As an effects and makeup person, Gabe Bartalos has worked on films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Spookies, The Guyver and Underworld. He also has two credits as a director, Skinned Deep and, the film at hand Saint Bernard.
Filmed in 2013, Saint Bernard has sat around pretty much unseen except for a festival screening or two. And that’s not surprising because Saint Bernard is a film of Eraserhead level weirdness. At least theoretically about Bernard (Jason Dugre) a classical conductor who’s spiraling off into madness. It starts with the young Bernard (Albert Strietmann). already wearing a white suit, discovering his affinity for rhythm and tempo and being gifted a conductor’s baton forged from pure ore. From there he’s trained for glory.
That’s about as coherent as the narrative ever gets, however. Most of the film is a series of bizarre images. Finding the severed head of a Saint Bernard and sticking it in a bag Bernard wanders through all manner of strange adventures. These include being attacked by anthropomorphic hair. Witnessing a throwdown involving Abe Lincoln and Ben Franklin in the pouring rain and turning into a flying worm. Oh yeah, and dealing with a bestial chief of police in a police station who’s floor is a sea of wine bottles.
Warwick Davis (Willow, Leprechaun) makes a brief appearance. As does author George Clayton Johnson (Several episodes of the original Twilight Zone and the novel Logan’s Run). Fellow effects man and future director James Ojala (Strange Nature) is also in the cast, as is Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana).
Saint Bernard is not a film for everybody. Indeed it’s probably not a film most people will be able to sit through. Much of the imagery and cinematography is striking. Of course the effects, by Bartalos’ company Atlantic West Effects are excellent. But the lack of any plot made it hard for me to keep myself focused on the film for its full 97 minutes.
Those whose tastes run more to experimental, surreal and avaunt-guard film, however, will probably love Saint Bernard. And hopefully they will find this film, after all, they’re the ones it was made for.
Severin Films will release Saint Bernard on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms May 14th.