Release Date(s)1979 (October 13, 2015)
Studio(s)New World Pictures (Criterion – Spine #777)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
After several short films and a double dose of Shivers and Rabid, David Cronenberg continued his unique brand of filmmaking with The Brood in 1979. Released by New World Pictures, it tells the tale of a husband (Art Hindle) whose wife (Samantha Eggar) is placed in a remote therapy institute with an unusual doctor (Oliver Reed), leaving the husband to raise their daughter on his own. Things soon begin to go awry when small creatures, appearing as children, pop up and start murdering everyone around the husband and his daughter. It all leads to a conclusion that greatly enhanced Cronenberg’s reputation as the commander-in-chief of body horror.
The Brood’s main strength is its atmosphere. There’s a sense of menace that pervades the film long before anything grisly occurs. The film also moves in a methodical fashion, typical of Cronenberg’s work. We follow the plight of the husband as he slowly begins to unravel the mystery of his wife, while simultaneously learning more about the doctor. An exploration of psychotherapy, and the assertions of its pointlessness, also come into play. It’s as if you’re being lead down different corridors, not entirely sure which is the one to follow. The film’s heavy-handedness is something that I’m not particularly fond of, but I do appreciate its aesthetic. The Brood is a mature work, one that feels much more personal. That’s why it has stuck around for so many years after its release, and is usually held in higher regard than Cronenberg’s previous work.
Criterion’s presentation of The Brood comes from a newly-restored 2K digital scan of a 35mm interpositive, supervised by Cronenberg. It’s a gorgeous transfer that’s as organic-looking and texture-laden as you could want for Mark Irwin’s wonderful cinematography. Grain is handled well, giving the image an even appearance with excellent fine detail. Colors, although a tad muted, also come across strongly, as do skin tones. Black levels are satisfyingly deep with excellent shadow detail, and the brightness is perfectly-attuned to the overcast winter landscapes. Film damage is virtually non-existent and there are no signs of unneeded digital enhancement on display. This is definitely the best the film has ever looked on home video, bar none. The sole audio option available is an English mono LPCM track. It’s a strong and sometimes aggressive track, with excellent dialogue reproduction and sound effects that have real kick. The booming Howard Shore score also has plenty of life. It’s a well-balanced mix, leaving little room for complaint. Optional subtitles are available in English SDH.
For supplements, there’s the new Birth Pains documentary about the film; Meet the Carveths, an interview with actors Art Hindle and Cindy Harris by Fangoria editor-in-chief Chris Alexander; an episode of The Merv Griffin Show from 1980 featuring Oliver Reed; the Crimes of the Future short film; Cronenberg: The Early Years, an interview with the director by Chris Alexander; a radio spot; and a fold-out paper insert with an essay on the film by critic Carrie Rickey. It’s worth noting that the Second Sight Blu-ray release in the U.K. features some of the same extras, but some additional ones as well. The German Wicked Vision release also sports a bevy of different supplemental material.
Criterion’s release of The Brood will likely remain the best available stateside for years to come. It’s an effective horror film that definitely contains memorable and disturbing imagery. With a presentation this pristine, this Blu-ray release should definitely be on your radar.
- Tim Salmons