Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 19th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1988
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Writer: Frank Henenlotter
Cast: Rick Hearst, Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry, Theo Barnes, Lucille Saint-Peter, Vicki Darnell, Joseph Gonzalez, Bradlee Rhodes, Michael Bishop, Beverly Bonner, Ari M. Roussimoff, Kevin Van Hentenryck
BluRay released: May 8th, 2017 (UK), May 9th, 2017 (USA)
Approximate running time: 86 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £24.99 (UK)
If this is your first exposure to cinema of Frank Henenlotter, there are no words that can prepare you for the mind fuck that is about to happen. He first gained notoriety with the film Basket Case, a film that would eventually spawn two sequels. And though every film that he has made since, Basket Case has had his unique blend of the bizarre humor and surrealism. With Brain Damage, he would deliver what is arguably his crowning achievement as a filmmaker.
Though there are Horror related elements in this film. The end result is more of subversive take on these elements that is rooted in humor. And nowhere is this more evident, then when it comes to Aylmer, the phallus shaped entity that attaches itself to the protagonist brain stem.
Another strength of this film are its enthusiastic performances. With this film’s standout performance being Rick Hearst in the role of Brian, the young man who has become addicted to the toxins that Aylmer has been feeding his brain. Other notable performance includes, Lucille Saint-Peter and Theo Barnes, in the role of an elderly couple who act like strung out junkies, after Aylmer escapes from them and attaches himself to Brian. And John Zacherle (host of the T.V. series “Shock Theater”) who provides the voice for Aylmer.
From a production stand point, there is not an area where this film does not excel. With the visuals doing a superb job reinforcing the mood of the story at hand. Standout moments include, the scene at a junk yard right after Brian has become aware of Aylmer, a scene where Aylmer impales a woman who is giving fellatio to Brian and a scene of the subway where Duane Bradley, the protagonist from Basket Case makes a brief appearance.
Brain Damage comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source used for this transfer is in ex excellent shape, colors look accurate, details look crisp and there are no issues with compression. This film has a very distinctive look and this transfer does a superb job retaining said look.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound clean, clear and balanced throughout. The more ambient aspects of both audio mixes are well represented and both mixes sound robust when they need too. Included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (1 minute 15 seconds), image galleries, an animated short titled Bygone Behemoth (5 minutes 8 seconds), a Q&A with Frank Henenlotter recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival (20 minutes 36 seconds), an interview with super fan Adam Skinner titled Tasty Memories: A Brain Damage Obsession (10 minutes), a featurette revisiting the film’s original shooting locations titled Elmer’s Turf: The NYC Locations of Brain Damage (8 minutes 48 seconds), an interview with stills photographer, script supervisor and assistant editor Karen Ogle titled Karen Ogle: A Look Back (4 minutes 29 seconds), a featurette looking at the contributions of visual effects supervisor Al Magliochetti titled Animating Elmer (6 minutes 40 seconds), an interview with FX artist and creator of “Aylmer” Gabe Bartalos (10 minutes), a documentary featuring interviews with actor Rick Herbst, producer Edgar Ievins, editor James Kwei, first assistant director Gregory Lamberson, visual effects supervisor Al Magliochetti and makeup artist Dan Frye titled Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage (54 minutes 13 seconds) and an insightful audio commentary with writer-director Frank Henenlotter, who provides a detail account of the cast and other production related topics.
Topics discussed in the Q&A with Frank Henenlotter include, how he came up with the concept for Brain Damage, how the film had a $400,000 budget, his initial reaction to the finished film, limitations and how he used these limitations to his advantage, things that didn’t make it into the film, actor Rick Hearst, why actor John Zacherle was originally uncredited as the voice of Aylmer, locations and cut’s that were made during the film’s initial U.S. release by the MPAA.
Other extras included with the extra titled Tasty Memories: A Brain Damage Obsession are four music tracks that were inspired by Brain Damage.
Topics discussed in the interview with Karen Ogle include, how she first met Frank Henenlotter, the technical aspects of shooting stills, script supervision, FX supervisor Gabe Bartalos and her various collaborations with Frank Henenlotter.
Topics discussed in the extra titled Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage include, the origins of Brain Damage, how each participant became involved and their contributions to the film, production related topics, New York city locations and their thoughts about the film.
Rounding out the extras is a limited edition O-card with exclusive artwork, reversible cover art, an option to listen to an isolated score and a thirty-two-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled A Mind and a Terrible Thing: The Story of Brain Damage written by Michael Gingold, Artwork Gallery and information about the transfer. Also, included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo. Overall Brain Dead gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.