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Subversive presents
Defenceless: A Blood Symphony (2004)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: May 30, 2007

Stars: Susanne Hausschmid, George Gladstone
Other Stars: Erin Walsh, Anthony Thorne, Bethany Fisher, Colin Savage, Richard Wolstencroft, Nikita Fisher, Mitchell Turner, Max Hopkins
Director: Mark Savage

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic violence, gore, nudity, rape)
Run Time: 01h:38m:47s
Release Date: May 29, 2007
UPC: 858964001270
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Shooting a film without sound these days is much more than a risky proposition; it's borderline foolish. The latest filmmaker to attempt such a feat is Australian director Mark Savage, (Sensitive New-Age Killer) whose 2004 feature Defenceless: A Blood Symphony has an audio track made up of only music. Whether or not a modern audience, however daring, wants to sit through such a strange project with limited appeal is finally put to the test via Subversive Cinema's new DVD.

Elizabeth Peace (Susanne Hausschmid) is a woman who reneges on a deal involving the building of a high-rise building on ocean-front property. This decision drives the developers she's dealing with (George Gladstone, Anthony Thorne, and Mitchell Turner) to kill her husband (Colin Savage). After Elizabeth moves her son (Max Hopkins) in with her friend, she makes a series of drastic moves, including a suicide attempt and dabbling in lesbianism. Soon, she is fending off what appear to be the undead, while striving for one thing: vengeance.

This is the ultimate in polarizing movie experiences, as you're either going to go with Savage's unique choice to eliminate dialogue, or you'll be completely turned off by it. Unlike old silent movies, we don't even get any exposition via intertitles that display dialogue or narration, as the actors never move their mouths to warrant such a thing. The plot synopsis leads us to believe we'll get something along the lines of The Last House on the Left or I Spit on Your Grave, but Savage has his own agenda that sets his project apart from those infamous pieces. Interspersed with blood, guts, and abusive behavior are some truly engaging set pieces that won't leave my head for quite some time. Such memorable images are a must for a movie without dialogue, and these aspects alone make the film a success.

Once Elizabeth's husband is dispatched, things get really crazy, and it's at this turning point that our interest is piqued. The blood and gore comes to the forefront as well, but this footage never comes across as purely exploitative or gratuitous. Savage toes another fine line between depicting Elizabeth as a revenge-hungry maniac and as a severely lonely woman. It becomes clear that she'd been longing for attention long before her husband's tragic death, and it simply took such a catalyst to bring out her true feelings. None of this would work without 100% commitment from Susanne Hausschmid, who, as Elizabeth, completely becomes this character—it's more difficult to perform relying solely on physical movement and reaction. She moves effortlessly, though, naturally embodying this strange woman as if she was simply being herself. It's rare to get such dedication out of an actor these days, but Savage has benefited from such devotion here.

This is the first of Mark Savage's films I've experienced, but his daring style and unique brand of storytelling technique has me seeking out the rest of his filmography. Fortunately, Subversive Cinema has made some of these readily available on DVD. If any of his past or future projects approach the level of this, his latest, we just might have a true visionary upon us, just waiting to break out into the mainstream.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film looks very good, complete with sharp, detailed images throughout. We get a realistic color palette, which highlights the red blood that dominates certain points of the film. Fortunately, there isn't any bleeding, or other blemish to drag the transfer down. A bit of grain pops up at times, but given the films' super-low budget, having only a little of this is a real plus.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 2.0 track does a nice job with what little is asked of it. Thanks to the unique nature of Savage's film, music is the only audio aspect involved here. Fortunately, the track never falters, resulting in an overall pleasing experience that complements the on-screen action very well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 31 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sensitive New Age Killer, Marauders, Wild Blue Yonder, Dust Devil
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director/writer/co-producer Mark Savage, lead actress/co-producer Susanne Hausschmid, and cast members Erin Walsh, George Gladstone, Anthony Thorne, and Bethany Fisher.
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Still Gallery
  2. DVD Credits
Extras Review: A nice extras collection begins with Inside Defenceless, a 42-minute documentary that extensively covers the making of the film. Savage goes into nice detail about the dialogue-less nature of the movie's audio, but it's even more fulfilling to hear the actors talk about the challenges they faced with the shoot.

We get an audio commentary track with director/writer/co-producer Mark Savage, lead actress/co-producer Susanne Hausschmid, and cast members Erin Walsh, George Gladstone, Anthony Thorne, and Bethany Fisher. This rather large group talks about as many technical aspects of the production as they can, but it would have been nice to hear more from Savage about why he chose such a unique audio style for his film. While he touches on that in the documentary, it would have been even better to hear scene-specific discussion about the audio.

There's also a still gallery, cast and crew bios, trailers for Defenceless and other Subversive Cinema releases, and a separate screen with the DVD's credits.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

If you're up for a challenging film experience, Mark Savage's Defenceless: A Blood Symphony should be first on your list. This unique form of silent movie tackles numerous genres and overcomes the inherent obstacles that such a project has to deal with. Up-and-coming distributor Subversive Cinema delivers a solid DVD, complete with excellent audio and video, as well as some nice supplements to boot.


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