Death Becomes Her Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Written by Martin Donovan and David Koepp
1992, 103 minutes, Rated PG-13
Blu-ray released on April 26th, 2016
Meryl Streep as Madeline Ashton
Goldie Hawn as Helen Sharp
Bruce Willis as Ernest Menville
Isabella Rossellini as Lisle Von Rhuman
Dr. Ernest Menville was once a successful plastic surgeon engaged to the sweet wallflower Helen Sharp. She had told him repeatedly about her longtime friend and occasional rival Madeline Ashton, a beautiful actress who made a habit of stealing her men. When the two were introduced at a Broadway musical, Ernest fell victim to the charms of Madeline and left Helen in tears. Seven years later, he married Madeline and it was more than Helen could stand, as she slipped into a deep depression and was sent to a mental hospital. Jumping ahead another seven years, we find that life has not been kind to Ernest, now a hen-pecked drunk who works touching up corpses for the local mortuary and spending as little time possible with his abrasive wife. Madeline has become more unbearable, as she has steadily aged out of her celebrity standing. When an invitation to a party celebrating Helen’s new book arrives, Madeline cannot resist the urge to publicly belittle her longtime frenemy. Much to everyone’s surprise, Helen is absolutely gorgeous and even worse – happy, which sends Madeline spiraling out of control, desperate for a quick rejuvenating fix.
It is here we are introduced to the beautiful Lisle Von Rhuman, a mysterious enchantress in possession of an elixir that promises eternal life and beauty. The potion restores Madeline’s looks, but her enjoyment of the results is cut short when she falls to her death after bullying Ernest once too often. He didn’t mean to kill her, but now that she’s gone, Ernest can reunite with Helen in the hopes of being happy once again. Madeline proves not so easy to murder, as immortality is the power received whether her body is up to the task or not. After a quick trip to the morgue, the unhappy couple returns home where Helen makes the mistake of crossing the undead wife and ends up on the business end of a shotgun to the stomach. Helen remains full of surprises, as she has also taken the magic tonic and is incapable of death. This sets off a renewed battle between these two divas as Ernest resigns himself to a life of drunken misery. What follows is a madcap exercise in narcissism and vanity at the most extreme as these “old friends” use beauty as the ultimate weapon.
Death Becomes Her benefits from an all-star cast of players that are perfectly suited for the farcical material. In 1991, Bruce Willis (Die Hard) was building a reputation as an action star and it is nice to see him work his comedic muscles as a weary weakling such as Ernest. Not only does he go against type, he also serves as straight man to much of the over-the-top comedy surrounding him. Meryl Streep (Defending Your Life) and Goldie Hawn (Seems Like Old Times) are perfect comedy foils Madeline and Helen respectively. Both appear to be having a blast as they mock the superficial narcissists of the industry unwilling to offer leading roles to women over forty. Madeline and Helen manage to suspend their ongoing battles once they realize they need each other and it is fun to watch them try to further manipulate Ernest to do their bidding. Rounding out the cast is the exquisite Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet) as Lisle Von Rhuman, a mysterious beauty full of confidence and power, brought to life by the stunning actress who dominates every minute of her screen time.
Legendary filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) delivers a fast-paced, pitch black comedy that examines how far people will go in the pursuit of happiness, even on a superficial level. Martin Donovan (Apartment Zero) and David Koepp (Dark Angel) have created an inspired script that perfectly sets up the dynamic of this bizarre love triangle before pushing the entire affair into the darkest arena of satire. The picture strongly resembles the tone of the classic EC Horror comics of the 1950s that specialized in serving just desserts to villainous anti-heroes. Zemeckis was an executive producer on the HBO series Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996), inspired by the same material and Death Becomes Her is a logical choice for his next feature. The popularity of the Crypt series led to a proposed trilogy of films including Demon Knight (1995) and Bordello of Blood (1996), but both suffered from lacking the spirit of either the comic book or the show and a third movie never happened. Although Death Becomes Her has no direct connection to the series, I’ve long considered it the unofficial launch of the franchise to cinemas. The movie is sometimes a bit too chaotic for its own good and the final act feels a bit rushed, but overall this is an intoxicating ride you should definitely take.
Video and Audio:
Death Becomes Her is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, a welcome upgrade from the full-frame DVD. The picture is incredibly sharp with vibrant colors, rich black levels and plenty of small-object detail visible in hair and fabrics. The visual effects that play such an intricate part of the film hold up surprisingly well and remain a treat for audiences.
The disc offers a DTS-HD MA 5.1 as well as a 2.0 mix and as usual given the option, I prefer the 5.1 track. There is a lot of activity in the rear channels as the music and effects help carry the manic tone of the feature.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
A new segment simply titled Death Becomes Her (25 minutes) offers new interviews with Robert Zemeckis, David Koepp, production designer Rick Carter, producer Steve Sharkey and cinematographer Dean Cundey (Without Warning). Looking back on the production twenty-five years later, there are nothing but fond memories shared as everyone involved had a wonderful time creating this dark comedy that help launch or further their careers.
A vintage EPK (1992) features a series of promotional interviews with members of the cast and crew, heavily mixed with clips from the film including some scenes that were later deleted. The members of the cast give their thoughts on what the film is about and how much they enjoy working together.
A photo gallery (48 images) includes stills of the cast and crew as well as some behind the scenes images and a look at the poster campaign.
The original trailer offers a look at the marketing and also includes scenes deleted from the final version.
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