Lionsgate // 1981 // 90 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // January 13th, 2009
Finally, a real "bloody" Valentine
TJ has returned to his small mining hometown after washing out on the West Coast. His mayor father demands he work in the family mine and his former girlfriend Sarah is now shacking up with ex-best friend Axel. If that's not bad enough, it's almost Valentine's Day, and the tiny blue collar burg is preparing to have its annual social gathering for the first time in twenty years. You see, back in the old days, Valentine's Bluff was known for its February 14th shindig -- that is, until a mining accident killed five men and left sole survivor Harry Warden crazy...and a cannibal. Twelve months later, the convicted psycho escaped from the loony bin, killed the men in charge of the mine, and warned that he would return should the town celebrate the lover's holiday ever again. Well, the party's back on, and so is Harry's killing spree. As the citizens are picked off one by one, the sheriff tries to cancel the infamous festivities. But TJ, Axel, Sarah, and their pals are desperate to get their groove on. The beer, as well as the blood, will be flowing at this unfortunate bit of revelry.
For fans of '80s slasher films, it remains one of several fright flick Holy Grails. Along with uncut prints of the first few Friday the 13th films (rumored to be coming to home video in a few weeks), a peek at the original gore-laden version of My Bloody Valentine has long been a macabre maven's dream. This low-budget Canadian knockoff, often known as the working class take on the typical slice-and-dice, had to get by on thwarting convention (no nudity, no moralizing murderer) and local color (it was shot in an actual mining town, in an actual mine) to stand out. A backlash against bloodshed saw the MPAA strip out most of the sluice, and ever since then, devotees have wondered if we'd ever see the original vision again. Thanks to a remake which will take the title in a whole new "dimension," if not direction (it's in 3D), Paramount and Lionsgate have now coughed up this incredible special edition...and as promised, all the heart-ripping, head-gouging, pickaxe-wielding mayhem has been reinserted. For those of us who like our horror foul and funky, this is one brutal bad-ass.
There is a basic charm about My Bloody Valentine. While the Great White North cast tries mightily to cover up their "oot and aboot" accents, the one-horse vibe of the locale is very effective. Most in the company are newcomers, allowing us to look beyond the standard Hollywood images and archetypes. The use of an actual abandoned mine provides umpteen amounts of substitute set design authenticity, and the central love triangle between TJ, Axel, and Sarah has some moments of interpersonal truth. Still, a lot of the film is your standard schlock conventions. We get the crazy old coot (in the form of Happy, the brooding bartender) who loves to chide the citizenry with his portents of doom and gloom. There's the various red herrings sprinkled among the available rogue's gallery and a semi-incompetent sheriff who always seems one step away from stopping the slaughter before getting misdirected. It's the clichés that keep My Bloody Valentine from being something more substantial. They also provide many of its retro-regressive joys.
Now we get the added pleasure of onscreen splatter. While the inserted footage is work print quality most of the time (there's a disclaimer about the image at the beginning of the new version), it remains wonderfully effective. A blade through a breast begins our new look at the carnage, and it just gets better from there. The infamous Laundromat scene now has a much nastier payoff and the sickening shower scene is even more disgusting. Elsewhere, eyeballs droop, limbs are severed, and organs are haphazardly harvested from still fresh corpses. Talk about your dateless Saturday Night Special! Kudos must go to F/X artist Ken Diaz and Thomas R. Burman for giving seminal makeup greats like Tom Savini and Rob Bottin a run for their repugnance. Even with a less-than-perfect picture, these dudes rock. The addition of the missing gore turns My Bloody Valentine from an anomaly to a near-classic. It reestablishes its place among the many slasher statements of the era and answers many a gorehound's silent prayers. Now bring on the uncut Jason, pronto!
Paramount, which once upon a time favored DVD fans with a consistent string of barebones digital dumping grounds, has teamed up with Lionsgate to offer this electronic press kit-oriented disc, complete with a featurette that moves from discussing the first film to more or less blatantly advertising the upcoming 3D remake. It's a slick, very sly bit of marketing...and the walk down murderous memory lane is a lot of fun. Similarly, the uncut material can be viewed separately or as part of the film proper. True dread lovers should look at the sequences as part of the bonus features as well, since each one offers the option of a cast/crew intro. Almost all are insightful and informational. Finally, there is a text-based timeline of horror film history, complete with nods to masterworks (Halloween) and the misguided (almost anything from the '90s).
As for the tech specs, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image looks great -- that is, until the new/old footage arrives. The grainy, often faded colors of the gore scenes are not that distracting, though it would have been nice for the studios to clean this material up as well. The rest of the film looks freshly minted. As for sound, there is an unnecessary Dolby Digital 5.1 revamp (not enough speaker selection to warrant this update) and a far more effective Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 track. The latter works better because it preserves the film's original aural atmosphere, including the unhinged score from Paul Zaza. The minor gripe about the differing print quality aside, this is a fine DVD release.
Every year, around February 12th, some cable channel (USA, AMC) will crack open its severely edited copy of My Bloody Valentine and watch as purists palpitate over the lack of blood and guts. Now, said cynics can grab their own copy of the original gore-soaked spectacle. Special or not, this is the "mandatory" edition of this seminal scary movie.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 7.1 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Uncut Version
* Deleted Footage with intros
* Horror Film History