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The Lawnmower Man – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

This make sense, but still caught me by surprise when Scream Factory announced not just a release, but a Collector’s Edition of The Lawnmower Man. I’m just so used to seeing trashy cheap, $5 dump bin double feature DVDs of the two Lawnmower Man films together. Now, the film gets to see some love and get some depth after all these years.  People forget, but this was a big hit at the box office back in the early 1990s. Heck, virtual reality is back in vogue now, so I’m sure there’s some studio exec drooling at the thought of maybe trying to do this movie again. Anyway, lets revisit this first film and forget the second ever existed shall we? Scream Factory will be releasing it on June 20th and you can pre-order it using the Amazon link below. And since we are on early 90s technology-based horror, I wonder what Ghost In The Machine is up to these days (Hint hint, wink wink).

Film 

Dr. Lawrence Angelo is a brilliant scientist obsessed with perfecting virtual reality software. When his experiments on animals fail, he finds the ideal substitute – Jobe Smith, a slow-witted gardener. Dr. Angelo’s goal is to benefit his human guinea pig and ultimately mankind itself, but evil lurks the guise of “the Shop,” a shadowy group that seeks to use the technology to create an invincible war machine. When the experiments change the simple Jobe into a superhuman being, the stage is set for a Jekyll-and-Hyde struggle for the control of Jobe’s mind and the future of the world.

The Lawnmower Man is a play on the Frankenstein story, but its one that takes it further into levels of communication and intelligence from the monster. In this new director’s cut of the film, this becomes much more apparent. There is a lot more depth added to the feature, giving more time for Jobe’s origins, motivations and transformation. You also get more of Dr. Angelo, his depression and turmoil at home with his wife. On the bonus material, the director and producer share their unhappiness that once New Line acquired the film, Bob Shaye hacked it up. After having seen this cut of the film, I’d have to say Bob Shaye was more right, but there’s somewhere closer to the middle for the best version of this film. Nobody needs to sit through 2 hours and 20 minutes (I did!) of this. Shaye’s decision to make a tighter, faster paced tech horror film that gets to the point a bit quicker was the smart move. This director’s cut is better for character and plot depth, but ultimately its very long (And feels long) and doesn’t quite captivate.

Pierce Brosnan and Jeff Fahey both kill it here in their roles and play really well off one another. It’d be cool to get them back for another film together. I think Fahey’s work here is insanely overlooked as he completely and gradually transforms into a monster. If you were to show someone a scene of him toward the end and then follow that with one from the beginning they’d think it was from a completely different movie. Brosnan brings the intensity and really proves he’s more than just a pretty face in this film. Yes, he’s an incredibly sexy tech scientist, but he brings to it some darkness, depth and passion to the role that carries the film and gives you someone to root for even though he caused all of this.

This time around I noticed how badly the women are portrayed here. There are three of them who are solid supporting characters in this and they are horribly written stereotypes of the worst kind. You get the nagging, uncaring wife, the abused wife who is too weak to stand up for herself and then the hot sex crazed neighbor that is just drooling for a man. I think the movie has walked into this innocently, but the fact that there wasn’t much thought or realization of what they’re doing isn’t an excuse either.  I guess the only thing they women had for this movie was to stare longingly at Pierce Brosnan or Jeff Fahey.

Modern audiences will probably mock the effects in this movie, but this was state of the art back when it came out. The amount of digital effects shots in the film was the longest runtime sucked up by them ever at that point. Nobody was doing this. And, as a person who played VR a time or two at arcades back in the early 90s, this is exactly what the graphics looked like. Some super science stuff is added to the equipment that they wear or are hooked up to, but what they are seeing lines up exactly with the games of the time and they honestly restrain themselves from going any further on that.

Yeah, The Lawnmower Man is a product of its time. But, if you allow it to be just its own little world, it plays well within the confines of it. It follows a pattern set by monster movies of the past but trying to put a modern (for its time) touch to go along with a bit of futurist prediction. For what it is, I think it does work and can actually be a rather fun, silly, goofy, nostaglic, interesting watch.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: This transfer of The Lawnmower Man from Scream Factory comes from a 4K of the interpositive. For the director’s cut, that scan is cut together with footage from the original camera negative.  There is a disclaimer at the top of the Director’s Cut that warns of the “jump cuts” to splice the footage together. While those cuts are noticeable, there is the tiniest, not even really noticeable difference in the quality of the footage. This transfer does look quite lovely and has a good amount of detail to go with a rather bold, full looking image. The big science lab set looks really impressive here with reflections, polish, texture concrete walls and more looking quite defined here in the picture. Also, clothing patterns and textures look good to the touch in medium and close up shots. The VR footage is fine, looking just a little grainier than the rest at times. Overall, some of the neon and bright vividness of the film comes through pretty fresh.

Depth:  There is a nice feel of separation of character and backdrop in this image. A scene with Brosnan and Fahey driving in a car shows off the (Probably rear projection) backdrop looking ever so pushed back. Characters move cinematically and smoothly with no real issue.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep, shadowy and manage to hold on to details. No crushing was witnessed when watching for this review.

Color Reproduction: BLUE! This movie is super blue and the color has a swinging palette all gorgeously represented. Also, the vivid bright purples, yellows and such on the VR graphics look really striking as well as the glowing lights on the suits they wear in the lab. Oh, and the grass looks ever so green when Jobe is out mowing the lawn.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and keep consistent throughout give or take a scene with a blue filter. Facial details like stubble, sweat beads, wrinkles, moles, zits, red blemishing, make up and lip texture all hold very strong with window-link information.

Noise/Artifacts: Some grain and bits of dirt/specs appear in the director’s cut footage.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: The Lawnmower man has a little bit of a low mix in the 5.1, so you’ll want to bump it up a few extra notches compared to normal. Overall a merely solid track with some highlights and an overall consistently good bump from the subwoofer. The track does sound a little date and the balance isn’t as great as one could hope for. But, this one does do the trick, don’t get me wrong. The subwoofer is the MVP though, really matching and bring the visual effects some life and power.

Height: N/a

Low Frequency Extension: VR sequences feel a good rumble from the subwoofer. There are a lot of deep score moments to go along with crashing, doors closing, and the swooping of the circular VR machines.

Surround Sound Presentation: Some sound in the VR gets some good moments in the rear speakers while sound does travel freely and with good fun around the room.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. There are times where it sounds a bit muffled or in a can, but overall its just fine.

Extras 

The Lawnmower Man – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Disc Blu-ray set that features reversible cover artwork containing the original poster. Disc 1 contains the Theatrical Cut of the film and Disc 2 contains the Director’s Cut.

Disc 1 – Theatrical Cut

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Director Brett Leonard and Writer/Producer Gimel Everett

Cyber God: Creating The Lawnmower Man (HD, 50:40) – This is a terrific look back at the making of the film, from grabbing the rights after it was supposed to be a short in an anthology to the “how” of making it its own features. This goes through casting, shooting it independently, how groundbreaking it was for the effects and New Line picking the film up and excising a lot of footage to make a tighter thriller. A shame they couldn’t get Pierce Brosnan for this, but Fahey comes back.

Deleted Scenes (SD, 27:30) 

Original Electronic Press Kit (SD, 4:43) – Features interviews with Fahey and Brosnan from around the time of release.

Edited Animated Sequences (SD, 4:15) 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:11) – They hilariously have edited the voice over saying “of Stephen King” from it.

TV Spot (HD, :31) 

Disc 2 – Director’s Cut

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Director Brett Leonard and Writer/Producer Gimel Everett

Conceptual Art and Design Sketches (HD, 2:52) 

Behind-the-Scenes and Production Stills (HD, 7:12) 

Storyboard Comparisons (HD, 1:54) 

Summary 

The Lawnmower Man is a solid fictional, futuristic monster movie thriller. I found some goofy fun to be had in revisiting it. Scream Factory really bolsters and adds weight and depth to the film with the extras they’ve provided, included the Director’s Cut which will be a treat for fans. Novices or those who haven’t seen it in a while should check out the Theatrical Cut first. The presentation here has some really great looking video to go with solid audio. This is a worthy Collector’s Edition to add to your library.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “The Lawnmower Man – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Lathe of Heaven

    Beautiful review! Thanks Bro for giving this film the love that it deserves. Sure is great to hear how awesome it looks.

    Cheers mate!

  2. Jennifer Gates

    I did not know this movie and after reading the post I will find it to watch. Thanks!