• Xtro

    Released by: Second Sight
    Released on: June 18th, 2018.
    Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
    Cast: Philip Sayer, Bernice Stegers, Danny Brainin, Maryam D'Abo
    Year: 1984
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    The Movie:

    The movie begins when Sam Phillips (Philip Sayer) disappears right on front of his young son Tony (Simon Nash of Terry Gilliam's Brazil). Three years later, Tony is still dealing with his father's disappearance and he tells his mother, Rachel (Bernice Stegers of Lamberto Bava's Macabro) and her new boyfriend – a high fashion photographer named Joe (Danny Brainin), that his father didn't leave, that he was taken by aliens. Things start to get strange though when Sam is reborn as a full-grown man in fairly graphic detail through a woman who gets impregnated by an alien being that lands on Earth… and then shows up at Rachel’s apartment.

    While all of this is going on, the lovely French babysitter (the lovely Maryam D'Abo of The Living Daylights in her big screen debut) is getting it on with her boyfriend from time to time, unbeknownst to her employees, Tony’s pet snake escapes much to the dismay of the downstairs neighbor, and a creepy clown starts poking about.

    When Sam picks up his son at school one day, his mother starts to become very concerned and for good reason. Where has he been all this time? Is it really him? She soon finds out that this isn't the same Sam she was once married to, as he has a strange tendency to kill people at random intervals and to leak greasy, oily fluid out of his arms and wrists. This strange behavior doesn't stop Tony from expressing his joy at Daddy's return, however, and soon, despite the fact that Sam has very obviously morphed into something very, very alien, he's put him up on a pedestal once more.

    Full of completely gratuitous gross out effects, some entirely unnecessary but very welcome nudity from D'Abo, and a plot that makes little to no sense most of the time, Xtro is a complete and utter mess from start to finish – but that doesn't mean it isn't a whole lot of fun. Citizen Kane it might not be but the movie does have a whole lot of quirky and exploitative charm that makes it very easy to sit through. The special effects, which are basically the centerpiece of the film, are completely budget looking but somehow manage to be a little unnerving at the same time, particularly the still gross birth scene in which Philip Sayer crawls out of his host mother's crotch covered in slime and goop and blood.

    The film also features some decent acting. Bernice Stegers is pretty good as the mother/wife conflicted by all of this. When Sam returns after his three-year absence, she’s understandably both confused and relieved. This comes through in her acting, as does her concern for Tony. Sam Phillips does an admirable job of playing Sam as ever-so-slightly off. We know why, but his family does not. It’s an interesting and sometimes subtle performance that works quite well. Maryam D'Abo is quite good in her supporting role while Danny Brainin does just fine as Joe. He’s a bit of a jerk, but we understand why, what with Sam showing up out of nowhere and sort of stealing his thunder. Simon Nash is a bit of a weak link, he plays Tony as a little bit of a brat, but in the context of the story and what the kid has gone through it’s understandable that he might act out as he does in the picture.

    The score, which sounds like something John Carpenter might have done if he had found himself with a lot less talent in the eighties – or maybe outtakes from one of Goblin’s lesser efforts - adds an otherworldly feel to the movie that actually works in spite of itself. It somehow manages to make the gore scenes gorier and the really dumb and completely nonsensical dialogue sequences even dumber and more nonsensical than they really are. Throw in a scene with a clown, a scene with a black panther, and a really bizarre looking alien and you get a movie that accidentally resembles, at times, some of David Cronenberg's work, even if it is obviously completely accidental that it happens that way. High art, Xtro is not – but it's good goofy, gory fun.

    Note: Second Sight offers up a few different ways to watch the movie (the first three via seemless branching):

    The first version is the one with the original ending (86:01), the version that most fans will be familiar with. The second version includes an alternate Ending (86:50) that is quite a bit darker in tone than the original and that actually winds up asking more questions than it answers. The third version is the UK video version (85:41) which presumably recreates the edited cut of the film that would have been released on tape back in the day after the BBFC got their hands on it.

    The fourth version is the 2018 Director's Version (86:48) and it starts with a quick half-minute introduction from the director in which he talks about what he changed and why – mainly digital tweaks to the effects work and some of the color timing decisions. The results are not good. The colors look really odd here, contrast is cranked way up and skin tones are way off. The added digital effects bring nothing to the movie, but hey, it’s here for those who want it.


    Second Sight presents all four cuts on a 50GB Blu-ray disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. As noted above, the 2018 version features some pretty wonky color changes making it the lesser looking of the transfers. The other options more or less look the same for the most part – which is fine. This transfer won’t blow you away but there’s okay detail here even if things look a bit soft and like a bit of DNR might have been applied. Black levels are good, color reproduction is decent and skin tones look pretty natural. Detail is at its best in closeup shots but even medium and long-distance shots show an improvement over the older R1 DVD release. The image is reasonably clean, showing only minor print damage.

    The three branched versions get an English DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track, while the 2018 cut gets a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional English closed captioning is included. The 1.0 Mono tracks sound fine. Dialogue is generally pretty easy to follow and the frequently icky sound effects have good presence to them. The film’s completely oddball score sounds pretty decent here too, the occasionally Goblin-esque synths punching through rather nicely. There aren’t any issues with hiss or distortion to note and the levels are pretty well balanced.

    Extras start off with a fifty-seven-minute documentary entitled Xploring Xtro which is made up of new interviews with Harry Bromley-Davenport, producer Mark Forstater, Bernice Stegers, Susie Silvey, Tim Dry, Sean Crawford, Robert Pereno, Alan Jones and Craig Lapper. This is a pretty in-depth piece with Forstater talks about how he first became aware of Bromley-Davenport and how the movie wound up at New Line after Bob Shaye wanted Forstater to give him Monty Python And The Holy Grail (which he also produced). It’s also interesting to hear from the cast members about their work on the film, what it was like on set, working with Bromley-Davenport and quite a bit more. There’s also talk here about who did the writing on the picture and the evolution of its screenplay, hoping to cash in on the popularity of horror pictures, getting financing for the film, the effects work in the picture, the use of nudity in the picture and the film’s reputation after being labeled a ‘Video Nasty’ in the UK.

    Up next is The World Of Xtro is a new twenty-seven-minute featurette wherein Xtro’s biggest fan, Dennis Atherton, explains in no small amount of detail why he and quite a few other fans love the picture as much as they do. He talks up the ‘family’ element of the story and how important it is to the picture, even if it is easy to overlook it due to the movie’s many effects set pieces. Bromley-Davenport and Forstater pop up here as well to offer a few points and counter-points.

    From there, dig into the seven-minute Beyond Xtro featurette with Bromley-Davenport and Forstater where we learn how the details of the copyright on the original film allowed the filmmaker to make two sequels to the picture. This segment also includes what is presumably test footage from the proposed reboot, Xtro – The Big One, which would appear to be a work-in-progress.

    Also on hand is a four-minute Loving The Alien: A Tribute to Philip Sayer featurette wherein Ahterton talks about how and why Brian May wound up dedicating a song to the late actor and how, when Forstater was made aware of this, they wound up providing this brief but nice musical tribute to the man.

    Carried over from the old Image Entertainment DVD that paired Xtro with its sequel is Xtro Exposed, a twelve-minute interview with the director of the film, Harry Bromley Davenport. Interestingly enough the director refers to his film as reprehensible and states that a lot of the strange bits of the film that don't make any sense turned out that way simply because someone at some point who was involved in the production thought it would be a cool idea to put it in – that's why there's a panther and a clown in the movie. The original version of this featurette ran seventeen-minutes and covered the sequels but the version included here has been trimmed of that material.

    Extras on the disc are closed out with the film’s original trailer (which is insanely spoiler heavy!), menus and chapter selection.

    Finished product is supposed to come with a softcover book featuring new writing by Kevin Lyons alongside behind-the-scenes stills and promo material as well as a soundtrack CD but only a test disc was sent for review so we can’t comment on that. If this material is sent at a later date we’ll update this review accordingly.

    The Final Word:

    Xtro is pretty bonkers, but it’s not without its own screwy charm. The movie doesn’t always make sense but it manages to entertain in spite of itself. The effects set pieces understandably get most of the attention here but there’s some decent acting here and some interesting elements that make the story more engaging than it really had any right to be. Second Sight brings the film to Blu-ray in decent shape and in multiple versions along with a pretty choice selection of extras. If you’re a fan, this is a solid upgrade from past DVD editions.

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

    Comments 10 Comments
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      No Maryam D'abo shots?
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      Damn, I thought this was supposed to be superior to the German BD version - those caps don't look much different to me. I don't know if I should buy this now.
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      What's the recommended version for a first time viewing?
    1. Wernski's Avatar
      Wernski -
      The commentary from the R1 DVD release has not been included on this disc.
      What R1 DVD had a commentary? Certainly not the Image disc. I've got it, and there's only the one audio track.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Yeah, I stand corrected. I thought that the disc with Xtro and Xtro II also had a commentary on it but nope. My mistake.

      And for first time viewing I'd say the original cut.
    1. Bruce Holecheck's Avatar
      Bruce Holecheck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ian Jane View Post
      I thought that the disc with Xtro and Xtro II also had a commentary on it but nope. My mistake.
      We actually tried to get Harry to do a commentary for the Image disc, but he was worried he'd run out of stuff to say and pushed for an interview instead. I think he could've pulled it off.
    1. cmeffa's Avatar
      cmeffa -
      I really love all three films in this series. I would like to eventually get it on Blu ray. Thanks for posting.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      First time watching for me, for some inexplicable reason I always passed this up in the local video rental store and I was a big horror kid. What a nutty film. What's with the life size action man and the clown? Anyway, bizarre as it was I very much enjoyed it. I watched the original cut first, but then was intrigued by the directors cut so I skimmed through that. First thing I noticed was that the appearance was more akin to modern films, and to a degree took some of the Britishness away from the way it looked. It does look different, and like the review said overdone on the contrast. I will say this though and that I feel like I should watch the directors cut in full.

      I was happy with how the original cut looked. I mean even though I never saw the vhs release I can imagine it looked like shit so this looked fine to me.

      Its a nice package altogether. I love when second sight do these specials.
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      I'm amazed that a film with a sequence of a full sized man graphically dragging himself out of a woman's twat now only warrants a 15 certificate! I was thinking that the BBFC have come a long way, and then I saw that Adventure in Sahara from the Sam Fuller set has been cut for a horse fall 80 years after the nag was probably sent to the glue factory, so maybe not.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      Quote Originally Posted by agent999 View Post
      I'm amazed that a film with a sequence of a full sized man graphically dragging himself out of a woman's twat now only warrants a 15 certificate! I was thinking that the BBFC have come a long way, and then I saw that Adventure in Sahara from the Sam Fuller set has been cut for a horse fall 80 years after the nag was probably sent to the glue factory, so maybe not.
      Probably less to do with the BBFC and more to do with perceived animal cruelty or something like that. BBFC have their hands tied with that. Sounds odd though doesn't it, when you put it the way you did.