• Lawnmower Man, The

    Released By: Shout/Scream Factory
    Released On: June 20, 2017.
    Director: Brett Leonard
    Cast: Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Dean Norris, Geoffrey Lewis, Jenny Wright
    Year: 1992
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    The Movie:

    You won't find too much in the way of debate when it comes to film adaptations of the works of author Stephen King; they're either regarded as total garbage, or total anomalies in a sea of total garbage. Even those some would consider dusty gems are shat upon...consider Kubrick's take on, "The Shining", De Palma's rendition of, "Carrie", or my personal favourite, King's own film version of his short story, "Trucks", which hit the silver screen as, "Maximum Overdrive". This years remake of, "It" found folks generally in agreement of a good thing come to life; but I thought it was a waste of time, so whatever. But few, so very few of King's ideas have been so lambasted as 1992's, "The Lawnmower Man", a film that King would ultimately sue the production company to have any mention of his name removed from. And whether or not that was because the film is, in fact, non-redeemable trash, or because it bares no similarity outside of about five seconds of screen time to King's very disturbing short story, it remains a permanent testament to interpretations gone wrong in the hands of folks with typewriters and whacky ideas linked to innovations that were important only to them, and only at that moment in time.

    When Brett Leonard and his writing partner, Gimel Everett, got a shot at the long-ago optioned Stephen King short story, "The Lawnmower Man", they could find nothing in the content...about an occult-worshipping landscaper who controlled his mower with his mind....and SATAN!...to flesh out into feature film length. Taken with new innovations happening in Silicon Valley, computer graphics that were oh-so-realistic in the 90's and would play on screens in dance clubs the world over, the screenwriting duo instead decided that the film should be centered around "Virtual Reality", a rare medium that allowed the willing to immerse themselves into a 640x480 world of bubbles, flashing lines, squared-off corners, and pouncing jaguars.

    And so, the two wrote about Dr. Larry Angelo (Pierce Brosnan), a scientist interested in using virtual reality and drugs to increase the intelligence and combat-readiness of primates, payrolled by government agency "The Shop" and Virtual Space Industries. Under the watchful eye of Sebastian Timms (Mark Bringelson), Angelo readies his holy chimpness Rosko 1138 for battle by cranking the monkey's brain with his own special serum, a shiny outfit, and a headset that allows the simian to identify terrain and threats via computer programming. Unfortunately, shit goes sideways when the narcotics prove too powerful for Rosko's tiny monkey brain, sending 1138 on a killing spree through VSI's hallways. Escaping to the outside world with the authorities hot on his chimply heels, Rosko makes his way to a shack in the woods, where he finds Jobe (Jeff Fahey) a simple simpleton who was born simple and destined to clean out the nearby church and mow lawns for the rest of his simple life.

    Fortunately for Jobe, Rosko 1138's headset helps him to determine that the straw-haired half-wit isn't a threat, and he safely resorts to typical chimp behaviour, which involves lots of ooh-ooh-ooing and ah-ah-aching noises and hugs (and probably eventually wearing a diaper, given the opportunity), while Jobe determines that Rosko is actually CYBOMAN, a character from one of his treasured comic books. Unfortunately for both of them, however, the snipers at The Shop know differently, and Jobe is horrified to witness his beloved monkey gunned down in a blaze of anthropoid glory, leaving Dr. Angelo monkeyless, and Jobe Cybomanless. But wait! Angelo realizes that Jobe is the same guy who cuts his lawn, and with his intelligence, or lack thereof, a perfect candidate to carry on his experiments at home. And so, he invites Jobe into his house, injects him with serum, and encourages Jobe to play with his virtual reality "games", which are in fact bombarding the young man's cortex with smartness.

    It isn't long before Jobe sheds his Simple Jack persona, getting some new clothes and combing his straw hair into a long, golden mane. And what the hell, he's got a pretty rocking body underneath his Osh Kosh's, and he soon attracts the attentions of sexy single housewife Marnie Burke (Jenny Wright) who wants some of what he's got in those overalls. Before he can say, "Oooooooo, I need a dirty woman", Jobe is mowing a lawn of a different kind, and attracting the ire of jealous men. But when Jobe decides to up his game by injecting himself with unhealthy doses of Angelo's drugs, and immersing himself in the mind-expanding technology of VSI, he realizes that he's come from simpleton to godlike being. And Timms' bosses at the shop are obviously very curious about Jobe's telekinetic abilities, determining him to be their next battlefield warrior. As Angelo tries to stuff the golden genie back into the bottle, Jobe's intelligence takes over, prompting him to take revenge on those who wronged him as a simple man, and leave his earthly reality by injecting himself into the mainframe; a battlefield of glowing suits, crappy graphics, and a digital arena that results in one of the silliest and dated showdowns committed to film.

    The Lawnmower Man...wow. In either cut (more on that in a bit) this is not a good film. Disappointing memories of seeing this in the theatre (when King's name was still on the advertising) plague me to this day. In the theatrical cut, the film is thankfully over more quickly, but even then, suffers from pedestrian film-making. The first act sets up everything in glaringly obvious fashion; The Shop (in case you weren't familiar with Firestarter) are the bad guys, highlighted in cold blue on giant screens with uncomfortable close-ups. Angelo, with his long hair and his earring is obviously subversive, and a champion of good intentions; and really, who could cheer for the assassination of a poor monkey? Fahey's annoying wide-eyed idiocy is even more pedantic, channeling Adam Sandler's Billy Madison (before he went to high school). A whole host of stereotypical bad guys, from the abusive dad/husband to the intimidating hoodlum at the gas station draw an obvious line detailing where the viewer should be standing. The Director's cut miserably attempts to add substance to the story, but only succeeds in going over the same lines in broader strokes, dragging the run time out to an unbearable length.

    And the graphics. Oh my, the graphics. In 1992, they were something, but even then, I recall them being nothing too fancy. And even if they were, they were certainly not worthy of hanging this shambles of a plot around. The premise of the film is so full of holes, so loosely joined, that it can't possibly sustain the superimposition and computerized death scenes that repeatedly kick it in the face. Jobe's escape into the computer world is idiotic, but even more so considering that it follows him running around in his VSI VR suit...which somehow glows as he's gettin' telekinetic with it....it begs the question as to why anyone would want to conclude a film in this fashion. Really, the only answer can be infatuation with a gimmick that may still be around in one form or another, but certainly bares no resemblance to the the pixelated nonsense on display here. The good? I'd be hard-pressed to pick them out of this one, outside of Jenny Wright's performance, or Pierce Brosnan when he's not kicking back dictating the explanation of the plot to his futuristic audio journal.


    Shout/Scream Factory brings The Lawnmower Man to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer with two cuts of the film spread over two discs, that fans will more than likely be very happy with. The Director's Cut adds more than 30 minutes of runtime and is introduced with a text blurb indicating that the transfer is a composite of the original theatrical negative and an interpositive, and as a result, jump cuts will be evident. Jump cuts certainly are evident, but they not too much of a distraction in the context of the film. As for the rest of the transfer, it's safe to say that some scenes fare better than others. Overall, this is a great looking transfer in bother versions, with striking colours, a healthy amount of grain, and enhanced detail in close-ups, with a lack of compression artifacts, though some dirt and debris is present. The most obvious issue with the transfer takes place in a very short sequence in which Brosnan approaches Fahey and his lawnmower outside, which occurs about 39:00 minutes into the Director's cut, and involves a strange ghosting that is quite obvious. This issue occurs in both cuts of the film, but was not noticed outside of the scene. Otherwise, Shout has presented the film very nicely.

    Audio is provided courtesy of two English tracks, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The 5.1 offers a little more ambience, but not too terribly much outside of opening up the score slightly. Both are about on par, though both also suffer from moments of canniness (if that's a word) and unnatural ambience. Still, dialogue is clear and consistent, and the balance is nice, with dynamics remaining intact outside of those mentioned moments of weakness. No hisses, crackles, pops or distortion were evident, and the film is also equipped with English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

    On the Theatrical Cut disc, we first off get a commentary with Writer/Director Brett Leonard and Writer/Producer Gimel Everett. This is the commentary that showed up on the Laserdisc a few years back, and the pair discuss their experience with virtual reality as a new technology, the origin of the of the film as a low-budget horror made larger-budget sci-fi flick, and the technology that they used to bring the Lawnmower Man to life. It's a wordy commentary that also covers the various cast and crew members, their love of the film, and their hopes and aspirations for offshoots including video games.

    Cybergod: Creating The Lawnmower Man(50:40) is a longass look at talking heads interspersed with clips from the film, and a lot of the material covered in the commentary shows up. Brett Leonard also talks about his film The Dead Pit, and the adapting of King's short story including the different ideas that surfaced before he got a hold of it, as well as the inspiration he found in Flowers For Algernon. Jeff Fahey shows up to talk about his reaction to the script and working with Pierce Brosnan who was was in his pre-Bond days, as well as anecdotes from working on the set. The most fun here is watching the numerous participants reference King's short story without actually mentioning the author by name.

    Twelve Deleted Scenes (27:30) are available that feature material that made it into the Director's cut as well as other bits. Some are interesting, some are not, but all are interlaced, which may take away from your enjoyment.

    Original EPK (4:43) is just that, a vintage featurette of sorts.

    Edited Animated Sequences (4:15) features the computerized bits from the film as well as other sequences, all set to a techno track. I don't know what the purpose is, but i guess if you really liked the film, you could show your friends this to convince them to watch it.

    A Trailer and TV Spot round out the extras on this disc.

    The Director's Cut also features a commentary with Writer/Director Brett Leonard and Writer/Producer Gimel Everett, and it's essentially the same commentary as the theatrical version, but with extra bits to cover the extra bits.

    Conceptual Art and Design Sketches features 32, errr, conceptual art and design sketches created for the film

    Behind the Scenes and Production Stills features 84 shots taken on set that are sadly upscaled and look not so great.

    Storyboard Comparison (1:54) features a split-screen type of situation comparing storyboards to actual scenes from the film.

    The Final Word:

    I sure didn't remember it being that great, and I sure don't think it's great now. An attempt to make The Lawnmower Man better by including an extended version fails on the basis that it reinforces mediocre characters engaging in more mediocrity. Still, a quick perusing of forums indicates that this one has it's admirers, and they will no doubt be impressed by Shout's immersive experience, with only that mentioned ghosting standing out as a serious nitpick. If you dig The Lawnmower Man, this is the way to go.

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

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      I remember seeing this in the theater because I was like 'hey, the guy who made The Dead Pit (which I liked) adapted a Stephen King story - how can this not be great?'

      It was not great.

      This review made me LOL though.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      The movie is bad. The review hopefully reflected that haha. And hey, if you can get a Pink Floyd reference in, why not?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Yeah that didn't go unnoticed.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      When Jenny Wright is on the scene, you have to.
    1. Maureen Champ's Avatar
      Maureen Champ -
      Jenny Wright... I'm still looking for two or three films with her, "Valentine Returns", "Enchanted" and "Capital News" full-length(?) movie