Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Blu-ray Review: THE GUYVER

 by Anthony King

Part Human. Part Alien. Pure Fun.

There's a moment in the trailer to The Guyver (1991) where a young man shouts “I am The Guyver!” It immediately reminded me of a certain half-naked blonde cartoon man shouting “I have the power!” If that were the first thing I saw about The Guyver, I may not have given it a chance. Luckily I went in almost blind, knowing next to nothing other than the picture on the slipcover of the new Unearthed Films 4K Blu-ray with its tagline, “Part Human. Part Alien. Pure Superpower.” Aliens and superpowers; two things I've developed allergies for over the years. Dutifully, though, I watched the disc, going in with an open mind knowing that I would have to (get to) review it. To my surprise (and my family's), we watched an early '90s cheese fest that featured some of the best creature effects and rubber suits I'd ever seen. On top of that, The Guyver turned out to be a ton of fun!
The film opens with an unnecessary crawl (with narration, too!) explaining what we're about to watch. Dr. Tetsu Segawa has stolen something very important and he's on the run from Chronos Corporation and the henchmen sent after him. Ending up in a dry portion of the Los Angeles River, the henchmen, consisting of Lisker (Michael Berryman), Striker (Jimmie Walker), and Weber (Spice Williams), catch up to Dr. Segawa. Lisker approaches Segawa and both men transform into creatures known as Zoanoids. Segawa is murdered but not before stashing the stolen item somewhere else. Sean Barker (Jack Armstrong) finds somewhere else and picks up the mysterious case. Barker is then confronted by a back alley gang, accidentally falls onto the item in the case which attaches itself to his head and then transforms him into an alien cyborg with super fighting powers. Meanwhile, CIA Agent Max Reed (Mark Hamill) has been following Chronos Corporation, its leader Fulton Balcus (David Gale), and Segawa. After the murder Reed goes to question Segawa's daughter – and Barker's girlfriend – Mizky, and asks if she knows what her father stole. The Chronos baddies kidnap Mizky (the first of many), Barker embraces his newfound ability, and the battle between good and evil begins.

The first time on disc, The Guyver was originally intended to be released theatrically, but after the film was picked up by New Line for distribution, it was heavily edited by the studio before being dumped on VHS. The Guyver is not a “good” movie, per se. What it is, though, is a marvel of special makeup effects. The film is co-directed by two men who came up in the makeup world. Steve Wang had worked on Rick Baker's crew on films like Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Stan Winston's crew on films like Predator (1987) and The Monster Squad (1987), and Ted Rae's crew on A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989). Screaming Mad George originally came stateside to work on Baker's crew but ended up working with Steve Johnson instead. Wang and George met for the first time on the production of Predator. In 1989 Wang made a movie called Kung Fu Rascals. It didn't get picked up until after The Guyver was released, but the film essentially became Wang's directorial reel.
Based on a manga called Bio Booster Armor Guyver written by Yoshiki Takaya, toy company Bandai approached George about doing the effects on a film version. George agreed, but only if he could direct. He then gathered Brian Yuzna, with whom he had worked on Society (1989), and fellow SFX artist Wang. Jon Purdy wrote the screenplay and George and Wang agreed to co-direct. The SFX masters brought along colleagues from different shops they'd worked in including Johnnie Saiko, Evil Ted Smith, Doug and Brian Simpson, and Michael Deak to work on the movie in front of and behind the camera. With so many SFX gurus on set, it's no wonder The Guyver stands above most movies when it comes to the makeup effects.
From VHS to 4K! Presented for the first time in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and cut as the directors originally intended, Unearthed Films' limited, three-disc special edition of The Guyver is a marvel. Disc one contains the film in 4K Ultra HD and two brand new commentaries. The first features the co-directors and is moderated by author Dom O'Brien. Wang does most of the talking, as he seems to remember more of the production than George. O'Brien does a fantastic job at keeping the conversation rolling, asking pertinent questions and leading the chat. It's almost immediately apparent that the filmmakers are thrilled to finally get their film back into the world as it should be seen. They're obviously proud of the art they made and the joy to be speaking for a couple hours comes through in their voices. The second commentary features SFX artists Evil Ted Smith and Wyatt Weed, both of whom appeared in the movie and worked behind the scenes. If you've seen movies like Nightmare Factory (2011) or listened to SFX artists talk with one another, you know exactly what you're in for. Nerding out doesn't do it justice. Smith and Weed are absolutely giddy during their film-long conversation. They get into the minutiae of working on the production, they share stories concerning the film and not related to what we're watching at all. It's two movie/makeup geeks talking about what it used to be like in the late 80s and early 90s, and it's a pleasure to listen to them. Two fabulous commentary tracks.

Disc two is a standard Blu-ray with both commentaries and interviews with Yuzna and George. Yuzna is someone who always seems grateful to have worked in the movie business, and he's no different here. He spends the first 10 minutes talking about how he got into the business, and the next 30 minutes getting into the details of how The Guyver was made. Like Wang and George, you can tell Yuzna is thrilled that this film is getting a proper release. George's interview, conducted by O'Brien, is more of the same, which is to say we get to spend an hour listening to incredible stories from a brilliantly charming human. George's laughter is contagious, and my only gripe is that I wish the interview was two hours instead of one. Also included on disc two are suit tests with commentaries by Wang and George, and Smith and Weed; outtakes with a commentary by the co-directors; and a gag reel with a commentary by the co-directors. All three featurettes are nice to have with extra conversations with people who love their jobs.

Disc three is a CD of Matthew Morse's score to The Guyver. Morse's score is jovial, always moving, and has that specific early-'90s sound. As is said far too often any more, I can't believe this movie got this release. With SFX work on display from the masters of their craft at the time, though, The Guyver deserves to be seen in 4K.

Bonus features
Limited Collector's Edition Slipcover
Collector's booklet featuring an essay by Dom O'Brien, author of Budget Biomorphs: The Making of The Guyver Films, and liner notes by composer Matthew Morse

DISC ONE – FEATURE (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)
NEW 4K restoration of the original R-rated 35mm camera negative by Unearthed Films presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in HDR
NEW Commentary with co-directors Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang, moderated by Dom O’Brien
NEW Commentary with actor/SFX artist Evil Ted Smith and creature shop lab tech/miniature supervisor Wyatt Weed

NEW Commentary with co-directors Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang, moderated Dom O'Brien
NEW Commentary with actor/SFX artist Evil Ted Smith and creature shop lab tech / miniature supervisor Wyatt Weed
NEW Interview with producer Brian Yuzna
NEW Interview with co-director Screaming Mad George
NEW Suit Tests with commentary by co-directors Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang
NEW Suit Tests with commentary by actor/SFX artist Evil Ted Smith and creature shop lab tech/miniature supervisor Wyatt Weed
NEW Outtakes with commentary by co-directors Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang
NEW Gag Reel with commentary by co-directors Screaming Mad George and Steve Wang
NEW Production Gallery
NEW Promotional Gallery
Alternate Title Sequence

Music composed by Matthew Morse

Blu-ray release date: June 25, 2024
93 minutes / 1991
1.85:1 (2160p)
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)
Region: 4K – All Region; 2K – Region A

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