Rampage (1988)

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A few weeks back I posted that I had found a DVD of William Friedkin’s rarely seen film Rampage (1988) available in Poland. The DVD arrived last week amidst all of the flooding and I was very happy to find that despite my concerns it was not a bootleg but a genuine, official release. For those who are unfamiliar with the film it was released in two different versions – the original 1988 European cut and the 1993 American Miramax recut. A thorough breakdown of the differences between these two versions can be found in a Mark Kermode essay published in issue 13 of Video Watchdog. The version offered on this Polish DVD is the 1993 Miramax recut which runs at approximately 87 minutes.

Rampage is based, albeit very loosely, on the serial killer Richard Chase who was known as the ‘Vampire of Sacramento‘ because of him drinking the blood of his victims. Anthony Fraser (Michael Biehn) is a District Attorney prosecuting serial killer Charlie Reece (Alex McArthur) and seeking to have him sentenced to death row. The film is a clever discussion on the ethics of the death penalty and issues of insanity – on what grounds can a killer be deemed legally insane. It also suggests a change in Friedkin’s perspective on the death penalty. His first film, The People vs. Paul Crump (1962) was a television documentary that was made to help free a prisoner from death row. So in Rampage is Friedkin trying to construct an argument for the death penalty? Perhaps, but there are a number of many interesting things happening in this film. It may not be his best work but it is certainly a film worthy of greater attention.

The DVD is an acceptable presentation of this rare film. Unfortunately the transfer is not in the original widescreen aspect ratio but is presented in 4:3. It looks to be open-matte but when I zoomed in on the image on my widescreen television it did look a little tight in some scenes. Picture quality is fine, much better than I had expected in fact, as is the audio quality. I have included some screenshots below for those who might be interested in purchasing this rarity:

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The DVD can be ordered from the Polish website Merlin.pl or alternatively can be found on eBay from seller ‘ulinus‘. Hopefully, like Friedkin’s Cruising (1980), this will receive the special edition DVD treatment soon offering both edits and a Friedkin commentary. Until now, this Polish DVD will have to suffice and is a welcome release of this forgotten film.

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