Color, 1993, 90m.
Directed by Jonathan Wacks
Starring Steve Buscemi, Ned Beatty, Miriam Margolyes, John Glover, Sam Jenkins, Jon Gries
Scorpion (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Network (UK R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Pathfinder (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1)
Any film fan who survived the early '90s can attest that it was a weird, difficult time to find potential cult films, most of which got shipped off to VHSville after a quick theatrical run on a tiny handful of screens. One good example would be Ed and His Dead Mother, a goofy little indie that plays like a humorous remake of Bob Clark's Deathdream with a mama's boy twist. Yep, what we have here is a zombie film unlike any other.
A familiar face among the art house crowd at the time, Steve Buscemi stars as the titular Ed. He's a jittery guy whose mother (Margolyes) has been dead for a year, with his dad gone long before. Now he's left with the family hardware business and little family apart from his peeping tom Uncle Benny (Beatty), but a big change arrives in the form of a very energetic, very toothy salesman, A.J. Pattle (Glover), who claims he can reanimate the dead for a hundred bucks.
Ed decides to take him up on the offer, but while mom seems fine at first, she soon displays some unsettling tendencies like scarfing down insects, lurking in the refrigerator, and chasing down the neighbors. On top of that she's throwing a wrench in Ed's love life after he gets cozy with the sexy new neighbor, Storm (Jenkins), and Benny isn't too happy about his sister coming back from the dead to put a crimp in his style either.
Framed with a black and white opener already indicated we're in for a macabre tale, Ed and His Dead Mother proved to be a surprising directorial choice for Jonathan Wacks, the producer of Repo Man who went on to direct the indie staple Powwow Highway and the cable favorite Mystery Date. The relative obscurity of this, his last full feature to date, might account for his return to film school academia since then, but at least he went out on a high note. The primary asset here is obviously the cast, with the always wonderful Margolyes (who enlivened everything from The Apple to James and the Giant Peach and a regular on Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) getting some of the most memorably insane moments. Her last scene with Buscemi is a wild one worthy of Dellamorte Dellamore, but there's also some fine verbal wit on hand as well thanks to the excellent Beatty and Glover, who are worth the price of admission all by themselves.
The first DVD of Ed and His Dead Mother popped up in 2003 from Pathfinder, whose reputation for mediocre non-anamorphic transfers continued here with a washed-out, fuzzy offering complete with an irrelevant commentary track from a couple of film fans who didn't have much to say about the movie itself. The subsequent UK version from Carlton and its successor company, Network, was a substantial visual improvement but didn't add much else to the package. However, the most visually impressive rendition to date is easily the 2014 DVD from Scorpion, which sports a new HD transfer and finally looks like an actual, honest-to-God 35mm production. Colors look great, detail improves considerably, and the 1.78:1 framing looks appropriate, slightly opened up from the theatrical 1.85:1 but without the off-balance extraneous space on the open matte VHS. Extras include a perky intro from hostess Katarina Leigh Waters (making this sort of an unofficial entry in Katarina's Nightmare Theater), the theatrical trailer (in lo-res YouTube quality), an isolated music and effects audio track highlighting Mason Daring's quirky score, and bonus trailers for Grizzly, Tower of Evil, Death Ship, The Beach Girls, and The Unseen.
Reviewed on April 6, 2014.