Razorback [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (9th September 2018).
The Film

"Razorback" (1984)

American reporter Beth Winters (played by Judy Morris) takes a job looking into illegal hunting of wildlife and food processing in a town in rural Australia. The town is not particularly friendly to her poking around, but she persuades on including looking into a suspicious plant run by brothers Benny (played by Chris Haywood) and his Dicko (played by David Argue). But things turn to terror as the brothers ram her car off the road, and turns deadly when a massive razorback boar smashes into her vehicle and goring her to death. Beth's fiancee Carl (played by Gregory Harrison) receives word of her death which has gone as unexplained by the local authorities, but one man sees to know exactly how she died. Jake Cullen (played by Bill Kerr) saw the same thing happen to his grandson two years ago when the massive razorback slammed through and destroyed his home, killing the infant child in the process. While no one in town believed what Jake claimed, Carl is willing to take a risk and come to the truth, but more things than expected stand in his way...

Producer Hal McElroy was looking to make "Razorback" into a feature film, which was originally a novel written by Peter Brennan and published in 1981. After seeing some music videos by Duran Duran which were directed by Russell Mulcahy, McElroy was fascinated by his use of direction, colors, and visual techniques and asked if he would be interested in directing a horror film with a giant boar. Mulcahy was looking to break into features, and immediately accepted the offer. The main attraction to the film was obviously the razorback, which had to be bigger, faster, and monstrous compared to any living boar. Animatronic boars were created for the production, a total of six for differing scenes and differing actions. One would be for massive chases. One would be for ramming, etc. But like "Jaws" earlier or "Dark Age" later, the monster that was built would have troubles in function throughout. Some of the movements were stiffer than expected. Some wouldn't move as planned. While in "Jaws" the less the audience saw of the shark, the more terrifying it became. "Razorback" essentially took the same idea in the editing process, but unfortunately much of the work that was placed into the animatronics including one that cost half a million dollars would only be seen on screen for seconds at a time. But the horror aspect of a giant creature that no one believes exists except for a seemingly crazy old man and a foreigner not knowing anything about the landscape - the threat just isn't as strong as how the terror is depicted compared to other giant monster films.

What "Razorback" lacks with the giant monster is counterbalanced with the real villains of the piece - the wild Benny and Dicko whose exaggerated weirdness and violent tendencies are straight out of "Mad Max" or "Dead End Drive-In" where their antics are unpredictable and terrifying, in many ways much more than the razorback. While they could be considered scary, they are more like the gang members in "RoboCop" - you could laugh just as much as be scared, and the entertainment value of their screen time is very welcome. In addition, the biggest standout of the production is the visual aspect. Mulcahy along with cinematographer Dean Semler created a visual tour de force with the use of color filters, non traditional camera angles, surreal sequences, plus fast paced editing as seen in music videos of the day were implemented, showcasing an early example of an MTV inspired feature that was not a music documentary. The style presented a definite unique showcase for the film, and while the story tried to be fairly original, it suffered the fate of borrowing too much and not making a particularly new piece of work.

While it's easy to lump "Razorback" with "Jaws" in its execution and theme, the one major piece the shark film had strong was its strong characters equal to the terror that of the beast. People were interested in the main characters and their interactions. One of the scariest scenes in the film had no shark, but was that of the speech about the USS Indianapolis recounted by Quinn. "Razorback" does have the character of Jake, who like Quinn is on a personal quest to kill the beast, and played by the wonderful Bill Kerr gives the character the emotional weight missing from other characters. He is far by the most in depth character in the film and gives it the most credibility in straight performance, unlike the wacky Benny and Dicko who are the polar opposites. It is said that there was tension between the actors since Kerr was a classically trained actor with rehearsed by the script actions while Haywood and Argue were all about improvising their lines and actions. "Razorback" also takes cues from "Psycho" by killing off who the audience thinks is the main character Beth in quite an early point, with the main character changing hands to Carl. The change in focal direction is quite drastic, but the journey that Carl takes is fairly interesting but at the same time very questionable. Gregory Harrison is the only American actor on the production, and while he does a good job with what was given, there are some questionable motives such as him trying to infiltrate Benny and Dicko's lair, and his sudden possible romantic kinship with Sarah (played by Arkie Whiteley) not so long after he learns about the fate of his fiancee. Again, the words and the characters are not the strongest aspects of the production and that goes for many monster movies before or after "Razorback".

With a fairly large budget for an Australian independent production of $5.5 million and a distribution deal with Warner Brothers for an American release, "Razorback" did not have a successful theatrical run the production company was hoping for. Opening theatrically in Australia on the 19th of April 1984, grossing a paltry $801,000 and fairly negative reviews. Marketing for the United States was not on the enthusiastic side with negative test screenings, and the film was eventually released in theaters on the 16th of November 1984 to a miniscule fifty screens rather than a wide release, eventually grossing just over $150,000 theatrically. "Razorback" was an absolute failure at the box office and was panned by critics, though surprisingly received a few awards in Australia. The Australian Cinematographers Society awarded the Cinematographer of the Year prize to Semler for his work on "Razorback" and "Undercover". It was also nominated for six Australian Film Institute awards - with Best Achievement in Editing going to William M. Anderson and Best Achievement in Cinematography going to Semler.

Over the years "Razorback" has enjoyed a healthy cult life on home video from the VHS days until now, with many versions over the years in different territories. Most places received the M-rated theatrical cut, though in Australia the R-18 rated slightly extended cut was released on VHS which had some additional gore. All subsequent DVD releases included the theatrical cut only. It received an excellent "Collector's Edition on DVD from Umbrella Entertainment Australia in 2005, featuring lengthy interviews from the cast and crew and a feature length documentary, along with the extended scenes removed for the theatrical version. This was upgraded to Blu-ray in 2014 by Umbrella Entertainment. Umbrella Entertainment has now reissued the film to Blu-ray again, with a new 4K remastered transfer and new additional extras.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the theatrical version of the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The previous Blu-ray release used an older 25fps master which resulted in a non-theatrical speed with a questionable video transfer. This new Blu-ray utilizes a new 4K remastered transfer and the results are quite different. First of all, it is in the correct theatrical running speed of 24fps. Visually the use of filters for the sometimes unnatural colors have been regraded, the contrast has been tweaked for a visual overhaul. Colors look intentionally unnatural and surreal in many scenes with reds and blues being very strong. There is little if any damage to the picture while grain is still visible and no heavy handed use of digital sharpening to the image. It looks quite stellar and for a film that is heavy on the visual aspect, the new transfer does it justice.

The extended VHS cut is also included, with a cropped 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in upscaled 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The VHS cut is as advertised coming from a VHS source, and there are the usual issues of tape errors, washed out colors, and a lack of depth overall plus a cropped image missing nearly half of the original 2.35:1 screen size.

The film's runtime is 94:50 for the theatrical version and 95:00 for the extended VHS cut.

Audio

Theatrical Cut:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The VHS Cut:
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono


The theatrical cut gets a 5.1 remix that sounds fairly good. Dialogue is balanced to the center channel while the music and effects are positioned more to the left and right channels with the surrounds used for ambient effects. The audio is well balanced and sounds natural. The remastered track has no issues of hisses, pops, or cracks in the soundtrack. The VHS cut's mono track does have issues with muffled fidelity but actually sounds fair for the most part.

There are optional English HoH subtitles in a white font for the theatrical version and no subtitles for the VHS cut.

Extras

Audio commentary by director Russell Mulcahy with moderator Shayne Armstrong
In this newly recorded commentary, the director talks about many scene specific scenes, the visual style, the various influences, and much more. Though much of it does overlap with the making-of and the interviews elsewhere on the disc, there are some interesting exclusive comments such as how the surreal double moon scene was actually not done on purpose and revealed how it was done. This commentary is only available as an alternate audio track for the theatrical version.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Gregory Harrison audio interview from www.gregoryharrison.com (30:56)
In this audio interview, Harrison recalls the casting, his excitement going to Australia for the production, about the locations, the interactions with the cast and crew, and more. This was previously available on the 2014 Blu-ray edition.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Jaws on Trotters: The Making of Razorback" documentary (73:43)
This documentary directed by Mark Hartley is a comprehensive look back at the production of the film featuring interviews with various cast and crew and clips of the film. Included are the difficult animatronic tech used, the casting of the film, the visual styles and inspirations, some on set tension with the cast and crew, the negative reception, and more. This was previously available on the 2014 Blu-ray edition.
in upscaled 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Grisly" Deleted Scene (with optional commentary by director Russell Mulcahy with moderator Shayne Armstrong) (2:30)
Four death scenes from the film are presented in their uncut form from the VHS tape, with a little more blood and gore. The deleted scenes were available on the 2014 Blu-ray edition, but the commentary is new to this Blu-ray, which is mostly reactions to the scenes rather than an in depth commentary.
in upscaled 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interviews with Cast & Crew by Mark Hartley for "Not Quite Hollywood" (84:41)
Taken from the interview sessions for Hartley's "Not Quite Hollywood" documentary, these extended interviews feature Gregory Harrison, Judy Morris, Russell Mulcahy, Hal McElroy, Bob McCarron, and Everett de Roche interviewed separately. Quite a lot of topics are discussed including Harrison's shoulder injury on set, the director's birthday party, the visual style, and much more. This was previously available on the 2014 Blu-ray edition.
in upscaled 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"A Certain Piggish Nature: Looking Back at Razorback" featurette (24:10)
This roundtable discussion from 2016 features fans and critics Emma Westwood, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Sally Christie, and Lee Gambin discuss about the film. They talk about Mulcahy's music video career, the symbolism in the film, the initial negative reception, and much more.
in upscaled 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Image Gallery (27:16)
A lengthy 100 plus pages in this gallery features novel artwork, poster art, video release artwork, soundtrack artwork, press and marketing memos, and stills and behind the scenes photos in an automated slideshow format. There are also individual chapter stops for each page. There is no music or narration for this extra. The previous Blu-ray also had an image gallery, but this one seems to be more comprehensive than the previous version.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Theatrical Trailer (2:22)
The original Australian trailer is presented here. This was previously available on the 2014 Blu-ray edition.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

VHS Trailer (1:59)
A slightly cropped and pixelated Australian VHS trailer is presented. This was previously available on the 2014 Blu-ray edition.
in upscaled 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.00:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Below is the trailer, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment:

Packaging

The disc is packaged in a keep case housed with a slip case. The fourth in the "Beyond Genres" line, the case is labeled "Volume 4". The Australian rating logo on the cover is actually a sticker on the plastic and can be removed. The keep case artwork is reversible, one side featuring artwork by Brian Clinton, the other side coming from the collection of Eddie Shannon.
The rear states the runtime as 91 minutes which is incorrect.



Overall

"Razorback" is one of the most visually entertaining Ozploitation films from the bygone era, and even if the plot and the dialogue may be on the lacking side, it is one of the more memorable films in the genre. The reissued Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray is a step up from the previous 2014 release and a very welcome upgrade with the 4K remaster and new additional extras. Very recommended.

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A-

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.