BRAIN DAMAGE: LIMITED EDITION
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Produced by Edgar Ievins
Written by Frank Henenlotter
Director of Photograpy Bruce Torbet
Music by Gus Russo & Clutch Reiser
Cast: Rick Herbst, Gordon MacDonald & Jennifer Lowry
1988/86 mins/Color/5.1 DD
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Synapse Films DVD
If you haven't seen Frank Henenlotter's BRAIN DAMAGE, you have to see it now, because it's a great film. And that's all that I have to say on that subject.
OK, I'll say a little bit more. In BRAIN DAMAGE, average-joe Brian (Rick Herbst) awakes one morning and begins to have very vivid hallucinations. Why? Because a small, snake-like creatures named Aylmer (voiced by horror-host Zacherle) has attached itself to Brian's neck and begun injecting him with a very strong drug. Aylmer will continuing supplying Brian with this drug if Brian will allow the worm-like animal access to human brains. Brian is disgusted by this notion at first, but as he become's addicted to Aylmer's "juice", he succumbs to the creature's ways, forsaking his girlfriend Barabara (Jennifer Lowry) and his brother Mike (Gordon MacDonald). Despite his growing depedence on Aylmer, Brain still struggles for independence, leading to a clash between servant and master.
With BRAIN DAMAGE, Henenlotter, the twisted genius behind BASKET CASE and FRANKENHOOKER, has created a great film which works on (at least) two levels. First of all, BRAIN DAMAGE is fun and insane gorefest. If you can buy into the fact that the film's co-star is a talking turd with a velvety voice, then you are going to have fun with this one. The movie offers some classic gore set-pieces, and this DVD contains the uncut version of the film, so it is even gorier than the version previously available through Paramount. (The "blow-job" kill is a true must-see!) As with any of Henenlotter's films, he makes great use of New York locations and he mixes in some very dark humor with the proceedings. Also, the cast of relative unknowns do a fine job in the film, with Herbst holding his own against the talking worm.
But, it's the more literary level of BRAIN DAMAGE that I truly love. While there are many ways to read the film, there's no argument that the story is analagous to drug addiction. BRAIN DAMAGE presents must every facet of addiction such as denial, rejection of family and responsibilities, and detoxification. While many "serious" films have tackled this issue, only a gonzo film such as BRAIN DAMAGE could handle all of the complexities of addiction by presenting the story as a metaphor. (The fact that Aylmer is on Brian's back speaks very clearly to the underlying theme.) As someone who works in the substance abuse treatment field, I can say that addiction can be a very ugly thing and BRAIN DAMAGE isn't afraid to show that hideous face to the audience.
BRAIN DAMAGE's quality and subtext aside, the real question about this new DVD from Synapse is, "How does it look and sound?" Synapse previously released BRAIN DAMAGE as a Special Edition DVD in October, 2000, and that disc was pretty good, as it offered a nice transfer. But, Synapse has decided to improve things here, as the new release contains a new high-definition anamorphic transfer (letterboxed at 1.78:1) and a new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. When compared side-by-side, the differences between the two DVDs are subtle but noticeable. For starters, it's clear that the same master was used for both DVDs, as they both sport specific defects in the same place. The new transfer is definitely sharper than the old one and shows more detail. The most noticeable difference may be in the colors. Blue is the dominant color in BRAIN DAMAGE, as it reflects the color of Elmer's juice, and there is much more blue to be had in this new transfer. This new version shows that many scenes were bathed in blue, whereas the old transfer only showed a hint of this. The image here still shows some subtle grain at times, but it looks very good. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is a notable improvement over the old mono track. However, this new track tries too hard at times, as it draws a great deal of attention to the rear speakers. Still, the track provides clear dialogue, and the musical score sounds fine. Despite the occasional overuse of surround effects, the usage of all 5 speakers adds atmosphere to the film, although there isn't quite as much bass response as one would expect.
This DVD carries the same special features as the previous release. We start with an audio commentary featuring writer/director Henenlotter, former Fangoria editor and author of the BRAIN DAMAGE novelization Bob Martin (thanks again for the autographed copy of the book!), and independent filmmaker Scooter McCrae (SHATTERDEAD). These three guys offer their insights on the film, with Henenlotter recalling an amazing amount of detail from the film's production. Martin is a bit more philosophical, offering his interpretations of the film's context and adding some downright depressing side-stories as well. Overall, this is a fun and informative commentary. The disc also contains the trailer for BRAIN DAMAGE, letterboxed at 1.85:1, as well as an isolated music track. This new disc features liner notes from McCrae who takes a fresh look at the film.
Fans of BRAIN DAMAGE will certainly want to upgrade to this new release, as the re-mastered transfer looks great. Those of you who missed the first DVD release, which is now out-of-print should jump on this limited-edition release before Aylmer scurries away again.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©
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