• Body Parts (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: January 28th, 2010.
    Director: Eric Red
    Cast: Jeff Fahey, Brad Dourif, Lindsay Duncan, Kim Delaney, Paul Ben-Victor, Peter Murnik
    Year: 1991
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    Body Parts – Movie Review:

    Bill Chrashank (Jeff Fahey) is a lucky man. He’s got a beautiful wife named Karen (Kim Delaney), a pair of health kids, and a nice home – all of which he’s paid for by working as a psychiatrist, often times treating seriously disturbed criminals like Kolberg (Paul Ben-Victor).

    While on the way to work one day, Bill is rear-ended by an eighteen-wheeler, slams into the car in front of him, and flies through his windshield onto the highway. He’s rushed to the hospital where Dr. Agatha Webb (Lindsay Duncan) tells Karen that he’ll survive, but they can’t save his arm. They can, however, give him an arm transplant thanks to a new surgical technique she’s been working on. The catch? There isn’t time to wait for Bill to wake up and confirm, so Karen makes the choice for him. The surgery seems to go off without any issues and a short time later, Bill is using his new arm to do everything he’d normally do – play football with his son, write, drive and make love to his wife.

    And then, quite predictably, things start getting a little weird for Bill. His hand starts acting erratically and when he wakes up one morning to find that he’s choking Karen, he starts to wonder what’s going on. On top of that, he’s having drastic mood swings and weird hallucinations. It turns out that the arm’s donor was a notorious homicidal maniac and it would seem that Bill has inherited some of the late psychopath’s tendencies. And it isn’t just Bill. A few other people received body parts from the same donor, people like Remo Lacey (Brad Dourif) and Mark Draper (Peter Murnik), and they’re experiencing similar problems. At this point, things go from predictable to delightfully twisted as we move towards a seriously great conclusion that we won’t’ spoil in this review.

    Aside from the car crash – which his admittedly pretty brutal and surprisingly well-done – the first half of Body Parts might feel a little on the predictable side. We’ve seen ‘transplant’ movies plenty of times before, after all. But stick with this one, as it goes in some decidedly interesting and genuinely unexpected directions. The last half of the film plays out in ways that you won’t see coming and it’s a blast seeing how all of this plays out. Full points to co-writer/director Eric Red, the man behind equally great films like Cohen & Tate and Bad Moon, for pulling this off as well as he did. The movie is paced well, populated with interesting characters and even works in some moments of effective black comedy.

    The performances are also pretty great here. Kim Delaney is quite good as Bill’s put-upon wife. She’s sympathetic and we like her. Paul Ben-Victor goes just close enough to over-the-top as Kolberg to make for a memorable heavy while Lindsay Duncan definitely feels right for the part as Bill’s surgeon. Supporting work from Peter Murnik and the always great Brad Dourif (who does quirky better than Brad Dourif?) is also appreciated. As to Jeff Fahey, he’s great in the lead, really ramping things up with increasingly manic intensity as the story plays out and a whole lot of fun to watch here.

    Production values are pretty solid here. The practical effects work, which is plentiful land at times enjoyably gory, still holds up really nicely – there’s some really creative set pieces here. The score works nicely and the cinematography is more than solid. The aforementioned car crash is an impressive set piece in and of itself but there’s also a pretty amazing car chase in the picture worth mentioning as well. Even the opening credits are just plain cool.

    Body Parts – Blu-ray Review:

    The AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p high definition picture on this disc looks good, but would appear to be taken from an older master as it can look a little soft at times. Colors look nice and black levels are solid. Detail won’t floor you but it’s certainly a nice step up from the old DVD release. The image is definitely clean, no problems with print damage at all.

    English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Master Audio tracks are provided. Optional subtitles are available in English only. In some ways the stereo track sounds a bit stronger here but the 5.1 mix is pretty fun during the more active scenes, that car crash being a great example as it spreads things out quite nicely. Otherwise, both tracks are clean, clear and properly balanced. No problems with any hiss or distortion and there’s solid depth throughout.

    Extras, which are plentiful, start off with a new audio commentary with Eric Red. He talks about writing The Hitcher and Near Dark and directing Cohen & Tate and then wanting to do a ‘big horror movie.’ From here, he talks about finding the inspiration for the film in the literary work of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac and how he got the movie green lit with a ten million dollar budget and a start date. He talks about finishing the script and the pre-production that was needed, the casting of the picture, what it was like working with the different cast and crew members, changes that he made to the story, and why certain scenes like the first appearance of the doctor are shot the way they are. As the commentary continues, he talks about how he wanted the movie to have a fluorescent lighting look to make it look cold and clinical, the use of practical makeup effects and stunts, the locations that he used for the shoot and how great they were to use, the importance of the warmth between Fahey and Delaney on camera together, the challenges that arose during the making of the film, how the movie was made before science caught up to it, how the cast and crew would hit the bars and hang out after the day’s work was done, the use of sound in the film and lots more. There’s very little dead air here, Red covers a lot of ground and delivers a pretty interesting dissection of this movie.

    There’s also a fifty-two-minute interview with Red on the disc entitled I Dare You To Read The Script that is definitely worth checking out. It covers some of the same ground as the commentary but it’s also got a lot of new info as well. He talks about being horror fan as a kid, how he was obsessed with Those Magnificent Men And Their Flying Machines as a five year old and how that ties into Body Parts and his relationship with his grandmother! He talks about growing up in Manhattan and seventies Times Square and how he wanted to make movies that would appeal to the crowds there, how he finally got into the industry after connecting with Edward S. Feldman, making it into the AFI and moving to California after working on The Hitcher, his work on Near Dark and his thoughts on that project, how Frank Mancuso Jr. helped him get Body Parts to Paramount and how they green lit it right away, why Red brought other writers in to help finish the script, what it was like shooting the picture, Fahey’s work in the picture, what the other cast members brought to the production, shooting in Toronto, the importance of using a giant microscope in the operating room scene and how he got that, where the bone saw came from, how the freeway wreck was done and how it actually went wrong, editing the handcuffed car chase scene, working with editor Anthony Redman, reshoots and more. Lots of great info here, Red is pretty enthusiastic and recounts all of this with plenty of energy.

    Next up is the fourteen-minute Something Unstoppable, an interview with actor Paul Ben-Victor who talks about drumming as his first creative endeavor when he was a kid. He studied music for ten years or so and how he was raised by a creative family. He then talks about how he got into acting and did theater before getting into film, moving from New York to Los Angeles and the differences between the two cities, landing the role on Body Parts (he doesn’t remember how it happened!), how he really liked working with Red, his approach to acting, a few projects he wound up taking later, working with Fahey and more.

    Molded For Cinema is an interview with actor Peter Murnik that runs just over seventeen-minutes in length. He talks about getting into acting by doing theater in Massachusetts when he lived there as a kid, being invited to study at The Loft Studio in Hollywood and getting to hob knob with some pretty big names, what he enjoys about the business, dealing with rejection in his early years, some modelling work that he did, getting his SAG card by doing commercial work with Michael Bay and David Fincher and then working with them later one, how Body Parts was one of the first larger budgeted pictures he worked on, getting the part, working with Red, acting alongside his fellow cast members, seeing Brad Dourif when he saw One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest as a kid, the effects and violence in the film, doing some stunt driving in the picture and more. He looks back on all of this very fondly!

    The last major featurette is That One Hurt, a twenty-three-minute interview with Editor Anthony Redman. He talks here about how he knew he’d get into the movie business at a young age, his education and childhood, his obsession with movies as a kid, going to UCLA, living in San Francisco where he drove a truck and sold weed for a while and then moving back to L.A. and getting a break. He then talks about getting in at Universal, the apprenticeship program that was in place, getting to work in the film library, working with Roger Corman, his preference for indie films over mainstream films, what it was like working with Abel Ferrara and his relationship with the infamous director and then, of course, how he got brought on board to cut Body Parts, what that experience was like, working with Red, his thoughts on the project and more. Redman is a great storyteller and he doesn’t hold back here, this is pretty interesting stuff.

    The disc also contains two deleted gore sequences available with optional commentary from Red. These are great to see and while taken from a workprint, and therefore in less than perfect shape, a nice addition to the disc. Red’s commentary offers some context for them and discusses why they were cut.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the film’s theatrical trailer, a few TV spots, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Some cool reversible cover art has also been included.

    Body Parts – The Final Word:

    Body Parts is a blast, a seriously entertaining picture that offers up the right mix of horror, suspense and solid technical merits. Fahey is great in the lead and the supporting cast is strong too. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release looks good, if never reference quality, and it benefits from strong audio and a great selection of extras features. Recommended!

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