Herbert West is at it again in BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, producer Brian Yuzna's sequel to Stuart Gordon's quirky 1980s gorefest, on limited edition Blu-ray/DVD combo from Arrow Video USA.
After the "Miskatonic Massacre" at the conclusion of RE-ANIMATOR, Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, CASTLE FREAK) and colleague Dr. Daniel Cain (Bruce Abbott, BAD DREAMS) went down to Peru as volunteer medics in the country's brutal civil war. While Cain may have done it as sort of penance, West chose the job to provide him with plenty of raw material on which to refine his reagent. During their time down there, West has discovered a stabilizing agent in the amniotic fluid of the Cuzco Iguana that has not significantly evolved in one hundred million years. Upon their return to Miskatonic University hospital, Cain makes his rounds and connects with pretty cancer patient Gloria (Kathleen Kinmont, HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS) who reminds him of his lost love Meg (FROM BEYOND's Barbara Crampton in the first film and FINDING NORTH's Mary Sheldon in a prologue excised from this film) while West decides it is time to move from reanimating the dead to creating life.
West keeps his hold on Cain with his plans to use bring Meg's heart – which has shown no signs of tissue or cellular deterioration like the other body parts from the massacre – back to life within a new body assembled from desirable parts he has been pilfering from the pathology lab of Dr. Graves (Mel Stewart, DEAD HEAT). Cain helps West assemble a body in their former mortuary abode neighboring the graveyard from the feet of a ballet dancer, the legs of a streetwalker, a virgin's womb, the arms of a lawyer and a murderess (hmm…), and West has a pretty good idea where to get the head. Complicating the pair's attempt at nonsexual (but tacitly sexualized) procreation are the reappearance of plucky freedom fighter Francesca (Fabiana Udenio, AUSTIN POWERS' "Alotta Fagina") from their Argentinian venture to romance Cain, and the snooping of police lieutenant Chapman (Claude Earl Jones, EVILSPEAK) whose late wife (Marge Turner) was discovered among the living corpses confined to the hospital's psych ward while doctors try to explain their apparent reanimation. Dr. Graves has also been experimenting with a sample of West's reagent and makes the mistake of injecting some of it into the brain of the severed head of Dr. Hill (David Gale, SYNGENOR) recently recovered from a carnival sideshow showing no signs of tissue decay and still bearing a grudge against West.
After RE-ANIMATOR, director Stuart Gordon (PIT AND THE PENDULUM) and producer Brian Yuzna (SOCIETY) had planned to adapt H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmoth" as DAGON for Empire Pictures, but the project was shelved (and not picked up again until 2001 during Yuzna's association with Spanish production company Filmax) in favor of FROM BEYOND and DOLLS. A proposed sequel to RE-ANIMATOR underwent many different ambitious conceptual incarnations, but it was not until Brian Yuzna was working on SOCIETY for Keith Walley (NIGHTWISH) and Paul White's (THE UNNAMABLE) that Yuzna decided to undertake a sequel. Working on a short pre-production schedule with the threat of funding falling through, but without any requirements from the producers, Yunza and screenwriters Rick Fry (DEMENTIA) and Woody Keith (INITIATION: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 4) sort of threw everything at the wall and kept what stuck. The end result is really less Lovecraft (apart from a thruway line about "rats in the walls") than BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (the neighboring graveyard is even called the Deodati Cemetery) with the bride so cruelly rejected. The many effects contributions of the newly formed K.N.B. Efx Group (IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS), John Carl Buechler's Magical Media Industries (CELLAR DWELLER), Screaming Mad George (POLTERGEIST II), Anthony Doublin (CARNOSAUR), and stop-motion wiz David Allen (SUBSPECIES) goose the padded middle section of the film until we get to the third act mostly set in West's and Cain's basement lab in which the set dressings, color gelled but expressionistic lighting, costumes, and camera angles pay an effective homage to James Whale's film without seeming like an attempt to copy the look or tone.
Combs is amusingly manic as usual – particularly when "doodling" with body parts he reanimates in various grotesque concatenations (including a "spider" made up of severed fingers and an eye or a joined together foot and hand which tries to kick and then strangle him) – while Abbott balances the dramatics with increasingly deadpan reactions to being sprayed in the face with blood until the climactic (if role-reversal. Udenio is eye candy with a side of hysterics while Kinmont manages to wring sympathy from her pained performance as the creature (more so than as the dying cancer patient). Gale's Hill is sidelined for too long (Hill's own adversarial relationship with Graves might have spawned a film itself but the highlight is pretty much a variation on the Looney Tunes singing frog gag) only to turn up flying around on bat wings at the last moment to little effect. The cinematography of effects cameraman Rick Fichter (DRAGONSLAYER) is workmanlike in exteriors and the hospital settings but becomes more dynamic during the sequences set in the scientists' house and lab (the latter designed by PHANTASM II's Philip Duffin), but the score of composer Richard Band (HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW) is undistinguished apart from his reprise of the first film's PSYCHO-influenced (or –indebted) main theme.
BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR was purchased by Live Home Video but released theatrically through Troma's 50th Street Films. Live released it on tape in R-rated and unrated versions (the timings were similar because the R-rated version used alternate shots and cutaways rather than just snipping gore), along with a laserdisc from Image Entertainment of the latter, and Pioneer Entertainment – who would release a handful of Vestron/Live titles to DVD before it became Artisan Entertainment – would release the film on DVD in 1999. The Pioneer DVD was a double-sided affair that featured both R-rated and unrated cuts in 4:3 transfers with a non-anamorphic widescreen option utilizing the subtitle function as a matte over the top and bottom of the picture (the matte would disappear during fast-forwarding or chaptering skipping and then reappear). The R-rated version was brighter, sharper, and more colorful, presumably a more recent transfer while the unrated version was darker, softer, and probably derived from the 1" tape/laser master. The R-rated version was accompanied by two commentary tracks. The R-rated side also included behind the scenes and workprint footage of the deleted opening in which Dan tries to reanimate Meg as well as commentary over stills of the excised sequence in which Chapman discovers Hill's head at the carnival, the theatrical trailer, and an extensive stills gallery. The unrated side was accompanied solely by the behind the scenes featurette "Getting Ahead in Horror." Like most of the Pioneer discs, BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR because an expensive item when it went out-of-print, and Artisan disappointed fans when they reissued the film as a single-sided disc of the unrated version in the same fullscreen transfer and no extras.
Various DVD editions appeared overseas but none of them matched the Pioneer in terms of extras, and it was not until 2014 that German company Capelight released a Blu-ray/DVD combo from a new 2K restoration of both cuts (the R-rated version from the original interpositive, the unrated version from DeLuxe's composite master positive, and the stereo audio from Digital Betacam). Arrow Video's UK and US limited edition three-disc set utilizes the same masters, and they certainly are a sight for sore eyes. The older DVD masters were darkish and over-sharpened (yet still soft). The brighter and boldly colored transfer reveals newfound detail in the dingy production design, spurting blood, and the sometimes rubbery but still stomach-turning prosthetics. The "Bride of Frankenstein" scenes during the climax now look quite stylized without the video haze and distortion of the gel lighting in the earlier master, looking as much color expressionism as comic book. The LPCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack has its share of squishy sound effects and piercing screams, but Band's score makes less of an impression. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.
Like Capelight's edition, Arrow Video carries over most of the extras from the Pioneer release. The two commentaries have been synchronized to the unrated version (96:24) along with a new commentary by Yuzna (moderated by Severin's David Gregory) exclusive to the Arrow. Yuzna admits the debt to FRANKENSTEIN but also reveals that he tried to incorporate material from Lovecraft's source story that they did not use in the adaptation of the first film including the war opening, the iguana, and the scientists' mortuary abode abutting the cemetery. He also discusses the film's original four prologues: Dan trying to reanimate Meg, Hill's "talking head" (a William Castle homage), the war, and the discovery of Hill's head at the carnival. Gregory does ask about the indebtedness of Band's theme to PSYCHO and Yuzna reveals that he was not aware of it during the first film but figures that it was different enough that no one brought suit. The second commentary by Yuzna, Combs, special effects coordinator Thomas Rainone (LORD OF ILLUSIONS) and the effects team including John Buechler, Mike Deak (SUBSPECIES 2), Robert Kurtzman (WISHMASTER), Howard Berger (PHANTASM II), and Screaming Mad George is a lively affair with much overlapping of voices as the group recalls the twenty-four hour shifts (in the workshop during the first unit shooting and then on the set with the second unit after the cast and primary crew left). Yuzna also mentions at the cutting of the negative for the R-rated version and the known existence (in 1999) of only two prints of the unrated version. They also speak highly of David Allen who was still alive and working with them on another production at the time but who would die later that year.
The commentary with Combs and Abbott is a punchy, amusing one in which the actors muse on their characters' bickering dynamic, acting with rubber (or latex), and their characters' very different outlooks on sex. Abbott comments on his character's tendency to get distracted by women (cute dogs too) while Combs reveals that the reagent was Luminal and that his chemist father-in-law created the test tube rig for mixing the components. Also carried over "Getting Ahead in Horror" (23:50), an archival featurette that visits the effects workshops and setups of scenes on location and set for visual and make-up effects. We see Doublin working on his finger creature, Gale undergoing extensive make-up (even playing poker with the crew), and Kinmont being made up in her bride body suit (which the effects commentary reveals was cast from her body and built around a "Visible Woman" anatomy kit). The two deleted scenes consist of workprint and behind the scenes video for the sequence in which Dan tries to reanimate Meg (8:04) with Screaming Mad George's distorted head effect looking less effective than his SOCIETY creations. The "Carnival Sequence" (2:03) is actually a montage of stills from the sequence in which the effects commentary contributors discuss the content of the scene. The film's theatrical trailer (1:53) is a longer version than the one from the Pioneer DVD which ran just under a minute and may have been a TV spot.
New to Arrow's release is the featurette "Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-Animator" (9:37) in which he rehashes the origins of the project following so quickly after SOCIETY, throwing together the script so quickly, and Gale calling him up enthusiastic to be part of the project before he realized that he would have no wardrobe and spend the film as a severed head. Also new is "Splatter Masters: The Special Effects Artists of Bride of Re-Animator" (14:39), a set of interviews with effects artists Kurtzman, Screaming Mad George, Tony Doublin, and John Buechler that is perhaps more focused than the commentary track but spends much of its time delineating the responsibilities (which we know of already from the end credits and the effects commentary). Screaming Mad George does recall with some disappointment that his surreal sequence was meant to be shot last and that the production going behind schedule meant there was less time to actually shoot it. Exclusive to this limited edition is a third disc (the second disc is a DVD copy of the first disc) that includes the aforementioned R-rated version (96:18) and a behind the scenes reel (14:30), much of which is excerpted in the "Getting Ahead" archival featurette. Also exclusive to the limited edition is a perfect-bound booklet containing Re-Animator: Dawn of the Re-Animator, the 1992 comic prequel to Stuart Gordon’s original Re-Animator, reprinted in its entirety. (Eric Cotenas)
BACK TO REVIEWS