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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Shadows Run Black (1985)

"I'm coming for you!"
- voice on telephone

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 05, 2003

Stars: William J. Kulzer, Elizabeth Trosper
Other Stars: Shea Porte, Dianne Hinkler, Julius Metoyer, Terry Congie, Lee Bishop, George J. Engleson, Kevin Costner
Director: Howard Heard

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, language)
Run Time: 01h:28m:55s
Release Date: March 18, 2003
UPC: 012236138235
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D- D-C-C+ F

DVD Review

Shadows Run Black certainly looked potentially promising, at least based on the cover art, what with its menacing black-clad figure wielding a machete. But we all know looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to DVD cover art, and this is nothing more than an a tacky, unintentionally funny nut-with-a-knife flick from the early 1980s. Perhaps knowing that the story was a dud, Howard Heard has leeringly peppered his sole directorial outing, in what was likely a desperate attempt to make it seem more substantive, with a large amount of gratuitous female nudity.

It seems that a crazed killer is relentlessly hacking and strangling his way through the nubile and perpetually nude student population of Dorsey College, and the press and police have dubbed him both "The Black Angel" and "The Coed Killer" (I hate it when crazed killers don't have a consistent catchy moniker). Rydell King (William J. Kulzer), a tough-guy detective, is called in from somewhere to crack the case, and his questionable method of investigation includes walking around stiffly and verbally assaulting just about every witness that crosses his path. As King hunts for the killer, lovely young Judy Cole (Elizabeth Trosper) finds herself in line as the killer's next victim.

Kulzer, looking like Merv Griffin's hot-headed brother, delivers his lines with the comical intonation of Charles Gray from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and if there is any fragment of laughable entertainment to pull from Shadows Run Black, his performance would be it. While the rest of the cast simply acts badly (and boy, do they), Kulzer really steps up to the plate and takes the phrase "over-the-top" to a whole new level as the edgy detective.

One of the weirdest things about this film is the uncredited presence of a young Kevin Costner as the puka-shell wearing, chain-smoking drunk Jimmy Scott. Costner's name appears nowhere on the artwork, nor does it appear in the clunky closing credit roll (which is so bizarre that it really has to be seen to be appreciated), and yet his character is a prime suspect throughout the entire film. Costner's Jimmy gets to look seedy in his role, and his big scene comes during a bad-acting showdown between him and Kulzer's Rydell King (hands down winner: Kulzer).

Shadows Run Black really struggles to hit its 89 minute runtime, with Heard throwing in loooong shots of cops pouring coffee, cars driving, women showering, and even a magic act as blatantly obvious filler. My favorite moment was the woman who sent her boyfriend to the garage to retrieve two six-packs of beer, and was able to take a leisurely bubble bath before he returned. And while a lot of directors will go the extra mile and give their characters with speaking parts actual names, Heard instead opts for such anonymous labels as "Girl Stabbed In Chest", "Girl Killed In Kitchen", "Girl In Forest" and "Weightlifter." That should give you an accurate idea of the vacuous dramatic depth of this forgettable low-rent thriller.

Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: If heavy grain, big white specks, fluctuating color and occasionally blurry visuals rock your world, then this full-frame transfer by Artisan will please you to no end. For the rest of you, I imagine you will be greatly disappointed. Colors are faded (in some spots more so than others), and even the fleshtones on the near constant nudity have a weirdly non-erotic cadaverous look to them.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Artisan calls this a 2.0 Dolby Stereo Surround mix, but it seems more like simple mono. Dialogue has some noticeably harsh clipping during louder moments, and the track has an empty overall flatness to it. Needless to say, rear channels are silent, and there is really nothing here to indicate that this mix is either stereo or surround, in any way, shape or form.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Unless you count the 18 chapter stops and English closed captioning, there is nothing to be found here.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

Shadows Run Black is a curiously odd, very badly acted psycho-killer flick with plenty of nudity. If you're looking for a potential successor to the "worst movie of all time" banner held by Plan Nine From Outer Space, this just might be it.

Bad stuff.


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