Release Date(s)1985 (April 19, 2016)
Studio(s)Lakeshore Entertainment (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B
Like the product of the same name in the film, The Stuff leaves you hungry for more. Larry Cohen’s zany look at consumerism in the 1980’s wasn’t a box office hit when originally released, but it became a cult classic and still manages to hold up these many years later. While Dawn of the Dead took an external look at consumerism in the 1970’s, The Stuff went internal… literally.
The story involves a foreign substance bubbling out of the ground that’s discovered and marketed as “The Stuff,” a tasty product with many advantages. It has no calories, no preservatives, and you can eat as much of it as you want without ever feeling full. Its main disadvantage, hidden to the general public, is that it’s actually alive, and turns its hosts into pod people. So a man hired by The Stuff’s competitor, along with a commercial director and a young boy whose family has been taken over by it, set out to expose The Stuff for what it really is before it takes over everyone completely.
The Stuff is not a particularly good film in the sense that it’s well acted or gripping. What makes it entertaining are the oddball performances, mixed with unusual dialogue, and special effects that sometimes venture into schlock territory. The film is also memorable because of how much it beats you over the head with the impact of consumerism on society: we will all basically fall for anything if it’s marketed well. The Stuff, as a substance, is basically a disgusting white goop that is taken straight out of the Earth and put onto store shelves. The point of the film is that, even with something this terrible, our naiveté will always triumph over good sense.
With obvious allusions to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Larry Cohen’s masterpiece of cheesiness is a sci-fi horror comedy classic. Like Dawn of the Dead, the overall theme of the movie never overrides its fun factor. Nowadays, movies like this spend so much time making their point that the entertainment value is lost in the process – which is why movies like The Stuff still hold up. And while this film isn’t quite deserving of the title “so bad that it’s good,” fans of movies like that should find this one to be a gem.
Arrow Video’s Region A Blu-ray release of the film is essentially a carbon copy of their Region B release (reviewed here, minus the additional DVD of the movie), so if you already own that release, it may not be worth your while to upgrade. For the rest who don't already own it, it utilizes a 2K restoration that trumps any previous release of the film. The frame is much wider now, showing off more information along the edges. The film’s grain structure has also been retained, helping to reveal an enormous amount of detail previously hidden. It also helps to showcase some of the film’s less than stellar effects, particularly whenever characters are in front of a rear projection screen. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it’s much more noticeable than ever before. Colors are excellent too, although I feel that skin tones are a tiny bit too pink. Black levels, along with contrast and brightness levels, are very stable and satisfying too. There’s been no excessive attempt to digitally clean this material either. While not perfect, given the source material, this is easily the best that the movie has ever looked. The film’s single audio track, which is English mono LPCM, is also pleasing. Dialogue is always perfectly clear, while the sound effects and score are never buried in the mix. I didn’t notice any major flaws in the track either. It offers more clarity than most mono tracks usually do. Subtitles are also provided in English for those who might need them.
In the supplemental department, The Stuff features a couple of goodies, including a new documentary on the making of the film Can’t Get Enough of the Stuff, a Trailers From Hell trailer commentary by Darren Bousman, the original theatrical trailer by itself, and a 24-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by writer Joel Harley and a poster gallery. Missing from the original Anchor Bay DVD release is an audio commentary with Larry Cohen, but the documentary more than makes up for it.
Given that commercialism and consumerism are a never-ending aspect of humanity, The Stuff only gets better with age. Arrow Video’s stateside Blu-ray release is definitive as far as video and audio quality is concerned, and is very much recommended.
- Tim Salmons