• Tammy And The T-Rex (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Combo Pack Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: November 29th, 2019.
    Director: Stewart Raffill
    Cast: Denise Richards, Theo Forsett, Paul Walker, Ellen Dubin, Terry Kiser, George 'Buck' Flower, Sean Whalen, John Franklin
    Year: 1994
    Purchase From Amazon

    Tammy And The T-Rex – Movie Review:

    Stewart Raffill, the man who directed Mac & Me and Ice Pirates, was told he could have access to a million dollars and an animatronic tyrannosaurus rex for three weeks if he could turn it into a movie. He accepted the challenge and the result was 1994’s Tammy And The T-Rex, a seriously screwy mix of romance, comedy, sci-fi and shocking gore that would prove early entries on the resumes of future Hollywood A-listers Denise Richardson and Paul Walker.

    The story? Pretty high schooler Tammy (Richardson) is torn between two lovers. Well, not torn per se, but unable to get rid of one. She wants to be with kind, dreamy Michael (Walker) but her current beau, an abusive and possessive grease ball named Billy (George Pilgrim) isn’t having any of it. In fact, when he finds Michael even talking to Tammy and her best friend –a gay black guy with a thing for African apparel named Byron (Theo Forsett) - he tries to beat him up and the two young men wind up in what the cops (George ‘Buck’ Flower and Ken Carpenter) call a ‘testicular standoff.’ The fight is broken up but Billy swears revenge. That night, when he learns Michael has snuck into Tammy’s room, he and his pals chase him down, beat him up and then toss him into a wildlife sanctuary where he’s attacked by a lion.

    Michael’s body may be trashed, but his brain is okay – which brings him to the attention of Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kiser – yup, Bernie from Weekend At Bernie’s) and his lanky chain smoking assistant Helga (Ellen Dubin). They’re working with a strange little tech named Bobby (John Franklin – whose presence makes you want to quote Children Of The Corn at inappropriate times) on a new scientific technique that will allow them to place the brains of the living into different bodies. They decide to steal Michael’s corpse and cut out his brain and place it inside a T-Rex to further their research. What could go wrong? Well, the T-Rex could eat Bobby and his pal and then go on a bit of a rampage to get revenge against Billy, rekindle his romance with Tammy and try to get himself a body again… and that’s exactly what happens.

    Tammy And The T-Rex is ridiculous. It’s intentionally ridiculous, though, one of those movies that throws in everything but the kitchen sink, but the most surprising quality about the film in its uncut version as presented here is just how damn gory the picture gets. Heads are bitten off, bodies are squashed, guts are ripped out, heads are sawn open, brains are pulled out, noggins are squashed – not typically the type of content you associate with what, on the surface at least, looks and sounds like a dopey mid-nineties teen comedy, especially one with romantic overtones.

    Shot fast and cheap to maximize the presence of that animatronic dinosaur in the age before CGI, the prop T-Rex doesn’t appear to have the use of his legs so he’s often seen standing in one place or riding on the back of a truck except for a few really goofy green screen shots. His tiny T-Rex arms aren’t really enough to let him to things like hold phones or tap people on the shoulder so wonky little puppet arms are used to do this instead. Raffill and company definitely knew what kind of movie they were making, there was never any intention of asking an audience to treat this even the least bit seriously, it’s all goofy, good natured fun.

    As to the acting? Well, Richardson hasn’t always shown the most range and has had a tendency to overdo it here and there but this film plays to her strengths. She’s pretty, kind of sweet in her way, and likeable enough. If she chews a bit of scenery in the film’s more over the top moments of sugary melodrama, it doesn’t hurt anything, in fact, it feels ‘right’ for the movie. Paul Walker is really only in the first half of the movie but he’s good here, he’s handsome and charismatic and it’s easy to see how he went on to become a star. We get some great supporting performances too. Buck Flower and Ken Carpenter are pretty funny as the comic relief cops and Theo Forsett is pretty funny even if his character is a dated, one-note stereotype. You’ve got to love seeing Isaac from Children Of The Corn in the film and John Franklin’s strange screen presence lends the scenes he appears in a certain something. Sean Whalen from The People Under The Stairs is amusing as Billy’s right hand man but it’s Terry Kiser, overdoing it with a pseudo European accent, and Ellen Dubin, a cigarette perpetually glued to her lips, who really steal the show. They’re genuinely funny here and perfectly cast. Also look out for John F. Goff of Berserker, Ilsa: She-Wolf Of The S.S. and a zillion other cult and horror oddities in a small role as Micheal’s drunken uncle Bob.

    Tammy And The T-Rex – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Tammy And The T-Rex to Blu-ray in an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p 4k high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, with the feature taking up just over 62GBs of space on a 66GB disc. Taken from a new 4k restoration of the film’s original 35mm negative, the picture quality here is excellent – it was excellent on the Blu-ray release as well, but the 4k UHD is just that much better. The HDR makes the colors pop more and the black levels look noticeably stronger. There are no problems with any compression, noise reduction or edge enhancement at all and the picture is wonderfully filmic from start to finish. Detail is more impressive here than the on the Blu-ray and there’s stronger depth and texture evident as well. It’s a gorgeous looking picture overall, and Vinegar Syndrome’s first foray into the UHD format scores top marks all around.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is excellent. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The audio quality is rock solid, from the clean, clear dialogue to the oh-so-mid-nineties sounding score. No problems with even a trace of hiss or distortion. Levels are properly balanced throughout and everything sounds just fine. The audio on the UHD disc appears to mirror the audio on the standard Blu-ray.

    The only extra on the UHD is a commentary with director Stewart Raffill and producer Diane Kirman, moderated by Brett Berg of the American Genre Film Archive. The track starts off with a selection of general memories about the making of the film, the Tanny vs. Tammy on the title card, being contacted to make the movie on the basis of having access to the T-Rex, how lucky they were with the casting in the film not just by landing Richardson and Walker but Theo Forsett and some of the other supporting players as well. They note that they videotaped everyone who had auditioned and how they felt Walker and Richardson were perfect, how everyone in the cast is totally in on what’s going on, Terry Kiser’s performance and how great it is, how Raffill’s background in animal training allowed them to use a live lion and jaguar in the film, trying to ‘get performances that were real in the midst of stupidity’ while directing the picture, trying to pull off the rather frequent gore effects without a huge budget, using John Carl Buechler for the effects work, why Ellen Dubin’s character is constantly smoking in the film, how they’d worked with the ‘muscleman’ earlier on Mannequin: On The Movie, how the Dutch producer turned the finished product into the family film that he had hoped he would get (or at least tried to), using whoever was available to fill in as the production moved along, having to use slightly older cast members due to restrictions on younger actors, how there was a massive fire burning nearby during the production, directing The Philadelphia Experiment the same year as this film, how the comedy works with the gore, how Ken Carpenter and Buck Flower didn’t know one another before the shoot but got along so well and how Raffill would love to do a sequel if he were able to get the same people back to do it.

    The rest of the extras are on the included Blu-ray disc (which also contains the commentary). Raffill also shows up in a twenty-two-minute long interview entitled Blood, Brains And A Teenage T-Rex. He talks here about moving to Los Angeles from England, getting his start in the film business doing everything from working as a boom mic operator to working as an animal trainer. He notes that the film was shot for a million dollars and that it was financed by a Dutch man who lived in South Africa who took the finished film and recut it, which is why the title card reads ‘Tanny’ instead of Tammy. He talks about having the animatronic dinosaur for three-weeks and basing the story around just having access to it, working with Walker and Richards, the gore effects in the film, how they got those nice red skies at the end because they were shooting near a massive California fire and how he sees the movie as sci-fi picture more than anything else. There isn’t much here that isn’t covered in the commentary but if commentaries aren’t your thing, hey, this is a good option for you.

    A Blast From The Past gets leading lady Denise Richards in front of the camera for just over ten-minutes, talking about how nervous she was on set as this was her first picture. She notes that she kept waiting to hear she was going to be fired and never was, but that she got along with everyone and that Raffill was quite a fun director to work with. She also mentions the fires and, at the end of the piece, seems genuinely happy that this movie is being rediscovered as she remains quite fond of it.

    Actor Sean Whalen is up next in Having The Guts, a twelve-minute featurette where he speaks about how he got the film when he was just starting out and had just shot a milk commercial which brought him to the attention of Amblin Entertainment and Steven Spielberg. He talks about getting cast as a gang member, having to cancel a family trip to Maui in order to take the role in the film, how his quirky look helped his career, doing Little Caesar’s commercials, how working on this low budget picture differed from some of the TV work and bigger budgeted pictures he had worked on prior, how he loved working on a goofy, campy movie, how he was excited to work with the director of Mac & Me, how the effects were done for his death scene, a wrap party that happened at Denise Richardson’s place and quite a bit more. Whalen is pretty animated and a lot of fun to listen to.

    In Testicular Standoff actor George Pilgrim, the actor who played the villainous Billy in the film. He speaks for twenty-five-minutes about how he feels about the picture and how it’s always stuck in his mind. He, too, is happy to see that the R-version is finally being released, his thoughts on his first read through of the script, not wanting to play a part where he got his head bitten off, shooting on location at a high school in front of a million kids who he didn’t realize were working as extras on the film, the opening ball grabbing scene and how that was pulled off, working with Walker and Richardson and how he got along with them, how one of the older actors had a heart attack on set on the first day, Stewart Raffill’s directing style and more. He also covers shooting the scene where he chases Walker down in the car, bonding with Walker in particular, having to play his part completely straight while surrounded by a lot of comedic actors, how the actress in the car/sex scene scared him when she started screaming, and quite a bit more.

    If that weren’t enough, Vinegar Syndrome also provides the PG-13 cut of the film (which runs 1:22:32 versus the uncut version at 1:30:46), sourced from a tape, in all of its glory. The fullframe presentation looks like a VHS tape but it’s watchable enough. It’s got a different opening with proper ‘Tammy & The T-Rex’ video generated titles but, as you might expect, it’s missing pretty much all of the gore sequences and is therefore far less bizarre.

    As this is a combo pack release, a regular Blu-ray version of the movie taken from the same 4k restoration is included in the clear keepcase. Vinegar Syndrome packages this release with some very cool reversible cover sleeve art as well as a limited edition, lenticular full color slipcover (that was available only from their website and now appears to be sold out!).

    Tammy And The T-Rex – The Final Word:

    Tammy And The T-Rex is, in a word, absurd – but it’s also pretty damn fun. It’s definitely unique and just as definitely entertaining, a genuinely bizarre picture that, in its uncut form as presented here, is a solid crowd pleaser. Vinegar Syndrome’s done an excellent job with this, their first 4k UHD release, offering up the feature in a beautifully restored presentation that does indeed best the regular Blu-ray, and with a whole lot of extra features.

    Click on the images below for full sized Tammy And The T-Rex Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      Absolutely loved this flick. One the biggest surprises of the year for me. I can see me watching this many more times over the next few years.