Secret Life of Jeffrey Dahmer and The ABCs of Love and Sex.