Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on The Vagrant from Arrow Video.
As a disclaimer of transparency, I was provided a review copy of The Vagrant for this episode of Feature Presentations. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Once and a while, you’ll stumble across a slice of cinema that has you question the creator’s intentions. Whether trying to mash genres that don’t go together in a haphazard manner or dubious artistic choices that most may not consider, there are a few movies out there that dare to be different and admirably swing for the fences. The Vagrant is one of these films.
Telling a tale of a boring yuppie who purchases a house and becomes suspicious of the local houseless person on the block, the film alternates between black comedy and horror—depending on your tolerance, succeeds or fails at both.
From the get-go, the quirky tone comes about in the opening moments with odd camera angles and unconventional characterizations. The Vagrant zips along, with the main character purchasing his home and the conflict with the titular character ramping up from zero to 100 in a short period of time. When the film unfolds and leads to what feels like a predictable conclusion, it takes a hard left turn halfway through and—I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t seen it. Just know it’s an odd film, and while it may not be good in the technical sense, it is wildly entertaining with a memorable score.
I remember many years ago when Shout! Factory released the Blu-ray of The Vagrant; many people were ecstatic. While the disc came only with a trailer, many people still wanted it in their collection. When I finally got around to adding it, the edition sold out. Suffice it to say: I wasn’t sure if I missed the boat to owning The Vagrant on Blu-ray. Thankfully, Arrow Video picked up the rights after Shout! Factory’s ended and created a special edition that fans of The Vagrant or those seeking something off-kilter will enjoy.
“Vagrant Memories” is an interview with director Chris Walas looking back on the 1992 film. Walas kicks off the chat stating it was a “once in a lifetime rollercoaster opportunity that [I’m] still trying to clean the scars away from.” He discusses how the film came about and crossed the path of Mel Brooks. Walas dives into the casting, heaping praise on the talent in front of the camera and giving an extra shoutout to Christopher Young’s score before touching upon its initial failure at the box office and the film’s resurgence as a cult film.
“You are in Hell!” is a newly-recorded interview with the Vagrant himself, Marshall Bell. Bell talks about how he came aboard the film, working with Bill Paxton and Michael Ironside, and the makeup process for the role. He speaks highly about his time on set, stating he’s proud of the film and has plenty of stories to tell (and not to tell).
“Barfuss, Homicide” is a 2022 interview with co-star Michael Ironside. Who doesn’t love Michael Ironside? As with the prior interviews, Ironside heaps praise and good about The Vagrant. He speaks about working with his friend and multiple-time co-star Marshall Bell, the work Chris Walas put into directing the movie, and his disappointment at playing a similarly straight character that he’s done many times in the past in such a wacky film. Ironside also recounts a sweet story involving his father, which makes the actor endearing.
“Handling His Property” is a new interview with actress Colleen Camp. The actress discusses how she garnered the role as the real estate agent, the professionalism on The Vagrant, and working with Bill Paxton. Camp dedicates a significant portion of the interview to her co-star and friend, Paxton. She discusses working with him on 1977’s Death Game, where Paxton worked in props and his energy on and off set.
Arrow Video includes an image gallery containing 14 images from the finished film and marketing shots. The last feature is the film’s theatrical trailer. The one omission I wish we could have had would be a chat with Christopher Young about his film score. It truly is a character of its own and has to be heard to be believed. You can’t have everything.
As a final note, the first pressing of this release comes with an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing from film critic Chris Hallock and Vagrant super-fan James Pearcey. The screener copy sent did not come with the book to review.
And there you have it! If you’re part of the cult that has grown to love The Vagrant, this is easily the finest release out there. Featuring a handful of to-the-point interviews, some might argue that Arrow Video gave this movie more love than it deserves. I’m not one of them, and as a fan of physical media, seeing forgotten films like The Vagrant get a special edition makes me a happy cinephile. Still, The Vagrant isn’t a film for everyone. Your mileage will vary with its absurdist mix of horror and comedy, and I recommend watching the movie before purchasing the disc.