It's finally here. David Cronenberg's 1979 film The Brood is one of the best films in
this director's filmography, easily his first mature and polished work
following Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977). The
Brood is one of Mr. Cronenberg's most accomplished works, a film that he
has reportedly described as his version of Kramer
vs. Kramer (1979) following an acrimonious (to say the least) divorce. In the United States, The Brood has never really been represented well on home video,
certainly not given the respect it deserves while other far lesser films have
been lavished with extensive special editions in multiple DVD and Blu-ray outings. The incomparable Oliver Reed stars as Hal
Raglan, a psychiatrist and Head of the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics, which
is a new method of treating patients by getting them to sublimate their
repressed emotions through physiological
alterations to their bodies (one character has growths all over his body which
is the rage he suppressed against his father).
One of his patients, Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar), is in the midst of a
custody battle with her husband Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) over their daughter
Candy (Cindy Hinds) who only recently showed signs of domestic abuse. Frank believes that Nola beat Candy during her
weekend visits with mom at the institute which Frank is not privy to. Unbeknownst to Frank, Raglan has Nola in deep
therapy, and her bouts of rage concerning the abuse she suffered at the hands
of her own mother cause her to give birth to asexual children who attack the
people she wills them to kill. In a
shocking scene, Nola wills her brood (hence the title) to attack Candy's
kindergarten teacher after finding out that she babysat Candy and assuming she
had an affair with Frank. We come to
learn that Nola was abused by her mother Juliana, which explains why the brood
attacks her - tragically, Candy is a witness to this. Ms. Hinds, who also appeared in Mr.
Cronenberg's The Dead Zone (1983), portrays
Candy as an almost emotionless girl who is trying to understand and take in
everything that she sees, both the good and the bad. All of the anger and resentment that Nola
feels culminates in a rather violent ending which pits Raglan against the brood
as he struggles to save Candy. The
ending has been deemed depressing, but it successfully sends the message that
children are affected by divorce in more ways than one.
The film does an expert job of presenting a believable
cast of characters who are at odds with one another. The subject matter is not pleasant, but then
again neither are divorces. One can only
imagine the acrimony the director experienced with his own wife as he
sublimated his own anger of trying to gain custody of his daughter into this
film. This was also the first time that
Mr. Cronenberg got truly A-list actors.
Seeing Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar made me wish that they shared more
screen time together as they are both excellent in their respective roles. They had previously shared the screen
together in The Lady in the Car with
Glasses and a Gun (1970). Here,
their dynamic is infinitely more intense.
Art Hindle is convincing as a torn father/husband trying to protect his
daughter. Genre fans will remember his
as Lynne Griffin's boyfriend in Bob Clark's Black
Christmas (1974), Dr. Howell in Invasion
of the Body Snatchers (1979), and as Dirk Winfield in Into the Fire (1988). Robert Silverman does a nice turn as Jan
Hartog. He went on to play the janitor
in Prom Night (1980) and also worked
for Mr. Cronenberg on four other films. Gary
Sheehan, who is very effective as Mike, also appeared in Rabid (1976).
Brood has gotten the
Criterion Collection treatment, which means a new and beautiful high definition
transfer. The extras are:
Pains (31:05) - a thoroughly
enjoyable look at what went on during the making of The Brood as it went into production during the late fall of
1978. Interviewed are Samantha Eggar,
Rick Baker, Joe Blasco, Mark Irwin, Pierre David, and John Board.
the Carveths (19:49) - a
cleverly-titled 2013 piece that returns Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds to the
school where the brood kidnapped Candy.
Emceed by Fangoria's former editor Chris Alexander, what is most
interesting is hearing the mention of other roles that Ms. Hinds had,
especially Deadline (1984), one of
those video nasties that was released on several video labels; she later left
acting. I would have loved to have seen
interviews with the members of the girls' gymnastics team that played the
brood, and how they felt about some of the most violent parts of the film.
Griffin (20:50) - Oliver Reed
appears on Merv Griffin's talk show along with Orson Welles and Charo of all
the Future (70:00) - this early
Cronenberg feature from 1970, which has been available on the Criterion
Collection's Dead Ringers laserdisc
and Blue Underground's Fast Company
DVD and Blu-ray, appears here in a much improved transfer. It would have been nice to also see the
inclusion of Mr. Cronenberg's Transfer
(1966), From the Drain (1967), and Stereo (1969). Hopefully, one day we will have all of his
shorts and television work in one collection.
The Early Years (13:18) - this
is a 2011 interview that the director did with Fangoria's former editor Chris
Alexander wherein he discusses how he came to be a filmmaker thanks to the
folks at Cinepix in Canada, specifically John Dunning and Andre Link.
Radio Spot for The Brood - 30 seconds
great package from Criterion!
order from Amazon.com