Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: 'Bride of Re-Animator' Blu-ray

Re-Animator was a splattery, campy take on Frankenstein for the eighties. The next logical step was to follow in the original monster’s hobnail boot prints and bring some female energy to Herbert West’s attempts to reanimate dead tissue. And so, Brian Yuzna, who’d produced Re-Animator and was now directing too, gave us Bride of Re-Animator in 1990. The predecessor’s zany humor and absurd gore attracted an adoring cult that could only be appeased by an escalation of such elements, and Bride delivered that while also paying very explicit homage to Bride of Frankenstein. West (king of low-key looniness Jeffrey Combs) is Dr. Pretorius to Dan Cain’s (Bruce Abbott) Henry Frankenstein, constantly luring Cain away from normalcy and into the batshit-nuts realm of corpse reanimation. Cain can’t resist resuming the experiments when West reveals that he possesses the heart of Cain’s girlfriend from the first movie and intends to put it in a new body of his own making. Kathleen Kinmont is the head and pilot of that body, and the actress clearly studied Elsa Lanchester’s performance. She gets an A+ for recapturing the more famous bride’s jerky movements and innate pathos.

The rudimentary plot Bride of Re-Animator —directly reanimated from an original idea for Bride of Frankenstein that would have found Elizabeth Frankenstein murdered and her heart placed in Elsa Lanchester’s body—is mostly an excuse for Yuzna and his special effects team to indulge in all sorts of monstery mayhem. There’s a sort of spider creature assembled from an eyeball and fingers, a group of cackling zombies, dog and bat parts mixed-and-matched with human bits, and some seriously nasty gore that necessitated two cuts of the movie. Both are included on Arrow Video’s new Bride of Re-Animator blu-ray. The unrated version lingers on several gore scenes a little longer than the R-rated one does, but the trajectory and running times of both films are identical. Bride of Re-Animator may be a slab of cheap-o exploitation, but it’s a great-looking one, and Arrow presents it with rich color and organic fidelity, though there are a few elements from the uncensored cut that look washed out (they only constitute seconds of the movie, so don’t fret too much about that). I’ve read that there were some audio problems with Capelight’s previous blu-ray edition of Bride, but there are no such issues with Arrow’s.

Supplements include three audio commentaries that find Yuzna and the special effects team providing insight into their film’s inspirations and production and Combs and Abbott just having a ball rewatching the thing, as well as an hour of new and archival video content. “Brian Yuzna Remembers” gives the filmmaker the opportunity to discuss his movie on camera for ten minutes, while “Splatter Masters” allots fifteen minutes for the special effects team to do the same. The archival stuff includes a vintage making-of featurette, a deleted scene captured from behind the scenes that brings back Cain’s girlfriend but settles for a Barbara Crampton lookalike, and the cast and crew discussing another deleted scenes to still-photo accompaniment. All of this is very nice treatment for an often-underappreciated episode in one of the very, very few horror franchises that’s actually worth a damn.
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