Of Unknown Origin Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Written by Brian Taggert
1983, 89 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on May 22nd, 2018
Peter Weller as Bart Hughes
Jennifer Dale as Lorrie Wells
Lawrence Dane as Eliot Riverton
Kenneth Welsh as James Hall
Louis Del Grande as Clete
Shannon Tweed as Meg Hughes
Leif Anderson as Peter Hughes
Maurey Chaykin as Dan Errol
Bart Hughes is an aspiring young executive who lives in a beautiful brownstone with his gorgeous wife and adorable son, both of whom are about to go on vacation. While they are away, he is given a tough new assignment at work with an ambitious two-week deadline, but Bart can handle the pressure. Unfortunately, an intruder has worked its way into his home, a giant rat. First it’s in his pantry and appliances, then it is eating his documents and shredding his bed. The thing continues to get closer no matter what Bart tries. He lays traps and poison, but nothing works, so he gets a cat. Exterminators prove worthless and soon Bart’s obsession crosses into madness as the battle of wits breaks him down physically and eventually mentally. He soon goes on the offensive and takes the fight to the rat, but can he handle this challenge?
Our hero is a tidy, well-organized man who is king of his castle. He personally restored the property and is proud of his efforts. Once the rat invades his home life, Bart feels violated and helpless. He tackles the problem the best way he knows how, but is hopelessly out of his element. As the rat becomes the primary focus of his life, he does a lot of research and shares his knowledge at a posh dinner party, the first sign that he is becoming unhinged. Bart is being attacked both at home and at work as hungry rivals sense he may fall short of expectations. His workload starts to suffer as his rodent problem becomes more than a minor distraction. He becomes fixated with the idea of catching or killing this animal and freeing his life of vermin.
Director George P. Cosmatos (Cobra) delivers a tightly crafted thriller rich with tension as he effortlessly builds one suspenseful sequence after another adding pressure to Bart’s personal and professional life. He teases glimpses of the rat in a series of extreme close ups that reveal only its face or feet, while the tail is frequently seen moving at the edge of the frame. Of Unknown Origin was written by Brian Taggert (Poltergeist III), based on the novel The Visitor by Chauncey G. Parker III. The story is a man vs. nature allegory loaded with subtext and ultimately teaches our protagonist that material possessions are meaningless. The tale shares themes with both The Old Man and the Sea and Moby Dick, both of which are referenced within the film as Bart is determined to conquer his rodent foe.
Peter Weller (Leviathan) stars as Bart Hughes, the man trapped in a living nightmare. In his first starring role, and appearing in almost every scene by himself, Weller handles the challenge with ease. As Bart grows more unbalanced, he begins talking to the creature he is hunting. These exchanges provide a sense of levity to an otherwise dark story. Jennifer Dale (The Adjuster) does a fine job as Bart’s supportive secretary Lorrie. She will do anything for him, including keeping the circling wolves at work at bay. Character actor Lawrence Dane (Happy Birthday to Me) is sympathetic as Bart’s concerned boss Eliot Riverton, and Kenneth Welsh (Twin Peaks) is perfectly slimy as opportunistic co-worker James Hall. Louis Del Grande (Scanners) provides a lot of exposition as Clete, the neighborly handyman. He is instantly likeable in the role and provides a calming presence to the film. Of Unknown Origin marked the film debut of 1982 Playmate of the Year Shannon Tweed as Bart’s wife, Meg. She isn’t given much to do except stand up and look pretty, but her acting ability seems up to the task.
There are quite a few rodent pictures out there, but this is a good one. Films like Willard (1971) and Ben (1972) may be the apex of the killer rat subgenre, while Deadly Eyes (1982) is definitely a guilty pleasure worth checking out. Mousehunt (1997) is also comedy gold worth mining. Of Unknown Origin was not an immediate success at the box office, but found new life on home video and cable television. This picture is more of a thriller than a straight horror film, but die-hard genre fans will find a lot to like. Peter Weller knocks it out of the park as a man coming undone and keeps audiences firmly on his side in this fight. His house may not survive the ordeal, but our hero is determined to prove himself the superior animal. If you like home invasion pictures, you should give this one a try for a unique spin on the material.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the native 1.85:1 aspect ratio in a gorgeous new 2K scan of the original film elements, this is the best the picture has ever looked. The rat close ups are sick with detail as individual hairs are clearly visible. Peter Weller looks good too, with natural flesh tones and strong color.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track is fairly robust with lots of back and forth with the sound effects of the rat skittering around the house. Music cues are well-balanced with dialogue levels and optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
A vintage audio commentary with director Cosmatos and star Weller recorded separately and edited together makes for an informative and conversational track. The star’s comments are occasionally observational, but both men are more than willing to share production tales.
Screenwriter Brian Taggert is interviewed in the segment That Rat Movie (18 minutes) in which he discusses his approach to the source material and working closely with the director and producer. He apparently spent a lot of time on set working with the team and has many fond memories of the experience.
Next up is an interview with producer Pierre David in The Origins of Unknown Origin (14 minutes). David tells how he became acquainted with the novel and got the film up and running. He shares many fun stories of working with Cosmatos and makes you wish the guy were still alive making movies.
Hey, Weren’t You in Scanners? (14 minutes) features actor Louis Del Grande delivering a scattershot interview that covers a multitude of topics before getting around to this one. The man has a lot of energy and clearly loves to laugh, but this segment could use an editor.
A stills gallery plays as a silent slideshow filled with production photos, promotional stills and international poster art.
The theatrical trailer and a teaser ad are also included.