I’d heard a lot about this cult sci-fi/horror film from 1977 over the years, but had never actually seen it. So I was extremely interested in reviewing this special edition release from Arrow films, who are putting this out in a BD & DVD combo pack this month.
Astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar – “Amityville 4”, writer “Beyond the Door” and “Nowhere to Hide”) gets exposed to a lethal dose of radiation whilst on a space mission and is hospitalised upon his arrival on earth.
Horribly disfigured, it seems the radiation has caused his body to slowly melt and dissolve. But it has also affected his mind, as he breaks out, kills a nurse and proceeds to go on a murderous rampage across the California countryside, as it seems chomping on human flesh slows down the melting process.
Several locals are brutally torn up in loving detail, whilst his doctor (Burr DeBenning) and a shifty air-force general (Myron Healey) try to track him down using a Geiger counter, hoping to keep a lid on things. Whilst Steve seeks out more victims, as he tries to prevent himself from resembling Tarman from “Return of the Living Dead”.
Featuring gory special effects from sfx maestro Rick Baker, which are offset with slices of black humour, the film is basically a sci-fi twist on the old ‘monster on the rampage’ type of story, which appears to borrow heavily from the “Quatermass Experiment”, which also had an astronaut going through a hideous transformation and killing people, and the old Frankenstein films, about a monster terrorising the countryside.
Not a remarkable film by any stretch of the imagination, but is certainly a very watchable one, if you enjoy corny sci-fi horrors. The film is being released in a dual edition BD and DVD combo pack, both discs containing the film and the following extras…
An audio commentary track with director William Sachs that accompanies the main feature, in which he discusses the locations filmed, laments how his original vision of the film, was messed up by the producers and provides some interesting anecdotes about how several of the cast members were chosen.
An interview with Writer/Director William Sachs and Make-up Effects Artist Rick Baker (19mins) in which they discuss the genesis of the film, how the special effects were achieved and hiw the film was originally meant to be more of a comic book comedy.
Also included is a brief interview with special effects man Greg Cannon (2m50), who worked with Baker on the film, which is more of a nostalgic look back about his time on set.
Then there’s, in my view, the inclusion of one of the more interesting features, a look at the old Super 8mm “Digest” version of the film. These were condensed versions of films, released on 8mm film, for playing on home projectors (this was before they had video tape). There were quite a few films released in this format during the 70s, though only available through specialist shops, and typically ran for only 10 minutes or so. This one runs for about 8 minutes, basically showing you a brief intro, a couple of kills from the middle of the film and the last few mins, which is more of a curiousity piece than anything.
Then lastly you have a Promotional Gallery, showing the various theatrical poster artwork and promotional pieces from around the world and the Original theatrical trailer.
The case sleeve features reversible artwork with the original theatrical poster on one side and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin on the other and the case contains a special collectors booklet featuring linear notes on the film by Mike White and a potted history of the Super 8mm home movie format by Douglas Wier (which is a VERY interesting read), illustrated throughout with stills and promotional artwork.
Filmed in the same year that “Star Wars” was released to cinemas, the film may not reach the dizzying heights of George Lucas sci-fi epic, but as a popcorn film (which is what the director intended this to be) it makes for a relatively fun 90 mins viewing time and this special edition release by Arrow puts it a notch above the other releases we’ve had of this so far.
Buy the UK BD/DVD combo pack from Amazon.co.uk