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Shredder Orpheus (Blu-Ray) Review

December 23, 2023 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Shredder Orpheus Image Credit: Robert McGinley/Boom Cult!
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Shredder Orpheus (Blu-Ray) Review  

Shredder Orpheus Review

Robert McGinley– Orpheus
Megan Murphy– Eurydice
Stephen J. Bernstein– Axel
Linda Severt– Scratch
Marshall Reid– Razoreus
Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi– Hades
Vera McCaughan– Persephone
John Billingsley– Linus

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Robert McGinley
Screenplay by Robert McGinley

Distributed by Boom Cult, American Genre Film Archive, and Vinegar Syndrome

Buy the Blu-ray here or here. Shredder Orpheus is available starting December 26th, 2023.

Image Credit: Robert McGinley/Boom Cult!

Shredder Orpheus, written and directed by Robert McGinley and set to hit Blu-ray on December 26th, 2023, is a brilliantly weird movie that’s both a post-apocalyptic science fiction story and a full on fantasy flick inspired by an ancient Greek myth. Featuring copious amounts of skateboarding and indie punk rock and roll (although I’m not entirely sure that’s what it actually is. That’s what it seems to be to me), Shredder Orpheus is a movie that’s been kicking around cult movie circles since its original release way back in 1990 via Action International Pictures. Now, with a new Blu-ray from the American Genre Film Archive (AFGA), Shredder Orpheus can be experienced by a new audience, as well be experienced again by movie fans who saw the movie back in 1990 (I’m in the “new audience” category, as I don’t remember ever seeing this movie at any of the video stores I used to frequent back in the day).

Shredder Orpheus stars McGinley (putting in what can only be described as the ultimate cinematic triple threat) as Orpheus, a badass rock star that’s a big deal in the Gray Zone, a sort of “government project” area where everyone lives in their own shipping container (the Gray Zone is also where what’s left of society’s supremely luckless live. There is some sort of country outside of the Gray Zone but we never see it). Orpheus is madly in love with his girlfriend Eurydice (Megan Murphy), who he intends to marry (he decides to finally do it after an erotic foot washing ends in mild electrocution). Orpheus is also on a bit of a fast track in terms of his potential musical fame, as his agent Linus (John Billingsley) is constantly looking for new gigs and new outlets for his client’s musical stylings. It’s a little unclear, though, at first, if Orpheus is really committed to becoming a bigger star than he already is. The people around Orpheus want him to become a bigger star, but Orpheus seems to like where he’s at in terms of his fame. In a weird way, it’s like Orpheus is more interested in the effect his music has on the world than out and out fame.

While all of that is going on, the executives of the Euthanasia Broadcasting Network (EBN), a sort of demonic TV entity that starts broadcasting late at night every night and manages to negatively influence world events through its TV offerings (we see a man’s spirit leave his body while watching an EBN broadcast, a truly unsettling scene), are very interested in both Orpheus and Eurydice as potential “new talent” for EBN’s broadcasts. EBN’s ultimate goal, apparently, is to eventually take over all of whatever is left of the United States and then the world, and the programming the network showcases before “discovering” Orpheus and Eurydice just isn’t impactful enough. So EBN’s top executives (Hades and Persephone, played by Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi and Vera McCaughan) hatch a scheme to kidnap Eurydice at her wedding to Orpheus by posing as the caterers at the Orpheus/Eurydice wedding. And so that’s what the EBN goon caterers do.

Orpheus, despondent about losing his new wife to the evil EBN, decides to infiltrate EBN’s headquarters to try to find Eurydice and bring her back to the regular world. “Armed” with a special guitar that was designed by Jimi Hendrix, Orpheus goes inside EBN’s surreal HQ and, after meeting and getting help from the spirits (I don’t know what else to call them) of his dead parents, manages to come face to face with Hades and Persephone. Orpheus is told that he can have his wife back if he can guide Eurydice out of the EBN HQ without looking back at her (basically, Eurydice has to follow Orpheus out of the building and Orpheus can’t look back at her the whole way). Orpheus agrees to the EBN terms and manages to get Eurydice to the exit door before one of Orpheus’s friends distracts Orpheus, causing him to look back at Eurydice before she can get out of the building.

So one year passes, and Orpheus sort of tries to get on with his life without Eurydice. He’s still a rock star but he hasn’t managed to become an even bigger star (Linus is constantly upset that Orpheus doesn’t take his advice) and his band can’t stand him (they still perform with him but it’s a struggle for them, especially the drummer). Orpheus also skateboards with his friends (Stephen J. Bernstein’s Axel is one of Orpheus’s friends and skateboards while sitting down. Axel is also the movie’s narrator). But Orpheus longs for Eurydice, who has performed every night on EBN and is miserable as hell. Orpheus starts to experience weird dreams, and then goes to see an Oracle (Gypsy Mandelbaum). After seeing the Oracle, Orpheus decides that he must try to find a way back into EBN so he can be with, and perhaps rescue, Eurydice so he can then live the rest of his life with her and be content.

And so Orpheus finds the sort of new entrance to the EBN, which is known among his Gray Zone friends as the “forbidden garage” (it’s literally a parking garage), and using a wicked new skateboard given to him by a demon, Orpheus heads into the forbidden garage and into the ungodly bowels of the EBN. Will he be able to rescue Eurydice? Will Orpheus be able to spend the rest of his life with his wife and, maybe, save the world from the EBN?

If you’re familiar with the Greek myth that the movie’s plot is based on you probably won’t be surprised by how Shredder Orpheus ends. In short, the movie doesn’t end on what the world would likely call an optimistic note (or, really, a “happy ending”). I was sort of familiar with the myth (I mean, I had heard of it and probably read it in college), but the movie’s ending took me by surprise. I was expecting something a bit more openly triumphant, not so much because I’m a brain dead drone and worshipper of mainstream Hollywood entertainment product (ha), but because that’s just what the movie seemed to be building towards. Instead, Shredder Orpheus ends on what appears to be a downbeat note. It doesn’t look like the hero wins out in the end. But if you sit for a moment and think about the movie when it’s over, you understand that the ending is triumphant and positive, just not in the way you expect it to be. The hero does achieve what he wants to achieve, even though it doesn’t appear as though “all is right with the world” once Orpheus has achieved what he wants to. It’s a brilliant, brave ending that is true to the kind of movie McGinley made, and as a result you’ll never forget it. Any of it. In just about every way imaginable, odds are good that you’ve never seen a movie quite like Shredder Orpheus.

My favorite aspect of the movie is trying to figure out what, exactly, the Euthanasia Broadcast Network is. At times it seems like it’s a real thing in the real world, almost like any other TV company. The EBN has a physical headquarters, a satellite dish that beams out its programming, and it has a technical crew that runs the whole thing (floor directors, camera operators, etc.). The company also has an executive structure that’s constantly looking for new and innovative programming that will cause people to watch. But then, as we see the EBN in motion, you start to wonder why and how the U.S. government (and the governments of the world, for that matter) allows the EBN to continue broadcasting as it’s obvious that the EBN is harmful. Why wouldn’t the government block or jam the EBN signal so the network couldn’t broadcast? Why would any of the “regular” broadcast channels allow the EBN to use their signals overnight to show EBN programming and destroy people? Is it possible that the EBN now runs the United States and influences the world to such a degree that no human authority can stop it? How did that happen? Just what, exactly, is the EBN? Is it run by the Devil? Is it that cut and dry, that explicit, or is it some other kind of great evil that we don’t understand?

And how the heck did the world come under the influence of the EBN? We hear from Axel about how he’s a veteran of massive wars in Central and South America. How did those wars happen? Did those wars lead to a worldwide cataclysm that has resulted in a kind of slow moving apocalypse? Something truly bad happened that allowed the EBN forces to gain a foothold. The EBN didn’t just show up one day out of nowhere. The Gray Zone community isn’t a “Mad Max/The Road Warrior” type situation, but you get the sense that if the world continues on the path that it’s going it won’t be long before everything is a barren wasteland. The shipping container world is harsh, but it almost seems like it’s a transition to something even worse that hasn’t happened yet. Will the EBN instigate more war, more widespread destruction? It could happen, if the EBN manages to make Eurydice a “big star” and more people tune in every night.

The whole skateboarding motif is interesting because it helps establish that the people in the Gray Zone, especially Orpheus’s friends, are part of a subculture that’s somehow subversive to what is “normal.” Skateboarding also gives the movie an action transportation that will allow the movie to have motion/action scenes without having to have cars or motorcycles or something expensive. On top of all of that, skateboarding gives the movie its own identity because, really, how many “skateboarding movies” are there? Not that many, both now and back in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.

The EBN’s surreal headquarters is pure nightmare fuel. The building is filled with people who are either full on demons or people who were consumed/taken over by the EBN and now they’re a part of whatever unholy entity the EBN really is. Those people exist but it isn’t much of an existence. Are they alive in a kind of hell? Take a look at Orpheus’s parents, who are responsible for shredding gigantic amounts of paper that represent people’s memories. It all seems nefarious and pointless at the same time. And then there’s the whole “Orpheus walks through hallways filled with that shredded paper,” which is just awful. The studio space where the main EBN programming is made looks kind of “normal,” but what that space is used for is an abomination. It’s like a deeply disturbing perpetual Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon.

The movie’s soundtrack is nothing short of superb. The music, both the stuff that Orpheus performs and the stuff that just appears in the movie helps give the movie its unique identity. The music also fits perfectly with the world the character exist in. It would be great if we could get a full on soundtrack release for this movie but I’m not sure if that’s even possible considering how old the movie is. At least we’ll always have the Blu-ray.

Robert McGinley does a great job as Orpheus. Shredder Orpheus is his first starring role in a movie, and when you consider that he’s also directing the movie and dealing with all of that while also acting in the movie it’s insane. McGinley plays Orpheus as a guy that’s sort of okay with his place in the universe at the beginning of the movie, and as the movie progresses Orpheus is forced to become more determined to find a way to be with his wife. It’s a tremendous struggle, and McGinley makes you feel what Orpheus is feeling throughout. According to his imdb page, McGinley didn’t star in any of his subsequent movies (or anyone else’s movies for that matter). It makes you wonder if he had had enough of “being the star” after doing it once because it’s incredibly hard to do that and be the director at the same time. If that is the case, after his performance in Shredder Orpheus, it’s great to go out on top.

Megan Murphy is terrific as Eurydice, Orpheus’s wife and the general focus of his life. Eurydice is full of life and possibility when she marries Orpheus, but after she’s captured by the EBN and forced to become the demonic network’s top performer she goes into a kind of survival mode. But how long can she survive? Will she have to be the top EBN star forever? Will the EBN higher ups eventually get tired of her and move on to someone else? If the EBN does decide to move on from her, what happens to her then? Does she become like the other drones in the EBN machine or does she disappear? You can see all of that in Murphy’s face. Murphy had quite the career in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, appearing in both this movie and 1988’s Deadbeat at Dawn. Awesome stuff.

Stephen J. Bernstein does a fine job as Axel, the first character we meet in the movie and the character that serves as the movie’s narrator. Axel is a disabled veteran of various wars and he rides around sitting on a skateboard. At first it almost seems like he’s living a pitiful existence, but the more we see him the more we find out that Axel is actually thriving. Axel is like everyone else in the Gray Zone, surviving despite all of the hardships he has to endure. It’s also cool how Axel has a defiant attitude about just about everything. That’s inspiring somehow.

The rest of the cast is excellent. Linda Severt and Marshall Reid are pitch perfect as Scratch and Razoreus. Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi and Vera McCaughan are the embodiment of evil as Hades and Persephone. And John Billingsley is amazing as Linus, Orpheus’s band agent/publicist. You almost want to see a movie solely about what Linus does every day in this dilapidated world. How does he keep going?

The Shredder Orpheus Blu-ray from the American Genre Film Archive has several special features, including a commentary track with McGinley and AGFA’s Bret Berg (I haven’t listened to this yet), a behind the scenes photo gallery, the original home video trailer, and the original VHS version of the movie (I’m not entirely sure if there are any major differences between the VHS version and the restored/preserved version beyond how each version looks. The preserved version is gorgeous looking). The Blu-ray also comes with a nice little booklet, something you don’t see very often in modern home video releases.

Shredder Orpheus is, again, brilliantly weird. You have never seen a movie quite like it, and no one since has attempted to make anything resembling it. Shredder Orpheus is a cinematic revelation, a supreme B-movie that should be experienced and celebrated. It’s a movie that you absolutely need to see.

See Shredder Orpheus. See it, see it, see it. And get the AGFA Blu-ray. The Shredder Orpheus Blu-ray will be available starting December 26th, 2023. You can buy it here or here.

Image Credit: Robert McGinley/Boom Cult!

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Maybe 3. It depends on how you want to look at it.

Explosions: One

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A guy riding a skateboard while sitting on it, soda drinking, guy talking to a building, a neighborhood made entirely of shipping containers, three guys riding around on skateboards and stopping every so often to “play music” on random objects, a night club, punk rock and roll hooey, worms, people watching TV, an evil TV broadcasting network, car smashing, talk of old band names and marketing schemes that didn’t work, sex, foot washing, foot massage, foot biting, mild electrocution, a punk rock wedding, lime green punch, a goofy wedding toast, a wicked purple leopard print jacket, a prototype guitar created by Jimi Hendrix, glowing, a woman is pushed off the top of a building, kidnapping, door opening, sort of zombie hooey, a paper shredding room, a hallway filled with paper shred, show business hooey, a hilarious commercial, a demonic task, skateboarding, talk of a band named “Raging Mucus,” a nasty neck wound, more night club hooey, truck robbing, a box of generic beer, oracle hooey, sick skateboarding tricks, a beach dream, talk of the “forbidden garage,” a brief complete freak out, musical agent hooey, a demonic skateboard, gross pizza eating, a black and white photo negative skateboarding montage, a demonic gameshow, four women wielding drills, decapitation, severed head finding, exploding satellite dish, a skull, and a final skateboarding montage, this time on a half-pipe.

Kim Richards? None.

Gratuitous: Talk of wars in Central and South America, a neighborhood made up of shipping containers, a drummer that uses metal barrels as drums, punk rock and roll, a cameraman that, from a distance, kind of looks like Fred Dryer, a quasi-televangelist parody, car smashing, a picture of Jimi Hendrix on the wall, a TV network called the Euthanasia Broadcast Network, foot washing, foot massage, foot biting, mild electrocution, a bread bowl with worms in the middle, a paper shredding room, an electric clarinet, a weird as hell four person performance, a skateboarding inside of a parking garage montage, “Hamburger Inferno,” a gigantic green guitar that comes down from the ceiling, boxes of Nabisco Shredded Wheat cereal, a box of generic beer, a skateboarding solo montage, dumpster dive pizza, a skateboarding solo montage that’s in black and white, a gameshow parody, people throwing around a decapitated head like it’s a basketball, exploding satellite dish, and a final skateboarding montage, this time on a half-pipe.

Best lines: “Some friend you turned out to be,” “It’s all piss anyway,” “There’s an old saying. Nobody loves me, everybody hates me. Guess I’ll go eat worms. Don’t do that. It’s an old saying,” “Why’s he so bent out of shape? Eh, he’s got a bug up his ass,” “Praise the ray,” “I’ve dedicated my life to the sound of metal insects screaming in a world of oatmeal,” “We need the heartbeat of America,” “Are you ready? Let’s do it,” “Where did we get these caterers?,” “Jim Baker, line 3, please. Jim Baker, line 3,” “Mom, don’t let Dad shred my memories,” “Always trying to buck the system, aren’t you?,” “Hold on, we’re trying to fix the feeder,” “My friends, don’t live a day without the ray,” “Dear, you are really too avant-garde,” “And remember, don’t look back. You bet,” “See you soon,” “Radical!,” “Hey, it looks like the space pirates scored again,” “I love you. What does that mean?,” “What happened to your place? I’m just doing a little remodeling. You are so weird,” “Look, I’ve got the deck, I’ve got a chance. I’ve got to take it,” “Mental,” “Chill out. You get to be queen for a day. Four-and-a-half minutes,” “Orpheus. It’s time to leave your body now,” “Well, well, what do you know? Together. At last,” and “Remember the Orpheus! Yeah!”

The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
Shredder Orpheus is a brilliantly weird movie that’s both a post-apocalyptic science fiction story and a full on fantasy flick inspired by an ancient Greek myth. You have never seen a movie quite like it, and no one has attempted to make anything resembling it since it originally came out in 1990. Shredder Orpheus is a cinematic revelation, a true blue supreme B-movie that should be experienced and celebrated. It’s a movie that you absolutely need to see. So see Shredder Orpheus. See it, see it, see it. Shredder Orpheus will be available via a new Blu-ray from the fine folks at the American Genre Film Archive starting December 26th, 2023.