Thursday, June 24, 2010

Monstrous Mayhem: THE REJUVENATOR (1988)

If, like me, you haunted video store aisles in the late 80s and early 90s, chances are you’ve seen this video box art before. And chances are you probably never rented it. Unavailable on DVD, I finally tracked down a VHS copy of this and am happy to report it is a nice entry in the 80s “mad science creates gooey rubber monster” subgenre.

Dr. Gregory Ashton (John MacKay) is working on some groundbreaking and top secret age reversing serum with his test subjects only being rats so far. All this changes when aging Hollywood actress Ruth Warren (Jessica Dublin), Ashton’s only benefactor who is funding his experiments, demands that he try the serum out on her. The results are surprisingly effective as Ruth transforms into a younger version of herself (Vivian Lanko) overnight. She is hot enough that the frumpy doctor even gets to sleep with her. To keep things under wraps, Ruth passes herself off as her niece named Elizabeth. But – as all good science-gone-awry movies recognize – Ruth/Elizabeth experiences complications when the elixir wears off as she morphs into a bulbous headed mutant that starts to crave Ashton’s secret ingredient: human brains! I hate it when that happens!

A nice variation on the Fountain of Youth and Dorian Gray themes, THE REJUVENATOR isn’t critical fodder or Oscar bait. It exists for one reason only – to showcase gooey transformation effects. And while you won’t be confusing this with Cronenberg’s THE FLY any time soon, it is still a decent way to spend 90 minutes (if you have low standards like me). This was director Brian Thomas Jones’ first film and you have to admire that he knows he ain’t making art. He rightly showcases lots of delicious Ed French make up. French was sort of a NYC staple in the early 80s, getting his start on films like NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN (1981), SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983) and the Tim Kincaid flicks. If you saw his name on the credits, you knew you were going to get slime, bladder effects and some blood. This is no exception as there are quite a few transformation bits and even some surprising gore (a decapitation; an orderly being punched through the gut; and an assistant getting the top of her head lopped off). Interesting that the film’s original title was REJUVENATRIX, and I suspect it was changed to cash in on RE-ANIMATOR (1985).

The acting is surprisingly decent too. MacKay, with his British politician look, is not the most handsome guy they could have cast, but he is good in the role. He must still be thanking Jones for scripting that sex scene with the attractive Lanko. Lanko plays both the young Ruth/Elizabeth and the monster and one has to admire the fact that she let them put that big broccoli bulb on her head and spray all sorts of goo out of it. Maybe it was all too much for her as she only had one small role after this and then was gone from the scene. Also amusing is Marcus Powell, who plays the required role of the superior threatening to pull the plug. He is like David Gale-lite and essayed nearly the exact same role in the great slime classic METAMORPHOSIS: THE ALIEN FACTOR (1990) a few years later. Of course, the film’s big highlight is a visit to a 80s rock club. Young Ruth/Elizabeth is on the prowl for some handsome hunk to hump and what better place to find him than in a venue showcasing the all-female hair band Poison Dollys? No doubt you will be humming “Nice Boy” and “Turn Out the Lights” once you hear them.

Anyway, if you enjoy getting your latex spewing goo freak on every once and a while, by all means check out THE REJUVENATOR. Will it change your life? No. But it will let you see stuff like this:

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