There are some movies out there that get director’s cuts and the like that absolutely deserve it due to being neutered by studio meddling or because it is so beloved. I’m not sure TAMMY AND THE T-REX falls into the latter category but it definitely falls into the former. Originally filmed as a horror comedy, the movie ended up being cut by its distributor to try and make it a family film instead and failing miserably. For years the butchered version was the only one available on video and TV in the US, which is how I saw it back in the day on TNT. Thanks to the diligent efforts of Vinegar Syndrome (these guys are on fire lately with the great releases), we can now see TAMMY AND THE T-REX in all of its gory glory. Or TANNY AND THE TEENAGE T-REX as the title card says.
The story is one as old as time. Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. Girl’s jealous ex-boyfriend beats boy up and leaves him in the lion section of a game preserve to be mauled. Boy is in hospital and mad scientist implants boy’s brain into a robotic T-rex. Mayhem ensues. Ok, so maybe it isn’t that familiar. It is one hell of a trip. The boy in question is Micheal and the girl is of course Tammy, played by Paul Walker and Denise Richards in some of their earliest roles. The mad doctor is the great Terry Kiser doing a bang up and campy job with much aplomb. The premise is goofy and as a family film, it fails rather miserably. As a low-budget horror comedy, however, it excels, and a lot of that is due to the restored gore. Heads are bitten off, people are eviscerated and stomped out of existence and the red stuff flows freely and wildly. The robotic T-rex is an actual animatronic that the producer had on hand and wanted to make a movie about and it’s actually quite impressive in terms of motion and looks. Director Stewart Raffill does an admirable job in the time he had available and created a fun romp for those who don’t mind turning off their suspension of disbelief and laughing for awhile.
The acting is campy, as you might expect, but the earnest and innocent nature of Walker and Richards helps sell their relationship and gets us rooting for them in a world that clearly does not want them together and tears them apart in such an over the top manner. It’s expected from a low budget comedy like this but it really does come all together. Richards does most of the heavy lifting in the relationship since Walker gets taken out of the film rather early and is replaced by the robotic dinosaur. Still, Walker makes enough of an impression on us that we are rooting for Michael and Tammy to still find a way to be together somehow between all the the carnage.
I didn’t realize how bloody the movie was going to be in the uncut form. I expected maybe a few spurts here and there and maybe a few people get eaten. Instead, the effects bring to mind movies like RE-ANIMATOR and DEAD-ALIVE where the excessive gore is part of the humor and in addition to injecting a bit of energy, it adds some laughs as well. Which makes sense considering the style of humor leans more towards the goofy and overt rather than subtle. The jokes come fast and furious, as the story itself seems to know it isn’t going to be able to keep you interested on drama alone. Add in the blood and you have quite the concoction. It might not have ended up on anyone’s awards lists (other than Razzies), but damn if the already charming movie isn’t pushed more into cult classic territory by the ten minutes or so of gore that had been restored to it.
You can find the movie on the aforementioned beautiful physical release by Vinegar Syndrome or stream it digitally (as of this writing) on Shudder. If you’ve never seen the movie before in either version or even if you have, honestly, it is well worth checking out.