Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Arrow Video - THE BURBS and KILLER KLOWNS on Blu-ray ""

Monday, September 15, 2014

Arrow Video - THE BURBS and KILLER KLOWNS on Blu-ray

THE 'BURBS (1989; Joe Dante)
This was easily one of my most anticipated Blu-ray releases of the year. It is up there among films that I unabashedly adore and return to often. I am a huge proponent of Tom Hanks' comedy films of the 1980s. I miss his comedic persona a lot. I still love him in most every film he's in and he's always excellent, but the he is one of the great comic actors ever and it's a Shane he doesn't do that anymore. THE 'BURBS is an amazing confluence of awesome for me in that it combines that Tom Hanks with the macabre comedy and style of the always fantastic Joe Dante. It also has the likes of Bruce Dern, Corey Feldman, Carrie Fisher and the amazing and amazingly underrated Rick Ducommun. All of these folks are tip top in this movie and that is certainly part of what makes it great, but the movie-stealer is Ducommun. I believe, and I stand by this, that Ducommon's performance in THE 'BURBS is easily one of the great comedic performances of the 1980s. If you've seen films like DIE HARD ("I need you to shut off grid 212") or THE LAST BOY SCOUT, you've gotten a small taste of Ducommon, but THE 'BURBS is where he gets let loose and really blows the doors off. He and Tom Hanks are an antagonistic duo to behold here. They play off each other amazingly well and their energy combined with that of Bruce Dern makes the movie a freight train of funny. I mean, it's really a simple story of suburban curiosity (a group of folks think they have some odd neighbors who seem more than a little "off" and they begin to be suspicious of them). You can make the inevitable Hitchcock/REAR WINDOW comparison, but THE 'BURBS is so much more than that. Joe Dante has this remarkable ability to take that Spielbergian notion of suburbia and turn it on it's head in this gloriously skewed way. The way Dante can create and maintain this kind of tone has always been something I adore. Few directors can pull it off consistently and Joe Dante has the magical ability to be able to do so. You just know that the tone is coming from this unique sensibility that is seemingly Dante through and through. The word "auteur" gets bounced around a lot and though I've come to question the theory a bit more since I first learned of it in college, Joe Dante certainly has a signature to his movies and I think that's what gives them the longevity they've had. THE 'BURBS is, for me, one of the great examples of that Dante signature. I cannot get enough of the movie and I never will. I've seen it countless times, I quote it often and I have championed it to as many people as I can as often as I can in the years since its release. It's just wonderful, silly, dark fun. 

Special Features:
Several years ago, I interviewed Joe Dante for a film magazine and during said interview I made a point of telling him that not only was THE 'BURBS my favorite of all his films (followed closely by MATINEE), but that I would camp out for a Criterion Blu-ray of the movie. In all honesty, I was quite doubtful the film would get a Criterion release or even a Blu-ray release at all (maybe a bare bones disc at most). Arrow has made my dreams come true though and come through with one hell of a nice special edition here. It's a Criterion-level Blu-ray for sure. The supplements here include the following:
--A New audio commentary with writer Dana Olsen, moderated by author Calum Waddell. This is a neat track and though it's not Dante, there's a lot of fun stories and information here.
--There Goes the Neighborhood: The Making of The ’Burbs – A new 60 plus minute documentary including interviews with Joe Dante, actors Corey Feldman, Courtney Gains and Wendy Schaal, director of photography Robert M. Stevens and production designer James H. Spencer. This is probably the highlight of the disc. Again, a few actors are missing here that I'd love to hear from, but the ones that they talked to and of course Dante himself make this an enjoyable view and a delight for 'BURBS fans.
--The original Workprint cut of the film transferred from Director Joe Dante’s personal copy, on home video for the very first time – includes deleted and alternate scenes! This is quite a spectacular thing to have included. There were several scenes and sequences I was not aware of, most notably the dream sequence, which was longer and hinted at some things about Tom Hanks' character that were cut out (including a short bit with Kevin McCarthy as Hanks' boss). It's also interesting to hear the movie with temp music too.
--A Tale of Two ‘Burbs – Video featurette comparing the differences between the Workprint and Theatrical cuts of the film, with optional audio commentary from Dante. This feature isolates all those differences I was trying to figure out whilst watching the workprint and its a treat to see them especially in the context of what they finally decided to do with them in the finished film.

Joe Dante discusses THE 'BURBS with Rue Morgue at a screening.

KILLER KLOWNS is one of those cult films that you just kind of have to marvel at. It's such an odd, interesting idea and films that carry out their odd but interesting premises with the utmost care for joking details have to be respected and adored. If you can watch KILLER KLOWNS and not see it as at least somewhat brilliant, we aren't thinking on the same plane. It boggles the mind to think how anyone could have come up with an idea like this. Alien clowns that are basically giant scary vampires come to earth and want to capture people to take them back to their huge circus tent ship and wrap them in cotton candy cocoons? It's a film with one foot planted in the sci-fi B-movies of the 1950s and the other in the 1980s. I love it and I always have. From the very first notes of the Dickies theme song, the Chiodo Brothers had me won over. It's widely known that clowns are often perceived as kind of creepy and that there are many folks with straight up phobias of them. To be honest, outside of Bozo the Clown, I've always thought of clowns as either scary or sad, but never much in the way of funny. It's an odd thing that, but it makes for a great horror comedy that's for sure. And clowns make for good movie creatures in the world of old-school special effects and design of 1988. There's just a lot to love about the movie though and it's kind of easy to see why it's legacy has lasted as long as it has. At it's core, it's really kind of a family monster movie if you will and it's not too scary really. It is a nice gateway type movie to show a youngster to possibly start to bring them over to horror movies. I remember showing my son before he was ten years old and he loved it and though we are still working on the transition to horror movie love (that I'm pretty sure he will come around to), I know that the film was a big hit with him and he still talks about it today (he's fifteen now). I am anxious for the day that I think my 5 year old daughter is ready for KILLER KLOWNS as I am quite sure she's going to love it too.

Special Features on this awesome Arrow Special Edition include:
--Audio Commentary with the Chiodo Brothers
--The Making of Killer Klowns – a 20-minute featurette looking at the film’s production, including an interview with the Chiodo Brothers alongside behind-the-scenes footage.
--Visual Effects with Gene Warren Jr. – an interview with Charles Chiodo and visual effects supervisor Gene Warren Jr.
--Kreating Klowns – an interview with Charles Chiodo and creature fabricator Dwight Roberts.
--Bringing Life to These Things – A Tour of Chiodo Bros. Productions.
--Chiodo Brothers’ Earliest Films – a look back at the Chiodo Brothers’ early homemade productions.
--Tales of Tobacco: A brand new interview with star Grant Cramer.
--Debbie’s Big Night: A brand new interview with star Suzanne Snyder.
--Komposing Klowns – interview with composer John Massari.
--Deleted Scenes with Director’s Commentary.
--Klown Auditions.

Here's a 10 minute Fangoria interview with the Chiodos wherein they talk KILLER KLOWNS early in the summer of 2014:

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