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“Trapped in Time. Surrounded by Evil. Low on Gas.” So reads the tag line for ARMY OF DARKNESS (80 mins., 1993, R; Shout! Factory), the third film in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s “Evil Dead” series, which brought a wild, Ray Harryhausen-like fantasy flair to the continuing adventures of Deadite-slayer Ash (Campbell), here trapped in a medieval setting. This fan-favorite sequel has been tapped for a myriad of releases on home video over the years, but adds a 4K UHD Collector’s Edition from Shout! Factory into the mix this month, highlighting a dynamite new Dolby Vision HDR grading of the movie’s theatrical cut.
Following the end of “Evil Dead 2,” “Army” has Ash embroiled in a conflict between warring medieval rulers when the Deadites crop up – a quick (mis)reading of the Necronomicon quickly exacerbates the situation even further, leading Ash to rally the disparate clans in an effort to defeat “Evil Ash” and his zombified girlfriend (Embeth Davidtz, who would appear in “Schindler’s List” just a few months later).
Intended for a PG-13 rating but tagged with an R by the MPAA back in 1993 – a truly baffling decision especially given the hard edge so many PG-13 films today contain – “Army of Darkness” is less a horror movie than a homage to Harryhausen, a grand supernatural adventure filled with Ash’s patented one-liners and loads of cinematic invention. Raimi and his brother Ivan penned the script, which is chock full of clever and imaginative touches, from stop-motion FX involving an army of skeletons to Ash doing a one-man imitation of the Three Stooges in one sequence. The humor is on-target and the entire tone of the film disarming and free-wheeling, as if Raimi, Campbell and company were happy to be freed from the claustrophobic confines of its hard-core horror predecessors.
“Army of Darkness” has been released many times over the years in a myriad of formats. It was also subject to post-production tinkering, mainly from producer Dino DeLaurentiis and U.S. distributor Universal Pictures, who trimmed an already slender running time and demanded a new ending. Various home video versions around the world enabled fans to see Raimi’s original, downbeat conclusion – I imported my first Japanese laserdisc during college when “Captain Supermarket” (the film’s local title!) was released with the discarded ending, just to find out what all the fuss was about. Meanwhile, later DVD versions released overseas by MGM contained superior transfers to their U.S. counterparts and an entirely different edit of the film (with alternate lines), while Raimi’s “Director’s Cut” eventually surfaced domestically, incorporating the original ending.
Frankly, the re-shot ending of “Army of Darkness” works far better than the “Planet of the Apes”-esque conclusion Raimi originally intended. It’s more in keeping with the tone of the picture and offers Ash several memorable lines to conclude the film (“Hail to the king, baby!”), whereas the original finale comes off like a lead balloon, punctuating an old-fashioned escapist ride with a sour bit of irony that was understandably panned by studio execs and DeLaurentiis himself. In this instance, the hastily shot new ending provided a more satisfying conclusion, and even the filmmakers seem to have reluctantly accepted that most fans were at least generally happier with the studio reshoots than what they originally concocted.
Shout Factory’s four-disc Collector’s set premieres a 4K Dolby Vision HDR grading of the movie that’s included here on both UHD as well as on a remastered Blu-Ray. This transfer (1.85) even surpasses the previous Scream Factory package, not to mention older releases of the U.S. theatrical cut that were riddled with noise reduction and other filtering, nearly obscuring any high-def detail in the source material. Shout’s 4K transfer one-ups them all, offering warmly saturated colors and crisp details, all scanned from the original camera negative and approved by Sam Raimi, cinematographer Bill Pope and editor Bob Murawski. The 5.1 and 2.0 DTS MA audio mixes, meanwhile, both do justice to the original Dolby Stereo soundtrack, and are carried over from previous discs.
The four-disc package also carries over two other versions of the film on separate Blu-Ray discs: the 88-minute International Cut of the film, running six minutes longer than the U.S. cut but with some of Ash’s lines swapped out for less amusing alternates (this version does include the U.S. ending and was previously released on DVD overseas by MGM). Finally, the 96-minute Director’s Cut is also on-hand in a 4K scan from the interpositive, featuring the original ending and a myriad of footage not contained in either version. Though usually not designated as an official “cut” of the film, fans will also find Universal’s 93-minute syndicated TV version here, which has a few bits not seen in other cuts, though the 4:3 standard-def transfer is dim and blurry, understandably sourced from inferior elements.
The special features housed herein are reprisals of the first Scream release, but they’re still terrific. The feature-length “Medieval Times: The Making of Army of Darkness” includes exclusive interviews with Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, Bill Moseley, composer Joe LoDuca (whose marvelous original score was enhanced with Danny Elfman’s “March of the Dead” theme) and many others – it’s a comprehensive, honest look at the making of the film and Universal and DeLaurentiis’ meddling behind the scenes, which paralleled the two entities litigating over the rights to Hannibal Lecter and holding two DeLaurentiis properties (this film and the Christian Slater outing “Kuffs”) hostage, for a time, while the fracas was sorted out.
Trailers, TV spots, additional deleted scenes, commentary and vintage featurettes are also included, making for one of Shout’s most satisfying releases to date. A groovy 4K upgrade for any Ash-fan!
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 4K UHD/Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition (91 mins., 1985, R; Shout! Factory): 4K UHD Collector’s Edition of writer-director Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 half-spoof of the George Romero classic offers a brand new 4K grading with Dolby Vision HDR – spiffier and crisper than Shout’s 2016 Blu-Ray, which housed a then-cutting edge 2K remaster. For fans, this is a step above in terms of a/v with a pleasing technical presentation and the same 5.1/2.0 DTS MA mixes as its previous releases.
The set also includes a Blu-Ray boasting a 1080p presentation of this new 4K master and loads of extras including the movie’s workprint version (HD with SD cut-ins), “FX of the Living Dead,” “Music of the Living Dead,” and “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” featurettes, plus two commentaries: one with Chris Griffiths and horror historian Gary Smart, the other featuring cast members Thom Mathews, John Philbin and make up artist Tony Gardner. Reprised from the earlier MGM edition are two other commentaries, three featurettes, retrospective interviews and more. Despite the spectacular set of extras, I still find this to be a movie best left for fans: despite a few laughs and the presence of veterans Clu Gulager and James Karen, the movie feels dated, and the light mood turns sour with an unsatisfying “serious” ending (which the cast even laments in their commentary). Not quite as much fun as it sounds, but certainly a worthy 4K UHD upgrade for fans.
UNIVERSAL CLASSIC MONSTERS: ICONS OF HORROR COLLECTION [Volume 2] (Universal): James Whale’s “Frankenstein” introduced viewers to Boris Karloff in his legendary role as the Frankenstein monster, but while the film remains a striking work for its 1931 release date, it pales in comparison to THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (75 mins.), the 1935 sequel graced with a spectacular Franz Waxman score that shows, in the space of four short years, how quickly movie-making had progressed as a medium. Whale’s playful, inventive direction, the performances of Karloff, Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester, and that Waxman score – one of the all-time greats – are unforgettable aspects of a film many regard as the finest in the pantheon of Universal Monsters.
Debuting this month on 4K UHD as part of the second entry in the “Universal Monsters Icons of Horror Collection” (Volume 1 came out in 2021, featuring the original “Frankenstein,” plus “Dracula,” “The Wolf Man” and “The Invisible Man”), “Bride of Frankenstein” offers what you’d anticipate from a film of its vintage on UHD: slightly more detail, superior compression, and a wider contrast than the studio’s previous Blu-Ray, thanks to a subtle, not overpowering HDR10 grading. The larger and more capable your TV, the better in order to appreciate the enhancement, while the disc’s mono soundtrack is the same as its previous high-def release (also included here, alongside the UHD). Extras include the original DVD documentary, “She’s Alive! Creating ‘Bride of Frankenstein,’” plus a stills archive, commentary with historian Scott MacQueen, and trailers.
In 1932, “Dracula” cinematographer Karl Freund helmed the first appearance of what would ultimately become – thanks to both a handful of sequels and a contemporary series of modern fantasy films – the most durable of Universal’s monsters, THE MUMMY (74 mins.). Boris Karloff here carved out his second iconic studio role as Imohotep, who lusts after Zita Johann in an entertaining – if somewhat creaky – film with unforgettable imagery (though ironically, Karloff only appears in the patented Mummy make-up for a couple of minutes).
“The Mummy”’s previous Blu-Ray was a bit uneven in its overall visual appearance, with some occasional filtering on-hand – issues addressed here by Universal’s vastly superior 4K UHD, which accentuates the film’s overall level of detail while again adding contrast enhancements via HDR10. It’s a solid upgrade, while extras include “Mummy Dearest” (30 mins.), a documentary from the original DVD release; “He Who Made Monsters” (24 mins.), a Jack Pierce retrospective; “Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy” (8 mins.), a brief featurette from the 75th Anniversary DVD; “The Mummy Archives” still gallery; commentaries by Paul M. Jensen and a more recent track with Rick Baker, Scott Essman, Steve Haberman, Bob Burns and Brent Armstrong; and trailers for all the “Mummy” films.
The sole Technicolor offering in the Universal Monsters filmography – and arguably the biggest upgrade to be found in this new 4K UHD set – is PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (89 mins.), the studio’s lavish, operatic 1943 take on Gaston Leroux’s novel with an accent on the love story courtesy of director Arthur Lubin. Claude Rains is the Phantom to Susanna Foster and Nelson Eddy’s romantic leads; it’s a sturdy, if unspectacular, film that here receives a dynamic HDR10 grading on 4K UHD, easily surpassing the last Blu-Ray release of the picture in every way, from its colors to its level of detail. Extras include the lengthy 51-minute DVD documentary “Phantom Unmasked,” plus Scott MacQueen’s commentary and the trailer.
Last but (arguably) not least, the Universal Monsters era came to a close with the release of 1954’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (80 mins.), the sci-fi fave included here not only in its 2-D version, newly restored in 4K UHD, but a sparkling 3-D home video release (on Blu-Ray) as well. For 3-D enthusiasts, being able to see the film in pure three-dimensional form – and not an anaglyph 3-D version like we used to see on TV back in the ‘80s – is a revelation. Both occasional pop-out effects and depth-of-field photography add immeasurably to visuals that are often flat and uninspired otherwise. In fact, seen in its native 3-D format, effects and shots which otherwise look awkwardly (or routinely) framed make visual sense, and the overall experience enhances Jack Arnold’s ‘50s monster mash as a result.
Still, since 3DTV usage is dwindling, more fans are likely to check out Universal’s new 4K UHD presentation, which is the healthiest and most detailed of the quartet here, unsurprising since the film is of a relatively more recent vintage. Transitions utilizing opticals still seem a bit blurry, as expected, but the image on the whole enhances the “flat,” 2-D version of the picture on UHD. Extras on the “Creature” platter include “Back to the Black Lagoon” (40 mins.), a DVD retrospective, plus Tom Weaver’s fascinating commentary, trailers for the Gill Man series, and production photographs. Hopefully we’ll see Volume 3 in 2023?
E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL 4K UHD/Blu-Ray 40th Anniversary Edition (115 mins., 1982, PG; Universal): The old cliché that you can’t go home again happily doesn’t apply to Steven Spielberg’s E.T., the 1982 classic that returns to 4K UHD in the form of a 40th Anniversary edition sporting several new extras.
The last time I had seen the film theatrically was in 2002 for its 20th Anniversary re-release — the ninth time I had seen the movie in theaters, but the first viewing I had on the big screen since E.T. first opened in 1982. At that point, I was not quite eight years old, and my lifelong love for the movies was about to take hold during that magical summer of cinematic favorites.
Watching the film again, as an adult, is a fascinating experience – not just because of how well the movie holds up, but in how it captivates children as well as adults, who can watch the film from a different perspective and yet be every bit as moved and spellbound by the story as kids are. The movie is told with beautiful economy — each scene creates and sustains an emotion integral to the characters, or serves to propel the story forward. The sequences with Elliott showing E.T. his room, his Star Wars figures, are so genuine, feel so real, that you forget you are watching a sci-fi fantasy that tugs on your heartstrings. It’s the kind of movie that cynics love to bash because it makes them feel emotional, but E.T.’s cinematic virtues are plentiful. The movie is anything but saccharine emotion, and it makes you care about Elliott and his family because Spielberg and writer Melissa Mathison make them seem like real people. There aren’t any moments early in the film that don’t feel like real life, and this timeless quality makes one get past the occasional ’80s staple like an Atari 2600 camping out on the top of the family TV.
Making all of it work, of course, is John Williams’ music, still arguably his finest score for not only its outstanding lyricism, but its unforgettable, symbiotic relationship with the movie itself. From the quiet, poignant cues underscoring Elliott and E.T.’s scenes together – to the glorious finale that says every word in musical terms that Spielberg happily didn’t feel the need to spell out with dialogue – Williams’ music is E.T. It’s another character in the film, punctuating every emotion in a fashion that’s as restrained at times as it is powerful at others.
It’s a marvelous, wonderful film – one with a supremely memorable Halloween sequence that also makes it worthwhile for the season – and Universal’s 4K presentation reprieves its 2017 UHD transfer with HDR10 and DTS X audio. The Blu-Ray (also included) transfer also boasts a crisply detailed image without any obvious noise or DNR filtering – yet the UHD presentation does one better, enhancing the colors of Allen Daviau’s cinematography in often subtle ways that become more obvious when you circle back to the standard 1080p image. Universal’s UHD boasts an impressive array of enhanced colors, first detectable in its opening sequences as E.T. misses his initial flight home and sustained through the interiors of Elliot’s house. The warmth of Daviau’s work is also more accurately conveyed in a UHD that, on the audio side, boasts a DTS X mix that’s effectively rendered though not in revisionist ways, providing a broad stage for Williams’ masterful score (the original Dolby Stereo mix is included in a DTS 2.0 track).
A Digital HD copy is also included plus two new extras: a TCM Festival Q&A with Spielberg and Ben Mankiewicz, along with a 40th Anniversary featurette sporting admirers J.J. Abrams, Ernest Cline and Leonard Maltin among others. Extras carried over from past releases include a 2012 interview with Spielberg, more of John Toll’s 1982 behind-the-scenes footage, and recycled, various supplements from the 2002 DVD.
NOPE 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (131 mins., 2022, R; Universal). SPOOKY LOWDOWN: Writer-director Jordan Peele’s latest offbeat genre exercise involves a Hollywood animal wrangler (Daniel Kaluuya) who, along with his sister (Keke Palmer), inherit their father’s Southern California ranch – where creepy goings-on and possibly extraterrestrial shenanigans are afoot. A local circus ringmaster/former child actor (Steven Yeun), traumatized by his experiences on the set of a popular sitcom, is also on-hand in a movie where the less said, the better about its respective plot developments. 4K UHD SPECS: Universal’s 4K UHD (mixed 2.20 and 1.78) offers HDR10 video with Dolby Atmos immersive audio. Deleted scenes, a gag reel, Making Of, Digital HD copy, and a Blu-Ray are all included in the combo pack. AISLE SEAT TERRORIFIC BOTTOM LINE: Peele’s newest is interesting from a number of angles though it’s so patently “out there” that you either go with it – or don’t. The net result has its moments but ultimately feels a lot like an unwieldy, kitchen-sink type of affair – still, it’s at least better than Peele’s recent stab at resurrecting the “Candyman” series.
Spooky B&W Treats
MARK OF THE VAMPIRE Blu-Ray (60 mins., 1935; Warner Archive). SPOOKY LOWDOWN: Tod Browning, “Dracula” impresario, helmed this MGM thriller – a remake of his silent Lon Chaney feature “London After Midnight” – that reunited him with Bela Lugosi, though some critics like Leonard Maltin seemed to prefer this slender affair to the 1931 Universal horror classic (static as parts of it might be). By today’s standards “Mark of the Vampire” is a rickety effort with professor Lionel Atwill investigating what appears to be a murder committed by vampires – yet his investigation of a nearby castle proves the culprits are ultimately less than supernatural. There’s atmosphere to spare in the film – and fans might enjoy seeing the likes of character actor Michael Visaroff basically repeating his “Dracula” innkeeper role – but this is a workmanlike, not especially inspired piece, even if the ending is rather enjoyable. BLU-RAY SPECS: Debuting on Blu-Ray, “Mark of the Vampire” offers one of Warner’s patented, solid catalog presentations from the Golden Age (1.37 B&W, mono) with a classic short and cartoon included plus the trailer. James Wong Howe’s moody cinematography is undoubtedly the film’s highlight and the disc enhances the movie’s visuals, which enjoyed a higher than usual budget for the genre, given MGM’s involvement. The engaging commentary from Kim Newman and Stephen Jones makes watching the film more enjoyable than hearing its often creaky dialogue. AISLE SEAT TERRORIFIC BOTTOM LINE: Fans of ’30s horrors are going to enjoy this more than casual viewers, who might be better off sticking to Universal’s new Monster Collection UHD box instead.
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE Blu-Ray (96 mins., 1932; Warner Archive). SPOOKY LOWDOWN: The original, early Rouben Mamoulian-helmed MGM edition of the Robert Louis Stevenson chiller was fully restored by Warner Bros., incorporating some 17 minutes of previously censored material that fleshes out this early pre-Code classic. Fredric March essays both Mr. Hyde and his alter-ego Henry Jekyll in a movie whose make-up effects mystified viewers and buffs for years, all the while affording March a career-changing role and MGM a huge hit that would run alongside Universal’s classics for years to come. BLU-RAY SPECS: Warner Archive’s long-awaited Blu-Ray offers a 1080p (listed as 1.19:1) B&W transfer with extras including the Looney Tunes short “Hyde and Hare”; a 1950 Theatre Guild radio adaptation; and two commentaries, one from historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr, another with writer Greg Mank. AISLE SEAT TERRORIFIC BOTTOM LINE: More vintage Golden Age thrills for buffs with a detailed, fine grain transfer and ample extras to boot.
ARSENIC AND OLD LACE Blu-Ray (118 mins., 1944; Criterion). SPOOKY LOWDOWN: At last, a marvelous new restoration of the 1944 classic is available this Halloween for all to enjoy. Cary Grant effortlessly carries this Frank Capra-helmed adaptation of the popular stage play, essaying a New York critic – and new husband to Priscilla Lane – whose seemingly benign aunts (Broadway vets Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) offer some devilish surprises in their cellar. A number of other eclectic characters populate this most amusing Warner Bros. confection, even if Boris Karloff was unable to repeat his stage performance (Raymond Massey ably filled in). BLU-RAY SPECS: We’ve waited a long time for a capable HD master of “Arsenic and Old Lace” and Criterion’s Blu-Ray boasts a new 4K digital transfer (1.37 B&W) that includes a clarity and detail unseen in any previous home video version. A new commentary by author Charles Dennis is on-hand along with a 1952 radio adaptation with Boris Karloff, who later appeared in a ’60s TV rendition opposite Tony Randall. AISLE SEAT TERRORIFIC BOTTOM LINE: Shot in 1941 but unreleased until 1944 (the studio had to wait for the Broadway play to finish its run), “Arsenic and Old Lace” is a delectable Golden Age product filled with laughs and memorable comedic performances. Highly recommended!
THE BAT Blu-Ray (80 mins., 1959; The Film Detective). SPOOKY LOWDOWN: Although your mind might instantly drift to memories of vampires and similar spooks when hearing the title “The Bat,” this 1959 suspense-thriller was one of several adaptations of an old, 1908 novel that became a hit stage play in 1920. This rendition, which regrettably fell into the public domain many years ago, stars Vincent Price and Agnes Moorhead in what was Crane Wilbur’s crisply shot, low-budget B&W adaptation of the material about a killer lurking about a dilapidated old estate. There’s more atmosphere than scares, but “The Bat” is still fairly entertaining if expectations are dialed back. BLU-RAY SPECS: The Film Detective’s Blu-Ray is one of the label’s best efforts to date. While the source (1.85 B&W) shows its vintage at times, the disc boasts a pleasingly natural appearance with nice detail, especially considering the myriad of inferior public domain releases of the title. Extras include a commentary from Jason A. Ney; a featurette on Crane Wilbur; and nine radio shows featuring Vincent Price. AISLE SEAT TERRORIFIC BOTTOM LINE: Released to theaters as the B-side of a double-bill with Hammer’s “The Mummy,” “The Bat” reportedly felt as of it was from a different age — even back in 1959. That may or may not be a good thing, but for Price fans, this is certainly a superior effort from The Film Detective.
Also New & Noteworthy
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (129 mins., 1962; Universal): Robert Mulligan’s celebrated 1962 cinematic adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel lands on 4K UHD for the first time in a lovingly rendered HDR10 graded presentation.
Needless to say, the movie itself needs little introduction. Gregory Peck’s Oscar-winning, marvelous performance as crusading attorney Atticus Finch grounds this memorable, all-time classic film, which manages to capture Lee’s prose (courtesy of Horton Foote’s script) while simultaneously becoming a living, breathing film all its own. Peck’s performance, the remarkable work of young Mary Badham as his feisty daughter Scout (who narrates the film as a remembrance of her childhood), the haunting cinematography of Russell Harlan, and the spellbinding, gorgeous score by Elmer Bernstein all culminate in one of the cinema’s greatest achievements.
Universal’s 4K UHD offers appreciable gains in detail and contrast over its previous Blu-Ray release. The HDR10 (1.85) transfer is rock solid and the audio side is likewise faultless with both original mono and 5.1 DTS MA options. Extras include an all-new, nearly half-hour “Points of View” featurette along with previously produced supplements, highlighted by Barbara Kopple’s feature-length documentary “A Conversation With Gregory Peck.” This 1999 look at Peck’s travels across the globe during his one-man tour (engaging in Q&A sessions with audiences) is a revealing portrait of an actor and a family man, as distinguished and classy off-screen as he was on it. Filled with numerous insights into Peck’s life, this is a truly special feature that’s a perfect compliment to Charles Kiselyak’s “Fearful Symmetry,” a compelling, flavorful examination of the impact of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” wisely reprised from the original DVD. Other special features include a 1999 Today Show interview with Mary Badham; Peck’s Oscar acceptance speech; a segment from Peck’s AFI Lifetime Achievement award; the original trailer and Mulligan and Pakula’s 1998 commentary track.
NO ESCAPE Blu-Ray (118 mins., 1994, R; Unearthed): The Savoy Pictures library has long been locked up, presumably due to distribution issues, yet in the last year the likes of “Last of the Dogmen” and now “No Escape” have trickled out onto Blu-Ray here in the U.S.
A solid, quasi sci-fi thriller released to uneventful box-office in the spring of ’94, “No Escape” sends prisoner Ray Liotta to a secluded, top-secret prison island where he joins up with a slightly less-dangerous group of “inmates” including Lance Henriksen and Ernie Hudson while outright psycho Stuart Wilson stages his own “Lord of the Flies” on the isle’s other half. Eventually they all meet up and duke it out in this entertaining, highly watchable Gale Ann Hurd production, directed by Martin Campbell and shot by Phil Meheux – shortly before much of this team went off to shoot Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond, “Goldeneye.” Michael Gaylin and Joel Gross scripted with Kevin Dillon, Michael Lerner and Kevin J. O’Connor also in the supporting cast.
Unearthed’s Blu-Ray hails from what looks like a dusty old HD master (2.35) with somewhat limp colors and brightness levels. The audio options include a somewhat subdued 5.1 DTS MA track and even weaker 2.0 option, with extras including “remotely conducted” audio interviews with Hurd, Campbell, and Gross, plus an archival Making Of, promo gallery and alternate intro under its international title “Escape From Absolom.”
QUIET DAYS IN CLICHY 4K Ultra HD/Blu-Ray (91 mins., 1970; Blue Underground): Henry Miller’s long-banned novel came to the screen in the form of this 1970 underground film which had a difficult time finding an American release after the government declared it to be obscene. It’s certainly an offbeat film, but one that seems at least somewhat tame by today’s standards, as it follows an American writer (Paul Valjean) and his French buddy (Wayne Rodda) through the streets of Paris where they take up a group of sexual conquests (mostly hookers).
Director Jens Jorgan Thorsen’s adaptation of Miller’s 1956 novel is most definitely eclectic, utilizing still photos and occasional text captions from Miller’s novel to highlight the stark B&W cinematography. There’s not much plot – just lots of sex and the occasional philosophizing, which makes “Quiet Days in Clichy” an unusual exercise worth a view for those with appropriately eclectic sensibilities.
Blue Underground’s brand-new restoration, scanned in 16-bit 4K from a recently-found, uncensored fine-grain negative, includes Dolby Vision HDR and a brand-new, restored DTS MA mono track, all of which surpass the label’s previous, 2011 Blu-Ray edition. A newly found deleted scene, court documents, still galleries and the trailer are added into Blue Underground’s supplements which otherwise reprieve its previous BD extras: two interviews with Miller’s editor/publisher Barney Rosset and an interview with musician Country Joe McDonald, who scored the film.
THE LAST ROMANTIC LOVER Blu-Ray (104 mins., 1978; Cult Epics): Enjoyable late ’70s soft-erotica from director Just Jaeckin offers Dayle Haddon as an NY magazine editor staging a “Last Romantic Lover” contest in order to see if the opposite sex still has “it” in the seventies. She finds it (and then some, of course) via Gerard Ismael’s lion tamer in this Robert Fraisse-shot effort, lightened up by humor and some eclectic touches, that’s new on Blu-Ray via a 4K restored transfer from Cult Epics. Extras include a commentary by author Jeremy Richey, new interviews with Haddon and a 2020 talk with Jaeckin, a promo gallery and trailers.
BEAST Blu-Ray (93 mins., 2022, R; Universal): Kind of a bewildering, pedestrian vehicle for star Idris Elba, here playing a doctor taking his kids on a South African safari when they’re attacked by a lion who must’ve been related to the den that ate Michael Douglas in “The Ghost and the Darkness.” Director Baltasar Kormakur does a nice job utilizing Philippe Rousselot’s location cinematography, but “Beast”’s thrills are pretty light despite the R rating. A number of featurettes, a 1080p (2.39) transfer and 7.1 DTS MA audio comprise Universal’s Blu-Ray which also boasts a DVD copy…Popular stand-up comic Jo Koy lands his first big starring feature with EASTER SUNDAY (96 mins., 2022, PG-13; Universal), with Koy playing a divorced father who returns home for a typically boisterous family holiday. Tia Carrere, Eugene Cordero and Lou Diamond Phillips (as himself) pop up in Jay Chandrasekhar’s familiar comedy, which straddles the PG-13 rating enough to open the door for a wider demographic than Koy’s typically R-rated stand-up sets. Universal’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD) includes a gag reel and deleted scenes plus a Digital HD copy.
Brad Pitt does Guy Ritchie Lite in David Leitch’s BULLET TRAIN (120 mins., 2022, R; Sony), an action affair with lots of “black comic quips” that feels awfully familiar – and a little tired. Pitt does his thing as an assassin trying to fight his way out out of a Japanese train, but the bloated run time and generic feel make this recommended for undemanding genre fans only. Sony’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) includes a DVD, digital copy, and over an hour of extras including outtakes and bloopers.
New titles from Synapse Films this month are highlighted by an uncut 4K remaster of THE KINDRED (93 mins., 1987), an exercise in late ’80s horror with a superior cast taking one just for the money. Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter’s low-budget affair stars Kim Hunter as a scientist wanting to rid the world of her failed experiments – Rod Steiger is the rival doctor who wants to keep them going, including a creature lurking about that ends up causing trouble for Hunter’s son (David Allen Brooks) and friends (Amanda Pays, Talia Balsam among them). David Newman scored “The Kindred” with Synapse’s Blu-Ray (1.85) boasting both a new 5.1 remix and 2.0 mono original audio; an hour-long documentary; on-seen set footage from creature designer Michael McCracken, Jr.,; still galleries; and a commentary by the directors.
Also new from Synapse is SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER (100 mins., 2004, R), writer-director Jeff Lieberman’s mildly agreeable horror comedy with future “Vikings” star Katheryn Winnick playing a big sister to precocious nine-year-old brother Alexander Brickel, who’s become obsessed with a video game that also leads him to inadvertently help out a local serial killer. Some black comic laughs mix with true horror in Lieberman’s film which, much like the director’s ’80s outing “Remote Control,” doesn’t quite know when to quit. Synapse’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 2.0) includes a commentary by the director, a featurette, locations tour, promo trailer and other goodies.
Mill Creek New Releases
A handful of new “Retro VHS” Blu-Rays from Mill Creek are out this month from the label, each featuring delightfully archival VHS slipcovers and competent catalog transfers.
THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS (88 mins., 1997, R) was Chow Yun-Fat’s introduction to American cinema, and while it wasn’t anything but a formula retread of his superior Hong Kong thrillers, “The Replacement Killers” is nevertheless an entertaining actioner that doesn’t wear out its welcome, and Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray at least includes its superior R-rated theatrical cut (as opposed to the bloated extended cut which replaced it initially in the format). It’s still disappointing the movie wasn’t better, particularly considering the fine supporting cast that was assembled here (Mira Sorvino, Michael Rooker, Jurgen Prochnow), but as an OK time-killer, “The Replacement Killers” is still worth a view for action fans…THE CURE (97 mins., 1995, PG-13) sends young Joseph Mazzello and Brad Renfro out on a teen journey after it’s discovered the former has HIV. A sensitively performed but saccharine film directed by actor Peter Horton that does include a lovely Dave Grusin score that’s the best thing about it (1.85)…Ron Howard’s THE PAPER (112 mins., 1994, R) is Ron Howard’s ensemble comedy-drama about life at a big city newspaper circa the mid ’90s. Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray adds new interviews with Ron Howard and writers David and Stephen Koepp (1.85)…Finally, Richard Attenborough’s adaptation of SHADOWLANDS (131 mins., 1993, PG) stars Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis and Debra Winger as the American divorcee he comes to love in William Nicholson’s adaptation of his stage play, scored by George Fenton (2.35), who also appears here in a welcome new interview about his work on the picture and several collaborations with Attenborough.
New on DVD from the “Ultraman” series is ULTRAMAN NEOS (5 hours), which offers the complete iteration of this go-around, in 1.33 full-screen transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks; and ULTRAMAN COSMOS (30 hours), which includes “Ultraman Cosmos: The First Contact” movie, then the complete “Cosmos” series and follow-up specials/features “Ultraman Cosmos 2: The Blue Planet” and “Ultraman Cosmos Vs. Ultraman Justice.” Mill Creek’s DVD includes Japanese 2.0 soundtracks, English subtitles and 1.33 (series)/1.78 (features) transfers.
Complete Series DVD Sets
Several different series that have come to an end are new on DVD this month in affordably-priced, Complete Series packages.
RAY DONOVAN (72 hours, 2013-2020, 2022; CBS) was a staple series on Showtime, running from 2013-20 and showcasing Liev Schreiber in his five-time Golden Globe nominated role of the “fixer to the stars.” The long-running Showtime series ended in 2020 but returned for a recent, feature-length send-off movie, wherein the Donovans are brought back to Boston to close out relationships and dramatic angles from seasons past. Fans seemed to be satisfied with this feature-length wrap-up that Schrieber co-wrote with series producer David Hollander, bringing back co-stars like Jon Voight for a fitting end. CBS’ Complete Series package, bundled in one of the label’s typical oversized plastic cases, houses 29 DVDs (16:9, 5.1) with “The Movie” included and over two hours of special features.
New from Warner are a pair of Cartoon Network complete series sets — a bit bittersweet given the recent news of layoffs at the cable channel, generating rumors about its long-term future. The good news, at least, is fans who may have watched (or even grown up with) these vintage Cartoon Network shows can relive the glory days of the channel’s programming.
FOSTER’S HOME FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS (1804 mins., 2004-09) was one of the more celebrated of the assorted CN series, focusing on the subsequent adventures of various childhood pals once their young charges have outgrown them. Every episode from the five-year run of the program has been compiled here, for the first time, in Warner’s DVD (5.1 for Seasons 3-6, 2.0 for the first two years).
Meanwhile, all 66 episodes of ED, EDD N EDDY (1502 mins., 1999-2007) have also been collected in a slender, economically-packaged Warner box-set. This was one of the earliest Cartoon Network hits — a zany comedy from Danny Antonucci about pals hanging around a suburban cul-de-sac and getting involved in all sorts of comedic shenanigans. Running for eight years, “Ed, Edd N Eddy” debuts in a Complete Series package also boasting a number of extras: interviews, a music video, promos and more, while the 2.0 Dolby Digital track is just fine...WE BABY BEARS: THE MAGICAL BOX (229 mins.) is a compilation featuring 20 episodes from the currently popular Cartoon Network series. The single disc DVD (16:9, 2.0) is now available and recommended for fans of baby bros Grizz, Panda and Ice Bear.
A SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE: FARMAGEDDON Blu-Ray/DVD (87 mins., 2019, G; Shout! Factory): Blu-Ray debut of the 2019 Shaun the Sheep movie has Shaun helping an alien return home after she crashes down near the Mossy Bottom Farm. Typical hyjinks for the Aardman crowd, this feature-length adventure offers a decent quotient of laughs, with Shout’s Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack including a 1080p widescreen transfer (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA), a DVD and a handful of behind-the-scenes featurettes and associated segments.
THREE WISHES FOR CINDERELLA Blu-Ray (87 mins., 2021; Shout! Factory): Norwegian adaptation of the fairy tale offers international pop star “Astrid S” (Astrid Smeplass) in the title role, who plots a familiar course over the oft-told narrative – this time in a wintry Nordic environment. Shout’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1) includes both the original Norwegian audio as well as an English dubbed track…Due out November 1st from Shout! And GKids, SUMMER GHOST (40 mins.) is a brief anime following three teens who raise a “summer ghost” after lighting fireworks at an old airfield. “loundraw” helmed this Japanese production, on Blu-Ray featuring a documentary, interview, 1080p (1.78) transfer and 5.1 sound in either Japanese or English.
EUPHORIA – Seasons 1 and 2 DVD (1032 mins., 2019-22; HBO/Warner): HBO’s newest series of controversy counts Zendaya (who went on to win a pair of Emmys for her role here) amongst its ensemble cast, looking at the lives of high school students and their assorted relationships, sexual and otherwise, in the social media age. Candid and raw, Sam Levinson’s series has been collected here with its first two seasons (and two special, Christmas-set episodes) in an HBO DVD box-set (16:9, 5.1). The set boasts numerous behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews.
GHOSTER DVD (91 mins., 2022, PG; Lionsgate): “Casper” rip-off also has a young girl and her father encountering a benign young ghost at a mansion, and needing their help solving puzzles in order to free them. The design of young “Ghoster” is also close enough to Casper to make you wonder how in the world this got made with so many striking similarities to the busted 1995 “Casper” movie – yet that film was so bad, why would you want to use it for inspiration? Lionsgate’s DVD includes a 16:9 (2.40) transfer and 5.1 sound.
NEXT TIME: The latest Vinegar Syndrome and Imprint releases! 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!