Little Monsters (1989) (Vestron Series Collector's Series) Blu-ray Review


Little Monsters is a film that I loved when I was a kid, but watching it today, I have to wonder what I was smoking as a kid. The film is a mixed bag with much of the comedy falling flat while the film is surprisingly scary for a PG rated film.

Studio: Lionsgate
Release Date: August 25th, 1989 (theatrical) / September 15th, 2020 (blu-ray)
Run Time: 1 hour 41 minutes 25 seconds
Region Code: A (locked)
Picture: 1080p (1.78:1 aspect ratio)
Sound: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
Slipcover: Yes
Digital Copy: Yes (VUDU or FandangoNOW)
Starring: Fred Savage, Howie Mandel, Daniel Stern, Margaret Whitton, Rick Ducommun, and Frank Whaley
Written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott
Directed by Richard Alan Greenberg
Rating: PG (language, scary images, and crude humor)

THE FILM 



After moving to the neighborhood, Brian Arthur Stevenson (FRED SAVAGE - TV's "The Wonder Years") and his family are looking forward to a new life in the suburbs. But it isn't long before Brian meets up with his first real best friend that of all people (or things) turns out to be a monster named Maurice (HOWIE MANDEL - TV's "Bobby's World"), a monster who lives to have fun playing jokes and all the things that a kid can't do under an adult's supervision. After his younger brother Eric Stevenson (BEN SAVAGE) claims he's been having monsters under his bed, Brian trades rooms with him to prove him wrong. But when he does, he's the one who's proven wrong when he finds Maurice snooping around. Together as Maurice shows Brian the time of his life in another world under his bed, they form a strong friendship in ways they never imagined. But they also learn that sooner or later, Brian will have to abandon this dream come true for any kid or risk the nightmare of a lifetime becoming a little monster himself!

I saw LITTLE MONSTERS upon its video release sometime in 1990. I really loved the film. I thought that the comedy worked really well with Howie Mandel adding a lot to the film and I loved the idea of the monsters underneath your bed having their own world and rules. Needless to say but this was one of my favorite films growing up. 

I am a very grown adult now and I can say that I do not like this film as much as I did 30 years ago. The first problem I have is with Fred Savage. I never liked him as an actor. He always seemed to be acting and was never the characters he was supposed to be. This can work for some actors like Samuel L. Jackson but Savage never feels like believes what he is saying. 

The next problem I have is with the monster world. This is supposed to be a world underneath our own so it should be big and vast. Not here, where we get a bunch of stacked up pallets that are supposed to be staircases to different towns and cities all over the world. It looks cheap and feels like the monster world is confined to a giant warehouse, which it is. Not the monster world but where the sets were built. This becomes a bigger problem when we are introduced to the whole of monster world in a baseball game. The set is so small that it seems like the pitcher is about ten feet away from the hitter. I know that this is a low budget film but I could do better in my two-car garage. 

I do like the effects. Most of the effects are done practically with some opticals used for some other things. One of the best effects is that of Boy. Here is a monster who is hideous so he wears a human's face that he presumably ripped off a child he scared to death. The excess skin is used to tie the face to Boy's head in a really cool effect. This is from a kids' film from 1989. There is no way this would pass with a PG rating today.

LITTLE MONSTERS is a film very much of its time and doesn't hold up very well today. Howie Mandel is funny to a point while Fred Savage "acts" next to him. The film looks and feels cheap with some really good effects work. It is worth checking out if you want to see where the idea for MONSTERS INC was stolen from. Other than that i would say skip it.

THE PICTURE AND THE SOUND 



I was excited about this blu-ray release. Then I saw what the transfer looks like and I got a bit depressed. This is a very old master, probably made for play on cable, and it never rises above “its fine”. Everything looks “fine” Colors are ok. Skin tones are ok. Everything is just ok. I wish that Lionsgate would take these releases seriously instead of just throwing money at the special features guys and not at the picture or the audio.

Speaking of the audio, the included DTS-HD Master Audio track is fine. Just like the picture quality, the audio is ok. It gets the job done.

We also have English, Spanish, and English SDH subtitles.

THE MENUS 


THE PACKAGING 






THE FEATURES


Audio Commentary by Jarret Gahan, editor-in-chief of cultofmonster.com

Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with composer David Newman

Call Me Maurice (18m 39s, HD, 1.78:1) Here we have a new interview with actor Howie Mandel, who is in very good spirits. He talks about how he doesn’t really follow a path in his life as he does what he wants. When the script for LITTLE MONSTERS came to him, he thought it was a good script and took it without thinking too much about it. He talks about shooting in Willington, North Carolina and how hot it was, especially for him because he was covered in latex make-up. Speaking of the make-up, Mandel has OCD and hates being touched, yet he had to be touched everyday he was on set and he talks about how he hated that too. He did like making the film and talks highly of the cast and crew, but hated the heat and the being touched. 

Beneath the Bed (13m 54s, HD, 1.78:1) We move on to a new interview with producer Andrew Licht. Licht talks about how the script came to be, how he wanted Brad Bird to direct the film, but Vestron wanted someone who has dealt with visuals before, and how a writer’s strike kept the writers away from the set to do rewrites. He also passed on Macaulay Culkin for the role of the little brother because he doesn’t like it when the actors who play brothers or sisters in films don’t look alike. He also tells the story of a prank that Mandel played on him that turned even worse when it wasn’t noticed right away.

Monsters Big and Small (14m 55s, HD, 1.78:1) Finally, for the new interviews, we have special effects make-up creator Robert Short. He starts out by talking about how he studied to be a stuntman but changed his mind when he started to get jobs and realized that you have to be a bit crazy to do some of the stuff that other stuntmen were doing. He then moves into the meat of this interview which focuses on the different characters and their designs. This is accompanied by lots of behind the scenes footage. This interview concludes with talk of a series of deleted scenes that would have saw Fred Savage going up against a series of foes on his way to the top of Boy’s lair.

Vintage Interviews (29m 2s, SD, 1.33:1) Here we have interviews shot on the set with Fred Savage, Ben Savage, special effects make-up creator Robert Short, and director Richard Allen Greenberg.

Behind the Scenes Footage (11m 37s, SD, 1.33:1) This is of the “fly-on-the-wall” variety and focuses on some of the climactic scenes being shot.

Making Maurice (16m 16s, SD, 1.33:1) This is vintage footage of Howie Mandel’s transformation into Maurice through the use of make-up.

Vintage EPK and VHS Promo (9m 19s, SD, 1.33:1) Man, I remember things like these from back in the day. These would always pop up on the video of the film. There were contests, 1-900 numbers, promos for sales that were happening at various stores, and a lot of other things. Disney was the leader in doing these things, but other companies would also jump on that ship as well.

Theatrical Trailer (1m 28s, HD, 1.78:1)

Still Gallery (3m 36s, HD) Autoplays while selections from the film’s score play. 

THE WRAP-UP 



LITTLE MONSTERS isn’t all that great, but it does appeal to a lot of people so it has that going for it. The film is a pure product of its time and doesn’t hold up thirty years later. This Vestron Series blu-ray release is like many of the other releases in the genre line: the special features are really great while the picture and the audio are fine. With so many other companies putting money behind restoring the smallest of films while a fairly big company like Lionsgate wants to get some of the genre money without putting in the work. Sure, the special features are worth the time, but I would rather have a proper restoration done instead of interviews I probably won’t ever watch again. At the lower price point, I can recommend this release, but only barely. Had Lionsgate held to the higher price I would have told you no fucking way, but the price is right, so I say go for it.

THE SCREENSHOTS 




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