Every now and then…well, actually on very rare occasions Criterion decides to lower itself into the vaguely disreputable, ball-scratching realm of popcorn cinema (Armageddon, The Rock) as a way of sloughing off their elitist, butt-plugged, too-cool-for-school reputation. Their latest release in this realm will be Douglas Cheek‘s CHUD (1984), which Criterion will street on July 12th. One question: why?

True fact: In 1983 I sat one evening at a table in a West 72nd bar with CHUD star John Heard and at least one other CHUD costar (Daniel Stern?) plus a couple of other actor friends including Keith Szarabajka. I distinctly remember Heard explaining to someone at the table that CHUD would be (and I’m writing this from memory) “kind of a subversive, side-pocket, slider-ball type of thing….it’ll be what it’ll be when it opens, and then it’ll be something else in ten or twenty years.” Not a big moneymaker and nothing close to an Oscar-type deal, but possibly destined for coolness and significantly above the level of a Troma Film.

Criterion’s jacket copy: “A rash of bizarre murders in New York City seems to point to a group of grotesquely deformed vagrants living in the sewers. With its surprisingly gritty depiction of urban life, noirish cinematography by Peter Stein (Ernest Goes to Jail), and groundbreaking makeup effects, this Reagan-era chiller remains one of the truest depictions of Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers yet put on film.”