Writer-producer-director Larry Cohen’s 1985 satirical horror picture about a killer dessert is about to get a sparking Blu-ray release courtesy of Arrow Films. I’ve seen most of Cohen’s output of quirky, never-less-than-interesting movies over the years, but somehow this one had passed me by & I’m delighted to report that it was a pleasure to sample THE STUFF for the very first time.
Gooey white stuff comes bubbling out of the ground. It tastes delicious! Before you know it the shops are full of brightly coloured tubs of the stuff, the airwaves are saturated with gloriously 1980s-style adverts (leg warmers and lycra included), media personalties are queueing up to promote it, and in one small town a boy witnesses it crawling across the fridge on its own.
Ex FBI agent David 'Mo' Rutherford (Michael Moriarty) is hired by a rival dessert company to discover what The Stuff is made of. His subsequent investigations allow Cohen to deliver a number of delicious satirical barbs about consumerism, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and our own attitudes to what occupies our supermarket shelves. The script is deliciously crazy, veering from social commentary to outrageous Stuff effects and back again, in a way that makes you have no idea where the film is going next. Everyone seems to be happy to be along for the ride, though, and Cohen gets a fine consistence of tone from an acting ensemble that includes, as well as Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garret Morris (as Chocolate Chip Charlie) and Paul Sorvino as memorably mad Colonel Malcolm Grommet Spears
Apparently inspired, at least in part, by Tofu (“What the hell is it anyway”? I remember Cohen saying in a Fangoria interview at the time of the film's original release), the years have been very kind indeed to THE STUFF. Whereas a lot of 1980s horror product feels rather dated now, if anything Cohen’s diatribe against consumer mentality feels more relevant than ever. The special effects are of the rubber and miniatures variety, with fine use being made of Jim Doyle’s revolving room from Wes Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
Arrow’s presentation of Larry Cohen’s THE STUFF on Blu-ray is their usual excellent job. There’s a good amount of grain in the image but nothing more than you would expect from a film of this age. Extras include Darren Lynn Bousman’s Trailers From Hell piece about the film, including his commentary over the trailer itself, which is also available to watch without the commentary track. Best of all is an excellent documentary, 'Can't Get Enough of The Stuff', featuring Cohen, Andrea Marcovicci, FX expert Steve Neill and others talking about their experiences putting THE STUFF together. It runs for nearly an hour and is never less than engaging. Another excellent choice by Arrow Films to add to their ever-expanding top quality range of cult movie releases.
Arrow Films are releasing Larry Cohen's THE STUFF on dual format DVD & Blu-ray on 10th March 2014