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Monday, April 2, 2012

The Deadly Spawn: Arrow Video's DVD Wants To Eat You!


Growing up this movie was called The Return of the Alien's Deadly Spawn. That's how I knew it anyway. After watching all the extra goodies from on the recent Arrow Video release of The Deadly Spawn, I know now that this was a marketing ploy to play off the success of Alien. It doesn't need to play off any film's success. If you want gore... if you want the boy hero to save the day wearing a mask and you don't want to watch Corey Feldman kill Jason Voorhees again... if you want to watch veg heads eat raw alien guts... this flick is for you.


Synopsis (from Arrow):

Something awful is coming, hurtling through the void in a meteor that’s on a collision course with Earth. What terrifying entry in the annals of horror will be unleashed when the sinister intergalactic payload smashes into our planet? Answer? THE DEADLY SPAWN!

Two foolish campers witness the crash and investigate. They become the first eviscerated victims of the alien menace. Soon, a small, heartland American town will be under siege as the carnivores from outer space multiply and feast on the locals. Can a gang of plucky kids stand up to these invaders from another world? Will the planet be overwhelmed? Find out in THE DEADLY SPAWN, A classic serving of low budget schlock from the golden era of independent American horror.



I grabbed this movie out of the dollar bin when I was in my early teens. It was one of those five movies, five days, five dollar deals. While I don't remember it standing out a whole lot at the time (probably due to the lack of topless young women) the big bad, gnashing of the teeth monster has stayed with me for years. The sperm like spawn of mama alien and the adolescent spawn, growing have all become synonymous for me with the term alien in almost the same way that Ridley Scott's Alien has permeated modern sci fi culture. Sure there are chest bursters and facehuggers, but there are blind flesh eaters lurking in your basement fresh off a joy ride on a meteor. John Dods make his mark in the creature creator seat.


In recent memory I hadn't really focused on The Deadly Spawn. It was a movie to be loved but generally unappreciated. That all changed when Exhumed Films showed it at one of their 24 Hour Horror-thons. I couldn't believe that I was given the chance to watch such a fantastic movie on the big screen. I was surprised that it had done so well on its initial theatrical release given its production value and the level of gore. It had me wondering how a movie like this found success in the theaters in at all during the 80's. As one crew member put it during the bonus feature making of on the Arrow disc, it was a gore movie, but it wasn't a slasher gore movie. A monster was doing the killing. That brings us to my most recent encounter with The Deadly Spawn.


I actually won a copy of the DVD just after its release.I don't win anything! It's not a Blu Ray mind you which I found slightly odd since their is a Blu Ray edition out there. I actually wondered if a transfer to Blu Ray could even do it justice given the quality of the source material. Even the film copy I watched at Exhumed was clearly a bit rough from the outset.  I'm not bitter that the decision was made not to put out a Blu Ray, but it has all the goodies you'll need to make it worth the purchase. I would guess that there are more politics in the decision to release on DVD rather that Blu Ray, but that's here say.
Here's a little commentary on the special features from Arrow's site:


SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Digitally remastered windowboxed transfer in the original full frame aspect ratio -WELL WORTH THE PURCHASE OF THIS DISC IF YOU'RE RELYING ON AN OLD VHS COPY.

- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Rick Melton - A MUST HAVE FOR ANY COLLECTOR. I'VE SHOWN THIS TO NON-HORROR FANS AND GOTTEN THE "WOW!".

- Double-sided fold-out artwork poster - AGAIN, SERIOUS WOW! YOU DON'T GET THIS KIND OF PACKAGING FROM OTHER DISTRIBUTORS.

- Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Calum Waddell and Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs) and an interview between Tim Sullivan and Special Effects Director John Dods. - IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW THE FILM AND ITS HISTORY THIS WILL EITHER BE A GOOD WAY TO REVIEW OR A FULL FORCE EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE. THESE ARROW BOOKLETS SHOULD BE MANDATORY READING FOR HORROR GEEKS.

- Two Audio commentaries with writer and producer Ted A. Bohus and editor Marc Harwood. - WORTH A LISTEN, BUT IT'S NOT THE GREATEST FEATURE. STILL FUN.

- A Comic-style prequel with its own musical score - I'M NOT SURE THE DEADLY SPAWN NEEDED MORE BACK STORY, BUT I THINK THIS SHOULD BE A CALL TO FANS TO PRODUCE THEIR OWN BACK STORY AND COMIC ART.

- Alternate opening sequence with new effects and credits - THE WHAT IF FACTOR IS ALWAYS CHARMING ALTHOUGH NOT MUCH TO SEE HERE.

- In the Workshop of S/FX Director John Dods - EFFECTS GUYS ARE LIKE ROCK STARS... STUCK IN VANS, DRIVING AROUND THE COUNTRY, SWEATING AND WEARING AWESOME TRUCKER HATS THAT SAY "SPECIAL EFFECTS" ON THEM.

- A selection of archive TV interviews featuring the filmmakers - THE GEM! HILARIOUS! PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON TO BUY THIS EDITION NEXT TO THE MOVIE ITSELF. I REMEMBER SOME OF THESE NEWS CASTERS AND NEWS PROGRAMS ALTHOUGH NEVER HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE THESE LIVE.

- Stills gallery featuring behind-the-scenes images, pages from the script, artwork and more! - SOME NICE STILLS.

- Outtake Reel  - HI JINX AND PROBABLY REALLY GREAT FOR INDY FILMMAKERS

Maybe I find such a strong connection to the film because it was shot about thirty five minutes from my house. I'm gonna go find that wholesome family in their home, sitting down to their first meal and plan to knock on their door wearing a Fright Rags T, some Camo pants and a big old SLR around my neck asking if it's okay to take a few pictures. Maybe I won't shave that day to give them the full effect. Gladstone, NJ is nearly the epicenter of the rich and wealthy... if not just in NJ maybe in the entire country. It's hard to believe that nearly thirty years ago a team of guys went into a brick basement and came up with a masterpiece. Ted Bohus and Douglas McKeown should be praised for their efforts and for coming up with such a strange location.


The Deadly Spawn has prevailed over the years because it combined some truly funny moments with some key gross outs all performed by a monster that has an original look (quiet you Stan Winston motherfuckers). The movie knows what it is, worked within its budget and was actually conceived as the film goes along. There's some great material in this release for the collector and there's great material for wannabe filmmakers. Most of all, fan boys and girls of the spawn that is deadly will appreciate the care with which the folks at Arrow concoct a release that is obviously meant to make dorks happy. Return of the Alien's Deadly Spawn? If Arrow has to say anything about it, you bet your severed arm.

The Deadly Spawn is available through Arrow Video.

-Dr. "I don't mind sucking up to Arrow because they're hot" Terror

PS. My favorite thing about the whole goddamn release was the score loop on the disc menu. I left it on while I went to sleep after watching it. I woke up feeling refreshed and hungry. Hey Michael Perilstein... this PBR is for you.




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