Friday 23 February 2024

Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981)

Who would ever have thought it? One of the most infamous (for a number of reasons which are all gone into in the copious extras on this disc) of the video nasties gets a UK two disc dual format UHD and Blu-ray release from Severin Films.

Tatum (Baird Stafford) is released from his very low budget-looking psychiatric institution having undergone a revolutionary new therapy that we know is bound not to work. Still plagued by nightmares (aha!) he sets off to find his ex-wife Susan (Sharon Smith), bumping people off along the way. At the climax, we see via a blood-drenched flashback, the reason for Tatum's original incarceration.

Adopting an almost Pete Walker-style disdain for the ineffectiveness of psychiatric treatment that kind of makes NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN the sleazy grindhouse FRIGHTMARE of the 1980s, Romano Scavolini's film also goes so far as to suggest that the causative trauma of Tatum's psychosis may be repeated by his own demise. That's not the reason the film got into trouble, though. In the US Tom Savini's name featured prominently on the press materials and in the credits despite him have little to do with the film. In the UK the film was released by World of Video 2000 uncut despite BBFC instructions to the commentary, and they might have got away with it were it not for their accompanying round British 'Guess the weight of a human brain in a jar' competition used to publicise the film. 

Extras (which are on the Blu-ray) kick off with the superb 71 minute documentary 'Damaged' about the life and career of NIGHTMARE's original UK VHS distributor David Hamilton Grant. An infamous character whose life story would likely make a film even more controversial and 'likely to cause offence' than the film itself, this is probably the final word on the man unless he ever surfaces (or is found) to offer comment. Excellent stuff and, if you have any interest in the history of British exploitation cinema of the 1970s and 1980s, this alone is worth the price of the disc.

40 minutes of cast and crew interviews include star Baird Stafford, Simon Nuchtern (production supervisor), Ed French and Cleve Hall (makeup), and Arthur Schweitzer (head of 21st Century Distribution). Writer-Director Romano Scavolini talks for a whopping 71 minutes about his career and the film, while Tom Savini is interviewed to iron out the controversy concerning his alleged participation in the film (his credit is still present on the print presented here). There are also deleted scenes (only a minute or so), a still gallery, trailer, and two commentary tracks - one with Stafford and Cleve Hall, the other with producer William Paul. 

Romano Scavolini's NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN is out in a double-disc UHD and Blu-ray set and also as a single Blu-ray from Severin Films in the UK on Monday 26th February 2024

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