Fantastic Fest 2019: TAMMY AND THE T-REX GORE CUT: What We Have Here is a Testicular Standoff

An all-time good time

It seems almost impossible that Fantastic Fest can continue to unearth and breathe new life into lost and forgotten films that are just mind-meltingly entertaining, but here we are again with one of the single most fun Fantastic Fest screenings I’ve ever experienced.

To be fair, the unearthing and restoration of this film is a more storied tale than simply magically appearing here at Fantastic Fest. I’ve been vaguely aware of the existence of a film called Tammy And The T-Rex starring Denise Richards and Paul Walker for some time. I’ve never experienced it myself, however. This film has existed in the world as a 1994-released, PG-13 rated cult oddity until recently. I first learned of the “Gore Cut” when it played Cinepocalypse earlier this year. My curiosity was more than a little piqued. Now it’s being released as a 4K-restored Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome and distributed for theatrical bookings by the American Genre Film Archive. The world is not ready for the Gore Cut of Tammy And The T-Rex to be available, but it is coming nonetheless.

My understanding is that studio meddling resulted in a family-friendly teen [dinosaur] comedy getting released and forgotten in 1994. I absolutely must now track down and see the original version because the Gore Cut is decisively R-rated from top to bottom and to such a degree that I can’t even imagine what most audiences have been seeing for twenty five years. This really can’t be a situation where merely a few gore shots are reintegrated into an otherwise largely unchanged motion picture.

Tammy (Denise Richards) and Michael (Paul Walker) are star-crossed high school lovers whose only problem in life is Tammy’s abusive punk ex-boyfriend Billy (George Pilgrim) who uses violence and bullying against both Tammy and Michael. “What we have here is a testicular standoff” mutters beloved character actor Buck Flowers as a comic relief police officer on the scene in Michael and Billy’s first confrontation of the film. A fairly standard fist fight devolves into the two young men violently clutching each others’ testicles and refusing to let go. I’ve never seen a school fight in any movie go in this direction. And this is only the first battle between these two.

Existing in what feels like a totally different movie than our high school romp we have prolific character actor Terry Kiser (the titular player in Weekend At Bernie’s) as mad scientist Dr. Wachenstein and his crew of bumbling goons who inexplicably have a robotic dinosaur and plan to animate it with a human brain. The real life explanation as given us prior to the film is that this entire production was hastily thrown together because the lead producer was given access to a giant animatronic dinosaur prop for one single week before it moved to an amusement park where it would live out the rest of its days.

This delves into what some might consider spoilers for a movie called Tammy And The T-Rex, but ultimately fate divines (there’s a lion attack involved) that poor Michael’s brain is the one put into the T-Rex. So soon a sentient dinosaur robot powered by Michael’s living and functioning brain is roaming the city seeking vengeance and trying to win back Tammy.

Writer/Director Stewart Raffill (The Philadelphia Experiment, Mac And Me) honestly seemed to know exactly what kind of movie he was making and created something so non-stop entertaining that the film’s humble beginnings as a slapdash production built solely around the availability of a dinosaur prop more than justifies its own existence. For one thing, it’s no secret that Denise Richards and Paul Walker went on to substantial careers after this, or that they’re two gorgeous people who are extremely easy to look at throughout a feature film. With their career mythologies in one’s mind as Tammy And The T-Rex plays out, feelings of this being a genuine eternal cult classic can’t be avoided. Add in the very intentional, broad comedy elements as well as the clearly unintentional laughs derived from a bugnuts tale told at a budget-cut and whiplash pace, and you’ve just got a film that never ceases to delight its audience.

Much debate is had around the concept of “so bad it’s good”, and none of that will be settled here. But I’d argue that Raffill led a cast of actors through an intentionally wacky script and pulled some genuinely entertaining performances and set pieces out of the cast and crew. The added cult appeal then becomes the sordid tale of how this film’s distinct vision got chopped to pieces and sanitized for 25 years and how it was rescued from oblivion to delight and entertain the world of 2019 that so desperately needs a movie like Tammy And The T-Rex.

It’s worth noting that the retrograde portrayal of homosexuality as embodied by Tammy’s gay best friend Byron (Theo Forsett in a full-on third lead role) doesn’t age well. And the multiple uses of the “f” word towards Byron are wince-inducing and may give many pause before fully recommending this film. But Forsett is actually quite good in the role and aside from being saddled as the stereotypical “gay best friend” and having epithets leveled against him, Byron is an energetic and vibrant piece of the overall puzzle.

The cult entertainment level of Tammy And The T-Rex is simply off the charts. If you get a chance to pick up the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray release, just do it. And don’t watch it alone. Invite over your friends and prepare for a cult rediscovery on par with that of Drafthouse Films’ Miami Connection. The same goes for the AGFA theatrical screenings. If you can find a screening or even reach out to AGFA to book one, seek out that opportunity to view this movie with an audience. It’s truly an all-timer.

And I’m Out.

Tammy And The T-Rex: Gore Cut is available for theatrical bookings through AGFA here and on Blu-ray through Vinegar Syndrome here.

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