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Border Radio: The Criterion Collection

More interesting as a background document than as a stand-alone film, Border Radio (1987) was joint post-film-school project by Allison Anders (Gas, Food, Lodging), cinematographer Dean Lent (Phat Girlz, Jack Frost) and writer Kurt Voss (Down and Out with the Dolls). Made in spurts and starts over four years, it's an oddball faux documentary-cum-punk Western starring Flesh Eaters frontman Chris D. as a rock musician who flees to Ensenada after stealing some money he feels is owed him. His rock journalist wife (Luanna Anders) heads to Mexico to track him down through one of his bandmates (John Doe) and an annoying roadie (Chris Shearer). Mostly improvised and shot on 16mm, it's an experimental labor of love by filmmakers still learning their craft while obviously loving the process, with the sort of gritty travelogue shots that one expects from early efforts like this and virtually no cohesive narrative. The real reason to watch is for the numerous L.A. musicians who pop up in small roles, including Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Texacala Jones (Tex & The Horseheads), Eddie Flowers (The Gizmos) and Iris Berry (The Ringling Sisters), along with music by The Blasters' Dave Alvin and bands of the era like Green on Red and The Lazy Cowgirls. Criterion has done a good job of cleaning up the film, creating a new, full-frame, black-and-white transfer from what must have been a horrendous source print — it looks pretty good, but the film's DIY roots are still apparent. The DD 1.0 audio is similarly cleaned up, but still thin and unimpressive for the same reasons. Extras include two commentary tracks, one with directors Anders and Voss, the other with cast members Doe, Alvin, Shearer, Chris D., Luanna Anders, and Chris Shearer. The director's track offers a lot of background on how they got the film made and plenty of reminiscing about the L.A. punk scene, while the other (cobbled together from two different recording sessions) is chatty and nostalgic. Also on board is "The Making of Border Radio" (15 min.), a must for anyone interested in how to scrape together a low-budget independent film, nine deleted scenes (23 min.), a stills gallery of behind-the-scenes photos taken by Lent, a 1982 music video for the Flesh Eaters' song "The Wedding Dice" (5 min.), plus the theatrical trailer and radio spot. The keep case also contains a 13-page booklet with photos, cast bios, and an essay by the Hollywood Reporter's Chris Morris.
—Dawn Taylor

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