Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WOLF (1994) (Indicator Blu-ray Review)

WOLF (1994) 

Label: Powerhouse Films/Indicator Series
Duration: 125 Minutes 

Rating: BBFC cert: 15 
Region Code: Region-Free 
Audio: English LPCM Stereo 2.0. English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 

Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Mike Nichols
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan, Christopher Plummer

Director Mike Nichols’ (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) directed this 90's take on the werewolf genre starring Jack Nicholson (Chinatown) as Will Randall, a buttoned-down book editor turned lycanthropic menace is a fun, star-studded  genre mash-up. We have the always magnetic Nicholson starting out as an aging editor, but when he encounter's an injured wolf on a snowy Vermont road in the middle of the night it ends with a bite on his hand under the full moon. Shortly afterward the area around the wound begins to strangely sprout hair, his decrepit vision improves and the old-timer has a renewed zest for life, in addition to a keen sense of smell and hearing. His amplified sense of smell catches one of his fact checkers at the publishing house off guard when he smells vodka on the man's breath and makes comment of it, bewildering the man. 

James Spader (Jack's Back) shows up as Will's sycophant protégé, Stewart Swinton, who secretly plots against his mentor with new boss billionaire Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer, Dreamscape) to usurp Will's position at the publishing house. Along the way Will discovers his wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan, Dracula) is having a an affair with his younger protege, that little bastard steals not just his job but the guy's wife, that motherfucker. It's a fun little tale of corporate greed and the cutthroat ways of the publishing world, a story that on it's own would have been engaging even  before you add the element of lycanthropy to the mix. As the Nicholson's character begins to wolf-out he gets a new taste for life and makes a play to reclaim his throne at the publishing house, along the way striking up a friendship/relationship with Alden's smoking-hot daughter Michelle Pfeiffer (Into the Night), who at first sees him as just a sympathetic old man but as he begins to seemingly regress in age and become more spry something more develops between them, which irks her billionaire father to the delight of Nicholson's character.

As I have already said, the cutthroat world of NYC publishing and the story of greedy ladder-climbing alone would make this an interesting movie, with Nicholson's character being aided in part by his loyal secretary Mary (Eileen Atkins) and co-worker Roy (David Hyde Pierce of TV's Frasier) who assist him ably and enthusiastically when the worm-turns after his sudden demotion, just the dramatic movie is pretty great and the star-studded cast is a fun watch. plus it's rather funny in a sly sort of way, not a comedy, but legitimately funny, as showcased by a scene of Nicholson pissing on a competitors leg in at the urinal, marking his territory. 

Onto the good stuff, the way the werewolf-ening happens is more downplayed than your average werewolf film, and it's worth noting no one says the word werewolf throughout the whole movie, it's more about being possessed by the spirit of the animal. Thankfully we do get some werewolf transformations courtesy of a man who knows a thing or three about werewolves, make-up effects legend Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London), transformations which don't end in full-on hairy werewolves, but instead shaggy-faced men with sharp teeth and animal-eyes and claws. The effect is great, particularly on Nicholson who looks fearsome towards the end. Spader's character also gets in on the transformation but his is not quite up to snuff in my opinion, he has a bit of a pretty-boy face and the wolf-mane just doesn't frame him the same way as Nicholson, but what he lacks in fearsome visage he makes up for in straight-up meanness, stabbing Nicholson with a pitchfork and attempting to rape a frog-legged Pfeiffer. The wolf versus wolf battle at the end wasn't too bad at all, it holds up way better than what we saw with Universal's digital-monstrosity The Wolfman (2010)... now there's a sad story about Rick Baker working on a film that went wrong, through no fault of his own, but that's a different movie, so let's move on.

Watching Wolf this time around I enjoyed it more than I ever have before, when I caught it in the cinema during it's initial release I think the way younger me was looking for a more traditional werewolf flick, like what I grew up with in the 80's,  and this one doesn't quite go there. However, in a lot of ways this is the old familiar story of a man cursed by a bite, but it nicely mixes in a story about 90's greed culture that holds up as do the special effects.     

Audio/Video: Wolf (1994) arrives on Blu-ray from the UK's Indicator framed in 1.85:1 widescreen on a single-disc region-free Blu-ray. I have the Region A Blu-ray from 2009 and couldn't detect an appreciable difference between the transfers aside from noting that skin tones look more natural to me on the Indicator release. The image is sharp and detailed, black levels look great, colors are nicely saturated, and there's some good fine detail to the image, with the Rick Baker make-up effects coming through strong. Audio on the disc includes both English LPCM Stereo 2.0 and English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English subtitles. The surround option offers up some nice us of the surrounds, it's crisp and well-balanced, perhaps a bit artificial in the mix, but the Ennio Morricone score sounds wonderful, but I preferred the stereo mix on this one. 

Onto the extras, the US release was bare bones so it's nice to get some extras on the Indicator release, beginning with a brand new 55-min making of doc with SFX legend Rick Baker, screenwriter Wesley Strick and producer Douglas Wick, a good watch, detailing the genesis of the project, writing the script, creating the special effects and working with Mike Nichols and Jack Nicholson. There's also about 25 minutes of archival interviews with the cast and crew that seem like they were done for an EPK at the time f the film's release. Additionally we get a few minutes of b-roll footage, these include shots of Pfeiffer in a vehicle doing a poor man's process shot and of Nichols directing scenes, the disc is finished up with the theatrical trailer and an image gallery. 

Sadly we don't have any new interviews with the main cast, I would have loved to hear from Nicholson, Pfeiffer and Spader. I've always heard of an alternate ending and deleted scenes for this one, but it's just not here, I'm assuming Indicator made the effort to find as much as they could but the elements just were not available and the stars were not available, or did not care, to take part in any new interviews, which is too bad, but at least we get some new extras. 

Packaging extras include a 20-page booklet with cast and crew info, notes about the transfer, an appreciation of the film by author Brad Stevens, a vintage promotional interview with Director Mike Nichols, and vintage interview excerpts from producer Douglas Wick, plus selected critical response from the time of the movie's original release in the cinema. 

Special Features: 
- The Beast Inside: Creating ‘Wolf: a new documentary on the making of the film with new interviews from SFX legend Rick Baker, screenwriter Wesley Strick and producer Douglas Wick (55 min) HD 
- Never-before-seen archival interviews with actors Michelle Pfeiffer (1 min), James Spader (2 min) and Kate Nelligan (2 min)
- Never-before-seen archival interviews with director Mike Nichols (8 min), producer Douglas Wick (3 min) and writer Jim Harrison (3 min)
- Never-before-seen archival interviews with SFX maestro Rick Baker (2 min) and production designer Bo Welch (3 min)
- B-roll footage (4 min)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD (Fullframe)
- Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography (24 images) HD 
- Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Brad Stevens, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles on the film 
- Limited Blu-ray Edition of 3,000 copies 

Wolf (1994) is a fun watch with a the star-studded cast, Nicholson's transformation from buttoned-down book editor to wolfed out predator makes for good entertainment, as does James Spader doing what he does best as the slimy younger guy looking to steal Nicholson's thunder, and truth be told he steals the show several times throughout. Add to that mixture some hairy werewolf action and you have a truly entertaining slice of lycanthropic-cinema, enhanced by the special effects work of Rick Baker, it'd be hard not too have a good time with it, just don't expect a bloodbath, this was directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate) after all - he's was a classy guy.   

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Vestron Video Collector’s Series continues with Gothic (1987) coming to Blu-ray™ January 30 from Lionsgate.

GOTHIC (1987) 

Label: Lionsgate/Vestron Video Collector's Series 
Release Date: January 30th 2017
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 87 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Audio: Original 2.0 DTS Monaural Audio
Director: Ken Russell
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, Natasha Richardson

From the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, the horror classic Gothic will arrive for the first time on limited edition Blu-ray™ on January 30 from Lionsgate. Starring Golden Globe® winner Gabriel Byrne (2009, Best Actor, “In Treatment”), Julian Sands, and Natasha Richardson, and from legendary director Ken Russell (Lair of the White Worm), Gothic is the fictional retelling of the night Mary Shelley developed the story of Frankenstein. While under the influence of experimental substances, she and a group of friends experience terrifying visions that bend reality into her horrific tale. The Gothic limited edition Blu-ray is packed with all-new special features, including audio commentaries, isolated score selections, interviews with the cast and crew, and more, and will be available for the suggested retail price of $39.97.

Synopsis: Five famous friends spend a hallucinogenic evening confronting their fears in a frenzy of shocking lunacy and horrifying visions in this fictional tale, which tells the story of Mary Shelley’s conception of Frankenstein on one debauched night in Lord Byron’s home.

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Lisi Russell and Film Historian Matthew Melia
- Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Thomas Dolby
- “The Soul of Shelley” Featurette with Actor Julian Sands
- “Fear Itself” Featurette with Screenwriter Stephen Volk
- “One Rainy Night” Featurette with Director of Photography Mike Southon
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spot
- Still Gallery

Now on DVD and Blu-ray from Full Moon... PUPPET MASTER: AXIS TERMINATION!


11th entry in Full Moon's killer puppet franchise is the weirdest and wildest one yet!

There are but a precious few horror and fantasy film franchises that have continued to endure and evolve over multiple generations, let alone one with the same creative mind consistently behind it. But producer Charles Band has been steering the Puppet Mastercinematic ship since its maiden voyage back in 1989, with the hit high-concept thriller Puppet Master. Over the next 28 years and 10 official films, Band has taken his malevolent marionettes on many magnificent, macabre adventures and now, he's set to unleash the weirdest and wildest Puppet Master movie yet!

Buckle in for Puppet Master: Axis Termination, the 11th film in the series and the final chapter of the Axis Saga, which began with Puppet Master: Axis of Evil and continued with Puppet Master: Axis Rising. In it, everyone’s favorite pint-sized puppet anti-heroes — Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler, Jester, Six Shooter, and Leech Woman — join forces with a secret team of psychics working as Allied Operatives. Teaming up with Toulon’s bloodthirsty marionettes, these unlikely allies face off against a new pack of evil Nazis and their even more malevolent Axis Puppets in a showdown that will decide the future of the free world!

Puppet Master: Axis Termination on Blu-ray and DVD is now available from Full Moon Direct and will be available via Amazon on November 27th. Order your copy today!

EYES OF LAURA MARS (1978) (Indicator Blu-ray Review)


Label: Powerhouse Films/Indicator Series 
Rating: BBFC Cert: 15 
Region Code: Region-Free
Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HE Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Irvin Kershner 
Cast: Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, René Auberjonois, Raúl Juliá

Directed by Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back) from an scripted by John Carpenter (Halloween), the disco-era American giallo Eyes Of Laura Mars (1978) is a psychic-thriller whodunit set in the high-fashion mecca of New York City, we have titular fashion photographer Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde) has been experiencing visions of real-life murder through the eyes of a killer, the horrifying voyeuristic visions literally bleed through into her photographic work, a mix of sexed-up violence, nude women and blood. The graphic images cause quite a controversy, the press often implying that the images are detrimental to scoety and demeaning to women.

Mars has been experiencing these visions for years, but when she begins to see the murder of her close friends and associates through the eyes of the killer it strikes too close to home, beginning with the murder of her publisher. Enter Police Lieutenant John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones, Rolling Thunder), who shows her unreleased images of murder scenes that closely resemble her own violent photography, he makes the argument that her images glorify violence, which is a theme that the movie continues to argue, but not in any meaningful way in my opinion.

Despite their differences the cop and photographer begin to fall for each other, resulting in some hammy exchanges, a particular scene at the park with the two hiding in the bushes arguing about how wrong their relationship is was absolutely, and unintentionally, comical. The movie goes out of it's way to throw red-herrings at you, it's a true American giallo in that respect, the two main suspects are Mars' ex-con assistant/driver Tommy (the always weird Brad Dourif, Spontaneous Combustion) or her possessive ex-husband Michael (Raul Julia, The Addams Family). 

Just looking at this one as an American giallo we have a lot of trademarks, we get the black-gloved killer, a psychic-thriller whodunit motif, and a high-fashion setting along the lines of Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (1967), though the film has a more down and dirty New York vibe along the lines of Taxi Driver, it doesn't have the visual opulence of say a Dario Argento whodunit. It does however have some stylish scenes involving the photo shoots, but the murders scenes are nowhere near as enthralling as an Argento joint, and the gore is toned-down quite a bit, a scene involving some eye-trauma only hints and some judicial editing.

The movie seems to struggle a bit within its own skin, conflicted about what it wants to be, is it a gritty giallo-esque whodunit, is it a glamorous psychic thriller, it's both but it lacks the visceral edge of a 70's Italian whodunit, it's got the glamour and basic trademarks but lacks the European eye for perverse sexiness and artful execution. It's also a bit slow in spots, and it feels overly and unintentionally campy in other places, as evidenced by the photog's agent Donald (René Auberjonois, Where the Buffalo Roam) dressed in drag and beating a cop with his handbag, and the deliciously strange finale with someone crashing through a huge window and a hint of multiple-personality disorder that had me saying "what just happened?". 

Eyes of Laura Mars is a movie I first sought out because of the contribution of John Carpenter who wrote the initial script, but it went through many changes before making it's way tot he big screen, including the love angle and making it a more of a whodunit than a psychic-slasher. I think it's a hot mess of a movie but it is star-studded and strangely weird in a way that makes it interesting. Adding to the fun is an overwrought performance from Dunaway (just a few years before Mommie Dearest), and an over-the-top turn from Raul Julia as her, plus a suitably creepy role from a very shaggy (and young) Brad Dourif. Tommy Lee Jones seems pretty aloof and subdued for most of the film, but his weirdness does come through at the end and the aforementioned scene at the park with Dunaway. 

Audio/Video: Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) makes it's worldwide Blu-ray debut from Indicator in 1080p HD widescreen 1.85:1, the image looks good with a nice layer of film grain, it's not the most stunning image in terms of clarity and depth but it looks faithful to the source, and there's some modest fine detail to the image in the close-ups. Audio comes by way of a lossless LPCM Mono track, everything sounds clean and well-balanced, the score from Artie Kane sounds great, as do the disco soundtrack selections from KC and the Sunshine Band, Michael Zager Band and a theme song provided by Barbara Streisand - who was originally planned to star!  

Onto the extra Indicator carry-over the director's commentary and original making-of, and the 8-min image gallery of on-set and promotional photography with commentary by documentary filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau, whom discusses the differences in the finished film and the various script incarnations, all from the 2000 Columbia Pictures DVD. The commentary is a bit subdued and very production oriented, I found it a bit dry, the making of doc is a nice vintage featurette from '78 with behind-the-scenes video and an interview with star Faye Dunaway. Onto the new stuff there's a 13-min analysis/appreciation by film critic Kat Ellinger who discusses the slasher/giallo roots of the film, the high fashion elements, and it's place in cinema as an American giallo, it's an astute exploration of the film. Indicator have also included director David DeCoteau's Trailers from Hell episode wherein he lavishes praise on the film. The disc is finished up with a theatrical trailer and an image gallery of behind-the-scenes and promotional images. 

Onto the packaging extras, we get a 20-page booklet with cast and crew info, notes about the transfer, an appreciation with lots of production info from Rebbecca Nicole Williams (aka the Celluloid Sorceress), a '78 article from Playboy magazine with producer John Peters, and vintage critical response from the press.  

Special Features 
- Audio Commentary with Director Irvin Kershner
- Visions: Original Making of documentary (7 min) HD )
- Trailers From Hell: David DeCoteau on Eyes of Laura Mars (3 min) HD
- Eyes On Laura Mars: on-set and promotional photography with commentary by Laurent Bouzereau (8 min) HD 

- The Eyes Have It: an appreciation by critic Kat Ellinger (13 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min) HD 
- Image Gallery (68 Images) HD
- Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Rebbecca Nicole Williams, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles on the film 

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) has been long out-of-print on DVD and fetching some hefty after-market prices on eBay, so I am pleased to see it makes it's worldwide Blu-ray debut from Indicator who offer up pleasing A/V presentation and some old and new extras. I think the movie is a mixed bag, a film that's probably not as essential as it's reputation would imply, but one that has developed a healthy cult-status in the years since its release, perhaps bolstered by the scarcity of the DVD and the a-list cast and crew, but regardless of what lies behind the cult status, it's great to see it widely available again for fans and others to rediscover in HD.   

Monday, November 20, 2017

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc Collector's Edition
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R/Unrated
Duration: 82 Minutes/85 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Cast: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Robert Brian Wilson, Britt Leach, Nancy Borgenicht, H.E.D. Redford, Danny Wagner, Linnea Quigley

Synopsis: Silent Night, Deadly Night is the heartwarming story of little Billy Chapman who was traumatized by his parents' Christmas Eve murder, then brutalized by sadistic orphanage nuns. But when grown-up Billy is to dress as jolly St. Nick, he goes on a yuletide rampage to "punish the naughty!" Santa Claus is coming to town ... and this time he's got an axe! Robert Brian Wilson and Scream Queen Linnea Quigley star in this jaw-dropping horror classic that a nation of angry mothers still cannot stop!

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) open in the year 1971 as young Billy (Jonathan Best) and his family are driving to see grandpa at the asylum on Christmas Eve, the old man is in a catatonic state and hasn't spoken in years. However, when Billy is left alone in the room with gramps the creepy bearded-elder awakens to warn the boy that Christmas Eve is the scariest night of the year, that old Saint Nick not only gives gifts to children who've been good, but he severely punishes the naughty ones. Billy is creeped by the odd event and later that night on the drive home the family encounters a man dressed in a Santa suit on the side of the road next to a disable vehicle, Billy's dad stops to assist the man, not realizing that  this Santa just robbed a store and shot the clerk three times. As his father rolls down the window to offer assistance he is shot dead, then Santa sets his sights in Billy's mother,  dragging her screaming from the car, ripping open her blouse exposing her breasts and attempting to rape her. While this is happening Billy's infant brother Ricky is left in the car screaming while Billy runs off into the nearby bushes to hide, witnessing the costumed criminal slash his mother's throat, scarring young Billy for years to come.

Three years later eight year old Billy (Danny Wagner) and his brother are living at St. Mary's Orphanage for children where the traumatized Billy draws bloody crayon pictures of Santa and a decapitated reindeer to the ire of the stern Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin, Predator 2) who scolds Billy mercilessly while Sister Maragaret (Gilmer McCormick) is a more caring and sympathetic force in his life. Mother Superior's brutal lessons in right and wrong continue to inform Billy's twisted perception of how the naughty must be punished. Billy is further traumatized on Christmas when Mother Superior cruelly forces him to sit on Santa's lap, whom Billy immediately punches in the face! The film really does a good job explaining the psychological traumas that inform what happens a bit later, but it's slow going after the initial Santa attack at the start of the film, particularly when you take into account that the film in only 82 minutes long. 

Flash forward 10 years later and the now strapping 18-year-old Billy Commando Squad) whom he fantasizes about having sex with before being stabbed, which is a terrible sex dream by the way, but he's been conditioned to punish the naughty, so it makes sense. Things begin to fall apart when Billy becomes unhinged after being asked to dress up as Santa on Christmas Eve, yeah that's gonna be trouble.
(Robert Brian Wilson), with the help of sweet Sister Margaret, secures a job at Ira's Toy Store. Things go relatively well for the young man, we even get an goofy montage set to a corny tune of Billy working around the store. He develops a crush on cute co-worker Pamela (Toni Nero,

When the store closes that night Billy get drunk at the office party, later he walks in on a co-worker attempting to rape Pamela which spurs a flashback to the traumatic childhood murder of his mom and he snaps, killing the co-worker by strangling him with a string of xmas lights, declaring him "naughty", and also stabbing Pamela with a box cutter. Now it's Christmas Eve and the death of his mother and father, the years of abuse at the hands of Mother Superior and his twisted sense of naughty/punishment all come to the forefront, there's psycho Santa on the loose and no one is safe. Billy continues his spree of punishing the naughty until he finds his way back to the orphanage to punish Mother Superior, the film ends with Billy's younger brother Ricky looking upon the dead brother and uttering the word "Naughty" thereby setting up the insane sequel.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is a fun, sleazy slasher with some decent kills, perhaps the most elaborate features 80's scream queen Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead) being impaled on the antlers of a deer which was just a very cool kill. There's also a memorable decapitation of a bully while he;s snow sledding down a wooded hill, his headless body continuing down the hill on the sled and his severed head rolling down after a few moments later, fun stuff. 

The acting here is not of the highest caliber and it's not exactly the best looking film you will ever see, there's plenty of out of focus shots, but as low-budget early 80's slashers go this is fun stuff, just keep in mind there's some real pacing issues when nothing much is happening, or is just happening for far too long. Despite the notorious controversy the film is petty tame by 80's slasher standards, but apparently the idea of Santa with an ax killing the naughty was pretty offensive in '84. The notions of little kids watching the trailer for this one on TV which is just hilarious to me, even though the idea of a killer Santa was not new at the time, it having been done 12 years prior with the "All Through the House" segment of the Amicus horror anthology Tales from the Crypt (1972). 

Audio/Video: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) had been released previously on Blu-ray from Anchor Bay a few years back, it was a unimpressive transfer that was not even an upgrade from their previous DVD release, but now Scream Factory remedy that with a 2-disc Blu-ray. The Santa-slasher arrives with a 4K scan from the original camera negative, framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen, of both the theatrical cut and unrated version. The image looks great, there's more detail and nuance to the image, film grain is consistent, colors are stronger and skin tones look more natural.  The unrated version is sourced from the same 4K restoration with standard definition inserts from a separate source, possibly VHS, and the drop in quality is significant but acceptable as these elements just do not exist in a better quality version. Audio on both versions comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 track, it does the job, dialogue is crisp and well-balanced with the atonal xmas-tinged horror score from Perry Botkin Jr. (Goin' South), optional English subtitles are provided.   

Onto the extras, Scream Factory have stuffed this blood soaked xmas stocking to the very top with cool-new extras, spread out over the 2-discs, though the bulk of the extras show-up on disc two with the unrated cut. Disc one contains the 82-min theatrical version along with the theatrical trailer, VHS trailer, and TV and radio spots. 
Disc two contain the 85-min unrated version, with two audio commentaries, the first with actor Robert Brian Wilson And Co-Executive Producer Scott J. Schneid, and a second with Screenwriter Michael Hickey, Composer Perry Boykin, Scott J. Schneid, and Editor Michael Spence. We also get a selection of new interviews and featurettes, beginning with the 46-min long Slay Bells Ring: The Story Of Silent Night, Deadly Night which features interviews with Writer Michael Hickey, Co-Executive Producers Scott J. Schneid And Dennis Whitehead, Editor/Second Unit Director Michael Spence, Composer Perry Botkin, And Actor Robert Brian Wilson. This takes us through the journey of the genesis of the script, selling the film to Tri-Star, shooting and editing the film, and the moral outrage generated by the naughty slasher which sent parent's groups through the roof with yuletide horror, this is the doc I think we've all been waiting for. There's also an interview with scream queen Linnea Quigley who discusses her role in the film, what it was like working with the director, and the locations in Utah, and discussing nudity in the film, and being upset when another actress who refused to do nudity got a diamond necklace from the director while she didn't get squat.  

There's also a 10-min now and then look at various locations used in the film, an nearly hour-long interview with Director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. from Deadpit Radio, which is a longer extended version, running about 23-minutes longer than the Anchor Bay release. They also carry-over the quotes/letters from people condemning the film during it's initial release, which is a fun read. The disc is finished-u with an image gallery with posters, home video release art and still from the film.

Scream Factory have now given us definitive editions of two Christmas horror classics, Bob Clark's seminal Black Christmas (1974) and now we have Silent Night, Deadly Night! I would love to see the sequel Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)on tap for 2018, hoping for a sweet Garbage Day Collector's Edition of that one, make it happen Scream Factory! 

This 2-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, side-a featuring a new murderous yuletide illustration from artist Joel Robinson, the b-side featuring the classic one-sheet featuring Santa climbing down the chimney with an ax in hand. This release comes with a limited edition slipcover also featuring the new illustration, the artwork on the Blu-ray discs mirror the reversible artwork, it's a very attractive package. 

Special Features:
DISC ONE: Theatrical Version (82 Minutes)
-NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative
- R-Rated Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- VHS Trailer (1 min) 
- TV Spots (1 min) 
- Radio Spot (1 min) 

DISC TWO: Extended Unrated Version (85 Minutes)
- NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative With Standard Definition Inserts
- NEW Slay Bells Ring: The Story Of Silent Night, Deadly Night – (46 min) HD Featuring Interviews With Writer Michael Hickey, Co-Executive Producers Scott J. Schneid And Dennis Whitehead, Editor/Second Unit Director Michael Spence, Composer Perry Botkin, And Actor Robert Brian Wilson
- NEW Oh Deer! – An Interview With Linnea Quigley (21 min) 
- NEW Christmas In July – Silent Night, Deadly Night Locations – Then And Now (10 min) 
- NEW Audio Commentary With Actor Robert Brian Wilson And Co-Executive Producer Scott J. Schneid
- Audio Commentary With Michael Hickey, Perry Boykin, Scott J. Schneid, and Michael Spence
- Audio Interview With Director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. From Deadpit Radio (Extended Version)(58 min) HD
- Santa’s Stocking Of Outrage (5 min) HD 
- Poster And Still Gallery (1 min) 

My love of this santa-slasher grows with each watch, a well-made  yuletide psycho-thriller that offers up some naughty Christmas murder for lover's of bloody Santa mayhem. Thankfully it can now it can be enjoyed in a 2-disc collector's edition with a proper 4K restoration and loads of value-added extras, this is the perfect stocking stuffer for the horror fan on your Christmas list, highly recommend.

Friday, November 17, 2017

'Bot vs 'Bot! ROBOT WARS (1993) Comes to Blu-ray 12/15 from FULL MOON!

ROBOT WARS (1993) 

It's Robot Vs. Robot in a Metal-Crunching Dystopian Future!

From director Albert Band (I BURY THE LIVING, DOCTOR MORDRID) comes ROBOT WARS, Full Moon's sister film follow-up to 1989's cult hit ROBOT JOX. In a gas-ravaged future Hell, the United States is divided into two opposing blocs, the North Hemi and the Eastern Alliance and targeting them both are roving bands of pirates known as the Centros. While "mega robots" were once employed for war, peace between the blocs has dictated that the mechanized monsters are no more, save for the lone remaining functioning specimen the MRAS-2, now utilized as a tourist attraction and piloted by the rough and tumble Drake (Don Michael Paul). But when a war-mongering dignitary steals the MRAS-2 and threatens to wage a new apocalyptic battle, Drake revives another dormant "mega robot", the MEGA-1, and drags it out into the desert to take down the deadly, scorpion-like MRAS-2 with the fate of what's left of the world hanging in the balance!

Full Moon is pleased to bring back this retro-robot gem for its high definition Blu-ray debut, digitally remastered in HD from its original 35mm camera negative. ROBOT WARS is a fun, action-packed tale of political intrigue and sci-fi action that also co-stars the great Barbara Crampton (CASTLE FREAK, RE-ANIMATOR) and features stunning stop-motion special effects by the late, great David Allen.

Special features:
- The Wizard of Wars: Remembering David Allen (NEW feature)
- Vintage 1997 Full Moon Promo
- Original Videozone program

Which 'bot will YOU bet on?

ROBOT WARS will be released on 12/15 via Amazon and wherever awesome giant robot movies are sold...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

DEATHDREAM (1974) (Blue Underground Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc Limited Collector's Edition Blu-ray/DVD

Label: Blue Underground 
Duration: 88 Minutes 
Rating: R
Region Code: Region-FREE
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English SDH, French, Spanish Subtitles
Director: Bob Clark 
Cast: John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Richard Backus, Anya Ormsby,  Henderson Forsythe

Deathdream (1974) (aka Dead of Night) is directed by the late Bob Clark (Porky's, A Christmas Story), written Alan Ormsby (Deranged), and was part of a trio of horror films Clark directed, this coming right in between Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972) and the seminal-slasher Black Christmas (1974). In this chilly anti-war horror film we have the Brooks family gathered around the dinner table, we have father Charles (John Marley, The Godfather), mother Christine (Lynn Carlin, Faces), and teen daughter Cathy (Anya Ormsby, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things), when there's an ominous knock at the door, which turns out to be an Army recruiter delivering the worse news imaginable, that their son Andy (Richard Backus) has died serving his country in Vietnam. 

Everyone is devastated but the mother Lynn refuses to accept this horrible truth, sitting alone in a room with a candle in the dark whispering that her son cannot be dead. Later that night a noise in the house awakens the family, and they are surprised to find Andy has come home, his mother's wishes seem to have come true. It seems that the military had been mistaken, but the Andy before them turns out not to be the same young man they remember, in what turns out to be a waking nightmare. 

The film is an obvious allegory for PTSD and the war being fought at home during the Vietnam era, Clark and Ormsby crafted a haunting examination of how war changes a person and how sometimes families struggle with the return of loved one, who are changed in sometimes dramatic ways. Andy is very subdued and spends hours alone in his room in a rocking chair, his emotions are erratic, scaring the neighborhood kids when he strangles the family dog, and the family physician Doctor Allman (Henderson Forsythe) begins to suspect Andy in the murder of a truck driver who was found dead, his throat ripped open and his body drained of blood. There's a scene of Andy visiting the doctor, allowing him to examine him before he kills him, using a syringe to drain the doc's blood, afterward he ties off his arm and injects the blood into his veins like an addict shooting heroin, which was another affliction facing returning vet's in the 70's looking to numb themselves to the horrors they had experienced. 

The returning vet experience is exaggerated here to a degree as Andy turns out to be a ghoul of sorts, requiring human blood to live and apparently stave off the rot of being dead, he seems sort of like a zombie with a blood lust, and when he doesn't get his transfusion blood terrible things happen, like when he goes on a double-date to the local drive-in, a strange brown liquid begins to leak from his head, his eyes and skin begin to change, his appetite for blood no longer deniable he kills his ex-girlfriend in the backseat of the car and then goes after his own sister, killing her boyfriend before driving off, running down another victim with the car in the process. As his father and sister fully come to realize Andy is a killer Mom clings to her son with desperation, leading up to a chilly and poignant final scene

Deathdream has a creepy vibe that permeates from the opening scene to the final, it's not the most lively horror film but it's one that gets under the skin, and was one of the first to address the issue of Vietnam, though it's doesn't ever mention the war by name, it is steeped in it nonetheless. The special effects in the film were done by script-writer by Alan Ormsby who was assisted by a young Tom Savini (The Burning), this being Savini's first job on a film. As the film wears on Andy becomes a bit more zombie-looking, his skin becoming flaky and mottled, his eyes strangely discolored, and towards the end you can see bit of his skull exposed through his thinning skin, it's low-budget but very well-done, it definitely look more like Ormsby's work on Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972) than it does any of Savini's later work.

The movie has an eerie score from Carl Zittrer (Black Christmas)that enhances the atmosphere, a piano/string score used sparsely and effectively, some of the odd strained-piano strings sounds got under my skin, deepening the dread, a ploy he uses on Black Christmas as well.   

Audio/Video: Deathdream (1974) arrives on Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Blue Underground, upgrading their previous DVD release with a brand new 2K restoration sourced from the original 35mm negative, presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, and baring the Dead of Night alternate title. I believe the film was shot on 16mm and blown-up to 35mm for theatrical, so the source-inherent grain is still an issue here, particularly during the darker/night scenes, but it is better resolved. Colors are improved, the green-hue from the DVD is gone, flesh tones look more natural, and the black levels are deeper and more consistent. Audio on the main feature comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track which sounds good within the limitations of the modest production, but dialogue and effects are well-balanced, the atmospheric and minimal score from  Carl Zittrer (Black Christmas) comes through strong, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras Blue Underground carry-over nearly all the extras from their 2004 DVD, this includes the two audio commentaries, one with Co-Producer/Director Bob Clark and  a second with Writer/Make-Up Artist Alan Ormsby, both moderated by David Gregory. We also get the vintage interviews with Tom Savini and actor Richard Backus, the alternate opening title sequence with the "Deathdream" title, a theatrical trailer. Not included is the 3-minute extended ending sequence, and with good reason, the main feature is the even longer  version with the omitted dialogue from Andy's mom saying, "Andy's home, sometimes they never come home", which was not included on the extended ending extra on the DVD. 

Onto the new extras we get an a half hour interview with star Anya Liffey and Writer/Make-Up Artist Alan Ormsby, who speak about Ormsby's early student films, meeting Bob Clark and teaming-up with him on Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, including shooting it in sweltering Miami, and recruiting drunk/stoner-hippies from the park to be zombies. Ormsby also goes into writing Deathdream, wanting to make a anti-war horror film, his various inspirations, and casting the film - with the nugget that Christopher Walken auditioned for the role of Andy - but he was too weird! They also discuss working with the cast of the film, remembering John Marley as a consummate professional, a few quirks actress about Lynn Carlin, and working with Tom Savini. There's also discussion of how the movie was received, and next going on to co-direct Deranged (1974). It ends with Ormsby going into creating the Hugo - The Man with the Thousand Faces doll which he pitched to Kenner toys and was produced for a short time, and his Movie Monsters book published by Scholastic.   

There's also a new interview with composer Carl Zittrer who interestingly discusses how the film failed to find an audience because of the various title changes, he of course also discusses his score, the placement of music in the film and even playing some selections from the score on piano during the interview. Production Manager John ‘Bud’ Cardos, a director in his own right, having directed Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) and The Dark (1979), also shows up for a brief interview discussing his time on the film, interacting with Bob Clark and John Marley, and creating some of the special effects work during the early 'Nam scene and the car chase at the end. We also get 12-minutes of screen test footage showing actor Gary Swanson (Vice Squad) in the role of Andy, which would have been a very different film, and a ten-min black and white student film of Ormsby, the tale of a black man accused of rape, which was very affecting. We also get an expanded image gallery with posters from various territories under numerous titles and the US press book. There's also a trio of ester eggs to be found, we get Alan Ormsby showing some prosthetic appliances used in the films, an Orgy of the Living Dead TV Spot, and a TV spot for the Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces doll. 

This 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD release comes housed in a clear Criterion-style Scanavo case, with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the Deathdream poster on the a-side and the alternate Dead of Night poster on the b-side. The disc themselves feature the same two artwork options, but both have the Deathdream logo. Of note the Deathream poster art make the film look like a 70's Italian cop-thriller mashed-up with a black-glove giallo, which speaks to the strange marketing campaign for the film under various titles, none of which seemed to land with theater goers at the time. We also get a 20-page booklet with an insightful new essay by critic Travis Crawford, also containing cast ad crew information, and chapter selection. 

Special Features:  
- Audio Commentary with Co-Producer/Director Bob Clark
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Make-Up Artist (Uncredited) Alan Ormsby
- NEW! A Recollection With Star Anya Liffey and Writer/Make-Up Artist Alan Ormsby (29 min) HD 
- NEW! Notes For A Homecoming – Interview with Composer Carl Zittrer (19 min) HD 
- NEW! Flying Down To Brooksville – Interview with Production Manager John ‘Bud’ Cardos (5 min) 
- Tom Savini: The Early Years (10 min) 
- Deathdreaming – Interview with Star Richard Backus (12 min) 
- Alternate Opening Titles (3 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (4 min) 

- NEW! Screen Test with original Andy, Gary Swanson (13 min) 
- NEW! Expanded Still Galleries
- NEW! Alan Ormsby Student Film (10 min) 

- EASTER EGG: Orgy of the Living Dead TV Spot (1 min) HD
- EASTER EGG: Alan Ormsby Make-Up Outtake (1 min) 
- EASTER EGG: Hugo TV Spot (2 min) HD  
- Collectible Booklet with new essay by critic Travis Crawford (First Pressing Only!)
- WORLD PREMIERE of brand new 2K restoration from the 35mm negative in its most complete version ever!

This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it did not disappoint, the movie gets better with each watch, a haunting anti-war film that leaves quite an impression, and one that could have been very exploitative, but it's handled with a deft touch, all things considered. This 2-disc collector's edition from Blue Underground offers the most complete/longest version on home video, and the the new 2K restoration looks fantastic, plus we get some great extras, highly recommended, this surpassed by expectations!