TV Party Tonight! #32

TV Party Tonight! #32

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Thursday, 29 June 2017
COLUMN

The Lawnmower Man [Collector’s Edition]

How do you think a nerdy high school teen in the 90s would have processed a movie like the Lawnmower man when he first saw it? Let alone one that was literally living on a rock in the middle of the ocean. Even American TV was a novelty for us as we had just gotten cable. The internet wasn’t even a thing and most of us didn’t own a computer.

But then a movie like the Lawnmower Man hits, talking existentialism, corruption, and virtual reality. The very concept of virtual reality was so grey at the time. We knew about the Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s ambitious but ill-fated attempt at letting us peek into an alternate reality where we could play tennis as red-lined cartoons. But the Lawnmower Man proposed that we could experience a heightened sense of reality, traverse the stratosphere, and fully exist in this virtual reality world. It was so ahead of its time, yet almost immediately surpassed that many of us forget the groundwork it helped lay for what we experience now on the internet.

And sure, some of this is the movie’s own fault: it’s plotline is a little predictable and cheesy, and its characters a little clich├ęd, but keep in mind this was an independent low budget movie. The scope of what they were trying to bring to the masses, which had never even heard of virtual reality, was absolutely massive. And sure, better movies have since come along that make the Lawnmower Man dated, but there’s still a massive appeal in seeing a baby take its first steps and wanting to document it.

The folks at Shout! Factory understands this in their deluxe release of the Lawnmower Man which is just loaded with extras. People may not know this but there are two versions of this movie: a theatrical cut, and a director’s cut which is about 30minutes longer. The difference between the two is that the theatrical cut plays much better in the theatre where its special effects are front and center, while the much longer director’s cut focuses more on character development which were dialogue driven. Both can be appreciated for different reasons and this release lets the viewer pick their favorite. Also included is an hour long feature which looks back at the making of movie, an EPK, trailers, and an audio commentary track that was recorded for the laserdisc release of the movie. The creators are informative and enthusiastic and love talking about making the Lawnmower Man and the commentary track shows it. This package simply heightens our understanding of what happened on and behind the scenes.

Shout! Factory did a stunning job with this movie and it’s once again proof that they understand their releases. The value of Lawnmower Man can be debated, but at least this definitive release exists to keep the debate going. It gets a thumbs up from us.

Get it here.

Some observations from the bonus features:

  • Terminator 2 was the other big special effects movie to get attention the year Lawnmower Man came out. That movie cost $100 million. This one, 10 million.
  • Lawnmower Man made $30 million at the box office.
  • Speaking of special effects, it’s revealed in the bonus features that they were done by the same company that did the Scientology Dianetics video (whatever that is), and that they took on the job for almost no profit so that it would put them on the map if it was a hit.
  • It’s really worth checking out the special features to learn how low-budget this production was and how the crew had to make a lot out of very little.
  • The concept of virtual reality was so alien to the movie studios that the creators were asked to make a video explaining it when they pitched the movie. Director Brett Leonard had to fight to get the words Virtual Reality put on the movie poster.
  • That giant Jobe head floating in the air at the end of the movie is a nod to Zardoz.
  • Why was the movie cut down so much for the theatrical release? The people in charge basically said, cut the dialogue and keep the special effects. Brett Leonard sort of agrees with this choice.

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