With hit after hit lately, Shout Factory imprint Scream Factory has been on a roll the size of a 10-foot Critter ball. Between the collector’s edition releases of Creepshow, the underrated Sleepwalkers, and Trick ‘r Treat, horror fans have had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season. Now, in a move to appease hungry fans chomping at the bit, Scream Factory has released the four-film Critters Collection on Blu-ray for the first time ever!
If you’re like me, when you hear the names of Hollywood A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio or Angela Bassett, the camp creature feature Critters is certainly the first thing that comes to mind. While the four film collection certainly delivers the star power you expect, it also comes armed to the teeth (zing!) with special features. Each film comes with brand new interviews with the filmmakers and actors, audio commentary, loving tributes, and the customary trailers and behind-the-scenes footage. Also, if you order directly from Shout Factory, customers can get an exclusive lithograph (while supplies last). My only disappointments are that the packaging clearly mentions interviews with actor and star of the first two movies, Scott Grimes, but he is nowhere to be seen, and the normally amazing collector’s edition artwork for individual discs is quizzically subpar.
Mild quibbles aside, the Critters collection is great and the commentary and special features are enlightening. So enlightening that I figured I’d share with you, dear reader, 36 interesting facts about all four Critters films. Enjoy:
- Despite Critters being considered a Gremlins rip-off, Critters was actually written before Gremlins.
- Brian Muir wrote Critters when he was only 19.
- Originally, Critters was going to be produced by Roger Corman.
- The original script was a hard “R” and strictly horror.
- This was the first movie where Dee Wallace was credited as Dee Wallace Stone.
- Filmmakers wanted to cast the Johnny Steele role eventually portrayed by Broadway star Terrence Mann with Billy Idol.
- Two of the cast members are siblings to two of the producers (Lin Shaye as Sally whose brother is producer Bob Shaye and Don Opper as Charlie whose brother is producer Barry Opper).
- Critters earned Billy Zane his first speaking role following his debut as one of Biff’s cronies in Back to the Future.
- According to the special effects designers, the Chiodo brothers, a fully articulated Critters puppet cost around $10,000 at that time.
- The critters’ fur looked realistic because it was made of moose pelts.
- Creature designer Charles Chiodo (well, his feet anyway) makes a cameo appearance as the large critter jumps out of the window.
- Russell Carpenter, the still photographer of Critters, became the director of photography for Critters 2 and would eventually win an Oscar for Titanic.
- The house set was completely constructed for the movie, and the house at the end of the movie is a miniature since the set was blown up.
- The happy ending of Critters was added after a test screening, but some copies of the film were already printed and sent out, effectively giving critters two endings depending on which print you saw.
- Critters 2 was Mick Garris’s directorial debut.
- Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure) took over the role of the sheriff after Emmet Walsh declined to return for Critters 2.
- Liane Curtis beat out another unnamed actress for the role of Megan in Critters 2 because she could drive a stick shift and the other actress couldn’t.
- The Playboy magazine in Critters 2 contained real previously unpublished nude photos of Roxeanne Kernohan which Playboy agreed to allow the filmmakers to use.
- Director Mick Garris cast his wife Cynthia Garris as the alien Zanti in Critters 2.
- Critters 2 was supposed to take place in Kansas in the summer, but it was actually filmed during the coldest winter in on record in California (at the time).
- The grass may appear green on film, but because it was so cold the grass died and had to be painted green.
- Cast members on Critters 2 received embroidered woolen socks as gifts for their time on the movie.
- Mick Garris voiced several of the critters and provided other sound effects such as when a critter’s eyes bug out.
- The Hungry Heifer shoot was supposed to only last one day, but ended up taking three, so the real meat they used became rancid and smelled horribly.
- During the first shot of the large critter ball coming into town you can see two feet of Ed Chiodo pushing the ball from behind.
- While Critters was a moderate theatrical success and a huge home video success, Critters 2 was a total financial disaster.
- Mick Garris said that the head of New Line Cinema was about to secure a major financing deal, but lost the donor when he took him to see Critters 2 and few, if any, audience members showed up.
- Critters 3 and Critters 4 were shot and produced at the same time.
- Critters 3 was Leonardo DiCaprio’s film debut.
- Although he was much older than DiCaprio at the time, actor Cary Elwes claims to have passed on the role of Josh in Critters 3.
- Unlike the previous two Critters movies, Critters 3 did not have a theatrical release and was released direct to video by New Line Cinema.
- If the sets of Critters 4 look familiar, it’s because they were reused sets from an earlier film by producer Barry Opper, 1983’s Android.
- Like Critters 3, Critters 4 reuses footage from previous films.
- The only two cast members to appear in all four Critters movies are Terrence Mann and Don Keith Opper.
- According to Critters 2 director Mick Garris, Steven Speilberg would use the score from the Critters franchise as a “temp score” while editing his own films.
- Critters movies may feel like they fly by compared to today’s film standards since they are all less than 90 minutes each.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this release. All opinions are my own.