Follow TV Tropes


Trivia / A Certain Sacrifice

Go To

  • Amateur Cast: The entirety of the cast were non-professional actors taking part in the project.
  • Billing Displacement: The poster and DVD put Madonna's image front-and-center. The actual film revolves around the character David/Dashiel (Pattnosh), who is the point-of-view character and the one who thinks up the plan for the "sacrifice" in the third act.
  • Bury Your Art: Madonna attempted, unsuccessfully, to have the film withdrawn and banned from circulation via a lawsuit in 1985.
  • The Cast Showoff: Pattnosh is credited as the lead actor, editor and composer, and is heard singing several songs in the film, including "Screamin' Demon Lover".
  • Colbert Bump:
    • The circumstances of the film's release, and an attempt to have it banned by Madonna herself, led the film to garner a Cult Classic reputation within her fanbase in the years afterwards.
    • Many years later, the three-page letter Madonna wrote to Lewicki lobbying for the role was released, causing a minor bump in interest (related to the fact that she lied about her age to get the role).
    • Todd in the Shadows' review of this film (as part of the "Cinemadonna" series) led to increased interest from his fanbase.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • According to Lewicki, Madonna saw the finished product when he invited her for a screening in 1984, leading her to swear at him and storm out. There's no indication that she ever changed her mind on the film, as she's never discussed it publicly since its release.
    • In 2020, Chuck Varesko (the narrator, also known for voiceovers on works like Law & Order) told The Guardian U.K. that his Latino accent in the narration was "embarrassing", and that his contribution to the project was minimal.
  • Creator Killer: For Stephen Jon Lewicki (and despite its cult success), this remains his only theatrically-released film. Outside of a couple interviews (one for the 2001 docu-series Drivennote  and for the 2019 docudrama Madonna and the Breakfast Club), he's never taken part in another film production.
  • Deleted Scene: Several "outtakes" of the limousine scene and an alternate scene of Bruna talking in her apartment (the same scene as the "I'm a dodo girl" shot in the opening sequence) were released as part of a "Collector's Video" alongside the film in 1985.
  • Doing It for the Art: According to interviews with the director, Madonna answered an ad looking for a headstrong actress to star in his film for no pay, ingratiating herself with him by sending a candid photograph of herself posing alongside a three-page letter explaining why she wanted the role. Madonna would later negotiate a $100 fee for her appearance, due to needing money to cover her rent.
  • Inspiration for the Work:
    • The 1994 docudrama Madonna: Innocence Lost, based on the 1991 biography Madonna Unauthorized, uses passages from the letter Madonna sent Lewicki asking to participate in this film, verbatim.
    • At least one reviewer has claimed that this film almost-certainly inspired a scene in Boogie Nights where Eddie Adams argues with his mother, in nearly the exact same way David argues with his father in this film.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: While the film itself has been released on multiple formats (including DVD, in 2005), the bonus materials that were released alongside the original VHS version, which included behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes, have never been reissued since the mid 80s. Short of fan preservations, there's no way to officially watch this material.
  • Looping Lines: It's immediately apparent that a number of songs were redubbed in post-production, as the tempo doesn't match the film footage at all. Very apparent in the "sacrifice" scene, where the looped-in music track doesn't match up with the dialogue at all, and Dashiel's mouth is noticeably (and repeatedly) off-tempo with what's being sung.
  • The Merch: As noted on fansites, the film's release was accompanied by a "Collector's Video" featuring outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage from the film, posters and t-shirts to capitalize on the tie-in to Madonna's career.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Though not for the star, but the director — Stephen Lewicki claims the film made him a millionaire, as it received an international release and reportedly sold more than 50,000 units in its first week alone. Given the fact that it was expressly timed to coincide with the original burst of fame for Madonna's career (and sold for $59.99 a copy, not counting the "Collector's" bonus VHS), its release was intentional.
  • No Budget:
    • The film was shot, guerilla-style, over two years in New York City for a scant $20,000 budget. Of that, Madonna was reportedly only paid $100 for her participation, allegedly because she was short on her monthly rent and demanded compensation from the director.
    • Watching the film, it becomes obvious that the only reason it was finished at all is due to modern (for 1984, anyway) music tracks and songs overlaid on the existing audio. The on-set audio is so bad at numerous points that it's nigh-impossible to hear what the characters are saying — which is likely why the film was left unfinished for several years.
    • Chuck Varesko (who provided the narration for the film) claims the same of the voiceover recording process:
      Varesko: (speaking to The Guardian) The ‘studio’ where I was recorded was [a mutual friend]’s attic. I sat on the floor holding the microphone, and we were done with the narration in under 15 minutes. That is the whole of my involvement with the film – I didn’t get craft services or a ticket to a premiere.
  • Saved from Development Hell: Given the state of the final product, it's likely the film never would have been released had Madonna not skyrocketed to superstardom, thus providing the impetus for Lewicki to finish the project (allegedly spending $15,000 on post-production and editing, according to some vintage media reports) and get it out to market.
  • Schedule Slip: The credits for the film state that it was completed in 1984, but it wasn't actually released until late 1985, due to a court case that was eventually thrown out regarding the film's distribution.
  • The Shelf of Movie Languishment: The film finished shooting by 1981 (having been filmed off-and-on for nearly two years — and with claims that the production ran out of money). It sat unreleased until October 1985 (though the credits state it was finished in 1984) due to an ongoing court case with Madonna's lawyers, before being distributed to cash in on Madonna's early fame.
  • Sleeper Hit: Shot for No Budget, the film capitalized on a wave of interest for Madonna (as it released during her initial fame in the mid-80s). It sold over 50,000 copies in its first week, received international distribution, and reportedly made director Stephen Jon Lewicki a millionaire.
  • Star-Derailing Role: Though the film was a low-budget affair that was shot on the cheap in 1979/80 (and not released until 1985), it did no favors for lead actor Jeremy Pattnosh in the movie industry. To note, his only other role in any film production was in 1999, as a script supervisor for the short film 24-Seven.
  • Streisand Effect: Madonna's efforts to try and block the film's release ended up giving the director all the ammunition he needed to promote it, as the VHS release and poster shamelessly market it as "the film Madonna doesn't want you to see." (Conversely, she didn't appear to have the same kind of reaction regarding the racy [and nude] glamour photos taken of her when she first arrived in New York, suggesting she was more accepting of those works.)
  • Throw It In!:
    • Several of the musical numbers (written and composed by Pattnosh) were thrown in simply to pad out the runtime, as they have little-to-no relevance with the rest of the film. In particular, the song "Screamin' Demon Lover" is filmed underneath a bridge, has the character Dashiel dramatically dancing around with a knife while Bruna reels in terror, and has no relevance to what happens before or after it.
    • Bruna and the rest of the "love slaves" happily singing in the limousine as they go to find and kidnap Hall has no importance to the scene, and (as before) seems to have been thrown in because it includes some of the earliest-known footage of Madonna singing. (Despite rumors to the contrary, she didn't contribute any songs to the soundtrack — though a sound-alike does perform two songs in the film, including the end theme).