by Sandra Courtland
For those familiar with Cronenberg’s work it should come as no surprise that this is a story of a scientist delving into uncharted territories with results that portray a separation between body and mind as well as the subconscious externalizations of the inner turmoils. The scientist in The Brood is played by a commanding Oliver Reed, and the science he is charting into is that of “psychoplasmics” from what can be gathered from the film a form of therapy, heavy on role playing, that causes the patient to physically manifest their anxieties in the form of hives and as you see later in the film, more deadly creations. But really this is the story of a family torn apart, going through a divorce in other words. The mother is away undergoing psychoplasmics while the father deals with raising their girl. When his daughter Candace (Cindy Hinds) shows up with bites and bruises all over her body, Frank (Art Hindle) suspects his wife Nola (Samantha Eggar) to be the cause, locked up Dr. Raglan’s treatment.
The film looks and sounds amazing. The film has been restored in 2K and the restoration supervised by Cronenberg. You get a lot of details in each frame, most noticeable with the make up effects as you can see the textures of the hives that form on the participants of pscyhoplasmics and the little brood monster children are suitably creepy looking the glimpses you get of them. The audio track was even and balanced well between Howard Shore’s score and the more downbeat moments.
Between the various extras you get to hear all sorts of accounts on the making of the film from many of the people involved. As Oliver Reed isn’t around anymore to participate in these new extras, Criterion includes and episode of The Merv Griffin Show from 1980. The episode also featured Orson Welles and watching Reed and Welles go back and forth is a great joy to watch. Reed goes into a little bit of detail on his thoughts on acting and it’s great that this effort and care for his craft show even in a film like The Brood. Genre films don’t tend to bring out the best in some actors but everyone gives it their best, and Reed in particular stands out giving a commanding performance as the practitioner of psychoplasmics. The other extra I found to be equally entertaining was Fangoria’s Chris Alexander sitting down with Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds. The video shows a more relaxed interview environment and Alexander gets a lot of great details from the both of them, allowing them to honestly talk about their experience with the film and their careers since. And just as their release of Scanners which included Cronenberg’s first film Stereo, Criterion includes another early film in 1970’s Crimes of the Future as well as an interview with Cronenberg discussing his early work.
I very much enjoyed The Brood and find that it’s just as exciting to discover Cronenberg’s earlier work as it is to keep up with what he is doing today. Despite the metaphors being obvious the film is extremely effective at conveying both the effects of divorce on the parents and on the kid. Criterion once again have treated his film with much care and give us another film as a bonus feature. Arrow Video have givenRabid and Shivers great packages but hopefully Criterion will get a chance to tackle those other early Cronenberg works
Sandra Courtland is a contributor to Cinema Adrift. She is currently saving up to go back to Italy for holiday.