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Scarlet Worm, The
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Blu-ray
Print is a hitman servicing the waning days of the wild, wild West. He accepts a job to kill Heinrich Kley, a German brothel owner who administers his own unique form of socialized medicine to the `soiled doves' of his who become pregnant. However, when Print is also asked to take on a protégé - a young gunman whose head may not be entirely on straight - things are destined to go from bad to worse real quick in the Wild Dogs Production of THE SCARLET WORM.

WORM is, definitely, not for everyone. It's a B-movie western clearly with European influences not seen in stateside release in, quite probably, four decades. There are no current box office draws in the cast, and much of its ramshackle Western sets resemble contemporary theme park settings and/or budget tourist trap destinations located anywhere between Benson and Bisbee. At times, the film seems little more than a bloated community theatre production of a spaghetti western ... but don't be fooled, cinema fans, because that's quite probably the way the makers had intended it all along. Shot on a budget of reportedly $25,000, WORM is as much as exercise in film appreciation as it is the art of modern film-making.

In short, WORM came about thanks to the online friendship of a group of like-minded film junkies. They met in various forums, exchanged information about film likes and dislikes, and they decided that their fandom and their friendship deserved something even greater. So they got together and pooled their resources and efforts into making the kind of film they loved and they wanted to see returned to audiences. The end result is not only a film like THE SCARLET WORM but also a handful of similar second rate features with schlock titles like THE MINSTREL KILLER and APOCRYPHA.

What's easy to appreciate in WORM is that the film is lovingly made as a tribute to the kinds of fast and furious flicks rarely seen any longer in cinemas around the world. Nowadays, these films go direct-to-DVD - if they even find a market at all - or they end up in the cheapie bin at your corner super-shopping-megaplex because they no longer fit the bill for what major studios believe box office releases should look like. Clearly, fifty percent of the production relied on the filmmakers appreciation of what had come before, with the remaining fifty percent being a pervasive "it's only a movie, folks" mentality, a mindset sadly lost in Hollywood's increasingly political boardrooms. It's a motion picture made by people who loves motion pictures. WORM is perfectly happy as a three-star production quite probably intended to be a perfect two-star production, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with embracing that kind of cinematic nobility.

The production quality is acceptable, though I thought there was a high degree of graininess to the picture consistently; this may've been deliberate given the fact that the picture is an `oater' as well as an homage to spaghetti westerns, but, in fairness, I wasn't entirely certain that was the case. Sound quality is acceptable, though I found some narration a bit muddled in the pieces that book-end the picture (watch it, see what I mean, and perhaps you'll agree). The DVD includes two commentary tracks along with a brief behind-the-scenes featurette that more appropriately defines where the Wild Dogs Productions Company came from than it does the film (not a criticism, just an observation). Additionally, the disk includes two trailers for WORM as well as attractions for other like-minded exploitation-style flicks. Subtitles are available in Spanish only.

RECOMMENDED for students of film history or those with an appreciation of various film genres. Serious fans of Westerns in general might find a lot to get jazzed about as well though they may struggle a bit (as I did) with set dressing (I say this after having just come back from a vacation in Tombstone, AZ, so I might be a bit jaded more than the average online film junkie)

In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Unearthed Films provided me with a screener DVD by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2012
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I purchased this movie not just because I like Independent films but also because many of the actors in it are friends of mine. I may be biased but I don't care. Indie films are terribly underrated by the mainstream film world. Yes they are made on shoestring budgets. Yes they can seem somewhat unprofessional and have amaturish acting. The Scarlet Worm has neither. I would describe it as a surreal Western with an underlying message.
Indies tend to play much more artistically than mainstream films therefore the experience is much more personally felt.
If you appreciate Indies, you will love this movie.
If you don't see or have never seen an Indie film, start with Scarlet Worm and go from there. Don't deprive yourself of the artistic pleasure of this genre of films.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2012
Format: Blu-ray
If we were to go by Howard Hawks' rule of a good movie having three great scenes and no bad ones, The Scarlet Worm wouldn't qualify as a good movie. For despite having well over a triplet of great scenes it does flounder with two abysmal expository segments ( each is a poorly written and acted scene involving two nude prostitutes sitting down and explaining the plot).

But despite this couple of embarassing sequences The Scarlet Worm is a damn good movie and a solid effort from Nowheresville filmmakers.

If nothing else, you should watch for a taut dinner scene in which hero and villain face off with their firearms pointed at each others' privates under a table. With the surpringly fantastic acting and crisp dialogue it felt like something we could probably be watching later this year when Quentin Tarantino's Django Western comes out. Aside from its hiccups the real star is the script which ranges from thoughtful to audacious and it doesn't completely lack humor either.

That said, be warned. I know a lot of people that will be immediately turned off by the low budget. And low budget this is. No amount of burlap will hide that fact but if you have an open mind and you're looking for something new from a genre that has long since ridden out into the sunset, check this out. It's well worth it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2012
Format: Blu-ray
It's no secret that this film did not have an impressive budget. Where as most low budget films devote the majority of their effort into making their special effects as top rate as possible, The Scarlet Worm more than makes up for the budget with an absolutely incredible script. The dialog alone makes the movie, from Print's poetic philosophies to Kley's religious justification. The characters are dynamic and anything but typical.

So rarely do B-movies boast this caliber of story quality. A must watch.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2012
Format: Blu-ray
I picked up on the slight buzz this title had as far back as last year. It finally was released and I snapped it up. Now, my wife isn't into violent/gory movies and I purchased this thinking it would be tame enough for her delicate sensibilities. Afterall, my only experience with cowboy flicks hasn't been much and what I have seen is mostly provided by the often bloodless John Wayne films, so I figured this would be perfect for us to watch.

I was dead wrong. Within the first 20 minutes we see a man's arm obliterated by gunfire, another man killed and stuffed into the corpse of a cow (the effect is sort of creaky due to the obvious low budget BUT STILL!) and a rather strong abortion scene complete with the severing of the bloody fetus. The violence, gratuitous nudity and salty language didn't perform well with My old lady but the last straw for her was the abortion scene. She left disgusted and went to bed. Did that deter my viewership? No, not in the slightest. Somehow or other, I was hooked to this peculiar genre outing where there are no good guys, just bad people trying to rationalize their atrocious behavior whether through religion or warped codes of honor.

The film teeters from trash to eloquence in a devil may care manner that will probably be off putting to many but I just wallowed in it. Sure, the budget constraints are obvious a lot of the time and some of the theological discussions brought up in dialogue is overlong but never poorly written. The advertisement on the box makes big of two old thespians but I've never heard of them but be damned if they (and mostly everybody else for that matter) gave fine to excellent performances.

Overall this was one of the most surprising blind buys I've ever had. A truly underground gem of a movie and one that will probably hold up on repeated viewings.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Blu-ray
The Scarlet Worm is a significant film in Michael Fredianelli's directorial career for two reasons: It's the first film he has made with a substantial budget (still well beneath what is generally regarded as a "substantial budget") and it is his first film to be officially released on home video (although his debut feature Pale Blue Balloons was self-released on DVD). With a small role in the film, in addition to his job as editor, co-producer, and director, The Scarlet Worm gives Fredianelli an opportunity to flex his muscles as a filmmaker more than any of his previous efforts. In his past features he has displayed an uncanny ability to direct good action sequences that usually require a budget to execute. With the higher-budget, he has been given freedom to create these scenes in much higher-quality and, what's more; the rest of the film looks just as good. Fredianelli still seems financially restrained from displaying the extent of his talent, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Written by David Lambert, the story is told in five chapters (The Quickening, Ensoulment, Dilation, Curettage, and Expulsion) and opens in the year 1909, following Print (Aaron Sielstra, who also does the original music), a part-time barber who doubles as a religious and philosophical assassin. Print works for a wealthy cattle baron named Mr. Paul (Montgomery Ford) and is assigned the task of training Lee (Derek Hertig) in the art of killing. In doing so, Print is in the process of "painting his masterpiece" by targeting Heinrich Kley (Dan van Husen), owner of Kley's Drink & Billiards, a local brothel. Kley has been performing abortions for his prostitutes and Paul wants to Print to make an example out of him and "burn that place to the ground" when he's through.

The evidence of Fredianelli's higher budget is immediately apparent in the cinematography by Michael A. Martinez (who shot two of Fredianelli's previous films). The Scarlet Worm was shot on digital video with 35mm lenses, as opposed to the shoddy,low-definition of his previous efforts. Aside from being armed with better equipment, there's also more control over the lighting. With a 1909 setting, set design is key and the time period is captured surprisingly well. There is never anything that looks too out of place or requires substantial suspension of disbelief. While it may have been less of an artistic decision than a way to compensate for a lack of money, the cinematography isn't very conventional and has a bright contrast that gives it an artistic and fluent look. It adds a level of hyper-reality to the proceedings and makes the film quite fun to look at.

The Scarlet Worm is a western (I hesitate to use the term "spaghetti western") that toys with genre conventions, switching effortlessly between silly and serious. There are elements of the absurd (one example is a corpse stuffed into a cow...Yes, you read that correctly), but it all lends to fashioning the film's unique tone. It's so stylized at times it almost feels like it takes place in an alternate universe. It is apparent that Fredianelli was having fun with his good equipment and budget. There are many shoot-outs along with general scenes of violence that have convincing blood/makeup effects. Still restrained, there are a few scenes where actors appear to simply be falling backwards on cue, but when a bullet actually hits flesh it looks pretty good.

In addition to a solid performance as the protagonist, Stielstra does a fine job with his original score. This also keeps Fredianelli from having to score the entire film with classical music from the public domain, although that's still put to use several times. Montgomery Ford is respectable as Mr. Paul too, but the star of the show is Dan van Husen. Van Husen, a German character actor who made his acting debut in 1968, has worked under the likes of Werner Herzog and Federico Fellini. His name may not ring a bell, but it's clear from his acting credits and his creepy, ominous, and intelligent performance Kley that he's a professional. If this film was given more attention, there would be significant acclaim for his work here.

In previous films, Fredianelli has had to use his friends and associates to make up the cast of his films whether they were destined to act or not. The majority of actors are solid, but some don't seem believable for the time period. There's some stiff dialogue delivery and moments when actors speak 1909 vernacular with 2011 delivery, but the acting is consistent enough to overlook such minor imperfections. This is easily the best acting Fredianelli has captured as a director.

There are pacing issues, with the film sometimes failing to build enough momentum to justify the climax. It's not perfect, but it's still quite the accomplishment. Previously, Fredianelli's work had to be admired for what he has accomplished with so little. It was necessary to overlook certain imperfections and take into account the circumstances of filming, which is not the case with The Scarlet Worm as it's flat-out, well-made.

It must be said that some audiences may be weary of the abortion element. After all, abortion is one of the most controversial and heated subjects in the United States. Well, rest assured, The Scarlet Worm is not about abortion; abortion is just a controversial catalyst for the plot. It treads lightly on this subject, although both Fredianelli and screenwriter Lambert have stated it's not a message movie. Whatever the case, you'll likely come to your own conclusion about any perceived political agenda the film has. If you're worried about the "abortion" subject matter, this film isn't for you anyway as there's plenty else to offend and/or sicken.

The Scarlet Worm is a wonderfully weird Western with elements of spaghetti western, exploitation, and a heavy-70s vibe. If seen by enough people this film has the potential for cult classic status. It's not too "underground" to only appeal to that fanbase nor is it mainstream enough to appeal to the average moviegoer. However, for the adventurous film-goer who wants to see that creative, original films can be made without the help of the Hollywood system (and in Fredianelli's case, even released without it), it's worth a look.

GRADE: B
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2012
Format: DVD
Print is an aging outlaw. He has strong religious beliefs...One might say he's artistic..He'll also kill you if you've wronged his boss. The Scarlet Worm is a great modern western. I can't believe I'm actually using those last three words together in the same sentence. The film is about the aforementioned hired gun taking on a new job at a local brothel. It seems that the owner has been doing illegal abortions on the "whores" behind closed doors. It's a very gritty film and the violence really shines during some of the later gunfights. Lots of squibs, lots of red stuff. The directing is very sharp, particularly in those few scenes cutting back and forth to various characters dodging bullets or meeting their demise.

The acting and delivery of the dialogue is also pretty good with the exception of one of the "whores" who's accent just seemed a tad bit forced. Aaron Stielstra is very convincing in his role and does a great job with the character of Print. You might also recognize a few familiars if you're big on the ol' Italian westerns.

The abortion angle was an interesting one to say the least, 'specially living here in good old Oklahoma where that subject has been a hot button as of late. It's certainly original which is something I imagine is hard to do these days considering they've only been making westerns since the dawn of film.

The film is presented in widescreen with a 2.0 Dolby Digital audio track. Round out the audio are two commentaries with the writer and the actors/producers. Also included is a featurette and a few trailers. There's also a blu-ray available that I wouldn't mind getting my hands on.

So to sum it up. Scarlet Worm is a great take on an old genre...If you've been having western withdrawals give it a shot.
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