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Rhino presents

Fleshburn (1984)

"You forced me to live by a white man's laws and punishment."- Calvin Duggai (Sonny Landham)

Stars: Sonny Landham, Steve Kanaly, Karen Carlson
Other Stars: Macon McCalman, Robert Chimento
Director: George Gage

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:20m:23s
Release Date: 2001-05-22
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C+CB+ D


DVD Review

Fleshburn has long lured people into its grasp with the use of a provocative cover and an exciting description. It also gained some minor fame from having been based on a novel by Brian Garfield, who wrote Death Wish and a few other films. In reality, Fleshburn is basically a survival story, very much along the lines of Deliverance. It's also one of the first legitimate films to feature former porn star Sonny Landham, for whatever that's worth. Landham has since gone on to be the "Native American tough guy" (or bad guy) in dozens of productions, like Predator.

Landham plays Calvin Duggai, a psychotic and delusional inmate of a hospital for the mentally ill. In a text prologue, we learn that he's there because he was accused of murdering five people for reasons realting to Native American religious practices. Four psychiatrists testified that he was mentally ill, and so he was institutionalized. As the film opens, Duggai escapes and steals a truck. The doctors who put him in the hospital have all moved on and one has even become a forest ranger, but they are afraid that Duggai might come after them. Their fears come true: Duggai kidnaps all four of them, puts them in his stolen truck, drives them out to the middle of the desert, and abandons them to die as revenge for them belittling his religious beliefs.

With this, Fleshburn basically begins, as a study in the survival of these four people. The forest ranger, Sam (Steve Kanaly), knows some basic skills that help them overcome their initial problems, but they still have a major quest ahead of them: getting to civilization and getting past Duggai, who is wandering the desert, standing guard to kill them should they not accept their fate. Fleshburn won't win any awards, and parts of it are pretty dumb, but it's modestly effective. It delivers the story it promises, and it's an entertaining "man vs. wilderness" type story. The dumb parts come in the form of the so-called supernatural menacing that Duggai lobs at them; a sort of mishmash of non-existent Native American beliefs used to scare the doctors.

I have to admit, I was intrigued by the story and how it would turn out, but I also noticed a few plot holes. We never get a satisfactory conclusion to the whole affair, and with its incredibly fast pace, I felt like the movie was too short. In any case, Fleshburn isn't really as bad as it looks. Sonny Landham overdoes the villain bit too much (when has Landham NOT hammed it up for the camera?), but if you're looking for an effective story about survival, this is certainly worth a look.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: For a full-frame transfer, the digital "cleanliness" of the disc is very impressive, but unfortunately, the source print was not in the best of condition. Basically the biggest problem is that it's too dark. It's very muddy and looks very much like a television broadcast or a very good VHS tape. This isn't a major problem, but some of the night scenes (eariler in the film) are almost impossible to make out properly.

Image Transfer Grade: C

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: A two-channel, Pro-Logic Mono audio track sounds surprisingly good here. All the dialogue is easily understandable and never distorted. Unfortunately, the film is pretty thin on music and elaborate sound effects, so there's not too much that can go wrong.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There is nothing on the disc in terms of features. There are two menus: main and chapter listing, and no other aspects.

Extras Grade: D

Final Comments

Fleshburn might be worth a rental, but certainly isn't of any real collector's value unless you're a big fan of the flick. It's a semi-obscure, strange little movie, and I find it strangely comforting that it's out on DVD.

Dan Lopez 2001-08-01