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Drop Dead Fred (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Drop Dead Fred (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: February 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Ate de Jong
    Cast: Phoebe Cates, Rik Mayall, Marsha Mason, Tim Matheson, Carrie Fisher
    Year: 1991
    Purchase From Amazon

    Drop Dead Fred – Movie Review:

    Directed by Ate de Jong, 1991’s Drop Dead Fred introduces us to Elizabeth, who, in an early scene, is dumped by her philandering husband, Charles (Tim Matheson), who is tired of her and much more interested in tall, blonde Annabella (an uncredited Bridget Fonda). On top of that, when her car gets stolen and she’s late for work, she winds up losing her job. Without much in the way of prospects, her mother, Polly (Marsha Mason), talks her into moving back home.

    Late one night, while lying there restless in bed, Elizabeth finds an old Jack-In-The-Box toy from her younger days and, when she opens it, it unleashes Drop Dead Fred (Rik Mayall), the imaginary friend that Elizabeth had as a kid who, more often than not, got her into a whole lot of trouble. And of course, Fred has not changed his mischievous ways one bit, which makes things tricky when Elizabeth decides she wants to get her life back on track and maybe even reunite with Charles. Along the way, she and Fred, who nobody else can see, winds up causing problems for Elizabeth’s friend Janie (Carrie Fisher) at home and at work and for a lunch date that Elizabeth goes on with childhood friend Mickey Bunce (Ron Edlard).

    When her mom brings Elizabeth to a psychiatrist that specializes in treating children with imaginary friends, he prescribes her some medicine that might just help her get rid of Fred once and for all – but is that really what she wants?

    A deliberately obnoxious movie, Drop Dead Fred’s charms, and they are there, rests almost entirely on the shoulders of the extremely likeable Phoebe Cates and the utterly ridiculous Rik Mayall, and more so on Mayall than Cates. If you don’t find his particular brand of over the top physical comedy amusing, then the odds are pretty good that you’re just not going to like this movie. At all. It’s likely Mayall’s personae in the film that wound up seeing the movie completely trashed by critics upon its initial release, and that same personae that has earned the film a legitimately loyal cult following in the years since.

    There is a weird, sort of wild-eyed innocence to the whole thing. We understand why, when Elizabeth is confronted head-on with a lot of the hardships of adulthood and the real world, that she might somehow bring Fred back into her life. Cates plays her part very well, her Elizabeth is a bit timid and maybe a bit naïve but she’s also a genuinely nice person. She looks the part, she’s just ‘cute’ in the film, and you can’t help but like her. Mayall, on the other hand, is completely nuts, running about making mud pies, wiping snot on people, jumping on the furniture and trashing things on a near-constant basis. They complement one another well here, and they make a great team. Supporting work is solid enough. Carrie Fisher is pretty fun in her small but noteworthy part and Tim Matheson plays Elizabeth’s slimy husband really well. Ron Edlard is well-cast as ‘nice guy’ Mickey and Marsha Mason does a fine job as Elizabeth’s extremely overbearing mother.

    The story is a bit on the predictable side and you won’t have any trouble figuring out where it’s all headed, but Drop Dead Fred has enough quirky weirdness to it to stand out from the pack of family-friendly/kids movies as its own screwy thing and, if nothing else, it’s pretty entertaining and… even a little bit heartwarming.

    Drop Dead Fred – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Drop Dead Fred to Region A Blu-ray “newly scanned & restored in 2K from its 35mm interpositive.” Framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, picture quality on this release is quite nice. Colors are bright and bold without looking boosted or oversaturated. Black levels are strong and there’s frequently some impressive detail on display. Skin tones look good and the image is very clean, showing pretty much zero print damage while retaining the expected amount of natural film grain.

    The only audio option for the feature is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo but it’s a good one. Clarity is solid and there’s nice depth to the mix. The track is clean, clear and balanced and the effects and score both sound really strong.

    Extra features start off with a commentary track with director Ate de Jong who speaks quite candidly about seeing the movie for the first time in fifteen years before then going on to talk about the symbolism of the fish in the opening scene, the theme of loneliness that runs throughout the movie, working with Ashley Peldon in the scenes where Elizabeth is still a young girl, the design elements of the opening credits, what it was like directing the different cast members, why the film was shot in Minneapolis, why tracking shots were employed in specific scenes, where New Line had a problem with some of the film's crasser elements (the dog poo scene, being one!) and where they made cuts to the film, what Mayall and Cates were like to direct and work with, when people from the crew were used to cameo in the picture, where stunt doubles had to be used for Mayall, getting Carrie Fisher to 'behave like an idiot in a good way,' how there is more to the film than just the comedic elements, creating some of the effects without CGI, the intricacies of pumping corn flakes out of an actor and much more. This is a very good track, interesting and informative and sometimes quite funny and de Jong has a great memory and is a good storyteller.

    A Conversation With Director Ate de Jong And Producer Paul Webster is just what it sounds lik,e a thirty-three minute talk with the two men who share where some of the ideas for the film came from, how it was based on a short story, getting Mayall on board during the writing process, how de Jong came on board to direct and how it was a break for him, work that was done on the script, the importance of Mayall's work on The Young Ones and his massive popularity in the UK, what most of the cast members were like to work with, respecting Mayall's input on the film and how there were never any conflicts on set with any of the cast members, choosing Cates for the lead, getting Carrie Fisher, Tim Matheson and Marsha Mason to work in the film and the different approaches they had to the film, why the mud pies bubble in the film, how 'mega-bitch' turned into 'mega-beast' and other cuts/changes that New Line required for the film, some of the themes that the movie deals with on a serious under-layer and lots more. Make sure you watch this one all the way to the end.

    Imaginary Friends is a featurette with co-writers & executive producers Anthony Fingleton and Carlos Davis that runs for twenty-seven minutes. In this piece, they go over the infleunce of Fingleton's daughter's imaginary friend on the script and the story, how the orignial imaginary friend in the story was a woman named Sarah, how the story and script evolved into what Drop Dead Fred is, getting Rik Mayall on board after he turned down the lead in Willow, what was involved in the writing process and how much fun the script was to write, where the title came from, their thoughts on the casting of the film, the importance of 'letting the pony run wild' when it came to working with Mayall, where Cates decided to change a few lines to make the 'goodbye' scene more effective, how nice a shoot it was and how smooth it all went, their thoughts on how their story wound up on the screen, trying to get a sequel made at one point and not being able to get it off the ground for various reasons, discussions for a remake starring Russell Brand, how they feel the film's big cult following, Cates' decision to completely leave the acting business entirely, how Mayall's death affected them and how they feel about the movie these many years later.

    In The Mega Beast Speaks Out actress Marsha Mason talks on camera for eleven minutes where she covers her thoughts on the script, getting to play a different character than the type she'd played in the past, getting along with pretty much everyone on the cast and crew, her appreciation for Ate de Jong's work, running into people who have told her that the film is their favorite movie, what it takes to get into character and more.

    Drop Dead Look is an interview with director of photography Peter Deming that runs for just under eleven minutes. This piece covers being brought on board after production had started, some of the difficulties that stemmed from being brought in late, trying to work with de Jong to get his vision up on the screen and what he was like to work with, the importance of Mayall's performance in the movie and how he tried to capture that with the visuals, what it was like seeing the film with an audience for the first time and the film's cult following.

    Mischief Makers is a featurette with VFX producer Peter Kuran, VFX supervisor Kevin Kutchaver, stop-motion animator Doug Beswick, special photographic effects artist Paul Gentry and special makeup effects artist Christopher Johnson. Over the span of twenty-six minutes, this piece goes over what was involved in creating the effects set pieces featured in the picture, how each interviewee went about accomplishing what they needed to accomplish, how they all got along on set, how they got into filmmaking in the first place, shooting on location in Minneapolis, the film's modest budget, having to sculpt items in clay before then doing latex and rubber creations, doing everything practical without any digital effects, working with Mayall on some of the film's more over-the-top set pieces and more memories from the shoot.

    Actor Tim Matheson is up next in I’m Your Fella, Annabella. For ten minutes, Matheson talks about his initial thoughts on the script and on his character, the short window of time that he worked on the film, getting along really well with all of his co-stars and the crew, attending a few Twins games while in Minnesota, thoughts on playing the bad guy, how Mayall was a joy to work with, interacting with fans of the film and how he feels about the movie overall.

    Memories of Snot Face is an eight minute interview with actress Ashley Peldon via Zoom during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic where she talks about playing the young version of Elizabeth in the film, how she started acting at three years old, showing her kids the film for the first time, interacting with Mayall on the set and how it was tough not to laugh at him sometimes when the cameras were rolling, how she had a lot of fun just being a kid in the movie, introducing Mayall to sour cream when they had Mexican food one day, getting help from Cates on a key scene and how since getting out of acting she's become a practicing psychotherapist.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc are a twenty-seven minutes of tape-sourced deleted scenes (including a some more with Mickey's daughter, footage of Janie's boat sinking, a fun bit where Lizzie and Fred go to the land of imaginary friends and an alternate ending!), the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    As far as the packaging for this release goes, Vinegar Syndrome provides an eight-page color insert booklet that contains a text interview with Phoebe Cates as well as some reversible cover sleeve artwork and, for the first five thousand copies purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome’s website, a limited edition embossed slipcover designed by Robert Sammelin.

    Drop Dead Fred - The Final Word:

    Drop Dead Fred is definitely not going to be for everyone but if you can appreciate a mix of over the top shenanigans and elements of sappy, family drama then it just might work for you. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray gives the film a very nice presentation on a disc loaded with extra features, making this one that the film’s cult following will definitely want to snap up.

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