As a British fella, I was especially intrigued to finally check this film out, what with it once being banned as a "video nasty" over here in the 80's. As usual, it's yet another film which was unfairly caught up in the Daily Mail/Mary Whitehouse induced media hysteria of the time - the violence is not that shocking! But since Whitehouse was strangely proud of never even seeing any of those withdrawn films, perhaps that's not very surprising. It's now available in uncut form over here on a rubbish quality (so I've been told), so dark you can't see what the fuck's going on, UK dvd from Vipco so I've been waiting for a decent release. Our friends over at Synapse have rallied to the cause with an impressive Special Edition, and pleasingly as ever, this is a non-regionally coded dvd release.
As remarked upon the dvd's commentary tracks, this release cost more than the actual film itself. The Deadly Spawn only cost around $20,000 and like Jackson's Bad Taste, was mostly shot on weekends only, over a long period of time. It's a really fun flick! Being such an especially low budgeter, you certainly don't watch a film like this to find award winning acting. Which is lucky, 'cause as expected, you sure won't find it here! But you will find a very healthy sense of humour, and one of the coolest, craziest aliens ever committed to celluloid. All impressively done on a true shoe-string budget. The film clearly took it's inspiration from the 1950's monster movies which becomes even more obvious when one sees a child's bedroom covered in posters for such films. Leiberman's Squirm is an apt comparison.
Douglas McKeown definetly exhibits some very interesting visual flair - especially during the two cellar murders but we're still not talking Evil Dead 1 standards here (although to be fair, one must always take the budget constraints into consideration). His film takes a tongue-in-cheek approach throughout, especially when a bunch of vegetarians are attacked by baby deadly spawns (think Gremlins)! The bottom line here is that if you love looking at movie monsters and don't mind putting up with cardboardy characters, some noticable continuity problems and occassionally inane dialogue scenes, you'll probably have a blast watching this one. The monster and gore effects steal the movie for sure but it sure ain't for McKeown's (and the crew's) lack of efforts.
Interestingly, this Synapse release contains some short finale scenes which were apparently previously unseen 'till now. Or at the very least, were never in the theatrical releases of the film according to commentary track remarks. Picture and sound quality? Well, the film is presented in the full-frame ratio that it was filmed in. As to be expected from a 16mm shot film shot on such an outrageously low budget, it's slightly grainy (which can't be helped) and there is some "white fleck" print damage. The sound is 2.0 mono only and can be especially muddy at times - no doubt due to the quality of the recording equipment employed at the time. Extras? (I have to make note of the excellent packaging).
- Very cool cover art with an especially pleasing, glossy and gold lettered "The Deadly Spawn" title on both the front and side (I am a simple creature) and a Hildebrandt drawn poster inlay card.
- Animated menus with new music, a trailer and crew bios.
- Two fun audio commentaries. As one would expect, the track with more than one participant is the most enjoyable. I found it fascinating to listen to both tracks briefly remark upon their encounters with Sam Raimi at theatrical showings of Evil Dead 1 and The Deadly Spawn, both of which came out at around the same time.
- Very extensive photo galleries. Over 100 images.
- An amusing comic book prequel (15 pages set to newly written music). A great extra and very unusual!
- An out-take reel (minus sound). (5 mins)
- An alternate opening and credit sequence.
- "A Visit With The Deadly Spawn 1982." This is a very cool extra that's not actually mentioned on the back of the inlay. We get to watch some old footage of John Dods, the special effects guy (who even wears an appropriately labelled "special effects" cap and has a very healthy sense of humour!) take a friend around this studio. (Over 8 mins)
- Audition tapes. (15 mins)
This a great release from Synapse!! And no doubt what all Deadly Spawn fans have been keenly awaiting. One of the best truly cheap films that I've ever seen. Recommended...