Directed by John Landis
Suzie and I first discovered this film about a hyper, alcoholic, professional car salesman at the Nashville Film Festival. Now Docurama has brought it to DVD. So he and I decided to sit down and take another look at the film and see if it holds up to our original viewing.
Few men in our society are regarded with such contempt and suspicion as the used car salesman accept for possibly lawyers, politicians, and Satan.
The film opens as Michael Bennett is on his way to Memphis, TN. Michael Bennett is well known in the world of used car sales. He lives in California but is hired by car dealerships throughout the United States for his ability to sell a lot of cars in a short period of time. Bennett will arrive at the dealership with another salesman employed by him, a disc jockey and mind full of ideas. Once he arrives, he virtually takes over. He immediately covers the dealership in balloons and signs. He hires pretty girls to “sweet talk” and assist the customers with loan applications. His disc jockey spins the tunes as he works the crowd in his cheap tuxedo. He inflates the prices of the used cars for sale and writes this number on the windshield. When a person expresses interest in a car, he then “slashes” or reduces the price to make it appear as if the person is receiving a “once in a lifetime” deal. The person is not receiving a great deal rather simply paying the regular value of the car. He is known for setting up the $88 car promotion. To listen to the ads, one would think there are several cars being sold for a mere $88.00. However, there is just one per day and it is unmarked. These cars are in dramatically poor condition and are not worth much more than $88 on any car lot. But, the hope of getting a car for $88 is enough to bring in the crowds giving Bennett the opportunity to put them in something that costs significantly more.
Memphis, Tennessee is known as the bankruptcy capital of the world. Times are hard in Memphis and so is the car business. Chuck Hutton Toyota is overstocked with stale merchandise. The dealership is having a difficult time achieving a goal of 30 cars a month. They hire Bennett and his crew to set up a Memorial Day weekend sale in hopes of revitalizing their business.
Bennett is quite a character. He reveals that he has had several brushes with the law and has been in jail. He has a drinking problem that is very apparent as he grabs a bottle of beer for breakfast as he is preparing to leave for Memphis and drinks continuously once arriving. He has the raspy voice of a man who makes his living by doing nothing but talking and screaming. He has a wife and several daughters. Michael Bennett is a walking contradiction: he is a loving husband and father who misses his family immensely while he is on trips but he is also able to look a person directly in the eye and overcharge them for a car that is mechanically questionable.
Watching the Memorial Day weekend sale unfold is thoroughly entertaining. The audience is kept laughing and on the edge of their seats to see if Bennett is able to deliver what he has promised Chuck Hutton Toyota. The soundtrack that accompanies Slasher is quintessential Landis, filled with great soul and rhythm and blues music that will have your toe tapping the whole film.
Slasher does not inspire faith and trust in your local used car salesman or in the used car business in general but provides a humorous and insightful look at one of its most dynamic and flawed individuals.
The film does seem to drag a bit in the middle and changes gears a bit at the halfway mark from a character study to a more epic storyline. Other than these minor quibbles this is a great look into the life and work of quite a unique individual.
The movie is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and for the most part looks good. We say that taking into consideration that the original source material for the DVD was shot on video. Everything associated with video is present including dull colors, grain, and an overall flat look. But colors are well balanced, even if they are flat, and there was no obvious edge enhancement or artifacting. Docrama reproduced the image from the source quite accurately with this release.
The Dolby 2.0 mix is pretty basic but for what it is, it’s well done. Dialogue and music come through the front channels crisp and clean. No bells or whistles for the surround sound fans but this movie realy doesn’t call for it.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD comes in a standard amaray keep case with the poster art reproduced for the cover. The DVD features a sort making of featurette, deleted scenes, and a feature commentary with Director John Landis and producers.
The meat of the extras is definitely the commentary. While definitely not the best commentary as it features several long dead spots and some unexplained inside jokes it does however feature some amusing stories and information about the struggles to get the movie made.
The IFC Making of featurette presents a bit of behind the scenes footage and an interview with Landis. It feels a little bit to promotional, like an extended trailer.
The deleted scenes are fairly brief and were wisely cut as they would have bogged the film down. It is interesting to see what the filmmakers cut versus what they decided to keep though.
There are also text card biographies for the producers and for director John Landis.
John Landis has told some of the greatest stories ever committed to film and now he has successfully utilized his skills as a story teller in the world of documentaries.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 8/10
The Bonus Features 7/10