Arrow goes all out with this striking limited edition box set, and though it appears most of it comes from previous editions of the film on DVD and Blu-ray, Arrow also adds some of their own new material that take the supplements in a direction I didn’t entirely expect.
Disc one presents the bulk of the supplements. There is an isolated score that plays over the film (to go along with the other audio options) presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround followed by three(!) audio commentaries. The first two appear to be older recordings, the first with director Stuart Gordon and the second a group commentary featuring producer Brian Yuzna and cast members Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson. Other features on the disc do cover most of the material also mentioned in these two commentaries but the advantage is that the topics get delved into a bit more. The group track is fun with its members relating stories about the production, recalling humourous moments, and talking about their characters and other performers no longer with us (there’s a lot of love thrown towards David Gale). It’s fun but there’s probably more meat to be found in Gordon’s solo track, with Gordon going over the production and making the most with his low budget. This is of course covered elsewhere on the disc but Gordon gets into more details about the films that influenced him (Rosemary’s Baby is one he watched a lot before shooting for example) and also offers more details on the infamous “head” scene, issues with the MPAA, and why there are many versions of the film. There is unfortunately a significant amount of dead space in the latter half (or it at least felt like it) but I still rather enjoyed.
The third track is a new one and it’s such a wonderfully odd one. This one features Gordon and actors Graham Skipper and Jesse Merlin, and it revolves entirely around the stage musical version, aptly titled Re-Animator: The Musical. I found this one to be endlessly fascinating as the three talk about the complicated (yet oddly natural) process of turning the film into a musical, which includes creating musical numbers and recreating some of the complicated effects on stage. They also try to explain how the play comes off and even give rough examples on some of the numbers. It’s a shame that other than one other interview there isn’t any material directly showing the play, but this commentary is a good alternative and I found it to be quite an intriguing inclusion.
A lot of material is then carried over from previous editions, including the 68-minute documentary Re-Animator: Resurrectus, which features a number of interviews with the crew and cast. Talking about the process of making the film (and the film itself) in sequence the group covers everything from Gordon’s early theater days to coming across Lovecraft’s original Re-Animator stories to finding financing and then making and releasing the film. There’s a lot of details about casting, about creating the effects, and Band addresses the controversies surrounding the film’s oddly familiar sounding score. It’s a pretty familiar type of documentary but it is rather well done and the production history of the film is entertaining to listen to.
Further expanding on that is a lengthy 48-minute discussion between Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna. The two just again go over the film’s production and the shooting of release of it. It does cover material cover in some of the other features but again the two expand on certain topics like the film’s eventual release and status. Incredibly, even though shorter than the documentary and only featuring the two it’s probably the more dense of the two.
There are then a couple more archival interviews, one with writer Dennis Paoli (about 11-minutes) and another with Richard Band (about 15-minutes). The two appear in the documentary but Paoli is allowed to talk more about the process of adapting the Lovecraft stories, first for television (it’s mentioned throughout that this was originally intended to be a PBS miniseries) then for film, while Band can also talk a bit more about his intentions with the score. He really pushed the idea of the Herrmann Psycho score influence because he thought it would lend better to the film’s humour, and he’s pretty sure Yuzna and Gordon didn’t fully realize how funny their film actually was. This interview also allows Band to talk about the compositions and the instruments to a greater degree.
Also here is a less than 5-minute interview with Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, who recalls his first viewing of it, which was actually his first job for the magazine.
There are then a couple of more interviews. There’s a Music Discussion with Band, this time Band going over the numbers and sequences for the film, explaining his reasoning behind them, and this is followed by a 2015 Q&A with actor Barbara Crampton discussing her career. This is a rather fun discussion, Crampton going over the ups and downs in here career, including the disappointment that came from her small role in De Palma’s Body Double (I admittedly never realized that was her) and then her move through horror and then soap operas, along with a recent resurgence in horror films. She talks about Re-Animator of course and even talks about her thoughts on such topics as what it means to be a “Scream Queen” and what that implies. It’s a great inclusion and runs about 36-minutes.
Arrow then provides a new interview with Stuart Gordon under The Catastrophe of Success and interestingly Arrow has Gordon focus primarily on his theater career, going over his time in Wisconsin and then Chicago, and then eventual move to L.A. He covers a number of his plays and then talks a bit about why he ended up getting into film. I found this one a rather intriguing inclusion on Arrow’s part as I figured the release would focus on his horror film work primarily, but getting more background on his theater work was a terrific idea.
Theater of Blood then features a 12-minute interview with lyricist Mark Nutter going over how he became involved with the musical stage version of the film and then goes over the process of adapting the film’s script to the setting. It gets more into the actual process of writing the music than the commentary did plus also has the bonus of featuring photos from some performances.
Arrow then includes 23-minutes’ worth of extended scenes, cut out to keep the film moving but later reinserted for a rated version (to increase the running time since cutting out gore would shorten the film more) and then an “integral” version. This material offers more character development, also adding a subplot involving a character’s hypnosis powers as well as the suggestion that Howard West has been injecting himself with the serum to keep himself awake. There is also one deleted scene which appears to be a dream sequence. This was never reinserted and is in somewhat rough condition whereas the extended bits look to have been restored.
The disc then features 3 multi-angle storyboard sequences, allowing you to jump between a finished sequence and the storyboards using the popup menu. There is then the film’s theatrical trailer and about 5 TV spots, followed by a navigable gallery with a number of production photos.
This limited edition also comes with a second dual-layer disc. The big bonus on this disc is the Integral Version of the film, running longer at 105-minutes. The history to this one sounds odd and it’s not Gordon’s preferred version (he prefers the shorter version on disc one) but it does have its fans. This version is apparently closer to the R-rated cut, re-inserting all of the extended moments found on disc one’s supplements but it also features all of the violent content that had been cut out from that version, therefore containing the most footage. It’s still fun though I think I agree with the decision to cut out some of the character points as they do slow down the pace of the film and aren’t entirely necessary (the hypnosis point doesn’t really add much). Still, fans of this version will want to pick up the limited edition just for this. It also looks the same in terms of quality in comparison to the unrated version.
A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema is a 54-minute interview with Chris Lackey, who runs an H.P. Lovecraft Podcast. Using trailers from films he goes over the various film adaptations of Lovecraft’s work, comparing them to the original stories and sharing his own thoughts. This doesn’t just include straight adaptations (or very loose adaptations) but even films that were obviously influenced by his work, including Ridley Scott’s Alien and (of course) John Carpenter’s love letter to Lovecraft, In the Mouth of Madness. There’s some intriguing looking films here, even if they don’t look very good (I’m very curious about one called Dark Heritage) and it’s a decent guide but it’s loaded with spoilers since he compares the films to the stories and does give away most everything.
Arrow then includes the audio book for Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Re-Animator from a series (I believe) called Doug Bradley’s Spine Chillers. Though Bradley opens each part of the story the story itself is actually read by actor Jeffrey Combs (naturally!) I haven’t read the story so this was a nice bonus, and though it was alluded to throughout all of the features I was still stunned at how faithful the film actually is to the story. Really good inclusion.
And it doesn’t end there. This limited edition comes in a rather gorgeous looking box set with a digipack holding the two discs along with a booklet featuring an essay on the film and its black humour by Michael Gingold. You’ll also find four postcards inside featuring shots from the film. Also rather great is the inclusion of the comic book adaptation of the film in a separate booklet. Though there are some changes (like the opening) it’s rather faithful to the film.
And there you go! It’s a very packed edition filled with informative and entertaining features, feeling quite comprehensive. 10/10