The Commentary of Cthulhu

Directed by Tim Kirk

Starring Patton Oswalt, Rob Zabrecky, Patrick Cooper

Released 1938 (original film), 2018 (this version)


One of the stranger films you’ll find distributed by Kino Lorber opens by introducing us to The Film Dick, a fictional movie podcast hosted by Jimmy Morris (Patton Oswalt), who provides his own commentary over old b-movies. It’s a neat opening featuring a believable website, and of course the idea of providing your own commentary over old b-movies is something that was popularized in recent times by Rifftrax and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Those shows aim for laughs, whereas Mr. Morris plays it straight, attempting to shine light on troubled productions and old cinema ephemera. 

Jimmy’s latest episode centers on Sex Madness, an exploitation film from 1938. His guest for the commentary track, which is being streamed live online, is Dr. Chester Holloway (Rob Zabrecky), who contacted Jimmy claiming to have insider knowledge of the film’s production. Dr. Holloway says it was his grandfather Horace who directed the film, not the credited director Dwain Esper. 

As Dr. Holloway offers information about the cast and what was “really happening” with each scene, Jimmy gets irritated with his guest’s increasingly outlandish claims. Dr. Holloway’s details start out salacious and become downright unbelievable, culminating in an ending that isn’t as clever or exciting as one would hope. 

As evidenced by his work in Parks and Recreation and Veronica Mars, Patton Oswalt excels at playing uber nerds who have a mixture of playfulness and knowing disdain. As engaging as Patton’s commentary can be, Rob Zabrecky’s monotone gets tiring fast.

Watching the film, I was struck by how spot-on Sex Madness was at depicting cautionary films of its era. I didn’t realize until I did some research that this was an actual film from 1938, released a few years after the more famous Reefer Madness. As a nice bonus, the original Sex Madness is included on Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray of Sex Madness Revealed.

In 2015, Director Tim Kirk took 1977’s Terror of Frankenstein and recorded his own commentary track, resulting in something similar to what he’s done here with Sex Madness Revealed. I much prefer his documentary work with director Rodney Ascher, especially Room 237, a fascinating look at how conspiracy theorists have latched on to “hidden meanings” in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. While I appreciate what the filmmakers were going for (there’s even a name check of Kino Lorber), Sex Madness Revealed amounts to little more than an experimental curiosity.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray edition includes trailers, including one for Terror of Frankenstein, a six-minute episode of Other Side with Zabrecky (featuring Will Forte), and a commentary from director Kirk and co-writer Patrick Cooper, which reveals that the opening sequence was a last-minute decision from the executive producer, the ending was changed from their original idea, and that the film’s voiceovers were recorded in a single day, with Patton Oswalt finishing his lines by noon.