Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Vestron Video - PARENTS and THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Vestron Video - PARENTS and THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM on Blu-ray

PARENTS (1989; Bob Balaban)
This is another one of those movies I discovered via the Cult Movies sections of several video stores from my youth. Along with LIQUID SKY, ERASERHEAD and REPO MAN, this film always seemed to show up in those Cult shelves. Even the cover of the VHS tape (which is the same as this Blu-ray) had this eerie sense of "what's going on here?" in combination with some kind of comedic elements. The cover was deceptive in that way in that I expected the movie to be more of a wacky and humorous farce than it is. It's actually a deeply creepy and haunting. I can only imagine the few times when some mom or dad might have mistakenly brought the movie home for a fun family movie night- only to have the shocking revelation that it's about a kid with cannibal parents. Apparently, PARENTS came out around the same time as Ron Howard's movie PARENTHOOD, so their may have been some folks that saw the latter by accident. I know I first rented it on VHS myself and found it scary, but also kind of funny. One different for me in viewing the movie now is that I have become a parent myself since my last watch, so the comedy didn't stand out for me as much as the psychological horror of it all.
What really sells it all is the kid they cast in the main role. He's quite little and he has this almost natural look of fear emblazoned in his face. He has the look of one of the kids in Woody Allen movies like ANNIE HALL or RADIO DAYS, but instead of being surrounded by funny situations, he is instead engulfed in this frightening and ominous world that makes his features appear much more disturbed. So the kid is great and the rest of the cast is excellent too. Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt play the boy's mother and father and they couldn't be more unsettling. They both bring an incredible air of menacing and foreboding that is quite powerful.
One thing I forgot about the movie is just how stylish it is. It has lots of interestingly framed shots and odd angles as well as a good deal of steady-cam work. There even some split diopter and macro lense business in there too. Balaban additionly employs slow motion and dips to black and white to great effect here in some sequences. He creates a remarkable, waking nightmarish reality wherein the kid sees or imagine he sees some pretty terrifying things.
I am a big fan of Bob Balaban as an actor, but I've always wished that he made more movies as a director. Between PARENTS and MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK, he proved himself to be a truly interesting voice as a filmmaker.
Interestingly, Angelo Badalamenti did the score for this movie and he was of course David Lynch's guy for a long time. Though PARENTS is not nearly as strange as or unclassifable as Lynch's work, I find it fitting that Badalamenti links the two directors

Special Features:
Hats off to Lionsgate for another nice special edition. The cornerstone of the supplemental material here is a good commentary track from director Bob Balaban and his producer on the movie. They have a delightful and breezy often screen specific conversation about the overall production as the recall it. Bob Balaban has always struck me as a jovial and intelligent fellow and he comes off that way on this track. For me, it always legitimizes a release when you can get the director on there talking about his work. 
Other features include:
• Isolated score selections/audio interview with composer Jonathan Elias
• Featurettes:
-“Leftovers to Be” with screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne
-“Mother’s Day” with actress Mary Beth Hurt
-“Inside Out” with director of photography Robin Vidgeon
-“Vintage Tastes” with decorative consultant Yolando Cuomo
• Theatrical trailer
• Radio spots

You can buy PARENTS on Blu-ray Here:
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THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988; Ken Russell)
As was the case with PARENTS, this film could almost always be found in the Cult sections of video stores. Director Ken Russell's film ALTERED STATES could often be found there too. In fact, Russell may have been one of the earliest associations I have with cult cinema. He just seemed to make movies that were strange and transgressive enough (see THE DEVILS), that they often ended up at the cult end of the spectrum. Russell is certainly a visionary and not a one note guy. His films were quite varied and regularly bizarre. He defined had a thing religion and seemed to take pleasure in dismantling it. There's often a lot of Christ imagery in his movies and LAIR is no exception. There are some very trippy dream sequences involving sex, snakes, sacrifice, nuns and Jesus Christ himself. The whole thing centers around ancient pagan cult that worships a giant serpent. One thing that I never realized about THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM was that Ken Russell adapted it from a novel by Bram Stoker. The resulting movie is an extremely unusual tale featuring people basically being turned into snake vampires. Of course it makes sense that vampirism would be a part of a Stoker story, but Ken Russell really seems to take it and make it his own. By that I mean he's added tons of phallic images and symbolism to his film. You see, Russell is basically obsessed with the sexuality and the penis in general. Take a look at the poster for his film LISZTOMANIA and you'll see evidence of what I mean. So WHITE WORM is filled with this kind of allusion throughout and it feels very much like a "Ken Russell movie". It is also an early-ish role for Hugh Grant, which makes it feel even stranger as we have now become so accustomed to seeing him in Hollywood fluff and this is definitely not that. THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM is fascinating and strange watch all told.

Special Features:
• Audio commentary by director Ken Russell
• Audio commentary by Lisi Russell, in conversation with film historian Matthew Melia
• “Worm Food: The Effects of THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM” featurette
• “Cutting For Ken”: an interview with editor Peter Davies
• “Mary, Mary”: an interview with actress Sammi Davis
• TRAILERS FROM HELL featuring an introduction and commentary with producer Dan Ireland

You can buy THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM on Blu-ray Here:
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