The Brain – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: The Brain
Release Date: 1988
Runtime: 94 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Scream Factory (Shout! Factory)
Audio Format: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 04/30/19
Director: Ed Hunt
Cast: Tom Bresnahan, Cynthia Preston, David Gale, George Buza, Christine Kossak, Bret Pearson, Susannah Hoffmann, Kenneth McGregor, Carol Lazare
Jump to Sections: Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs can be found at the very bottom.
“The Brain” was a 1988 Science Fiction/Horror film directed by Ed Hunt. Hunt is best known for his contributions to the two genres with other films he directed such as “Starship Invasions” (1977), “Plague” (1979), and “Bloody Birthday“ (1981). The screenplay to the film was written by Barry Pearson, also known for his screenwriting collaborations with this film’s director (Hunt) on the last two of the films previously mentioned.
The story here involves a man, “Dr. Anthony Blakely” (David Gale), running a place called the Psychological Research Institute (“P.R.I.”) as well as hosting a television show (called “Independent Thinking”). Through his television show, Dr. Blakley pretends to be persuading his audience to have free will but merely is just trying to brainwash them on an epic level. Behind the scenes, at his facilities, he has everything feeding into a giant brain – hence the film’s title.
The protagonist of this story is a rebellious yet highly intelligent teenager named “Jim” (Tom Bresnahan). Jim is just your typical teenager and trying to have a good time with his girlfriend “Janet” (Cynthia Preston) as well as his two friends. One day Jim decides to play a little prank at school that lands him in the principle’s office and his parents end up being called in. Long story short here our buddy Jim gets sent to the Institute run by Dr. Blakely, mentioned before. This is where things really start to get weird. How weird? Well, it involves a giant brain, of course, that’s trying to take over human society.
This film can prove to have its laughable moments and such in a campy way, that much is for certain, but it does have a bit of a serious message behind it: to watch out for giant brains. I’m of course just kidding, as the real message here is speaking out against the idea of thought control or what’s often referred to as brainwashing. “The Brain” plays a bit like a throwback to those days of giant monster movies but perhaps is not as respected, although it does have a bit of a cult following.
Movie Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
“The Brain” on Blu-ray is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, just as it was shown theatrically in Canada (where it was filmed). According to IMDb, this movie was shot on 35mm film.
This Blu-ray debut of the movie comes from a new 4K scan of the only remaining film elements. There’s actually a misprint on the packaging where it states this was in a lower quality (2K) scan, however, that’s not the case, as I’ve confirmed with the folks over at Scream Factory (Shout! Factory).
The fact this comes from only the remaining film elements is one that makes this a very unique case not only for viewers but especially [for myself] as a reviewer. You and I both need to factor in that there are no other versions out there of this particular movie in the original 35mm print. So, we cannot be too judgmental at first. That being said, this 1988 movie looks pretty impressive, with the film grain preserved nicely and there’s a solid black level.
The fact this has a few rough spots along the way is forgivable and something anyone will be able to look past. There’s a definite amount of newfound detail you’ve never seen this movie ever have before. It has some occasional flaws such as specks of dirt, but that’s to be expected. The color palette is very vibrant and that’s many thanks to the colors of the vehicles, wardrobe, and such. Flesh tones appear accurate here and you’ll be impressed to see as much as skin pores in facial close-ups.
The overall high definition presentation here from the new 4K scan is really impressive. Fans are going to really enjoy finally getting to see the movie in this quality, especially considering that it made its original debut really via home video on the VHS format.
Video Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo and not in Mono as the packaging misprint states. It would make sense this would be Stereo (and not Mono) considering it was released in 1988 with a Dolby Stereo mix, according to IMDb.
It’s one very rough audio mix, be warned, as from the very start you’ll hear pops and hiss. It sounds pretty good though, with a lot of low-end bass – to be just from a Stereo source. It’s almost like listening to vinyl and the amount of pounding bass you get along with the slight audio imperfections. The opening theme music by Paul Zaza sounds pretty good, as does the rest of the music throughout. There does seem to be a bit of background hiss and pops during some of the quieter scenes.
Dialogue is delivered spot-on as actor David Gale‘s character starts things off very nicely during his TV broadcast. This really, really sounds like listening to an old record. I can’t even begin to say that enough or make that comparison. Get ready to hear a lot of tiny pops and a considerable amount of hiss along the way. That said, you probably will find you don’t need to put this at a higher volume. I actually ended up listening to this at slightly lower than my reference level. It’s not totally quite solid, but it comes close and does the film enough justice as it can.
Audio Quality Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are presented in HD (high definition) video with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo sound. They include the following:
- NEW Audio Commentary by director Ed Hunt is first introduced by Justin Beahm who served as the producer on this release and acts as moderator or host. After introductions, the director joins in and first discusses his early career as a filmmaker during the opening credits.
- NEW Audio Commentary by Paul Zaza
- NEW Audio Commentary by actor Tom Bresnahan
- NEW “Food for Thought: A Love Letter to The Brain“ (11:21 – HD) is a featurette that looks back as a retrospective of sorts. This includes an interview with John Campopiano (Filmmaker – Archivist) discussing the history of the film. This includes a lot of behind-the-scenes photos and storyboards that John has acquired over the years from folks like the director. He and a friend are such big fans of this film they actually drove to Canada (from Rhodes Island) to see the locations where they filmed this movie. Finally, you get to see his collection of all the different VHS and DVD releases of the film, as well as promotional materials and even other things autographed like the script.
- NEW “Canada on the Mind: Cynthia Preston on The Brain“ (11:17 – HD) is an interview with the lovely actress from the film. This was done by Justin Beahm for Shout! Factory under his production company, Reverend Entertainment. Powell discusses her early career modeling, being an artist, and as an actress. She starts talking about her first acting gigs and then moves on to work in this film. She seems well aware this was a comedic horror film and not to be taken as seriously as films like “The Exorcist” which she uses for an example. This is an informative and entertaining interview, as she discusses how the brain effects were done as well as working with the film’s director and her co-star.
- NEW “From Monster Kid to Monster Man: George Buza on The Brain“ (12:33 – HD) has the actor looking back at work on the film in an interview. You’ll remember him better in an entirely white outfit as he appeared in during the film. Over the course of this interview, he will discuss going from doing theater in high school to his career as an actor and whatnot. This was done by Justin Beahm.
- NEW “Brain Art: Interview with Michael Bortheick Assistant Art Director” (12:52 – HD) again done by Justin Beahm’s production company. This interview has Bortheick discussing his love for monster films. He looks back on his childhood love of the genre and then getting into the art direction side of things and considering approaching it as a career. He looks back on working with the director and his co-stars, Tom and Cindy, as well as the late David Gale.
- Still Gallery (3:49 – HD) will play as a slideshow but you’ll have to pause (with your remote) to stay on an image.
Overall the bonus materials here are pretty good with three new audio commentaries, four new interviews and an image gallery (in HD) Fans will be pleased with the number of extras you get here on the film’s Blu-ray Disc debut.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
“The Brain” was a throwback to the older days of science fiction and horror, even as campy as it may seem for a 1988 film, but it has a true message behind it. The idea of brainwashing people is nothing new to the realm of science fiction but this took it to a new level of there being an actual giant brain to be the center of it all. This proves to be one of the best of director Ed Hunt‘s films and my personal favorite of his work.
The movie finally arrives on Blu-ray Disc via a new 4K scan that really has some impressive visual detail. The lossless stereo sound mix, on the other hand, certainly has its rougher moments and can almost feel like listening to a slightly scratched vinyl record at times. It’s forgivable, considering this film’s smaller budget and that even the video comes to us from the remaining film elements. Fans will like what they get here in terms of both video and audio quality.
The bonus materials finally round things out with three new audio commentaries, four new interviews (that total up to roughly 50 minutes or so) and a still image gallery. It’s enough to do the film justice in terms of extras.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.5 (out of 5) for video quality
3.75 (out of 5) for audio quality
3.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials
Definite Food for Thought
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