Amidst the more obviously commercial titles in their repertoire, Scream Factory periodically shows off its “true fan” streak by doing special editions of titles that would never get a second’s notice from their original rights holders. Notable past examples of this tendency include their work on titles like The Island, The Video Dead and Saturn 3. The most recent example of this tendency in action is an unexpectedly lavish blu-ray/DVD combo for Deadly Eyes that gives this killer rat tale the red carpet treatment for the first time.
Things start off nicely with an HD transfer of the title. The blu-ray was viewed for this write-up and the results are likely to stun anyone used to watching the grainy old Warner Brothers VHS of this title: colors are rich and the level of detail is rock-solid. The grain gets a little thick in some of the night photography but that is probably reflects the original photography. The original mono mix is presented in a lossless format for this transfer: the music sometimes distorts a little and you can hear the odd crackle here and there but it sounds good for the most part.
Better yet, Scream Factory has also added a surprising array of extras for this lesser-known cult item. The first is a retrospective featurette entitled “Dogs In Rat Suits” that features interviews with writer/producer Charles Eglee, FX tech Alec Gillis and production designer Nickey Dalton.
Eglee sets the sly, gently irreverent tone for the piece, talking about how he modeled his script on Piranha and describes the oft-comical nature of shooting the rat attack scenes. You’ll also hear about scale sets built for the “rat run” shots, a funny tale from Eglee about Scatman Crothers and a little info on director Robert Clouse, who wrapped himself early one night when he found it too cold! A surprise is Eglee and Dalton revealing how they fell in love working together and built a successful marriage and family together. Everyone reflects fondly on working in the last era when films this wild and technically naive could get made and released by major studios.
Next up is quartet of interviews. The first features actress Lisa Langlois, who reveals how she was intimidated by the talent of costar Lesleh Donaldson but enjoyed getting to work with peers as well as seasoned castmates like Crothers and Cec Linder. She also talks about almost getting cast in The Terminator, her harrowing experiences shooting The Nest and what she improvised in Class Of 1984. Things end on a nice note as she thanks her fans for reawakening her appreciation of her own work.
Donaldson also gets her own interview. She reminisces about the cast, including her friendship with Langlois and her admiration of theater vet Linder, as well as telling tales about shooting the theater rat-attack scene. She also tells a funny story about her skating scene in Curtains, moons over working with Richard Crenna in Stone Cold Dead and reveals what element of the filmmaking obsessed director J. Lee Thompson on Happy Birthday To Me.
Co-star Joseph Kelly also gets his own sitdown, in which he is charmingly humble as he talks about his awkward audition for the film and tells funny tales about being attacked by the rats. Both he and Donaldson also show a nice appreciation for the film’s fans.
The last interview is with Allan Apone, whose company Makeup Effects Labs worked on the film. He talks about the challenges of designing the rat suits for the dogs used in the film: they were primarily Dachshunds and each had to have their own specially-fitted suit. He speaks fondly of Langlois and Crothers – and he also points out the film’s dog cast members were trained for four months by Joe Camp, creator of the Benji movies!
The extras close with a t.v. spot for the film. It plays coy about the fact that film’s monsters are rats, showing only the tails as it artfully cuts around the rats’ appearances in the film. All in all, this is a shockingly nice set for a title most horror fans assumed was consigned to VHS-era oblivion. If you love creature features and/or early ’80s horror, it’s a kitschy treat delivered in high style.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Deadly Eyes, click here.