by John Bikowski
What film is Oscar-worthy for “best use of a decapitated melon in a sexual situation”? Why, it’s the 1985 gem Re-Animator, of course, and Elite Entertainment is re-releasing this zombie epic on a loaded DVD. If you haven’t seen this film yet, drop this magazine, order some pies, and put Grandma to bed. Then gather your pals and scope out one of the funniest, goriest, most entertaining films you can puke to.
The story takes place at Miskatonic University where Dan Cain and Herbert West are med students with major issues. Dan is a model student who happens to be boinking the Dean’s hot daughter Meg (Barbara Crampton). Unfortunately for Dan, his superior, Dr. Hill, is also in love with Meg and has the handy ability to hypnotize people. Oh yeah… and he’s a fuckin’ loon. Matters really start to percolate when Herbert West becomes Dan’s tenant and is caught with their dead cat Rufus in his cooler.
Herbert must now explain his dark secret: He has developed a serum that can restore life in dead tissue. He tests the process on Rufus the Cat’s carcass only to suffer serious attack by the pissed-off feline. With Dan’s help, they hammer Rufus on the concrete, killing him once more. They inject Rufus with more serum, but this time he can only scream and squirm because his spine is crushed. Dan has seen enough to be tempted into the unthinkable. He follows Herbert to the morgue in order to test human corpse reaction. They manage to revive a large roid-raging cadaver who is determined to kill everyone he meets. At this moment, the Dean (Meg’s dad) drops by just in time to get stomped on, have his fingers bitten off, and his skull splattered on the wall. Dan and Herbert jump the berserk attacker and bone-saw the shit out of him, leaving the room a bloody mess.
Herbert then tries to revive the Dean with the serum but only reverts him into a gibbering monkey. Dr. (Wacko) Hill cares for the Dean and upon discovering there is no pulse, he confronts Herbert about his serum. Threats of blackmail and ruin lead Herbert to his only natural alternative: To slice off Dr. Hill’s head with a shovel and attempt to re-animate the body pieces. Soon the good doctor’s skull is in a pan screaming “Basssstard!” Herbert is knocked unconscious by the torso which grabs its head and the serum before bolting out the door.
Dr. Hill’s plan (and this is what Jeffrey Dahmer fantasized he could do) is to control an army of zombies by lobotomizing them. After making the Dean’s corpse into a slave, Hill sends him to fetch his own daughter, Meg. This leads to perhaps the most heinous scene ever filmed in a legitimate production. Meg is strapped buck naked and tied spread-eagle to an operating table. Looming over her is her father’s gore-drooling corpse staring off into space. Next to her on the table is a bloody pan with Dr. Hill’s horny, leering face. His body, sans head, begins fondling her breasts as Dr. Hill’s eyes roll back in sexual delight. The naughty-meter really blows sky high when Hill’s body snatches up its head in order to tongue her ear, suck her nipple, and then finally get buried mouth-open in her crotch. This travesty even earns its own chapter stop on the DVD entitled “head games.” I won’t give away the ending, but plenty more mayhem ensues, leading to a cool, downbeat ending. Awesome. I had the pleasure of meeting Meg (Barbara Crampton) and I jokingly asked her what her mother thought of her “getting head” scene. She said that her mom still hasn’t seen it… thank God.
Elite did a top-notch job with this DVD packaging and the image quality is even better than the laserdisc. Also included are trailers, TV spots, deleted scenes, and two audio commentaries. One of the deleted scenes involves Meg’s naked self being re-animated in front of her loved ones but the other scenes are dialogue driven. The first commentary is by director Stuart Gordon and is full of more technical information. However, the other commentary is by the cast and is one of the best you will ever hear. They are a riot as they reminisce and make fun of themselves. In conclusion, Re-Animator constantly pushes the limits of graphic violence in many endearing ways and Elite has done a highly successful job of transferring this work of art. My one minor complaint: I wish one of the options allowed a viewing of the entire film with all of the deleted scenes replaced. But I guess you could do that yourself.
Another fresh DVD is courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment, the pioneers of my favorite genre: Italian Horror. Their latest release is Cat O’Nine Tails, directed by the maestro, Dario Argento. This film is great if you like mysteries, but it’s very different from the supernatural gorefests that you may associate Argento with. Cat… is an early 1971 Giallo (mystery) that hints at all of his wonderful stylings and camera work. The actual telling of the tale, however, may move too slow for today’s audiences. As for myself, I love this film. I was already an established fan and I had a hell of a time tracking down a shitty-looking rare print. So this kind of had a “holy grail” pull on me. And now Anchor Bay nonchalantly releases it in a gorgeous transfer with all kinds of extras for half the price I paid some bootleg crack dealer.
Well, my stupidities are in the past and here’s the story: Franco Arno (Karl Malden) and an adorable little girl named Lori overhear a potential blackmail plot. Franco is blind and must use Lori to help him remember details about the men. That night, the Terzi Institute of Genetic Research is burglarized and the nightwatchman is almost killed. Franco links the blackmail to the burglary and a series of subsequent murders designed to cover the mystery up. He receives help from newspaper writer, Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus). Soon, their involvement opens them to the possibility of being next on the murder list. Without blowing the mystery, I’ll say that there are twists and turns involving what is known as the XYY triad gene. It seems that people with that genetic code are prone to violent crime. If it were possible to find out who has the characteristic and isolate them from society, that would cut down on violent crime. But when one of the researchers is found to have the killer gene, he’s willing to kill everyone to keep it secret.
This is an interesting story, but the highlights are Argento’s touches. One poor sap hits a train face first (in close-up) and is then rolled under the wheels. Another victim falls down an elevator shaft and his hands smoke as they slide on the steel cables trying to slow his deadly descent. Nice touch. Adding to the film’s appeal is the print provided by Anchor Bay. The night scenes seem brightened and there are some nice extras for the fans. You’ll find interviews with Argento, composer Ennio Morricone, as well as some of the actors. Also included are trailers, a still gallery, bios, and liner notes.