Release Date(s)1992 (June 20, 2017)
Studio(s)New Line/Warner Bros./Park Television (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
The Lawnmower Man is a movie that you either like or you don’t, with not much wiggle room in between. Director and screenwriter Brett Leonard (The Dead Pit, Virtuosity) took a Stephen King short story, about a telepathically-operated killer lawnmower, and morphed it into a movie about a mentally-challenged man-child, who becomes smarter through the use of virtual reality to the point of developing telepathic abilities. It would be fair to say that the film was something different when it was released in 1992, and it met with a mixed response from critics. Despite that, it managed to spawn a sequel and a cult following afterwards. What stands out most about The Lawnmower Man is Jeff Fahey’s performance. Pierce Brosnan doesn’t seem to be totally in the movie, nor do many of the other characters, but Fahey is doing some really good work.
When I first saw it on home video, I was a little bit confused. I realized later that I had unknowingly rented the Director’s Cut, which reincorporated many of the movie’s deleted scenes, including a completely different opening. And while it’s true that this version is a more complete story, it does feel its length. Neither that or the Theatrical Cut is totally successful, but the story itself is an original idea, and it made the public more aware of virtual reality at a time when hardly anybody knew much about it. Watching the movie today, it’s fascinating how much faith that New Line Cinema had in it, giving it a big release and signing licenses for video games and merchandise. Nostalgia may be a bigger factor in my enjoyment than I would like to admit, but I still find The Lawnmower Man to be an interesting and thought-provoking film, one worth a bit of modern re-evaluation.
For Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of the film, they’ve done a new 4K scan of the film’s interpositive element. Interestingly, for the Director’s Cut, they’ve married this new scan with footage from the original camera negative. As for the Theatrical Cut, it’s a solid presentation with high levels of grain, which is more prevalent during darker scenes, obviously. Daytime scenes look phenomenal, as fine detail and texturing are abundant. Color reproduction is also strong, with a lot of varied hues, especially during the virtual reality sequences that, surprisingly, look remarkably good in high definition. Skin tones also look quite natural. Black levels aren’t thoroughly deep, but shadow detail is present. Brightness and contrast levels are also satisfactory. No major damage is leftover worth speaking of, and the overall image is quite stable. In the Director’s Cut, there’s an obvious difference in footage between the interpositive and the camera negative. Nearly everything is improved: grain is much more minimal, blacks are deeper, and detail is much higher. However, jump cuts are still present in the footage, but Scream Factory has attempted to smooth them out to some degree. In either case, both are strong presentations.
For both versions of the movie, English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD audio tracks are available. The 5.1 definitely has an advantage over its 2.0 counterpart when it comes to spacing. Dialogue has a lot of presence, particularly when it comes from Jobe in the latter half of the film, but it’s always clear and discernible otherwise. Score has plenty of life to it as well, being given some room to breathe in the surrounding speakers. Sound effects, however, are not always as hard-hitting as they could be. Occasional LFE is present in all respects, but it doesn’t give enough weight to the entire soundtrack, which may be more of an artistic choice rather than a mixing error. The 2.0 track has some of the same qualities, in particular when it comes to panning, but seems more crowded sometimes than necessary. Both are solid tracks, but the 5.1 is more aggressive overall. Optional subtitles are included in English SDH if needed.
The supplements found on this release are quite satisfying, including a few surprises. It’s worth noting that ALL of the previous material from the New Line Platinum Series DVD release from 1997 has been included. On the first disc, which contains the Theatrical Cut, there’s an audio commentary with writer/director Brett Leonard and writer/producer Gimel Everett; the brand new Cybergod: Creating The Lawnmower Man hour-long documentary from the great Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, which is reason enough to pick this release up in my opinion; a set of 12 deleted scenes; the film’s original electronic press kit featuring cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage; a set of edited animated sequences from the film set to music; the censored theatrical trailer; a TV spot; and an Easter Egg, which is a commercial for The Lawnmower Man video game for the SNES. On the second disc, which contains the Director’s Cut, there’s also an audio commentary with Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett; a set of conceptual art and design sketches; a set of behind the scenes and production stills; a storyboard comparison video; and a second Easter Egg, which is a commercial for The Lawnmower Man 1-900 phone contest. Other than the cast biographies from the DVD, nearly everything is here. The only thing missing is the very first theatrical trailer, which mentioned Stephen King by name before he sued to have his name taken off of the movie. Obviously, for legal reasons, that couldn’t be included, but I’m sure if you scour YouTube or have a copy of the original VHS release of Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, you’ll be able to see it.
While much of The Lawnmower Man is severely dated by 90s technology, it’s a film worth rediscovering, even if it doesn’t much resemble its source material. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray rescues it from the hands of Warner Bros and gives it a top-of-the-line release. With both cuts of the movie and a ton of extras, it’s an essential pick-up if you’re a fan of the film.
- Tim Salmons