Sunday, March 27, 2016

THE STUFF (1985) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)

THE STUFF (1985) 
Label: Arrow Video 
Release Date: April 19th 2016 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 87 Minutes 
Audio: Original English PCM 1.0 Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Larry Cohen
Cast: Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Danny Aiello, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom

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? Now calling it The Stuff the sweet treat fast becomes America's newest taste-sensation surpassing even ice cream as the premiere treat. 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 the ice cream producers of the world.

Yup, it's just as silly as it sounds but The Stuff is a smartly written and deftly executed satire by writer/director Larry Cohen who really sparked on a great concept with this one. 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 tasty bits 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 first approved the Stuff for consumption. The strange encounter with Vickers and his menacing doberman pincer tip Mo off to the fact that something strange is happening behind the scenes. Turns out the Stuff is some sort of body-snatching parasite that transforms ordinary treat-seeking people into Stuff craving zombie drones.

The cast is great with Moriarty leading the charge with assist from an attractive 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. There's also a young kid named Jason (Scott Bloom) who early on realizes that the Stuff is dangerous and discovers that he must fend off his family who have become drones to the creepy confection. The scenes of his family trying to force the Stuff into his mouth are the stuff of surreal nightmares. The father (Robert Frank Telfin) for some reason particularly made my skin crawl, there's just something so uneasy about him. As with Q the Winged Serpent (1982) it is Michael 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 special effects that uses about 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 but The Stuff holds up very nicely -  a classic 80's b-movie from New World Pictures and the demented mind of b-movie genius Larry Cohen.

Audio/Video: The HD transfer from Arrow Video is quite pleasing all round, framed in the original widescreen aspect ratio (1.85:1) with a natural  layer of fine film grain and with it some additional fine detail and improved sharpness. Colors are accurate and nicely saturated and there's a surprising amount of depth to the image. The English LPCM Mono 1.0 audio (with optional English subs) sounds great, with dialogue, score and sound effects coming through clean, free of distortion and is well-balanced.
Unfortunately we do not get the commentary track from director Larry Cohen from the now out-of-print Anchor Bay release (and it's not on the Image DVD either) so don't be in a hurry to trade that one in 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, mechanical makeup effects person  Steve Neill and Kim Newman, and it is a fantastic watch, if you love Larry Cohen or movie this is a treat. We also have  a trailer commentary sourced from the Trailers from Hell site with director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Saw III) espousing his love for the film.

The last of the disc extras is the original trailer and a 24-page booklet  with new writing on the gooey movie by Joel Harley, illustrated with original stills and promotional materials. There is also a sleeve of reversible artwork with original and new artwork by artist Gary Pullin. This is a  pretty great 1080p upgrade for one of my all-time favorite Larry Cohen features, the audio-visual boost is worth the upgrade alone and the hour-long doc is The stuff on top. Previously issued by Arrow as a UK exclusive the disc is now region free, which is great news for fans of the film who may not be region-free themselves.

Special Features:
- Can’t Get Enough of The Stuff: Making Larry Cohen’s Classic Creature Feature Documentary (52 Mins)
- Introduction and Trailer Commentary by The Stuff fan Darren Bousman (2 Mins)
- Original Trailer (2 Mins)
- 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

The Stuff (1983) is a great piece of satire with the gooey effects of The Blob (1958) and the sweet paranoia of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) mixed in with Larry Cohen's unique commentary on '80s consumerism and corporate culture in America. A very high recommend, I just can't get enough of Arrow Video Blu-ray of The Stuff! 4/5