Razorback (1984): We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Sty…

After watching Not Quite Hollywood (2008), the hostage and I were ready to view some Ozploitation, if only to see how crazy/crappy such films could be. Where better to start than Russell Mulcahy’s wild-boar-on-a-rampage thriller, Razorback (1984)? Especially after it prompted one of my favourite movie review lines ever, from Videohound: “Firmly establishes that pigs, with little sense of natural timing, make lousy movie villains.”

Synopsis: A Canadian (whoop whoop!) travels to the Australian outback to discover the truth about what happened to his missing journalist wife, joining a hunter and his sexy apprentice as they attempt to bring down the beast allegedly responsible.

“From the director of Highlander.” That bodes well, right? You know how some directors can rise to a challenge, with the resulting work perhaps even exceeding original expectations? My favourite film story of this kind would be Bruce the Shark on Jaws (1975). For anyone not familiar, Steven Spielberg had initially planned on featuring the shark much more prominently than he did; when the mechanical shark (nicknamed Bruce by Spielberg and co.) arrived on set, it was so clunky that Spielberg was forced to use it sparingly, instead relying on building an atmosphere of suspense and allowing the audience mere glimpses of the monster. The results garnered comparisons to Hitchcock – and it was really just a fluke.

Well unfortunately, Mulcahy is no Spielberg. In a number of ways. You see, sharks are very scary, and giant sharks are *extremely* scary. The same is not true of pigs. This beast is a giant pig. Seriously giant. Think rhino sized. One of the filmmakers in Not Quite Hollywood chuckled in recollection at the planning session in which the boar’s size grew wildly out of control. At the time, he remembers they genuinely believed bigger was scarier. It turns out that when it comes to pigs, bigger is more ridiculous.

This decision created probably the biggest obstacle to the film’s success: the giant mechanical pig (shall we call him Lenny?). This movie did not have the budget to afford a credible robot pig (yet to be invented), so Mulcahy was forced to try to find clever ways to hide the fact that his villain was an absurdly large, pig-shaped piece of junk. In the Australian outback, to boot. Another advantage: Spielberg. The sheer size of the shadow Bruce cast below the water was effective in inducing terror in viewers; there are lots of ways to obscure such a beast in the ocean. But where to hide a rhino in the desert? Mulcahy relied on quick cuts of Lenny running behind buildings, and being swarmed by regular-sized pig minions, whom Lenny commands to do his bidding. While our hero cowers atop a windmill tower, Lenny sends his pig minions to dismantle the tower (“Bring him to me…” is how I imagine Lenny would have bid them. Then he’d laugh maniacally). Such techniques are hardly Hitchcockian, and you can imagine how effective the results were.

Mulcahy is trying his best with a ridiculous premise, no budget, bad actors, and a stupid script. At one point, I think he abandoned all hope that this film would be any good, and just focused on the visuals. There is some stunning visual imagery, that is often completely irrelevant to what is happening in the story. Oooh, a rainbow… sky? Um, okay. But who can blame him? I credit him for not running from the set, pulling his hair out and wailing like an Italian widow.

Does it sound like I hated it? Cause I really loved it. It definitely falls in the so-bad-it’s-hilarious camp, and I do so love to visit that place. But Razorback should probably be avoided by anyone with a shred of taste.

Favourite Scene: When our hero taunts Lenny into making a critical mistake. This is a cognizant pig, people.

Key Quote: “It’s only got two states of being…. dangerous or dead”

Fun Fact: The full-sized, fully animatronic model razorback, which was built at a cost of $250,000, is seen for only one second.

Till next time,


~ by K. Harker on February 20, 2011.

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