Vinegar Syndrome broke into the 4K market in a big way this year with their announcement of the newly discovered “gore cut” of the cult oddity Tammy and the T-Rex, which was their inaugural entry into the UHD realm. The film had a very interesting year since an R-rated 35mm print was discovered and toured the festival circuit, building buzz for this packed special edition. The film, initially was trimmed down to a PG-13 and released on home video during the Christmas season in 1994, was billed as a family friendly comedy. Produced one year after Jurassic Park and starring Paul Walker and Denise Richards in their first leading roles, the film was crafted by low budget maestro Stewart Raffill, who gave us such disasterpieces as Ice Pirates, Mannequin 2, and the classic E.T. knockoff, complete with a dance number in a McDonalds, Mac and Me.
After catching this at Fantastic Fest last year I couldn’t wait to spring it on unsuspecting friends and family, and thanks to this release I can do so with a release that sets the bar going forward for Vinegar Syndrome.
In a plot that is almost too bizarre to comprehend that it was actually made into a film, Tammy and the T-Rex is the story of the titular Tammy (Denise Richards), a beautiful high school cheerleader who has it all, including the affection of the star football player Michael (Paul Walker), much to the annoyance of her jealous bad boy ex Billy (George Pilgrim). One night when Billy discovers the two together, he drops Michael off at a wildlife animal park where he is mauled by a lion and left in a vegetative state. Local mad scientist Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kiser) then capitalizes on this tragedy to test a new technology, stealing the young man’s body and placing his brain into the body of an animatronic T-Rex. Once reborn in his new body, he not only sets out to reclaim his girlfriend, of course, but go on a bloody revenge filled rampage, killing all those responsible for his death.
After production wrapped, the cartoonishly gory Tammy, unbeknownst to its director, was whittled down to a PG-13 by its Dutch producer/distributor, who planned to run the film in his South American theaters. Even in this edited state on VHS, the film still garnered a small cult following. When this restoration was announced, the news exploded on the horror scene, given the film was already a known oddity among VHS collectors. I know I personally was floored by this discovery and couldn’t wait to check this out when the news first broke. Viewing the original uncut version of Tammy with a packed house at Fantastic Fest was easily one my favorite theatrical experiences of the year. Like Stewart Raffill’s previous films, the reason Tammy works is because everyone here is playing it straight, no matter how insane the circumstances; even when Denise Richards is doing a lapdance for a disembodied brain in a jar, she is selling it.
The gore is bargain basement, juvenile, goofy, and surprisingly effective in the context. For instance, when the mad scientist’s henchman is literally flattened by the dinosaur breaking out of the lab, an assistant later finds the body and begins rolling up the pancaked corpse like you would a sleeping bag. It’s those kinds of absurdist moments that accentuate an already ludicrous narrative, pushing the audience further into a state of complete and total whatthefuckery. Best experienced with a crowd, the film is the kind of shared experience akin to being abducted by aliens in that after experiencing Tammy you will never look at shitty animatronic dinosaurs the same.
The most surprising extra on this disc is the interview with a very humble and still vivacious Denise Richards, who fondly reminisces about her first role and how she even managed to cry for the rubber dinosaur. Here she shares not only her experiences working on the film’s hilariously low budget production, but also sharing scenes with a very young Paul Walker as well. While some actors would be embarrassed by a film like this, Richards takes ownership of her performance and doesn’t try to change the narrative, that it was “played for laughs” or “supposed to be a comedy.” It’s this kind of reverence for not only the film, but the role, that I found both sincere and surprisingly endearing.
There is also an interview and commentary with director Stewart Raffill, who tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the production of the film. I found it nothing short of fascinating, since he doesn’t hold back in any respects as he discusses not only making the film on next to nothing, but his problems with the film being re-edited after the fact. This is something we discover also happened with Ice Pirates as he delves a bit into his career both before and after Tammy as well. My favorite bit, being a big Mannequin fan, is when Stuart is asked about Theo Forsett’s character and its similarities to Meshach Taylor in Mannequin. He unapologetically admits to just loving the character so much he stole it stock and trade for this film. I mean I have to respect that kind of honesty on a director’s commentaries.
You’re also treated to interviews with actors Sean Whalen and George Pilgrim, not too mention the PG-13 cut of the film. This was sourced from a video master, which is a nice touch for completists to relive a bit of that sweet nostaligia.
Being able to own a 4k UHD of Tammy and the T-Rex is still pretty surreal to be honest. The fact that this even exists makes me so glad that boutique distributors are finally getting in the 4k game.
This is easily the best this film has ever looked, both for better and for worse. The UHD has a brightness and clarity thanks to that trademark squeaky-clean Vinegar Syndrome transfer that leaves no nook and cranny unseen, which amps up the cheese factor tenfold. Especially given some of these flaws were probably planned to have been hidden by the murkiness of VHS. But it’s all there, warts and all, and I feel like that strengthens the performances since you really get to see what they were acting against in all its unfettered glory.
I’ve now seen Tammy and the T-Rex 4 times, and I have to admit it holds up relatively well in repeated viewings. It’s the kind of film that manages to deliver on the incomprehensible insanity promised, which isn’t easy in this day in age and maintain that level of on multiple viewings. This is thanks not only to a cast that is playing this straight, but a script that no doubt pushed them to their limits. For fans checking this film out for the first time, I am envious that you’re getting to see this version of Tammy first, and not to mention the great extras that manage to put this strange, wonderful piece of cinema in context as well.