Criterion’s 2-disc special edition comes with only a few supplements devoted to the film and Burroughs’ novel, but they ultimately help in decoding what can be at times an incredibly maddening film.
First up is an audio commentary by Peter Weller and David Cronenberg, which is of course found on the first disc with the film. Like most early Criterion commentaries this one finds the two recorded separately. Cronenberg as usual is very informative on his style, creative choices and is not afraid to explain what is going on, making sense of what is from what book by Burroughs and what is based on Burroughs’ life. Weller also does the same, talking a lot about Burroughs, the novel, and drug addiction, also offering his own thoughts on the meaning of the film. I've never heard Weller on a commentary track before and I'm pleased to say he is a good speaker. After listening to it initially I will say it gave me a better understanding of the film and what Cronenberg was going for. Worth listening to for fans or for those just thoroughly confused by the film.
The second single-layer disc contains the rest of the supplements. The big one would be the making-of documentary called Naked Making Lunch, which is a 48-minute documentary that appeared on British television. This is easily the best supplement on the disc as it goes fairly in-depth into the making of the film, gathering interviews with the participants, Cronenberg getting the most time, and looking somewhat at the effects, as well as Burroughs' life and the novel Naked Lunch. Everyone clearly states over and over again how impossible it would be to truly adapt the novel (Cronenberg says matter-of-factly a true translation would cost 500-million dollars and be banned in every country in the world) so the film does veer, but with the approval of Burroughs of course (who did have problems with the reference to him shooting his wife, but eventually accepted it). For those that don't really understand the film this doc along with the commentary will provide some help.
The remaining supplements are a little disappointing, mostly in presentation, since they’re primarily images and text, though they still provide enough information. Special Effects Still Gallery provides text and still shots including photos, drawings and storyboards) for various effects throughout the production, including the mugwumps, the various typewriters and other creature effects. It's presented as a gallery that you can flip through, or just jump to a selected section.
Film Stills Gallery presents 3 sections including "Portraits", "New York, 1953" and "Interzone", each presenting photos having to do with the heading, including publicity shots, behind-the-scenes photos and photos from the film. As usual you navigate through them using your remote.
Like Criterion's Dead Ringers DVD they present a marketing section that presents Fox's marketing plan, which the introductory text states Cronenberg was very impressed with. Here you will find a theatrical trailer (very odd for a major studio to release), 2 TV spots and a 5-minute featurette which lasts 5-minutes. You will also find a B-Roll Montage, which is roughly 3-minutes worth of behind-the-scenes material.
The second best supplement would have to be William S. Burroughs reading segments from his novel. Recorded for an audio book in 1995, there is over an hour worth of stuff here, including the author's "Atrophied Preface". I have never read the book (though have been planning on it for a very long time) so having this is a bit of a treat.
And finally there is Allen Ginsberg's Photos of William S. Burroughs. Included are Ginsberg's notes explaining each photo and there is a good sized collection. A rather thoughtful and unique inclusion on Criterion’s part.
Criterion has also included a large 32-page booklet that includes essays on the film, Burroughs, Cronenberg and even one by Burroughs himself on Cronenberg.
Unfortunately for a 2-disc set it does feel fairly slim (there’s barely an hour’s worth of video material on here) and I feel the material probably could have all fit on one disc, but the supplements at the very least do help one in figuring this film out, which is really one of the oddest films Cronenberg has made, and that’s saying something. 7/10