The Excellent Eighties: Reborn (1981)

Ah, Sam knows my Bigas Luna fandom*, as I gushed my philosophical wax over the majesty of Luna in our review of Anguish. Gracias, mi amigo: your X-Mas gift of film is enjoyed.

What saddens me: that this, Bigas’s fourth directing effort — and his first English-language film (the second was Anguish) — ends up on a Mill Creek box set. No offense to the executives of Mill Creek, as we devour your box sets like a serial killer with a chest ripped-out heart on a Valentine’s Day murder spree . . . but wow, you’d think, with Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) and Micheal Moriatry (The Stuff) on the marquee, Reborn would have not fallen into the public domain and received a proper digital reissue. Sadly, a deserved John Carpenter, Sean S. Cunningham, or Wes Craven-like success was not in the cards for Luna. As with Anguish, Reborn bombed at the U.S. box-office (as result of a poorly-received limited release) for which it was intended. What we really need is a double disc restore with Reborn packed with Anguish in honor of Bigas Luna. Now.

Okay. Enough with the ranting. Let me a have nice, warm cup of Ovaltine (Well, Roundtine, because, as Jerry Seinfeld pointed out: the cup is round and the jar is round. . . .) and finish this review. (Sorry, Sam. It can’t be done.)

It’s no mystery that Reborn, like Anguish before it, is beyond the bizarre — even for Satan’s tomfoolery — only this first English-language film for Luna is a bit more low-key than the eye-ball carving and snail fetishisms of Anguish. Luna’s eye for set design is on fire, natch, oozing with style and substance that’s punctuated by his usual taste for the erotic mixed with the spiritual: it’s a religious fantasy piece that questions faith, explores Luna’s Catholicism, and the mysteries of one’s acquiring healing powers. And, if those powers are real (they are, in this case), how does the one blessed (or cursed) used them? And, if that person is with child (she is, here), then will that child inherit the mother’s powers of stigmata and healing?

The story concerns Giacomo (Francesco Rabal, the real “leading man,” here), who discovers his Holy Ghost-hearing girlfriend (Antonella Murgia, the real “leading lady,” here) is a “stigmata”: someone whose hands and feet mysteriously bleed in the same places where Jesus Christ was crucified. (At the risk of getting into a religious debate: It is said Christ was crucified through his achilles (the back of the foot, above the heel) and his wrists; anyone “bleeding” from their palms and insteps are phonies, because, there’s no way nails can be driven through those parts of the body without shattering bones . . . then hang from those wound-points without ripping through the flesh and shattered bones, and falling off the crucifix. So read your Roman history before committing religious fraud, preacher man.) Of course, no surprise, Dennis Hooper is the maniacal Rev. Tom Hartley, an American televangelist-head of a racketeering “revivalist” church** — and he exploits the situation for his own, greedy purposes. Moriarty is Mark, Hopper’s kidnapping sidekick, sent to Italy to “recruit” the girl — they fall in love; he impregnates her — is his usual, off-the-chain self in a role that rises to his work in Q: The Winged Serpent.

The reason why we are here: Mill Creek Entertainment features this Bigas Luna classic on their Excellent Eighties 50-Movie Pack. There’s (awful, with muddy images and distorted audio) steaming copies at Amazon Prime and You Tube, but emptor those caveats, ye streamer: both platforms stream the 92-minute, shorter U.S.-version — when, what we really want, is the extra 13 minutes of the 105-minute original version. And trust me: those lost minutes are why so many detract this Luna masterpiece as “confusing junk.” And these bad prints aren’t helping matters, leaving you think you’re watching a knockoff of Giulio Paradisi’s confusing mess-of-a-mess The Exorcist knockoff that is the The Visitor — and Reborn is not that bad, for it is so, so much better. And it has nothing to do with exorcism.

The Exorcist-inspired theatrical one-sheet that hurt the film more than helped.

MGM currently holds the copyright on Reborn, with Park Circus/Arts Alliance as its TV/Home Video distributor. Again, we need a restore on this one, so help us out MGM and Park Circus!

* You can learn more about Bigas Luna with his 2013 obituary at Variety.
** Beth B’s dark comedy, Salvation!, starring Exene Cervenka, tackles the same material.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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