• Razorback (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: August, 2018.
    Director: Russell Mulcahy
    Cast: Gregory Harrison, Arkie Whiteley, Bill Kerr, Chris Haywood, David Argue, Judy Morris
    Year: 1984
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    Razorback – Movie Review:

    The feature-length directorial debut of Russell Mulcahy, previously known for directing a whole lot of music videos (with his spot for Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf probably standing as his best known effort in that arena), 1984’s Razorback introduces us to Jake Cullen (Bill Kerr). He’s a hunter who lives in the Outback and he wants revenge against the giant wild pig – or razorback – that killed his grandson. Unfortunately for him, nobody believes him that this thing exists.

    After trying for months to find and kill the beast, his lucky changes when he meets Beth Winters (Judy Morris), a reporter visiting from New York in the Outback to report on kangaroo hunting. When she crosses Benny (Chris Haywood) and Dicko (David Argue) Baker, two rather rowdy bogans who run a dog food factory, he winds up having to find her. See, her car was found but her body is nowhere to be seen. Her husband Carl (Gregory Harrison) shows up looking to find out what happened to her and, not so surprisingly, Jake tells him about the Baker’s and their activities. When he meets them they kindly offer to take him hunting only to ditch him in the middle of the Outback and split, leaving him to contend with a few surly wild boars in the area. If that weren’t bad enough, an even more ferocious boar shows up and chases off the regular-sized ones!

    Carl passes out on farmland belonging to Sarah Cameron (Arkie Whiteley), a tough woman that knows a thing or two about the boars in the area. When Carl regains consciousness and tells her what happened, she knows who to call to take care of things – but that won’t be easy and the Baker’s are still up to no good.

    A rollicking slice of monster movie mayhem, Razorback is a uniquely Australian picture making the frequent comparisons that it receives to Jaws rather unfair. Yeah fine, both movies revolve around a cranky older guy out to kill a large-sized animal of one sort of another but the similarities really end there. The locations are obviously way different and the beast itself not really all that similar either. Still, Razorback does manage to provide some of the same sort of thrills and tension that films like Jaws, and to a lesser degree Grizzly, offer up – and that’s a good thing.

    While the story from famed Australian exploitation producer Everette De Roche, adapted from a novel by Peter Brennan, does offer solid character development and populates the film with interesting people, it is the scenes with the monster that really stand out. When this beast attacks, he does serious damage and the movie captures this well even if the mechanical giant boar used in the shoot infamously malfunctioned on a pretty regular basis (this is covered quite a bit in the supplements on the disc). From the audience’s perspective, however, the effects work really well and the boar attacks in the film are pretty vicious.

    The performances are pretty fun here. Bill Kerr steals a few scenes as surly, revenge driven Jake Cullen. He’s got a great screen presence and he isn’t afraid to throw that around in the film. Judy Morris and Arkie Whiteley are both quite good in their supporting roles, while Gregory Harrison as fish out of water Carl is also pretty solid. Chris Haywood and David Argue manage to crank up the menace in their respective portrayals of the not so fabulous Baker boys, however, really making and impression and playing the sleazy opportunist types really well.

    Mulcahy’s direction is generally strong too. There are a few spots where some tighter editing might have helped a bit but even when Razorback slows down, it’s never dull. The movie is generally paced quite nicely and the cinematography from Dean Semler, who shot The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome before going on to do loads of bigger budgeted mainstream Hollywood productions, is excellent.

    Razorback – Blu-ray Review:

    This remastered edition of Razorback comes from a 4k scan of the 35mm interpositive and is presented on a 50GB disc with the feature using up just over 21GBs of real estate. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition picture is framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. The transfer is, for the most part, quite nice though it should be noted that some of the dark scenes are very dark, enough so that it might irk some. Detail is generally quite strong, however, and you’ll notice this in close up shots the most but also get more out of medium and long-distance shots. Some occasional compression artifacts do pop up in the darker scenes but thankfully this isn’t a constant problem. The image is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement, there’s a fair amount of film grain here, but there isn’t much print damage to complain about. Skin tones can look a little on the warm side but generally the color reproduction looks quite good here.

    An English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is included and it sounds quite good. While it seems that the film was originally released in stereo the 5.1 mix here is pretty decent. There’s good channel separation in the action scenes and the score is spread out very nicely. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and dialogue is easy to follow. Optional English closed captioning is available.

    Extras, which are extensive, kick off with an audio commentary with director Russell Mulcahy moderated by Shayne Armstrong. This is quite interesting – if you ever wanted to know how working with Duran Duran could land you a job directing a bad ass Outback monster movie, pay attention. Mulcahy talks quite a bit about the locations used in the film, how he didn’t grow up anywhere near the Outback and how it lead to a tough shoot. He also praises his cast, talks up the effects and quite a bit more. Umbrella also includes a thirty-one-minute audio interview with actor Gregory Harrison. He speaks quite candidly about how he landed the part, his thoughts on the feature, what it was like on set, problems with the mechanical pig in the film and how he spent a lot of his spare time surfing.

    From there, dig into the feature-length seventy-three-minute documentary Jaws On Trotters, which is a very comprehensive look back at the making of the film comprised of interviews with Mulcahy, producer Hal McElroy, Razorback creator Bob McCarron, composer Iva Davies and cast members Judy Morris and Chris Haywood. This covers a lot of ground, from where the idea for the feature came from to the early origins of actually getting a movie made about a killer pig. There’s talk here about the effects, the locations, shooting in the Outback, the score and more. It covers some of the same ground as the commentary but it’s well put together and a genuinely interesting look back at the making of the film and its subsequent history.

    Also on hand is a selection of extended interviews with cast and crew from Mark Hartley's Ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood. There’s eighty-four-minutes of material here as we spend time with Harrison, Mulcahy, McElroy, Judy Morris, David Argue, McCarron and Everette De Roche. Yes, this covers some of the same ground we see covered in the documentary and the commentary but getting some of the other cast members in front of the camera as well as input from De Roche definitely gives this selection of material some interest for fans and it’s nice to have it included here.

    A Certain Piggish Nature is a twenty-four-minute retrospective look back at the making of the film that’s basically a panel discussion with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Lee Gambin, Sally Christie, and Emma Westwood. Here the critics talk about their feelings on the film, offer some insight into its history and generally just give us a well-rounded talk about what makes Razorback as fondly remembered as it is.

    Umbrella has also been good enough to include the original uncut Australian VHS release of the film. Unfortunately, the original elements for this could not be found and so this material is sourced from a tape (though it has been upscaled in an attempt to boost the quality a bit), but it’s great to have the alternate cut included here. This version runs a bit longer than the theatrical cut that is the feature presentation on this release and some of the excised material includes a bizarre scene where a tusk stands in for a phallus (!) and quite a bit more gore and carnage. Also included on the disc is a two-and-a-half-minute collection of‘Grisly Deleted Scenes’ available with optional commentary from Mulcahy and Armstrong. This is the material excised from the VHS cut essentially available separately.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a huge still gallery, a theatrical trailer for the feature, a VHS trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. This release also includes a slipcover.

    Razorback – The Final Word:

    Razorback is great entertainment, a tense and uniquely Australian creature run amuck film directed with plenty of style and featuring a strong cast. Umbrella Entertainment has rolled out the red carpet for their region free Blu-ray release, offering up the film in very nice shape on a disc that’s absolutely stacked with extra features.

    Click on the images below for full sized Razorback Blu-ray review screen captures!