After the mysterious death of his former employer, perpetually shirtless gardener Joe Dallesandro is taken on by the rich and rather twitty Katherine Houghton. He works wonders with her garden, wonders so miraculous, in fact, that the rest of her staff becomes very suspicious. Unfortunately, Houghton is falling more and more deeply under the gardener’s mesmeric spell, and anyone who stands in his way runs into strange botanical fates.
This is not a rescue on par with Subversive’s < ...>The Witch Who Came From the Sea or The Candy Snatchers, in that it simply isn’t as good as those other films. But the film was made, it has some interesting casting, but in deserves to be preserved. It is very talky think to sit through, and it is not very cinematic – each scene plays out like a mini-playlet, and is very static. But there are enough oddities to hold one’s interest, and the idea of horror penetrating the lives of the idle rich in Costa Rica is rather sharp.
The disc offers both the original mono and a new stereo mix. The stereo simply pumps all sound through all the speakers at the same rather deafening volume, and though the score sounds quite warm, the overall result is very distracting, with every flaw (hiss, buzzing dialogue) magnified out of all proportion. The mono is the way to go here. It is as clean as the source material permits, and has far fewer distracting elements.
The colours are strong, here, but are a bit too strong, especially the reds. Characters are thus often looking very flushed, and the colours wash out some of the details, rendering the images soft in long shots. On the other hand, the film generally looks much better than it has any right to, given its age and budget. The print is in near miraculous condition, with virtually no damage at all, and grain reduced to practically zero.
There are two commentary tracks, one which has Dallesandro being interviewed, and the other is a solo piece by writer/director Jim Kay. There are some silences in the latter track, but both are interesting in their look back to a lost era of independent filmmaking. “Planting the Seeds of Evil” (a reference to the film’s alternate release title) is a retrospective making-of featurette, which deserves a real salute for gathering new interviews with the director and principle cast members. “The Million Dollar Dream” (to cut a very long title short) is a real find: producer Chalmer Kirkbride Jr’s MA thesis short film detailing the financial catastrophe that The Gardener was for him. Where did Subversive find this? Good for them for doing so. There are also cast bios, a montage of stills and posters, and trailers for the feature and six other releases. The menu is, for the most part, animated and scored. Also very nice (and one is becoming used to this sort of thing in Subversive releases) is a fold-out poster and some lobby cards in the case. Neat.
The film may not be a lost classic, but the supplementary material is first-rate, and this can be marked up as another quality release from a company that is putting out consistently interesting material.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Making-of Featurette
- “Million Dollar Dream” Vintage Short Feature
- Still and Poster Gallery
- Poster and Lobby Cards