Okay, now I’m all obsessed with RUSSELL MULCAHY’s giant pig movie RAZORBACK from 1984. I did catch this one back in the day on cable and I remember being struck by the visuals and left with at least one strong scene trapped in my head, but why has it taken me so long to return to this handsome misfit flick? In my defense, copies don’t exactly grow on trees in my neck of the woods but I’m still ashamed of not putting forth a bit more effort. We’re talking a killer pig movie from the director of the “Total Eclipse of the Heart” video after all. How is that not going to work for me?
GREGORY HARRISON stars as vanilla urbanite Carl Winters who hits the gritty Aussie outback in search of his missing reporter wife. While in the Land of Oz he encounters obstinate man of the land Jake Cullen (BILL KERR) whose grandson did a similar vanishing act. Locals accuse Jake of the tot’s disappearance not believing his account of a tusked boar or “razorback” the size of a rhino snatching the kid away (I thought only dingoes did that!) The two are helped by a beautiful piggy expert (the late ARKIE WHITELEY of THE ROAD WARRIOR) and hindered by two nutzo brothers (CHRIS HAYWOOD & DAVID ARGUE) so twisted they’d feel right at home at the family dinner table from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
I’m not going to lie, not everything is firing on all cylinders in RAZORBACK. Much like the previous year’s THE KEEP, the visuals tend to bully if not suffocate the narrative. Unlike THE KEEP though, RAZORBACK provides us with at least enough information to know what’s going down. It may not always tell its story in the most coherent way possible but there is never any doubt that we are watching a man vs. beast tale not unlike JAWS or even ALIEN. MULCAHY’s effort may not be the smooth running machine those two examples are but give him a break; there are easier tasks in life than constructing and convincingly displaying on film, a monster pig. I don’t think the title creature looks that bad myself but the effort to keep the questionably convincing porker under wraps tends to render some of the action overtly obtuse.
Various shortcomings aside, RAZORBACK is gonzo gorgeous nearly all of the time and the decades have only made it more dazzlingly esoteric. MULCAHY has brought along his bag of video tricks: light beams, reflections and flares bounce off of everything but what is really astonishing is how other-worldly he presents his homeland. I swear it looks more like another planet than another continent on multiple occasions. That’s never more so the case then when mid-way through the film, Carl’s exhaustion leads to hallucinations and we’re gifted acid-flashback eye candy, perfectly doused in an IVA DAVIES’ (of the Aussie band ICEHOUSE) score. I’d say this film is only a proper DVD/Blu-ray release away from having its cult status explode triple fold.
RAZORBACK was MULCAHY’s first theatrical film and although not a financial victory, he, along with cinematographer DEAN SEMLER (THE ROAD WARRIOR), delivered something vibrantly cutting edge and trash chic unique that looks like science fiction, feels like horror and struts like an action-adventure/western. The story loudly argues with the semi-slacking special effects but the overall dynamic look of this batty opus is the ultimate peacekeeper.
Things may have fared better with a leading man who could possibly compete with the surroundings and supporting players but GREGORY HARRISON can at least be said to sufficiently convince us that he’s in over his head. One could argue that HAYWOOD & ARGUE as the rat-like brothers Benny & Dicko Baker slyly swipe some of the titular beast’s thunder but my personal favorite scene involves the porcine powerhouse dragging off the side of a home, with blasting TV included, away from an in-shock couch potato. That’ll do pig!