Blu-ray Commentary: “Apprentice To Murder”

I recorded my commentary for Arrow Video’s reissue of Apprentice To Murder for the disc’s August 2018 release in the UK, so if you did not have an all-region Blu-ray player (which I still need to get) you could not watch it here in the States. Thankfully, this month Arrow Video has given it a U.S. release via MVD. Sometimes one is never sure if U.K. titles will come out over here, especially for a cult title like this, but luckily enough this one did.

Based on an incident that happened in rural Pennsylvania back in 1927, the Ralph L. Thomas film Apprentice To Murder (1988) stars Chad Lowe as Billy, a young factory worker who falls under the charming spell of a local pow-wow doctor (Donald Sutherland) who sees the Devil in the details of their community’s life. Mia Sara plays the young woman who first introduces Billy to the doc and later comes to regret it. The intermittent supernatural events that the doctor experiences lead him to manipulating Billy into a religious mission that could have dire consequences for them both. While the movie has been marketed as horror in the past, it’s more of a dark melodrama that has supernatural undertones. This is one of those films that Arrow specializes in resurrecting from obscurity for a devout fanbase seeking out cinematic fare off the beaten path.

The following review coverage for my commentary work on Apprentice To Murder combines excerpts from both the past U.K. and new U.S. reviews. Links to the original sources are in the logos.

“Critic Bryan Reesman’s feature commentary is a lively, informative divulgence of insight that should be of interest to any fans wanting to dig more into the psychology of the flick. Reesman’s passion for the film is easily the most enjoyable feature on this disc.”

“The best three things here [include] that audio commentary by Bryan Reesman. The best part is his unpacking of white magic and Christian sects which is exceptional.”

“Arrow provides a nice little special edition for the film, starting with a rather strong audio commentary by author and critic Bryan Reesman. Reesman, rather impressively, keeps the track going at a great pace, covering the film’s production and even delving a bit into the actual incident that the film is based on, while also talking about the locations used in the film, which have been reused for several other films. He does recognize the film’s faults, and at times it can be a bit confusing as to whether he likes the film or not, or even considers it good (he states a few times it feels like a made-for-TV film in a somewhat unflattering way), but he offers a defense for the film and explains why the film has probably fallen to the curb, from poor marketing (it was sold as a horror film but is, in reality, more of a drama) that set up unreal expectations… I’m rather shocked Arrow would bother adding a commentary but I’m glad they did as I ended up enjoying it and the context it provides.”

“Arrow have seemingly gone beyond the call of duty and given this little known film some fine special features. First up is an audio commentary from film journalist and author Bryan Reesman. It may have been hard to find someone to talk about this film for an hour and a half, but Reesman, not someone I recognised from commentaries, does a pretty good job and doesn’t leave any large gaps. For a film about which there seems to be little background information – as even he admits at one point – he finds a hell of a lot to talk about…”

“A new audio commentary by author and critic Bryan Reesman is very worthwhile and fascinating, adopting a friendly tone to tie together of number of disparate elements like Pretty Little Liars, the Bluetooth symbol, and modern Wiccan practices while rattling off tons of trivia about the participants and production. Especially good is the final 30 minutes when he really bites into the true story that inspired the film, explaining how and why it diverges so dramatically at this point in the narrative.”

“As solid as the picture is, the extra features present on this Arrow Video Blu-ray are damn good as well! First up we get an audio commentary courtesy of author and critic Bryan Reesman. This is a great listen and brings to light elements of the film’s production as well as the story that inspired it.”

“The film is accompanied by Audio Commentary by author and critic Bryan Reesman who not only sheds light on the true crime behind the film – and the ways the film departs from it – but also notes that the Norwegian location used to substitute for Pennsylvania would soon spawn many death metal bands and a spate of church desecrations shortly after the film’s production. He also provides some background on director Ralph Thomas, his documentaries on rural Canadian life, and his previous feature film A TICKET TO HEAVEN about a young boy in a rural religious cult.”

“New York entertainment journalist Reesman provides this decent commentary, which spends a lot of time exploring the film’s well-researched portrayal of Pennsylvanian Pow-wow magic. He also discusses the true story upon which it was loosely based. In Pennsylvania in 1928, Nelson Rehmeyer was murdered by John Blymire and two accomplices, who were convinced by a local witch named Nellie Noll that he had put a hex on Blymire’s livestock. Rehmeyer’s house was opened as a tourist attraction known as Hex Hollow in 2007. Some locals believe the house and the surrounding forest to be haunted.”

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