Nope, this isn’t the new Bong Joon-ho movie, but a 3-D oldie from 1982. Although it’s by no means a great picture, fans equipped for Blu-ray 3-D will want to take a look — the depth effects fashioned with the over’n’under Sterevision system are some of the best yet. Stan Winston provides director Charles Band with the ‘Alien’ rip-off title critters, and added interest is provided via an early appearance by Demi Moore, who sleepwalks through her part but certainly looks good. A full complement of extras tell the making-of story; the feature is also encoded in 2-D, for really imaginative viewers.
Blu-ray 3-D Blu-ray
KL Studio Classics
1982 / Color & 3d / 2:35 widescreen / 85 min. / Available from Kino Lorber / Street Date October 22, 2019 / 29.95
Starring: Robert Glaudini, Demi Moore, Luca Bercovici, James Davidson, Al Fann, Tom Villard, Scott Thomson, Cherie Currie, Vivian Blaine, James Cavan, Joannelle Nadine Romero, Freddy Moore, Natalie May, Cheryl Smith, Joel Miller.
Cinematography: Mac Ahlberg
Film Editor: Brad Arensman
Original Music: Richard Band
Casting Director: Johanna Ray
Special Effects: Stan Winston, Lance Anderson, James Kagel
3-D Consultants: Randall Larsen, Chris J. Condon,
Written by Alan J. Adler, Michael Shoob, Frank Levering
Produced and Directed by Charles Band
Kino Lorber once again rewards loyal fans of the 3-D Blu-ray format, at a time when one must order from Europe to obtain certain Disney 3-D releases. This hokey but fun 1982 horror pix has excellent depth effects, in fact some of the best ‘sticking stuff out of the screen into your face’ effects I’ve yet seen, either on home video or on a screen. It’s a low budget, low ambition exploitation thriller from Charles Band, the busy rascal who had recently produced The Day Time Ended. That show doesn’t hang together as well as this one, yet it retains more fan interest with its stop-motion animation. At this point in time Charles Band was just starting up his low-budget studio endeavors. The same deep pocket executive producer that aided him on Day Time Ended came through on this one before production began, and reportedly boosted it up to 3-D, the moribund gimmick that was just beginning a mini-comeback. Documentation at the 3D Film Archive shows that 3-D films in the 1960s and ’70s were mostly one-off efforts. In 1981, the surprise success of a 3-D Italian western called Comin’ at Ya! prompted several lucrative reissues, such as that for Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, originally from 1974. Parasite 3-D is an early entry in that 3-D mini-revival that peaked with Jaws 3-D and lasted a little under two years.
Parasite is negligible as either horror or science fiction, but it’s halfway decently directed, by Charles Band himself. It has ‘name brand’ quality monster effects, from the late Stan Winston, and a very early appearance by actress Demi Moore. In some departments it’s as wanting as Charles Band’s first sci-fi effort, Laserblast. The script tosses in a bare minimum of exploitation content: a dystopian future, violent punks on the loose, oppressive government overlords, and horrible slimy monsters. Add a bit of nudity, a few ray gun effects, repetitive fights, an explosion and a man on fire, and there’s enough going on to fill a trailer. Hard-sell ads telling kids that the 3-D is absolutely terrifying made the show a so-so gamble for theaters in March of 1982.
The setting is a sketchy post-apocalyptic America: 1992. Big cities are un-livable due to radiation from a limited nuclear war, and The Xyrex Corporation, aka The Merchants is now in complete charge. It is the only employer in the cities, and employees are practically slaves. Cut off from communication, individuals in rural areas have found that the only food available is a limited supply of canned goods. Scientist Dr. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini, from films by Jon Jost) has fled Xyrex with an experimental parasite. While searching for a way to kill the slug-like parasite, Dean has accidentally infected himself with one. Xyrex wants both the parasite and Dr. Dean back, and dispatches an enforcer Merchant named Wolf (James Davidson) to make it happen. Dean hides out in a small-town rooming house run by Miss Elizabeth Daley (Vivian Blaine), and is harassed by some violent punks led by Ricus, a Xyrex runaway (Luca Bercovici). On Dean’s side are diner owner Collins (Al Fann) and local girl Patricia Welles (Demi Moore). Ricus’s gang includes Zeke (Tom Villard) and Dana (The Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie), both of whom are infected by the vicious, horrid parasite. Suffering from the smaller parasite growing within him, Dr. Dean has an idea for a method of extermination — but the ray-gun wielding Wolf arrives and complicates everything.
We’ve seen it all before in post-apocalyptic programmers — violent ragtag survivors spend ninety minutes beating and slaying each other in a cynical dystopia. Charles Band lines up the set pieces like a menu — attempted rapes, brutal pummelings, and death delivered by rattlesnake, ray gun and impaling with a metal pipe. Blending Alien and Mad Max, the main attraction is a Cronenberg-like body horror that has impregnated the hero, and a larger creature that attaches itself to two young people. Stan Winston’s parasite slugs are appropriately ooky and gooky, even if the design is unimaginative — the thing looks like a catfish with a cartoonish toothy mouth. Overstated toothy jaws will figure heavily in other design-challenged Charles Band pix to come, like Ghoulies of two years later.
Producer-director Charles Band casts the picture well but doesn’t do much with his actors. Robert Glaudini looks sick and scared, but his delivery becomes a monotonous whine. Second-billed Demi Moore was at this time more or less unknown. She’s also consistent, but her character is dull. The screenplay is pure grindhouse — no characterization beyond tacky surfaces, and a narrative that simply stacks up incident. Luca Bercovici’s punk JD tries to be sympathetic toward the end. He and the laid-back diner owner played by Al Fann seem to be reaching for characters to play. The gang features not one but two actresses with potential cult appeal, rocker Cherie Curie and Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith of Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural. Ms. Curie gets to wear ghoulish makeup as she succumbs to the life-sucking parasite, but Smith just stands around in group shots, with hardly five lines of dialogue. The other parasite victim Tom Villard drew attention a decade later under sad circumstances, by going public with his fatal AIDS condition.
The film’s most puzzling cast member is the legendary Broadway and film star Vivian Blaine, who long before starred opposite Frank Sinatra in Guys and Dolls. Several participants tell the story of the making of the film on the Blu-ray, but none explains why Ms. Blaine would want to be in this thing. Did Charles Band make the part seem like more of an opportunity than it is? Was she related to somebody?
I can imagine Parasite being a passable 1982 movie outing if seen in a good 3-D presentation. It’s pretty much a waste of time if viewed flat, which surely accounts for its mostly abysmal reviews. But for 3-D enthusiasts it’s a winner. The system used is a good one, Stereovision. Like Arch Oboler’s ‘Spacevision’ that debuted with 1966’s The Bubble, Stereovision uses prisms to split a full-aperture 35mm frame into two over & under widescreen images, one for each eye. Although the resulting picture is really half-frame, like the old Techniscope system, the 3-D illusion is often excellent: with the images locked together on the same piece of film, a number of optical aberrations are avoided. Being a single-system format, projection is simplified as well.
Although the depth effect is sometimes jarring, the 3-D illusion is excellent. Charles Band exploits the depth for more than sticking things in our eyes, a rarity for low-budget 3-D of this time. He places scenery and objects in the foreground, so most every shot expresses dimensionality. Even better, Band frequently moves his camera, enhancing the 3-D feel as objects shift in perspective. Although much of what he films is dumb coverage (the action bits), care is given to the compositions. Viewers that recall original theatrical presentations remember two moments in particular. An up angle of a parasite on a ceiling gives us a creepy slo-mo shot of monster goo dripping right at us, making us flinch involuntarily. Earlier on, our scientist hero rams a pipe right through a rapist, nailing him to a fence. The pipe sticks out from the film plane right into our faces, where, in flawless 3-D, blood drips from the open end.
Ridley Scott’s Alien may be a classic, but its immediate cinematic legacy was bad movie scenes featuring things bursting out of people. The parasite within Dr. Dean’s stomach ripples and warps before blasting free. Another gore scene shows a parasite ripping through the face of an older woman. Some of the human mockups for these gags are fine, but the face of the already shriveled old lady looks like an exaggerated Wayland Flowers puppet.
Lame fights are the least interesting and most time-consuming part of the story. The art direction to fake the future amounts to one unconvincing billboard and some gas pumps given plastic triangle additions. The ‘futuristic’ car driven by Wolf is a Lamborghini, according to the IMCDB. Some of the film was shot around Vasquez Rocks. Although we’re glad that the stuntman looks safe, the climax with a villain burning alive in a propane fire looks exactly like what it is, an actor wearing a bulky protective suit.
KL Studio Classics’ 3-D Blu-ray of Parasite 3-D will please fans that remember it new. It looks 1,000 times better than what screened on old VHS tapes — when pan-scanned, the half-frame image would be smaller than 16mm.
I’m recommending the movie to 3-D capable viewers. It’s more interesting than The Bubble 3-D or A*P*E 3-D, that’s for sure. As restored by the 3-D Film Archive, the well-designed depth effects described above look terrific in the excellent 3-D Blu-ray format. Parasite was given a new 4K scan, and the Archive applied a lot of effort to correct the color as well as finesse the 3-D, readjusting shots and correcting small errors of alignment. A second 2-D encoding is present as well.
Most of Kino 3-D presentations have not been given English subs, but this show has.
Kino’s extras give us a good idea of what film production was like at this level, in 1980. Charles Band was clearly hoping to catch the brass ring, as his executive producer Irwin Yablans had done with Halloween several years before. Although that monster hit has been a gold mine for Yablans ever since, his Wiki Entry does not even mention John Carpenter by his full name.
I think most if not all of the extras are new. Daniel Griffith’s Ballyhoo segments include hosting a commentary with writer Alan J. Adler; Griffith also contributes three featurettes, on the writers (Adler, Michael Shoob), the production (Charles Band, Adler, the production manager, art director and make-up department head) and the music track (Richard Band). Charles Band certainly has a sense of humor; he says the movie left his immediate control when bigger producers stepped in. The video rights he retained were specifically limited to VHS, which of course became meaningless with the arrival of DVD. Griffith’s good interviews are augmented by his excellent graphics work. A fourth featurette appears sourced from different producers; it features career effects creator Lance Anderson, who describes Parasite as one of the films that helped him enter the field.
The disc’s image gallery is interesting, although we wish there were some pictures of the 3-D rig — with the consultants Randall Larsen and Chris J. Condon collaborating with cameraman Mac Ahlberg, this must have been a well-organized shoot. The 3-D Archive gives us a brief featurette with some restoration facts, and a comparison that shows the improvement made by the Archive’s experts on the raw scans. Their next release will be a disc of 3-D (or partly 3-D) ‘nudie cuties’ from the early 1960s, with the oft-mentioned input from Francis Coppola on The Bellboy and the Playgirls.
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Parasite 3-D Blu-ray
Movie: Good / Fair
Supplements: Audio Commentary with Alan J. Adler and Daniel Griffith; Featurettes: From the Inside Out: Writing Parasite — interviews with writers Alan J. Adler and Michael Shoob; Three Dimensions of Terror: Filming Parasite — interviews with director Charles Band, co-writer Alan J. Adler, production manager Charles Newirth, art director Pamela B. Warner, and make-up department head Karen Kubeck; Symphony for Slimy Slugs: Composing Parasite — interview with composer Richard Band; Parasitic: Creating and Designing Parasite — interview with Creature Designer and Creator Lance Anderson; Restoring Parasite in 3-D, a comparison sample; image gallery, TV and radio spots, Trailer
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English (feature only)
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: October 15, 2019
Text © Copyright 2019 Glenn Erickson