I’m not entirely sure how much of this memory is accurate, but here goes. The first time I discovered Stuart Gordon’s bloody cult classic, RE-ANIMATOR, was through 1985’s issue #46 of Fangoria. I remember picking it up at the local bookstore, The Berkshire Bookshop, which has long since gone out of business. It didn’t make the cover’s centerpiece; that coveted spot went to a walking shriveled from Tobe Hooper’s LIFEFORCE, but it did make the cover nonetheless. Right down there on the right hand corner, a photo of Dean Halsey in the process of squashing Dr. Hill’s disembodied and sentient head with his hands.
I paid little attention to the photo, in fact I was a bit grossed out by it. I bought that issue explicitly for the coverage of LIFEFORCE. It wasn’t until I got to the article that I learned RE-ANIMATOR had some connection to a favorite author of mine, one that I was still in the embryonic stages of discovering—H.P. Lovecraft!
I was sixteen back then, and had only one of those Del Reyl books, I think it was ‘The Doom That Came To Sarnath And Other Stories.’ Now, here’s the part where I don’t know what memory is accurate, perhaps, they both are. I also remember getting my hair curled back then at a beauty shop. I had long hair in high school, and was extremely vain about it. My two inspirations in this department were Mel Gibson’s do in LETHAL WEAPON and Jeff Goldblum’s locks in the remake of THE FLY, both of which my hair has resembled at different times through out high school and my early 20s. But that’s neither here nor there, what I can’t recall is if I learned of RE-ANIMATOR’s Lovecraft connection in the bookstore or in the parlor, events which may or may not have occurred on the same day. And, yet, I have a memory of perusing the mag as my hair was being worked on.
I didn’t end up seeing the movie until my mother rented it later on that year. By then, I think, it was being touted as the goriest movie ever made, bumping THE EVIL DEAD off the top of that list. Back then I was not a lover of anything zombie related and went into it presuming it was going to suck. Well, it didn’t suck, and the pitch black humor helped alleviate some of the horror.
I can’t say that I was really over the moon about it, I seem to recall liking the sequel more, but for me RE-ANIMATOR was one of those films I didn’t appreciate until a great deal of time had past. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say, and I didn’t get reacquainted with it until the Spring of 1998 when I bought my first DVD player and was looking through the Movies Unlimited catalog trying to decide which DVDs I should get.
There was a list and when I saw RE-ANIMATOR, for some reason, I was incredibly overjoyed, a rush of memories flooded into me, namely the aforementioned recollection of first seeing it on VHS. I knew right then I was going to buy it and I did.
Do I even need to go into the plot of this movie? I suppose I should for those neophyte horror fans that have yet to see all the classics. In a nutshell, the movie is about “mad doctor,” Herbert West, played brilliantly by Jeffrey Combs, who has managed to create a serum that can actually reanimate dead tissue. The catch is it only reanimates the body, not the “person,” but West believes he can achieve that goal of bringing a “person” back to life again, if he just keeps trying, and trying he does. Along the way, he drags in doctor wanna-be, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), to help with his reanimation, but as usual each corpse they experiment on pulls the both of them deeper into obsession and eventual full on madness as corpses run amok throughout Miskatonic University in the movie’s final act.
Barbara Crampton plays Dan Cain’s main squeeze, Megan Halsey, and David Gale plays West’s nemesis, the equally mad, Dr. Hill, both of which have major parts woven into this insane play director, Stuart Gordon, chose as his first foray into adapting Lovecraft for the big screen.
I have to admit this is the one story of Lovecraft’s I have never read, and still haven’t to this day. Funny, all the books I ever bought containing his stories, none of them ever reprinted his ‘Herbert West—Re-animator’ one, so I can’t comment on exactly how much Gordon deviated from the source material, and what he kept in.
Ever since the advent of digital technology this movie has been released and re-released many times. During the days of VHS there was this format around called, laserdisc, and as far as I can trace it back Elite Entertainment was not the first company to resurrect this movie from the soil of video tape. Image Entertainment took a shot at it before Elite got a hold of it and injected it with their own brand of reanimation reagent, turning it into a pretty damn good looking 10th anniversary edition in 1995. When new digital technology came a knockin’ in 1997 that same company re-released it two years later on a much smaller disc we all came to know as a DVD.
In 2004 Elite went all Herbert West on it again, and decided to reanimate it once more with what they called the, Millennium Edition, which gave the movie and supplements, also some new ones created just for that edition, their own separate discs.
In 2007, Anchor Bay got the rights to it and added a spiffy new 70-minute documentary called, ‘Re-animator Resurrectus.’ In 2012 Image Entertainment then acquired it and finally released it on blu-ray, but the transfer left a lot to be desired. A distributor in Germany called, Capelight, was the next to try their hand at correcting Image’s error and did a proper 4k transfer, which finally made fans rejoice. Second Sight (UK) has now gotten a hold of it and used that very transfer for their version which streets on June 2nd in the UK in two different editions: a 2-disc limited edition blu-ray steelbook and a 2-disc DVD.
The 1080p 1.78:1 anamorphic high definition transfer on the blu-ray puts Image’s version to shame in every way possible. For US buyers, it’s a shame that if you want a stellar 4k remaster of this you have to import it from now on. Image should now be upping their game and trying to out do the Capelight version, but I doubt that will ever happen.
Region Code is B.
Audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio/LPCM Stereo.
English subtitles on the Unrated Version only.
All the extras from all the previous editions have been ported over, including the extensive documentary, ‘Re-Animator Resurrectus.’
Here’s a quick list:
- Audio Commentary with director Stuart Gordon
- Audio Commentary with producer Brian Yuzna, and actors Jeffrey Combs, Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton and Bruce Abbott
- Re-Animator Resurrectus documentary
- Interviews with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, writer Dennis Paoli, composer Richard Band and Fangoria editor Tony Timpone.
- Extended scenes, deleted scene and trailers.
The 104-minute version known as the “Integral Cut” is included on the limited edition steelbook only.