In hellish vision of a near future (?) LA, Marty Malt (Judd Nelson) is an incompetent garbage man who moonlights as an even worse comedian (his jokes aren’t funny, and he is half-crippled by stage fright). His only friend is the manipulative Gus (Bill Paxton). When Marty starts to grow a third arm out of his back, he loses his girlfriend (Lara Flynn Boyle) but attracts the attention of sleazy showbiz types Wayne Newton and Rob Lowe.
The film’s influences are pretty apparent. Imagine the love child of Repo Man and How to Get Ahead in Advertising, as midwifed by early John Waters and David Lynch. Heck, the bar where Marty performs, along with its patrons, seem to have been imported from Café Flesh. Such a mixture could well spell cult movie, and something of the kind seems to have happened with The Dark Backward, but the mixture is a little too forced for my liking, and the performances are all pitched at one note (Paxton’s note being almost off the scale). Interestingly bizarre and gross, but somehow too familiar despite its wild stabs at freakish originality.
In his introduction, writer/director Adam Rifkin states that this was a very low priority for release, and that is perhaps reflected in the audio. There’s nothing wrong with it as such, but for all that this is a special edition, there has been no remastering of the stereo into 5.1. That said, the 2.0 is perfectly adequate, and the environmental effects are quite effective (there’s a neat gag early on where a gunshot outside rings out to startling effect while an oblivious Nelson and Boyle have a bedroom conversation).
The image is sharp, and there will be plenty of moments where you almost wish it weren’t, as pores, sweat, and assorted filth is brought to disturbing life. The blacks are excellent, and there are no grain or edge enhancement issues to deal with. The picture does, however, feel a bit murky, though given how dark and bleak the movie is clearly meant to look, this may not actually be a flaw in the transfer.
Rifkin, Nelson and Paxton are joined by producer Brad Wyman on the commentary track. There is plenty of mutual interrupting, but it is fairly informative all the same. Rifkin introduces almost all the other features (his intro for the movie is rather odd and pointless), which include deleted scenes, a gag reel, footage of the 15th anniversary screening Q&A, the black-and-white promos for Cannes (which were not successful in raising money for the production), clips set to the song “Catch My Dreams,” and the cartoons that show up on TV in the film. There most cogent and informative extra is probably the “Blump’s Squeezable Documentary,” which is quite nicely detailed.
I won’t be joining the cult of this movie myself, but for the fans out there, this is a pretty nice service.