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Brain Damage

Brain Damage

Director: Frank Henenlotter

Cast: Rick Herbst, Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry


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Long sought after by fans in its elusive, uncut form, Frank Henenlotter's repulsive and hilarious meditation on the nature of addiction finally finds its way to DVD courtesy of the fine folks at Synapse Films. Sporting a newly mastered anamorphic transfer and presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the film has never looked this good on home video. A dark


Long sought after by fans in its elusive, uncut form, Frank Henenlotter's repulsive and hilarious meditation on the nature of addiction finally finds its way to DVD courtesy of the fine folks at Synapse Films. Sporting a newly mastered anamorphic transfer and presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the film has never looked this good on home video. A dark film accented with a rich blue hue for most of its running time, Synapse has done a commendable job in presenting a crisp and clean image that maintains solid blacks and shows little if no signs of digital artifacting. The pristine print offers great contrast and even skin tones, highlighting the gory mayhem and the protagonist's decent into pasty-skinned addiction to startling effect. Likewise, the newly mastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack brings the film to life as few have experienced it. The audio track is extremely clean as well; lending directional effects a discomforting dynamic and perfectly accenting Elmer the parasite's unique voice and sound effects. Purists will be happy to learn that an (obviously) less dynamic Mono soundtrack has also been included. As well as the film is presented, however, it's the extra features that truly make this release a must have for Henenlotter fans. An audio commentary track featuring Henenlotter and Brain Damage novelist Bob Martin offers a lively account of everything from the director's struggles with the contemptuous MPAA to revealing secrets concerning special effects; all the while peppered with interesting trivia tidbits (Elmer the parasite's voice, for example, was provided by noted television horror host John Zacherle, who refused billing for his fantastic voice-over work). An isolated musical score offers viewers the chance to enjoy Gus Russo and Clutch Reiser's score without interruption, and insightful liner notes delve deeper into the film's sometimes blatant symbolism and anti-drug sentiments. An original theatrical trailer tops things off nicely, making this disc a must have for those who have yet to experience the gory mayhem of one of Henenlotter's crowning celluloid achievements.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Cult filmmaker Frank Henenlotter didn’t make as much of a splash in 1988 with this comedic horror movie as he did in 1982 with his debut, Basket Case, but Brain Damage still delivers laughs and chills in equal measure. Rick Herbst portrays Brian, an unfortunate young man who falls victim to "Elmer," an eel-like parasite that controls the lad’s mind by injecting it with an addictive, hallucinogenic liquid. Elmer (whose voice is supplied by legendary deejay and horror-show host John Zacherle) needs human brains for sustenance and forces Brian to provide them. Henenlotter’s twisted sense of humor makes Brain Damage a gore hound’s delight; in one of the grisly comic set pieces, Herbst’s character, while undergoing withdrawal, imagines that he’s pulling his own brains out through his ear in a long, bloody string. We won’t even try to describe a hilariously repulsive sequence in which Elmer interrupts a prostitute in flagrante delicto. The director employs a wide variety of psychedelic effects -- reverse-polarity images, quick cuts of rippling blue water, flashing lights, droning music -- to make his film a properly hallucinatory experience, and he succeeds beyond any viewer’s wildest expectations. The actors are all unknowns, the production values are perfunctory at best, and the special effects -- while graphic -- wouldn’t fool a 12-year-old. But Brain Damage is great fun, a wild ride through the imagination of one of the most cheerfully demented directors ever to cry, "Action!"
All Movie Guide - Jeremy Wheeler
Frank Henenlotter's follow-up to his 1982 classic Basket Case is another bizarre horror tale that pushes the comedic envelope while dishing out enough hyper-hallucinogenic imagery to merit its own cult status among late-'80s blood-spattered cinema. With a crooning, homicidal parasite and a drug-addled average Joe as its leads, Brain Damage does more than hearken back to the director's previous film, though this one's a different animal altogether. The film's balance of humor and gore are unique, as is the protagonist's addiction complex, which adds a disturbing element into the otherwise gruesome and often hilarious story. An additional piece to the film's puzzle is New York City itself. With many nods to the sleaze that once plagued the Big Apple, Brain Damage becomes a piece of movie history itself as the seedy world of pushers, punkers, and prostitutes are interweaved into the film's plot with a relevancy quite alien to how things have progressed in the city since. Severely cut in its original release, the movie has enjoyed a second life in the world of unrated DVDs, which has reinstated two scenes of extra gore that compliment and complete this weird little low-budget slice of phantasmagoria.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Synapse Films
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Sales rank:

Special Features

New 2003 19 x 9 anamorphic transfer; New Dolby Digital 5.1 track remixed and designed for home video environments; Liner notes; Animated menus; Original mono soundtrack; Audio commentary by director Frank Henenlotter and Brain Damage novelist Bob Martin; Isolated music score; Original theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Rick Herbst Brian
Gordon MacDonald Mike
Jennifer Lowry Barbara
Theo Barnes Morris Ackerman
Lucille Saint-Peter Martha Ackerman
Vicki Darnell Blonde in Hell Club
Kevin Van Hentenryck Man with Basket
Michael Bishop Toilet Victim
Beverly Downer Neighbor
Angel Luis Figueroa Junkie
Joe Gonzales Guy in Shower
Don Henenlotter Policeman
Kenneth Packard Subway Rider
Artemis Pizzaro Subway Rider
John Reichert Policeman
Bradlee Rhodes Night Watchman
Ari M. Roussimoff Biker
Michael Rubenstein Bum in Alley
Slam Wedgehouse Mohawked Punk

Technical Credits
Frank Henenlotter Director,Editor,Screenwriter
Elmer Albrecht Songwriter
Gabe Bartalos Makeup,Makeup Special Effects
Charles C. Bennett Associate Producer,Set Decoration/Design
Andre Blay Executive Producer
B.B. Burton Songwriter
John F. Calder Songwriter
B. Elsey Songwriter
Daniel Frye Makeup
Sammy Gallop Songwriter
J.F. Garnett Songwriter
Edgar Ievins Producer
Dick Jurgens Songwriter
James Y. Kwei Editor
Gregory Lamberson Asst. Director
Al Magliochetti Special Effects
Clutch Reiser Score Composer
Ivy Rosovsky Art Director
Gus Russo Score Composer
Ray Sundlin Associate Producer
Bruce Torbet Cinematographer
Ed Walloga Production Manager

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Titles [2:45]
2. Parasite Lost [4:46]
3. Hallucination [4:38]
4. Parasite [4:55]
5. Auto Graveyard [7:50]
6. Dinner [4:30]
7. Hell [5:34]
8. Blow Job [3:14]
9. Origins [4:12]
10. Leaving [1:25]
11. Sunshine Hotel [3:56]
12. Addiction [3:20]
13. Elmer's Tune [1:45]
14. Locked [2:21]
15. Bathroom of Blood [4:22]
16. Brotherly Love [6:04]
17. Hungry Again [1:45]
18. Subway [5:48]
19. Gun Crazy [4:01]
20. Overdose [2:50]
21. Headache [1:40]
22. End Titles [3:44]


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