Legion of the Dead Review
Legion of the Dead focuses on a small desert town somewhere in America. In this town we have a shape-shifting waitress, a pair of brothers who are removing the hearts of innocent victims in order to recruit them for “the legion”, two guys who encounter a psychopath whilst hitchhiking, a mysterious drifter dressed like Leone’s “man with no name” and an even more mysterious man with long blond hair. Anyhow, in order to reach something resembling a conclusion, all of these characters are gathered together in a tiny roadside bar/cafe for the big showdown.
Put simply, this film is awful. Yet what is truly staggering is the fact that everything about Legion of the Dead is awful. The first question that pops into one’s head is how can the director, when dealing with a film that is, for the most part, made up of multiple strands, mess up each and every strand? Yet he does so with such aplomb it’s nothing short of remarkable.
So where exactly do you start when tearing a film like this to shreds? Well as I’ve already mentioned them, let’s begin with the characters. Each and every one of them is severely one-dimensional: the two brothers - comic relief; the waitress - bit of sex appeal, but you know she’s one of the “good guys”; and so on and so on. Moreover, the actors singularly fail at even conveying these simple characteristics, though it would be harsh to give them the full blame. Not only has Olaf Ittenbach written them some of the worst dialogue these ears have heard for a long time, he also can’t direct for toffee.
What’s worse, is Ittenbach’s penchant for underscoring (overscoring?) every “major” moment with a burst of thrash metal. Admittedly, this may aid the viewer in staying awake, but it can’t help but remind one of Edward D. Wood Jr.’s similar use of the lightning strike in Glen or Glenda, though I presume the connection is unintentional.
Ittenbach does, however, feel the urge to make reference to a number of genre touchstones. The most obvious is From Dusk Till Dawn, though the likes of Romero’s zombie pictures and Richard Stanley’s little-seen gem Dust Devil are also paid homage to. The Tarantino influence, in particular, is overwhelming; not only does Ittenbach steal its plot development, he also tries to go for its blackly humorous tone. Of course, when your gags are limited to some very poor slapstick and arch “one-liners”, then there’s little hope of achieving your aims. Indeed, the entire film seems to be striving for cult status so much that it becomes incredibly self-conscious. As a result, the jokey tone is undermined by this determination, and Legion of the Dead becomes nothing more than a truly frustrating experience.
Picture and Sound
Presented with a 16:9 anamorphic transfer, the picture is generally sound with only the occasional scratch present. However, owing to the film's low budget, the disc does show up the flaws in the original film stock, though little can be done to rectify this of course.
Soundwise, the disc offers the original 2.0 stereo mix or 5.1 and DTS options. As said, Legion of the Dead offers an almost constrant soundtrack of metal and techno, and the latter two mixes ably present this. That said, the 2.0 mix is equally fine.
The key extra here is an audio commentary by writer/director Olaf Ittenbach. Sadly, this has to be one of the worst I've ever listened to. For some reason, Ittenbach will only offer his thoughts during moments of little action on-screen, and as a result speaks for only a tiny amount of the hour and a half running time. In fact, the commentary would be better served if it were included as a separate interview or transcribed and added to the production notes.
Thankfully, Ittenbach offers a lot more to the 21 minute "making of" featurette. The majority of cast and crew members are interviewed, and the behind the scenes footage shows a remarkable amount of professionalism was involved; all the more surprising considering the end results.
Backing these special features up are nine deleted scenes (totalling nine minutes), which offer the same amount of quality/tedium as the main feature though are generally a little grainer, plus the usual trailer, cast and crew biographies and production notes.
Also included are a couple of galleries devoted to production stills and publicity material respectively, and for those with DVD-ROM capabilities, the original screenplay can be downloaded in its entirety.
A truly terrible film given a decent brace of extras (excepting the commentary). Certainly, these special features don't justify a purchase of the film, though they should serve to show other companies that even the weaker films in their roster can produce a decent disc.