Death Warmed Up [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (9th June 2019).
The Film

"Death Warmed Up" (1984)

Dr. Howell (played by Gary Day) and Professor Tucker (played by David Weatherly) are scientists working on and studying about the human brain, but with recent dangerous experiments that Howell has been doing, Tucker highly disagrees and leads to arguments. Howell then abducts Tucker's teenage son Michael (played by Michael Hurst) and injects him with a serum that turns him into a killing machine. Michael returns home and blasts both his parents with a shotgun, and he is labeled insane and placed in a mental institution.

Seven years later, Michael is free and living a seemingly normal life with his girlfriend Sandy (played by Margaret Umbers along with his best friend Lucas (played by William Upjohn) and girlfriend Jeannie (played ny Norelle Scott). One day the four of them take a ferry to an island for a trip, but Michael has plans of his own. It is the island where the institute led by Dr. Howell operates, and he is there to get his revenge.

"Death Warmed Up" was marketed as New Zealand's first splatter film and while it certainly delivers the goods in many scenes, it is a fairly convoluted story with questionable antics of the characters. How Dr. Howell can easily manipulate Michael into killing his parents is unusual, why Michael goes to the island and doesn't tell his friends about the plan makes things more dangerous as they are unprepared, and the basically nonchalantness of the other scientists and nurses working at the institute is also unusual. But then again, horror movies in this genre do not always have to make perfect sense as long as it follows its own rules. The mutated people that are both brainwashed and slightly offcenter are reminiscent of the experiments in "The Island of Lost Souls"/"The Island of Dr. Moreau". The young kids on a trip going wrong with monstrous people trying to kill them are similar to that of "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre". "Death Warmed Up" may not be as consistent as those but certainly has some standout moments and insanity. The character with the biggest and most memorable reception is Spider (played by David Letch), the experimented henchman that channels a deadly and more maniacal version of Luther from "The Warriors", constantly taunting and causing mayhem. He certainly became the face of the film in advertising and in artwork with his look and style, even though he is nowhere near a main character in the piece. Another standout is the amount of gore which heads are operated on, blood sprays, bodies burn, throats get slashed, and heads explode, though they are not constantly in the audience's faces and are reserved for appropriate moments. The effects are fairly well done and of course entirely practical, just above comic realism. One more standout that few discuss about is the cinematography by James Bartle, utilizing the Steadicam for the first time in New Zealand, allowing for smooth movements and a sense of space that looks wonderful on screen. There is a lot of movement in the production with various tracking shots throughout for indoor and outdoor scenes.

Writer Michael Heath and director David Blyth went out to make a splatter film and they certainly accomplished it but the flaws are still apparent. The relationship between the four young people are never fully defined and when they are offed one by one, there is never a solid foundation for the audience to respond to. The experiments that Howell is doing is not explained well enough to give certain rules to the subjects. Some are superhuman and others not. Some have physical mutations and others look fine. And this may be a bit of a spoiler but the confrontation between Michael and Howell is over way too quickly with no sense of true build-up. As for Spider, are we to believe nothing happened after his infamous line? A possible sequel that never happened? Questions are still there and much more is to be desired, but overall it is a fairly fun and nasty production that never outstays its welcome.

"Death Warmed Up" film won the Grand Prix award at the 1984 Paris International Festival of Fantasy and Science Fiction Films and was sold to a fair amount of territories quickly with its notorious nature. But not all received the same version. It was originally banned in Australia and released in a censored form in 1985. Other territories had their own censorship laws to abide by. With rights issues and overseas sales constantly changing hands over the years, there were always issues with who owned the copyright and where the licensing came from over the years, with even the filmmakers unaware. In an unfortunate circumstance, the original negative was destroyed and few good elements have survived. The original cut of the film still exists, as seen on the New Zealand VHS but for original film elements, the longest surviving print was a censored version missing about four minutes of material. For the 2K restoration, the shorter version was remastered and released on Blu-ray by Umbrella Entertainment in Australia for its worldwide HD debut.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the restored version of the film in the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The original 16mm negative was mistakenly destroyed in the late 1980s and unfortunately the only existing film elements available are for a slightly cut version of the film. Nga Taonga Sound and Vision in Auckland, New Zealand painstakingly restored and remastered the abridged version in 2K, which includes many positives but also is imperfect. Colors can be fairly vibrant but in some scenes they are slightly washed out and flat. Detail is fair but obviously a bit on the blurry side due to the source. It is a very grainy transfer though for the most part scratches, cuts, dust, and other imperfections have been removed for an image that is filmlike. Overall it still does look a bit rough but in comparison to older transfers of the film on DVD and other home media, it is a revelation.

Note that this may be labeled "restored" but that is for the image and note the length. The nearly four minutes of missing shots from the original New Zealand version were not remastered and restored as the footage could not be located in film form. Instead, the full original New Zealand version of the film with the additional uncut shots is available on the disc as a bonus feature, presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 720p AVC MPEG-4. This version comes from a 25fps PAL video master and is a little rougher around the edges with blurry details and some inconsistent colors. It doesn't look terrible by any means, but the difference in the image from the restored version and the VHS version are like night and day. Umbrella decided not to insert the missing footage into the restored and remastered version on this release.

The 2019 restored version runs 78:53 at 24fps while the original New Zealand VHS cut runs 79:44 at 25fps.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (Theatrical Version)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (VHS Cut)

The 5.1 track on the restored version is presented lossless. The film was originally screened in Dolby Stereo, as the first New Zealand production to use a Dolby Stereo mix, and the track has been remixed for 5.1. Is it not a very heavy surround mix with the surrounds being used mostly for music and effects separation. Left and right channels are used well while the rear surrounds are mostly on the quieter side. Dialogue is center channeled and while there are some issues in fidelity there are no major issues overall in the audio remix and restoration. For the VHS cut the stereo track is given a lossy Dolby Digital mix, replicating the theatrical mix. There is a little hiss to the track in comparison to the restored version and it can sound a bit echoey at times, though there is good stereo separation and little damage in terms of pops or crackle.

There are optional English HoH subtitles in a white font for the restored version of the film, while there are none for the VHS cut.

Extras

Audio Commentary by director David Blyth and writer Michael Heath
The director and writer discuss together the making of the film, from its inspirations with "A Clockwork Orange", "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre", "Blade Runner" and John Carpenter films, the look of Michael's character, the tight budget of the project, the music cues, the missing segments and more. There is a bit too much of them pointing out what happens on screen rather than going in depth, so it may have been better to have a moderator with them to discuss some of those points.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with actor David Letch (26:31)
Titled “I’ll Get You All”, the actor recalls the making of the film. From his inspiration for the character, shaving his eyebrows, the dangerous stuntwork, and a crazed fan from Japan stalking him, there are a lot of interesting things he recalls, and is definitely very different from the character he played with his softspoken demeanor.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

2009 Interviews with director David Blyth & writer Michael Heath (40:01)
In these interview sessions from a decade ago, the two recall the making of the film from the genesis of the production, the horror aspects, making a new kind of New Zealand film production, and more. The interviews are not very well done, with a handheld camera rather than being on a tripod for both interview sessions, and the audio being extremely low on Blyth's portion and Heath's audio being offcenter. When film clips play they are much louder than the interview portions.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Deleted/Missing Scenes (with optional commentary by David Blyth and Michael Heath) (15:56)
Proceeded by 15 seconds of text about the scenes, presented here are portions seen in the VHS cut present on the disc that are no available in the restored version. The shots are presented in the scenes in full with context and are also given an optional commentary by Blyth and Heath. Both are unsure who removed the scenes and why they were removed, and they also discuss the issue of the film being cut further for international markets and how the film's rights issues were always in a tangle for overseas.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Photo Gallery (17:51)
A lengthy automated gallery that includes poster designs, home video artwork, promotional material, production stills, a still of Heath and Bluth recording the commentary, David Letch’s personal archives, retrospective materials, film festival notes and stills, and press clippings.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

U.S. Theatrical Trailer (1:57)
The American trailer from Skouras Films that has “I Feel Loved” playing at the start (which was not in the film itself) with a horrifying yet comedic touch to the narration is presented here. It has also been embedded below.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Australian Video Trailer (1:41)
Basically the same trailer as above, though it has a “Prohibited in Queensland” disclaimed burned in at the bottom of the screen.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Japanese Video Trailer (1:48)
The Japanese trailer entitled “Maidoku” concentrating on the action and violence rather than the comedic angle is presented here, with Japanese narration. Note that on the menu the two VHS trailers are labeled as “VHS Trailers” and presented back to back when selected.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in Japanese/English Dolby Digital 2.0 with burned-in Japanese subtitles

TV Spot (0:21)
From Friday at a cinema near you!
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

An easter egg is also available:

Bonus Interview with David Letch (6:08)
Taken from the same session as the other interview, Letch talks about working as an acting coach and director and where he is in life at the moment. To access this extra, highlight the Letch interview and press right.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles



The Australian release represents the first time the restored version was released on Blu-ray, but a few weeks later it was also released by Severin Films in the US in a nearly identical edition. Specs and extras are identical, with the only differences being the opening distributor logo and the VHS cut being in 24fps on the US release and 25 fps on the Australian release, so there is a difference in runtime there.

Packaging

The inlay is reversible, with the other side having identical artwork except forthe removal of the rating logo. It also states "region B" but it is a region ALL disc.

Overall

"Death Warmed Up" is a fascinating splatter film that has a good share of gore, but the plot elements and character development are certainly lacking. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray has a stellar selection of extras making this release very recommended.

The Film: C+ Video: B Audio: B Extras: A Overall: B

 


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