Bad Taste - Limited Edition (1987)

Say what you will, the movie delivers on its title.

A panicked phone call shrieking "They're killing us all!" is the cue for a shadowy government organization (the Astro Investigation and Defense Service - "I wish they'd change that name.") to send a crack crew code-named "The Boys" to investigate. Actually, the crack crew is more appropriately "the cracked crew". Consisting of two psychos, a clumsy but well-intentioned guy and a leader who models himself after Hannibal in "The A-Team", The Boys discover that an invading alien force has indeed landed and slaughtered the entire population of a New Zealand hamlet.

The aliens don't want our planet, though, they want us. As the marketing team for Crumb's Crunchy Delights, they have found that humans are a tasty lot - you don't really want to know more about the final form of the Crunchy Delights - and they'll soon be taking off to report their findings. Complicating things is a con man who's wandered into the situation and gotten himself captured, so the Boys must don their commando gear, blitz into the alien compound and rescue the hostage, then make it back to civilization to find a phone so they can call in the all-important code phrase for alien invasion - "The bastards have landed!"

This is the debut feature from New Zealand director Peter Jackson, who completed it over the course of four years using his pals and his paycheck. The result is so incredibly assured that you cannot have avoided expecting great things from the director. Jackson didn't disappoint, but his further works - the gleefully vulgar Muppets-on-bad-acid Meet the Feebles, the exceedingly moist zombie film Dead Alive and the more subdued The Frighteners kept him firmly in the cult ghetto - the fact that each of these movies is also hilarious notwithstanding. Even his most "normal" film, Heavenly Creatures, has fantastic elements.

Bad Taste, you see, established Jackson as a master of the gore comedy, and I must admit that, hardened horror film fan that I am, he always manages to trigger my gag reflex at least once per film. As this edition of Bad Taste features prominently the phrase "From the Director of LORD OF THE RINGS" - and the alien which has graced every version of the movie is suddenly wearing a ring - my favorite way to make myself grin is to contemplate that average filmgoers, having enjoyed Lord of the Rings, will seek out earlier works by this director they've never heard of, and find themselves confronted by blown-off heads, Derek (who keeps losing pieces of his brain) and aliens who "come apart really easily".

Hee hee.

The print and transfer are simply remarkable; the image is sharp and clear, and the grain - usually the bane of a 16mm film blown up to 35mm - is kept at a minimum. The sound remix is quite accomplished - you'd never suspect that this was an $11,000 movie.

The Limited Edition comes in a clear slipcase - the two discs are in a tri-fold case, with the third leaf holding a small booklet (see Extras). The disc holders are clear, allowing the artwork of the tri-fold to be seen. Those of you owning The Rocky Horror Picture Show 25th Anniversary DVD will know instantly what I'm talking about - same design. I must say I'm having some problems with my copy - whoever is doing Anchor Bay's boxes didn't use enough glue or quality control, and the disc holders are slowly releasing from the cardboard backing.

There's the aforementioned 16-page booklet, which features a Q&A with two members of The Boys and the Designated Victim - Pete O'Herne, Mike Minett and Craig Smith. These are reprinted from Hamish Towgood's Bad Taste Website.

There is a 14 page text bio of Peter Jackson.

There is a trailer.

And there is Disc Two, which presents "Good Taste Made Bad Taste". Unless I'm wrong, this is an episode of a TV series, and was made shortly after Bad Taste made a splash at Cannes. It's excellent - interviews with The Boys, Jackson's bemused Mom and Dad, and the young Jackson himself in his workshop, talking about the technical tricks he managed to pull off on next to no budget. It also includes clips from Jackson's early super 8mm efforts, and if you have any interest in filmmaking at all, this will either get you off your duff and actually doing something, or leave you with the sad feeling that you are wasting your life. This short documentary has been making the rounds of the gray market for years, and it's good to finally have a pristine copy of it.

But. That's it.

Unless you count the series of audio and video tests in the "THX Optimizer", that's not a whole lot of extras for a high-priced Limited Edition. The interviews in the booklet are available on the Web, and placing the documentary -at only 25 minutes - on a separate disc smacks of padding. A commentary track by Jackson would have been impossible, of course, given his Tolkeinian duties for the next couple of years. But here one is left with the impression that the buyer is paying a hefty fee for that fancy tri-fold, and the "_____ of 50,000" sticker on the back.

Anchor Bay is offering a lower-priced version of the movie sans the booklet. documentary and deluxe packaging. Unless you absolutely must have "Good Taste Made Bad Taste", this regular version makes far better fiscal sense.

Dr. Freex, 3/12/2002