In The Path to Aftermath, an extra included in Arrow Video’s new release of In The Aftermath, producer Tom Dugan explains that in the mid-1980s it was easy to sell low budget, straight-to-video movies because video stores had lots of shelf space and not enough VHS tapes. He goes on to say that he spent part of his career filming show trailers and creating eye-catching cover art for films that didn’t even exist. He’d sell the movies based upon those things then get someone else to make the movie on the lowest possible budget. He’d also keep an eye out for foreign films that weren’t selling, then buy them on the cheap, repackage them and make a few bucks.
He bought Angel’s Egg - an almost dialogue-free Japanese animated art-house film - in this manner but after watching it and not understanding it at all he hired Carl Colpaert to direct some live-action sequences to make it more comprehensible to regular folk. Colpaert went on to found Cineville which made some decent indie flicks such as Gas Food Lodging and Swimming with Sharks in the ‘90s so he’s not a total hack.
The results are horrifyingly bad, god-awful, and unimaginative. What remains of Angel’s Egg is really interesting. It was a collaboration between Mamoru Oshii (most famous for creating Ghost in the Shell) and Yoshitaka Amano (who has animated such notable works as Vampire Hunter D and the original Speed Racer). The animation is in expressive black and white, filled with gothic architecture and noir-ish shadows. It's really quite beautiful in a goth punk sort-of way.
The live-action was clearly made on the (very, very) cheap. It was filmed in some kind of abandoned industrial park. The story (so much as it is) involves a few people living in a post-apocalyptic world where the air is so toxic they must wear rubber suits and gas masks. It starts with a couple of blokes wandering around. One of them gets killed by a soldier. The other one escapes and hangs out with a girl for a while. The guy sees the girl from the animated portions of the film (who becomes live action in their scenes together) and chases after her.
In the animated world, which seems to be another planet, the girl carries an egg around in her post-apocalyptic world while a man gives her advice. Apparently, they added in a bunch of dialogue for these two that didn’t appear in the original Angel’s Egg. Presumably, it was designed to make sense of that film, or tie the animation with the live-action together, but it's mostly just New Age mumbo jumbo and makes little sense.
There is a scene in which the live-action guy and the girl enter into a room inside this industrial building. There, they are able to take off their masks and talk. The guy then goes into the next room (and puts his mask on even though the door between them is a regular office door and definitely not airtight) and plays “Carnavalito Tango” on a piano that just happens to be sitting in the hallway of this industrial building on the outskirts of nowhere and plays perfectly in this post-apocalyptic nightmare of a world. It is designed to be beautiful and even moving, but it's so poorly done it just comes off as strange and hilarious.
Eventually, the egg saves Earth by opening up and making the air breathable again. Or something. There is an attempt to tie the two films together in a meaningful way. There are a couple of neat transitions. The best of which is when a feather falls into a puddle of water in the animated world and they nicely recreate the same image in the live-action one. It is all very disjointed and it is quite jarring to go from this beautifully drawn animated world to a poorly lit, terribly shot live-action one.
The only positive thing I can say about In the Aftermath is that it put Angel’s Egg on my map and made me want to seek it out. It looks like a really interesting film.
Arrow Video has given In the Aftermath a new 2K restoration from the original film elements. It is presented with a 1080p transfer and an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Extras include an interview with producer Tom Dugan, one with star Tony Makes, an appreciation of Angel’s Egg by Andrew Osmond, the requisite stills and poster gallery plus a full-page booklet with an essay from Jon Towlson. Sadly, what is not included is a full version of Angel’s Egg which would have been appropriate and made this set worth buying.