I have strange opinions about Jim Van Bebber. I think that when he’s not locked up in prison, blowing his budgets on booze and drugs or threatening Don May Jr.’s answering machine he makes fucking fantastic movies. It’s a shame that his personal problems prevent him from meeting his potential as a filmmaker because if you’ve ever seen Deadbeat at Dawn, it’s the kind of movie that makes you think that you, too, could make a feature length movie on wishes and credit cards; full of fights and reckless car stunts. Van Bebber at his best makes you think that anything is possible. Van Bebber at his worst makes you realize just what a disaster he is, personally. But we’re not here to hang with Jim, we’re here to watch his movies.
For the longest time, Jim’s stuff has been way out of print. The bulk of his repertoire is mostly short films and music videos so before The Manson Family came along, you could fit most of it on a DVD. And they did. Synapse released an outstanding edition of Deadbeat At Dawn a while back. It contained a ton of his short work including the better-than-it-should-be short My Sweet Satan, about the Ricky Casso murder, a big-ticket fear machine that fueled the satanic panic of the 80’s. Unfortunately, the DVD slipped out of print and never came back. Help is on the way, though.
On May 27th, Dark Sky films will release a 4-disc boxed set which boasts Jim’s features Deadbeat At Dawn and The Manson Family (formerly Charlie’s Family), the shorts, short films from high school, a documentary about Jim and his cast members and a doc from the last Fantasia Film Festival. All in all a worthy purchase. Jim’s movies are raw and very, very nasty. The videos for Necrophagia are better left unseen, though.