Release Date(s)1984 (March 14, 2023)
Studio(s)Warner Bros. (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
Constantly compared to Jaws throughout its theatrical run and later on in its aftermarket life, Razorback has always been more of a calling card for the talents of Russell Mulcahy, who had directed music videos up to that point but would go on to make what most genre fans would later know him best for: Highlander. But before that, Razorback would toss conventions aside, going for a more artistic approach to its material, but also throwing critics and audiences a curve ball who were expecting nothing more than a simple monster movie... and Razorback is nothing of the sort.
Razorback follows an investigative reporter (Judy Morris) into the Australian outback as she follows up on rumors of the illegal hunting and processing of the local wildlife. Soon, she finds herself on the run from two of the locals (Chris Haywood and David Argue) and is attacked, but is later killed by a giant killer boar, essentially freeing the locals of any wrongdoing. Her husband (Gregory Harrison) soon comes to investigate what happened to her with the help of a revenge-obsessed older man (Bill Kerr) and a wildlife observer (Arkie Whiteley), but they soon find themselves out of their depth as both the two locals and the giant boar are out to kill them.
Russell Mulcahy’s visual style, which includes frequent shaking of the actual frame, extreme snap zooms, unorthodox camera angles, and a constant use of bold colors and lighting schemes, made what could have been a rather perfunctory story into a visual feast. Never one to stick to storyboards for inspiration, he was always thinking on the spot and finding new ways to film each scene, either through discussions with cinematographer Dean Semler or by pure accident. To be completely honest, the story for the film isn’t all that great, but what gets you through it is the intensity of it and the way that it’s shot. Mulcahy was also smart enough to show the boar as little as possible, leaving more to the imagination. And while Razorback’s plot tends be a mixed bag, no genre film before it could match its unconventional but entertaining use of the frame.
Razorback was shot by director of photography Dean Seamler on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras and Panavision C- and E-Series lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Scream Factory debuts the film on Blu-ray in the US with Umbrella Entertainment’s 2018 4K restoration of the film. It’s a very similar experience, though the Scream Factory release offers a very steady and even bitrate that primarily sits around 32 to 35Mbps, which is higher than the Umbrella release. Hues are often bold, particularly when it comes to blues, reds, and browns, with flesh tones taking on a warm look, which is appropriate to the dry and sun-soaked desert landscape. Blacks are deeper, perhaps even with a bit of crush. The image is natural with solid levels of grain, a mostly stable frame, and an overall lack of leftover damage. The opening titles are the least appealing as they appear to have been sourced from lower resolution materials. Otherwise, a very nice presentation.
Audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 Mono, both DTS-HD Master Audio options, with optional subtitles in English SDH. The film was released in Dolby Stereo, meaning that the 5.1 track is much closer to the theatrical experience than the mono track, the latter’s origin of which is not specified. The 5.1 is quite aggressive and suits the film well. Imaging is strong with frequent panning and ambient activity. Dialogue is mostly clean and clear with good separation for sound effects and score. The score and the sounds of the oversized boar benefit most from the low end push. The mono is on the quiet side and not as sonically satisfying, but it’s nice to have its inclusion, even if it seems a bit unnecessary next to the very assertive surround experience.
Razorback on Blu-ray sits in a blue amaray case with double-sided artwork, featuring the original US theatrical artwork on the front and the Australian theatrical artwork on the reverse. The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary with Russell Mulcahy and Shayne Armstrong
- Audio Commentary with Lee Gambin and Jarret Gahan
- Audio Interview with Gregory Harrison (HD – 30:58)
- Jaws on Trotters: The Making of Razorback (HD – 73:43)
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary w/Russell Mulcahy and Shayne Armstrong (Upscaled SD – 4 in all – 2:31)
- A Certain Piggish Nature: Looking Back at Razorback (HD – 24:13)
- The VHS Cut (Upscaled SD – 95:01)
- Australian Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:33)
- Australian VHS Trailer (Upscaled SD – 2:01)
- Still Gallery (HD – 155 – 12:00)
Carried over from the Umbrella Blu-ray release is an audio commentary with director Russell Mulcahy and writer Shayne Armstrong, which isn’t overly energetic but goes into several areas of interest. New is an audio commentary with author Lee Gambin and film critic and producer Jarret Gahan. They share their duties, trading back and forth to cover various subjects about the film. As many likely already know, Gambin is an expert when it comes to eco-horror, and has plenty to say in that regard, while Gahan is more focused on the careers of the cast and crew, the content of the film, and its release. In the audio interview with actor Gregory Harrison, he discusses his career during this period and how he landed the job of working on the film. Mark Hartley’s documentary Jaws on Trotters features several members of the key cast and crew, including producer Hal McElroy, “Razorback” designer Bob McCarron, director Russell Mulcahy, actors Judy Morris and Chris Haywood, and composer Iva Davies. The four deleted scenes featuring optional audio commentary by Mulcahy and Armstrong are the more intense and gory moments that had to be trimmed for the theatrical release, but were restored for the Australian VHS release. A Certain Piggish Nature is a roundtable discussion about the film with writers and critics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Lee Gambin, Sally Christie, and Emma Westwood. The Australian VHS version is presented in its original full frame presentation and has the aforementioned deleted scenes intact. Next are the Australian theatrical and VHS trailers, and a still gallery containing 155 images from the film’s marketing campaign, newspaper ads, magazines, behind-the-scenes stills, and on-set photography.
Not carried over from Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release are additional interviews by Mark Hartley for the Not Quite Hollywood documentary, including moments with Gregory Harrison, Judy Morris, Russell Mulcahy, writer Everett De Roche, Hal McElroy, and Bob McCarron; and a commercial from the film’s Australian TV premiere, which was included as Easter egg. Missing in action also is the film’s US theatrical trailer, which can be viewed on Youtube.
Razorback’s death at the box office almost ensured its success as a cult film, particularly after Russell Mulcahy went on to produce several other visually-striking films. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release ups the ante with a slightly higher encode and a satisfying extras package, even if it’s missing a couple of things. In any case, it’s another highly recommended release.
- Tim Salmons