PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER
/ DVD. Studiocanal.
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,
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?
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
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.
IT NOW (UK)
IT NOW (USA)