Wednesday, November 28, 2018

CANDYMAN (1992) Blu-ray review

Candyman (1992) d. Bernard Rose (USA)

Chicago grad student Helen (Virginia Madsen), working on her “urban legends” thesis, uncovers the tale of Daniel Robitaille aka Candyman, a wrongfully murdered black artist with a hook for a hand, who appears Bloody Mary-style if you say his name in a mirror five times. Of course, the inquisitive intellectual tries it out for herself, only to find that the avenging spirit is all too real and that his hook is all too sharp. Several gory slayings ensue, all of which seem to implicate our heroine, who slips further and further into madness.

More straightforward horror than suspense, British writer/director Rose crafts an intelligent thriller (based on the short story, “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker, who executive-produced) that disgusts as often as it chills, remaining in the viewer’s mind long after the credits roll. Shifting the location from the London slums to the U.S. and emphasizing racial tensions over class struggles, Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing project is put to excellent use, as is Philip Glass’ haunting, choral-inflected musical score.

As our heroine, Madsen avoids all virginal final girl clichés, inhabiting a strong, resourceful, mature, deeply frightened yet determined woman. Even more impressive, she and writer/director Rose employ several scenes of nudity not to titillate, but rather to show vulnerability and humanity – a rare feat within this beloved genre of ours.

Highest marks also go to the impressive accomplishment of introducing an original character into the already overcrowded boogeyman pantheon. Atypical of the silver screen’s myriad masked maniacs, Tony Todd’s Candyman possesses a fierce strength and elegance combined with savagery, making him one of the more complex villains of the past several decades (although the phrase “diminishing returns” definitely applies to the two lackluster sequels that followed).

Long before the day and age of ubiquitous CGI, many of the practical effects executed by makeup wonderboys Bob Keen and Gary Tunnicliffe chart well on the kickass chart, not to mention the enormous courage displayed by Madsen and Todd as they make intimate onscreen acquaintance of dozens of live bees.

The first disc in Shout! Factory’s new “Collector’s Edition” includes the 99-minute theatrical release, paired with not one, not two, but THREE audio commentary tracks, one from the 2004 Columbia/Tri-Star DVD featuring cast and crew, and two new ones, the first featuring Rose and Todd, and the second with horror journalists and scribes Stephen Jones and Kim Newman. This last is the one I took in, and it’s enormously entertaining, listening to the UK horror lads chat about “their mate Clive” and his rise to fame in the early ’80s, as well as lending their critical eyes to how the film has continued to resonate while pointing out various quibbles they have picked up on over the years.

Also resurrected from the earlier release are the featurettes “Clive Barker: Raising Hell,” which briefly (10 min) encapsulates the author’s childhood and artistic emergence, and “Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos” which reunites Rose, Madsen, Todd, co-star Kasi Lemmons, and producer Alan Poul to reflect on the legacy of the film and the character (while inexplicably incorporating scenes from William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus). It’s a packed 24 minutes, including such interesting trivia as the fact that Rose actually had Madsen hypnotized by a professional, and then utilized the “trigger word” to put her into a trance for specific scenes on set!

Bee wrangler Norman Gary is also given his proper due, since his contributions are invaluable, creating indelible imagery of the buzzing insects pouring out of Todd’s mouth onto Madsen’s (who was extremely allergic as it turns out – good times) face.

There is also a short 7-minute solo interview with Todd that covers similar ground, but it’s always a pleasure to hear the actor give sonorous voice to and respect for his most iconic screen character, and a five-minute tour of Rose’s storyboards from the film. Trailers, TV spots, a stills gallery, and the original script (BD-ROM) round out the package.

The second disc contains the 99-minute unrated director’s cut and yes, you read that correctly, it’s the same running time with internal snips and expansions, most of which may go unnoticed by casual viewers but it’s nice to see Rose’s vision fully realized.

There are also a bevy of new interviews with Todd (“Be My Victim”), Madsen (“It Was Always You Helen”), Lemmons (“Reflections in the Mirror”), production designer Jane Ann Stewart (“The Writing on the Wall”), makeup designers and artists Keen, Tunnicliffe, and Mark Coulier (“Forbidden Flesh”), author Douglas E. Winter discussing Barker and the source material (“A Story to Tell: ‘The Forbidden’”), horror scholars Tananrive Due and Steven Barnes (“Urban Legend: Unwrapping Candyman,” which is likely the most intellectually stimulating of the bunch, addressing issues of race and context), and all-grown-up DeJuan Guy aka our little hero Jake weighs in on his childhood experiences on set (“A Kid in Candyman”).

Candyman is available now in a Deluxe Blu-ray Collector’s Edition from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:

Note: If you order from, customers will receive an exclusive 18" X 24" rolled poster featuring the brand new artwork, a second exclusive 18" X 24" rolled poster featuring new alternative artwork, and an exclusive slipcover (limited to the first 2,000 pre-orders).


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