Episode 38: Death Warmed Up (1984)

What do you get when you mix together brainwashing, gory brain surgery, cryogenics, zombies, and motorbike chases? You get New Zealand’s first horror film Death Warmed Up, a delirious tale of mad science and revenge. Hayden and L.J. dive in to discuss structure, influences, and Bruno Lawrence’s exploding head.

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Director: David Blyth
Producer: Murray Newey
Screenplay: Michael Heath, David Blyth
Director of photography: James Bartle
Editor: David Huggett
Composer: Mark Nicholas

Cast:
Michael Tucker…
Michael Hurst
Sandy…Margaret Umbers
Lucas…William Upjohn
Jeannie…Norelle Scott
Spider…David Letch
Dr. Howell…Gary Day

Notes:

  • The Screenline DVD release is sadly out-of-print, but we recommend tracking down a copy if you want to see the film as it’s the only guaranteed way to see the uncut version. Copies periodically show up on second-hand sites like TradeMe. If you live in New Zealand, it can be rented from Aro Video. Information about other releases is available from NZ Videos, but we can’t vouch for their quality.
  • The interviews with David Blyth and Michael Heath included as an extra on the Screenline DVD can be viewed at NZ On Screen. The wildly OTT trailer is worth a look as well.
  • Death Warmed Up won the Grand Prix at the International Festival of Fantasy & Science Fiction Films, Paris in 1984. The jury that year was headed by Alejandro Jodorowsky.
  • There are a couple of minor errors in the plot synopsis Hayden gives in the episode. He incorrectly states that both Lucas and Jeannie are unaware of Michael’s revenge plans – it is actually only Jeannie who is in the dark. There’s also some confusion over the exact nature of Dr. Howell’s facility – in the film it is briefly referred to as a psychiatric institute.
  • Ant Timpson’s blog contains a nice recollection of his first encounter with Death Warmed Up.
  • If you’re interested in more info on the type of censorship the film suffered in several territories, a list of the Australian cuts is available at the excellent Refused-Classification.com along with some notes from Blyth.
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