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A Look Into Shout! Factory’s Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions

nightbreed-blu-ray-1The underground world of Midian was very much alive within me many years ago, even before I discovered Clive Barker’s Cabel. I loved the narrative and it spoke to me as there were times I felt misunderstood. Life of an outcast as a nerd was never easy but I adapted. When the film Nightbreed appeared in 1990, I hoped some of the themes explored in the book would get translated over. Instead, what was presented was totally alien. This film was not Barker’s story and I wondered why. My favourite moments were either cut out or never written in.

As a rated R film, I hoped the way Boone connected to Baphomet would be represented but alas ….

Back then, I had only magazines than the World Wide Web to learn about the film presented back then was not what Clive Barker wanted. I bought the comics and consumed everything I could find for my Midian fix. Even over the years, I never lost my love for this series and I tracked when the Cabal cut would come close to my neck of the woods so I could travel there to screen it. Either they came and went faster than the night on Spring Solstice or I just had to wait.

Did I give up hope if a video release will ever happen? I figured that it would eventually come. Lo and behold, Nightbreed: The Director’s Cut by Scream! Factory gets released. It took me a few months since its original release date to find the limited three disc version at a reasonable collector’s price than to buy the regular retail version. When that arrived, I knew I had to purchase this company’s release Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions too for a double-bill weekend binge.

The regular two-disc release of Nightbreed thankfully offers the golden nuggets of behind-the-scenes information — the extras includes three featurettes (Tribes of the Moon, Making Monsters and A Look at 2nd unit Photography), a trailer and a director’s commentary. The Tribes documentary offers plenty of insight in what Clive Barker originally wanted for his film before studio executives came on the set to see what was being made. What they wanted was a simpler movie which squarely made Decker the antagonist and any notion humanity being bad guys were written out.

Sometimes, businessmen are not filmmakers and they will not understand what visionaries want to create. As Doug Bradley explained, it’s best to let him make the story that he wants and don’t interfere. That included looking at cost cutting measures which had all of Bradley’s lines redone by a voice-over actor. Some performers can feel insulted at this move, and Bradley said that sometimes performers have to roll with the punches. These featurettes reveal a lot of frayed feelings when the studio got involved in developing the theatrical cut that not everyone liked, including many of Clive Barker’s fans. At the same time, I got some answers to why some moments from the book were not written in the screenplay.

Even with the regular video release that’s more easily obtainable, fans can look at both cuts to see what the differences are. One scene includes Lori singing in a nightclub only to see Boone stumble in like a drunk to see her for one last time. The next scene shows him getting into a car accident that sets up his meeting with the Nightbreed. True to the book in the film’s final climactic moments, the transformed Boone makes Lori a creature of the night so their love is truly eternal and they can live in peace. Well, that’s after they find a new paradise to live in. That’s where the comic books published by Epic (a division of Marvel Comics) comes in. That series didn’t last long and I was a sad panda. There were not enough fans buying and that’s often the reason why most franchise products get cancelled. I don’t expect the original author to always continue expanding the universe. Can you imagine my joy at Barker’s involvement in Boom! Studio’s Hellraiser continuation? When he provided an excellent foundation to grow upon, other writers can continue the work.
Props have to go to the digital artists and editors who worked in tandem with Shout! Factory to create a gorgeous Blu-ray transfer that any videophile will approve of. Either release is fine on its own. The only difference is in not having access to the booklet, which basically reproduces some of the work that’s found in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed Chronicles and includes tiny reproductions of the foreign posters during this film’s initial release. A treatise by Mark Alan Miller about this film’s restoration process and homecoming makes for a good read, since it was written specifically for this limited edition release.

Only the die-hard fans and film studies enthusiast will enjoy the extra content in the bonus disc. In this list included, deleted/alternate takes of some key scenes, an extensive digital still gallery, matte painting tests, makeup tests, stop motion lost footage, an extended torture scene and a rehearsal of Boone’s dream sequence to name a few. The two features in this disc that’s certainly notable were “A Discussion with Video Editor, Mark Goldblatt,” who talked about the compromises that were done to bring Nightbreed to reality. “The Painted Landscape: The Concept Art of Ralph McQuarrie,” was certainly a delight to follow, especially when considering this artists’s past works, namely his contributions to bringing the original Star Wars trilogy to life. A lot of time was spent to persuse through this collection. Spending a weekend going through this disc was not enough to process the information offered in this disc.

If only this disc was a DVD-ROM then studying the image could have been easier. Perhaps in due time, Scream! Factory will host a few of the items online for fans to watch. Some of it is available on Clive Barker’s official website.

At least this company’s other release, Lord of Illusions, provides an equal passion in its remastering process to provide fans a definitive version of the film to enjoy. There’s no limited edition and I’m thankful. This extended cut runs about 10 to 15 minutes longer and amongst all the bonus features included, the “A Gathering of Magic” Featurette is quite detailed. Some of the content is repetitive, and that’s okay. This extra gives viewers a great look into how Clive Barker takes input from his production team to realize a realm where cults and magic are dangerously real. Most of the material are taken from old sources and cleaned up for high definition presentation. And I’m fairly sure that it was made a long time ago, perhaps for the laserdisc release. When considering how old Barker or Bakula is now, what’s presented was recorded during their prime.

Now I have to ask if Anchor Bay / Image Entertainment (or whoever owns the video release rights) will allow for Shout! Factory to release the definitive Hellraiser video release. Over the years, the bonus material that’s found in every ‘new’ release are never consistent; some packages mix a lot of the old with a bit of the new. I’d love to see another video rerelease by Scream! Factory so a triage of terror can be offered. Not only will fans approve, but also it should get Clive Barker’s stamp of approval.

When there are rumours about a remake of Hellraiser with Barker involved in the writing process, to see a perfect retrospective is going to be needed!


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