Razorback (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Aug 25, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Razorback (4K UHD Review)


Russell Mulcahy

Release Date(s)

1984 (July 26, 2023)


Warner Bros. (Umbrella Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: B-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A

Razorback (4K UHD)



[Editor’s Note: Due to a production error, early copies of this Ultra HD title were actually Region B-locked. Umbrella Entertainment is instituting a replacement program, so if your copy is affected, contact the company via their website for a replacement.]

Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback is a brash and rowdy example of just how far and wide that the influence of Jaws really extended. The runaway success of Steven Spielberg’s classic in 1975 spawned a seemingly endless wave of imitators, some of them sticking to the theme of killer sharks, while others like Orca, Tentacles, Alligator, and Piranha offered alternative aquatic threats. A few filmmakers decided that it wasn’t safe to go back in the water, so they moved things onto dry land, with William Girdler’s Grizzly being a prime example. Yet there’s still a world of difference between a giant shark, a giant bear, and... a giant pig. There are killer shark movies, there are animal attack movies, and then there’s Razorback. Only in Australia.

Razorback was based on the rambling 1981 novel by Peter Brennan, which was far too discursive to make for a successful Ozploitation film. Adapting it for the screen fell to Everett De Roche, who had previously written Road Games, Patrick, and Long Weekend, the latter of which had also presented nature in revolt against mankind. Like Carl Gottlieb before him with Jaws, De Roche took a hatchet to his source material, eliminating most of the subplots in favor of presenting a fairly streamlined man vs. beast narrative. When American journalist Beth Winters (Judy Morris) disappears in the Outback while documenting the abuse of wildlife by a pet food factory, her husband Carl (Gregory Harrison) travels to Australia to find out what happened to her. His investigation crosses paths with Jake Cullen (the permanently grizzled Bill Kerr), whose grandson had been taken by a massive razorback, and a couple of seedy employees of the cannery (Chris Haywood & David Argue). After a hallucinatory encounter with the monster, Carl ends up teaming up with a naturalist named Sarah Cameron (Arkie Whiteley) in order to track his nemesis down.

Unlike many Jaws derivatives, Razorback really does mirror its inspiration, almost as much as it does its own nominal source material. Jake Cullen serves as the Quint figure, an embittered old hunter with a lifelong grudge against an entire species. Sarah Cameron is Hooper, the scientist who helps in the hopes of studying the animal. Carl Winters is Martin Brody, a man reluctantly drawn into a conflict that takes place in an environment entirely alien to him. Meanwhile, Ellen Brody gets screwed. (Quite literally in Peter Benchley’s novel, but figuratively here.) Also, just like Jaws, Razorback didn’t really have an ending until an implausible but exciting one was eventually improvised on set. A giant pig in the Outback may not seem to have much in common with a giant shark in the open seas, but Razorback has more in common with Jaws than the likes of Orca or Piranha ever did.

Those parallels might have been much more obvious if not for the fact that Russell Mulcahy was hired to direct. Mulcahy had made a name for himself shooting music videos for acts like Duran Duran, Elton John, and The Tubes, and he brought that same sensibility to bear for his feature debut. Stylistically speaking, Razorback couldn’t possibly be farther removed from Jaws, or any other animal attack movie for that matter. Mulcahy turned the Outback into a dystopian hellhole that looks like something out of a science fiction film—it’s easy to see the influence that he had on South African filmmaker Richard Stanley with Hardware and Dust Devil. Mulcahy’s vision for Razorback leaps back and forth between fantasy and reality, sometimes in obvious fashion, but other times blurring the lines between the two. Carl’s lengthy hike after his first encounter with the monster becomes a surrealistic trip to Hell and back again.

Still, just like Jaws before it, Razorback had to deal with the technological limitations of the day in bringing its titular beast to life. The various full-scale animatronics created by Bob McCarron didn’t necessarily stand up to close scrutiny any better than Bob Mattey’s Bruce the shark did, but Mulcahy filmed around those limitations. Freed from the relatively naturalistic environments of Jaws, he really went wild with camera and lighting effects, and he never made the mistake of holding onto any one shot of his monster for too long. (Major props are also due to editor William M. Anderson.) It’s the energetic nature of Mulcahy’s filmmaking that really brings this giant monster to life, and so Razorback stands to this day as one of the most offbeat animal attack movies ever made. It’s essentially Steven Spielberg meets Nicholas Roeg—Jaws gone Walkabout—and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Cinematographer Dean Semler shot Razorback on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex Gold cameras with Panavision C-series and E-series anamorphic lenses, framed at 2.35:1 for its theatrical release. Umbrella hasn’t provided any information regarding the master used for this version, but it appears to be the same 4K scan of the interpositive that was used for their 2018 Blu-ray, and that’s also the same one that they provided to Shout! Factory. There’s no High Dynamic Range grade at all, just 10-bit Rec. 709 SDR, and if any catalogue title cries out for the HDR treatment, it’s Razorback. Semler leaned heavily into color filters to provide a highly saturated and wildly stylized look, and it could easily have been strengthened with a good HDR grade. The colors are still solid here, but they’re not much different than on the Blu-ray versions. There may be a slight advantage due to the increased bit depth, but it’s not dramatic.

There’s an identical quantity of damage on display as well, with frequent speckling throughout the film. There’s also some occasional instability, especially during the opening and closing credits. The optical work for the titles ends up softening the image, and while that does improve once they’re over, it never really approaches true 4K levels of detail. In fact, even the sharpest moments are barely distinguishable from upscaled 1080p. Grain management may be slightly improved, but it’s partially offset by the modest bitrate.

All of that means that this doesn’t really qualify as much of an upgrade over Blu-ray, but thanks to a mastering error, it’s arguably a downgrade instead. For some reason, despite using the same basic master, this version distorts the geometry by adding a vertical stretch. Everything appears slightly taller and thinner than it should be. It’s most apparent during the scenes that have the sun in the background, such as when Beth Winters focuses on it through her camera at 16:17, or when it’s behind Jake Cullen starting at 64:18. In both cases, the sun appears as a circle on Blu-ray, but as a vertical oval on UHD. (The same thing is true of the spare tire at 67:34.) While I don’t have the tools to measure aspect ratios on UHD, it does seem to be taller than 2.35:1, so this isn’t a case where an incorrect stretch has been applied while cropped to maintain 2.35:1. It’s just plain the wrong aspect ratio. It’s subtle, and it may not even bother some people, but once you’ve seen it, it’s hard to unsee.

Audio is offered in English 5.1 & 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English subtitles. Razorback was released theatrically in Dolby Stereo, so it was a four-channel mix matrix ecoded into two. While many 5.1 tracks just offer a discrete encoding of those same four channels, this one does appear to have had some remix work done to it. There are a few points with split surround effects, such as the sounds of an animal coming from one surround speaker or the other. That said, there’s not much surround activity overall, which is typical for Dolby Stereo mixes from the Eighties. They do get aggressive during key moments, but they’re otherwise pretty quiet. There is a nice bit of bass rumble, especially during the razorback’s attacks.

Umbrella Entertainment’s 4K Ultra HD release of Razorback is a two-disc set that includes a copy of their Beyond Genres #4 Blu-ray, not a remastered version—although as noted above, that doesn’t make a huge difference. The only drawback to including the old disc is that it’s missing the new commentary by the Spierig Brothers as well as the 4K trailer. Due to a production error, the UHD is actually Region B-locked, making this one of the only instances where the UHD in a set is Region coded while the Blu-ray is Region free. (Not coincidentally, the other example is Umbrella’s 4K release of The Last Wave.) Umbrella has announced a replacement program, and while anyone who purchased directly from them is supposed to receive a replacement automatically (mine hasn’t shipped yet), everyone else will need to contact them with proof of purchase in order to receive a corrected disc.

The extras combine archival material, most of which was originally created by Umbrella for their various DVD and Blu-ray releases, with a new commentary track and 4K trailer:


  • Audio Commentary with Russell Mulcahy & Shayne Armstrong
  • Audio Commentary with Michael & Peter Spierig
  • Audio interview with Gregory Harrison (HD – 30:56)
  • Jaws on Trotters (Upscaled SD – 73:43)
  • Extended Interviews with Cast & Crew (Upscaled SD – 84:41)
  • Razorback: The VHS Cut (Upscaled SD – 95:00)
  • A Certain Piggish Nature (HD – 24:10)
  • Grisly Deleted Scenes (Upscaled SD – 2:30)
  • Theatrical & VHS Trailers (Upscaled SD – 4:21, 2 in all)
  • 4K Trailer (4K SDR – 2:20)
  • Image Gallery (HD – 27:16, 109 in all)


  • Audio Commentary with Russell Mulcahy & Shayne Armstrong
  • Audio interview with Gregory Harrison (HD – 30:56)
  • Jaws on Trotters (Upscaled SD – 73:43)
  • Extended Interviews with Cast & Crew (Upscaled SD – 84:41)
  • Grisly Deleted Scenes (Upscaled SD – 2:30, 4 in all)
  • Razorback: The VHS Cut (Upscaled SD – 95:00)
  • Theatrical Trailer (Upscaled SD – 2:22)
  • VHS Trailer (Upscaled SD – 1:59)
  • A Certain Piggish Nature (HD – 24:10)
  • Image Gallery (HD – 27:16, 111 in all)

The archival commentary with Russell Mulcahy is moderated by Shayne Armstrong, who says that he’s on hand to provide fanboy support as a lifelong supporter of the film. Mulcahy is pretty laid back, so the presence of Armstrong is beneficial, but there’s still plenty of good information to be had here. Armstrong points out some of the parallels to Jaws, but Mulcahy denies that he ever had it in mind while making the film. The new commentary track features Micheal and Peter Spierig, directors of Undead and Daybreakers. The rave about Dean Semler’s cinematography throughout, lamenting the loss of the look of film, but they do asses the advantages and disadvantages of digital vs. celluloid. They also provide some biographical details about the actors, discuss the practical effects (pointing out a technical error or two), and discuss some of the differences between the book and the film. It’s a far more energetic track than Mulcahy’s, but there’s value to both of them.

Jaws on Trotters is the centerpiece of all the extras, a comprehensive documentary featuring interviews with Mulcahy, producer Hal McElroy, creature designer Bob McCarron, and composer Iva Davies, as well as actors Judy Morris and Chris Haywood. They cover the conception, production, release, and legacy of Razorback. There are chapters devoted to the original novel; the creature design; the cast; Mulcahy and Semler; the locations; the ending, the music; the scale of the production; and how it was ahead of its time. Everyone seems to have some second thoughts about what they accomplished, wishing that they could have done a few things differently with more time and more money, but they’re still generally proud of the results. They also offer a nice commemoration of Arkie Whiteley, who died in 2001 of adrenal cancer at the too-young age of 37.

The Audio Interview with Gregory Harrison is a telephone interview with the actor, who discusses his career and explains how he became involved with the project. It was a challenging shoot for him, and he suffered from injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to a serious neck and shoulder injury that occurred when he performed the stunt with the collapsing windmill. He doesn’t sound like he was terribly impressed with the finished product. The Extended Interviews with the Cast & Crew were filmed by Mark Hartley for his 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! It features Harrison, Judy Morris, Russell Mulcahy, Everett De Roche, Hal McElroy, and Bob McCarron. It’s a lengthy collection of interviews, and some of the material does overlap with other extras on the disc, but they offer a wealth of detail about Razorback that’s well worth the time.

A Certain Piggish Nature is a panel discussion between critics and authors Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Lee Gambin, Sally Christie, and Emma Westwood. It’s an unabashed lovefest for Razorback, Russell Mulcahy, and even Duran Duran. Some of them feel that Razorback is a triumph of style over substance, but Gambin does offer a limited defense of it from a thematic perspective, saying that it deconstructs masculinity. (He’s the source of the “piggish nature of man” quote that provided the title for the piece.) That leads to a discussion of the sexualized nature of some of the violence in the film, and its inadvertent connection to Steve Jodrell’s Shame, as well as Razorback’s gender politics in general.

The Grisly Deleted Scenes were trimmed at the behest of the original Australian distributor Greater Union Film Distributors, which wanted an M rating for theatrical release instead of an R. Roadshow Home Video later issued the uncut version on VHS, but that version has never been offered anywhere else. The actual censored scenes presented here are derived from that tape, while The VHS Cut preserves the full uncut version intact. The elements for the missing footage appear to be lost, so this is likely the only form in which they’ll ever be seen. They’re all offered full-frame at 1.33:1, with optional commentary from Russell Mulcahy on the Deleted Scenes (there’s no menu option for it on the UHD, but it’s still accessible via the audio button).

That’s all of the extra from the previous Umbrella releases of Razorback. The 2023 Shout! Factory Blu-ray did add a commentary track with Lee Gambin and Jarret Gahan that’s not included here, but their disc was missing the Extended Interviews as well as the new commentary with the Spierig Brothers. From an extras perspective, this set supersedes all of the previous Umbrella releases, but if you have the Shout! Factory version, you’re going to want to hang onto it.

Umbrella released a Collector’s Edition for Razorback that included a hardbound book with the full 378-page novel by Peter Brennan, as well 48 pages of behind-the-scenes material, plus a reversible fold-out poster and 8 replica lobby cards. All of that was housed in an individually numbered rigid slipcase. There was also a DANGEROUS OR DEAD Big Collector’s Edition that include all of the above but added a T-shirt and an action figure of the razorback. These Collector’s Editions were only available directly from Umbrella’s website, but they both sold out before they even shipped. They were nifty sets, especially the DANGEROUS OR DEAD version, but speaking as someone who shelled out a considerable sum of money to import it into the United States, the mastering errors on the UHD are particularly grating. I have Region free capability, so the Region coding on the disc is just a small nuisance, but the geometry error is inexcusable. Unless Umbrella offers a real replacement program that fixes more than the just Region coding issues, it’s probably best to save your own money.

- Stephen Bjork

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