Release Date(s)1991 (September 12, 2017)
Studio(s)Scotti Brothers Pictures Distribution/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
Charles Dexter Ward is doing some private experiments, which is ruining his relationship with his wife. She turns to a private investigator and hires him to look into what exactly it is that Charles is up to in his secret laboratory. Unfortunately for them, they are about to discover a world of nefarious ancestry, grisly cannibalism, and unnatural resurrection. So begins the story of The Resurrected (aka Shatterbrain), based upon the novel “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” by H.P. Lovecraft. Dan O’Bannon’s 1991 straight to video feature was mostly forgotten after its initial release, but thanks to home video, has managed to survive many years later due to the appreciation of it by horror fans and H.P. Lovecraft fans alike.
The Resurrected is an interesting piece of work. It’s not necessarily the kind of film that you latch onto with any sort of love upon your first viewing. Rather it’s something more worthy of admiration in what it’s trying to achieve. Dan O’Bannon, unfortunately, had his film taken away from him and completely reworked. Also unfortunate is the fact that a director’s cut doesn’t exist, nor can there ever be one as there are no film elements left to assemble it (not to mention O’Bannon’s passing in 2009 which would bar him from participating). Judging from the scenes found in a low quality version of the film’s workprint, it’s clear that he was going for something a bit lighter than what we wound up with. The film, as a whole, has an overwhelming sense of dread to it, which is due in no small part to the removal of anything comedic or romantic, the latter being implied more than explored. Without these two elements, it feels much darker than originally intended.
That being said, there’s still plenty to appreciate about The Resurrected as a finished product. It’s noir-ish nature, not unlike another supernatural private investigation film from the 1990s, Lord of Illusions, which gives it an air of real mystery. Its structure is also a bit unorthodox, with most of the film taking place in flashbacks with narration to explain everything. If this hadn’t been a story about a private eye, it simply wouldn’t work at all, but oddly enough, it does in its own weird way. There are also plenty of practical monster effects to enjoy towards the back end of the story when the lower dungeon below the laboratory is explored. That whole section is incredibly claustrophobic, not unlike Alien, which Dan O’Bannon also had a hand in.
Most folks looking in from the outside are bound to perceive the film as a failure, simply because it wasn’t released theatrically. Technically, it is in that sense, but what you’re left with a pleasant discovery that’s clunky in its execution, as well as its often wooden performances (outside of Chris Sarandon). Yet somehow, The Resurrected is oddly engaging despite itself. If some of the lighter elements had been left in the film, it might have had a bigger impact on audiences. Sadly, O’Bannon was ill during a lot of the film’s shooting. both physically and mentally, and couldn’t fight for the salvation of it. The Resurrected, for all intents and purposes, was a disappointment to him, but these many years later, it is still being looked at as one of the finest adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft, warts and all.
Although the film was released in Germany on Blu-ray, its transfer was sourced from a dated master. Scream Factory’s new state-side Blu-ray release features a brand new 2K transfer from the film’s interpositive that was vaulted at MGM. Comparing the old and the new is like night and day: this new transfer is fantastic. Grain management is handled quite well, with little to no intrusion of it, and an immense amount of fine detail during both daytime and nighttime sequences. Shadow detail is remarkable most of the time, particularly during the aforementioned dungeon excursion. Colors have a tendency to pop, particularly those crimson reds, as well as skin tones, which look quite accurate. Black levels are deep and overall contrast is strong, although it probably could have been knocked up a couple of more notches. There are no signs of heavy digital tinkery on display, but some extremely mild damage is leftover, which boils down to instances of black speckling. The audio is presented on an English 2.0 DTS-HD track. The stereo quality of the presentation is quite strong in places, particularly during the more active sections of the film. Dialogue is clean and clear, while sound effects have some nice heft to them. The score really benefits from the clarity, as it comes booming through the mix. It’s a wonderful A/V presentation overall. Subtitles are also provided in English if needed.
The extras selection on this release includes a nice bounty of material, courtesy of Red Shirt Pictures, and most of which have been culled from the previously mentioned German Blu-ray release. There’s an audio commentary with producers Mark Borde and Kenneth Raich, screenwriter Brent V. Friedman, actor Richard Romanus, and make-up effects artist Todd Masters; The Resurrected Man, an interview with actor Chris Sarandon; Abominations & Adaptations, an interview with screenwriter Brent V. Friedman; Grotesque Melodies, an interview with composer Richard Band; Lovecraftian Landscapes, an interview with production designer Brent Thomas; Human Experiments, an interview with special effects artist Todd Masters; 18 minutes of deleted and extended scenes sourced from the workprint; footage of Dan O’Bannon’s Fangoria Chainsaw Awards Speech from 1992; the home video trailer; the Japanese trailer; and an animated photo gallery. Two brand new items have also been added, which include Claire’s Conundrum, an interview with actress Jane Sibbett, and The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, an interview with author S.T. Joshi. The only extras not carried over from the German Blu-ray release are two German audio commentaries, one with film scholar Kai Naumann and professor Marcus Stiglegger, and the other with Jörg Kopetz and Daniel Perée from Wicked-Vision Magazine; an MP3 of a radio play of the original story of “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” in 2 parts by Titania Medien; and an 84-page booklet entitled “Lovecraft Resurrected: The Cosmic Catacombs Art of Dan O’Bannon” by Jörg Kopetz. Obviously, this material would be pointless to carry over as most of it is in German.
The Resurrected is certain to be a film that’s going to have a much bigger afterlife in the age of home video collecting. It’s a surprisingly charming work that’s definitely not perfect, but has a lot going for it creatively. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of the film is definitely one of their best packages. Stuffed with plenty of extras and a quality presentation, it’s a release that I can see Dan O’Bannon possibly having been involved with had he lived long enough and was well enough to do so. It’s a fine tribute to his work on the film, despite being hampered by studio interference. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons