DEATH BECOMES HER is a pretty unique movie in it's tone and scale. It is a reminder of a Hollywood Studio era wherein a large budget special-effects heavy gothic comedy could get made at all. Obviously we've seen the collapse of most middle budget studio films taking hold for a little while now, but even the higher budgeted studio comedies of today would never dare to go to the dark places that DEATH BECOMES HER goes to. It is also a bit of an "on Hollywood" kind of film in that it is skewering the ridiculous lengths to which rich folks (and movie stars) will go to maintain their beauty. It is a movie about excess, vanity and body horror. Though not like the kind of body horror we often associate with say David Cronenberg, this movie lives in a somewhat similarly heightened macabre universe. Zemeckis kind of made a newish genre offshoot with this grotesque and fantastic screwball satire. There were a few others along slightly similar lines (THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK comes to mind), but DEATH BECOMES her is really a pretty singular film all told. Zemeckis' heightened reality here is pretty spectacular. While it sometimes doesn't quite hold together in terms of the comedy, it is pretty committed to the outlandish and preposterous places it wants to go to. It reminds me of a large scale Tales From Crypt episode, with more humor added in. There's also this wonderful FRANKENSTEIN vibe to the whole thing and I love that.
I remember it being a pretty big deal right before the film was released. There was some kind of behind the scenes piece that I saw on TV where they showed how complicated the special effects were and that part of the magic was achieved through the then youthful process of CG. The featurette showed them shooting both scenes with Meryl Streep's head on backwards and Goldie Hawn with the giant shotgun blast hole through her stomach. I had no context when I saw it, but this was all pre-JURRASIC PARK, so we were not at all to the point where we had no real idea of what the computer was capable of as a tool for special effects. It was fascinating to see this peak behind the curtain in the early 90s, but I feel like I didn't get it at the time. My sense of humor hadn't skewed quite that dark then so it all seemed quite sad and strange to me in a way that I couldn't explain. I think I was aware that it was the new movie from Robert Zemeckis and perhaps that effected me. Here was the guy who made BACK TO THE FUTURE making what felt like a pretty mean spirited film and it might have been disappointing for me. I've come to appreciate it a lot more over the years. Bruce Willis is a big part of that. Let me just say that I love Bruce Willis in comedies. He doesn't do it much anymore, but I always enjoyed his comedic performances in the 80s and 90s when he would really cut loose like this. He has a particular timbre to his voice when he starts yelling dialogue and it always played pretty funny to me. He was one of those actors who could go really big and get away with it for some reason. He felt like an actor from the 30s in his manner and the way his eyes would widen when he became enraged always amused me too. Both the leading ladies are outstanding too. It takes a remarkable performer to help create and maintain this kind of elevated reality and both Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn absolutely deliver some bigger than life comedic characters.
I thought I remembered DEATH BECOMES HER being a complete and total box office failure upon its release, but in examining the numbers, it looks like it didn't really flop. I may be mistaking poor reviews for box office deficiency. The movie has certainly picked up a much larger adoring fanbase since 1992. It is in a pocket of movies that are not well-remembered by the public at large anymore, but that have some real heavy duty admirers. It's nice to see Scream Factory pick up this one and bring it out with some extras.
The big supplement here is the new 25-minute Making of Featurette which includes interviews with director Robert Zemeckis as well as screenwriter David Koepp, cinematographer Dean Cundey, production designer Rick Carter, and special effects artists Lance and David Anderson.
-Also included is a vintage "Making-Of" featurette from back when the film was put out. This may have actually been the one I saw as a kid.