As a director, Peter Jackson always seems to be looking both forward and backward. His most famous films, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, were adaptations of a decades-old medieval fantasy novel that also made incredible new innovations in special effects. This year, Jackson’s film output includes producing The Mortal Engines (which could kick off a new franchise), and a documentary reflecting on the centenary of World War I titled They Shall Not Grow Old. The latter has inspired Jackson to use new technology to remaster his older, pre-LOTR films.
In order to make They Shall Not Grow Old, Jackson took archival war footage from Britain’s Imperial War Museum, upgraded and colorized it with modern tools, and fine-tuned the action with CGI. After that experience, Jackson told The Hollywood Reporter that it’s inspired him to try the same kind of restoration process with his early films. Unlike the sweeping fantasy epics for which he’s become world famous, Jackson’s first movies were horror stories heavy on the gore and splatter. His 1987 debut Bad Taste centered on aliens coming to Earth with the intention of turning humans into food, while 1989’s Meet the Feebles was a disgusting comedy with puppets.
“I’ve decided to go back and do this to my old films — the first four I made, which I own but never rereleased,” Jackson told THR. “I’ve done some tests on Braindead, where we took the 16mm negative and put it through our World War I restoration pipeline — and s–t, it looks fantastic!”
None of these early films have been remastered for Blu-Ray or HD streaming — not even 1994’s Heavenly Creatures, which scored Jackson his first Oscar nomination and featured the acting debut of a young Kate Winslet. Jackson told THR he might be interested in remastering them and releasing them as “a nice little box set — the early years! The naughty years!” But in particular, he said that Bad Taste could use the help the most. Since he made it while still holding down a day-job (with the cast populated by his friends), Jackson stored the film negatives under his bed at the time.
“I knew it was a precious thing, but I didn’t have anywhere to put it, so I shoved it under my bed,” he remembers. “Then when I finally got the funding to do the finished Bad Taste film, there was damp mold and mildew all through the bloody neg, and you can sort of see it in some shots. So I’m looking forward to tidying that up! Even if it’s just removing the mold from Bad Taste, that will be a very good thing to do.”