Message Board (open 24 hours!)
Twitter - @andredursin (for everything else!)
Filmmaker Fred Dekker has been involved in a number of genre favorites over the years, from penning the original story for Steve Miner’s haunted house chiller “House” to writing and directing the cult fave 1986 homage “Night of the Creeps.” Regrettably, the window of opportunity for some directors can open and close in a heartbeat, and as Dekker himself has noted, he “killed” his own career twice — first with the failure of the 1987 kid-fantasy THE MONSTER SQUAD (82 mins., 1987, PG-13; Kino Lorber) and later with the well-intentioned “Robocop 3,” which sat on the shelf for several years while Orion Pictures went bankrupt and the audience for the series went elsewhere.
It’s quite unfortunate as well, since Dekker seems to have a natural instinct for what makes the genre click, as evidenced by his savvy script for “Creeps” and the genuine affection shown to the Universal Monsters in “The Monster Squad,” which debuts this month on 4K UHD via a new 4K scan of the 35mm OCN from Kino Lorber.
This broadly-played, entertaining kid-fantasy is sort of a cross between “The Goonies” and “Ghostbusters,” with Count Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman, and the Gil-Man arriving in a typical, Spielberg-like suburb and causing all sorts of problems. To the rescue come a group of grade-schoolers with a serious knowledge of classic monster folklore — and it’s not long before Dracula (Duncan Regehr) and his gang are pushed to their limits by a group of modern day American kids.
A box-office bust released at the tail end of the 1987 summer movie season (back when August really was “the dumping grounds” for failed theatrical prospects), “The Monster Squad” is crackling good fun for the young and the young at heart: Dekker, working from a script he co-wrote with Shane Black (soon to hit the big time with “Lethal Weapon”), employs the wide Panavision frame to great effect, punching up the action with a robust Bruce Broughton score and plenty of old-fashioned, solid visuals courtesy of F/X supervisor Richard Edlund and make-up guru Stan Winston. The movie is short, sweet, and plenty of fun, incorporating the movie monsters of the ‘30s and ‘40s in a fast-paced homage to the later Universal monster mash-ups and especially “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein,” which Dekker says was a direct influence on the movie (in fact, Dekker’s original idea was to make a film where the monsters met the Little Rascals!).
Due to the film’s poor financial performance and apparent rights issues between Tri-Star and Taft/Barish (which produced the film), “The Monster Squad” was never an easy film to track down over the years. The movie was never issued on laserdisc in North America (fans circulated bootlegs of the widescreen Japanese laser for years) and never received a proper DVD release until Lionsgate’s 20th Anniversary DVD edition from 2007.
A Blu-Ray followed a few years later, but now another remastering has transpired thanks to Kino Lorber and Paramount, which inherited the title and provided a new 4K scan here. This is a generally good-looking Dolby Vision HDR-enhanced image (2.35) that benefits the movie’s widescreen trappings and Richard Edlund’s visual effects, though the main selling point to the UHD seems to be higher contrast as opposed to enhancements in color and detail over the included Blu-Ray. Meanwhile, both 5.1 and 2.0 DTS MA sound options are included on the audio end.
The supplements are highlighted by star Andrew Gower’s WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS, an okay (if overly fan-centric) 2018 documentary presented on its own Blu-Ray disc, while another disc reprises extras from previous editions. A lengthy, 90-minute documentary offers a cavalcade of 2007-produced interviews with Dekker, stars Andre Gower, Duncan Regehr and Tom Noonan (who essays Frankenstein in the film), plus cinematographer Bradford May, composer Bruce Broughton and many more. Filled with anecdotes, “Monster Squad Forever!” is a detailed account of the production of the film, sporting tasty anecdotes (Liam Neeson was the first choice to play Dracula but bailed out late in the game) and an honest assessment of where the film went wrong at the box-office (Noonan says the marketing attempted to sell the film to several different niches, when just one would’ve sufficed).
Trailers, a vintage 10-minute gag interview with Noonan in make-up, and deleted scenes (most of which involve Gower’s parents) round out the bonus features, while a pair of archival commentary tracks are also on-tap — one with Dekker and May, the other with Dekker and Gower plus his now-grown co-stars Ryan Lambert and Ashley Bank. The Dekker/May one is of the most interest, with executive producer Peter Hyams’ “meddling” being an intermittent topic of conversation.
Also debuting on 4K UHD from Kino Lorber is STALAG 17 (120 mins., 1953), the Billy Wilder adaptation of the Broadway play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski. One of the earliest films to capture the plight of American POWs held in a German internment camp during WWII, “Stalag 17” might come off to viewers who have never seen it like an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes” – just with a harder edge – but that ‘60s comedy clearly followed the blueprint of assorted characters – along with their relationship with a German commandant (director Otto Preminger) – first seen here in Wilder’s hit film.
It’s certainly a showcase for William Holden, playing the sarcastic, all-knowing G.I. whose thirst for entertainment breaks up the daily grind of POW life, but who also seriously schemes to break free – which he does once he finds out who the informant is inside Stalag 17 itself. Don Taylor, Peter Graves, and Neville Brand also appear with Harvey Lembeck and Robert Strauss recreating their roles from the stage version, while Wilder and Edwin Blum’s script is both memorably funny and yet still suspenseful when called upon; only some unnecessary narration seems shoehorned into the picture, dulling some of its potential edge.
Paramount’s 4K scan (1.37 B&W) of the 35mm OCN is superbly encoded here by Kino Lorber, offering lots of 4K detail and clarity via its Dolby Vision HDR master. The original mono sound, sporting “music settings” by Franz Waxman, is on-hand plus three commentaries (from Steve Mitchell and Steven Jay Rubin; Joseph McBride; and stars Richard Erdman and Gil Stratton with Donald Bevan) and two featurettes, plus a Blu-Ray disc.
New on Blu-Ray
VALMONT Blu-Ray (136 mins., 1989, R): One of two filmed adaptations of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” that turned up in the late ‘80s, Milos Forman’s lusciously staged companion piece to his 1984 triumph “Amadeus” had the misfortune to follow the more commercially popular “Dangerous Liasions.”
While “Dangerous Liasons” – with its star driven cast of Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer and John Malkovich – earned three Oscars and performed well at the box-office, “Valmont” fell prey to lower grosses and generally less acclaim several months later. Years later, though, I think “Valmont” is the stronger film – even more impressive visually (with most of Forman’s “Amadeus” production team having worked on the picture), possessing more of a playful and humorous air than “Liasions.” The characters are certainly more appealing, with Colin Firth infusing far more sympathy than Malkovich as the title playboy who schemes with the devious Madame de Merteuil (Annette Bening) into seducing the married Madame de Tourvel (Meg Tilly, who Forman cast as Mozart’s wife in “Amadeus” before she injured her leg right before filming began).
Forman’s film employs a lighter touch compared to the acidic tone Stephen Fears instilled in “Liasions” and is enhanced by marvelous supporting cast, from a young Fairuza Balk and “E.T.”’s Henry Thomas to “Amadeus”’ Jeffrey Jones. Miroslav Ondricek’s sumptuous cinematography further brings the period alive, punctuated by more classical performances from Sir Neville Marriner on the soundtrack. This a subtler, more refined take on the material but one that makes for a highly underrated film worthy of rediscovery in high definition.
Kino Lorber’s long-in-the-works Blu-Ray is finally now available. The label had announced a format release years back but had to scuttle their initial plans when Pathe’s outstanding 4K restoration (released in France) proved too costly to license. Kino’s efforts have resulted in a new HD master derived from a 2K scan of the 35mm interpositive (2.35, 2.0 DTS MA stereo) that’s not quite on the level of the Pathe presentation but should still satisfy domestic fans of the movie. On the supplemental end, Daniel Kremer’s commentary is filled with insight into the production – including Forman’s own efforts to bring “Liasions” scribe Christopher Hampton’s play to the screen before seeming miscommunication resulted in Forman going off to make his own film – while the trailer and a welcome archival interview with the director details his take on the material.
THE LAST TYCOON Blu-Ray (123 mins., 1976, PG): Director Elia Kazan’s final film is a wistful yet dramatically inert tale of a Golden Age studio mogul facing a changing Hollywood not to mention the love he left behind. Robert DeNiro is fine, if a bit young, as “Monroe Stahr” and he’s anchored by an ace supporting cast of stars, from Tony Curtis and Robert Mitchum to Donald Pleasence and Ray Milland, not to mention Jeanne Moreau, Anjelica Huston and Theresa Russell, but Kazan and screenwriter Harold Pinter’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book ends up going nowhere in particular. Still worth a watch because of the cast, “The Last Tycoon” has been remastered here in an attractive 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative (1.85, mono). Joseph McBride’s commentary is included on the supplemental side.
The holidays are fully here, believe it or not, and with it comes that most magical of Leslie Bricusse yuletide musicals: “Scrooge,” now in 4K UHD! Oh wait, sorry, those were just the sugarplums dancing in my head! Fear not, however, there is a debut Blu-Ray premiere of a long-forgotten Bricusse scored holiday confection out this month: the ABC TV movie BABES IN TOYLAND (96 mins., 1986, G), which premiered as a 3-hour holiday event and promptly received critical coal in its proverbial stocking. Later cut to feature length for overseas theaters, this shortened “Babes” debuts in high-definition from Kino Lorber, enabling fans to watch a singing and dancing Keanu Reeves and Drew Barrymore.
This Orion TV production offers Barrymore as a young girl from the Midwest transported to the magical kingdom of Toyland where she’s supposed to be the savior of the ailing storybook land haunted by the villainous (and endlessly mugging) Richard Mulligan. Jill Schoelen plays her sister with Keanu Reeves as her boyfriend – also “Jack Nimble” in the fantasy realm – in what turns into a wan reworking of “The Wizard Of Oz” with plastic environments and bland songs from Bricusse, supervised by his “Scrooge” associate Ian Fraser.
Cut down here to a manageable feature length, “Babes” is pedestrian fare with unintentional laughs and scant carryover from the Victor Herbert operetta. The HD transfer only exposes the ramshackle nature of production as well, but the movie does offer, for buffs, Reeves and preteen Drew in a genre they would seldom dabble in again – for good reason – plus guest stars Pat Morita and Eileen Brennan.
With the 3-hour version long lost to off-the-air VHS recordings, Kino Lorber has tapped MGM’s HD master of the “feature length edit” for their Blu-Ray, providing a welcome choice of 1.33 and (cropped) 1.78 aspect ratios and 2.0 sound.
IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE Blu-Ray (69 mins., 1958): What was an effective, if relatively minor, late ‘50s sci-fi B-movie has gained something of a legendary rep in the genre because of its later influence on “Alien” (1979). This Vogue Pictures production tells, in flashback, the story of an astronaut whose crew was wiped out after landing on Mars. Nobody believes his claim that an alien creature was to blame – until it’s nearly too late!
Edwad L. Cahn directed “It!,” which boasts an appropriately menacing score from Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter, plus a better-than-average script by future “Twilight Zone” scribe Jerome Bixby. While it’s a bit creaky by todays’s standards, “It!” should provide ample amusement for ‘50s sci-fi/fantasy fans, and makes a welcome return to Blu-Ray with Kino’s new 2K scan of the 35mm fine grain (1.85 B&W, mono) that proves an enhancement on an earlier Olive release. Even better: brand-new extras include no less than a trio of historian commentaries: one with screenwrtter Gery Gerani; another featuring historian Craig Beam; and a third sporting familiar voices Tom Weaver, Bob Burns, Larry Blamire, and David Schecter. Beam also provides a featurette with the trailer also included in the slipcover-adorned recent release.
NEON CITY Blu-Ray (108 mins., 1991, R): Not-bad, low-budget post-apocalyptic affair at least affords the great Michael Ironside a lead role along the lines of his atypically heroic turn in “V.” Coming off his bad guy part in Paul Verhoeven’s “Total Recall” opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ironside plays a bounty hunter tasked with transporting a female prisoner (Vanity) among others on a transport vehicle driven by football vet Lyle Alzado. Monte Markham’s film, shot in Utah, is actually less “Mad Max” than it is a futuristic updating of “Stagecoach,” and while the pacing drags at times, Ironside is fun and the film eventually gallops to a satisfying finish. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray debuts a 2K scan (1.85, 2.0 stereo) of the 35mm interpositive, licensed through Lionsgate. Both image and sound are in top shape with enjoyable extras including a 10-minute talk with Ironside, discussing the “pull it together” nature of a low-budget shoot like this, and a commentary featuring Markham.
2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY Blu-Ray (105 mins., 1996, R): Tarantino-wannabe is too contrived for its own good, but does include a delightful cat fight between a then-smoldering Charlize Theron and Teri Hatcher, in between stints on “Lois and Clark” and “Desperate Housewives.” Writer-director John Herzfeld’s film also boasts a terrific ensemble cast of old pros (Danny Aiello, Marsha Mason, Louise Fletcher, director Paul Mazursky), then-current stars (James Spader, Eric Stoltz, Jeff Daniels), and rising talents like Theron, but it’s all posturing as viewers experience a typically varied assortment of vignettes involving disparate characters who eventually come together in the end. Tellingly, Jerry Goldsmith’s original score was jettisoned in favor of a cliched, more song-heavy soundtrack too, though at least Oliver Wood’s cinematography looks the part. So too does Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray, sporting a new 4K scan (2.35) of the original camera negative with ample extras. These include Herzfeld’s commentary; an interview between Herzfeld and Sylvester Stallone, whom he directed on “Escaple Plan”; a Cinefamily Q&A with Theron, Herzfeld and others; an archival featurette; plus B-rolls and other EPK material.
GATOR Blu-Ray (115 mins., 1976, PG): Burt Reynolds’ ascension as a box-office star could be seen in the time produced in between “White Lightning” and its 1976 sequel, “Gator,” where Burt reprised his role of moonshiner Gator McKlusky in an agreeable “down home” action affair Reynolds also directed. The second time around, Gator is pressed into undercover fed work in order to take down friend (and future “Smokey and the Bandit” co-star) Jerry Reed, a crime boss involved in more than just local extortion. Lauren Hutton, Jack Weston and Dub Taylor co-star with dynamic action set-pieces choreographed by frequent Reynolds cohort Hal Needham, preserved here in a respectable MGM catalog master (2.35, mono). Extra features include an archival featurette with Reynolds, radio spots, the trailer, and a fresh commentary from Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson.
The widescreen trappings of “Gator” are in contrast to its grittier, comparatively more character-driven predecessor, WHITE LIGHTNING (101 mins., 1973, PG), also out on Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber in a new special edition. Joseph Sargent directed with William (Bill) Norton (“More American Graffiti,” “Baby”) penning this early Burt vehicle which offers Ned Beatty, Bo Hopkins, Matt Clark and Jennifer Billingsley in supporting roles. There’s still sufficient action but less of a reliance on Reynolds himself to carry the picture, an issue once Burt settled into his “Hal Needham era” once “Smokey and the Bandit” was released. Kino Lorber’s disc looks good (1.85, mono) with another new Mitchell/Thompson commentary, trailers/TV spots, and “Back to the Bayou” featurette with Reynolds all included.
THE CARPETBAGGERS Blu-Ray (150 mins., 1964, PG): Glossy adaptation of Harold Robbins’ trashy bestseller – really the first of numerous movies showcasing the debauchery inherent in Hollywood during the ‘20s and ‘30s – offers plenty of PG-rated moments that were provocative for their time. George Peppard plays a Howard Hughes-esque entrepreneur building a studio with Carroll Baker as his leading lady and Alan Ladd – essaying Nevada Smith – leading a strong supporting cast in this Joseph E. Levine soaper, scripted by John Michael Hayes from Robbins’ book with veteran Edward Dmytryk presiding over the episodic, bulky film. Dramatically it doesn’t quite work but the picture is well-made and cast, with a memorable Elmer Bernstein score and attractive scope cinematography – elements that benefit from Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray. Debuting a 4K scan of the 35mm OCN (2.35), the image is top notch with extras including new commentaries from, respectively, Julie Kirgo and David Del Valle.
Foreign and Special Interest
French filmmaker Eric Rohmer is represented this month with a trio of new Blu-Rays from Metrograph Pictures. These pictures hail from Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” cycle from the 1980s, a series of films that find its characters involved in a web of romantic entanglements.
Rohmer started the unofficial series with THE AVIATOR’S WIFE (106 mins., 1981), an enjoyable affair involving a young man whose mind starts spinning out of control once he sees his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend leaving her apartment. In the later FOUR ADVENTURES OF REINETTE AND MIRABELLE (99 mins., 1986), Rohmer crafts a delightful picture following two young women (Joelle Miquel, Jessica Forde) who engage in four vignettes as they become roommates around Paris. BOYFRIENDS AND GIRLFRIENDS (107 mins., 1987, PG) followed the following year, concluding the series in a movie that netted an art-house release in the U.S.
There’s no heavy melodrama involved in these films – simply characters whom audiences can relate to, engaged in daily human activity and dealing with their own respective hang-ups. These “slice of life” pictures are breezy and showcase Rohmer at his best, each presented here with new commentaries (Adrian Martin on “Aviator” and “Boyfriends,” and Kristen Yoonsoo Kim on “Four Adventures”) and 1080p transfers (1.66/1.37, respectively) featuring French 2.0 audio with English subtitles.
Eclectic filmmaker Beth B has seen a number of her works recently issued by Kino Lorber including SALVATION! HAVE YOU SAID YOUR PRAYERS TODAY (79 mins., 1987). This curio features Viggo Mortensen as a laid-off blue collar worker who joins with his sister-in-law (Dominique Davalos) to blackmail a TV minister (Stephen McHattie). Interviews, a music video and trailers are included in the now-available Kino Classics Blu-Ray (1.85, mono). ..Andrew Bujalski’s COMPUTER CHESS (91 mins., 2013) is an offbeat little comedy set at a weekend tournament for chess software programmers in the early ‘80s. Shot on actual vintage video equipment, the film tries to evoke the era, which it does successfully, but the movie’s comedy and overall entertainment value are less effective. Loads of extras, from commentaries to promo videos, are included in Kino’s Blu-Ray (1.33, 1080i, 2.0 stereo).
Cohen Film Collection recently released Volume 5 of THE BUSTER KEATON COLLECTION at the start of November. This single-disc couples classic Keaton comedies THREE AGES (71 mins., 1923) with OUR HOSPITALITY (76 mins., 1923) in new restorations meticulously compiled from a number of assorted elements (both 1.33, silent with stereo scores).
New on DVD from MHz, HOMICIDE HILLS: THE COMPLETE SERIES (1980 mins.) features the complete German TV series starring Caroline Peters as an aspiring detective assigned to a German village where murder is far more common than one would anticipate. Appealingly eccentric characters populated this series whose three seasons are all collected in a 12-disc box-set from MHz featuring 16:9 transfers (1.78) and German audio with English subtitles…From Virgil Films on DVD comes Miles Doleac’s OPEN (119 mins., 2023), the story of a couple who decides to open their marriage with extremely mixed results. Lindsay Anne Williams, Jeremy London and Doleac himself star with the DVD now available (16:9, 5.1).
New From Fun City Editions
T.R. BASKIN Blu-Ray (90 mins., 1971, R; Fun City Editions): A fascinating albeit quite uneven “’70s movie” that transports the viewer into another time and place in the best possible way, “T.R. Baskin” is a “mood” piece from writer-producer Peter Hyams. Focusing on a young woman (Candice Bergen) from Ohio who comes to Chicago seeking…something…and fails to find “it” between taking a typist job at a quasi-futuristic looking corporate grinder and a relationship with a man (James Caan) who she thinks she’s made a connection with, only to have him mistake her as a hooker.
Hyams frames the picture as a flashback through Bergen’s POV, following T.R. after she meets with a married salesman (Peter Boyle) who thinks he’s looking for a good time. Neither character is quite up for it, and they move towards a mutual understanding of one another at the same time Hyams and director Herbert Ross chart Baskin’s constant unhappiness and yearning for “more” in her assorted adventures around a wintry Chicago.
The issue with this short but well-made Paramount period piece is that the development of the drama is limited and intentionally ambiguous in a way certain films from the decade often are. The problem here is that, at 90 minutes, the viewer only sees glimpses into T.R.’s back story and what makes her tick. With no real emotional connection established with Hyams’ heroine, the film never connects dramatically, faring best in its too-brief scenes between Bergen and Boyle, and less effectively in gooey sequences between Bergen and Caan, which grind down the picture in the final half-hour. Then, like clockwork, it all ends on a bittersweet note and lots of unanswered questions at the precisely 90 minute mark.
Still a memorable little movie with strong performances by Bergen – who was unfairly served by a litany of bad roles in the early portion of her career – and Boyle, “T.R. Baskin” is the kind of flawed yet flavorful picture that makes another fine entry into Fun City’s roster of resurrected, little-seen catalog films on Blu-Ray. In addition to a lovely slipcover and artwork recreating a retro ‘80s Paramount VHS release, this seldom-exhibited picture has been restored in a new 4K presentation (1.85) from its original 35mm camera negative. In addition to clear mono sound, the disc includes a very solid interview with Hyams, who discusses this early project in his filmography and handing off directorial chores to a highly experienced, yet very different, Hollywood filmmaker in Herbert Ross. A commentary with Ben Reiser and Scott Lucas is also included plus a booklet with an essay by Kat Sachs.
Arrow New Releases
TREMORS 2: AFTERSHOCKS 4K Ultra HD (100 mins., 1995, PG-13; Arrow): The original “Tremors” was a delightful monster movie yet never attained the box-office success its positive reviews and cult status would lead one to believe. Yet, the movie was popular enough for Universal to greenlight sequels on a smaller scale than their 1990 big-screen predecessor, starting off with the first – and easily best – follow-up in 1995, “Tremors 2: Afterschocks.”
This one loses Kevin Bacon but does retain Fred Ward and Michael Gross (whose Burt Gummer character would go on to headline future sequels) around as the “Graboids” have not only headed south, causing trouble at a Mexican oil refinery, but have also ventured above the ground. The effects from Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. manage to be effective even with the lowered budget of “Aftershocks,” but it’s the fact original writers Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson returned here – with Wilson also directing – that enables this breezy, enjoyable follow-up to retain the mix of tension and humor as its predecessor.
One of many sequels produced for the home video market by Universal back in the ‘90s – a trend that’s continued to this day – “Tremors 2” makes its 4K UHD debut in a tremendous Dolby Vision HDR transfer that, needless to say, gives the picture a crisper appearance than it’s ever exhibited before. In addition to 2.0/4.0 sound offerings, there’s also a new commentary from Wilson and producer Nancy Roberts; another commentary with “Tremors” expert Jonathan Melville; new interviews with FX artist Phil Tippett (who handled the CGI on the film) and FX designer Peter Chesney; outtakes; trailers; and an archival Making Of. It’s all included in a hardbound box with interesting booklet notes charting all of Universal’s home-video sequels and a small fold-out poster.
THE DAY OF THE LOCUST Blu-Ray (144 mins., 1974, R; Arrow): The ‘70s were awash in films chronicling the decadent days of Hollywood in its infancy, especially the ‘20s and ‘30s, and no movie better summed up the decade’s nihilistic view of “Tinsel Town” than John Scheslinger’s “The Day of the Locust.” An adaptation of Nathanel West’s novel from Waldo Salt, this all-time downer manages to be both well-crafted yet so relentlessly depressing in its chronicle of an “uncorrupted” protagonist (William Atherton) who moves to Hollywood and meets with one seedy/troubled/psychotic individual after another that its hysterical climax goes from horrifying to unintentionally funny. Chief among Schlesinger and Salt’s excessive vision is the scene of miserable accountant Donald Sutherland bludgeoning a would-be Shirley Temple type (a cross-dressing Jackie Earle Haley) to death, capping an increasingly surreal film that hammers the same note from beginning to end. It’s hard to qualify any of this as entertainment, yet its big cast and evocation of time and place – with a subdued John Barry score that mostly stays out of the way – produces a “cinematic rubbernecking,” like you’re watching an accident you can’t look away from.
Certainly if you’re going to watch “The Day of the Locust” the only real way to do so is Arrow’s new 2K restoration (1.85) from the original negative, which makes amends for Paramount’s rotten old HD master, previously seen in a dismal Imprint Blu-Ray a couple of years ago. Arrow has included the original 2.0 as well as 5.1 DTS MA sound options while extras include an “oral history commentary” led by Lee Gambin; an appreciation of the film with Glenn Kenny; Elissa Rose looking at costumes; a visual essay from Lee Gambin; and a slew of image galleries and behind-the-scenes photographs.
Also New & Noteworthy
MESSIAH OF EVIL Blu-Ray (90 mins., 1973; Radiance Films): Before Willard Huyuck and Gloria Katz collaborated with friend George Lucas on “American Graffiti” and “Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom” (to say nothing of “Howard the Duck”), the duo produced this strange horror movie which boasts dreamy widescreen cinematography and a fragmented story that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Still, “Messiah of Evil” – about a young woman who eventually uncovers a religious cult in a town where her father disappeared – casts an engrossing spell by way of its early ‘70s, post hippie-era atmosphere and stylized lensing. It leaves you with far more questions than answers, but there’s something compelling about the picture just the same.
Radiance Films’ new Blu-Ray limited edition sports a “new restoration from a 4K scan of the best-surviving elements from the Academy Film Archive.” and the 2.35 transfer is subsequently pretty good on balance though some limitations in the source remain at times. Special features include a new commentary by Kim Newman and Steven Thrower along with an archival interview with Huyuck. There’s also a documentary on the movie featuring loads of critical reappraisals, a Kat Ellinger visual essay, booklet notes and more.
STELLA MARIS Blu-Ray (84 mins., 1918; VCI): One of Mary Pickford’s biggest hits and a film historians have claimed “advanced the art form” upon its 1918 release, “Stella Maris” has been restored in a Paramount/UCLA Film & TV Archive presentation now on Blu-Ray and DVD from VCI. The combo pack features a commentary from Marc Wanamaker, photo gallery, a pictorial booklet, a 1080p (1.37 pillar box) transfer, and the ”American Biograph” short “The Mountaineer’s Honor,” dating from 1909 and restored here in HD with a new score by the Graves Brothers.
KILL BUTTERFLY KILL Blu-Ray (87 mins., 1983; Neon Eagle/Cauldron Films): Wild and woolly Taiwan thriller finds a young woman joining up with a retired hitman and fellow victims of assault to take on the vile men who attacked her. It’s a violent little “Death Wish” variant from Asia, made with a low budget and lots of gore, one that was repackaged in the U.S as “American Commando 6” some years after its release. Fans will be excited that, for their new Blu-Ray, Neon Eagle has included both the original English language export version of the movie as well as that 1987 cut that features newly shot scenes. Both feature 1080p (2.40) transfers derived from 4K restorations with commentary on the original “IFD edit” by Kenneth Borsson and Paul Fox along with trailers in Neon Eagle’s two-disc Blu-Ray set.
APPLE SEED Blu-Ray (120 mins., 2019; VCI): Michael Worth wrote, directed, and stars in this character drama about a man, venturing out on a road trip to rob his hometown bank, when he meets an older ex-con (Rance Howard) whose unconventionality eventually shakes up his intentions. Worth’s veteran cast includes Clint Howard plus Adrienne Barbeau and Robby Benson, with the 2019 film premiering on Blu-Ray with 5.1/2.0 Dolby Digital sound, Worth’s commentary, a Making of, plus a bonus DVD with some additional extras and a “Director’s Cut.”
Well Go USA New Releases: CROCODILE ISLAND DVD (87 mins., 2023; Well Go USA): Hong Kong-produced B-thriller finds a group of disparate passengers on a doomed flight who become stranded on a mysterious island in the Devil’s Sea, one that’s teeming with man-eating crocodiles – and other beasties. Well Go’s DVD, out November 21st, features a 16:9 transfer and 5.1 Mandarin sound with English subtitles – an OK presentation for a fairly entertaining hodgepodge of monster mayhem and other genre affairs, all via a small-scale HK setting.
Also new from Well Go, EYE FOR AN EYE: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN (78 mins., 2023) is the Hi-Yah! Original about a highly skilled swordsman who leaves his work as a bounty hunter behind so he can investigate the death of an innocent man. His eventual quest for vengeance forms the thrust of this short but potent HK import, on Blu-Ray from Well Go USA sporting a 1080p transfer and both Mandarin audio or an English dub track…Coming December 12th from Well Go, MERCY ROAD (86 mins., 2022) stars Luke Bracey as a distraught father both searching for his missing daughter and pursued by the cops after committing a vicious crime. Toby Jones co-stars in John Curran’s ambitiously told, real-time thriller that netted some positive reviews Down Under and now comes to Well Go in a no-frills Blu-Ray (1080p, 5.1 DTS MA) later this month.
NEXT TIME: 4K Thrills from TITANIC to THE EQUALIZER! 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!