DirectorRolf de Heer
Release Date(s)1993 (February 26, 2021)
Studio(s)Roadshow Films (Umbrella Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
[Editor’s Note: This is a Region-Free release, NOT Region B as stated on the packaging.]
Generating both buzz and controversy upon its initial release, 1993’s Bad Boy Bubby is the cinematic equivalent of a hard pill to swallow, but one with an eventual positive effect. Laden with sexual and physical abuse and animal violence, it’s a notoriously tough film to navigate. However, its reverse structure is effective, beginning in a horrible and depressing place and slowly building to an upbeat and touching ending. It also took director Rolf de Heer years to eventually get it made. Utilizing thirty-two cinematographers and unusual sound recording techniques, it’s also an experimental film. Yet, it has an odd coherency, thanks in no small part to Nicholas Hope, whose amazing leading performance is central to the film’s success. Essentially a dark, dingy, and even disturbing predecessor to Forrest Gump, Bad Boy Bubby holds up as a beloved though relatively unknown and little seen cult film that’s still difficult to get through.
Bubby is a 35-year-old man who has been raised in an environment completely shut off by his abusive mother, convinced by her that the outside world is a dangerous place with nothing to offer but poisonous air to breathe. His only other companion is a cat, and after witnessing it run in and out of a vent, it piques his curiosity as to how it can breathe. When Bubby’s father shows up unexpectedly and he and his mother go on a drunken binge together, Bubby escapes. Alone in a completely alien world with no natural way to communicate, he runs into various people and situations, as well as a down on their luck rock band and a young nurse with body-shaming issues. Despite their support, his ability to adapt and learn will be his ultimate salvation.
Bad Boy Bubby comes to Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment as Volume 7 of their Worlds on Films: Beyond Genres label, restored in 2K from from the original interpositive. Lensed by a variety of different cinematographers, Bad Boy Bubby is visually inconsistent, which gives it a much grittier look after the fact. A couple of changeover cues and a bit of white speckling are all that remain as far as leftover damage is concerned, but the film is otherwise uniform when it comes to grain reproduction and fine detail. The opening thirty minutes or so in the small apartment are the dankest and grungiest of all, but once Bubby steps outside, the color palette blooms with hues ranging from greens to reds to blues, and everything in between. Black levels are healthy and overall contrast is decent. It's likely the best presentation of film there is without access to the original camera negative.
The audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA with optional subtitles in English. The 5.1 track has been newly-remastered by sound recordists and mixers Tom Heuzenroeder and James Currie, both of whom worked on the original film. Also included is the original binaural recording for the film (found within the extras menu), which is highly effective, even in its raw state. None of the tracks offer amazing fidelity, but due to the nature of how the film’s sound was designed and executed (through microphones hidden under Nicholas Hope’s wig), it has an authenticity to it rather than a standard studio-designed mix. Dialogue exchanges are clear, but music and sound effects have distorted qualities, depending upon their distance from the microphone.
The following extras are also included, all in HD:
- Audio Commentary with Rolf de Heer and Nicholas Hope
- Christ Kid, You’re a Weirdo (24:56)
- Being Bubby (14:54)
- Confessor Caressor Short Film (20:26)
- Popcorn Taxi Q&A (26:30)
- 25th Anniversary Q&A (30:51)
- Stills Gallery (26 in all – 2:05)
- Theatrical Trailers (6:17)
- Binaural Headphone Recording
In the audio commentary with director Rolf de Heer and actor Nicholas Hope, the two discuss aspects of the film and how it was made while watching it together. The discussion is excellent and covers a lot of ground, but the film’s soundtrack sometimes drowns them out. In Christ Kid, You’re a Weirdo, Rolf de Heer discusses the genesis of the film, how he collected various moments from his life and put them into the script, his relationship with the main character, working with children, discovering Nicholas Hope, using different cinematographers, binaural recording, almost changing the ending, and various responses to the film. In Being Bubby, Nicholas Hope talks about his acting career, meeting with Rolf de Heer, the film’s experimental aspects, his research for the role, shooting the film in sequence, being vulnerable for the film and how it affected his work, working collaboratively, the effect of the film on his career and his life, and encounters with fans. The Confessor Caressor short stars Nicholas Hope and led to his being cast in Bad Boy Bubby. The Popcorn Taxi Q&A with Nicholas Hope was recorded at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, Australia in 2005. The 25th Anniversary Q&A with Nicholas Hope and Natalie Carr is an audio-only recording, taken at Monster Fest in 2019, accompanied by pictures from the event. The stills gallery contains 26 behind-the-scenes and on set images. Trailers for Bad Boy Bubby, Dingo, and The Tracker are included, but not presented separately. Also included is the raw binaural headphone recording made for the film, presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital. It’s worth noting that a Scandinavian Blu-ray release of the film appears to have a brief bit of behind-the-scenes footage and a French Blu-ray has an exclusive interview with Rolf de Heer. Other than that, all previous extras are accounted for. The disc is housed in a clear amaray case with cover art and a slipcover featuring new artwork by Simon Sherry.
Though Umbrella Entertainment took a break from their Worlds on Film: Beyond Genres line for quite some time, Bad Boy Bubby is a nice place to start anew. The film can be difficult, but with perseverance, one will find there’s much more to it than simply darkness. Umbrella’s disc offers the best home video edition of the film to date with a great new presentation and a nice extras package to go with it. If you’re a fan of the film, this is an excellent release worth picking up.
- Tim Salmons