Now that I’ve fully recovered from Italian Horror Week, it’s time to get back to 1980’s America… but not today. Today we’re going to the United Kingdom to discuss a video nasty from the 1980’s. I’m a newbie to Xtro, but that doesn’t mean that I love this picture any less. I’m a huge fan (and I’ve seen it exactly once). I’m not going to tell you that the special effects are amazing or that there are actors in this movie that have earned themselves an academy award for their performance, but Xtro is a camp classic. It’s the kind of gorefest that IT CAME FROM 1980X specializes in. Let’s get more familiar with this sci-fi/horror hybrid. I didn’t get this one from a VHS source be it VHSPS or actual tape, but it’s the cover art and advertising stuck out in my mind despite my lack of interest in the subject matter at the time. I’ve grown.
When an alien abduction leaves a young man without a father, he’s left to have nightmares to make sense of his loss. He won’t have to wait long to fully understand as dear old dad is coming back to planet Earth, ready to be reborn and ready to change the planet as we know it, ready to move his new found shape-shifting, egg laying friends in.
Released in 1982 (1983 for the US audience), Xtro was a product of pre-Nightmare on Elm Street New Line Cinema. It was filmed in the United Kingdom, directed by Henry Bromley Davenport who would go on to direct two sequels, Xtro 2: The Second Encounter and Xtro 3: Watch the Skies. He also happens to be responsible for cowriting the screenplay to one of my favorite horror pictures of all time, the Peter Straub adaptation of Julia, The Haunting of Julia. To that end I owe Mr. Davenport a huge credit and a sincere thanks. Davenport also shares the writing credit for Xtro with Michel Parry who didn’t do much else and so we’ll stop talking about him right now. Davenport will be synonymous with Xtro for the rest of his career. It’s nice to know that he’ll continue to work on the movies. You’d think this would provide for some consistency or to preserve the continuity in the plot… hwarf!
Our cast members have all had some degree of success in the biz; nothing truly terrifying save for one. Philip Sayer may have had part in The Hunger, but Maryam d’Abo got to play a bond girl in The Living Day Lights and was even on the cover of and included in a pictorial spread of bond girls for Playboy magazine. While the thirty one year old man that types these words realizes that this may not necessarily appeal to all reading this and some might even find this concept sexist, the twelve year old that lives inside me that still hides his spank books under the mattress finds this fascinating. Worth studying even. Please refrain form judgement until after the article (it makes everything take longer). D’Abo had quite a succesful carreer in television sci-fi, paranormal and horror related fare. You’ve probably seen her in something if you were watching the boob tube in the 1980’s. Just be glad I didn’t post the spread or even the French cover (which I encourage you to search out).
I think my favorite little factoid about Xtro is that it was banned under the Video Recordings Act of 1984 i.e. the Video Nasty list. If you were found in possession of this flick in the United Kingdom it would be confiscated. Sure there are plenty of movies on this list and quite possibly there are many more deserving. As I watched the movie for the first time recently I made sure to finish out the entire picture, all the way to the end of the credits. You know the part where the copyright/trademark notice appears stating that the movie is “protected” under the country of origin and in fact anywhere in the world. It’s some pretty generic legal mumbo jumbo. It’s less known that the interpol warning or the FBI notice on the front of most VHS from the 80’s. It’s ironic that it should appear on this tape when the United Kingdom circa 1987 took to outlawing the damn thing and doing downright anything but protecting it. Now it’s true that it was never officially on the list but that didn’t stop its seizure. It might as well have made the list. After all, giving birth to a full grown man through a rather fake, but awesomely fake vagina must be worth its wait in bibles. Let’s thank fuck that the nasties while not completely free from persecution have seen a lessening in the restriction. Make sure to ship your UK buddies a copy of Xtro. Always make sure it’s uncensored and make damn sure they have a region free player or at least that you send them the proper region. End VN discussion onto gory goodness. Politics, politics… VAGINAL FULL SIZED HUMAN BIRTH!!!
I pretty much think I’m the last person to ever watch this movie. I stared at it long and hard on my video store shelf, but nothing made me want to see. I never saw a trailer for it aside from on a large reel of trailers. By the time I realized what I had seen it was caught in the wash and I was bathed and gorged on gore and tits. So it never stood out as a movie that might have anything of interest. I must admit also that I’ve stayed away from Sci-Fi and Sword and Shield epics form this time period. It’s all marketing. The cover box artwork didn’t have that creep out and aside from Dr. Alien didn’t really get my young libido working… maybe a few of the Sword and Shield rip off classics of the 80’s had some sex appeal, but I had my sister’s She-Ra toys to take care of that… moving on. The cover art for Xtro may be ingrained in my brain from my youth, but it wouldn’t be until a couple days ago that I’d take the plunge thanks to a video swap post-horror nerd session that involved lending out House by the Cemetery for the DVD release of Xtro.
The opening sequence, the abduction dream, has this beautiful piece of cut away editing that ends in a piece of post-production that made my short and curlies stand to attention. Maybe it’s because I didn’t expect to see something so strange so soon in the film. It’s not top notch, Spielberg, but it’s competent and fun. If it’s really supposed to be an E.T. rip off then I urge you to find me the Drew Barrymore character. The remainder of the latex, skin pulsing, alien infection makeup jobs are total cheese. The alien itself with its barely movable jaw is classic 80’s creature design without functionality. These guys didn’t “waste” their budget on the effects. As mentioned there’s a beautiful full human birth. It’s infamous. It’s most likely the very thing that got it confiscated in the UK. I say get your frying pan because there’s gotta be an extra large placenta to fry up around here somewhere. Then of course there’s the nonsequitar, toys coming to life, enlarging and/or killing people by becoming real. It’s like you have two completely different movies with two different plots converging into one horror dork paradise. I’d even say that this film had influence on Dolls with some of the toy effects. I won’t say that it spooked me like Dolls, but there was more than one “what the fuck” moments. Tom Harris I enjoyed your work even though I’m trouncing it here. I assure you that every bladder filled and pumped to perfection was a well placed work of art. Don’t forget the panther… the guys from New Line demanded a panther be in the film .Was this to capitalize on the panther on the recent Universal release of Cat People? Big cats = big bucks?
We still have a chance to see Xtro 4 in our life times, but I have to catch up on the unrelated Xtro 2 and 3 first. May I say that the most recent DVD offering has a wonderful making of special that may be light on content, but features Davenport talking down about Xtro. I love where he mentions that he majored in music composition and had a degree in piano, but was less than pleased with the score for the film. I personally love blaring synth hits, but I’m a WaxTrax nut. Davenport calls it “Screaming Synthesizers”. If you haven’t seen the complete Xtro series be cautious of watching the making of doc. It goes into all the titles. The DVD also features alternate endings and a trailer. It’s not a full package, but I’m not sure you’ll find much on this B 80’s classic in the way of extra material. We’re lucky we got this much out of them given some of the previous releases (with the sequel and Skeeter!)
There’s a steaming pile of awesome on that there DVD. Xtro is filled without just about everything you love about the early 80’s alien sci-fi/horror crossover cinema. From camp to poor special effects to subpar acting and even a variety of different subplots and “bad guys”. The music is so bad it’s perfect. The titles are like extra butter on your popcorn. For all it’s chaos is a damn fun movie with gross outs that will get the lil’ kid in you ready to give Deadly Spawn another try and maybe even rewatch Dolls to see what I’m talking about there. The VHS tape is totally affordable and readily available so don’t let that deter you.
Keep your heads clean!