Body Melt Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Directed by Philip Brophy
Written by Philip Brophy and Rod Bishop
1993, 83 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 25th, 2018
Gerard Kennedy as Det. Sam Phillips
Andrew Daddo as Johnno
Ian Smith as Dr. Carerra
Regina Gaigalas as Shaan
Vincent Gil as Pud
Nick Politis as Sal
Maurice Annese as Gino
William McInnes as Paul Matthews
Lisa McCune as Cheryl Rand
Pebbles Court is a tiny community in Homesville, Melbourne, with just four families in residence. This is a perfect location for newcomers Cheryl and Brian Rand, who are expecting their first child. On a typical sunny day, the Noble family is heading out to a relaxing spa resort for a vacation while local teens Sal and Gino have plans for a weekend getaway themselves. Health-conscious bachelor Paul Matthews is preparing for an airport run for work when the quiet morning takes a chaotic turn and a high speed police chase ends with a car crashing into a vehicle in the cul-de-sac. The driver is killed, but no one notices the weird tentacles emerging from his throat.
Detective Sam Phillips is on the case and uncovers a mystery that may be the strangest he’s ever worked. The residents are unknowing participants in a new drug testing program by the Vimuville pharmaceutical company. Free vitamin supplements arrive in the mail and promise weight loss and a noticeable improvement in overall physique. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, the pills come with some pretty nasty side effects, including hallucinations and glandular mutation. Can Phillips answer the nagging questions raised by the growing number of deaths in the area, each more bizarre than the last? Faces ooze, bodies melt, tongues swell and heads implode as a result of these drug trials and it all seems like too much for one man to resolve.
Directed by Philip Brophy, working from a script he co-wrote with Rod Bishop, Body Melt is a fast-moving ride through crazy town. Based on four short stories that originated as an anthology, the script was revamped and the police detective through line was added to connect the plots into a traditional narrative structure. The characters of the four stories are not really connected other than by being neighbors who set out in different directions. Brophy also composed the techno score and provided the sound design for the movie. Similar in tone to films like Bad Taste and Street Trash, this picture takes a style-over-substance approach to the material. Cinematographer Ray Arggall delivers a rich-looking picture that belies the budget and fills the screen with color and creativity. Special make-up effects artist Bob McCarron (Dead Alive) is the real star of the show with his wealth of drippy creations, some looking very realistic while others take on a more surreal appearance.
While the film is satisfying in its mix of horror and comedy, not all of the plots work in tandem. The core story is about deadly supplements, yet two of the main characters never take them. Sal and Gino, the teens on a weekend getaway, are sidetracked at an isolated weigh station where they run afoul of a family of mutants. The aggressors are likely victims of the medication, but we aren’t really certain since they never melt. The side effects of the drugs are also under-explored when it comes to the hallucinogenic side of things. Health nut Paul Matthews takes the vitamins and thinks he has started a relationship with a mysterious woman who may or may not mutilate him back at his house in bed, but no one else has visions.
Over the last twenty-five years, Body Melt has developed a bit of a cult following. The film did well at festivals and even better on home video, securing its place in the pantheon of Ozploitation features that Australian cinema has become known for. Brophy never directed another feature after this one and it’s a bit of a shame, as the guy is really talented. He’s a performance artist and musician who worked on a few short films for other people in later years. He was closely involved with this new Blu-ray release and participated in the special features with an all-new 2018 interview, reflecting on the impact the movie has had. If you like your flicks a bit warped I can heartily recommend this one.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio and featuring a new 2K High-Definition transfer of the original film elements, the picture has never looked better. Colors are brilliant and pop off the screen and black levels are strong too. There is an insane level of small-object detail in hair and fabrics and I never expected it to look this good.
In addition to a new transfer, Vinegar Syndrome has created a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track, one that contains a lot of energy for this frenetic film. There is some nice activity in the rear channels and dialogue levels are clean and free from distortion. Music cues are intense without being overwhelming.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Body Melt first appeared on Blu-ray in 2016, courtesy of the Australian label Umbrella Entertainment. All of the supplemental materials from that release have been carried over here and Vinegar has produced a few new goodies too.
We get a pair of audio commentaries recorded in 2016 from director Philip Brophy. On the first, he is joined by co-writer/ producer Rod Bishop and producer Daniel Scharf. The trio share a lively discussion that traces the production back to its anthology roots and continues to cover all aspects of the shoot, including the cast, the crew and the massive undertaking of the special make-up effects team.
In the second track, Brophy is solo and focuses his comments on the sound design and score. Some of the remarks are a bit technical and would benefit from examples, but overall this is another great session full of information.
Brophy and Bishop sit down for a 2018 interview titled Melting Away: The Deconstruction of Body Melt (39 minutes). This is an opportunity to share their war stories of getting the production underway. There is some overlap of information from their audio commentary, but the stories are good and flow naturally in this discussion.
Producer Daniel Scharf is interviewed in Body Building: The Making of Body Melt (8 minutes) and discusses the Australian film market then and now and points to some of the hurdles making the feature.
Adrenal Glands (11 minutes) catches up with actor Neil Foley, who appears in the film as one of the inbred “children” at the weigh station. He shares his fond memories of the production and how he became involved.
The retrospective documentary Making Bodies Melt (34 minutes) is compiled from footage shot on set in 1992 and presented as a thorough look at the work that went into the production. Members of the cast and crew are interviewed and everyone appears to be having a good time. The material was shot full-frame (1.33:1 aspect ratio) and appears window boxed with a blue background.
A shorter version of the previous doc appears as a behind-the-scenes featurette (17 minutes) that utilizes the same material to spotlight members of the cast, crew and special effects team.
The disc also includes a complete storyboard gallery, behind-the-scenes gallery and a stills and props gallery.
The original theatrical trailer is also included.