BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
It came from outer space to eat the living! With this tag, Fred Olen Ray’s The Alien Dead arrived in theaters. This was his first theatrically released film and, while it underperformed, there’s no denying that a legacy for schlock was born. While the B-movie disappeared as mysteriously as it arrived, leaving those who saw it with only a vague memory of its visitation, The Alien Dead was never really understood or appreciated - even when it was released on VHS. It probably wasn’t even seen by the right audience, which makes its debut on blu-ray a very special thing indeed.
The Sunshine State had survived other blood-soaked monster pictures, but nothing as homegrown as the swamp-based gore of Fred Olen’s debut. No one was prepared for its white-faced scares. And The Alien Dead, while not his best work, is made all the better for it. Thanks to Retromedia Entertainment – who previously handled Scalps with a signed limited release (of which only a few are still available) – this small-scale scare can finally (and hopefully) find an appreciative audience.
Ray’s feature debut about a flesh-eating alien is a bizarre one. This works in its favor as it should please genre fans of the low-rent variable. Filmed for a whopping $12000, The Alien Dead opens with a redneck husband and wife team of poachers out looking for any sign of alligators. The crocs are all gone – having departed the waters after a meteorite landed atop a houseboat, creating these alien walking dead lifeforms – and the two are cursing their luck while trying to find any sign of a gator. Mr. and Mrs. Griffith are in for a shock. Oh, there’s something in the water, but it’s not alligators. And this swimming alien isn’t about to pass up a delicious female treat.
With Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon) as the town’s no-listening sheriff leading this on-screen insanity, The Alien Dead features half a man (yet still breathing) getting eaten by a dog, groping zombies – one literally goes for a woman’s boobs with REAL excitement – who are keenly aware they are being filmed, a cast of low-grade characters with nothing but time on their hands as zombies come toward them, a ventriloquist bluegrass band, and weirdly placed country & western songs. Welcome to Florida indeed!!!!
The script is all keyed-up on wonderful banter between its crazy characters. From jabs like “your wife’s deader than Mother’s Day at an orphanage” to its insightfulness into the male psyche with comments about what’s on a person’s mind. “I dunno, growing up, getting out of the swamp, eating hamburgers, stuff like that" is the response. It’s gut-busting and, with one gratuitous breast shot after another, always serves the needs of its audience while teasing the alien dead and their lust for carnage with shots of them surviving multiple gunblasts but not the fatal stabbings of hairpicks.
The Alien Dead is a no good, very bad, flick, but there’s an excellence buried within it that keeps it resurfacing to the top of the muck from time to time. This is indeed a cult classic and bad as we know can be a very good thing. Maybe it’s the all the “and…cut!” moments from the director that is heard before scene sends. Maybe it’s when the alien zombies kill to bluegrass accompaniment. Maybe it’s all the fart noises heard as the alien ship zooms over the sky. Whatever it is. Fred Olen Ray’s first motion picture – warts and all – is a definite keeper: a space odditiy if ever there was one.
The Alien Dead arrives on Blu-ray from director Fred Olen Ray's Retromedia label in a limited edition of 2000 units. Scoop yours up NOW.
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 74 mins
Director: Fred Olen Ray
Writer: Fred Olen Ray; Martin Nicholas
Cast: Buster Crabbe, Ray Roberts, Linda Lewis
Genre: Horror | Sci-fi
Tagline: They're consuming every living creature in sight!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I don't know. Growing up. Getting out of the swamp. Eating hamburgers. Stuff like that."
Release Date: No theatrical release.
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: December 2, 2016
Synopsis: A meteor strikes a houseboat in the swamps near a southern town populated by Yankees with fake accents. The people on the houseboat become zombies who feed on the alligators in the swamp. Once they run out of alligators, they start going for the citizens. A local scientist tries to figure out what's happening to people once they start disappearing.
The Alien Dead: Limited Signed Edition (1980)
Home Video Distributor: Retromedia
Available on Blu-ray - December 2, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Audio: English: LPCM 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region A
Retromedia’s 1080p presentation of Fred Olen Ray’s The Alien Dead is a limited affair. There are only 2000 copies and, as it is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and scanned in at 2K, is a definite must-own for any fan of horror. The film is rough around the edges and there’s probably no amount of restoration that will help tune out the grain in the 16mm source. Colors are sharp, not strong. Black levels are thick. While this looks to be a naturally-lit film, the location is problematic in picking up some of the audio. The dubbing is poor. Some of the heavily censored bits are VHS quality, so prepare for muddy depth-derived glimpses of human torsos and blood. But, to have it any other way (with the censored parts separate from the movie) would be a disservice. The sound – presented here in a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 track – is adequate.
Recorded by Fred Olen Ray, the commentary – for a lot of people who might not appreciate the movie – will be beneficial. Why? Because Ray gives us the inside scoop to guerilla filmmaking. It is a fascinating listen and a pure treat for fans of The Alien Dead. He's honest and direct. He talks at great lengths about the censorship of the film, and about how he was monetarily screwed by the film distributor.
Highlighted by a 1992 reunion of the cast, the supplemental items are decent. The reunited cast and crew members – Mike Bonavia (the game warden), Dennis Underwood (the deputy), and Shelley Youngren (associate producer) – talk about working with Olen Ray and Crabbe. Their stories are pretty funny. Also included is The Brain Leeches, a black-and-white flick he assembled in 1978. There is also a still gallery.
- Alien Dread Cast Reunion Video
- Alien Dead Still Gallery
- Fred Olen Ray’s The Brain Leeches (with Director’s Commentary)