Lunatics: A Love Story, On DVD At L(e)ast

High on the list of movies that are still in desperate need of some kind of DVD or blu-ray release (there wasn't even a laserdisc!) is Josh Becker's Lunatics: A Love Story from 1992. But technically, strictly speaking, if you're really going to get picky and split hairs about it, you should know that there is sorta kinda actually an at least semi-official DVD release of it. It's sold exclusively through Becker's site. I mean, it's a DV-R, not a pressed DVD; but hey, if Warner Archives can do it...

Update 2/12/15 - 12/27/18: It's finally here: a genuine, official release of the film!  But it's DVD only?  What's up with that?
In recent years, we've seen excellent special edition blu-rays of the early Evil Dead team's works... (Night Of) The Intruder and Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except from Synapse, Crimewave from Shout Factory, all three of which had also been issued many other times by many other companies. Code Red even gave us The Carrier.  And These blus are great releases in terms of restoring and presenting the film (well, except for the big screw up on The Carrier, but that's a whole other post), in terms of terrific extras, and in terms of just being fun indie movies. I'm very happy to have them in my collection. But I honestly think anybody who enjoys any of those films would get at least twice the kick out of Becker's Lunatics. It's got higher production values than a lot of them, A more engaging cult-film oriented story with likeable characters, and stars Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell. So where's Lunatic's special blu?
Lunatics has a bit of a Psychos In Love premise, where two completely deranged lunatics wind up meeting and falling in love. But instead of being psycho killers, this is a pair of sweet, harmless loonies, who just face a ton of external problems dealing with the world. Raimi is a paranoid and completely delusional poet who covers his apartment in tinfoil to try to fend off his delusions of evil surgeons (mostly played by Bruce Campbell), rappers (played by the legit hip-hop crew Detroit's Most Wanted, who rap aggressively at him in his mind) and nightmarish spiders. He winds up crossing path with the ultra sweet Deborah Foreman, who seems to good to be true except for the fact that she's completely neurotic and possibly cursed after being dumped by her heel of an ex, also played by Bruce Campbell (essentially his Crimewave character reprised). A large part of the fun of this movie is seeing the world through Raimi's eyes, where his wild delusions are as real as anything else, and the lengths he'll ultimately go for a totally deranged romance. It's full of creative shots, like Raimi seeing his couch extend to a crazy length, separating him from Foreman. In other words, it's a charming rom-com where our hero just happens to have to take a baseball bat to fight a giant stop-motion spider that only exists in his mind to get the girl.
Instead, until just this year, our only option in the US or abroad was this DV-R Josh Becker sells to tide fans over while we wait, and wait, and wait. But if Becker had any kind of quality source materials for this film, he hasn't used them here. I mean, just look at the menu to get an idea of how no-frills this DVD is.

All that's finally changed, however, right?  Umbrella Entertainment has finally put Lunatics out as a proper special edition DVD, with commentary by the director and an interview with Bruce Campbell!  Or, at least, that's what was originally listed on their website.  Then they revised the page to say it was barebones and 4:3.  And say what you will about the DV-R's menu, this one doesn't even have a menu at all.  So just what have we got here?
What a great special effect - he has no face! Oh... it's not supposed to be like that?
201? Becker Films DV-R top; 2018 Umbrella Films DVD bottom.
Next you'll tell me that Bruce isn't supposed to be a hologram in this scene...
The Becker disc doesn't even come in a case; you just get a plain paper envelope with the disc inside, which at least has a nice label, I guess. But let's talk quality. It looks like it was recorded off of television onto a VHS tape, and then transferred to digital using a dodgy process with a pull-down issue adding interlace ghosting to some of the soft, murky frames. A "Love Stories" watermark even pops up intermittently throughout the film, showing us that this was taped off of the Encore channel.

So, given that, Umbrella's disc is a substantial improvement.  The image is unfortunately sourced from tape (which explains why they didn't make a blu), but given that, it looks about as good as it can.  It's soft and low on detail, but still substantially clearer and sharper than the DV-R.  The colors are much more accurate without that green haze plaguing the previous version, and the blacks are deeper.  The interlacing is corrected, and while they're both fullscreen, Umbrella's disc adds a few slivers of extra picture.  And of course, there's no ridiculous "Love Stories" watermark.

Umbrella just gives us a basic Dolby 2.0 mix, but it's fine, and clearer than the Becker Films disc. It has no subtitles or any kind of feature, not even the trailer... which Umbrella links on their own site, so why couldn't they at least slap that on here?
 
One small plus side is that Becker signs the discs if you ask him when ordering. So at least the DV-R could be a bit of a collector's item, and since it just came in a paper sleeve, you can just slip it in the Umbrella case.  Because, as disappointing as Umbrella's DVD is, it's certainly rendered the old version obsolete.  And I guess, since we're looking at a video tape source, that's all the rights owner has access to?  Assuming that's the case, this'll be the best we ever get.  So I recommend Umbrella's DVD since it's a movie well worth owning, and the official pressed disc is at least watchable... just so long as you know what to expect in terms of quality.

2 comments:

  1. If anyone is still looking for this on DVD, it has just been released in Australia. Dependinf when you're from you may need a special DVD player to play discs from other countries, but I think computers can play them with the right software.

    https://www.jbhifi.com.au/movies-tv-shows/movies-tv-shows-on-sale/comedy/lunatics-a-love-story/340068/

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    1. Yep! And it's... at least a step in the right direction.

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