Blu-ray News and Reviews | High Def Digest
Film & TV All News Blu-Ray Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders 4K Ultra HD Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders Gear Reviews News Home Theater 101 Best Gear Film & TV
Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
Release Date: November 28th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2023

Vinegar Syndrome's Lost Picture Show Collection

Overview -

Making it their mission to save so many cult and genre films from the brink of death, Vinegar Syndrome dives into their incredible film archive and brings back ten incredible genre works across a myriad of subgenres for The Lost Picture Show. This six-disc, ten-film box set comes adorned with insightful audio commentaries to color in the history of these lost films, a feature-length doc about home video labels, various trailers and still galleries, plus two 40-page perfect bound books packed with insightful writing by genre experts all housed in a beautifully elaborate package. Get ready for the weird and wonderful with this Highly Recommended box set.

We are proud to present our most ambitious, audacious, and all around home video first, in honor of ten years of Vinegar Syndrome, we proudly present: VINEGAR SYNDROME’S LOST PICTURE SHOW, a ten-film collection of long-thought lost American genre films, all restored from their best-known and surviving elements. This wide-ranging collection covers genres from exploitation to horror to “kids” films to underground vanity projects, and a couple movies so weird they defy description!

Included are: Oliver Drake’s forgotten proto-slasher, THE LAS VEGAS STRANGLER (aka No Tears For the Damned), Larry Crane's murder mystery/nudie, BEWARE THE BLACK WIDOW, Joe Sarno’s stirring seaside drama, DEEP INSIDE, Albert Zugsmith’s notorious bad-taste thriller, VIOLATED!, Walter Burn’s underground sexual freakout, BARBARA, James Newslow’s nuclear holocaust scare film, RED MIDNIGHT, Titus Moede’s ode to forgotten Americana, THE LAST OF THE AMERICAN HOBOES, Carlos Tobalina’s “erotic” morality tale, WHAT’S LOVE?, Charles Nizet’s sex and gore frenzy, THE SEX SERUM OF DR BLAKE (the original cut of Voodoo Heartbeat), and finally Donn Greer’s jaw dropping and unnerving, “kiddie film” and musical, THE RARE BLUE APES OF CANNIBAL ISLE (aka The Pirates of Cannibal Isle).

What’s more is that this release also includes Elijah Drenner’s brand new, feature-length documentary AGAINST THE GRAIN, which examines how genre film focused home video companies have taken the charge in preserving, restoring, and releasing so many works which otherwise might have been lost to time.

This massive collection also comes complete with two thick, fully illustrated perfect bound books of newly written essays and historical analysis covering each of the included films.

Additional info:
  • Limited Edition Multi-disc Region Free Blu-ray set housed in a custom "winged landscape" box with two perfect bound books.
  • Additional information coming soon...

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Limited Edition Multi-disc Region Free Blu-ray set housed in a custom "winged landscape" box with two perfect bound books.
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Release Date:
November 28th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Each film in Vinegar Syndrome’s Lost Picture Show box set is worth your time, full stop. I’ve seen feedback from internet dwellers about how much they hate certain films in the set, yet I didn’t find that similar contempt while going through it myself. If we’re to compare these films to standard Hollywood productions, then sure, I get why some may feel slighted by the cheap production values, inexperienced actors and with all sincerity intact, filmmaking that truly stretches the definition of the word. But if you’re a fan at all of the work coming from Something Weird Video, American Genre Film Archive, and Vinegar Syndrome proper, then you know what you’re in for here. And it’s indeed glorious. Rather than exhaustively digging through each film, I’m going to call out the titles that I really enjoyed, especially since the additional research I did on them led to invaluable education on genre filmmaking.

Alright, first up is Walter Burns’ Barbara, a perfect example of a sly, ramshackle film that pisses off the horror hounds and pleases the art scene hounds. ‘70s-era sexual revolution meets French New Wave with a story about people fornicating on Fire Island. Truly, that’s the crux of the story. Man lays woman, woman lays man, man lays man, woman lays woman and man lays a hole in the sand. In stark black and white, featuring hilarious asides that recall the work of Robert Downey Sr. and a loose yet sensual aesthetic, Barbara easily confounds. Even when the film threatens to become normal, like when people start wondering if they should get jobs, everything returns to uncomfortable twitching and writhing. Free sex may be liberating, but we sure as hell are an awkward species trying to figure out in real time what sexuality means.

The Sex Serum of Dr. Blake (AKA Voodoo Heartbeat) is certainly more in line with what the horror hounds want, though it’s still very much a drive-in oddity that sometimes got paired with Argento’s Deep Red when it was making the rounds. The story is rather simple on this one. There’s an experimental serum that turns a man into a fanged beast, thus he must go on the hunt to inject victims with his secret serum. But what’s that? There’s a ton of heart-ripping, ribald orgies? This is closer to an Al Adamson joint than anything else, with a loose narrative designed to support car chases, some very awful sex and a whole lot of bloodletting. 

What’s Love is the lovechild of adult filmmaker Carlos Tobalina and adult film actor Bill Cable. Cable wrote and partially shot the film in the early 70s, then Tobalina picked it up in the mid-80s to shoot the second half. The result is a weird softcore effort with a ton of pondering about love’s place in the universe. The mashing of Tobalina’s classic staid porno filmmaking in overlit, sparely designed rooms and Cable’s more surreal approach makes for something truly indescribable. Why does this movie have a ton of bad songs and strong images, like satan riding his motorcycle across the galaxy? If I had to guess, that’s all Bill Cable. 

Now, for my most anticipated film from this set for a variety of reasons: Red Midnight. As someone who grew up on Cape Cod (no, I’m not rich), I don’t have much kindness in my heart for a place that’s not in service of the people who live there all year round. In addition, the beach and ocean never really did much for me, so I’m a little embittered to the place. That’s why a nuclear scare film made by a local optometrist and shot on 16mm warmed my heart. Yes, indeed, Cape Cod is a perfect place to exact nuclear war, thank you for reminding me of something that actually kept me awake as a kid after watching odd genre films like this one. There’s a musical interlude that defies all description, a lot of weird T&A, plus endless voiceover. It’s certainly a very strong argument against what a movie is supposed to be. Hell, it barely works at all. But it’s a singular vision from a one-time filmmaker and huge weirdo. The beach may be nice, but isn’t it the perfect place for a nuclear disaster?

The Rare Blue Apes of Cannibal Isle is among my favorite discoveries in the set, and rightfully so, as it’s a toe-tapping musical with some of the most frightening puppets ever created and mind-boggling location shooting in Malaysia. I’d hesitate to even describe this one as a Sid and Marty Kroft-adjacent work, as it’s never been more abundantly clear that this children’s film was made to make the central character feel better about growing up in poverty. And to help that child feel better, there’s a duck named Mr. Quack Quack, a duo of singing alligators named Bobo and Achu, plus some real astonishing ear worms like “Blame it on the Bobo” and “Me, You and the Oom-pah-pah.” This is such a weird amalgam of mondo movie and children’s entertainment that I can’t do anything but recommend you watch it instead of your next Saturday morning cartoon.

My personal favorite from the entire box set is Albert Zugsmith’s Violated!, a truly heinous, bleak sexploitation work featuring one of Rene Bond’s best performances. This is lurid sexploitation of the highest order, about a killer that splays his victims by tying them down in his van, then raping and cutting swastikas into their flesh to leave his mark. If we’re to take the entire Lost Picture Show set as various degrees of showcasing exploitation, then this one is the trashiest and most violent of the bunch. The story takes a back seat to an onslaught of rough murder sequences, bumbling cops and a ton of T&A. And with Zugsmith’s studious camera, frequently diffusing into surrealistic close-ups meant to display the passage of trauma. You’ll want to take a shower immediately after viewing this one, but I cannot emphasize enough how perfect of a sexploitation effort it is: lean, mean, beautiful, disgusting and uncomfortable.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
This six-disc box set comes with two amaray cases housing the discs, then the cases are adorned with slipcovers and fit neatly into the deluxe double-winged magnetic box that Vinegar Syndrome has produced for this release. Each disc is a BD50 and boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, set up audio and select reels. Slipped in with each case is one of the two perfect-bound books containing more insights and details about the films. 

Video Review


Before I dig in here, I want to thank Vinegar Syndrome for putting all the transfer details in the back of the second 40-page perfect bound essay booklet included in this set. Makes it very easy to reference where these transfers are coming from. While video quality varies based on the source material, I experienced high bitrates and terrific compression with each disc. A lot of these films look more than a bit rough, but I didn’t notice any encode failures or anomalies that would hold the transfers back from looking as best they can. In particular, I found the new 2K restoration of Barbara to look incredibly textural, well stabilized given the source being used and much deeper black levels than I was anticipating. Even The Rare Blue Apes of Cannibal Isle, which is sourced from a restoration of a 35mm release print, delights in clarity despite all the print damage that clearly couldn’t be removed. 

Going back to Violated! for a second. The 35mm release print used as the basis for the new 2K restoration has terrific color, with the red primaries really popping and contrast levels giving terrific depth to this production. This might be because Zugsmith was such a technical talent, but the grimy and greasy location shooting on this film looks so dang good. If you were a fan at all of the previous sexploitation releases by Vinegar Syndrome, then you’ll find so much to enjoy in this presentation. Some sincere thanks are in order for the restoration artists at Vinegar Syndrome, as I think they beautifully balanced cleaning up these scans without obfuscating texture with any smoothing tools. 

Audio Review


Just like the video presentations, each film is presented from the best available sound elements, and each track gets the standard DTS-HD MA codec. Dialogue clarity varies between films, but I’ll say that these tracks have been cleaned up without taking away from truly how thin some of the sources are. The Rare Blue Apes of Cannibal Isle in particular sounds rough, though the presentation is without errors or anomalies. None of these films have the kind of surround sound treatment that some may want from this release, though if you’re aware at all of how scarce sound elements are for these films, then I think you’ll appreciate how well balanced these tracks are. 

Special Features


Vinegar Syndrome certainly had an uphill battle trying to produce supplements for these films, as there’s not a ton of archival material out there to color in the history. Thus, VS has turned to a handful of genre experts to provide the needed context, and they’ve delivered exactly that and so much more. Elizabeth Purchell is a pitch-perfect choice for Barbara, as she’s able to seat the film within queer film history easily and draw a huge number of connections between other queer films of that era and what Barbara was trying to achieve. And if you’re a fan of docs, then VS has produced a banger of one with Against the Grain. This doc may be a lot of talking heads from people in the home media industry, but the glimpses into the restoration process and insider baseball about dealing with film rights prove to be invaluable. We hear from the people behind VS, Something Weird, Severin Films, Milestone Films and American Genre Film Archive, among other respected institutions dealing in genre film preservation. If you’ve been following along at all with Vinegar Syndrome's mission to restore lost films, then you’ll find Against the Grain to be an essential companion piece to this set. 

Disc 1: Barbara 

  • Audio commentary by queer film historian Elizabeth Purchell
  • Barbara trailer (HD 3:01)
  • Deep Inside trailer (HD 2:04)
  • Alternate No Tears for the Damned title sequence (HD 6:14)
  • Video intro and outro by director Titus Moede for The Last of the American Hoboes (SD 4:20)
  • Nude outtake scene for The Last of the American Hoboes (HD 3:33)
  • Outlaw Motorcycles – A short film directed by Titus Moede (SD 31:43)
  • Video intro and outro by director Titus Moede for Outlaw Motorcycles (SD 3:30)
  • Outlaw Motorcycles trailer (HD 1:01)
  • Still gallery #1 (HD 2:22)
  • Still gallery #2 (HD 1:26)

Disc 2: The Las Vegas Strangler & The Sex Serum of Dr. Blake

  • Audio commentary by film historians Amanda Reyes and Bill Ackerman (Las Vegas Strangler)
  • Audio commentary by film historian Charles Devlin (Voodoo Heartbeat)

Disc 3: What’s Love & The Last of the American Hoboes

  • Audio commentary by film historian Sam Sweet (What’s Love)
  • Audio commentary by film historian Shawn D. Langrick (The Last of the American Hoboes)

Disc 4: Red Midnight

  • Against the Grain – Feature-length doc on home video studios (HD 77:32)
  • Inside Vinegar Syndrome – Tour of VS Headquarters in Bridgeport, CT (HD 7:24)

Disc 5: The Rare Blue Apes of Cannibal Isle & Violated!

  • Audio commentary by film historian Chris Poggiali (Violated!)

Disc 6: Beware the Black Widow & Deep Inside

  • Audio commentary by film historian Finley Freibert (Beware the Black Widow)
  • Audio commentary by film historian Michael J. Bowen (Deep Inside)

Final Thoughts

Words escape me when trying to describe Vinegar Syndrome’s Lost Picture Show box set overall, though it’s easy for me to state that this is a massive achievement for genre film preservation. Truly chock full of terrific genre films, supplements to give context to all the genre nastiness, booklet essays on most of the films in the set and a feature-length doc on home video labels? This Highly Recommended release is a testament to the work that Vinegar Syndrome and other boutique labels are doing to save genre films from dying quietly.