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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Parasite (3-D) (Blu-ray)
Parasite (3-D) (Blu-ray)
Kl Studio Classics // R // October 22, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted November 1, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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Movies photographed and exhibited in 3-D were scarce for decades after the 1952-54 boom. But the 1981 spaghetti Western Comin' at Ya!, made several years after that genre, too, had more or less ended, proved a sensation, the $2.5 million production earning 5-10 times its cost, so popular that the biggest problem was that theater owners kept running out of the 3-D glasses. After nearly three decades wandering the desert, 3-D was back. Initially, older 3-D titles were reissued while ambitious indie filmmakers like Earl Owensby and Charles Band tested the waters, but the major studios soon followed suit. Band's Parasite, released in March 1982, seems to have been the first Hollywood-made film to cash in on the revival, albeit produced on a low budget for release through Embassy Pictures.

I'd never seen it before, and though expecting something pretty unwatchable, the movie is mostly successful in realizing its limited (and often derivative) ambitions, and the use of 3-D is very effective throughout.

Set in a post-apocalyptic near future, Parasite's screenplay wisely keeps the circumstances and particulars ambiguous. Scientist Dr. Paul Dean (Robert Glaudini) has apparently created two monstrous parasites. One he keeps in a container but the other has already entered his body in a laboratory accident. Obviously inspired by the chest-bursting scene in Alien, much of the plot is built around fears that these critters will chomp their way out from inside you.

For reasons not initially clear, he travels to a desert community far from the mostly destroyed and now radiated major cities. Paper money is no longer accepted, forcing people to barter or pay in silver coins. He checks himself into a boarding house run by aging actress Elizabeth Daley (Broadway and film star Vivian Blaine). Elsewhere, Wolf (James Davidson), driving a methane-fueled Lamborghini, doggedly attempts to track Dean down. Wolf is a representative of the Merchants, a conglomerate that has taken control of the U.S. government, forcing most of the population into indentured servitude.

Dean's efforts to rid himself of the parasite are aided by diner owner Collins (Al Fann) and local girl Patricia Welles (Demi Moore, in her feature debut), but local punks, led by Ricus (Luca Bercovici), further complicate matters.

Parasite's modest budget forced its writers to be inventive, to work within the mostly confined setting and limited number of characters. Clues to what happened and how this post-apocalyptic society functions are scattered in the production design, set decoration, and dialogue. For instance, at a gas station prices have shot up to between $29.98 and $40.57/gallon, with three options listed: diesel, liquid methane, and unleaded gas, the latter the most expensive. At Collins's diner iodine is for sale at the bar, a reference to radioactive fallout. There he sells everything in canned form: beer, water, and soup. Patricia, meanwhile, is growing small lemon trees bearing fruit, allowing for a rare luxury: lemonade. (But where'd they get the sugar?) It's a reasonably believable post-apocalyptic rural community, not quite as dire as Mad Max but close, with civility hanging by a thread.

Stan Winston's make-up effects are effective for what they are, more shocking in 1982 than today, the kind of thing that drew a guaranteed "R" rating back then, but which turns up on commercial television in the middle of the afternoon now.

Glaudini is an actor unfamiliar to mainstream audiences, but he's well cast and projects the right balance of fear, intelligence, and drive - a likeable character. Demi Moore regards Parasite as her worst movie (it's not), though as written she has almost nothing to do. She's the female lead but it's a largely thankless role. Al Fann and his low-key but effective performance comes off best among the supporting cast after Vivian Blaine, who gamely but smartly plays her role, perhaps intended to be campy, instead with sincerity and subtlety.

The real draw, though, is the 3-D. For Parasite, an indeed virtually all of the ‘80s 3-D revival features, a single-strip, over-and-under system was employed. Similar to Techniscope, two-perf-high widescreen frames (2.35:1 in this case) were exposed simultaneously using a prism, one for the left eye, the other for the right. This allowed for extremely good 3-D effects, though the image, because of the smaller frame area, has less resolution than dual-format 3-D of the 1950s, and for reasons I've never understood, tends to be slightly dimmer, even when projected properly.

But the 3-D effects here are frequently outstanding, most famously a shot of a man impaled with a pipe, the object sticking way "out" of the screen as to almost touch the audience. The shot lingers long enough for viewers to adjust their eyeballs and, just then, blood drips out the end of the pipe.

Throughout, director Band stages scenes for maximum effectiveness, dimensionally, with objects in the foreground, center, and back, similar to the best ‘50s 3-D films, while not holding back thrusting and throwing things into the audience's laps in a more ‘80s manner without overdoing it. (Comin' at Ya!, while undeniably enjoyable, goes way overboard in this regard.)

Video & Audio

  A Kino release with restoration work completed by the great folks at 3-D Film Archive, Parasite is available in both 2-D and 3-D presentations, the latter described in more detail above. The DTS-HD Master Audio is available in presumably new 5.1 and 2.0 mixes, the audio separations very effective. (If I'm not mistaken, the original release was mono.) Optional English subtitles are provided on this region "A" disc.

Extra Features

The excellent supplements include five featurettes: "From the Inside Out: Writing Parasite" featuring screenwriters Michael Shoob and Alan J. Adler; "Three Dimensions of Terror: Filming Parasite" featuring Adler, Charles Band, and others; "Symphony for Slimy Slugs: Composing Parasite" with composer Richard Band (whose cues remind me of Jerry Goldsmith's score for Planet of the Apes); "Parasitic: Creating and Designing Parasite" with Lance Anderson discussing his work with the late Stan Winston"; and, in 3-D itself, "Restoring Parasite in 3-D," an enlightening look at that process. Also included is an audio commentary with Adler, a trailer, TV and radio spots, and an extensive image gallery.

Parting Thoughts

A small-scale sci-fi horror film from the early 1980s, greatly enhanced by 3-D, extra features, and an excellent restoration by the 3-D Film Archive, Parasite is Highly Recommended.

Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian currently restoring a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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