The Lawnmower Man: Collector’s Edition

Studio: Scream Factory

Jun 26, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Something of a Flowers for Algernon for the MS-DOS era, 1992’s The Lawnmower Man follows neural researcher Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan), a handsome mad scientist conducting virtual reality experiments on chimps for a shady paramilitary group known as “The Shop.” Angelo hopes to apply his research to increase human intelligence while The Shop’s evil, dandy CEO (Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, young and especially hammy) plans to weaponize the program. When his star mega-chimp freaks out and is killed during a violent escape attempt, Angelo parts ways with The Shop and searches for a human to be the subject in the next step of his experiment.

Enter Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey, in full-blown Simple Jack mode), a mentally handicapped gardener. Angelo recruits him to play computer games while he injects him with brain-stimulating chemicals, and Jobe’s intelligence multiplies rapidly. Too rapidly, in fact – Jobe quickly outpaces his doctor, gaining scary telepathic abilities and picking up a nasty god complex. Eventually, The Shop comes calling for their new superweapon, and Jobe seeks revenge on all of the people who mistreated him when he was less capable.

The Lawnmower Man was made at a time when “computer animation” was a novelty relegated to things like the “Money for Nothing” music video and those old Mind’s Eye VHS tapes. (Toy Story was still three years off.) Nowadays, The Lawnmower Man’s cyberspace looks like a budget PlayStation 2 title, but 25 years ago it looked positively futuristic. It makes for a fun curio, as this piece of science fiction’s ideas about the near-future of computers and VR wound up no more accurate than The Jetsons. The film itself is predictable and schlocky, but the final act – when Jobe ascends to cyber-godhood – is legitimately exciting.

For its initial release the movie was billed as Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man, despite having little relation to anything King ever wrote outside of a title. New Line Cinema had optioned King’s 1975 short story of the same – about a gardener who’s actually a satyr – and slapped the name on an unrelated script previously called Cyber God to cash in on King’s cache. King was (understandably) pissed, and took New Line to court – eventually winning a whopping $10k per day and all of the film’s profits until his name was removed. So, if you have vague memories of this being a Stephen King movie and wonder why his name isn’t anywhere on it, there’s your reason.

Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition of the film boasts one of the studio’s usual, superb deluxe presentations. Two cuts of the movie are here – including a director’s cut that’s a full half hour longer – with new and vintage interviews, deleted scenes, two commentaries, behind-the-scenes materials, and a new documentary on the film’s production. The movie’s premise and effects may not hold up all that well after a quarter century of technological advancement, but this Blu-ray set does its best to give fans all the bonus materials about its making that they could hope for. 



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