Review Date: November 6, 2001
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 11/20/2001
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: Yes
In December of 2001, filmgoers around the world will flock to the year's most anticipated release: The Lord of the Rings. I wonder what all these mainstream film fans would think if they ever saw the first feature-length film by director Peter Jackson: 1987's Bad Taste. A landmark low-budget film that is the epitome of do-it-yourself filmmaking, Jackson's followers have long suffered through low-fi copies of this unbelievably gory comedy. Well, suffer no more. Anchor Bay has released an amazing version of this blood drenched New Zealand import.
The Earth is under attack! Well, at least New Zealand is. And when aliens invade New Zealand (does it happen that often?), the government turns to…The Boys. The Boys are a four-man crack commando/scientist team that can repel anyone from the blue-shirted space aliens attacking the town of Kaihoro to hordes of screaming Russell Crowe fans.
The Boys' leader is crazed scientist Derek (director Jackson). As the film opens, he's at the top of a cliff orchestrating a defense against the aliens. Barry (Pete O'Herne) is down below, while Frank and Ozzy (Mike Minett, Terry Potter) are making their way into town by car. Aliens soon overrun Derek, and while he makes a valiant stand, he's eventually thrown from the cliff.
Without their leader, the remaining three Boys search for a missing charity collector (Craig Smith), still alive but a prisoner of the aliens. In the aliens' home, we find out the reason for their visit: They're harvesting New Zealanders for a fast food restaurant on their home planet (!). The Boys won't have any of that, and aim to put Crumb's Crunchy Delights out of business for good. Plus, Derek isn't out of the game yet, either, as long as he can keep his brain from falling out of the wound in his head. You know, this is a movie that simply defies rational description. You'll have to see it to believe it.
This was my first time watching this film, and I was pretty impressed. Now, it looks like a home movie, because it IS! Jackson made this film on weekends, over the course of four years, with a single 16mm camera. No, those guys aren't actors, they're Jackson's pub mates. Yet once you can look past some of the low production values, you can see the incredible talent literally from the opening minute. What's amazing, is that for such a low budget film, there are incredible make-up effects, explosions, and wild stunts (including a long and dangerous fight scene staged upon a cliff). Horror fans are used to microscopic budgets, but here's someone trying to make a Spielberg-type film on a Herschell Gordon Lewis budget.
Jackson is a genius with the camera, and when you find out the hardware details of the camera (seen on the documentary, to be discussed later), his genius only stands out further. The shoestring budget and limited equipment forced a unique visual style, a style we see today in Jackson's major releases. One has to wonder if his amazing camera work was born out of his original hardware limitations.
As far as the film itself, it's definitely on the rough side. It was almost entirely improvised and ad-libbed, and the plot makes very little sense. Mostly it's just an excuse for some rather graphic (but comical) violence. This one will definitely appeal more to Dead-Alive (AKA Braindead) fans than to those who prefer Heavenly Creatures. Many of the special effects and gore are rather juvenile (though well-done), and the gun battle late in the film seems to go on a little too long. The infamous "gruel" scene, while appropriately nasty, has little relevance to the film. I realize people won't be buying this for it's tight plot structure, and Jackson clearly never intended for there to be one, but I like it if there's at least some kind of narrative. Bad Taste is a great indicator of Jackson's future talent, but if he had only made this one film, I'd probably be less impressed.
Many fans consider Bad Taste to be Peter Jackson's best film, but have had to put up with poor transfers. Now, I'd never seen this movie before, but I was still very impressed with Anchor Bay's transfer. Any imperfections you see (and there are a few) are from the original source, but c'mon…it was a cheap 16mm camera. What's interesting is you can see the quality of the film improve as the movie progresses. Of course, this is due to funding that Jackson eventually got from the New Zealand Film Commission.
The presentation is a widescreen (1.66:1) transfer, enhanced for anamorphic screens. For comparison, I've included screen shots from the Substance DVD as well. Quite obviously, this is a vast improvement. Much of the film takes place in extremely bright sunlight, and this doesn't exhibit the washed out colors and oversaturation of light that plagued previous releases. Some grain does show up, as one might expect from a 16mm source, but this looks quite good considering the miniscule budget it was shot with. Once again, great work from Anchor Bay.
Bad Taste was basically recorded silent, with everything dubbed in later. It was originally a pretty simple audio track, but Anchor Bay jazzed it up a bit. Most of the new sound effects show up in the numerous gun battle scenes, where they added some directionality with the gunfire. But the greatest improvement in the sound is the dialogue itself, since cutting through the thick New Zealand accents has been pretty tough with some of the previous sound mixes.
As for the technical side, the viewer can choose from a Dolby Surround 2.0 mix, a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix, and a DTS-ES 6.1 mix as well. I doubt Jackson ever imagined this movie with full 7 speaker sound, but here it is anyway. I might like a little less gimmickry on the sound, but the improved clarity is the real standout here (as well as the louder "squishy" noises which just add so much…).
This is a 2-disc set, so it's just loaded with supplements, right? Wrong. Disc one is the movie, a trailer, and a Peter Jackson bio. Now, the various sound options on the disc probably took up tons of room, thus any supplements would have to go onto a second disc.
The second disc is just a 25-minute documentary, and even that's from 1988. I'm sure fans (and count me as one) might like more of a retrospective, as well as a Jackson commentary. It's most likely his involvement with The Lord of the Rings that kept Jackson from participating in this release. [Editor's Note: Anchor Bay confirmed during a recent Home Theater Forum chat that Jackson was interested in doing a commentary, but couldn't free up the time to record one.] Still, the documentary itself, despite it's age, is quite amazing. We see clips from movies Jackson made with his family's Super 8 camera, an early experiment with widescreen photography, and of course, the making of Bad Taste itself. Just the camera tricks alone make this documentary a must have. The camera had a 30-second maximum shoot length, which does explain the rapid editing scheme. And I was amazed with Jackson's homemade dollies, cranes, and even a Steadicam apparatus.
This doesn't even begin to describe all the behind-the-scenes information on this packed documentary. There are special effects details, make-up, and anecdotes from cast, crew, and Peter Jackson's Mum and Dad. Admittedly, this documentary isn't an Anchor Bay production, but they deserve kudos for at least including it. If you're a fan of this movie, you MUST have this extra disc. Yes, maybe the supplemental section of Bad Taste is sparse, especially for a two-disc edition, but if you respect quality over quantity, you won't be disappointed.
I was first introduced to the work of Peter Jackson when I saw Dead-Alive. To be honest, I was unimpressed with the content. The jokes seemed unfunny and the plot made little sense. But I saw a unique visual style, and when I saw that style in a more polished narrative in Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners, I became an instant fan. It's great to see where that style began, and how Jackson was considered an auteur even from the beginning. It's easy for a gore filmmaker to get pigeonholed, but Jackson was able to rise from those trappings almost immediately. And the best way to easily recognize this talent is to see his debut film. Now, lots of fans are just salivating (no pun intended) for this release and need no recommendation. But for those who haven't seen this film, and want to view the early work of the man whose name will soon be spoken in the same sentence as Spielberg, Lucas, and Cameron, I highly suggest adding a copy of Bad Taste to their libraries.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - A
- Running time - 1 hour 31 minutes
- Not Rated
- 2 Discs
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Surround
- Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
- 6.1 DTS-EX
- Featurette: Good Taste Made Bad Taste
- Theatrical Trailer
- Peter Jackson Bio