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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dead Ball DVD Review



I love baseball. And I love baseball films. A few years ago I saw a seriously strange film called Battlefield Baseball, which combined baseball, horror and martial arts. It was insane, unlike any other baseball film I’d seen. Director Yudai Yamaguchi’s sequel (well, sort of a sequel) to that film, Dead Ball, is also insane, but actually a better film. It’s about a young pitcher named Jubeh (Tak Sakaguchi) who is arrested and forced to play on the prison baseball team.

All Japanese pitchers have odd wind-ups. But check out Jubeh’s wind-up at the beginning of the film. His leg nearly touches his face. And then – unexpectedly – he flies off into the air and hurls a ball down at his father, who is acting as catcher. The ball catches fire, and hits his father in the head, causing his father to explode. But before dying, his father compliments the pitch and tells him to take care of his younger brother. By the way, flying off into space would seem to give the pitcher an advantage, because the batter can’t see the ball’s release; however, I do wonder if it might be easier to steal off a guy who launches off the ground like that.

Jubeh consequently swears off baseball. Instead, he becomes a criminal.  His father would be proud. Though apparently he’s only killing bad guys. When he’s arrested, the prisoner in line behind him asks him to kill the bad guy who lives in his head. That’s great. I do wonder why he’s allowed to wear boots with spurs on them. But with this film, you just have to accept everything and go with it.

The warden wants Jubeh to be on the prison baseball team. And then in a musical montage we’re introduced to the team. It’s completely silly. Jubeh actually sings the song and winks at the camera (so yes, for a moment the film is a musical).

That is far from the craziest thing in the film, however. Wait until you see the medical examination of the players. Talk about your deep cavity search. And check out what they find up in there. It’s bloody hilarious. The headmistress of the prison is the granddaughter of a Nazi collaborator, a man she is clearly quite proud of. Jubeh’s fight with the headmistress includes pens going through her head and a fist coming through the phone. This movie revels in its over-the-top insanity.

The team is scheduled to play a girl’s high school team from St. Black Dahlia High. Yes, seriously. Why not? These girls are evil. Jubeh’s cell mate lists some of the atrocities they’ve committed. The game itself is probably the least interesting portion of the film. But there is a lot of crazy Nazi stuff going on too, as Nazis have arrived to enjoy the game. So what more could you ask for? How about a Nazi baseball robot with a special connection to Jubeh? A robot that decides everyone must die.

Does the film make a lot of sense? Absolutely not. But it’s really hard not to like this film. It’s truly enjoyable and a lot of fun. Plus, it has an important message: Baseballs are not murder weapons.

Special Features

This DVD has several bonus features. The first, Final Deadball, is a short film (approximately 21 minutes) that is a sort of companion piece to the full-length feature. In this short, a ball player at the prison has a premonition, so fakes illness and thus escapes death. He is released from prison. And suddenly baseballs are appearing everywhere, flying out of his food, flying out of street lights, and each time missing him and causing the death of someone else. He should have died in the ball game, so now death is following him. It’s totally a rip-off of Final Destination – and seemingly unabashedly, as per its title. Sadly, it’s not very good.

The second bonus features is Making Of Dead Ball (approximately 12 minutes), with lots of behind-the-scenes footage, but no interviews or anything like that. The interviews are presented separately in Cast Interviews, in which six cast members talk about the script and their characters and the director.  The DVD also includes the film’s trailer (as well as trailers for several other films).

Dead Ball is scheduled to be released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 9, 2013 through Sushi Typhoon and Well Go USA Entertainment.

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