Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except

Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (1987)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Brian Schultz, Tim Quill
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scene, Alternate Title Sequence, Trailer

As someone who is much more interested in the work of directors and screenwriters, I rarely watch a movie based solely on the actors involved. But this is a movie that you must see because of the work of one actor. That actor’s name is Sam Raimi. Yes, ’Evil Dead’ auteur Sam Raimi chews the scenery like there’s no tomorrow as the insane cult leader in ’Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except’. The film was made by some of Raimi cohorts from Detroit and he decided to help out by giving one of the most unrestrained performances of all time.

The film opens in Vietnam, where Sergeant Jack Stryker is leading his unit against the VietCong. After he’s injured in an ambush, Stryker is sent home to the USA, where he finds civilian life hard to adjust to. Soon, his buddies come home from the war and they have a reunion. While walking through the woods, they discover that an evil cult is holdling a group of campers hostage and his kidnapped Stryker’s girl. The four Army buddies grab their weapons and soon a war erupts between the soldiers and the cult. To be honest, the first hour of the film is pretty boring, as we watch Stryker wander from one situation to the next, but once the fight with the cult starts, the film becomes a lot of fun. Sam Raimi goes for broke, wearing a fright wig, brandishing a sword, and spouting some very funny dialogue. (Also look for younger brother Ted Raimi as ’Chain Man’.) ’Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except’ deserves it’s cult status and Raimi’s performance alone makes this one worth seeing.

The ’Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except’ DVD features an audio commentary with director/co-writer Josh Becker and supervising sound editor (and all around helper) Bruce Campbell. As with any commentary featuring Campbell this one is good-spirited and very entertaining. Campbell and Becker share every detail concerning the making of the film and aren’t afraid to point out any flaws or funny items. (Bruce Campbell should do the commentary for every movie!) We are also treated to a forty-two second deleted scene which offers some ’Raimi-esque’ slapstick humor, and an alternate title sequence, which shows the film’s original monniker ’Sergeant Stryker’s War’. (The name was changed by Irvin Shapiro, the same man who came up with the name ’Evil Dead’.) There is also the theatrical trailer for the film, which is letterboxed at 1.66:1.

’Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except’ is offered in a widescreen presentation and is letterboxed at 1.66:1. The video image is very clear, especially considering the budget of the project. The picture shows few defects from the source print and only features a minute amount of grain. The image does suffer from excesses of light and darkness, but not to the point that the image is degraded. There are no obvious problems from compression or artifacting. The audio on the DVD is Dolby Digital Mono, which is limited, but adequate. The dialogue on the DVD is very clear and always audible, with no intrusion from sound effects or other noise. This is a very nice transfer, giving the age and financial history of the film.