Editor’s Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on October 12, 2005, and we’re proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.


When a movie turns out as startlingly successful as Saw did, you wouldn’t be surprised to find everyone involved taking as much credit as they can. In truth, the film’s behind-the-scenes and onscreen talent are all effusive with the praise of their collaborators on Lions Gate’s two-DVD Uncut Edition—it’s one of the on-set pranks that they all want to claim responsibility for.

Between the two commentaries and other assorted extras, at least three different people claim to have been the one behind a gag pulled on star Cary Elwes, where he was given a rewritten scene he was to share with actor Ken Leung in which his dialogue had been replaced with vile anti-Asian epithets. It is a pretty funny story—the punchline is that Elwes spent two hours further revising the scene, giving the racist comments to another character—and is one of the many things that make this disc a marked improvement on Lions Gate’s previous Saw DVD.

Don’t throw out that old edition, though; its best feature, the commentary by director James Wan and scriptwriter/star Leigh Whannell, hasn’t been ported over here. Even better is the fact that on the new commentary he and Whannell share with Elwes, Wan states that he doesn’t want to repeat anything from that old talk. There’s certainly a lot more joking around on this new commentary, but plenty of solid information shines through all the jesting—including the fact that there were plenty of laughs on set as well, even in the uncomfortable bathroom scenes, where Whannell and Elwes spent a week on a sealed set (“We really were trapped,” Elwes quips). Wan acknowledges the many restrictions he had to adapt to, admitting that the final product is “not the film I really wanted to make” and pointing out the use of stills and video images to beef up the movie in the editing room. There’s also discussion of the philosophical subtext intended to set Saw apart from other serial-killer films, assorted amusing anecdotes and a guest appearance by “Marlon Brando.”

The Saw seen here is Wan’s preferred version of the film, with a little additional bloodshed—“It’s not like there’s 20 minutes of extra gory footage,” Wan cautions—and, just as significantly, improved color timing (adding sicklier green to the crime scenes) and the replacement of songs on the soundtrack with more edgy music by composer Charlie Clouser. While a few scenes set in dark rooms are almost too dark, the picture (1.85:1) and sound (DTS-ES 6.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1) are otherwise exemplary, further enhancing the slick package Wan delivered on a very modest budget.

At least part of that money came directly from producers Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules themselves, one of the many revelations on the trio’s own commentary track. Any apprehension that tales from the business side would come off as dry are quickly negated, as the three deliver a movie-length chat that may be even more informative than the one by Wan, Whannell and Elwes. Along with detailing how they pulled the movie off on limited funds (e.g., because it was all shot at one facility, there was no need to hire Teamster drivers) and got the name cast (it helped that they ran a production and talent management company), the three share a healthy supply of their own anecdotes and get some teasing jabs in at Wan and Whannell, related to not only their success with girls but the former’s stylistic inspirations (“David Fincher called—he wants his shot back”). On a more serious note, they provide a pretty complete history of how this little production evolved from what was originally intended as a direct-to-video release to a brilliantly marketed theatrical hit. And—finally!—there are a couple of shout-outs to Rocky Faulkner, who created the grisly makeup FX.

The three-part “Hacking Away at Saw” documentary, which leads off the second disc, manages to come up with stories and observations not covered in either commentary, starting with Wan and Whannell explaining which of them came up with different parts of the plotline. Actors (including Tobin Bell, Jigsaw himself) and creative folks not present on the commentaries get their say, and there’s a wealth of cool visual material, including plenty of on-set video. The best such supplements, however, can be found in the “Director’s Art Gallery,” in which we get a peek at Wan’s freaky concept paintings for characters (like Jigsaw in a bright red outfit that was changed to black for the film), settings and a great piece of poster design. Elsewhere in the art department, there’s an animated storyboard section detailing a setpiece in Jigsaw’s lair that was too expensive to film—since it involved not only an explosion but also a giant vise that squishes one of the characters!

All this stuff is so good that it doesn’t really matter that some of the other extras don’t amount to much. “Full Disclosure Report: Piecing Together Jigsaw” is a mock true-crime TV show that doesn’t tell us much more about the villain and his exploits than we already know from the movie—though I did like the “news footage” of a “Bake Sale to Help Those Affected by Jigsaw.” An “On-Set Preview of Saw II” isn’t that at all, just the sequel’s first few minutes which have already been made available on-line. “Cut Media” is a collection of Lions Gate horror trailers, and there’s a “Jigsaw’s Workshop” feature for those with DVD-ROM capability. Each disc additionally contains a couple of Easter eggs; both of them hide a funny, minute-long bit of weirdness that retells Saw with puppets, reminiscent of the popular “30 Seconds With Bunnies” shorts, and there’s also a satirical featurette in which the cast and filmmakers discuss working with “Billie,” the scary doll that serves as Jigsaw’s alter ego.

But a highlight of the whole package is—at last!—the original short that Wan and Whannell put together to present their vision of the film, with the latter in the jaw-trap that was worn by Shawnee Smith in the actual feature. As a Hollywood audition piece by the upstart Australians, this segment makes it clear that Wan and co. knew what they were doing—in more ways than one: All the Aussie actors on screen speak with American accents.

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