Release Date(s)1984 (November 22, 2016)
Studio(s)New World Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
While many of its actors would likely prefer to forget about it altogether, C.H.U.D. has managed to stick around since its original release in 1984. Directed by Douglas Cheek, who’s primarily known as a TV and documentary editor (this is his only directing credit), C.H.U.D. tells the story of a photographer (John Heard), his model girlfriend (Kim Greist), a police captain (Christopher Curry), and a guy who runs a homeless shelter (Daniel Stern). Together, they search for the truth as to why people in their neighborhood are disappearing, leading them to a massive government cover-up involving radioactive monsters in the sewers of New York City. Other familiar faces in the cast include George Martin and Frankie Faison, as well as early appearances by John Goodman and Jay Thomas.
C.H.U.D.’s strengths as a movie lie mainly in its performances and ideas, not necessarily in its narrative. The story and pace would probably have been better served had the film been made by someone like Larry Cohen; this material reeks of something more attuned to his sensibilities. The other problem is that C.H.U.D. really isn’t much of a monster movie. The creatures themselves are effective, but they appear too infrequently. Even though they’re the focus, we spend more time above ground than we do down below. The film’s attempt to comment on homelessness, corrupt government officials, and the misuse of hazardous waste materials seems more important by comparison.
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray of release is presented in two separate versions: the Integral cut, which runs 96 minutes, and the Theatrical cut, which runs 88 minutes. Both are sourced from the same transfer, a 2K scan of a low contrast 35mm print, meaning the original elements are either lost or destroyed. Keeping in mind that C.H.U.D. has always been a rough-looking movie, it looks better than ever here. The image is very organic and has a decent grain structure, though it can be a tad chunky at times. Fine detail is as good as it’s going to get, considering the source. The color palette is lackluster in places, but skin tones are consistent. Blacks are deep, though there’s a lack of shadow detail due to the original cinematography and the condition of the elements. Brightness is generally good, but contrast suffers a bit, again due to the elements used. Overall, it’s still a clean and stable presentation. The audio comes as an English mono LPCM track. It contains very centered and discernible dialogue with well-mixed score and sound effects, as well as some surprising bass. Optional subtitles are included in English SDH.
All of the extras are on the first disc, containing the Integral cut, while the Theatrical cut resides by itself on the second disc. Everything from the previous Anchor Bay DVD has been carried over, including the very frank and entertaining audio commentary with actors John Heard, Daniel Stern, and Christopher Curry, director Douglas Cheek, and writer Sheppard Abbott; a behind-the-scenes still gallery; an extended shower scene; and the original theatrical trailer. New to this release are an audio interview with composers Martin Cooper and David A. Hughes, moderated by Michael Felsher, which acts as an audio commentary; A Dirty Look, an interview with production designer William Bilowit; Dweller Designs, an interview with special make-up effects and creature creator John Caglione, Jr.; Notes from Above Ground: The NYC Locations of C.H.U.D., which is a tour of the film’s shooting locations with Ted Geoghegan and Michael Gingold; and a 24-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Gingold.
C.H.U.D. is pretty strong as a concept, though the Integral cut of the movie is much more palatable than the Theatrical cut. Either way, it’s an interesting film, just not one that’s totally cohesive. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray, while not made under the perfect circumstances, features a transfer that is the best available and that’s the most you can hope for. If you’re a fan of the film, this release is a no-brainer.
- Tim Salmons