Re-Animator: Stuart Gordon’s extreme horror masterpiece gets a 2-disc, 4K remastered release from Arrow
My first taste of Stuart Gordon’s essential ’80s blackly comic horror film Re-Animator was on late night television, specifically on channel 29 out of Buffalo. I had read about this film and strangely had seen its companion film From Beyond on the same channel the week prior and, although obviously edited to clip Barbara Crampton‘s nudity, I found the film kinky and intelligent, a real wild ride of a flick. I had fully anticipated Re-Animator to be even more gonzo. But the version I saw was almost bloodless. When things got intense and Gordon was obviously trying to dive in for a gore gag, the screen kind of went dark. And then, when the legendary and much-hyped “head” scene appeared, it was, well… it was over before it began. It just wasn’t there.
But surprisingly, I didn’t care. Because Re-Animator was excellent. A solid and kinetic Frankenstein romp with a wild sense of humor and a wicked Bernard Herrmann-esque score by Richard Band. When I bought the movie later on VHS via Vestron Home Video, I was shocked to see that it still wasn’t very bloody, nor was the head scene much of anything. I was also confused by the R rating on the back. Wasn’t Re-Animator meant to be “unrated”? A couple of years later I managed to find the original “unrated” version of the movie on VHS from Vestron (the R-rated version of the box was black, the unrated was blue) and was immediately perplexed as to why this version was much SHORTER than the R-rated version. Things got even more stressful when I wanted the unrated version and, while rewarded with ample insane gore, tons of nude Crampton and that amazing head bit, I was crestfallen to see that all the stuff I really, really loved in the R version was gone!
What happened was Gordon cut a longer R version for video and TV and took out the super juicy stuff while padding it out with plot threads and sequences he hacked from his first cut. Among the excised, then restored, bits were tons of passages where Dr. Hill (David Gale) hypnotized both Crampton and her dad (which aids in understanding the arc when Dean Halsey suddenly, inexplicably despises Dan Cain) as well as a delirious passage where we learn Herbert West (Jeff Combs) is high on his own supply and that his manic energy is caused by his heroin-like addiction to his own re-agent. I adored these scenes and felt they added much detail and character to the film. Without them, Re-Animator still ruled, but it seemed less sophisticated, less thoughtful, less daring.
Leave it to Arrow to fix the problem by importing the European “Integral Cut,” first released in Germany via CMV and now on the second disc of Arrow’s stunning Limited Edition box set. The first disc features a gorgeous new 4K scan of the unrated cut, but man, it’s all about the Integral Cut, the likes of which takes the R-rated cut and all of its extended and additional scenes and flawlessly edits them into the body of the unrated cut, making the ultimate version of the film. Well, at least I think it is.
Is there a point in spilling what Re-Animator is about? You’ve obviously seen it. Based on H.P. Lovecraft‘s “Herbert West -Reanimator,” Gordon’s ballistic film tells the tale of snotty, sociopathic mad doctor West employing his glowing green serum to bring the dead back to life in a university, running afoul of the truly evil Dr. Hill. Along with West’s reluctant partner, med student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) the pair unleash a tidal wave of zombie horror and turn Hill into horny, headless hell-spawn, intent on sexually assaulting the Dean’s daughter Meg (Crampton). There’s enough gore and kink to fill 30 movies and there’s style to burn for centuries in this, the first of a long, brilliant line of movies from the maverick Gordon.
There’s been a zillion re-releases of Re-Animator over the years, but — as expected — Arrow’s is the best thus far. That’s not subjective, it;s just fact. Yes, that 4K restoration makes the movie scream bloodily off the screen and yes, the Integral Cut is a marvel, but outside of that Arrow jams up their package with awesomeness. Gordon and the leads of Re-Animator: The Musical provide a new, funny commentary, older commentaries with Gordon, and with one producer Brian Yuzna and the cast are ported over from previous releases and there’s a booklet penned by Mike Gingold plus a mini-repro of the 1991 Re-Animator comic book. Older docs and features (including a sit down between Alan Jones and the ravishing Crampton) round out the package and really, if you are a fan, there’s enough stuff here to keep you entertained and informed long after Dan sticks his needle into his dead girlfriend.
But for me… it’s all about that Integral Cut. Damn.