Razorback [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray B - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (18th August 2023).
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 then reissued the film on Blu-ray again in 2018 under their "Beyond Genres" line, with a 4K remastered transfer and additional extras. Five years later, Umbrella Entertainment has upgraded it once again, this time to the 4K UltraHD Blu-ray format, utilizing the existing 4K master with two new extras.

Note this is a region ALL 4K UltraHD Blu-ray + standard Blu-ray set

NOTE ABOUT THE REGION LOCKED ORIGINAL PRESSING:
Umbrella Entertainment mistakenly encoded the 4K disc as region B only. They are currently working on replacement discs that will correctly be region ALL.

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 2.24:1 aspect ratio in 2160p HEVC with SDR. This utilizes the 4K remaster that was completed in 2018. While the film was exhibited in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the previous Blu-rays also were in that frame, the 4K release strangely stretches the image vertically a bit which seems to be an issue with the authoring. It isn't noticeable at first glance, but by measurement the image is slightly taller than it should be. The film uses quite bold and unnatural colors for a number of scenes for a thick looking appearance, whether it is the desert golds and oranges or the blues and black of night. The previous Blu-ray's transfer was great and was in the proper 2.35:1 framing, and one would expect the native 4K release would look just as good. The 2018 Blu-ray transfer was not perfect though, as there were minor instances of white speckles and a bit of shimmering and weaving of colors to be found in some sequences. There seems to be no additional restoration done for this 4K upgrade, so the same defects are visible, if not more noticeable with the higher resolution. Though the colors certainly have a thick and strong edge, they do not have the particular rich pop that can be seen with other 4K releases, as this disc does not feature High Dynamic Range, instead having Standard Dynamic Range. It still looks quite stellar and fans should be pleased, though one should note it doesn't have quite a major leap in quality over the previous Blu-ray release.

The previous 2018 Blu-ray is also included in this release, which presents the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4.

The extended VHS cut is also included on both discs, 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. This is actually the "extended" version of the film. The theatrical version was precut and had a few minor changes, though somehow the original uncut version found its way to VHS in Australia. To note, the difference is quite negligible, with a difference of 38 seconds. Information on differences between the two cuts can be found at Movie-Censorship.

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

Audio

4K Theatrical Cut:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo
Blu-ray 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 to be heard and is quite an effective track overall. The 2.0 track, which replicates the original Dolby Stereo mix is also included, is a more authentic experience. 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 on both discs and no subtitles for the VHS cut.

Extras

This is a 2-disc 4K UltraHD Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray set. The film and extras are on both discs, with the 4K disc having two exclusives. Note that the included standard Blu-ray is the 2018 release. The disc artwork has a copyright date of 2023, though the disc's files are dated as 2018.


DISC ONE (Blu-ray 4K)

Audio Commentary with director Russell Mulcahy with moderator Shayne Armstrong (2018)
In this commentary, the director talks about many 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. This was originally available on the 2018 Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray release.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Audio Commentary with filmmakers Michael & Peter Spierig (2023)
In this new and exclusive commentary, Australian filmmaking brothers Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig discuss about the film, which they had first watched on VHS when they were very young. They talk about the various actors with some biographical information, Mulcahy's music video career, differences between the original novel and the film, the analogue creature effects, the intricate sound design, Australian horror films of the period, advice for aspiring filmmakers, as well as some information about their own films and the struggles they had in getting them made. Even if they had nothing to do with the actual production, the Spierigs do quite a nice job in this commentary and is a nice addition to the director's commentary above.
in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 without 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 and 2018 Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray releases.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Jaws on Trotters: The Making of Razorback" 2005 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 and 2018 Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray releases.
in upscaled 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Grisly" deleted scenes (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 was recorded for the 2018 Blu-ray, which is mostly reactions to the scenes rather than an in depth commentary. Note that on the 2018 Blu-ray, there was a "commentary on / commentary off" choice, but on the 4K disc there is no menu choice for the commentary. It is only accessible by pressing the audio key via remote during playback. An odd authoring choice to make this a seemingly hidden extra.
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 2018 Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray release.
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" 2018 featurette (24:10)
This roundtable discussion recorded in 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. This was previously available on the 2018 Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray release.
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 2014 Blu-ray also had an image gallery, but this one seems to be more comprehensive and is identical to the one found on the 2018 Blu-ray.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Theatrical & VHS Trailers (4:21)
The original theatrical trailer and original VHS trailers which are virtually identical in content but only differing in source material and quality. The theatrical trailer comes from a film print source which has some washed out colors, while the VHS trailer comes from an analogue source which looks and sounds a bit weak as expected. The theatrical trailer is in 2.35:1, while the VHS trailer is slightly cropped to 2.00:1. Note that on the 2018 Blu-ray the trailers were separately selectable rather that a single title on the 4K disc.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1 / 2.00:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

4K Trailer (2:20)
Presented here is the theatrical trailer as seen above, though this time remastered in 4K resolution. The colors are much deeper and thicker in comparison, though it hasnít gone through the same clean-up process as the main feature, so there are damage marks to be found. Unlike the main feature, this is properly framed at 2.35:1. The sound is lossless here, though the audio is a bit quieter than the trailers found above. The restored trailer has been embedded below, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.
in 2160p HEVC SDR, in 2.35:1, in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 without subtitles




DISC TWO (Blu-ray)

Audio Commentary with director Russell Mulcahy with moderator Shayne Armstrong (Theatrical Cut) (2018)
Gregory Harrison audio interview from www.gregoryharrison.com (30:56)
"Jaws on Trotters: The Making of Razorback" 2005 documentary (73:43)
"Grisly" deleted scenes (with optional commentary by director Russell Mulcahy with moderator Shayne Armstrong) (2:30)
Interviews with Cast & Crew by Mark Hartley for "Not Quite Hollywood" (84:41)
"A Certain Piggish Nature: Looking Back at Razorback" 2018 featurette (24:10)
Image Gallery (27:16)
Theatrical Trailer (2:22)
VHS Trailer (1:59)

As stated, the standard Blu-ray is identical to the 2018 release, which was reviewed here.


It's an odd choice that Umbrella has included the 2018 Blu-ray with this release, when all of its extras are included on the 4K UHD. If it were showcasing how much better the image quality is with the 4K release, it would make sense, but as both use the same 4K master and the transfers look nearly identical, it's an unusual choice unless they were targeting audiences who were looking to possibly upgrade to the 4K format.

Packaging

The inlay is reversible, with the only difference with the opposite side being the removal of the M rating logo.

Umbrella Entertainment is offering the release in a standard edition, a Collector's Edition, and the "Dangerous or Dead" Big Collector's Edition, with the latter two being exclusives to the Umbrella Web Shop.

The "Collector's Edition" includes the following:
- Hardback book with full 1981 original 378 page novel the movie was based on - Razorback by Peter Brennan (from Untreed Reads publishing) + 48 pages of behind-the-scenes, experiences and art
- Custom designed outer rigid slipcase
- Custom design slipcase
- 8 replica lobby cards
- A3 reversible poster
The hardback book is quite thick, with Peter Brennan's novel actually running for 459 pages to be exact on thin paper, with an additional page with information about the stars of the film as well as the director. It's quite a fascinating comparison to the feature film, as there are quite a number of differences. The novel's main characters are Beth Winters and her sister Ginny Winters as they both travel to Australia for investigative reporting on international diamond smuggling. The character of Carl is named Gene in the novel, and while he is married to Beth he is also having an affair with her sister. The boar also doesn't come into the story until far later rather than from the start in the film adaptation. While it's common to say that "the book is always better than the movie", this is an interesting example of what the screenwriter decided to delete and what to put as the main focus to make an effective creature feature. The original novel is more about the relationships of the characters and the drama that unfolds as well as the spy-like investigation with the giant boar taking the back seat. The last 48 pages are on thicker paper for the behind the scenes stills, theatrical poster and video artwork, the essay/interview from Filmink magazine "The Road to Razorback" by Erin Free with quotes from Mulcahy, plus the lengthy essay "Creating a More Despicable Species: Razorback's Ecogothic Nightmare" by Isaac Rooks, PH.D.

The eight lobby cards are reproductions of the Spanish lobby cards from Izaro Films, the distributor for the film in Spain. The foldout poster, which is tucked in the keep case, has the Spanish theatrical poster art on one side and a textless horizontal painted artwork on the other. The keep case with a slipcase featuring alternate artwork, the lobby cards, and the book fit nicely in the rigid slipbox which again has its own artwork.



The "Dangerous or Dead" Big Collector's Edition includes the following:
- Custom designed 7cm action figure of 'The Razorback'
- Custom designed Razorback retro t-shirt
- Hardback book with full 1981 original 378 page novel the movie was based on - Razorback by Peter Brennan (from Untreed Reads publishing) + 48 pages of behind-the-scenes, experiences and art
- Custom designed outer rigid slipcase
- Custom design slipcase
- 8 replica lobby cards
- A3 reversible poster

Both collector's editions are numbered limited editions. Note that on the back of the box it mistakenly says "Umbrealla Webstore".

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 4K upgrade to the UHD Blu-ray format should be a welcome addition, but unfortunately the 4K transfer without HDR doesn't seem to be a major upgrade from the previous standard Blu-ray release in terms of the image quality. In addition to that there is the aspect ratio stretching issue. It may look fairly good, but not as significant as expected. Though it does have an excellent new commentary from the Spierig Brothers and has all the legacy extras making this a recommended release.

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

 


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