Sunday, February 21, 2021

TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994) (101 Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: 101 Films
Region Code: B
Rating: Cert. 15
Duration: 91 Minutes (Gore Cut), 82 Minutes (PG-13) 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English PCM 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Stewart Raffill
Cast: Denise Richards, Paul Walker, Terry Kiser, George “Buck” Flower, John F. Goff, Shawn Whalen, George Pilgrim, 
Ellen Dubin, J.Jay Saunders, Ken Carpenter 

In the schlock-tastic straight-to-video sci-fi comedy Tammy and the T-Rex (1994) we have teenage footballer named Michael (Paul Walker) who is madly in love with a knockout cheerleader named Tammy (Denise Richards, Starship Troopers). They would make a perfect high school couple but her violent and controlling ex-boyfriend Billy (George Pilgrim, Timemaster) is not about to let that happen. The film begins with the Billy and Michael fighting over her on school grounds, an altercation which ends with a testicular stand-off that must be seen to be believed, with each of the guys grabbing a handful of the other guy's junk!

This encounter seems to be the last straw for poor Tammy, she gets so mad at Billy that she throws caution to the wind and tells Michael to come over to her house for some heavy teenage make-out time, only to be interrupted by Billy and his friends, when one of Billy's hanger-ons spots Michael sneaking into Tammy's bedroom window. The gang chase him down on the street and throw him in the trunk of their car, driving him out to a wild animal park outside of town where they seemingly let him off the hook with only a few kicks and a warning. At first he thinks he has gotten off light but soon realizes where it is they dropped him off, and not long after an assortment big cats viciously attack him. Near death the teen is rushed to the hospital where an unscrupulous mad scientist named Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kiser, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood) arrives with his assistant Helga (Ellen Dubin, Napoleon Dynamite), who gave me some Frankenhooker vibes, and incorrectly declares the teenager dead. They then steal the body and transport him to his warehouse/lair where he cracks open the teens cranium and transfers his brain into the skull of a mechanical T-Rex.

When Michael awakens inside the mechanical T-Rex he is none to pleased, grabbing a mirror he soon realizes exactly what has transpired and sets about having his toothy, short-armed vengeance on those who have wronged him. Now if any of this sounds ridiculous let me assure you are absolutely correct! This madcap sci-fi comedy is bug-nuts insane, and thin on plot, but I found it so dang charming that it's played  straight-faced, with the exception of Terry Kiser who is chewing up the scenery as the mad-scientist with a weird, vaguely European sounding accent. 

When I first heard about this movie I thought it was too corny of an idea, even a straight-to-video flick from the early nineties. Not surprisingly the special effects used to bring the T-Rex to life are not Jurassic Park quality, but the end result is not that bad. Well, yeah, it's a bad movie, but it is the best sort of bad movie, one that is so ridiculous that it's actually an entertaining bit of cartoonish schlock, played straight but you know that they knows exactly what sort of movie they were making, and they did it right! 

The film was originally released on home video in a heavily-cut PG-13 friendly version that trimmed away all the gore and a bit of story, but what we have here is the longer running director's cut, the "gore-cut", with all splashy gore intact, which was created by the late, great John Carl Buechler (From Beyond). The T-Rex's favorite kill maneuver is the decapitation by toothy bite, which allows for some fun, stretchy and bloody latex skin gore-gags with geysers of blood, but it also loves to stomp people into human fruit-roll-ups, we well as disemboweling people in a couple of different ways. Given that the mechanical dinosaur used in the film seems to only be capable of movig it's head and tiny t-rex arms the walking and stomping effects were achieved with very rubbery looking t-rex legs that are obviously disconnected from the main body. There's also a weirdly animated version of the dinosaur when it is seen full-bodied walking that comes across very oddly, it's almost off-putting, even for something this silly, but thankfully we don't see much of that.

The young cast is notable for the movie stars both Denise Richards and the late Paul Walker in their earliest roles. I wouldn't exactly say that I saw Walker's future star potential shining bright here, but both he and Richards are fun and quite likable in their roles, which made me enjoy the film that much more. The same can be said for their flamboyant best friend Byron (Theo Forsett, Street Hawk) who added a lot of laughs to the proceedings, especially when he and Tammy are at the morgue in an attempt to procure a body for their newly disembodied pal. Also good for a laugh are the cops, played by J. Jay Saunders (Nomads) as Sheriff Black, and Buck Flower (They Live) and Ken Carpenter (Blood Gamesas his wisecracking deputies Norville and Neville, who are always dropping some inappropriate conversation at the grisly crime scenes. 

Audio/Video: Tammy & The T-Rex arrives on region B locked Blu-ray from 101 Films in 1080p HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen, scanned and restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative. The director's cut sports the "Tanny and the Teenage T-Rex' card, the image density can lean a bit soft in spots due to source limitations but it is generally a very pleasing looking presentation. The vibrant early 90s styles are vibrant, we get decent clarity throughout, and some pleasing fine detail in the close-ups, though the 1080p HD brings out the rubberiness of the t-rex skin. Grain is well-managed and the black levels are solid, but it certainly looks like the direct-to-video flick that it is, there is not a lot of imagination to the cinematography, you can tell it was shot cheap and dirty. Noteworthy, the U.S. release from Vinegar Syndrome is framed at 1.85:1 widescreen while this release from 101 is gingerly cropped to a more screen-filling 1.78:1, I don't prefer one over the other in this instance, but thought it might be worth mentioning. 

Audio on the disc comes by way of English PCM 2.0 stereo with optional English subtitles. Dialogue is uniformly delivered well and the soundtrack selections from Jaded Heart, The Diggums, He's Dead Jim and Simon Stokes and the Black Whip Thrill Band get a good showing with the uncompressed audio. Be sure to checkout the over 100 screenshots from the Blu-ray at the bottom of this here review. 

Extras kick-off with an audio commentary with director Stewart Raffill and his wife/producer Diane Kirman that is moderated by Bret Berg of The American Film Genre Archive (AGFA). It gets into his early life and career  of the director, documenting his origins on a rural farm and making it to L.A. where he started as an animal trainer, then into the genesis of making Tammy and the T-Rex, shooting it in and around L.A., what it was like working with the young cast, and what  difficulties and challenges they faced during filming. 

In the 22-minute  'Blood, Brains and a Teenage T-Rex' the director talks about his early life in England, moving to Los Angeles, and then getting into how Tammy and the T-Rex came to be. He also gets into how he approached the humor, and casting of Denise Richards, Paul Walker and others. Also discussed is how they shot scenes with a wildfire quickly encroaching into the area and how that created a rather stunning sunset for a backdrop to a scene.  A lot of this same information is replicated in the audio commentary on the disc, so maybe save one for a later viewing. 

We also get 'A Blast from the Past' which is a 12-minute interview with star Denise Richards who seemed quite excited to be talking about her first film, one she says she did not think anyone knew about. She doesn't seem to remember too much fine detail about the shoot, but has wonderful things to say about her co-star Paul Walker and the director, and she also brings up the scenes they shot during the wildfire. I would have loved more detail but I think it's great that she is not embarrassed at all by the straight-to-video schlock she made in her youth. She also reveals that she had to think about her dead dog to muster up some actual tears for an emotional 
scene, and how her goal was just making it through enough days of shooting that it would too expensive for the producers to replace her!   

Shawn Whalen shows up for the 12-minuter 'Having the Guts' in which the actor talks about having some casting heat at the time due to a popular milk commercial he was featured in, and having to bow out of a planned family vacation to Hawaii to act in this film. Whalen also gets into how ridiculous his gut-spilling scene was, but he loved that he was in a cheesy horror film. He also speaks of how his signature spiky-hair was  just how he appeared normally, his look once described by a director as Sid Vicious by way of Stan Laurel. He also gets into hanging out with Walker on-set, and a wrap party that was held at Richards' home in Laurel Canyon, during which she wore a skintight catsuit that caught his attention, much to the chagrin of his now ex-wife. 

The 25-minute 'A Testicular Stand-Off'  with actor George Pilgrim is great stuff, perhaps more than anyone else on the extras has a ton of fun stories about the making of the film. He gets into a re-write on the script that was brought to his attention by a panicked Paul Walker, which turned out to be the "Testicular Stand-Off" scene, which pleased neither of the young actors. Ha also talks about an actor who had a heart attack on set, and issues he had with using a particularly 
rubbery bat that resulted in multiple takes of a scene, and how truly athletic Walker was. He is so amped-up talking about this movie, it makes for a very engaging watch. 

The last of the extras is the PG-13 version of the film that removes all the gore and some dialogue as well, cut from 90-minutes down to 83-minutes, presented in full screen standard definition in VHS quality.  This is the same transfer as the Vinegar Syndrome release in the U.S., complete with a VS credit and the same set of extras, so no need to double-dip if you already own one or the other unless you're a completest.

Special Features:
- Limited edition booklet: Includes ‘A Teen-Rex Romance’ by Liam Hathaway and ‘Making Monsters: Masters of Animatronics’ by Barry Forshaw
- Audio Commentary with Director Stewart Raffill and Producer Diane Kirman moderated by Bret Berg of The American Film Genre Archive (AGFA)
- Blood, Brains and a Teenage T-Rex: Interview with director Stewart Raffill (22 min) HD 
- A Blast from the Past: Interview with actress Denise Richards (22 min) HD 
- Having the Guts: Interview with actor Sean Whalen (12 min) HD 
- A Testicular Stand-Off: Interview with actor George Pilgrim (25 min) HD 
- Full Length PG-13 cut of Tammy and the T-Rex (83 min) SD 

I definitely had my doubts about this movie when I first pressed play on the remote, but it won me over almost from the start with it's blend of the preposterous set-up and madcap humor. If the idea a T-Rex using a pay phone, looking at itself in a handheld mirror, or picking someone up off the ground and dusting them off, then stomping someone else into what amounts to a human fruit roll-up, sounds like an awesome time then I think this is the movie for you! 101 Films do excellent  working bringing this straight-to-video sci-fi comedy to Blu-ray in the U.K., a high recommend for lovers of campy humor and cheap gore. 

Screenshots from the Blu-ray: