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HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER
Blu-ray / DVD. Studiocanal.

Henry Portrait of a Serial KillerI’m sure most of you are familiar with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer by now. This low budget shocker from director John McNaughton is, after all, the stuff of legend – a censorship hot potato that resulted in some of the most infamous cuts ever made to a movie by then-BBFC head James ‘Wackadoodle’ Ferman (the film now thankfully restored to its uncut glory), as well as the film that launched the careers of both director McNaughton and star Michael Rooker and which arguably launched a new style of serial killer movie, replacing the slick glamour of Silence of the Lambs with hard-edged, documentary style realism and brutality... not to mention a slew of true-crime horror movies with blunt, murderer-named titles (Gacy, Kemper, Ed Gein, The Hillside Stranglers, Dahmer, Bundy etc).

Based loosely on the real life story of possible serial killer or possible fantasist Henry lee Lucas, the film packed a real punch when it first appeared – creeping out at film festivals a few years after production – with it’s visceral, devastating violence and lack of comforting resolution.

Some twenty five years after it was made, the film still has quite an impact – even today, the home invasion scene is remarkable in its bleak savagery, and Rooker’s charismatic, but clearly very dangerous Henry is a tour-de-force of barely controlled psychosis, while Tom Towles as sidekick Otis comes close to buffoonish satire but holds back, instead creating a character who might seem an idiot but is in fact even more deranged than Henry.

So, you all know this is a great film, and one you need to own. The question for those of you who already do own it is, does this new blu-ray edition offer a significant upgrade?

Henry: portrait of a Serial KillerI’d say yes – though I haven’t owned a copy of the film since the late 1990’s DVD, so the stuff that is new to me might be old hat to some of you. But this is a disc packed with content. The crown jewel amongst these is a typically excellent and thorough Blue Underground documentary by David Gregory – running 52 minutes, this interviews most of the people involved in the film and offers an exhaustive look at the making and release of the film.

Less interesting is a throwaway British TV documentary about the real Henry Lee Lucas, which is short on facts and badly dated (Lucas had his death sentence quashed and died of natural causes in prison, with many of his confessions discredited). There are also a couple of video interviews with McNaughton, and a discussion / commentary with McNaughton and critic Nigel Floyd about the scenes cut from the original UK release (Floyd doesn’t seem to understand who the American censors work, but otherwise this is pretty interesting stuff), as well as deleted scenes, again with commentary. Add in storyboards and a stills gallery, and this is almost the definitive version; the only thing that stops it from being so is the absence of the commentary track from earlier additions.

Naturally, this 16mm production still looks fairly grainy on blu-ray – that’s part of the film’s look and if that bothers you, you’re really watching films for the wrong reason. This edition also includes a bare-bones DVD version of the film.

An excellent packaging of an essential film, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a film everyone needs to see, and this new version is a must-have purchase.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

BUY IT NOW (USA)

 

 

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