While we’re still reeling from the tragic loss of legendary horror filmmaker and all-around cool guy George A. Romero, we’re about to witness another example of how wide his creative influence spread during his long career.
The obscure 1978 indie thriller EFFECTS (a.k.a. THE MANIPULATOR) employed the talents of many Romero regulars — including Tom Savini, John Harrison, Joe Pilato and Pasquale Buba, alongside many others in the late filmmaking icon’s talented inner circle. This quirky, twisted take on art, fame and exploitation has been digitally restored for the first time, and makes its Blu-ray debut this month.
Based on the novel SNUFF by William H. Mooney and shot for roughly $50,000, the Philadelphia-set film concerns an egotistical director (Harrison, who also composed the film’s score, as well as that of CREEPSHOW in 1982, before launching a successful filmmaking career of his own) whose latest groundbreaking project is intended to depict actual murder onscreen… unbeknownst to his beleaguered camera operator (Joe Pilato, who went on to play the villainous Captain Rhodes in DAY OF THE DEAD), and with the possible assistance of his effects artist (Tom Savini, basically playing himself).
Though the film’s original 16mm negative is believed lost, and all existing prints were damaged or edited, Variety reports that the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) in Austin, TX has an intact 35mm blowup of the complete cut, which AGFA director Joe A. Ziemba (creator of genre & exploitation website Bleeding Skull) discovered their vaults — after which he screened it as part “Terror Tuesdays” at Austin’s Drafthouse Ritz in 2015.
“I think people were shocked by how accomplished the movie was,” Ziemba told Variety. “With most DIY horror, you expect Bigfoot wearing Adidas sneakers or goop-covered beasties exploding out of human abdomens. You don’t expect to be deeply affected by the experience.”
Personally, I really dig this film… it’s not particularly shocking or suspenseful, but it’s an amazingly prescient examination of audience as voyeur, and foreshadows modern-day reality TV programming. It also treads the same ground as the far-sleazier LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET, but with a sharper intellectual edge the earlier film’s crude shock-and-awe approach.
EFFECTS is available Tuesday, August 22 from AGFA, and the Blu-ray includes a commentary track from Harrison, Buba and director Dusty Nelson, as well as short films BEASTIE and UBU and the mini-documentary After Effects.