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Razorback (Blu-ray) (4K Remastered) (1984)
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Details At A Glance
||Horror / Thriller
Audio Commentary-with Director Russell Mulcahy & Shayne Armstrong
Audio Interview-Cast-with Gregory Harrison
Featurette-Making Of-Jaws on Trotters
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Alternative Version-The VHS Cut
Featurette-A Certain Piggish Nature: Looking Back at Razorback
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
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††† In a sense, 1984's Razorback is Jaws in an Australian outback setting, with a monstrous boar massacring locals instead of a killer shark. Although an evident attempt to cash in on the Jaws craze, Razorback fortuitously establishes its own identity; it's a moody, visually striking horror-thriller, thanks in large part to the idiosyncratic style of former MTV music video director (and future direct-to-video/bargain bin purveyor) Russell Mulcahy, making his feature film debut here. Nevertheless, despite its nostalgic '80s vibe and several effective scenes of terror, Razorback is let down by the era's special effects restrictions, and a somewhat clunky narrative which inadvisably concentrates more on monotonous villainous machinations as opposed to fun exploitation elements. As far as creature features go, this "Ozploitation" picture falls roughly in the middle in terms of quality; it's no Jaws, but it is not as dire as Jaws 3 or Jaws the Revenge.
††† New York journalist and vehement animal rights activist Beth Winters (Judy Morris) travels to the small Australian outback town of Gamulla to investigate the sinister kangaroo slaughtering industry. Beth is not exactly popular in Gamulla, however - the colourful locals make her feel unwelcome, and nobody is unwilling to speak to her. When Beth mysteriously disappears and news of her disappearance reaches New York, Beth's partner Carl (Gregory Harrison) travels to Australia in search of answers. After an encounter with the unsavoury Benny (Chris Haywood) and Dicko (David Argue), Carl meets the kindly Sarah (Arkie Whiteley) and her friend, embittered hunter Jake Cullen (Bill Kerr). Jake knows all too well that a marauding razorback with a taste for human flesh threatens the community, but Sarah is the only one who believes him.
††† Solely focusing on a killer pig terrorising an outback community would have provided adequate material to sustain a 90-minute exploitation movie. Unfortunately, with a screenplay credited to Everett De Roche, Razorback is weighed down by an unnecessary subplot concerning thuggish kangaroo hunters which detracts a degree of focus, momentum and fun. The angle provides the impetus for Beth's interest in Gamulla, but the razorback fundamentally becomes a fringe threat as the film struggles to find its primary narrative focus. A revenge angle between Jake and the razorback is initially introduced but fades into the background, while themes about violence in the outback and animal conservation are never properly explored. Razorback is a bit of a mess, in other words. Additionally, a portion of the film tracks Carl aimlessly wandering through the desert searching for Beth, even hallucinating during his travels. Mulcahy embraces this tangent, evoking his music video experience as he experiments with striking, colourful imagery, giving Razorback its distinct cinematic identity. It may be a mess, but it's a beautiful mess.
††† Unlike more basic or pedestrian '80s horrors, Razorback is exceptionally stylised, befitting of a collaboration between Mulcahy and Oscar-winning cinematographer Dean Semler (Max Mad 2, Dances With Wolves). The resulting cinematographic routine is manic, beset with point-of-view shots, surreal imagery and close-ups of the razorbackís tusks and mouth, while dominant lighting and filters create shots bursting with extreme colour and shadows. Barely a scene goes by thatís not rich with atmosphere, which is a testament to the filmmakers' ability to both make the most of their budget and jazz up an unexciting premise with visual panache. Complementing the visuals is a synth-heavy score courtesy of Iva Davies, further establishing the film's unique flavour. A sizeable portion of the reported $5.5 million budget was expended to bring the titular boar to life, but by all accounts the resulting animatronics are not completely believable. Therefore, Mulcahy adopts the Jaws model by only showing the monster in quick bursts, and never letting viewers get a clear glimpse of it until the third act, with a climactic showdown inside an insalubrious dog food factory. The attack sequences are fast, vicious and gory, with smart editing by William M. Anderson (Gallipoli) masking the razorback's lack of realism. The results are serviceable enough. In its (rare) uncut form, Razorback is even better, with more exploitative (Ozploitative?) gory violence.
††† It is apparent that the visual styling took precedence over plotting and acting, with Mulcahy not exactly an actor's director, but at least the performers are not necessarily awful. Kerr impresses the most, confidently slipping into his role of a gruff razorback hunter and doing his best to give the movie some gravitas. As the stereotypical (American) hero, Harrison is believable and watchable though by no means outstanding, while Whiteley evinces an appealing charm and innocence, and Morris makes the most of her somewhat thankless role. Haywood and Argue portray the story's proverbial human villains, and they appear to have come straight from the set of a Mad Max film due to their manic behaviour and garish costuming.
††† Although mostly enjoyable, Razorback is unquestionably a product of its time, restricted by a meagre budget as well as the special effects limitations of the early 1980s. Unfortunately, despite the movie's distributors having confidence in the final product, Razorback struggled at the box office in both America and Australia during its 1984 theatrical release. However, it found its audience on home video, ultimately transforming into a minor cult classic. Heck, Jaws director Steven Spielberg is an admirer of this outback monster movie, while Quentin Tarantino can also be counted among the film's self-confessed fans.
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††† I was among the vocal group who consistently asked for Razorback on Blu-ray from Umbrella, which they delivered at long last in 2014. However, the disc was mysteriously encoded in 1080/50i at 25fps, invoking the PAL speed-up. As a result, the 2014 disc may look watchable owing to a high video bitrate, but it was a far cry from what was possible with a fresh remaster and a 1080p, 23.976fps encode. Taking heed of the comments, this Razorback Blu-ray re-release was announced by Umbrella in 2017 before being delayed on a number of occasions, but now it's finally here, sporting a brand new transfer minted from a fresh 4K restoration created by the Melbourne post-production house Roar Digital. At the time of the original announcement, Umbrella disclosed on Facebook that source of the 4K scan was the original interpositive, and it does carry the appearance of an IP - colours are slightly faded at times, and grain is thick but not as refined as a negative scan would usually yield. Nevertheless, this is the best that Razorback has looked on home video to date, and the result is another solid Ozploitation title from the good folks at Umbrella. Despite sharing the disc with a significant supply of special features, the movie is presented on this dual-layered BD-50 with a pleasing average bitrate approaching 25 Mbps.
††† Presented at 2.35:1 (original aspect ratio was reportedly 2.39:1), Razorback was shot on 35mm celluloid in the early 1980s with comparatively meagre funding, so do not expect this Blu-ray transfer to resemble a more recent motion picture. Nevertheless, the image is satisfying. Especially in daylight scenes, or well-lit scenes set during the day, fine detail is exceptional, with close-ups unsurprisingly faring the best. Close-ups of Kerr reveal every last pore and wrinkle to be seen, while terrific sharpness allows you to count every hair constituting his beard. Establishing shots of buildings or landscapes reveals textures aplenty, while above-average sharpness capably resolves the foliage in the background. The resulting presentation is fantastic more often than not, with the occasional shot that really stands out, resembling a Sony or Arrow-level remastering effort.
††† The restoration team visibly cleaned up ample print damage, as the master looks pristine more often than not. Minor specks, flecks and scratches do remain, but they're small and unproblematic, only serving to give the presentation a bit of character and remind us that this was shot on celluloid. Of course, too, shots with transitions look rougher due to the use of opticals, and an optical zoom-in of a crow at the 10-minute mark looks shonky, but that's par for the course. A bit more bothersome is some occasional gate weave, with individual shots and even certain full scenes exhibiting a slight shake, needing more stability. I also noticed some flickering in the initial courtroom scene. Additionally, as previously stated, the colours do look faded at times and too saturated in other moments. A scene at the 62-minute mark between Carl and Sarah, for instance, is in need of more refinement from a colour and grain perspective, though the wide sunset shot which concludes the scene looks much better. At times, contrast runs a bit too hot and the image is in need of more balance when shadows are concerned, though this could trace back to the original camera filters, or it could simply be a shortcoming of the interpositive. Again, a scan of the negative might fare better, but that's just speculation. For the most part, Razorback looks fine, doing justice to the stylish photography. Luckily, too, although blacks are borderline oppressive at times, it's still possible to make out the on-screen action easily, and it doesn't look too dark or crushed.
††† The compression does limit the fineness of the grain as well as the textural tightness, but more problematic is the occasional macroblocking. I primarily detected macroblocking in darker scenes when heavy smoke is apparent, such as the opening sequence. Nevertheless, I was unable to detect any other bothersome video artefacts such as banding, aliasing or ringing. The chances of Razorback hitting 4K Blu-ray are virtually zero, though it would be interesting to see what a company like Arrow could do with this restoration (or a restoration of their own). Indeed, with Umbrella now providing such a large volume of special features, it would be nice to see them progress into dual-disc territory to amplify video bitrates and subsequently tighten up the textures. Additionally, a restoration originating from a scan of the original camera negative would be interesting to see, but it is unclear whether or not those elements can be located. Unless something better ever comes along, this is a satisfying presentation that trumps the previous Blu-ray and will serve as a welcome replacement for those still hanging onto DVD and VHS copies - especially given the inclusion of the VHS cut in the special features.
††† The previous Blu-ray did not feature subtitles. This re-release comes with optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired that I found to be an agreeable addition.
Video Ratings Summary
††† The disc's sole audio option (aside from the audio commentary) is a lossless, 24-bit DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which is presumably the same mix that was included on the original Blu-ray release. Right out of the gate, I was pleasantly surprised by the clarity of this audio track in spite of the period's technical limitations, and I was equally happy with the surround encoding to give a bit more life to the soundscape. In the opening sequence, the sound of wind noticeably emerges from the surround channels. At the 16-minute mark, animal sounds comes from all around, while subtle panning effects are used as the truck subsequently drives by. Sounds of flies and other wildlife habitually come through the surround channels, in addition to the music and environmental ambience (for instance, crickets chirping outside). In addition, there is sufficient subwoofer activity at various times to give further impact to particular sound effects; the roar of truck engines, the hideous sounds of the titular razorback, firearm sounds, glass smashing, and so on. Naturally, due to the age of the production, sound effects can tend to sound canned or dated, but that's par for the course. The first generation material is superior, though again Razorback will never sound as clear as a 21st century motion picture no matter how much remastering is conducted.
††† Prioritisation is never an issue; dialogue is perhaps a bit low at times, but it's still comprehensible amid the remainder of the sound effects and music. There are no real issues with clarity beyond the age of the sound recording, and thankfully the track was properly remastered to remove any pops, clicks and hissing. Indeed, it's quite remarkable how pristine the track sounds, and the lossless encoding does justice to the source. Without sounding on the same level as a Dolby Atmos mix for a recent big-budget blockbuster, Razorback's Blu-ray audio is very good.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
††† Continuing Umbrella's "Beyond Genres" series (this is Volume 4), Razorback arrives on Blu-ray, adorned with a slipcase featuring embossed front artwork. The case itself features nice inner artwork that could double as a reversible cover if you feel inclined. The packaging for this set is d*** nice, and it's a shame that Umbrella's previous Ozploitation movies weren't released with such embellishments. The special features themselves are extensive, likely the most extensive we could hope for, as not many stones are left unturned. Whereas the extras on the original Blu-ray release were encoded in 1080/50i with the PAL speed-up, the extras here are 1080p and 720p, making them compatible with overseas televisions and players.
Audio Commentary with Director Russell Mulcahy & Shayne Armstrong ††† This is a brand new audio commentary produced by Umbrella for this Blu-ray release, featuring director Mulcahy and a moderator in Shayne Armstrong. Especially given that this was recorded recently, there is some inevitable overlap with Mulcahy's interviews in the other video extras, and occasionally he does not have much to say. Armstrong does his best to coax information from the director regarding the actors, locations, transitioning to motion pictures, and other production-related anecdotes. Providing Mulcahy with a feature-length, scene-specific platform does allow for interesting minor factoids that would sound odd in an interview - use of airguns, the first scene that was shot, screenplay changes, how long it took to shoot certain scenes, the visuals, using a pig covered in a blanket a couple of times, etc. - which ensures that the Blu-ray extras cover as much ground as possible. The track goes beyond the scope of Razorback - Mulcahy has anecdotes about his music video shoots, other movies (2009's Give 'em Hell, Malone even gets a mention), and other actors he's working with during his career. It's also fun to hear Mulcahy pinpoint the sole shot which made use of the expensive $250,000 razorback animatronic on wheels. The final shot of the movie was even filmed in Los Angeles, a fact I never knew. As the credits roll, Armstrong asks Mulcahy to reflect on the film and the production, which nicely rounds out a mostly interesting track.
Audio Interview with Actor Gregory Harrison (720p; 30:56) ††† An archival extra originally featured on Umbrella's DVD release in 2005, here we have an audio interview with Razorback's lead actor, set to a still of Harrison from the movie as well as the web address for his website. Harrison was not interviewed for the "Jaws on Trotters" documentary, presumably because he's based in the United States, hence this interview was taken over the phone. Harrison is the sole speaker; there are no question title cards, nor is there anybody asking him questions. The actor speaks about first getting involved in the movie, wanting to go to Australia for the sake of surfing, working with the mechanical boar, the filmmakers' proclivity for using smoke, the terrific work ethic and attitude of the Australian crew, reshoots, working with some of the cast, and other assorted memories of the production. He even provides his verdict on the final cut of the movie. Encoded in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0, the quality of the audio is adequately clear, though the lack of music and film clips makes the experience a bit static. (Worth noting that at some point in the final few minutes, a constant beeping sound is heard - it sounds as if another call was coming through. Also, an encoding error cuts off the interview about a second too soon, before Harrison can finish his sentence. On Umbrella's original Blu-ray, there is no such issue.)
Jaws on Trotters (1080p; 73:43) ††† This is an extensive archival making-of documentary by Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley, which was first released on Umbrella's 2005 DVD release of Razorback. As with many of the other supplements on the disc, this is derived from a mediocre quality standard definition source, but is encoded in 1080p. Featuring interviews with director Mulcahy, composer Iva Davies, producer Hal McElroy, special effects technician Bob McCarron, and a few more, the documentary is divided into a number of chapters delving into numerous aspects of the movie - topics include the mechanical boar, the cast (including a touching discussion of the late Arkie Whiteley, who passed away from cancer in 2001), the direction, the cinematography, shooting on location in Broken Hill, the score, and more. Although music is used throughout, the same cue is looped throughout the majority of the documentary, which may prove slightly irritating. Nevertheless, this is a valuable document about the making of Razorback. It's more substantial than most home video extras for major new release movies, and I wish that making-of documentaries were produced for more "Ozploitation" movies.
Interviews with Cast & Crew by Mark Hartley for Not Quite Hollywood (1080p; 84:41) ††† Another archival extra from the 2014 Blu-ray release, here we have extended interviews with several cast and crew members which were taken by Mark Hartley for Not Quite Hollywood. Several blind spots from the documentary are filled here; participants include actors Harrison and Judy Morris, director Mulcahy, writer Everett De Roche, producer McElroy, and razorback designer McCarron. The cast and crew recount their memories of the shoot, and Harrison is noticeably candid, discussing Mulcahy's dedication to visuals over narrative and performances, and his fondness for using smoke. Inevitably, there is some overlap with the documentary and with Harrison's 2005 audio interview, not to mention the interviews are static, with no musical accompaniment. Still, nearly 85 minutes of interviews is appreciably substantial, representing a solid companion piece to the "Jaws on Trotters" documentary.
Grisly Deleted Scenes (1080p; 2:30) ††† Four extended scenes are included here, with added shots of gore. These are taken from a full-frame VHS source in poor quality, though the scenes are still encoded in 1080p. A brand new optional audio commentary is available with Mulcahy and Shayne Armstrong, which mostly talk through the on-screen happenings on top of providing a few observations.
Razorback: The VHS Cut (1080p; 95:00) ††† Umbrella has been repeatedly asked about putting the uncut release of Razorback on home video, but the company has stressed that no film elements can be located for the uncut gorier scenes despite an extensive search. The best they have is the movie's VHS release from the 1980s, with the scenes framed at full-screen 4:3 as opposed to letterbox. Including this VHS cut is therefore something of a compromise for those who wish to experience the movie in all its uncut glory. This is encoded in 1080p (with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound), but it's from a rough VHS source littered with video artefacts. I did not watch the whole thing as the uncut scenes aren't as important to me, but it's here for those who are interested. It made me appreciate the 4K restoration all the more.
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:22) ††† The theatrical trailer for Razorback. As with the other extras, this is encoded in 1080p but was taken from a rough standard definition source.
VHS Trailers (1080p; 1:59) ††† An even rougher-looking trailer sourced from a VHS (though still encoded in 1080p). Video artefacts litter the image.
A Certain Piggish Nature: Looking Back at Razorback (1080p; 24:10) ††† This new extra produced by Umbrella amounts to a round-table discussion featuring film historians Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Lee Gambin, Sally Christie and Emma Westwood. It's about what you would expect from a discussion that does not include any cast and crew interviews; they have opinions on the movie, reminisce about it, discuss their interpretations, and so on. It's of very limited interest. Despite being a newly-produced extra, the picture quality is surprisingly rough. Even the film clips are unremastered.
Image Gallery (1080p; 27:16) ††† Another characteristically terrific image gallery compiled by Umbrella. This plays as a silent slideshow, but each slide has a separate chapter stop and you can navigate using the skip buttons on your remote control. The gallery includes novel artwork, Poster Art, Video Release Artwork, Soundtrack artwork, Press & Marketing materials, as well as Stills & Behind the Scenes. For those with the willingness to explore this treasure trove of content, it's worthwhile.
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† † To date, Razorback has only been released on Blu-ray in Australia and Spain. The back cover for the Spanish version only lists a gallery and a trailer, making this Umbrella release the easy winner.
††† A flawed Ozploitation creation, Razorback often succeeds due to stylish visuals and some effective scenes of horror. It's an enjoyable sit, unfocused narrative notwithstanding.
††† Umbrella's re-release Blu-ray is thankfully a huge step up compared to the previous 2014 disc. The remastered video transfer is very good, sometimes great, while the 5.1 audio mix is clear and well-mixed. Add in an outstanding selection of supplemental features, more extensive than most Arrow or Criterion releases, and this one comes highly recommended, particularly for fans of the movie.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Saturday, November 03, 2018
|DVD||Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|