Death Warmed Up (Blu-ray) (1984)

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Released 3-Apr-2019

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Reversible Cover
Audio Commentary-David Blyth & Michael Heath
Interviews-Cast-David Letch (26:31)
Interviews-Crew-David Blyth & Michael Heath (40:01)
Deleted Scenes-With optional commentary
Alternative Version-Original 4:3 New Zealand VHS Cut (79:44)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-VHS Trailers (1:41 / 1:48)
TV Spots
Gallery
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 78:53 (Case: 80)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Blyth
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Michael Hurst
Margaret Umbers
William Upjohn
Norelle Scott
Gary Day
David Letch
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Mark Nichols


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"The ugliest, most repulsive movie made in New Zealand”: Cue Magazine

     Michael Tucker’s (Michael Hurst) father Professor Tucker and Dr Archer Howell (Gary Day) conduct a join research project into the human brain, seeking to prolong life, but when Professor Tucker objects to the thrust of Howell’s research, calling it unscientific, dangerous and unproved, Howell abducts Michael and brainwashes him through electronic shock treatment into murdering his father and mother with a shotgun. Michael ends up in a psychiatric institution while Howell creates the Trans Cranial Applications Institute (TCA) on an island off the coast where he experiments on the brains of patients; the results vary from bad to horrible, some patients ending up zombies, others with deformities, one ends up with his brain exploding.

     After seven years Michael is released. He wants revenge on Dr Howell and with his girlfriend Sandy (Margaret Umbers), his best friend Lucas (William Upjohn) and Lucas’ girlfriend Jeannie (Norelle Scott) they travel to the island where TCA operates, although Michael does not tell his friends the real reason they are going. On the ferry across to the island they have an altercation with Spider (David Letch), one of Dr Howell’s patients. Once on the island the four kids decide to explore the dark and scary old WW2 bunkers and tunnels beneath the island; from this point on mayhem swiftly spreads when Spider releases a horde of zombies and Michael seeks his revenge on Dr Howell. Blood and guts becomes the order of the day.

     Death Warmed Up (or Death Warmed Over if you are in the US) was co-written / directed by David Blyth and co-written by Michael Heath, who had shortly before penned Next of Kin (1882), an Australian gothic horror film classic that has also recently been remastered and rereleased by Umbrella. That film was more a haunted house mystery: Death Warmed Up, on the other hand, is a full on blood and guts, schlock horror film without a shred of mystery or subtlety. That is not a criticism when, as in this case, the blood and guts are delivered with such a sense of maniacal glee! For example, we get the evil doctor operating on a patient’s skull with a commercial black & decker drill with blood spraying on attendant nurses, a patient’s skull exploding, entrails spilling over a body, zombies smashing through windows, characters set alight and why have one stabbing stroke when ten will do. The intention was to shock, and clearly from the local reviews at the time such as the one that heads this review, they succeeded, although thirty years on the shock value has lessened. Indeed, one of the more objectionable scenes these days is not to do with the blood and mayhem, but the decision to have a New Zealand actor in blackface playing the “comic” Indian shopkeeper Ranji Gandhi.

     Death Warmed Up was not intended to be high art but a heap of low budget, blood splattered fun. And it succeeds. The acting and dialogue may be wooden but the effects, in days prior to CGI, were all done practically and while some may be a bit dodgy (the protective suits in the fire deaths scene are clear) most result with blood everywhere, as they should. And there is something about practical effects that is always very pleasing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The distributor Umbrella Entertainment advise that this Blu-ray of Death Warmed Up was scanned in 2K by the New Zealand Film Commission from the only film elements that still exist as the original negatives were destroyed by fire in 1987. The film was shot in 16 mm, and blown up to 35 mm for exhibition. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The print probably reflects the source elements. Daylight scenes have strong detail and good colours, such as the green grass. Much of the film is, however, set either in dark tunnels, dark rooms or at night where detail is not as strong and shadow detail in some sequences is quite indistinct, making it difficult to see what is going on. However, these scenes include some vivid red, blue and yellow colours that stand out amid the darkness while the brain surgery scenes show the blood and brain matter clearly, including the peeling back of the skull. Elsewhere, the blood (lots of blood) is dark red and intestines and brains red and white. Blacks are solid, without any touch of grey, skin tones natural if a bit on the brown side. Brightness and contrast does vary in some early scenes, but other than a little motion blur artefacts were absent and this is a clean print, with grain nicely controlled.

     English subtitles are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The feature audio is English DTS-HD MA 5.1, the commentary Dolby Digital 2.0. While the feature audio reads as 5.1 in delivery it was essentially a stereo audio, mostly using the centre front speaker with some ambient sound in the two front side speakers. I cannot say that I heard anything from the rears while the only use of the subwoofer I noticed was to add some boom to the bass in the film’s score. However, as the film was released in theatres with stereo sound I don’t think we are missing out on a lot.

     Dialogue is clear and the effects, such as car and motor bike engines, the zombies crashing through the glass windows or the fire and explosion are decent enough. The score by Mark Nichols is synthesizer based which does date the film although it is effective in the quieter moments during the build up to scares.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Reversible Cover

     The cover without the ratings logo.

Audio Commentary with David Blyth & Michael Heath

     Recorded for this Blu-ray this is a decent commentary by co-writer / director David Blyth and co-writer Michael Heath who sit together and watch the film. They are screen specific and indeed tend to explain what is happening on screen as well as talk about the locations, the use of Steadicam, the colour design, the sets, missing scenes, the cast members including bit parts, the music, films that influenced them, their intentions in various scenes, the stunts, special effects and sound design as well as the use of silences to create tension, the costumes, the open ended conclusion to the film.

I’ll Get You All . . . David Letch on Death Warmed Up(26:31)

     Made in 2019 by Umbrella, David Letch who played Spider is amusing as he recalls how he decided to do the film, creating the look and sound of Spider, his cult following and the fans, stuff-ups with stunts, the blood and make-up effects and the negative reactions to the film in New Zealand.

2009 Interviews with David Blyth & Michael Heath (40:01)

     The title of this extra is somewhat misleading. What we really have is a documentary type feature made in 2009 in 4x3 in which comments by Blyth and Heath, recorded separately, are intercut with long sections of film footage. The film footage is in indifferent condition, quite soft and with artefacts, which shows how good the remastered print on this Blu-ray looks, but it also means that this extra contains massive spoilers and should not be watched prior to watching the film. Matters covered include the plot of the film, various characters, responses to criticism of the Indian stereotype, death scenes, the link between horror, humour and tragedy, the budget, the NZ Film Commission, the release of the film and showing at various film festivals.

Deleted / Missing Scenes (15:56)

     When first accessing this tab the following screen appears: “Due to permanently damaged or destroyed film elements, some shots and scenes from the film are missing from the main feature. Listen to the audio commentaries to find out more”.

     The scenes can be viewed with, or without, a commentary by David Blyth and Michael Heath. They did not cut these scenes and do not know who did but watch this collection of scenes they think were cut from one of the many VHS releases of the film. There are no new complete scenes in this extra, instead there are slight inserts / extensions to existing scenes. They point out that the 35 mm negative of the film was burnt and that as there is no intact print of the film it was restored based on two and a half existing prints.

Original 4:3 New Zealand VHS Cut (79:44)

     This version of the film is the original uncut VHS and DVD version of the film that was released in New Zealand; it contains scenes missing from the feature as it now exists, but adds less than a minute to the feature as is on the Blu-ray. The additions, as far as I can see, are as included in the deleted / missing scenes extra. This is 4x3 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. There are a range of small artefacts but by and large the colours and detail are pretty good.

Theatrical Trailer (1:57)

VHS Trailers (1:41 / 1:48)

    Two very different VHS trailers for the film; the first advertises that the film was prohibited in Queensland, the second is the Japanese VHS trailer.

TV Spot (0:21)

Image Gallery

     Just over 100 pages of poster and home video artwork from around the world, promotional materials in New Zealand and Japan, production stills, photos from the collection of David Letch, newspaper reviews and clippings, film festival notes. No music, the stills advance automatically (taking over 17 minutes) or they can be advanced using the remote.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There have been various VHS and DVD releases of Death Warmed Up, mostly no longer available. This release from Umbrella is the only Blu-ray version currently available.

Summary

     Death Warmed Up is promoted as New Zealand’s first horror film, and it certainly predates Peter Jackson’s 1987 Bad Taste. A mad doctor, zombies, brain surgery, blood, intestines, revenge, more blood and a topless sex scene, all done with maniacal glee; what’s not to like?

     With its remastered HD video, lossless audio and decent extras, this is a perfect opportunity for fans of classic horror to catch up with Death Warmed Up, a film hitherto mostly seen on poor or pirated prints.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, May 06, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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