A disturbed woman is receiving a radical form of psychotherapy at a remote, mysterious institute. Meanwhile, her five-year-old daughter, under the care of her estranged husband, is being terrorized by a group of demonic beings. How these two story lines connect is the shocking and grotesque secret of this bloody tale of monstrous parenthood from David Cronenberg, starring Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar. With its combination of psychological and body horror, The Brood laid the groundwork for many of the director’s films to come, but it stands on its own as a personal, singularly scary vision.
David Cronenberg’s The Brood receives a Blu-ray upgrade from Criterion, who present the film in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 2K scan of a 35mm interpositive.
It’s a striking looking image and I was particularly taken by the textures presented. A couple of scenes in the Carveth house manage to show how well the transfer renders them, where even fine fuzzies or fine indents are rendered quite clearly in the wallpaper laid throughout the house. It should then go without saying that the level of detail in the image can be quite extraordinary and film grain, which is quite fine, looks clean and natural. Even the encode seems to render it cleanly and other than maybe a darker scene illuminated in purple (where the image looks a little noisy) it remains clean and natural. Colours also look good with excellent saturation, reds looking particularly nice. Black levels are also strong and shadow delineation, even in darker scenes, are pretty good.
Mixed with a near-spotless print (thanks, I’m sure, to a vigorous restoration) this is easily the best the film has looked in an incredibly long time. It looks shockingly good and fans will be more than thrilled.
The Brood sports a fairly impressive linear PCM 1.0 mono track. Dialogue is rich and clear, and Howard Shore’s score makes some impressive highs, remaining stable and free of harshness. On the whole range and volume levels are pleasantly mixed and I didn’t detect any damage or background noise. A nicely cleaned up presentation overall.
Criterion’s special edition actually packs on quite a few items, starting with a making-of called Birth Pains, featuring interviews with Samantha Eggar, Pierre David, Mark Irwin, John Board, Rick Baker, and Jon Blasco. After some info from Blasco and Baker on some of the effects we then get a brief primer on the Canadian film industry of the 60s and 70s, which covers how films got financing (tax shelters!) from private investors and the government, and how The Brood was able to come together because of all of this. Eggar talks about taking on the role, intrigued by the prospect of doing a horror film and surprised by how funny and fun it was to make the film, and we get stories about Reed, including one (which is repeated again in other features on the disc) where Reed, looking to win a bet, walked naked through Toronto (after being picked up by the police he apparently kept them in hysterics until someone could pick him up). His alcoholism comes up, and many express a surprise at how the man could have so many rough nights but be a total pro in the morning (Eggar ends up just confirming that’s how alcoholics function). Though probably put together too quickly (an obvious still from Videodrome is mislabeled as Scanners) it’s an entertaining and informative piece, running a brisk 31-minutes.
Meet the Carveths is a 20-minute interview from 2013 with actors Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds conducted by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander. The two reflect on the film and the shoot, including how they got the parts initially and then share how they actually first saw the film after it was finished. Both describe what it was like working with Cronenberg, describing him as a very funny guy (though Hindle admits he found the film depressing, even when working on it, because he could feel the hurt from Cronenberg’s divorce in it) and Hinds explains how helpful he was when directing her. The two also talk about their co-stars, sharing some more Reed stories (including the “walking naked through Toronto” one) and Hindle talks a bit about Eggar, who he describes as distant and unsure about the film, contradicting comments Eggar made in the previous interview. It’s a fun conversation, everyone appearing loose, and has a few surprises within it.
Criterion next digs up an amazing interview featuring Oliver Reed from a 1980 episode of The Merv Griffin Show. Appearing alongside Reed and Griffin are Charo and Orson Welles. It’s a fairly wild conversation, with Reed talking about hamburgers for the first 5-minutes or so (after showing concern about his weight) and then followed by Reed and Welles talking about their past jobs together, including work on some sketchy productions. But in all of this Reed talks about acting, but gets on the defensive about acting in film, which is criticized by stage actors (here he also dances around the question as to whether he believes Laurence Olivier is the greatest actor living). It’s an absolutely fascinating and wonderful interview and even though it really has nothing to do with The Brood I’m so glad Criterion dug it up.
Criterion then includes Cronenberg’s second feature film, Crimes of the Future, which comes from the 4K restoration performed by Arrow Films in the UK. The 63-minute, 1970 film has always been more of curiosity to me, just as a glance to the development of Cronenberg’s style. The loose story follows a man searching for the individual responsible for a plague (caused by cosmetics) that has wiped out most women on the planet.
Like Stereo (which is actually found on Criterion’s release for Scanners) it was recorded without sound so everything is added in voice over, but this one is in colour, whereas Stereo was black and white. It may be of most value to Cronenberg’s fans simply because it more-or-less marks the beginnings of Cronenberg’s “body horror” claim-to-fame, and some of the things that occur here relate a little to what we get in The Brood so its inclusion here does make sense (Criterion had actually previously included Crimes of the Future on their one LaserDisc edition of Dead Ringers, though not the DVD). I also have to commend Arrow on this restoration, which looks quite incredible. I’m happy Criterion was able to get their hands on it.
Accompanying Crimes of the Future is a 13-minute interview with David Cronenber recorded in 2011. Here the filmmaker talks about first getting into the movie business and the limitations presented by the Canadian film industry, and then talks about his early work, including Stereo, Crimes of the Future, Shivers, and Rabid (interestingly Cronenberg almost ended up going to work for Roger Corman since he feared he probably wouldn’t get the funding needed for one of his films). It’s a great interview so I’m glad it’s here, but it’s a shame we don’t get anything newer from the director, or more information about The Brood specifically.
The disc concludes with a 31-second radio spot, and the big fold-out insert included features an essay by Carrie Rickey, who examines the films various themes, particularly marriage and divorce. It’s a good read.
Again, there is disappointment that Cronenberg didn’t offer more material, along with the lack again of scholarly material (other than the essay). But I still enjoyed what we got and the inclusion of Crimes of the Future will make Cronenberg fans happy.
The best release of the film I’m aware of. It features a sharp new transfer and a nice selection of supplements. Comes highly recommended.