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Synapse Films presents
Brain Damage Limited Edition (1987)

"He needs the brains and I need the juice. It's as simple as that."
- Brian (Rick Herbst)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 25, 2003

Stars: Rick Herbst, Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry
Other Stars: Theo Barnes, Lucille Saint-Peter, Vicki Darnell, Zacherle
Director: Frank Henenlotter

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, violence, extreme gore, disturbing imagery)
Run Time: 01h:25m:37s
Release Date: July 22, 2003
UPC: 654930302798
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BA-A- A-

DVD Review

Frank Henenlotter hasn't made a ton of films, but nearly all of those he has made qualify as notorious cult classics. Beginning with his debut of Basket Case (which intersects in a brief cameo here) Henenlotter has pushed the extremes of good taste with dark and often highly funny over-the-top madness. His second opus, Brain Damage continues in that messy vein.

Brian (Rick Herbst) awakens to find that he's made a new friend: a snakelike brain/penis/turd creature called Aylmer. This creature has the unique talent of being able to inject a euphoric, hallucinatory drug into his symbiote's system. There are only a few down sides to this: the drug is horribly, painfully addictive (but too late for that now); the elderly couple (Theo Barnes and Lucille Saint-Peter) from whom Aylmer escaped will stop at nothing to get him back; and Aylmer likes to feed on human brains, which he demands Brian procure for him. This is obviously something difficult to explain to your brother (Gordon MacDonald) and girlfriend (Jennifer Lowry).

The picture is most noted for its extreme and nasty gore sequences, many of which predictably involve brains being ripped out. But Henenlotter's wicked sense of humor combines sex and death in two memorable sequences, particularly one in which Aylmer is fatally mistaken for a penis. Confirmed gorehounds will find much to enjoy here, though mainstream audiences will probably be unable to take the in-your-face bloodshed and nastiness.

The cast is generally acceptable to good, with Rick Herbst doing a fine job as the addicted/obsessed Brian (anagram for brain). Barnes and Saint-Peter as the obsessive elderly couple are also entertaining, but Aylmer is the star of the show. Hideous and constructed without any particular attempt to be convincing (Henenlotter in the commentary notes that he was inspired by Chuck Jones cartoons), Aylmer is voiced by legendary horror host (John) Zacherle, and his smooth tones of evil make Aylmer come to life in a vivid if bizarre manner.

Although pictures about obsession and addiction are hard to do well, and particularly hard to manage in an entertaining manner, Henenlotter pulls off this difficult task with aplomb. Its gore content means it's certainly not for everyone, but those who like brain-eating monsters will be highly entertained. Synapse states that this limited edition will only be available until the end of 2003 so don't delay.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Synapse steps up its old nonanamorphic disc with an anamorphic transfer here, but frankly the benefits aren't terribly obvious. Being shot on a low budget, there is a limit to how much can be coaxed out of the elements. There does appear to be a bit more detail and texture visible, but one the whole not the quantum improvement that one might expect; the old nonanamorphic transfer turns out to be about as good as it gets. Colors are excellent and shadow detail is decent considering the budgetary limitations. Little artifacting is present except on the blood-red titles, which have a bit of aliasing.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: In addition to the old 2.0 mono track (which is retained), a new 5.1 remix is present on the disc. Even after correcting for the higher volume on the 5.1 track, the result is a much more immersing experience that helps increase the nightmarish quotient of the picture, if that's possible. Bass is decent and dialogue is clear and generally free from hiss and noise. The music sounds very good indeed, with nice presence. Kudos to Synapse for keeping the original mono, though, for the purists.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Basket Case
Isolated Music Score with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Frank Henenlotter, Scooter MacRae, novelist Bob Martin
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:47m:50s

Extras Review: The excellent commentary from the original 2000 disc is retained. Henenlotter spills a great many technical secrets about the film as well as providing anecdotes about how this thing ever got made in the first place, the surprising reactions of the MPAA and how the picture was (ineptly) marketed. It's a hoot and one of the better commentaries out there. An isolated score, which sounds great, is also provided, as is an anamorphic widescreen trailer. A full-frame trailer to Basket Case is hidden in Henenlotter's filmography. A nice little package, but nothing that wasn't on the original disc, so no need to upgrade if you're just looking for more extras.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Synapse's revamped disc benefits more from the new 5.1 audio track than it does the anamorphic transfer, oddly enough. Some good extras make this a must-own for fans of psychotronic movies, but act quickly if you want it.


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