Bad Boy Bubby [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (3rd April 2021).
The Film

"Bad Boy Bubby" (1993)

Bubby (played by Nicholas Hope) is a 35 year old that has never left the confines of a small decrepit home. His mother Flo (played by Claire Bonito) has raised him as a single mother, and has had complete control of his life. There was no schooling, no television, no friends, no neighbors, no father figure for him, and the only human contact he had was his abusive mother. He never dared to go outside, as he was told that there was deadly gas around the outside world, and the mother instilled that in his mind by wearing the sole gas mask whenever she had to leave the home. But when Bubby's biological father (played by Ralph Cotterill) suddenly appears and finds out he has a son, things become complicated for the reunited family. With a childlike mind and instincts closer to that of a cat, there is much more to the world that Bubby had never dreamed about or imagined.

Filmmaker Rolf de Heer had the idea of "Bad Boy Bubby" in his mind for a decade before the production of the film, with the script and notes for it constantly evolving and being added in between his projects. With the subject matter, there are some similarities to "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser" and "Room" with characters leading an isolated life for years not knowing of the outside world. And like those films, the character of Bubby has no desire or curiosity to seek what is beyond the doors. All he knows is the words of his strict mother, that Jesus is always watching him, and that he has a pet cat that he taunts around. The extent of why his mother has trapped him there and brainwashed him is never revealed in the story, but it is a case of overbearing. She most likely had the child there in that same room herself and so there would be no record of Bubby in the eyes of the government. Was she estranged from her family? Was she ashamed to be having a child out of wedlock? Did her religious background not let her have an abortion? Possibly all of the above. As for the father returning, there is also no explanation for his sudden appearance. What had he been doing for the last 35 years and why does he decide to follow his former lover and shack up with the family? As the film is all through the perspective of Bubby himself, it's most likely these deeper background issues are not looked at because Bubby himself doesn't care to question it or understand it as he is uncapable of doing so. The abusive behavior of his mother, from the yelling and hitting him, as well as sexual abuse through incestuous behavior is quite appalling and disturbing to see, but for Bubby, none of these things lead to tears. He accepts them as part of his life and he always has a disturbing smirk on his face.

For the first portion of the film, de Heer and cinematographer Ian Jones shot everything in the interior of the small apartment in a crammed space that was unclean in chronological order of the script, with Bubby's character naturally repeating the lines that his mum or pop would say to him like a little child would copy others. This gave Hope the natural ability to mimic the people he interacts with on screen to great effect as the story and his character would evolve. As for the eventual time that he leaves the home, the world suddenly opens up for him in an unimaginable way. Not only is there no gas around the world, there are people everywhere, driving in cars, walking down streets, eating at restaurants, singing hymns, cutting down trees, and much much more. But the character of Bubby is not scared at all. He is curious like a child let loose in a toy store. He is fascinated by everything that he sees. Of course he has no idea how things in the world work, with money, authority, business, or love, but nothing will stop him from grinning and seeing how the world is.

There are many brilliant moments and ideas in "Bad Boy Bubby", including the cinematography. While Jones was the cinematographer and operator for the first portion of the film, each and every other scene of Bubby outside of his home was shot by a different cinematographer, with a total of 32 people. Each put their own twist on the scene, from askew angles, brighter pastel colors, more shadows and less light, and differing closeups depending on the scene. While this could cause a mishmash of visual hiccups, the scenes somehow blend together quite well, as it feels like the audience is in Bubby's head, by experiencing something new with each and every scene in differing locations. As for the audience, they will also feel like they are in Bubby's head with the sound design as well. Instead of using boom microphones as they are standard, there were two small radio microphones attached behind Hope's ears during the entire shoot, which was concealed by his wig. The binaural recording was literally in the position of how the character of Bubby would have heard everything. From dialogue to the sounds of cars to music, the sound design is very unusual, yet somehow natural. Bubby's own voice does sound a little deeper and clearer than everyone else's obviously, and therein lies one of the strongest aspects of the script, being the repeated dialogue. With almost every scene Bubby overhears a phrase, and it would inevitably be reused by him in a differing scene with either an appropriate or totally inappropriate time. When he hears a driver yelling at someone to get out of the street, he later yells the same thing but at a policeman directing traffic instead. When he hears "Christ, kid. You're a weirdo," from his pop, he would essentially say it to a girl who laughs it off. The writing is excellent in all regards, and Hope gives the dialogue some extra madness and hilarity as the character of Bubby, who is not exactly a man but not a child either.

While a lot is comical, there are some more seriously touching moments seen with his character. When he encounters Angel (played by Carmel Johnson), a nurse that is helping young people with cerebral palsy, it is discovered that Bubby could actually communicate with them and help the caretakers. There is a scene in particular where Bubby is seen crying with emotion for the first time, and it is an eye opener, though it was literally not for Hope. When he acted in the scene, he was given a menthol type substance that would make him cry on cue. Unfortunately it was too strong and damaged his corneas, and he stated that the tears were more of pain more than anything else. In addition, Bubby develops a relationship with Angel, and when he visits her family for the first time, the audience are treated to another form of child abuse. Her sophisticated parents are not shy at all to shame her for her weight and for bringing a man to the dinner table, leading her to tears. The scene has some darkly disturbing mirrors against the beginning of the film, yet light in environment rather than in the dark. Bubby is seen to grow as a person, learning about the world and becoming something much more than what was seen at the start of the film. It may be all about his point of view, but in essence he reflects a lot about the world in a new light. From art, music, technology, society, these are hard to recall the first time we have encountered such things. But to see them through the eyes of Bubby, the wow factor for the audience lights up again in an unexpected way.

"Bad Boy Bubby" had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September 1993 where it won the FIPRESCI Prize, Grand Special Jury Prize and the Special Golden Ciak. In addition, the film won the Best Director prize at the 1994 Seattle International Film Festival, and four out of six awards nominated by the Australian Film Institute. It won Best Director, Best Actor in a Lead Role, Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Editing, and was also nominated for Best Film and Best Cinematography. While accolades were aplenty, there were also some negative reactions and controversy. In Italy, animal rights groups claimed that a cat was tortured and killed for the film and there was a boycott for Australian products. In the United Kingdom, the film was initially cut due to animal cruelty of Bubby seemingly messing around with a tethered cat. It was stated that there were two cats used for the film. The first inside Bubby's home was a feral untrained cat which was scheduled to be put down. For the scene of Bubby suffocating the cat, it was already put to sleep when the scene was filmed. As for the homeless cat, that was trained and the scene where it was supposedly dead was actually sleeping with a sedative applied. It eventually was adopted by a crew member. There were some critics and audiences disturbed by the content of the film, but there were many that were extremely positive with its storytelling, its performances, and its innovations.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The transfer is taken from a new 2K restoration. While that may sound like it would be visually impressive, it is not perfect by any means. Light amount of speckles and debris can still be seen, as well as cue blip markers every ten to fifteen minutes in the top right corner. The image is not as clean as it could have been, and it may be because of the print source used, which the press release and packaging do not specify. On the brighter side, colors look quite good, from the greenish walls of Bubby's home, to the brighter sequences outside, they look quite great. Detail is also strong from closeups on faces to the backgrounds. Darker scenes and blacks are a bit crushed, but the balance is fairly consistent. Overall a good transfer, but may have been better.

The film's runtime is 113:57, being the original uncut version of the film.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Binaural Headphone Recording)

The lossless 5.1 and 2.0 tracks sound great, and as pointed out above, sound a bit unusual. Voices come from the left, right, and center channels on the 5.1 mix, and surrounds are used quite well for the additional sound effects and music cues. Depending on how Bubby moves his head, it can alter some of the sounds and voices. While the effect may be sometimes subtle on the lossless tracks, the added "Binaural Headphone Recording" stereo track is closer to that of the replicate the audio as heard through the original recording process without manipulation, and recommended for headphones.

There are optional English subtitles in a white font for the film.

Extras

Audio commentary by director Rolf de Heer and actor Nicholas Hope
In this audio commentary by the director and actor, the two of them look back and discuss the behind the scenes process from the sound design, cinematography, the acting techniques, about the performers and other crew members, and on a sad note that the deleted scenes no longer exist as de Heer threw them all out long before the advent of the DVD format. There is quite a lot of good information in this track, though some of the information does overlap with some of the other extras stated below. This commentary was featured on previous DVD and Blu-ray editions.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Christ Kid, You're a Weirdo" interview with director Rolf de Heer (24:56)
In this 2005 interview produced by Blue Underground, de Heer discusses about the long development of the story, how it is not at all autobiographical, shooting in sequence, the use of different cinematographers and the complex sound recording, and much more. While this featurette was produced in the NTSC format, it seems that Umbrella used an NTSC to PAL master that was used for the original DVD release, then upscaled it to 720p by slowing it down. Due to the bad conversion there is a bit of screen jitter and ghosting seen. This interview was featured on previous DVD and Blu-ray editions.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Being Bubby" interview with actor Nicholas Hope (14:54)
This interview, also produced by Blue Underground in 2005 has Hope discussing his character, the difficulties of the shoot, his typecasting for weird characters in subsequent years, and more, Like the above interview, this also has some conversion issues leading to being a slightly jittery picture.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"Confessor Caressor" short film starring Nicholas Hope (20:26)
"Confessor Caressor" is a mockumentary short directed by Tim Nicholls, starring Nicholas Hope as Micheal Freely (yes, it's "Micheal" as the credits state), a man who claims to be a serial killer. It was this short film that de Rolf saw that made him want to have Hope in the role of Bubby. This short has not been remastered, but actually looks fairly good. Colors are good and consistent, and the pictures is very stable as well. Though there are scratches and speckles all over the image, and the audio is plagued with hiss and crackle, it is still in a watchable state and looks to be a transfer from film elements rather than a video master. This interview was featured on previous DVD and Blu-ray editions.
in 720p, AVC MPEG-4, in 1.55:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Popcorn Taxi Q&A 2004" Q&A With Nicholas Hope (26:30)
Popcorn Taxi is a screening event at the ACMI in Melbourne, and this one featured Hope discussing about "Bad Boy Bubby" with the making of, the alleged animal abuse, the characters, as well as working on the film "Henry Fool". Questions come mostly from audience members who are not on mic, so they can be hard to hear. Answers from Hope are clear though, as there is a direct feed from his microphone. This Q&A was featured on previous DVD and Blu-ray editions.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

25th Anniversary Q&A with Nicholas Hope and Natalie Carr (30:51)
In this Q&A from 2008 for the 25th anniversary, Hope is joined by Natalie Carr who played the role of Sheri in the film. They discuss about the production of the film, the rehearsal process, the sudden celebrity status Hope had, differences from the script, the reactions, and more, Unfortunately this is audio only, with some stills on screen during the audio. Also, the audio seems to be coming from the wired speakers rather than a direct feed from the microphones so there is some echo and distortion heard.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Stills Gallery (2:05)
An automated slideshow gallery of behind the scenes photos. The stills are quite small, taking up only about a sixth of the frame.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4

Theatrical Trailers for "Bad Boy Bubby", "Dingo", "The Tracker" (6:17)
The original trailers for three of de Heer's films with "Bad Boy Bubby", "Dingo", and "The Tracker", all looking lovingly remastered.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with subtitles


The film was first released on Blu-ray back in 2009 by Blue Underground in the US and Eureka Entertainment in the UK. Umbrella Entertainment also released a Blu-ray in 2010, which unfortunately used a 50Hz transfer at 25fps rather than 24fps like the other two. Eleven years later, Umbrella's reissue corrects the issue with this new edition which includes a new 24fps remastered transfer, having all the previously released extras and adding an additional Q&A. while it is great to have at least one thing new, there is no new interviews or input from de Heer, Hope or others from 2020 or 2021 on this release.


Here is a clip of the film, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment, though note the transfer comes from their older Blu-ray edition and should not reflect this new Blu-ray's transfer.

Packaging

This is the seventh release in the "Beyond Genres" line of releases from Umbrella Entertainment, which has a similarly styled black slipcase over a keep case. The slipcase cover and inlay cover has new artwork by Simon Sherry, and for the inside and back inlay there are promotional stills from the film. But hey, why are there two gas masks? Could Bubby have left the house on his own all this time?

The packaging mistakenly states it is region B only as it is region free,
In addition it says the subtitles are "English HoH" but they are in fact standard "English" subtitles, without any captions for names or sound effects.

Overall

"Bad Boy Bubby" is bizarre and disturbing, yet funny and highly entertaining with the tale of a sheltered and damaged soul seeing the world for the first time. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray reissue has an improved though imperfect transfer with a great selection of extras. Highly recommended.

The Blu-ray is available at various retailers as well as through Umbrella Entertainment directly.

The Film: A Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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