Monday, May 14, 2018

OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983) (Scream Factory Blu-ray)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Duration: 89 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Cast: Peter Weller, Jennifer Dale, Lawrence Dane, Kenneth Welsh, Louis Del Grande, Shannon Tweed

Manhattan Wall Street exec Bart Hughes (Peter Weller, Robocop) is on the verge of a big promotion at his firm, which means he has to put off the family vacation he had planned with his wife Meg (former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed, Hot Dog…The Movie) and their young son. While they head to her parent's place for a week he stays behind in their Manhattan brownstone working on a big project, occasionally going into he office where he is pushed-on by his boss Elliot (Lawrence Dane, Happy Birthday To Me), while also being undermined by his office-rivals, and supported by his overly-attentive assistant Lorrie (Jennifer Dale, Stone Cold Dead). 

Already part of a corporate rat-race he becomes obsessed with a real rat which has taken up residence in the walls of his home. At first the rat just seems to be a bit of a nuisance, but soon the already stressed Hughes starts to slowly unravel as the rodent increasingly becomes an annoyance, chewing through electrical wires and causing a flood in his home. Hughes calls in an exterminator but the rat foils that plan in a highly implausible way, Hughes then goes for rat-poison, bringing in a stray cat, and setting-up a series of scary looking industrial rat traps which were comically brutal looking.

The rat vs. man story is rather engrossing if not particularly deep, with Hughes' amateur rat-exterminator home life starting to affect his professional life, his sanity slipping more and more as he battles the furry rodent. Eventually he goes all in on the rat, crafting a war-bat made from a Louisville slugger with spikes and medieval looking armaments, suited-up in a homemade body armor and tearing the walls and ceiling apart in an all-out declaration of war against the rat, basically fighting to hold into his sanity, becoming all-consumed by the rodent, willing to destroy the entirety of his home if necessary

The story is very straight forward, convincingly sold by Weller, with some stylish use of POV lensing, a sort of rat-vision as the rodent crawls through the walls, chews through wires, and seemingly spies on it's human host. There's some nice frights using puppets and a possum draped in a rat-costume, the rat popping out of a birthday cake in a dream and emerging from the toilet in reality, it's fun stuff and well-shot. Cosmatos and cinematographer Rene Verzier keep things visually interesting, even if some of the shots undermine the supposed size of unusually large rat

The film has a few detours that don't seem to go anywhere, there's a hint of marital issues which might be informing his mental breakdown, there's an office fling that doesn't really go anywhere, and even the huge project at work seems to dissipate with no real consequences to his career, but the basic story and Weller's performance, along with the visual style, kept this one interesting to me. If you come into this one expecting a straight out rat-horror film you will be disappointed, this is more of a psychological thriller with some rat menace, a few bloody moments, but nothing to gory, come into this with tempered expectations and I think you'll enjoy it more. 

Audio/Video: Of Unknown Origin (1983) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, licensed from Warner Bros (!!!), in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen. This is a new 2018 2K restoration done my Warner Bros. and sourced from an archival interpostive, and it looks very good, the grain is finely managed, details are strong, shadow detail is good, and the colors are natural looking. Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA stereo 2.0, it's a solid track that's well-balanced and clean sounding, optional English subtitles are provided. 

We get some new extras, which is great. I have a feeling before Scream Factory inked a deal with them that WB would have released this at some point themselves through their Warner Archives distribution arm, but that would have been bare-bones aside from the already existing extras, as is their way. But through this new licensing deal with Scream Factory we get a Warner produced 2K scan and some new Scream Factory produced extras with Red Shirt Picture, so this is a win-win for us fans! 

Onto the new extras we het three interviews, the first with Producer Pierre David who speaks about picking up the novel "The Visitor', which the film is an adaptation of, while at the airport and wanting to produce it, bringing in Visiting Hours screenwriter Brian Taggert to adapt it, and filming it in a studio. Talking about the combination of effects used to realize the intrusive rat in the film, from real rats to puppets and a possum in a rat-suit.

Screenwriter Brian Taggert shows up for an interview speaking about adapting the novel, and how he became know as "the rat movie" guy after it, mentioning that the film is Stephen King'as favorite rat-film. He goes into Peter Welling suggesting some good script changes, basing Weller's character on his own fastidious father, and admiring Weller's performance in the film. 

Nut job/actor Louis Del Grande who plays a handyman in the movie, and who was the exploding head guy in Cronenberg's Scanners opens his interview with a #metoo joke about the rat in the film, he's strange charcter.  He speaks About his early career, appearing in Scanners and not getting paid properly for being used in the promos for the movie, and the time a drug dealer recognized him from the Cronenberg's film. There's not a lot of talk about Of Unknown Origin, but he's a weird guy and has some good stories to tell.  

We also get the vintage audio commentary with the late director George P. Cosmatos and actor Peter Weller, this is one of those commentaries with two guys who clearly aren't in the same room, recorded separately but the tracks are stitched together - it's a decent track, with Weller going into the motivation of his character while the director gives us a lot of insight into the production. The disc is buttoned up with also get a few theatrical trailers and a still gallery. 

The single-disc Blu-ray comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a 2-sided sleeve, the a-side is the familiar looking key art of the family photo that's been clawed, the b-side features an image from the film with some text in the lower left hand corner detailing the transfer information from Warner Bros., the disc itself has an excerpt from the same key art as the cover.

Special Features:
- NEW 2K scan from the interpositive
- NEW The Origins of Unknown Origin – an interview with executive producer Pierre David (14 min) HD
- NEW That Rat Movie - an interview with writer Brian Taggert (18 min) HD
- NEW Hey, Weren’t You in Scanners? – an interview with actor Louis Del Grande (14 min) HD
- Audio Commentary with director George P. Cosmatos and actor Peter Weller
- Theatrical Trailers (3 min) HD
- Still Gallery (3 min) HD 

Of Unknown Origin (1983) is a fun little rat-thriller, Weller does good work as a man driven over the edge by a rodent who has invaded his personal space and refuses to leave. At times it feels a bit stretched, and I could see this making an even better short film, but I still dig it quite a bit. Glad to see Scream Factory releasing another WB title following Larry Cohen's It's Alive Trilogy, I hope they're able to get in there and release more coveted genre titles, but for now this slice of Canadian rat-ploitation is a welcome addition to the collection.     

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