Nearly a decade ago, Network and ITV performed an extensive restoration on the film elements of this short-lived but fondly remembered Martin Landau-Barbara Bain series, which offers more of a “2001″ type of feel in its initial 24 episodes than its more straightforward, action-oriented (read: decidedly more “Trek”-ian) second season. Effects producer Brian Johnson worked with the Andersons in establishing the show’s visual scheme, and the result is a particularly interesting, pre-“Star Wars” series that still carries an international following.
A&E/NewVideo previously brought the first season of “Space: 1999” to Blu-Ray in the U.S. years back in a now out-of-print package. In the UK, Network released the restoration in its entirety on BD and included a wealth of extras – some of which have been carried over to Shout’s Blu-Ray box-set with numerous new, exclusive supplements also added into the mix.
On the technical end, the 1080p (4:3) transfers are just a joy to behold: the detail is superb for a mid ‘70s TV series, with fine grain and strong colors. Mono audio tracks are on-hand as well as remixed 5.1 DTS Master Audio soundtracks, making for an a/v package comparable to the Network UK releases. Shout’s box-set assembles the episodes across separate Year One and Year Two cases, then adds a separate box for the special features, which feature a number of newly produced goodies. Among the exclusive Shout extras are interviews with Barbara Bain, co-star Nick Tate and director Kevin Connor. There’s also “Moonbase Merch,” a “tour of Space: 1999 ephemera” with John Muir; and three fresh commentary tracks. These include Anthony Taylor on “Dragon’s Domain” and “The Metamorph,” along with Scott Michael Bosco on “Ring Around the Moon.”
Additional extras both carried over from the earlier Network and A&E packages include Gerry Anderson’s commentaries on “Breakaway” and “Dragon’s Domain”; the “These Episodes” and “Memories Of Space” featurettes; a Sylvia Anderson interview; Catherine Schell reflecting on “Guardian of Piri”; vintage Year Two and FX producer Brian Johnson interviews, plus behind-the-scenes footage with Johnson’s commentary; “Concept and Creation” and “Special Effects and Design” featurettes; TV promos featuring Landau and Bain; trailers for the edited feature versions “Destination Moonbase Alpha” and “Alien Attack”; the Blackpool “Space City” exhibition advert, as well as an advert for Lyons Maid Ice; photo galleries and a 16-page episode guide. Even with these reprised goodies, there are still numerous differences in terms of supplements between this and the Network release, so hardcore “Space: 1999” fans may want to own both sets for the most comprehensive package.
Either way, Shout’s box-set comes highly recommended for newcomers and those of us who grew up on the series – back when it never looked as good as this!
Hammer Hits: More sci-fi fun can be found in a pair of new Hammer Blu-Rays from Shout! Factory: QUATERMASS II (85 mins., 1957), which starred Brian Donlevy as Professor Quatermass in a follow-up to “The Quatermass Experiment,” and the full-color – and even more entertaining – QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (97 mins., 1968).
One of Hammer studios’ finest features, this intellectual sci-fi thriller is a fascinating, thought-provoking entry into the “Quatermass” series, which initially began as a BBC television serial before receiving life on the theatrical front in the late ’50s. Here,
British scientist Quatermass (Andrew Keir) is called in to analyze the remains of a spacecraft and a prehistoric human discovered by anthropologist James Donald during the excavation of a subway tunnel in London. The craft still seems to be emitting energy, which leads Quatermass to conclude that we humans received our intellect and latent physic powers from a planned invasion of the Earth by Martians, who still – in some some form – plan to make good on their intentions! Scripted by Nigel Kneale, this 1968 picture is a smart, highly entertaining yarn, originally released to U.S. theaters as “Five Million Years to Earth.” The performances are first-rate and despite the lack of elaborate effects, the movie still manages to grip the viewer from start to finish.
Both films are new to Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray line this month, each offering fresh extras and, in the case of “Quatermass 2,” a new 2K scan (1.37) from the only surviving film print. Other extras on “Quatermass 2” include new commentaries with historians Ted Newsom and, on another track, Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr; plus interviews with Val Guest, an older commentary with Kneale and Guest; the World of Hammer Episode “Sci-Fi” and the trailer. “Quatermass and the Pit,” meanwhile, boasts a 1080p (1.66) transfer in generally good shape; new commentaries with Nasr and Haberman, plus Bruce Hallenbeck on another track; an older commentary with Kneale and director Roy Ward Baker; archival interviews with Julian Glover, Joe Dante, Kim Newman among others; alternate U.S. credits and a still gallery. Both discs come highly recommended!
And not to be outdone, July 30th brings two more Hammer horrors from Shout, making their U.S. Blu-Ray debuts.
The moody THE REPTILE (91 mins., 1966) exudes atmosphere as a plague spreads through a Cornish village, leading a victim’s brother (Ray Barrett) to investigate a suspicious doctor (Noel Willman) and his daughter (Jacqueline Pearce). John Elder scripted and John Gilling directed this agreeable Hammer thriller presented here by Shout in two different aspect ratios (1.66 and 1.85) with a new interview with assistant director (and British film veteran) William P. Cartlidge and fresh commentary with Steve Haberman, Constantine Nasr and fellow historian Ted Newsom. A slew of other featurettes from past releases round out the package. LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (95 mins., 1970), meanwhile, adapted Sheridan LeFanu’s “Carmilla” as a capable vampire thriller with Yutte Stensgaard as the undead queen who comes to practice her special fang-biting skills at an elite girl’s school. Ralph Bates and Barbara Jefford co-star in Jimmy Sangster’s fan-favorite, late-era Hammer outing, here improved by a fresh 4K scan of original film elements, again in selectable 1.66 and 1.85 aspect ratios. A new interview with actress Mel Churcher and commentary from historian Bruce Hallenbeck highlight the extras, along with an older commentary from Marcus Hearn and Sangster plus the trailer, radio spots and still galleries.
Chillers of the Golden Age: After a triumphant Volume 1 release last month, Scream returns with Volume 2 of their UNIVERSAL HORROR COLLECTION. This four-disc Blu-Ray set houses another quartet of vintage Universal chillers, including MURDERS IN THE ZOO (63 mins., 1933), a dark pre-Code release starring Lionel Atwill as a zoologist with a grizzly means of disposing of his wife’s lovers! Charlie Ruggles co-stars; THE MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET (61 mins., 1942), again featuring Atwill, who also surfaces in THE STRANGE CASE OF DOCTOR Rx (66 mins., 1942); and saving the best for last, the entertaining THE MAD GHOUL (66 mins., 1943), featuring “Mummy” series alumni Evelyn Ankers, George Zucco and Turhan Bay. Extras in Scream’s second volume aren’t as plentiful as their initial entry – there are new commentaries from Gregory William Mank on “Zoo” and Thomas Reeder on “Ghoul,” along with a Lionel Atwill featurette, plus assorted still galleries for all four films. The 1080p (1.37) B&W transfers are all solid in terms of detail though the source materials show their age in terms of dirt and nicks here and there, and the DTS MA mono soundtracks are likewise as clear as the source allows. In all, while the set as a whole doesn’t match the quality of Volume 1, this is still a most worthwhile anthology of vintage Universal outings for fans…More Golden Age thrills can be found in another welcome Val Lewton release from Scream Factory. Coming July 30th is THE LEOPARD MAN (86 mins., 1943), an adaptation of Cornell Woolrich’s novel “Black Alibi,” where murders attributed to a leopard in New Mexico may be more related to human causes. Jacques Tourneur helmed this 1943 RKO release, which in terms of its plot isn’t on the level of Lewton’s best productions, but does boast a crackling chase sequence and, of course, plenty of atmosphere. Licensed from Warner, Shout’s Blu-Ray houses a fine 1080p (1.37) B&W transfer with DTS MA mono sound, the trailer, a new commentary from Constantine Nasr and an older commentary with William Friedkin.
SILENT HILL Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray (125 mins., 2006, R; Shout! Factory): The lack of reviews on its opening day might have pegged “Brotherhood of the Wolf” French filmmaker Christophe Gans’ American debut – “Silent Hill” — as another cinematic video-game travesty, but the resulting film is actually a symphony of surreal images that ought to be please hard-core horror aficionados. Stylishly made and directed with confidence by Gans, “Silent Hill” is unsurprisingly a case of style over substance – a twisted variation on “Alice in Wonderland” adapted from the popular Konami “survival horror” video game franchise (a cousin to Capcom’s “Resident Evil,” for those unfamiliar with the brand name).
In Roger Avary’s screenplay, Radha Mitchell plays Rose, a mother who takes her troubled adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) on a road trip to a deserted West Virginia town that the child has been having visions of. There, Sharon disappears and Rose undertakes a journey into the seeming depths of hell where the town’s survivors (including Alice Krige as a blindly devoted sect leader) fight to stay ahead of the bizarre creatures that lurk all around Silent Hill.
I’m not about to say that “Silent Hill” is a great movie, even of a genre kind, but as a purely visual experience this is one of the more striking horror films to come down the pike since Tarsem Singh’s “The Cell.” Gans populates his cinematic world with creepy Patrick Tatopoulos monsters and vivid, evocative imagery that keeps you watching in spite of the general lack of dramatic tension. Even better, the studio kept “Silent Hill” at a leisurely, two-hour running time, enabling for the story to unfold at a pace less frenetic than the Hollywood norm and letting viewers soak up the atmosphere.
Surprisingly, it mostly works, except for an overly bloody finale and a too-ambiguous ending that left the door ajar for a belated, vastly inferior sequel. Aside from that, Gans’ U.S. debut is certainly worth a viewing for horror fanatics.
Scream Factory’s new double-disc Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray of “Silent Hill” includes a superb 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer and 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack. The prior Sony Blu-Ray was encoded as MPEG-2 so this is an improvement in that capacity, while Shout adds new extras in the form of a commentary from cinematographer Dan Laustsen and interviews with Gans, Jodelle Ferland and special effects artist Paul Jones. The earlier six-part Making Of featurette from Sony’s DVD/BD is also included, putting the cap on a recommended upgrade for fans.
Also New From Shout Factory: Universal’s big color sci-fi spectacular of the mid ‘50s, THIS ISLAND EARTH (86 mins., 1955), joins Shout Factory’s roster this July as well. Featuring a new 4K scan of original film elements, this wild and woolly affair has never looked better than it does here in matching 1.33 and 1.85 aspect ratios (your choice) and 2.0 stereo or mono DTS MA soundtracks. The former is particularly vital as the 3-D Film Archive worked to restore the movie’s original “Perspecta” stereophonic sound, and that mix makes its debut here in Shout’s release. Other new extras include a commentary with visual FX producer Robert Skotak; an audio interview with David Schecter; and a talk with Italian genre filmmaker Luigi Cozzi. Universal’s prior Making Of, the Trailers From Hell segment with Joe Dante, the trailer and still galleries round out a must for Universal fans…Debuting July 16th, THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES (2017, G) hails from the creators of the Oscar-nominated “Ernest & Celestine.” This wild and wacky animated affair from directors Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert adapts Renner’s own graphic novel, following a series of animals and their various (and familiar) predicaments in the countryside. Slapstick humor and plenty of fast-paced gags give this a whole different feel than “Ernest & Celestine” but kids should still be particularly engaged by the rapid-fire nature of the material — while a moral-driven message is still conveyed. Shout and GKids’ Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack includes a Making Of; interview with the directors; Q&A from the NY International Children’s Film Festival; trailers; a 1080p (1.77) transfer and both English and French 5.1 DTS MA sound.
Shout recently released a Blu-Ray of the first ‘90s Power Rangers movie, which met with solid box-office before the fad – for a time – died out. That was clearly seen in the dwindling commercial receipts of TURBO: A POWER RANGERS MOVIE (99 mins., 1997, PG), which earned a paltry $8 million against its 1995 predecessor’s $38 mil domestic intake. Some of the kids who grew up on the first iteration of the Rangers had become undoubtedly weary of the series by that point, but for fans with a connection to this sequel directed by David Winning and series co-creator Shuki Levy, Shout has issued a solid catalog Blu-Ray. The 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer and 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack are fine, and extras include both retrospective and archival featurettes and the trailer…Also on July 30th, Shout unrolls a Collector’s Edition of BOJACK HORSEMAN: SEASONS ONE & TWO (10 hours, 2014), the weird, cult favorite animated series set in an L.A. where animal-people (like the burned out title character) and humans co-exist. For admirers, this Netflix series (which I believe has also aired on Comedy Central) comes to physical disc for the first time in a nice Special Edition package. Featuring all 25 episodes from its first two seasons in 1080p (1.78) transfers and 5.1/2.0 stereo sound, Shout’s impressive array of extras include animatics for two episodes and the main titles; image galleries; side-by-side animation walkthroughs; and commentaries for all episodes with cast and crew members.
Also New & Noteworthy
GOTHAM: The Complete Series Blu-Ray (2014-19; Warner): WHAT IT IS: One of the most anticipated new series of 2014 was this “prequel” to the Batman mythos, centered around eventual-Commissioner Jim Gordon – here portrayed as a crusading cop by Ben MacKenzie. Gordon’s run-ins with a litany of future Gotham villains include the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler, Two-Face and the Joker – mostly all in their pre-origin phases – in a show that I found, personally, pretty disappointing and murky off the bat. “Gotham” can’t quite seem to figure out exactly what it’s trying to do at times, occasionally pressing ahead with Bruce Wayne material that seems “too soon,” while some of the performances are a mixed bag (Jada Pinkett-Smith’s crime boss being one of those). Still, hardcore comic book fans might warm up to “Gotham”’s leisurely storytelling, which managed to find more of a groove in its subsequent four seasons, all of which have been collected in this new Warner Blu-Ray box set (also on DVD) of the just-finished Fox series. BLU-RAY COMPLETE SERIES BREAKDOWN: Unaired scenes, gag reels, Comic Con segments, featurettes and other goodies adorn Warner’s Complete Series box, featuring all five seasons in 1080p transfers and with 5.1 DTS MA sound. Recommended for Bat fans in spite of some rocky storytelling, especially early on.
THE BEACH BUM Blu-Ray (95 mins., 2017, R; Universal): Harmony Korine’s oddball track record includes the weirdly watchable James Franco slumfest “Spring Breakers” and now this sweeter, lighter confection starring Matthew McConaughey in what sounds like the quintessential “McConaughey role.” Playing a burned out, would-be poet marrying off his daughter and more content to bum around the Florida Keys instead of turning out a long overdue novel, McConaughey’s “Moondog” is a fiercely independent sort living life on his own terms. Assorted run-ins with his wife (Isla Fisher), agent (an unbilled Jonah Hill), friend (Snoop Dogg), rehab buddy (Zac Efron) and the likes of Jimmy Buffet and Bertie “Key Largo” Higgins provide whatever semblance of plot there is, but it’s a segment with pal Martin Lawrence as a charter of a sightseeing boat that generates the biggest laughs.
Non-spoiler alert: there’s not a lot of plot in Korine’s film, which was met with harshly divisive reaction from critics and viewers alike. Frankly, it’s impossible to defend the movie’s lack of cohesion, but if the idea of both a guy playing a sousaphone on the end of a dock – and Moondog kicking him into the water – sounds funny to you, then “The Beach Bum” is an agreeable 90-minute tonic with several choice laughs. It’s also helped by Benoit Debie’s color-drenched cinematography and a wonderful soundtrack peppered with “beach tunes” and – I’m not kidding – one of the best scores John Debney has ever written. Sprightly melodic and “light,” it’s the perfect accompaniment to a lark of a movie that viewers aren’t likely to meet halfway – you either go with the flow of “The Beach Bum” or end up being washed ashore by its uneven charms. Universal’s lovely Blu-Ray (2.40, 5.1 DTS MA) includes a 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack, Digital HD copy and trailers.
HOTEL MUMBAI Blu-Ray (124 mins., 2019, R; Universal): Compelling, at-times horrifying dramatization of the terrorist attack on India’s Taj Hotel in 2008, where some 30 people died – half of them staff members who tried to save their guests. The lives of the innocent victims as well as the motivations of Islamic radicals are vividly chronicled in Australian director Anthony Maras’ film, which combines some characters for dramatic impact and ends up a film that keeps you glued to your seat, in often (understandably) uncomfortable ways. Dev Patel and Armie Hammer are both standouts in a uniformly fine cast, and all of it is superbly, believably rendered in one of the year’s best films. Universal’s Blu-Ray combo pack of the Bleecker Street release includes a 1080p (2.40) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, a DVD, Digital HD copy and several featurettes.
CAPTIVE STATE Blu-Ray (110 mins., 2019, R; Universal): This Amblin/Participant Media co-production has an interesting enough concept – what the world would be like a few years removed from an extraterrestrial takeover – but its agenda can quickly be seen when its opening text crawl tells us “the gap between rich and poor has never been greater” and “deportations are now taking place – off-planet.” Yes, director Rupert Wyatt’s thriller, set in a dystopian future Chicago, is really just a thinly veiled Hollywood commentary on what happened in 2016, just with cactus-adorned creatures showing up every now and then to remind you that you’re watching a movie and not CNN. John Goodman fares well as a frustrated cop with Vera Farmiga as his wife – a former teacher turned futuristic Stormy Daniels. “Captive State” opens solidly and ends with a satisfying enough twist, but it’s unfortunate the rest of it is so slow-going and intermittently preachy. Universal’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p (2.35) transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, commentary with Wyatt and co-writer Erica Beeney, two featurettes and a Digital HD copy.
CRITTERS ATTACK! Blu-Ray Combo Pack (89 mins., 2019, R; Warner): Marking its first feature sequel in decades, “Critters Attack!” is an upcoming Syfy Channel movie that’s – like the forthcoming “Banana Splits Movie” – debuting on home video in advance of its broadcast. Yes, it’s yet another revival pic, this time with the Critters back on Earth and causing problems for a college town and a harried babysitter (Tashiana Washington) in particular. With an enhanced “R” rating, it’s hard to tell who “Critters Attack!” is aimed towards – nostalgic viewers may be turned off by the uptick in gore, while younger audiences are likely to be disengaged by the monster-oriented humor. Still, Bobby Miller’s South African-lensed production – apparently to be followed by future installment(s) – is watchable enough and at least offers a playful spirit, helped by an appearance from Dee Wallace, reprising her role from the original 1986 film for the first time. Warner’s Blu-Ray combo pack is out next week offering three featurettes and a scene-specific commentary featuring Miller and (of course) a critter. The 1080p (1.78) AVC encoded transfer and DTS MA 5.1 audio track are both fine with a DVD and Digital HD copy also on-tap.
BREAKTHROUGH 4K UHD Combo Pack (116 mins., 2019, PG; Fox): Superior “Christian movie,” based on a true story, about the miraculous recovery of a Midwestern teenager who falls through the ice and is pronounced dead after spending minutes underwater and nearly an hour of CPR that failed to revive him. Actress Roxann Dawson’s film is sincerely told with Grant Nieporte adapting Joyce Smith’s autobiographical account of how prayer and belief brought her son back – for the disbelievers, “Breakthrough” isn’t likely to make an impression, but for the devoted, this is a well-produced, if a bit overlong, picture that gets a boost from its cast. “This Is Us” star Chrissy Metz is superb as the mother, with Topher Grace as the new evangelical pastor of her family’s church – their sparring provides some much-needed dramatic juice to a story that hits the expected genre beats of anguish and uplift. Fox’s 4K UHD of this spring release includes an HDR enhanced transfer, 7.1 DTS MA sound, commentary from Dawson and producer DeVon Franklin, a deleted scene, still gallery, featurettes, Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy.
Heroes, Villains & Those Inbetween
SHAZAM! 4K UHD Combo Pack (132 mins., 2019, PG-13; Warner): After the success of “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman,” DC Comics attempted to score three in a row with “Shazam!” – an older property best remembered by 40s/50 somethings via Filmation’s live-action TV series from the 70s.
Updated for a new era of endless super-hero features, “Shazam!” works from the same basic premise as its comic book origins, with young teen Billy Batson gaining the powers of a muscular, older super-hero (in the guise of Zachary Levi). At first Shazam is content to grab money from patrons on the streets of Philadelphia for his newly-acquired powers, but the arrival of a villain played by Mark Strong – who was turned down for the mantle of Shazam as a boy – complicates things for both he and his new foster family.
With an earnest premise and more of a focus on “family,” I wanted to like “Shazam!” – in fact I was rooting for it – but the end result is a picture that’s probably too strong for little kids (one dad walked his youngsters out before the film was over and didn’t return) but not sophisticated enough for adults…especially those of us increasingly exhausted by this genre. Yes, Levi is fun, but there’s little development of its central concept, with all of its cards – dramatically and comedically – essentially shown in the movie’s trailer.
One would’ve thought the story of a high schooler who becomes an older, muscular super-hero would have room for a lot of heart and development of its domestic scenario, but outside of a scene with a security guard and a couple of bullies tormenting Billy’s new, disabled foster brother, “Shazam!” doesn’t have much time for Billy’s adventures away from the standard formula.
Instead — and this is undoubtedly to sell the film globally — the accent even here is on action and CGI and monsters and the bad guy, the frustrated former little boy passed over for the “champion’s mantle,” who’s trying to steal Shazam’s power. It’s extremely familiar in its pace, scoring, editing — there’s nothing new or fresh here, even with the younger protagonists ultimately taking on the guises of adult heroes — and like too many “origin films,” it takes far too long for the film to get going.
In the end, “Shazam!” is cute but if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve already seen everything it has to offer. Had this film been made 20 or, more over, 30 years ago, you would’ve likely had a lot more dialogue, less effects, and a stronger, more sophisticated screenplay — now it’s just one more of these pictures, mostly comprised of fully interchangeable parts, rolling off the line before the next one hits in a few weeks. Warner’s 4K UHD of “Shazam!” looks terrific with a robust HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos package, though visually, the film is mostly unremarkable. Extras include an alternate opening and ending, other deleted scenes, audition footage, a gag reel, featurettes, Digital HD copy, and the “Superhero Hooky” motion comic.
More super-hero action from the DC stable is on-tap with the first season of TITANS (501 mins., 2018),DC’s attempt at making a “darker, edgier” version of their younger-skewing Teen Titans franchise. The results are a real mixed bag with some exciting action scenes bogged down by a contrived, overly “mature” take on “B-teamers” like Raven, Beast Boy, Starfire, and an older, wiser Dick Grayson, who team up to fight evil while trying to figure out their respective origins and powers. The debut program of DC’s premium online streaming service, “Titans” makes its home video debut in a two-disc Blu-Ray package from Warner this week. All 11 episodes are presented in attractive 1080p (2.41) widescreen transfers and 5.1 DTS MA sound, helping to lend a more “cinematic” feel to the action, while Digital HD copies and 13 featurettes are also included.
FAST COLOR Blu-Ray (100 mins., 2019, PG-13; Lionsgate): Intriguing albeit uneven attempt at crafting a more humanistic super-hero film from director/co-writer Julia Hart and co-writer Jordan Horowitz. “Fast Color” stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a young black woman with super powers who tries to return to the family she left behind and the “talents” she holds that also drove her away; resistance is present in the form of a scientist (Christopher Denham) and small-town sheriff (David Strathairn), but the amazing runs in her family, as she ultimately discovers.
The performances are laudable but the story line is recycled to a tee in “Fast Color,” despite its gender and racial components that separate it from its numerous contemporaries. Outside of the surface, there’s really not a whole lot going on here to recommend story wise. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray offers a strong 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound, “A Mother’s Power: Making Fast Color” featurette, a Digital HD copy and a commentary with Hart and Horowitz…Also new from Lionsgate this month is THE PROFESSOR (91 mins., 2019, R), Johnny Depp’s attempt to change up his usual shtick as a college professor who learns he has six months to live. Breaking out of his usual mold, Depp’s title character delights in debauchery with his students (including Zoey Deutch) while rubbing up against his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) and chancellor (Ron Livingston). Danny Huston co-stars in this watchable but thinly-drawn black comedy that coasts by due to its cast but doesn’t linger long enough to make much of an impression. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray of the Saban Films release includes a 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer, 5.1 DTS MA sound, a Digital copy and a featurette.
Finally, after Guillermo Del Toro couldn’t quite drum up enough interest in a third “Hellboy” movie, Lionsgate and producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin opted to use the Reboot machine for their new take on HELLBOY (121 mins., 2019, R). Supposedly adhering closer to Mike Mignola’s comic book than Del Toro’s version, the 2019 “Hellboy” is found in the form of “Stranger Things”’ David Harbour, here essaying the title hero who’s employed to take out a resurrected witch (Milla Jovovich) in the English countryside. Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim and Thomas Haden Church lead a great supporting cast but Neil Marshall’s film manages to underwhelm with an accent on action and a reduced quotient of laughs and humanity. The end result is a “why bother” viewing experience that underperformed at the box-office worldwide – that third Del Toro effort would’ve been a stronger commercial prospect after all. Making a fast track to home video this week, Lionsgate’s 4K UHD presentation of “Hellboy” sports a vivid HDR-enhanced, Dolby Vision-backed HVEC transfer with Dolby Atmos audio that’s constantly (perhaps exhaustingly) active. Extras include a three-part documentary, deleted scenes, previsualizations and a Digital HD copy.
Kino Lorber New Releases
TUFF TURF Blu-Ray (112 mins., 1985, R; Kino Lorber): James Spader found himself essaying a pair of contrasting roles in two different youth thrillers, both released in 1985. In “The New Kids” — “Friday the 13th” auteur Sean S. Cunningham’s R-rated answer to the rise of the John Hughes generation – Spader played the icy villain “Dutra,” separated by quite a far distance from his lead role in “Tuff Turf,” an even more entertaining high-school thriller. Portraying a feisty Connecticut teen who moves to L.A. with his family and promptly runs afoul of the local gang of bullies – as well as the leader’s soon-to-be conflicted girlfriend (ex-Disney moppet Kim Richards) – Spader’s character is far less a milquetoast than the usual heroes we find in comparable genre exercises. Turning the tables on the bad guys, Spader also charms the troubled Richards while befriending an equally young Robert Downey, Jr.
“Tuff Turf” isn’t exactly “Class of 1984” or “Savage Streets” – despite the R-rating, this New World release is more along the lines of a sexier, more violent Afterschool Special. It also just misses being something truly special, being just competent enough to sidestep the “so bad it’s good” thrills of the latter and the more adult, trashy amusement of the former. Yet before director Fritz Kiersch stages a mundane climax, “Tuff Turf” offers plenty of entertainment just the same along with a strong Spader performance that’s worth seeing by itself.
Kino Lorber’s superb Blu-Ray of this New World production includes a fresh 2K restored transfer (1.85), DTS MA mono sound, the trailer and a commentary from Kiersch, who also helmed “Children of the Corn” for New World before his career stalled out.
THUNDER BAY Blu-Ray (103 mins., 1953): One of director Anthony Mann’s many collaborations with star Jimmy Stewart, the exciting Universal production “Thunder Bay” stars Stewart and Dan Duryea as down-on-their-luck WWII engineers who head down to Louisiana looking for adventure. They find it as they hunt for oil in the Gulf, while Stewart battles for the affections of a local woman (Joanne Dru) opposed to drilling and her man (Gilbert Roland), who runs a local fishery but can’t quite commit to marrying her.
“Thunder Bay” was shot on-location in color by William H. Daniels and offers a good amount of location flair. The transfer supplied to Kino Lorber isn’t a fresh remaster and the movie likely could’ve benefitted from a newer transfer, but at least it doesn’t have noise reduction applied like early Universal HD presentations.
What’s especially notable about “Thunder Bay” is that it marked Universal’s first use of stereophonic sound. Kino Lorber has included that early three-channel track as a 3.0 Dolby TrueHD mix, and it offers directional dialogue and effects throughout; there’s also a mono soundtrack (DTS MA) for those who might find the early stereo mix distracting (I personally preferred the multi-channel to the more confined mono track). Extras include a commentary from Toby Roan about the picture.
THE ANNIHILATORS Blu-Ray (84 mins., 1985, R; Kino Lorber): B-grade actioner from New World Pictures and director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. (“Silent Night, Deadly Night”) tapped into the “Rambo”/”Missing in Action” sentiment of mid ‘80s Vietnam films. A group of former ‘Nam squadmates – including Gerrit Graham and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (“Welcome Back Kotter”) – find themselves in the midst of a new war on the streets of Atlanta when one of their fellow veterans is ruthlessly murdered by a gang. “The Annihilators” head out to exact some “Death Wish”-styled vengeance in a tidy, and at times nasty, low-budget actioner that tries to rise to the level of “Death Wish 3”-esque thrills but doesn’t even have the budget of that Cannon production – as it is, exploitation fans might mine sufficient entertainment here but the film is a comedown from even the more minor outings of its genre. Kino Lorber’s good-looking Blu-Ray is sourced from a new 2K restoration (1.85) of the picture licensed from Lakeshore with mono sound and a host of welcome extras: these include a new interview with Hilton-Jacobs, an interview with David O’Malley about Sellier, a comparison between the US and UK releases of the film and the theatrical trailer.
THE CHAMPAGNE MURDERS Blu-Ray (105 mins., 1967, Not Rated; Kino Lorber): Stylishly lensed, seldom-seen late ‘60s thriller finds French auteur Claude Chabrol attempting to craft a commercial tale of Hitchockian paranoia – but with his own distinct filmmaking vibe.
Maurice Ronet plays the owner of a champagne business trying to be convinced to sell out to an American (Anthony Perkins) by way of his wife (Yvonne Furneaux) – a situation that becomes much more complicated once dead bodies begin to pile up around poor Ronet, whose sanity becomes a clear factor in Claude Brule and Derek Prouse’s script.
“The Champagne Murders” was quickly dismissed in the U.S. and hasn’t been easy to find over the years, making Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (2.35, DTS MA mono) an important release for the director’s devotees. The image is in good condition with Chabrol making the most of the picture’s Techniscope frame – an essential component to the story. The movie turns out to be something of a ruse, but Chabrol is essentially up front about this in the movie’s opening titles. As long as viewers keep their minds open and ready for anything, “The Champagne Murders” is an entertaining and interesting picture, and Kino’s Blu-Ray enriches their package with an informative commentary with Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, who detail the differences between it and its French release counterpart (which both note is the same story told at a slower pace).
Arrow New Releases
Not a great movie but an enjoyable trip back to another time and place – and certainly a different world of mass media – FM (104 mins., 1978, PG) comes to Blu-Ray for the first time this month in a gorgeous Arrow high-def presentation.
Preceding the debut of “WKRP in Cincinnati” by several months, this Universal concoction follows a group of DJs at L.A.’s new #1 radio station trying to stay on top – and utilize their own talents to program the station’s content – while battling with commercial interests (like airing dopey Army commercials) and suits solely seeking to exploit its market value. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the then-real sparring between DJs and station owners, long before radio became fully corporatized with conglomerates buying up as many stations as they desired and often eliminating the “local” part of “local radio.”
“FM” may seem like an extended, widescreen episode of “WKRP” at times, but it’s still a strongly shot picture that utilizes its full anamorphic frame and features both an appealing cast (Michael Brandon, Martin Mull, Eileen Brennan, Cassie Yates, Cleavon Little are the respective DJs at “Q-Sky Radio”) and a great soundtrack. Functioning almost like a “Lite Rock 70s Greatest Hits” compilation, the soundtrack is populated with familiar tunes from top-selling artists of the era (Steely Dan, Tom Petty, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Steve Miller Band, Doobie Brothers) plus live performances from Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffet. The cumulative effect of the picture isn’t hilariously funny – and some of the characters come off as under-utilized – but for anyone who recalls the days when DJs, and not drones, drove FM programming, the film is certainly worth a look.
Arrow’s Blu-Ray is highlighted by a stellar 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer prepared from original film elements. The image is finely detailed and in excellent shape, far superior to most Universal catalog masters, and there are a pair of soundtrack options: the original 2-channel Dolby Stereo mix is housed in an LPCM track, while a 5.1 DTS MA remix offers more clearly centered dialogue and improves upon the “airiness” heard in some of those early Dolby recordings. Extras include a mono music/effects track; a new interview with Michael Brandon, who I was more familiar with through his narration on the U.S. version of “Thomas and Friends” (I’ve been through many episodes with our son over recent years!); a newly filmed interview with writer Ezra Sacks; an appreciation of the film by Glenn Kenny; extensive still galleries and the trailer.
There’s been a recent tendency for woke film critics to reflect on the ‘80s teen films of John Hughes and analyze their deficiencies through the strict Political Correctness of 2019 – this one portrays minorities in a bad light, that one reinforces gender stereotypes, that kind of thing. In fact, the booklet notes in Arrow’s new Special Edition of WEIRD SCIENCE (94 mins., 1985, PG-13) do exactly that – but in this case, it’s not exactly Breaking News. This August ’85 release has always been a dopey high school comedy with broadly played, if not cartoonish, characters that were never meant to be taken literally to begin with. That doesn’t stop critic Alexander Heller-Nicholas here from telling us that the movie “is scary stuff” – but it’s less because of her world view and more because “Weird Science” is the least of Hughes’ genre exercises.
Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith essay Hughes’ high school protagonists here – social outcasts picked on by their peers (including Robert Downey, Jr. as a fellow classmate and Bill Paxton as Mitchell-Smith’s older brother). What follows is a “Frankensteinian” attempt to create The Perfect Woman – which the duo does, impossibly, in the form of Kelly LeBrock. A year separated from her title turn in Gene Wilder’s “The Woman in Red,” LeBrock is born from the greasy keyboard of the boys’ bedroom, ultimately becoming a then-contemporary Mary Poppins with powers that enable our heroes to overcome their tormentors and gain self-confidence with (more age-appropriate) ladies along the way.
“Weird Science” is an ‘80s wish-fulfillment fantasy for teenage boys, and it’s no surprise the film’s mores grate on the feminist critics of today. The bigger issue is that the picture was deficient even by the standards of its time – Hughes had a way around teens but he lost his touch with a more outlandish story and mostly unfunny script with a lack of laughs. Though fondly remembered by some viewers, the film has none of the charm of his Molly Ringwald films or a grounding in reality that makes those pictures enduring (in spite of their “horrifying” ethnic/gender stereotypes).
Shorn of its virtually apologetic liner notes, Arrow’s Blu-Ray pays tribute to the film with their Collector’s Edition, featuring a 4K (1.85) scan of the original negative – a crisper, more detailed improvement over the previous Universal Blu-Ray. The film is presented in its theatrical version plus a seamlessly branched Extended Cut, running three minutes longer, and with some material that was included in the syndicated TV edit of the film (itself contained here in standard-definition, with dubbed-over profanity).
Brand-new, exclusive extras include an interview with Ira Newborn, who details his relationship with Hughes but somewhat laments the fact he wasn’t given the chance to write a standard orchestral “theme and variations” score for him; new conversations with makeup artist Craig Reardon, casting director Jackie Birch, editor Chris Lebanzon, and supporting actor John Kapelos; plus Universal’s older retrospective doc, trailers, image galleries, and a PDF of the shooting script.
Also new from Arrow is THE LOVELESS (82 mins., 1981), a small movie about a motorcycle gang member who whips up a Florida town after he hooks up with a local girl during the 1950s. Running barely over 80 minutes, “The Loveless” wouldn’t be noteworthy were it not for two major factors: an early performance from Willem Dafoe as the lead (he outclasses everyone in his biker gang) and the direction of Kathryn Bigeow, who co-helmed with Monty Montgomery. Dafoe fans will be most compelled by Arrow’s new 2K restoration of the film, remastered from the original camera negative, with PCM mono audio; commentary with Montgomery; new interviews with Dafoe and the cast and crew; extensive image galleries; and a new audio interview with musician Eddy Dixon.
THE ILLUSIONIST Blu-Ray (109 mins., 2006, PG-13; MVD): In Vienna circa 1900, Edward Norton plays a magician who packs houses and falls for beautiful Jessica Biel, the fiancee of the country’s Crown Prince Leopold (deliciously played by Rufus Sewell). Paul Giamatti essays the police inspector who attempts to unravel the crime stemming from that triangle in this exquisitely shot film from writer-director Neil Burger, here adapting a novel by Steven Millhauser. Dick Pope’s cinematography, an excellent Philip Glass score, and top-notch performances from Norton and Giamatti make this mystery (an independent film which grossed nearly $40 million at the domestic box-office) an unexpected surprise.
Released around the same time as Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige,” “The Illusionist” hasn’t remained as visible since its original release, but it’s a film well worth revisiting. MVD’s Blu-Ray, licensed from the Yari Film Group, sports an AVC encoded transfer and DTS MA audio, plus extras (a Making Of, commentary from Burger) that were only housed in the first DVD release of the picture.
Also new from MVD this month is the Blu-Ray debut of SHORTCUT TO HAPPINESS (104 mins., 2001/2007, PG-13), the movie that’s better known as star/director Alec Baldwin’s ill-fated “Devil and Daniel Webster” remake. A slew of problems, including the apparent FBI seizure of the film (due to the fraudulent activity of one of its investors), kept the picture from release for many years. Baldwin disowned the finished product, which the Yari Film Group bought and completed on their own, leading to various cable TV airings but no physical home video release in the U.S.
MVD’s release, then, is a noteworthy one, even if the film itself is a minor misfire. The finished product is credited to director “Harry Kirkpatrick,” with Baldwin playing a struggling NYC writer who sells his soul to the Devil (Jennifer Love Hewitt!) before being defended by publishing magnate Daniel Webster (Anthony Hopkins). Baldwin assembled a major supporting cast – Dan Aykroyd, Kim Cattrall, Bobby Cannavale, even then-SNL cast members Amy Poehler and Darrell Hammond – for this updating of Stephen Vincent Benet’s old story, written by Pete Dexter, Bill Condon and Nancy Cassaro. Flatly filmed and performed, it’s hard to believe Baldwin’s own completed cut would’ve been a revelation or a vast improvement (the movie seems mostly finished outside of the absence of some transitional elements), but it’s still watchable – even if its behind-the-scenes story is far more interesting than what’s on-screen.
MVD’s Blu-Ray is a no-frills affair with an attractive 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer with PCM stereo sound and a score credited to Christopher Young.
WINTER PASSING Blu-Ray (99 mins., 2005, R; MVD): Zooey Deschanel is terrific in this leisurely paced, somewhat depressing character drama from first-time feature helmer Adam Rapp. As a NYC book editor who heads to her Michigan home to retrieve the lost love letters between her late mother and reclusive author-father (Ed Harris), Deschanel single-handedly lifts “Winter Passing” from an R-rated Lifetime movie into a recommended story of one young woman’s maturation and understanding of her past — however painful it may be. The supporting casting of her father’s two roommates is somewhat more erratic — Amelia Warner is fine as a grad student but Will Ferrell straddles the fence between pathos and comedy uncomfortably and to decidedly mixed results. MVD’s Blu-Ray – the movie’s debut release in the format – includes a Making Of featurette, the trailer, 1080p AVC encoded transfer and 5.1/2.0 LPCM stereo sound.
Mill Creek New Releases
Mill Creek’s July releases are chock full of terrific new titles, both Blu-Ray premieres and a most welcome addition to the 4K UHD format.
First up is a gorgeous Steelbook Blu-Ray of MOTHRA (90/100 mins., 1962), one of Toho Studio’s Golden Age widescreen epics that introduced Godzilla’s high-flying (and often less combustible) winged accomplice in her own solo outing. Issued to make good on this summer’s release of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” Mill Creek has produced one of their most satisfying releases ever with this single-disc package.
The BD-50 houses not just the 90-minute U.S. release from Columbia (dubbed at Tetra Studios in NY), but also the 100-minute Japanese version direct from Toho, subtitled in English. However, given that director Inoshiro Honda himself removed some 40 minutes from the film for a 1974 re-release, the cut U.S. version actually plays more satisfyingly, sprucing up the movie’s early-going and making way for Mothra’s belated introduction.
Either way you go, the 1080p (2.35) Sony-licensed transfers are solidly detailed like most of their catalog, offering high levels of grain and just some various anomalies popping up in the source materials here and there. The mono DTS MA sound is fine and extras include a new commentary from Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, which offers a good amount of information while being dryly presented, most of it off a prepared script. A rough looking, video-sourced trailer and photo gallery put the finishing touches on a splendid release that’s a must for all Giant Monster buffs.
IMAX produced – and carrying the UHD “Imax Enhanced” tag – is SPACE STATION (47 mins.), a wonderful large-format feature narrated by Tom Cruise that shows the construction of and first crews aboard the International Space Station. Director Toni Myers, who previously chronicled the NASA adventures “The Blue Planet” and “The Dream Is Alive,” helmed this beautifully shot look at the ISS, utilizing real footage from space filmed by the astronauts, and cosmonauts, themselves.
Though “Space Station” was shot for IMAX 3D and released years back in the format by Warner Home Video, there’s something to be gained here from the UHD’s impressive 4K transfer. High Dynamic Range and a beautifully bright, clear transfer result in a breathtaking image that gains in contrast and color what it loses in the 2D presentation of 3D images. The DTS X soundtrack is just marvelous as well – clear dialogue, a broad stage for the score, and assorted surround effects result in a three-dimensional symphony of sound that’s also perfectly replicated here.
“Space Station” also includes Myers’ commentary (she passed away earlier this year) and two behind-the-scenes featurettes – one of which offers a lot more detail and insight from the astronauts about living onboard the ISS, plus an informative look at how shots were staged in advance — as well as a Blu-Ray copy and Digital code.
Far less successful is NASA: A JOURNEY THROUGH SPACE (5 hours), a documentary that examines NASA’s legacy from the earliest days of space flight through the shuttle era and 21st century exploration. Alas, this independently produced seven-part effort is filled with weird inaccuracies and footage mismatches, making it inferior to typical History Channel fare. Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray includes decent 1080p (1.78) transfers and DTS MA soundtracks, plus a Digital copy code.
Mill Creek also debuts two new Andy Sidaris productions on Blu-Ray this month. PICASSO TRIGGER (99 mins., 1988, R) and SAVAGE BEACH (95 mins., 1988, R) each star Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton as Donna and Taryn — beautiful, gun-packing agents who frontline typical Sidaris mixtures of T&A, ridiculous action and scenic Hawaiian locales. Favorites of Cinemax viewers in the ‘90s, both films have been remastered from 4K restorations and offer high contrast, fairly well detailed 1080p (1.78) AVC encoded transfers from Mill Creek. The DTS MA soundtracks are passable, and archival extras include Sidaris’ commentaries, introductions, behind-the-scenes featurettes, trailers and digital copies.
New on DVD From Mill Creek: A fan-favorite cult series from the ‘90s, FOREVER KNIGHT (52 hours, 1992-96)was a Canadian production about a 13th century vampire living in modern day Toronto. “Nick Knight” was first essayed by Rick Springfield in a 1989 TV-movie before launching as a series in 1992 – Geraint Wyn Davies filled the role for the series proper, which aired in the U.S. on CBS for its first season before venturing over to USA for numerous years afterwards. Mill Creek’s Complete Series DVD is out July 9thfeaturing all 70 episodes from the series in decent, Sony-licensed 1.33 transfers and stereo sound…The DVD anthology SHARK BAIT includes six shark-centric cable TV movies: Ghost Shark, Mississippi River Sharks, Ozark Sharks, Santa Jaws (yes), Swamp Shark, Zombie Shark and Alligator Alley. Judging from their just-shy of 90 minute run times, these must have been produced for cable airings, and are all presented in 1.78 transfers and stereo soundtracks with digital copies.
Warner Archive New Releases
Highlighting Warner Archive’s latest releases is the Blu-Ray premiere of Frank Sinatra’s NONE BUT THE BRAVE (105 mins., 1965). Sinatra himself produced and directed this WWII story of Marines gunned down in the South Pacific and stranded on an atoll also populated by a cut-off Japanese platoon. Their initial conflict turns into an uneasy truce when Sinatra’s pharmacist saves the life of a wounded Japanese soldier, leading to a peace that, ultimately, only lasts so long. “None But The Brave” was Sinatra’s one and only outing as a director and his efforts result in an interesting anti-war picture that’s a bit pretentious but always watchable; Clint Walker, Tommy Sands and Tatsuya Mihashi co-star with an early score by John Williams highlighting the drama. Warner Archive’s superb 1080p (2.35) AVC encoded transfer and mono sound are both crystal clear, detailed and enhance Sinatra’s singular directorial effort.
Another recent Blu-Ray from Warner Archive comes even more highly recommended: A PATCH OF BLUE (105 mins., 1965) stars Sidney Poitier in the story of a blind woman (Elizabeth Hartman), saddled with an abusive mother (Shelley Winters, earning her second Oscar), who comes to love the sensitive, plain-spoken African-American man whom she isn’t aware is black. Guy Green adapted Elizabeth Kata’s novel for this MGM release, strikingly shot in widescreen black-and-white by Robert Burks and memorably scored by Jerry Goldsmith in one of his most bittersweet, tender outings. Poitier and Hartman are both superb in this drama about race relations and how love is (literally) blind, while Burks’ cinematography makes Warner Archive’s dynamic 1080p (2.35) transfer a particular standout – this is a brilliantly executed transfer with a high level of detail and a clear mono DTS MA soundtrack. Extras include the archival featurette “A Cinderella Named Elizabeth,” Green’s commentary and the trailer.
Also New on Blu-Ray: Mark Hamill’s one big starring vehicle produced inbetween “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” CORVETTE SUMMER (105 mins., 1978, PG) is an okay teen drama that earned MGM some money for starring Luke Skywalker in a solo role. Here essaying a high schooler whose beloved ‘vette is stolen, Hamill carries Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins’ at-times unwieldy screenplay, which nearly loses all of its early momentum by way of too many “serious” narrative detours in its second half. Fortunately, Hamill’s energy and Annie Potts’ star turn keep the film on-track just enough for it to coast by. Warner’s Archive Blu-Ray is a no-frills affair featuring a high bit-rate 1080p (1.85) AVC encoded transfer, DTS MA mono soundtrack (sporting a Craig Safan score), and the trailer…George Cukor’s GASLIGHT (114 mins., 1944) marked Ingrid Bergman’s first Oscar. Playing a wife being driven to believe she’s insane by her scheming husband (Charles Boyer), Bergman became an immediate star in this moody MGM thriller, an adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s stage play that previously became a British feature in 1940. This polished and superbly acted U.S. version co-stars Joseph Cotton, (Dame) May Whitty and Angela Lansbury, along with a Bronislaw Kaper score and Joseph Ruttenberg’s crisp B&W lensing. Warner’s Blu-Ray boasts an extremely detailed 1080p (1.33) B&W transfer with the British version as a standard-definition extra. Other supplements include a 1946 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast starring Bergman and Boyer; a 1944 Oscar newsreel; and the featurette “Reflections on Gaslight.”
Back In Print: A pair of ‘50s musical favorites, previously released on DVD by Warner in retail packages, are back in-print and now part of the Archive collection.
The fan-favorite Broadway musical DAMN YANKEES (111 mins., 1958) was brought to the screen in 1958 by its co-creator George Abbott, who penned the script, and co-director Stanley Donen. Saddled with a lightweight lead in Tab Hunter, this is otherwise a mostly faithful rendition of the show, with Ray Walston reprising his role of “Applegate” and Gwen Verdon dancing up Bob Fosse’s original choreography (reportedly sanitized just a bit from the stage version). The Richard Adler-Jerry Ross score mostly remained intact as well, and all of it is captured in a solid 16:9 (1.85) transfer with mono sound. Given that the original DVD has sold well on the secondary market for some time, this is a most worthy reissue.
Ditto for THE PAJAMA GAME (102 mins., 1957), another Broadway musical from the same creative team: writer/co-director George Abbott (this time co-writing with Richard Bissell), composers Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, choreographer Bob Fosse, and co-director Stanley Donen, who helped bring this story about labor strife at the Sleeptite Pajama Factory to the screen. The original show was fun and the screen version captures most of it intact with leads Doris Day and John Raitt developing some chemistry together as well. Another Warner release owned (like “Damn Yankees”) by its creators, “The Pajama Game” has been reissued as part of the Archive featuring a 16:9 (1.78) color transfer and Dolby Digital mono sound, identical to its previous, discontinued DVD edition.
MOJIN: THE WORM VALLEY Blu-Ray/DVD (110 mins., 2018; Well Go USA): Sequel to the Chinese hit “Mojin: The Lost Legend” finds a group of intrepid explorers trying to pin down the location of the tomb of Emperor Xian. In order to get there, they encounter giant worms (who also reanimate the bodies of the dead!) and assorted creatures in this local box-office smash based on a book series with eight installments – and given the open ending of this installment, it’s surely a matter of time before there’s more “Mojin” en route. Well Go’s Blu-Ray is a combo pack featuring a 1080p transfer and 5.1 DTS MA Mandarin audio and English subtitles.
MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY Blu-Ray/DVD (108 mins., 2018; Well Go USA): Spin-off from the hugely popular “Ip Man” franchise stars Max Zhang as Master Z, here trying to start a new life with his son in Hong Kong after having been defeated by Ip Man. His past, though, soon catches up to him in a well-executed genre outing from Yuen Wo Ping – veteran martial arts filmmaker who worked on “The Matrix” and “Kill Bill” and here spins a satisfying adventure with appearances from Michelle Yeoh, Tony Jaa and Dave Bautista. Well Go’s Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is out July 23rd sporting numerous language options (Cantonese, Mandarin, English or French) with Dolby Atmos capability, a behind-the-scenes segment, trailers, and a strong 1080p transfer.
MANIFEST – The Complete First Season DVD (683 mins., 2018-19; Warner): NBC series carries a compelling premise – what happened to a missing flight and its passengers from the night it disappeared through its sudden reappearance five years later, with none of its occupants having aged – yet struggled to develop a coherent drama in the span of its first season. Bits and pieces of the supernatural (“Lost”) meld with a government conspiracy plot and “Touched by an Angel”-esque drama in a show that held onto its central mystery long enough to maintain its core audience for a second season – one which fans hope will provide more answers than its inaugural season did. Warner’s Season 1 DVD of “Manifest” is out July 23rd featuring 16:9 transfers of all 16 episodes and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks.
CRIMINAL MINDS: Season 14 DVD (11 hours, 2018-19; CBS): The FBI’s Behaviorial Analysis Unit continues to take on a wide swath of cases in this 14th (yes!) season of “Criminal Minds.” Here, the culprits include a killer cult leader who takes Garcia and Dr. Reid hostage in the CBS series’ 300th episode, while other serial killers, hit men and assorted scum continue to cause all kinds of trouble for the cast of the long-running crime procedural. CBS’ DVD set of “Criminal Minds”‘ 2018-19 season is now available featuring a gag reel, deleted scenes, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes touching upon the show’s 300th episode and how its cast members occasionally step behind the camera to direct.
TRANSIT Blu-Ray (102 mins., 2018; Music Box Films): Franz Rogowski plays a German refugee who assumes the identity of a dead writer and obtains a transit visa to North America. However, director Christian Petzold isn’t just content with adapting Anna Seghers’ 1944 novel of the same name, but rather shifts the setting to the present in this story of “displaced peoples” and the relationship Rogowski’s character has with both a young refugee and his mother, as well as a woman searching for her missing husband. A challenging work new to Blu-Ray from Music Box, which sports a 1080p transfer (2.35), German/French DTS MA audio with English subtitles, and numerous extras including a Making Of, Petzold and Rogowski interviews, collector’s booklet and other supplements.
DOGMAN DVD (103 mins., 2019; Magnolia): Italian import concerns a mild-mannered man living in a seaside village who stands up for himself after being pushed too far by the local bully and his petty criminal activities. “Gomorrah” helmer Matteo Garrone’s gritty character study is new to DVD this month from Magnolia, featuring a 16:9 (2.39) transfer and 5.1 Italian audio with English subtitles.
SCRAWL DVD (82 mins., 2015, Not Rated; Wild Eye Releasing): Extremely confusing – and confused – thriller from writer-director Peter Hearn has surfaced due to the pre-“Star Wars” casting of Daisy Ridley. The plot (such as it is) features a high school student whose comic book – and specifically the murders it depicts – seems to be coming to life, with Ridley playing a mysterious woman who’s likely related to it all. Wild Eye’s DVD is now available featuring a 16:9 transfer, stereo sound, Hearn’s commentary, interviews, a Making Of documentary, trailers and a short film entitled “Motto.”
NEXT TIME: PBS new releases and more! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!