• Cat In The Brain



    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing
    Released on: July 12th, 2016.
    Director: Lucio Fulci
    Cast: Lucio Fulci, David L. Thompson, Brett Halsey
    Year: 1990
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    The Movie:

    Lucio Fulci's Cat In The Brain (also known as Nightmare Concert) debuts on Blu-ray in North America in a re-mastered and completely uncut two-disc special edition with oodles of extra features. This really is a great package and even if the film doesn't rank with the best of the late director's pictures, it’s a twisted and fascinating picture in its own right.

    The plot isn’t particularly complex. In the film, Lucio Fulci plays himself, a director of horror and exploitation films. He seems to have become immune to the atrocities which he so blatantly displays on screen in his films. There’s cause for concern, however, because as of late old Lucio seems to be having trouble distinguishing between what is happening in his films with what is happening in real life. Things go from bad to worse as Fulci starts having hallucinations on the job and off, placing himself right in the heart of all the gory and sexually explicit action required in the types of films that he has directed. This prompts him to seek out the advice of a psychologist (David L. Thompson). Sounds like a good idea, right? But little does Fulci know, his psychiatrist is just as twisted upstairs as he is and he may or may not hypnotize poor Lucio into doing his evil bidding. Much carnage ensues.

    The film almost plays as a ‘Fucli's Greatest Hits' package as the loose fitting story is strung together between one gore or sex set piece to the next, albeit very tenuously. Lucio's performance is quite wooden and he spends most of his time wandering through the stages and sets of the production looking like a rabbit in headlights - though some might feel that that is part of the movie's charm. Somehow it works. When Fulci acts like a confused old man in the film, you buy him in the part. His lack of charisma gives things a sort of surreal tone, this is accentuated by the fact that he is dubbed not just in the English version but the Italian version as well. There’s clearly a satirical element to the film and Fulci’s sense of black humor comes through here quite often. But the gore is pretty malicious, which makes things a little confusing in terms of tone. Is it supposed to be a parody? Is it supposed to be a shocking gore film? It’s really a bit of both. It’s also a film that is easier to appreciate on repeat viewings, at least by this writer’s gauge. What at first seemed like a mean streak a mile wide running through the film no seems closer to making a point. If you want blood, you’ve got it. Is Fulci trying to tell us that giving his fans what he knows they want driving him over the edge? You could certainly read that into the film.

    Further, there are times where you almost get the impression that Fulci is making some sort of apology with the picture. As such, the director winds up painting himself in a very strange light indeed. The way he reacts to meat, the steak tartar put in front of him at a restaurant. The way he treats his crew, and the associations he makes to various sounds and sights throughout the film. All of this, on second or third viewing, would seem to be intended to show the audience both his insanity his regret. Given that he's playing this character as himself, as Lucio Fulci and not a fictional character, makes for a film ripe with symbolism and metaphor.

    The gore effects are done on a low budget (and some borrowed from other films – Touch Of Death, Sodoma’s Ghost and a few others). The sex scenes are trashy and exploitative. The pacing is wonky and the score is weird. Everything about the film is off… and at first viewing you might push back on this. You might find yourself, like I did, wondering what the point is. But the more time you spend with Cat In The Brain, the more it grows on you. Fulci’s work in front of the camera becomes more interesting, the humor in his performance and in the dialogue more obvious and more biting and the whole vibe a bit more playful, despite the fact that, yeah, it’s clearly malicious. This isn’t the man’s best film, not by a wide margin, but it’s certainly one of his more interesting. And hey, if you’re a gore hound, this’ll be right up your early because the film is loaded with some pretty great splatter effects.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Grindhouse Releasing presents Cat In The Brain on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. This was shot on 16mm and it’s a grainy beast of a film, but the increase in detail and clarity over the older DVD release is readily apparent right from the start. Some shots look better than others, the film has always looked this way due to the fact that it pulls from various sources, but overall this is solid. Close up shots look fantastic, colors are reproduced really nicely and black levels are good. The footage shot specifically for this film looks better than some of the inserted sequences, skin tones are lifelike and realistic and grainy or not, the image is pretty much free of actual damage.

    DTS-HD tracks are provided in your choice of English or Italian with optional subtitles provided in English only. Again, we get a nice upgrade over the previous DVD release. Both tracks are clean, clear and properly balanced. Hiss and distortion are never a problem and the score sounds quite good. Sound effects and foley come through nice and clear but the dialogue stays consistently easy to understand and is never buried in the mix.

    The first disc contains both the more recent Box Office Spectaculars North American and the original Italian theatrical trailers for the film as well as menus and chapter selection for the feature.

    Moving on to the second disc, we start with the new extras exclusive to this release. First up is an interview with screenwriter Antonio Tentori that clocks in at twenty-seven minutes. Here Tentori talks about as a kid Argento and Fulci were his heroes and how it was an honor for him to eventually work with Lucio. He notes that he got to know the late director initially by calling him to interview him, after which they stayed in touch. From there, he went on to write Cat In The Brain and Demonia. He looks back on his time with Fulci pretty fondly, sharing some interesting stories about his work with the man and also sharing some anecdotes about working on low budget pictures, some of the performers he interacted with, Fulci’s involvement with various producers, and what all went into writing A Cat In The Brain and how they incorporated footage from the ‘Lucio Fulci Presents’ movies and other sources. After that, we’re treated to an interview with cinematographer Sandro Grossi that runs just under twenty-eight minutes. He gives us a nice introduction to his career by talking about how he came to love movies and music at a young age. From there, he talks about how he got into working in movies behind the camera after being inspired by Kubrick, how he first met Lucio Fucli and how he came to work with him not just on Cat In The Brain but also on a few other projects, notably Voices From Beyond. He notes that ‘Cat In The Brain is him’ and makes some observations about his performance and describing what it was like no set working on this picture (“He was never silent on set!”). He also discusses how the director knew what he want in terms of compositions and how he was very particular about certain shots.

    Composer Fabio Frizzi is up next in a thirty minute piece where he discusses the many different films that he worked on for Lucio Fulci. He talks about how he first learned of Fulci when he was told to go and see Four Of The Apocalypse where he met the director for the first time. He talks more about having to ‘find seven notes’ and the challenges that posed when scoring a certain film, he shares some stories about different people he collaborated with over the years, the different instruments that he used over the years, how his relationship with Fulci evolved over the years (“Lucio was different than everybody else…”) and quite a bit more. Frizzi is the only one of the interviewees in the ‘new extras’ section that speaks in English. Also included here is footage of Frizzi and his band performing the main theme from Cat In The Brain live in Hollywood on October 2nd, 2015 for just under eight minutes. It’s interesting to see them do this in front of an audience, with some footage from Fulci’s films projected behind them. Frizzi clearly appreciates the enthusiasm and energy from the audience.

    Not to be outdone, poster artist Enzo Sciotti spends eighteen minutes showing off his creative process. We learn what went into creating the iconic poster art for Cat In The Brain, about his background and his artistic training, how he got his start in the industry and some of the different people he has worked with over the years. He also talks about different poster art pieces from throughout his career (Death Wish 4!), shows off a few interesting pieces and then paints a new piece in front of the camera.

    Antonio Tentori Interviews Lucio Fulci is a segment that is just what it sounds like – an interview done for a radio show in 1987. It’s a sixteen minute piece documenting a recording of said interview that plays over a selection of stills and poster art. Here they talk about various films that Fulci has made over the years, his thoughts on Spaghetti Westerns, fantastic films and horror pictures, returning to the Giallo genre with Murder Rock and Devil’s Honey, his thoughts on Mario Bava and quite a bit more. Fulci is very candid and frank here, it’s an interesting interview and a great addition to the disc.

    From there we move on to a selection of interviews, the first of which is Lucio Fulci - Rome, July 27, 1995 and is split into two forty-minute sections. The first section is Genre Terrorist and here Fulci talks about the differences between horror movies and thrillers and spends a fair bit of time discussing his work in both genres. He gets fairly riled up when talking about the supposed negative effects of horror films and even manages to rant about soccer players at one point. He mentions certain directors who he feel died too young and about different directors that he admires and he discusses some of the female performers he worked with. The second section is The Television Years which allows the director to talk about some of the odd projects he found himself involved in for the small screen. He talks about a lot of the people he worked with during these years and shares some fun stories about this period and he discusses working in different genres and about his odd sense of humor. Fulci fans will eat these two segments right up as the director really does get fairly personal here and this offers a rare chance to hear about so much of the man's work in his own words. This material is presented in Italian with forced English subtitles.

    From there, check out Brett Halsey - Living La Dolce Vita, a forty-six minute featurette. Halsey talks about how he got his start in radio before meeting Jack Benny and landing a gig through a casting call at Universal. From here he goes on to talk about a lot of his early films, some of the contracts he was under, and how he wound up working in films like Return Of The Fly. From here he talks about how he wound up working on so many Italian pictures, his involvement in various spaghetti westerns before going on to discuss many of the people that he worked with on these films. Halsey is quite open and candid about his work and his career and he makes for an interesting interviewee.

    Memories Of Lucio is a five minute featurette that is broken up into three sections: Jeoffrey Kennedy - "Gabrielli"; Sacha Maria Darwin - "Woman In The Oven"; and Malisa Longo - "Katya." These are basically brief clips from the Paura documentary that was released a year or so ago, so some may have seen this material before but they make for welcome additions to the release and offer further insight into Fulci's persona.

    The second disc also includes the twenty-two minute Lucio Fulci At Fangoria's Weekend Of Horrors - NYC 1996, which is a videotaped document of Fulci's first and only American convention appearance. Appearing with a translator, Fulci takes questions from the audience and appears reasonably jovial throughout, even flattered by the reception he receives here. He talks about the Wax Museum project he never got to work on, why he made the kind of movies he made, and what it was like working with some of the people that he worked with throughout his career. The video quality isn't so hot - this was shot with a camcorder from the audience - but it's nice to see this included here. This accompanies a still gallery comprised of various pieces of poster art, home video release art, soundtrack images and more.

    Grindhouse has also included trailers for The Beyond, Pieces, Pigs, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, The Tough Ones, Massacre Mafia Style, Gone With The Pope, Scum Of The Earth, An American Hippie In Israel, Corruption, The Swimmer, The Big Gundown and I Drink Your Blood. Closing out the second disc are some credits, animated menus, and biographies/filmographies (which contain trailers for some interesting films as well as a few other Easter Eggs that are worth looking for) for both Lucio Fulci and Brett Halsey.

    But wait, there’s more! Also included with the two Blu-ray discs is a bonus CD containing not only all fifteen tracks of the original soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi but also a live version of the film’s main theme performed live in Hollywood on October 4th, 2015. This disc is housed in its own cardboard slipcover, it does not fit inside the clear flipper style Blu-ray case that contains the two discs.

    All three discs fit inside a glow in the dark slipcover (which is limited to the first three thousand copies). Also tucked away inside the packaging is a mini-portrait of Lucio Fulci (approximately the size of a postcard) that is also limited to the first three thousand copies of the release. An full color insert booklet contains an original poster reproduction on the front cover and loads of archival stills and images to accompany essays on the film from Antonella Fulci (Lucio Fulci’s daughter), Eli Roth, David J. Schow and Martin Beine. The back cover of the booklet contains chapter listings for the feature film. It’s also worth noting that the cover insert is reversible – it’s got the aforementioned portrait of Fulci on one side and the more recognizable Cat In The Brain image on the opposite side (the same image that graces the front of the slipcover).

    The Final Word:

    A truly odd film, even by Fulci standards, Grindhouse pulls out all the stops for their deluxe Blu-ray release of Cat In The Brain. This is one of those releases where, even if the film isn't your favorite (it might grow on you with repeat visits, it has for me!), it's a completely worthwhile release for the supplements alone – especially since everything from the old DVD release has been carried over and quite a bit of new (and interesting!) supplements have been added to the package. Fulci fans should find themselves quite delighted by the bonus features and in terms of the presentation, the film looks and sounds better than it ever has.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Sand blastered with DNR at some stage, this is one Grindhouse where the DVD will suffice.