After producing three films for director Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna moved into the director's chair with this carefully crafted satire on the class system in modern Beverly Hills. Europe's experience with the blue-blood rich helped the film enjoy a popular theatrical run, but it took several years before American audiences were able to see "Society."
Anchor Bay presents "Society" in its original European form - basically the director's cut with about ten seconds of footage deemed too disturbing by the MPAA. Dubbed "Rough trade porn" by Variety in the U.S., and "Sodomy-gore" by French critics when the film played at Cannes, "Society" deliberately uses surreal, Daliesque imagery for the story's final sequence, in which the bored rich make organic use of the Everyman in a "shunting" ceremony. With effects by Screaming Mad George, the gory sequence was carefully devised to minimize a run-in with the ratings board (in terms of explicit violence and blood), and creations balance shock value with the story's mythology, established and worked into the final screenplay by director Yuzna.
Brian Yuzna admits on the disc's feature-length commentary track that he prefers realism over illusion, and most of his films reflect his desire to show horror instead of keeping it way in the shadows. "Society" was photographed by one of Hollywood's top special effects cinematographers, Rick Fichter, who wanted to shoot a feature film after enjoying great success on "Alien 3," and the Indiana Jones series. The DVD transfer is very nice, made from a clean print, and the lighting straddles the fence between eighties colour schemes - plenty of reds, blues and silver peaks - and more straightforward suspense lighting, using contrasting shadows, and saturating the shunting playpen with an orange-red setup. The colours register strong without contrast problems, and the grotesque effects never looked better on video.
The audio mix is a basic Ultra-Stereo 2.0, with clear dialogue levels, organic sound effects, and a sparse synth score that makes excellent use of "The Eton Song" with revised, twisted lyrics from composers Mark Ryder and Phil Davies.
Brian Yuzna's commentary track covers a great deal of the film's history, and once again he reveals himself to be an intelligent filmmaker who shares a great fascination for all things surreal and weird. Covering the script's development and changes, Yuzna made sure his first film would have a solid foundation, and he engaged a storyboard artist to perfectly visualize the project, so no time was wasted in the tight filming schedule. Discussing the transition from producer to director, Yuzna also elaborates on his cast, including former Playboy Playmate Devin DeVasquez, and Billy Warlock - then hot from a regular soap opera gig, and who appeared in "Bay Watch" after the film was finished. Dealing with nudity, the film's mythology, and the wild make-up effects for the finale (shot in a studio owned by Christian businessmen!) are also explored, and fans of "Society" won't be disappointed by Yuzna's candor.
The included trailer is in good shape, and appears to have been matted to an oddball ratio of around 2.15:1, and the colourful booklet notes by Chas Balun, editor of "Deep Red" magazine, offer a then-contemporary account of his visit to the shunting set, and his participation in filming the scene with plenty of goo + nudity.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan