Shrunken Heads

Discussion in 'Laserdisc' started by Dave, Oct 6, 2009.

  1. Dave

    Dave Pimp

    Sep 28, 1999
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    Boston, MA

    [​IMG] Reviewer: Dave
    Review Date: October 6, 2009

    Released by: Full Moon | Paramount
    Release date: November 30, 1994
    Full Frame 1.33:1

    Here it is 2009 and I'm writing a laserdisc review. This won't surprise most that know me - whether in 'real life' or simply on this site. I'm a laserdisc addict and proud of it. They are still fun and while the format may be close to 10 years in its grave, it aint truly dead until you stop spinning the discs!

    While many widescreen releases don't hold up too well on the high def TVs of today, those with the full frame ratio share no such fate. Since most Full Moon movies were filmed full frame, the lasers, while dated, hold up nicely. This is even more the case when you consider many of Full Moon's movies back from the Paramount era have yet to receive a legitimate DVD release. While Full Moon has released many Paramount era movies onto DVD, often labeling them as imports to avoid any rights issues, these are all simply VHS or LD transfers. Full Moon has yet to remaster anything for release onto DVD. Some of their newer pictures - post Paramount - have received legitimate DVDs that looks fairly decent. The older Paramount era ones, however, have yet to receive proper treatment from Full Moon or Paramount. I can appreciate Full Moon releasing something for the fans, and I would rather see Full Moon get the cash than a bootlegger, yet as a big fan of their movies, I can't help but feel cheated. Resolve the issues with Paramount, find some masters, do some restoration, and give us some modern day transfers on DVD and blu-ray.

    With no noteworthy DVD releases to purchase, I continue my quest to obtain all of Full Moon's laserdisc releases that Paramount distributed back in the 1990s. The one being reviewed here is Shrunken Heads, their 1994 release that mixes doses of comedy and horror. It's a zanny tale featuring, well, shrunken heads, a voodoo priest, and zombies. Did I mention it has shrunken heads in it? Sounds good! Lets have a look.

    The Story

    inline Image For three young teens - Tommy (Aeryk Egan), Bill (Bo Sharon), and Freddie (Darris Love) - life in the big city is tough. The local gang, led by a sleaze named Vinnie (A.J. Damato), is constantly bullying the boys. On top of that, Tommy is in love with Sally (Rebecca Herbst), Vinnie's girl. Their only refuge is the local newspaper stand, their source for comic books, that is run by Mr. Sumatra (Julius Harris). Sally finally gets fed up with Vinnie's antics and calls it quits on their relationship. She heads to Tommy's place and the two happily profess their love for one another.

    inline Image Tommy decides it's time for him and his friends to stand up to Vinnie's gang. They devise a plan to videotape Vinnie and crew stripping parts from a car. When the gang is confronted by the police, Tommy and crew show up with the evidence to put the boys away. Vinnie's boss and the city's crimelord, Big Moe (Meg Foster), isn't too happy with the boys and their meddling. Moe springs the gang from jail and has them bring the three boys to her headquarters. The three are tied up and left in a storeroom. Tommy manages to get loose after a few minutes. Determined to stand up for the little guy, Tommy and his friends escape and take Moe's number slips with them. Without the slips, Moe will have to pay off all bets - it will ruin her. She sends Vinnie and the gang after the boys with instructions to get the slips back at all costs. Vinnie tracks down the three boys and they are gunned down in cold blood.

    inline Image Mr. Sumatra shows up at the funeral home that night and hacks off the boys' heads. He dumps the heads into a cauldron and begins mixing up a brew of shrunken heads. Using an ancient voodoo ritual, Mr. Sumatra resurrects the boys and instills magical powers into the three shrunken heads. He spends the next year teaching the boys how to master their powers, including flight, so they can enact revenge against Vinnie and Big Moe. Over that year the boys master their abilities but in turn start to lose the bits of humanity they had left. Tommy is still drawn to Sally and finally confronts her when she goes to visit his grave at the one year anniversary of his death. Sally shows up at Mr. Sumatra's doorstep and is soon onboard with the revenge plans. The stage is set and so begins some good old fashioned voodoo themed revenge featuring zombies and shrunken heads.

    inline Image If Troll 2 gets so much love here on the site, where is all the love for Shrunken Heads? The movie has such a bizarre premise yet there's much fun to be had here. Charles Band and Full Moon were in full form with Shrunken Heads. It is clearly one of their biggest budget movies and as such, features some admirable special effects for a small studio feature, including some great miniatures of the city. Don't misunderstand, though. The effects of the shrunken heads in motion are lackluster and dated by today's standards. But for a small studio like Full Moon, they do the job. The score was done by Danny Elman and really helps set the voodoo/fantasy tone. The movie is set in modern day but with a nod to the 50s from the gang and their getup. The whole voodoo premise is silly, sure, but is there really any other way to work a story with shrunken heads?

    inline Image Julius Harris is perfect as voodoo priest Mr. Sumatra. His performance is played with complete seriousness, which only adds to the fun. Meg Foster as Big Moe is a bit of a head scratcher. Her performance is fine but I couldn't really figure out if she was supposed to be some sort of butch lesbian or was simply portraying a man. Strange. The actors playing Tommy and crew do an admirable job considering the parts they are playing. Rebecca Herbst is easy on the eyes and dos well with the role of Sally.

    The dark and twisted absurdity of Shrunken Heads is where the fun lies. Watching the heads fly about and enact their revenge is a blast. You can't help but scratch your head, yet chuckle at the same time. Easily the best scene is when Tommy, in shrunken head form, asks for a last embrace with Sally and then proceeds to fly up her shirt and nuzzle against her breasts. It happens again, so no worries if you miss it the first time around. Good stuff.

    Shrunken Heads may be a bad movie, but unlike Troll 2, there's at least some enjoyment to be had here. It's a fun ride and one that classic Full Moon fans are sure to cherish.

    Image Quality

    inline Image This laserdisc was released back in 1994 by Paramount Entertainment. It's identical to the VHS, of course, with the added advantage of a bit more resolution. Like most Full Moon releases, it is full frame. Colors are washed out but otherwise I have few complaints. There are a few film scratches present but otherwise it's adequate considering the era it was released. Certainly there's some improvement to be had here. Lets see a DVD release (a real one; not a port from the VHS/LD) with an improved transfer and some increased resolution. Until then this laserdisc holds the crown for legitimate releases.


    A Stereo track is include but it's decent enough but there's no noticeable channel separation. The score sounds great, however, and dialogue is clear throughout.

    Supplemental Material

    I have always loved the Video Zones that Full Moon used to included on all of their releases. This one is no exception. There is lots of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with various cast and crew. I particularly enjoyed the discussion on the effects and some of the challenges they faced, along with some detail on the city miniatures. Also included are some theatrical trailers and a spotlight segment on Peter David, "writer of stuff", including a few Full Moon movies.

    Final Thoughts

    Give the movie a try at least. Many are bound to hate it but those who hold Troll 2 in high regards may just find a new diamond for their bad movie collection. Full Moon needs to step up and start showing some love and respect to some of their classic catalog. Until then, this laserdisc is where it's at.


    [​IMG] Movie - C

    Image Quality - C

    Sound - B

    Supplements - C+

    Technical Info.

    • Color
    • Rated R
    • 1 Disc
    • Stereo

    • VideoZone
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2015

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