Brace Yourself For the Dentist 1 & 2

It's a great month for Brian Yuzna fans.  We just had a major new From Beyond upgrade from Vinegar Syndrome, and now we've got all new blu-rays of both Dentist movies from Vestron!  And heck, it was just over a month ago they gave us the blu-ray debuts of his Silent Night, Deadly Night movies, too.  Could this mean Progeny is just around the corner?  Now, these aren't technically The Dentists' HD debuts... there have been German mediabooks and dubious Spanish blus before this (and I wouldn't be surprised if they used the same masters), but The Dentist Collection 2-disc set presents their first official US releases, and Vestron has turned them into proper special editions with a bunch of first-class features.
I hadn't seen The Dentist since it debuted on HBO in 1996, and the sequel since I rented it from Blockbuster in '98.  I've never been super enthusiastic about them, but I remember Corbin Bersen being pretty great in the titular role, and the first film having an entertaining madcap vibe.  And it's a killer premise - who hasn't felt at least slightly terrorized by a trip to the dentist?  Still, I remembered them as largely perfunctory slashers, and I wouldn't have bothered with The Dentist Collection if it wasn't for the extras (if nothing else, the story behind the making of these movies should be interesting) and the great price Vestron sells these at (I got mine on release day for $11.99 at Best Buy).  But having revisited them, and in widescreen for the first time, I have to say I'm quite glad I did.
The original Dentist especially is not just a slasher; it isn't the lower budget Dr. Giggles with dental-specific puns I feared.  For one thing, it's based on a screenplay by Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli.  And instead of a bunch of generic partying teens running afoul of a serial killer, it's a real (demented) character study told from the perspective of a dentist obsessed with eradicating decay... from teeth, from his clothing, from his marriage.  Events pile up and eventually he's left trying to cover up a series of murders he's committed at his dental office, from his patients and staff alike.  It's even more madcap than I remember.  The supporting cast is packed with great character actors like Molly Hagan, Earl Boen and a young Mark Ruffalo.
Not that it doesn't have its flaws.  By the third act, it loses its motivation and stops building to a meaningful climax so much as just adds a random series of extra events.  And there's a whole subplot with Ken Foree as a police detective on Bersen's trail that only serves to pull you away from the drama and make you sit in an empty police procedural.  From the extras, we learn that most of these additions were done in a rewrite by another, and it makes me wish they'd stuck more closely to the original story.  I'm not saying all the changes are bad or that they were completely wrong in their assessment that the original script needed work (I've never read it, after all), but I think they've thrown out at least some of the baby with the bathwater.  Still, forgetting about what could have been and just accepting what we actually got: what we have here is a lot of fun and consistently rewarding little horror flick.
The Dentist 2, though, not so much.  Gordon and Paoli didn't have a hand in this one, and it shows.  It's still not a generic slasher - Yuzna and especially Bernsen bring a lot of great energy to the show.  It's nice that they follow the story of the original enough to bring back a second key character besides just Bersen's.  Clint Howard pops in for a good scene.  But this is basically just a generic thriller with the Dentist IP haphazardly poured on top of it, losing most of the magic of the first film to fit the mold of a hundred other DTV little pot boilers, winding up somewhere in between The Stepfather 2 and 3.  It's not a film I'd buy on its own, but it's great to get it in support of the original feature.
2023 Vestron BD.
In one of the audio commentaries, Yuzna mentions looking at this film in 4k, but I really don't believe that's what this is.  Both Dentist movies seem to be from old high def masters (which, after all, is frequently Vestron's MO).  But, still, for the two Dentist movies in a $12 double-feature, it's fine.  They look reasonably good - The first film is ever so slightly pillarboxed to 1.77:1, and the second is windowboxed to 1.90:1.  Both were shot on 35mm, but grain is merely hinted at, represented more by soft digital noise than actually captured grain.  But the image is clear and generally free of defects.  There's light print damage, mostly on the first film, but nothing distracting.

Both discs present the original 2.0 mix in lossless DTS-HD with English, HoH and Spanish subtitle options.
Before I get into the weeds of the features, let me just warn you that the extras on the first movie's disc spoil the Hell out of Part 2, so watch both movies first before coming back to the goodies.  Seriously, that was pretty careless, and I'm frankly a little disappointed in Mr. Felsher.  But that's really my only criticism, because it's all great stuff.  Both films feature audio commentaries by Yuzna and his effects supervisor who are very open about all the pros and cons of their experiences with these films.  Would you believe Chevy Chase and Bruce Campbell both came very close to landing the role of the dentist?  I'd love to see those movies, although I still wouldn't trade what Bersen gave us for them.

Bersen is also quite forthcoming in his on-camera interview.  He's a great sport and I'm glad Vestron was able to get him to come in for this.  We also get the effects team from the first film in a joint featurette, Dennis Paoli who I always love to hear from, Part 2's Jillian McWhirter and producer Pierre David.  They're all great interviews; don't skip any of 'em.  And we get two more of those composer/ isolated score tracks Vestron has consistently crafted, this time also with DoP Levie Isaacks and editor Chris Roth.  I'm happy to see these tracks branch out into more than just the music.  There are also stills galleries and trailers for each film, and the set comes in a glossy slipcover.
The Dentist Collection started out as something I just picked up because it was cheap.  But having watched it now, I'd recommend it at twice the price.  The first movie in particular is better than I expected/ remembered, and Vestron has done a lot to make this a really satisfying package.

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