If you like old films – and these days by “old” we’re talking anything from last century – we’re increasingly returning back to the bad old days. With video libraries all but extinct (shout out to Geelong’s Manifold Video, still going strong), and rental kiosks barely holding a month’s worth of new releases, it’s up to streaming services to put the classics within reach.
Increasingly, they’re not interested, with the numbers of old titles available constantly in decline. Which means the days of sitting on the fence when it comes to classics is over: either you accept the status quo and consign history to the dustbin of, uh, history, or you do what most people already do when it comes to books and music and start a collection of your own.
Surprisingly, considering the previously stated doom and gloom, there’s never been a better time to get into collecting: as it’s become increasingly clear that the people still buying DVDs and blu-rays are in it for the love, various distributors have lifted their game as far as putting a little extra care where their titles are concerned.
Umbrella in Australia have always gone the extra mile when it comes to extra features – in fact, they took so much care in curating extras for their Australian titles their research and interviews led to the hit Ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood – but in recent years they’ve branched out into trashier cinema with an international flavour, including excellent local releases of the original Punisher movie and the final four Death Wish films.
Now they’re focusing on cult classics with their new line of “Beyond Genre” titles, and for fans of 80s monster horror of the H.P. Lovecraft kind the first three blu-ray titles are a must: the original Re-Animator, Bride of Re-Animator and Beyond Re-Animator, and Dagon.
While the debt to Lovecraft’s original short stories is best described as “slight”, they’re firmly classics in their own rights. The tale of a scientist who discovers a way to re-animate the dead and somehow things bringing back everything he can is a good idea, the Re-Animator series is bolstered by a memorable performance from Jeffery Combs as Herbert West, Re-Animator, some surprisingly effective special effects make-up, and the kind of offbeat dark humour that’s a hallmark of the 80s. Dagon, on the other hand, is more serious and crazier for it, as a small fishing village turns out to be home base for a race of monsters that worship an unholy sea god.
Umbrella’s gone all out with the extras, with the original Re-Animator receiving the two-disc treatment featuring both the original unrated version and the extended integral cut, plus commentaries, interviews, deleted scenes and documentaries. The two sequels are packaged together with an equally extensive collection of extras, while Dagon comes with a wide range of interviews and making-of-featurettes.
Often with more mainstream films the (increasingly sparse) extras are little more than advertising fluff, but with these films – where, let’s be honest, a lot of the appeal comes from how much fun it seems everyone was having taking things too far – having the cast and crew spill their guts only adds to the fun. If you’re any kind of horror fan these are well worth tracking down; here’s hoping Umbrella keeps the weird titles coming.
Written by Anthony Morris