Coming at you like a freight train is Razorback, the movie, and the title creature, which is a particularly nasty type of wild boar. Rising up from down under, Razorback is possibly the best Jaws homage to appear from Australia. It's not a rip-off; it's a solid, moody horror thriller, parlaying beautiful photography and that peculiarly arid attitude of Australian filmmaking into a consistently enjoyable night.
A dramatic, dire opening throws us right into the action as the creature rampages through the night, killing grandchildren with aplomb. Granddad goes to court for the child's death, because nobody will believe his story of a pig the size of a tractor. Though this sub-plot-sized opening doesn't really pertain to the rest of the movie, it sets a tone of grim disbelief in which most people you meet are as much the enemy as is the razorback. This helps also to place Razorback in the 'city slickers versus the hicks' genre, in fact reinforcing the idea of Australia itself being the 'hick' to the rest of the world's 'city slicker.'
This is why big-city investigative reporter Beth Winters (Judy Morris) heads to the outback, to uncover the horrible practice of hunting down kangaroos to be made into dog food. Not wowing the locals with either her mission or her casual attitude, Beth is soon treated to a little Aussie harassment at the hands of the geeks from the dog food factory, and that damn giant boar. Beth's hubby Carl (Gregory Harrison) expresses mild vengeful interest, ultimately going all Moby Dick in a thrilling climax that recalls the best of the giant monster movies.
Highlander helmer Russell Mulcahy does plenty to raise the brows on his B-picture - and he succeeds. While watching you'll notice that nagging twinge, saying, "show me the monster!" but it isn't your driving need, more like icing on the cake. Mulcahy's mis-en-scene, combined with much good old-fashioned outback meanness, cranks tension and unease as much as any monstrous promise of big monsters. Basic motifs of loss and revenge are certainly there to grab onto, since relationships are not. Meanwhile the ultimate battle of man vs. nature (of which 'city slickers vs. hicks' is a subset) proves the easy-to-swallow overarching theme - only in this case nature is a pig the size of a VW Bus.
Fitting nicely into the pantheon of great Australian genre flicks, Razorback deserves its spot, but not the relative obscurity it garnered as well. Blame it on mistrust of foreign films that look like Jaws rip-offs, I guess - a xenophobic, superficial judgment to be sure - or the fact that many folks simply don't know what a razorback is, so when they saw a warthog on the VHS box they just ran away in confused fear. Fear no more, as Warner Brothers Archive Collection will kindly manufacture at your demand this essential Aussie monster movie, a cult movie that deserves a wider audience.
Warner Brothers offers this M.O.D. disc in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio, presenting a movie that looks far better than the old VHS copy I remember. (I can't say how the image compares to the Region 4 DVD.) Of course the cinematography looks great, with rich, saturated and sun burnt colors. The image is fairly crisp and detailed for a movie lensed in 1984, with good detail levels amongst a little bit of film grain. Black levels seem to vary between certain dark scenes, probably due to different lighting set-ups, but this is about my biggest complaint regarding this unremastered transfer.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio delivers those squeals with high quality. Sound design isn't flashy but uses stereo nicely as that boar roars around. There isn't any audio degradation to speak of, and - other than working out accents - dialog is clear and up-front. Audio ultimately lives up to what seems to be the M.O.D. credo - not flashy, but solid DVD quality.
The Original Theatrical Trailer, and the ability to skip forward in 10-minute increments, (as opposed to real chapter stops) are the only two extras to be noted.
Fitting nicely into the pantheon of great Australian genre flicks, Razorback deserves its spot with the beasts, but not the relative obscurity it garnered. Now, Warner Brothers Archive Collection will kindly manufacture at your demand this essential Aussie monster movie, a cult movie that deserves a wider audience. Featuring moody photography, a tense atmosphere, and a great, judiciously employed monster, Razorback rises above genre trappings and Jaws comparisons to become a tense horror-thriller in its own right. Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
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