Release Date(s)1985 (June 6, 2018)
Studio(s)Empire Pictures (Umbrella Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: This is a REGION B Blu-ray release.]
Any horror fan worth their weight in gore knows what a classic slice of genre excellence Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator is. A “Fangoria” fan’s dream come true, it features an array of amazing practical splatter effects, re-animated zombies, the gorgeous and talented Barbara Crampton, the always interesting Jeffrey Combs, and a story adapted from H.P. Lovecraft. If you’re reading this review, chances are likely that you’re already familiar with the film, so I won’t waste your time going over it in fine detail. Let’s just get right into the nitty-gritty of this new Blu-ray release from Umbrella Entertainment, shall we?
Although it was theatrically released Unrated, Re-Animator was re-edited for certain markets (without the filmmaker’s consent, of course). Thus, R-rated and TV versions containing less carnage but more character development were created. Previously included on other overseas Blu-ray releases is an Integral version, which attempts to marry all of these versions together, giving the film a monstrous 105-minute running time. The additional footage incorporates more character development, particularly between Dan and Megan, as well as a subplot involving Dr. Hill having telepathic abilities, something that was deleted completely from the final version. There’s also an additional moment revealing that Herbert West is actually injecting himself with doses of his reagent to keep his energy up.
Despite being a fan of Re-Animator for many years, the Integral version of the film is ultimately more of a curiosity than anything else to me. After all, those scenes were deleted for a reason. None of it really matters in the grand scheme of things and only further complicates the main narrative thrust rather than strengthen it. Some fans have come to actually prefer this version of the film, but for me, the original 86-minute running time was ideal and nothing ever really felt missing. In retrospect, the deletions do leave a minor plot hole as to how Dr. Hill is controlling his lobotomized walking corpses later in the film. So it’s not an entirely perfect cut of the film, but it has the most momentum behind it for my money.
Regardless of which version your prefer, Umbrella Entertainment presents the film on a Region B Blu-ray release as part of their new Worlds on Film: Beyond Genres line (this being Vol 1). Comparing this to previous Blu-ray releases, it’s obvious that it’s the same transfer used by Arrow Video for both versions of the film, which are 4K restorations from the original 35mm camera negative and interpositive elements. The older Image Entertainment Blu-ray release featured a lesser transfer that looked less natural with significant cropping on all sides of the frame, as well as weaker color reproduction. The presentation here is strong, organic, and to my eyes, the best that the film has ever looked on home video. Grain levels aren’t perfect as they tend to breathe in places, but they appear natural. Fine detail and texturing has abundantly improved, particularly in close-ups, without revealing any of the seams in the effects, which higher resolution releases of older films sometimes do. The effects still look amazing and hold up to close scrutiny. There’s also much more information on all sides of the frame. Color reproduction is strong, often soaking in fine crimson, but also maintaining the lime green glow of the reagent and perfectly pallid skin tones. Black levels are often deep with surprising shadow detail, and while the overall presentation is appropriately bright, the contrast probably could have been increased by a couple of notches. Outside of a few random shots, it’s also stable and clean with not much more than a thin line running through the frame, at times thicker and more prominent than others. I honestly couldn’t tell much of a difference between this presentation and Arrow’s, although encode perfectionists might find anomalies if they look hard enough.
For the audio selection, there are English 5.1 DTS-HD tracks for both versions of the film, as well as optional subtitles in English. While it would have been nice to have had mono and stereo soundtrack options as they’re more ideal (and much better by comparison), the 5.1 is no slouch. It isn’t perfect though as it contains mostly centered dialogue that tends to lack definition while spacing out the other aspects of the soundtrack without much creativity, other than to widen the soundscape a bit. However, everything comes through clearly without any distortion or leftover damage.
As for the extras, the Arrow Video release is pretty hard to top as it’s the most complete package of bonus material ever assembled for the film. On Disc One of Umbrella’s release, which contains the Unrated version of the film, there are two audio commentaries: one with director Stuart Gordon, and the other with producer Brian Yuzna and actors Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, and Bruce Abbott. There’s also Perry Martin’s fantastic Re-Animator: Resurrectus 65-minute documentary; 16 extended scenes (all of which are featured in the Integral version, but presented here separately); and a deleted dream sequence. On Disc Two, which contains the Integral version, there are four separate interviews (Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, writer Dennis Paoli, composer Richard Band, and “Fangoria” editor Tony Timpone); a music discussion with Richard Band in which he points out key moments in the score from four scenes in the film; 5 TV spots; and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Not included from the Arrow Video Blu-ray release are additional audio options; an isolated score audio track in 5.1 DTS-HD for the Unrated version; three additional interviews (Barbara Crampton in Conversation, conducted by Alan Jones at the 2015 FrightFest festival, The Catastrophe of Success: Stuart Gordon and The Organic Theater, and Theater of Blood, which covers the musical version of the film with composer Mark Nutter); 3 multi-angle storyboards; a still gallery containing 42 on-the-set images; the film’s original screenplay in .PDF form via BD-ROM; the A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema featurette; and a nearly 2-hour long audiobook of Doug Bradley’s Spinechillers: Herbert West-Re-Animator, performed by Jeffrey Combs in 6 parts. That set also included 4 lobby card reproductions; a 24-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Michael Gingold; and a 92-page reprinting of a 1991 3-issue comic book adaptation of the film.
There’s also a variety of missing extras from many other releases as well. Besides not including the R-rated version of the film (just for completists sake), the Region Free German Steelbook Blu-ray release also contained the TV version of the film as an Easter Egg. A bounty of additional behind-the-scenes stills aren’t here either. On the original Elite Entertainment Millennium Edition DVD release, there was a behind-the-scenes photo gallery consisting of 116 images. Missing from the Anchor Bay Special Edition DVD release are 46 productions stills, 62 behind-the-scenes stills, 53 “fun on the set” stills, 33 posters and advertising stills, and 69 storyboard stills. And just to say that we’ve covered everything, that release also featured the original H.P. Lovecraft short story in .PDF form via DVD-ROM.
Re-Animator is a horror hound’s delight, cleverly mixing comedy, drama, and horror in an almost naturalistic way that few films like it have ever managed to achieve. Truth be told, there’s no release of the film on any format that’s truly complete as far as extras are concerned, but for Aussies who’ve been missing out on this film in HD (as well as hardcore fans from around the world), this is a very attractive package with gorgeous artwork, worthy of Umbrella’s new line of titles.
- Tim Salmons