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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • None
  • 5 Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Interviews

Cecil B. Demented

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 84 mins . MA15+ . PAL


Hey kids, wake up!

John Waters has done some pretty amazing things in his life. He made Divine a household name, he discovered Ricki Lake for us, he even saved Bart Simpson from some very ticked-off reindeer. And now he’s gonna rescue us all from the insidious grip of mainstream Hollywood cinema. What a guy!

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Where's Antonio when you need him?

Ah, if only things here were as simple, or indeed as effective, as those earlier exploits. What we have on our hands is basically a tale of a troupe of cinematic terrorists led by one Cecil B. Demented (Stephen Dorff), who single-handedly plan to bring down the Hollywood studio system through their guerrilla filmmaking. Mind you, all movies need a star, so they set about kidnapping one Honey Whitlock – oh, sorry, that’s Miss Whitlock to us trailer trash (Mel-a-nie Griffith) – a woman who’s every inch the spoilt brat Hollywood puppet, from a charity premiere of her latest schlocker, Some Kind of Happiness. With military precision Demented and his gang, The Sprocket Holes, achieve their primary aim, much to the kicking, flailing and squealing of the Hollywood siren. For a little while at least.

For after suffering most every indignity imaginable, Miss Whitlock quickly comes around to the Demented way of thinking, in what must be the most perverted case of Stockholm Syndrome ever to go on record. She gets down with the motley gang of no-budgets, whose catchcry (well, one of many) is “technique is no more than failed style”, and sees their Raging Beauty project through to its completion via their many bouts of commando-like, live (hmm, perhaps that's not the best choice of word) on-location shooting. And be careful folks, they’re horny!

"Power to the people and punish bad cinema!"

Exchanging his fabulous stock in trade of gleeful tastelessness for a whole bunch of guns ’n’ violence, Cecil B. Demented certainly bears many of John Waters’ hallmarks to a degree, however despite the pleasing bits of tackiness and often fabulous assaults on Hollywood’s blahness - Patch Adams – the Director’s Cut, Gump Again etc – it leaves a general taste of “whatever” in the air, sort of like it’s a silly, slight, prankish in-joke which bull-headedly escaped its rightful home and ventured out into the big wide world where all could see it.

If you love Waters’ films you’re sure to find something here to amuse, and the mostly young cast ham it up quite nicely – despite sometimes appearing right on the brink of massive giggle fits – whilst even Mel-a-nie is surprisingly bearable. But in the end Cecil B. Demented just doesn’t quite have that deliciously devilish playfulness or any particular irony as we’ve come to expect from the Ed Wood of our day, it’s all just a tad too obvious.


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More fun than a livestock mutilation!
It’s funny how you just sort of enter into films like this expecting the worst visually – and sadly it’s usually justified. A big “however” is in store here, erm, however, as the anamorphic, 1.78:1 transfer afforded Cecil is actually pretty darned good. The first thing that grabs you is the clarity of proceedings – there’s sharpness aplenty without bits that will poke you in the eye, or put more sanely it all retains a nicely filmic sheen. Colour too is excellent, with Waters’ lurid Baltimore (of course!) world bursting to joyous multi-hued life, while skin tones and the like remain completely realistic. Shadow detail is fair, and the only thing really marring proceedings at all are the odd small speckles which pop up reasonably regularly.


While region 1 were given a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, we have to settle for plain old Dolby Digital stereo, however from the sound of things on offer potentially we don’t miss out on a hell of a lot, expect perhaps for the odd big boom here and there. Dialogue (and squelchy noises) are as lucid as can be at all times – no small ask as most of the time is spent fighting with full-on grunge-o-rama thrash rock and assorted rap tracks– however synch wanders off a little a couple of times, most notably just before the half-hour mark. If you can stick it through a Prologic decoder you’ll get some rear action (oo-err, just like Cherish!), just don’t expect the raunchiest soundtrack of your life and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Most of the afore-hinted-at soundtrack comes from a whole pile of acts I have never heard of – and I doubt I’m alone there – although the film is neatly topped by a Moby track (with all manner of wobbliness that give the misleading impression we’re in for a torrid audio time) and in one of the few true Waters-esque kitsch moves here, tailed by Ciao from the original Mr Sparkle, Liberace.


If I can get over the disappointment of what’s missing, I may be able to mention what little is here. OK, wipe those eyes, suck in that breath…

Whilst R1 get to clap their earlike thingies around a John Waters commentary, we don’t. Whilst they get to curl up with a 20-minute featurette, we don’t. As for the production notes and biographies they get, well we can live without them, but still.

So what’s left? We’re in for four interview snippets (Mel-a-nie (2:42), Stephen Dorff (2:24), (Go) Ricki (1:16) and Mr Waters himself (2:32)), which possibly hail from the aforementioned featurette, a 1:26 trailer that’s in reasonable shape and the requisite Madman Propaganda (five trailers in all). Pretty weak, huh?


Coming up as some sort of bizarre action-comedy film – a Big Silly Action Film, or BSAF if you will - Cecil B. Demented is certainly a change of tack for John Waters…

The disc offers great video, good audio with one or two wonky bits and a devastatingly disappointing selection of extras considering what is available elsewhere.

And on that note, I’ll bid you all nighty night.

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      And I quote...
    "Certainly a change of tack for John Waters… "
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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