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Marshall, Jenny and All-Star Pete are the ManchVegas Outlaw Society (M.O.S.), a trio of adventure-seekers who deliver hot dogs, newspapers and lemonade to the citizens of Manchvegas (really Manchester, New Hampshire) by day, and solve mysteries by night. When a young finishing school student named Melinda disappears and is presumed dead, her boyfriend Vince is named the prime suspect. Soon, more young women are found murdered. With a several suspects in their midst, Marshall and M.O.S. decide to investigate.
First impressions are always important, but so is not taking things at face value. Such is the case for MONSTERS, MARRIAGE, AND MURDER IN MANCHVEGAS, the latest from Matt Farley and Charles Roxburgh, who were the same dudes behind FREAKY FARLEY. The setup is kind of goofy, I'll admit. Sort of like an episode of Scooby Doo (minus the weed and talking dog), MONSTERS, MARRIAGE is a nice throwback to 50s and 60s comedy (something like what MONSTER BEACH PARTY pulled off), with a dose of fun mystery thrown in.
Right away, I have to give a tip of my hat to Farley and Roxburgh. In keeping with the spirit of their inspirations, MONSTERS, MARRIAGE was shot entirely on 16mm! In this day and age, where can you find a low-budget indie flick being shot on such a format (besides here, I mean)? Obviously, the film isn't carried by this alone, as Roxburgh works some smart magic from behind the camera. The setups work, albeit in their cheesy nostalgic way, and the pacing is quite nice for what seems like a complicated premise.
To go along with the smart direction, the acting plays another big part of why the film works, as does the humour. Keeping in mind that the M.O.S. are made up of adults, the actors run with the idea of being big kids. Farley clearly enjoyed himself with his Marshall character, as did Marie Dellicker as Marshall's love interest (and fellow M.O.S. member), Jenny. Their scenes together offer up more of that 50s and 60s film throwback, both in terms of both the humor and the characters' genuine affection for each other. Add to that some rather silly but downright catchy songs written by the M.O.S. themselves, you'll chuckle more than a few times.
Like MONSTER BEACH PARTY, however, this film will have a polarizing effect on those who watch it: you either get the goofy humour presented here, or you don't. Complicating matters is the fact that a subplot involving things called Gosperkaps (who sound like Jawas) doesn't really pan out, even though it and the main plot are interwoven. Throw in some questionable acting by supporting cast (even if this is a low budget affair), and the film ends up having the potential to turn off more people who don't get it in the first place.
Still, all that matters in this review is my worthless opinion. MONSTERS, MARRIAGE, AND MURDER IN MANCHVEGAS is an offbeat trip that's fun to watch if you're in the know. Farley and Roxburgh have put together something that has enough charm and originality to it that warrants at least a viewing, if only for songs like 'Basketball Fun' or to catch cuties Marie Dellicker and Sharon Scalzo.
Video: MONSTERS, MARRIAGE, AND MURDER IN MANCHVEGAS is presented in an 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Given that the film is shot on 16mm, there's consistent grain throughout the picture, as well as a few small cases of dirt and dust. Detail is also hit or miss at times, but it's all part of the nostalgic throwback of the film stock.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track matches the video in preserving the nostalgia. Dialogue is clear and crisp, with no distortion. The music is the big standout, though. It'll get in your head and STAY.
First up is commentary by writer Matt Farley, who phones up director Charles Roxburgh on occasion to get his take on the film. Unfortunately, Roxburgh should've been in on the commentary from the start. Farley is knowledgeable with his production stories and tidbits, but doesn't sound overly enthusiastic while doing so, and leaves long gaps in the track while thinking/watching the film. Informative, but another case of a solo commentary in need of another member.
Up next is a collection of featurettes, the first being Making of Manchvegas. Consisting of behind-the-scenes footage mixed in with on-set interviews with cast and crew, it's informal, but informative and fun. Following that is a short collection of Outtakes, consisting of line flubs and actors cracking up.
Hurricane! is another short ditty, involving the crew being forced inside a parking garage due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna belting out more than its fair share of rain. The featurette then segued into stories of humidity, bug bites and how some folks decided not to show up for the shoot one day, so in came the improvised script.
Influences obviously covers the influences on the film, including THE PIT, THE CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE and even SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III.
Manchvegas/Manchester goes over the crew's views on Manchester, New Hampshire ('the little train that could'), and the fictional town of Manchvegas.
The featurettes finish up with Aftermath, which takes a look at the crews opinions and views on the production, first acting experiences and more.
Overall, these bite-sized featurettes help show how much love and fun went into the making of the film, and really just makes the film that much more charming to watch.
Finally, there are trailers for FREAKY FARLEY, DRUID GLADIATOR CLONE and ADVENTURES IN CRUBEN COUNTRY. That's fine and all, but where's the trailer for this film?
An offbeat film that you either get or you don't, MONSTERS, MARRIAGE, AND MURDER IN MANCHVEGAS is one that runs on the charm and goofy fun of 50s and 60s films. Like it or not, you have to applaud the effort these folks put forth for the film, and the featurettes only reinforce this.