Posts Tagged ‘Brain Damage (1988)’

Blu-ray Cover (2)

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: May 09, 2017

Region: Region Free (A & B)

Length: 86 mins

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Notes: Arrow Video also includes a DVD copy of the film in this package.


The name, Frank Henenlotter, carries a bit of weight in certain circles. He is the man behind such cult horror favorites as Basket Case, Frankenhooker, and Brain Damage, which is making its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Arrow Video. Elmer is your friendly neighborhood parasite that has the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in his hosts. But these LSD-like trips come with a hefty price tag. When young Brian comes under Elmer’s addictive spell, it’s not long before he finds himself scouring the city streets in search of his parasite’s preferred food source—brains! Brain Damage boasts some of the most astonishing bad taste gore-gags ever realized, including the notorious ‘brain-pulling’ sequence and a blowjob that ends with a distinctly unconventional climax.

In case the above description doesn’t make it abundantly clear, it should be said that this darkly comic horror confection will divide audiences. It certainly makes a distinct impression on the viewer, but whether this impression is positive or negative will depend on the viewers personal viewing tastes. Just don’t try watching this one with dear old grandma. That would just be awkward.


The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray and DVD discs in their usual sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck and the original Manson International one sheet design. This case and its artwork are further protected by an O-Card (or slipcover) with additional artwork that sweetens an already attractive presentation.

Blu-ray Cover

Arrow’s Limited Edition Slip Cover

There is also an attractively illustrated booklet that includes an essay entitled A Mind and a Terrible Thing: The Story of Brain Damage” by Michael Gingold. The essay gives the reader a glimpse into the film’s production as well as an affectionate appreciation of the film that should add to the viewer’s experience (though we suggest watching the film before reading this essay or watching any of Arrow’s supplemental material). Transfer information and production credits are also included amongst a generous helping of production photographs and marketing artwork.

 [Note: The aforementioned booklet and O-Card are only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.


Picture Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s included transfer and restoration information is less detailed than is usual, but it is suggested that some effort was put into this new presentation:

Brain Damage is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with mono sound. The High Definition master was supplied for this release by Mark Holdom/Mackinac. Additional picture restoration was completed by Deluxe, London.” –Collector’s Booklet

The resulting image is an undeniable improvement over previous releases with the film’s vivid colors well realized and a layer of grain that is reasonably well resolved most of the time but can occasionally look a bit awkward. There is a reasonable level of fine detail on display throughout the duration of the film. If there is a deficiency in the level of detail in some of the scenes, this is the result of the lighting design and doesn’t seem to be an issue with the transfer. Unfortunately, clarity isn’t always one of the transfer’s stronger attributes. The darkness inherent in many of the film’s scenes is served well by attractive and inky black levels. The overall result is probably the best that one can reasonably expect from the source material—even if it isn’t as solid as viewers might expect from the Blu-ray format.


Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow includes two different audio mixes: the original mono mix is presented as a Linear PCM Audio track and a new 5.1 stereo mix is available in the DTS-HD Master Audio format. The independent nature of the film’s production makes for a sometimes flawed audio presentation, but these tracks certainly aren’t responsible for these deficiencies. Both tracks are reasonably solid, though it is unreasonable to expect the 5.1 mix to be as dynamic as one expects from more recent films. The score does seem to benefit from the subtle separations on display in this mix and effects are sometimes well served by this mix as well. However, purists will probably opt for the Mono track.


Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Frank Henenlotter (Writer and Director)

While the commentary originally available on the previous Synapse release of the film hasn’t been carried over to Arrow’s superior new Blu-ray release, they have made up for this fact by providing this brand new commentary track by Frank Henenlotter that is moderated by Mike Hunchback. The result is a humorously engaging conversation that covers a variety of pertinent topics without ever becoming too dry and pretentious. The track is informative about the production without ever becoming too precious about the film itself.

Isolated Score

Arrow gives fans the opportunity to watch the film with the score highlighted without distraction from the other sound elements. The track is presented in a 2.0 Linear PCM audio transfer.

Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage – (1080P) – (54:13)

The disc’s greatest supplemental attribute is this excellent retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Rick Herbst (actor), Edgar Ievins (producer), Al Magliochetti (visual effects supervisor), James Kwei (editor), Dan Frye (makeup supervisor), and Gregory Lamberson (assistant director). The unfortunate absence of Frank Henenlotter is undeniably awkward, but those who participated in this program do a good job of providing the viewer with an abundance of interesting background information on the film’s production. The interviews are illustrated with footage from the film, video footage from ‘behind the scenes’ of the production, and production stills. Fans will be very pleased!

Q&A with Frank Henenlotter – (1080P) – (20:36)

Arrow makes up for Frank Henenlotter’s absence in Listen to the Light with the inclusion of this informative question-and-answer session recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival. It covers some of the same information included in his commentary track, but there is plenty of new information revealed here to make it well worth the viewer’s time (especially if they are a fan of the film).

The Effects of Brain Damage – (1080P) – (10:00)

Gabe Bartalos—the man responsible for bringing “Elmer” to life—discusses his excellent effects work on the film in a reasonably in-depth fashion. His interview reveals some interesting revelations about how various Elmers were employed to perform different specific functions throughout the film. The discussion is illustrated with some interesting “behind the scenes” footage.

Animating Elmer – (1080P) (06:40)

Al Magliochetti discusses his contributions to Brain Damage as the film’s visual effects supervisor. His memories of working on the film’s stop motion effects for a few of the shots are especially interesting as is the revelation that he included some subliminal messages throughout the film.

Karen Ogle: A Look Back – (1080P) (04:29)

Slightly less essential is this short interview with Karen Ogle—the film’s stills photographer, script supervisor, and assistant editor. Ogle’s memories of the production were obviously happy ones—even if her multiple jobs created a challenge. She also seems to have a particular fondness for Frank Henenlotter.

Elmer’s Turf: The NYC Locations of “Brain Damage – (1080P) (08:48)

This featurette features Michael Gingold and Frank Henenlotter as they revisit some of the film’s shooting locations. Fans will be grateful to have this included here (even if it isn’t particularly revelatory).

Tasty Memories: A “Brain Damage” Obsession – (1080P) (10:00)

One wonders why Arrow even bothered with this somewhat unusual interview with Adam Skinner—a Brain Damage “superfan” that doesn’t have any real connection with the film’s production. It is somewhat interesting to see his collection of posters, videos, and other oddities—and the interview does reinforce the film’s undeniable cult status. We simply grow weary as he shamelessly hypes his band (The Statutory Apes)—and while we understand its inclusion here, their music video is just too much.

Bygone Behemoth(1080P) (05:08)

Harry Chaskin’s animated short features an appearance by John Zacherle that ended up being his final onscreen credit. Fans of stop-motion will enjoy this short tale about an old dinosaur living in a contemporary urban setting.

Aylmer: The Brain, The Voice, The Worm – (03:40)

This is a silly puppet show performed on a trash can that features Aylmer jamming out to music. Fans will find it entertaining, but it won’t quench one’s thirst for production information or analysis.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (1080P) (01:15)

The very eighties theatrical trailer doesn’t really do proper justice to the film. It focuses more on the silly tonal qualities of the film without hinting at its darker thematic elements that elevate the material and make it interesting.

Image Galleries:

This collection of photographs and marketing art is divided into three separate categories:

Stills – (1080P) (04:18)

Behind the Scenes – (1080P) (01:35)

Ephemera – (1080P) (00:52)

The photographs are a nice way to round out the disc, but one wonders if they wouldn’t have been more enjoyable if they had been included as part of the included collector’s booklet.


Final Words

Arrows Blu-ray upgrade earns an easy recommendation for the film’s many fans. However, those who haven’t seen the film might want to do some preliminary research before making a blind purchase.

Review by: Devon Powell