Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blu-ray Review: THE STUFF (1985)

THE STUFF (1985) 
Label: Arrow Video 
Region Code: B
Rating: 15 Certificate 
Duration: 87 Minutes 
Audio: Original English PCM 1.0 Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Cast: Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Danny Aiello, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom
Director: Larry Cohen
Tagline: Are you eating it …or is it eating you?

When a miner stumbles upon sweet gooey white substance bubbling-up from the Earth what else can he do but slap a pretty sticker on it and market the creamy treat for mass consumption? Labelled The Stuff the sweet treat fast becomes America's newest taste-sensation surpassing even ice cream in sales. Alarmed frozen-treat moguls band together to employ industrial saboteur David "Mo" Ruthaford (Michael Moriarty, Q the Winged Serpent) to discover just what the secret ingredient is so they can steal it for themselves and make the world safe for ice cream.

Yup, it's just as silly as it sounds but it's a smartly written satire and deftly executed by writer/director Larry Cohen who really sparked on a great concept. Throughout you can find send-ups of classic science fiction films like The Blob (1958) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) mixed with some delicious moments of humor. Actor Michael Moriarty is a bit an eccentric person and never more so than when he teamed-up with filmmaker Larry Cohen, always over-the-top but never less than pitch-perfect in my opinion. Mo's quest for answers begin with a corrupt former employee named Mr. Vickers (Danny Aiello, Jacob's Ladder) of the FDA who approved the Stuff. The strange encounter with Vickers and his menacing doberman pincer tip Mo off to the fact that something weird is happening. Turns out the Stuff is a actually a body-snatching parasite that transforms people into Stuff craving zombie drones.

The cast is great with Moriarty leading the charge with assists from a pretty ad exec (Andrea Marcovicci) and a trio of strange cameos from Aiello, Garret Morris (SNL) as an embittered confectioner and Paul Sorvino (Goodfelleas) as a right-wing militia nut. Plus a young kid named Jason (Scott Bloom) who early on realizes that the Stuff is dangerous and must fend off his family who have become drones to the creepy confection. The scenes of his family trying to force the Stuff on him are surreal and nightmarish stuff. The father (Robert Frank Telfin) for some reason particularly made my skin crawl. As with Q the Winged Serpent (1982) it's Moriarty and his odd delivery that own the film (alongside the great effects), a wonderful mix of silliness, satire and some actual scares.

The Stuff (1985) is easily my favorite Larry Cohen entry and a quite a fun send-up of consumerism with some great effects that utilize everything from shaving cream, ice cream and fire retardant foam to bring the Stuff to life onscreen including some vintage stop-motion animation from the late David Allen of Puppet Master fame. Some of it might be a bit dated after 25-years The Stuff holds up to the years very nicely -  a classic 80's b-movie from New World Pictures and the demented mind of Larry Cohen.

Blu-ray: The new HD transfer from Arrow Video is quite pleasing offering up Larry Cohen's in the original widescreen aspect ratio (1.85:1) with a natural  layer of film grain and with it some additional fine detail and improved sharpness. Colors are nicely saturated and there's a surprising amount of depth to the image, quite improvement over the region 1 Anchor Bay DVD. The Original English LPCM Mono audio (with optional English subs) sounds great,it comes through clean, free of distortion and is well-balanced.

Unfortunately we do not get the audio commentary from director Larry Cohen that was found on the now out-of-print Anchor Bay edition (and it's not on the Image DVD either) so don't be in a hurry to trade it just yet. What we do get is a nearly hour long making-of doc featuring interviews with Larry Cohen, producer Paul Kurta, actress Andrea Marcovicci, Steve Neill (mechanical makeup effects) and Kim Newman and it's a fantastic watch, if you love Larry Cohen or just the film it's a treat. We also have  a trailer commentary sourced from the Trailers from Hell site with director Darren Lynn Bousman espousing his love for the film.

The last of the disc extras is the original trailer and while not included with my screener the disc the retail version include a 24-page booklet and a sleeve of reversible artwork. A pretty great 1080p upgrade for my favorite Larry Cohen features, the audio-visual boost is worth the upgrade alone and the hour-long doc is essential. The disc is region-B locked so I encourage you to go region-free if you have not done so already and there's a wealth of decent region-free players on Amazon, just do it. . 

Special Features:
- Can’t Get Enough of The Stuff: Making Larry Cohen’s Classic Creature Feature Documentary(52:10)  

- Introduction and trailer commentary by director and The Stuff fan Darren Bousman (1.48)
- Original Trailer (1:35)
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Joel Harley, illustrated with original stills and promotional materials

Verdict: The Stuff (1983) is a great piece of satire with the gooey effects of The Blob (1958) and the paranoia of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) mixed in with Larry Cohen's commentary on consumerism and corporate culture in America. A very high recommend, I just can't get enough of Arrow Video's edition of The Stuff. Now, who do I have to knee-cap to get Larry Cohen's God Told Me To (1976) on Blu-ray? 4 Outta 5