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  • Tales from the Hood (1995) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Tales from the Hood (1995)

    Director: Rusty Cundieff

    Starring: Corbin Bersen, Rosalind Cash, Rusty Cundieff, David Alan Grier, Anthony Griffith, Wings Hauser, Paula Jai Parker, Joe Torry & Clarence Williams III

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Executive Producer Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing), Tales from the Hood unspools an anthology of urban frights set against the backdrop of inner city social issues as frightening as the monsters depicted in them.  Nightmares and reality are forever blurred when a trio of hoodlums retrieving a stash of missing drugs from an eerie mortician find themselves subjected to several tales from beyond the grave.

    Released in a dire genre year just ahead of Wes Craven’s postmodern slasher masterpiece rejuvenating audiences thirst, Tales from the Hood stands as one of the few crowning achievements from the lumpish decade that offers genuine frights with effectively delivered messages entwined in their narratives.  Seldom seen during the scatterbrained era but nonetheless serving as one of the best anthology efforts of its day, Tales from the Hood’s urban slant provides a chillingly fresh perspective on a proven formula with its commentary on issues such as, police brutality, domestic abuse and gang violence unfortunately still potent today.  Guiding his trigger-happy guests around his funeral home, Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III, Mod Squad) weaves a web of ghoulish stories in accordance with their own ethnic environment.  When an African-American rookie cop watches on as a civil rights leader is attacked by corrupt officers, Rogue Cop Revelation finds his lack of action comes at a haunting price while, Boys Do Get Bruised finds a child’s fear of the monster in his closet foreshadowing the real-life domestic abuse he suffers and the power of his own imagination that puts an end to it in this Twilight Zone-esque episode.  Furthermore, KKK Comeuppance centers on former Klansman and running politician Duke Metger (Corbin Bernsen, L.A. Law) learning his former plantation homestead is overrun by vengeful slave dolls brought to life by stop-motion wizardry.  Lastly, gang violence, hate and a failed attempt to rehabilitate a murderous convict in Hard Core Convert strikes genuine fear into the hearts of viewers with its grizzly imagery of real-life lynchings.  While most films of its kind leave audiences cherry-picking their favorite segments, Tales from the Hood continuously tops itself throughout its duration with its seamless blending of terror and gritty, urban realism making it one of the most smartly conceived efforts of the 90s.

    Reportedly thought to have no workable prints to remaster from, Scream Factory comes through to deliver Tales from the Hood with a strong 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Leaps and bounds better than its nearly decade-old discontinued DVD release, colors are striking while, skin tones are naturally pleasing with black levels, evident during the film’s overwhelming nighttime sequences, looking deeply inky with no intrusions of digital crush.  Scant speckling traces aside, the transfer is a remarkable sight that will leave fans yearning for a trip back to the hood more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue sharply and emphasizes its rap soundtrack authoritatively, an Alternate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 culled from the film’s LaserDisc release is also included for your listening pleasure.  Joining its place alongside other worthy Collector’s Edition releases, supplemental offerings include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Rusty Cundieff also recycled from its LaserDisc release, the newly-produced and exceptionally well made Welcome to Hell: The Making of Tales from the Hood (56:13) featuring interviews from Cundieff, Co-Writer/Producer Darin Scott and several cast members, a Vintage Featurette (6:04), the Theatrical Trailer (1:41), TV Spots (3:26), a Photo Gallery (9:46) and Reversible Cover Art bearing the original 1-sheet.

    Retrieved from Universal’s vaults after rampant requests from fans, Tales from the Hood is an underrated gem from a decade largely considered in peril with few redeeming genre efforts.  A horrific journey of eerie episodes with much more on its mind than simply scaring its audiences, this socially conscious and wickedly fun frightfest is urban horror at its finest.  Bestowed with new luridly crafted artwork by Joel Robinson (The Vincent Price Collections), Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release brings the hood back to life with a sightly high-definition makeover and a quality serving of mostly vintage supplements while, its brand-new, nearly hour-long retrospective doc is the disc’s towering extra.  Gather round the casket and don’t be left out on the streets without this recommended anthology of nightmares!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 18th from Scream Factory, Tales from the Hood can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Edge of Seventeen (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

    Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

    Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson & Kyra Sedgwick

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the fresh of breath air directorial debut of Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen finds teenage social outcast Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld, Pitch Perfect 2) struggling to adjust to her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson, Split) and popular older brother Darian’s (Blake Jenner, Everybody Wants Some!!!) new relationship.  Forever out of touch with her own generation and now more alone than ever, Nadine finds solace in her blunt but truthful teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson, True Detective) as she comes to grips with growing up.  Set in today’s modern times while, appealing to all whoever felt out of place roaming the locker-filled hallways where bad lunch and geometry roamed, The Edge of Seventeen is a sharply funny and emotional topsy-turvy that channels the pain and pleasures of our teen years with the utmost sincerity.  Featuring a standout performance from Hailee Steinfeld as the disheveled youth and a hilarious turn from Woody Harrelson as a teacher unafraid to tell a student they’re a loser, The Edge of Seventeen earns flying grades in the yearbook of other coming-of-age charmers that manages to bridge the rare gap between contemporary relatability and timeless angst that is both comforting and entertaining.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Edge of Seventeen with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Without a false note on display, skin tones are immaculate and well-detailed while, colors found in Nadine’s assortment of sneakers, store signage and neon-lit amusement park attractions shine brightly.  Meanwhile, black levels observed during Nadine’s regrettable rainy drive with the dreamy bad boy Nick and late night swim with the equally shy and awkward Erwin all appear with the utmost crispness.  Equipped with a polished DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that relays the dialogue-driven track with solid clarity, Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” makes an impressively worthy statement on the otherwise straightforward mix.  Regrettably scant, special features include, a Gag Reel (5:21), Deleted Scenes (4:03), a DVD Edition and Digital HD Code.  While John Hughes’ high school high note equated growing up and your heart dying being one and the same, The Edge of Seventeen reminds us all that no matter how far removed or engaged we are in the turbulence of our youth, the laughs and tears don’t kill us but, strengthen us to look back at our growing pains with a smirk and maybe slightly less awkwardness.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available February 14th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Edge of Seventeen can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Stryker (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Stryker (1983)

    Director: Cirio H. Santiago

    Starring: Steve Sandor, Andria Savio, William Ostrander, Michael Lane, Julie Gray & Monique St. Pierre

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the aftermath of nuclear holocaust, Stryker finds a world devastated and water its most valued treasure.  As several bands of survivors battle each other over short supplies, a secret water source has been exposed leading a lone woman with knowledge of its whereabouts to depend on renowned warrior Stryker (Steve Sandor, Fire and Ice) to protect its safety against the evil Kardis (Michael Lane, The Harder They Fall) and his army.

    Piggybacking on the craze of post-apocalyptic mayhem set forth by Mad Max, Stryker burns rubber taking unapologetic cues from George Miller’s game-changing effort where muscular brutes, wasteland women and high-octane vehicles run amok in pursuit of dominance in a new ravaged world.  As the survivors of worldwide nuclear destruction struggle to locate viable water sources, Delha (Andria Savio, Death Screams), harboring knowledge of a shrouded spring and pursed by the death squads of Kardis for its location, is saved by the fearless Stryker and his companion.  Before long, the lone female finds herself captured and tortured by the vile Kardis until a successful daring rescue mission by Stryker puts her in pursuit of Trun, Stryker’s brother, for manpower to combat Kardis’s overwhelming forces.  Determined to seek vengeance against the wicked leader for the death of his own lover, Stryker joins the cause to protect the coveted spring and liberate those in peril.  Loaded with battered vehicle chases, scantly-clad women armed with crossbows and high-pitched Filipino midget warriors, Stryker delivers a respectable drive-in effort with action-packed bloodshed done cheaply although, its saccharine celebration of a conclusion at the height of battle shortchanges its outcome.  Marking the first of many post-nuke helmed efforts for Filipino native and dependable Corman colleague Cirio H. Santiago (Firecracker, Wheels of Fire), Stryker remains a mid-level Road Warrior ripoff that generally satisfies where it counts while, Santiago’s later experiments in the genre would greatly improve with each passing attempt.

    KL Studio Classics presents Stryker with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  No stranger to speckling and occasional scratches, this expectedly soft-looking effort looks as good as can be expected given its tight budget and dry, desolate locations.  Skin tones look decently with instances of blood popping well and costume choices relaying mediocre detail.  Furthermore, black levels, evidenced in Kardis’s torture dungeon and the cave harboring the desired water spring, look rather drab and harder to make out.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that translates the obviously dubbed dialogue with ease, soundtrack cues and action-oriented moments of explosions and firepower offer slightly more oomph to the proceedings.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Jim Wynorski, moderated by Bill Olsen & Damon Packard.  B-movie legend and fellow Corman protégé, Wynorski, although having nothing creatively to do with the film outside of knowing Santiago rather well and taking over directorial duties on its remake after the Filipino filmmaker fell ill, provides chatty conversation and an obvious love for the genre making the track an unexpected treat.  In addition, a Trailer Gallery featuring Stryker (2:03), Wheels of Fire (2:04), Equalizer 2000 (1:39), The Sisterhood (1:26) and Dune Warriors (1:12) is also included.

    From what seems like a bottomless pit of post-apocalyptic knockoffs, Stryker neither burns out nor exceeds what’s expected of it.  Living up to its colorfully exploitative poster art, blood, babes and savagery reign in this New World Pictures produced feature that stands as a mere stepping stone for Santiago’s more refined wasteland followups.  Never a pretty looking picture since its inception, KL Studio Classics ensures the film a most welcome upgrade for the HD generation.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Stryker can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Circus of Fear (1966) / Five Golden Dragons (1967) Blu-ray Review

    Circus of Fear (1966) / Five Golden Dragons (1967)

    Director(s): John Moxey / Jeremy Summers

    Starring: Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Suzy Kendall, Cecil Parker, Victor Marddern & Maurice Kaufmann / Bob Cummings, Margaret Lee, Rupert Davies, Klaus Kinski, Maria Rohm & Maria Perschy

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presenting a double serving of Edgar Wallace crime tales, Blue Underground proudly presents Circus of Fear where a calculated car heist leads to a murder mystery set against the backdrop of a traveling circus.  Featuring an ensemble cast including, Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula) and Klaus Kinski (Venom), greed, revenge and red herrings reign supreme in this British whodunit.  Next up, Five Golden Dragons finds wealthy American Bob Mitchell (Bob Cummings, Dial M for Murder) embroiled in the crosshairs of a deadly crime syndicate during his Hong Kong getaway.  Struggling to survive, Mitchell attempts to discover the identities of his mysterious misfortune makers.  

    Released in America as Psycho-Circus in a heavily edited form to appease the later half of its double feature bookings, Circus of Fear’s impressive onscreen talent matched with the directorial knowhow of John Moxey (The City of the Dead) does little to salvage this tiresomely dull caper.  After successfully shaking down an armored vehicle of riches, a gang member stashes the loot in Barberini’s Circus before falling victim to a mystery throwers blade.  With a full-scale investigation initiated, the eccentric personalities of the traveling roadshow are introduced and suspected including, but not limited to, masked lion tamer Gregor (Lee).  Although top billed, Lee, whose performance appears rather stiffly, remains shrouded for much of the film, reportedly hiding a severely scarred appearance that is anything but.  The deeper the authorities, led by Detective Elliot (Leo Genn, Moby Dick) dig, the more circus performers turn up dead.  While captivating character actor Klaus Kinski appearing as a chain-smoking crook is yawningly reduced to hiding in the shadows, blonde bombshell Margaret Lee’s (Venus in Furs) glamorous looks help offset the disappointment.  Littered with multiple red herrings and an overly complicated plot of family pasts involving slain fathers and escaped convicts, Circus of Fear is never wholly thrilling or terribly exciting.  Like a carnival barker baiting viewers with its intriguing title and respectable cast, Circus of Fear is an unfortunate big-top bust.

    Appearing in his final film effort before returning to television indefinitely, funnyman Bob Cummings brings his all-American lightheartedness to the B-grade comedy caper antics of Five Golden Dragons.  Shot on location in Hong Kong and the infamous Shaw Brothers Studios, Cummings’ chewing gum salesman Bob Mitchell receives a peculiar note from a murdered man with links to an illegal, top secret operation.  Much like a fish out of water, Mitchell finds himself in over his head as the crime syndicate looks to eliminate the clueless tourist before their organization is jeopardized.  Circus of Fear Producer Harry Alan Towers and Screenwriter Peter Welbeck re-team on this mildly entertaining mystery, recycling several thespians from their previous collaboration including, the very sexy Margaret Lee appearing as corrupt singer Magda while, Klaus Kinski and Christopher Lee are relegated to forgettable cameo appearances.  Bumbling his way through secret passages and making nervous conversation at gunpoint, Cummings, although far older than imagined for the part, is likable enough as he attempts to keep his poolside crush Ingrid (Maria Rohm, Count Dracula) safe while, hoping to unmask the identities of the criminal Five Golden Dragons with assistance from Commissioner Sanders (Rupert Davies, Witchfinder General) who makes quoting and citing Shakespeare a necessity.  Capturing the beautiful surroundings of Hong Kong’s seaport and featuring a charming musical performance from guest singer Yukari Itô, Five Golden Dragons is only sparingly humorous with its greatest unintentional laugh arriving at the expense of the titular villains who interface under the hilarious disguises of oversized dragon heads.

    Blue Underground proudly presents both films newly remastered from their original negatives with 1080p transfers.  While Circus of Fear sports a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, Five Golden Dragons debuts with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting healthy skin tones, pleasingly bold colors in wardrobe choices and strong detail in backgrounds, black levels are richly defined in tuxedos and Lee’s dark mask while, no glaring evidence of age-related artifacts are present on either transfer.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films offer easy to follow tracks with audible levels of clarity although, Five Golden Dragons appears to have a tinnier effect during dialogue delivery.  With no noticeable cracks or pops detected, each mix is more than satisfactory.  Meanwhile, supplements on Circus of Fear feature a recycled Audio Commentary with Director John Moxey, moderated by David Gregory, an International Color Trailer (2:29), International B&W Trailer (2:30), a U.S. Color Trailer (2:02), U.S. B&W Trailer (2:04) and a Poster & Still Gallery (87 in total) whereas, Five Golden Dragons includes its Theatrical Trailer (2:49) and a Poster & Still Gallery (92 in total).

    Inviting viewers to the crime-filled menagerie of Edgar Wallace’s mysteries, Circus of Fear is a grave disappointment with an alluring poster design and surefire cast that unfortunately fails to thrill yet, succeeds in being overly complicated.  Joined by its more comedic co-feature, Five Golden Dragons also stumbles to be memorable although Cummings’ personality matched with Margaret Lee’s jaw dropping beauty and the gorgeous sights of Hong Kong all make for worthy notices.  Meanwhile, Blue Underground treats viewers with praiseworthy restorations of both features that are noticeable advancements over their more than decade old standard definition releases.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Blue Underground, Circus of Fear / Five Golden Dragons can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Massacre Mafia Style (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Massacre Mafia Style (1974)

    Director: Duke Mitchell

    Starring: Duke Mitchell, Vic Caesar, Lorenzo Dodo, Louis Zito & Cara Salerno

    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A jack of all trades, Italian-American actor and nightclub singer Duke Mitchell would write, direct, produce and star in his response to The Godfather.  In Massacre Mafia Style, Mitchell portrays Mimi Miceli, the son of a mafia kingpin determined to carve a name out for himself by embarking on a bloody crime spree through Hollywood.  Low-budget and intensely violent, Massacre Mafia Style promises “more, guts, action and dynamite” than Francis Ford Coppola’s critically acclaimed gangster opus.

    As a noted nightclub singer who would transition to film with such appearances in Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Duke Mitchell would graduate to producing his own feature ingrained in his Italian heritage.  Following the massive success of 1972’s The Godfather, Mitchell found a low-budget mafia picture a natural fit to spread his creative wings, wearing several hats on the production including, directing and starring.  Opening with an office building massacre at the hands of Mimi Miceli (Mitchell) and his associate to the upbeat tunes of Mitchell’s own recordings, Massacre Mafia Style makes firm on its promise of more violence than its Academy Award-winning predecessor.  Deported back to Sicily following his rampant crime activity in America, mafia kingpin Don Mimi (Lorenzo Dodo) is confronted with his son Mimi’s desire to reenter the mafia underworld.  Intent on relocating the action of New York City to Hollywood, Mimi travels to sunny California to rekindle his friendship with bartender Jolly (Vic Caesar, Alice Goodbody).  Joining forces with the former drink pusher, Mimi rattles the chains of west coast mob bosses by taking one ransom and wooing the girlfriend (Cara Salerno) of another to prove he means business.  As his notoriety rises, Mimi focuses his attention on bringing down Superspook (Jimmy Williams, Cockfighter), a noted pimp claiming ownership of prime real estate in the city.  Unwilling to easily surrender his turf and women, Mimi is at odds with his violent rise to power and may have bargained for more than he can handle.

    Unquestionably produced on a lower scale than Coppola’s masterpiece, Massacre Mafia Style pushes its exploitative nature of rampant shootouts and over-the-top bloodshed, juxtaposed with jovial music to delightful measure.  Independently funded and shot over the course of weekends in Los Angeles, Duke Mitchell embodies a captivating presence as a ruthless crime boss with a genuine knack for earnest mafioso speech most notably, during a sequence where Mitchell explains how men like himself have disgraced their Sicilian heritage.  Underneath its undeniable cult appeal and entertaining performances, Massacre Mafia Style injects a genuine context for fathers and sons that elevates the picture from other exploitation cash-in attempts.  A goldmine discovery for cult enthusiasts, Massacre Mafia Style stands as a testament of Duke Mitchell’s uncorrupted vision that takes gangster pictures to bloody, fun heights.

    Grindhouse Releasing presents Massacre Mafia Style with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Painstakingly restored, Duke Mitchell’s directorial debut bursts onto high-definition with excellent clarity putting to shame hazy VHS releases from yesteryear.  Appearing near immaculate with only scant traces of scratches, Massacre Mafia Style dazzles with warm skin tones and crisp detail in facial features.  Colors pop magnificently with bright red bloodshed bursting off the screen and black levels in top shape with no crushing on display.  A labor of love, Grindhouse Releasing’s transfer is the definitive statement on this cult favorite.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the digital restoration of the original soundtrack keeps dialogue audible and clear with climatic gunshots and Mitchell’s songs packing a solid punch while, hiss is kept at bay and never intrusive.  Overflowing with impressive bonus content, special features include, Like Father, Like Son: Duke and Jeffrey Mitchell (43:33), an in-depth featurette detailing the relationship between the film’s star and real life son as well as Mitchell’s career highlights.  Also included, Matt Climber and Jim LoBianco Interviews (10:11), Duke Mitchell Home Movies (52:00), a Theatrical Trailer (2:18), five Radio Spots, five Still Galleries consisting of over 200 images, a Duke Mitchell Filmography, Cara Salerno Filmography and Grindhouse Releasing Prevues.  In addition and most excitingly, a bonus feature film, 1952’s Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (74:19) is included along with its Theatrical Trailer (2:10) and Still Gallery (34 in total).  Plus, a bonus TV special, An Impressionistic Tribute to Jimmy Durante (37:05), accompanied with Durante 16mm Dailies (6:31), a 10-page booklet with an essay from David Szulkin and a DVD edition of the release round out the grandiose supplemental package.   

    Also known as Like Father, Like Son and The Executioner, Massacre Mafia Style’s appeal has grown increasingly through theatrical revival screenings and steady word of mouth.  After nearly 20 years of tireless labor and dedication, Grindhouse Releasing’s Bob Murawksi and the late Sage Stallone’s efforts have paid off in spades with one of the finest treatments and restorations granted to a nearly forgotten gem of cinema.  Exploding with bloodshed and action, Duke Mitchell’s vision of mafia lifestyles and criminal activity unloads a firestorm of exploitation greatness that will easily appease the most casual of cult enthusiasts.  If you’re not in with Massacre Mafia Style, you’re in the way!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Grindhouse Releasing, Massacre Mafia Style can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • New Year's Evil (1980) Blu-ray Review

    New Year’s Evil (1980)

    Director: Emmett Alston

    Starring: Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Grant Cramer, Louisa Moritz & Teri Copley

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Taking place on the hardest partying evening of the year, New Year’s Evil focuses on Diane “Blaze” Sullivan (Roz Kelly, Happy Days), the host of a televised punk/new wave show, who’s receiving eerie phone calls from a mysterious killer.  As the night lingers, murders are committed as each time zone in America brings in the new year, with the killer inching closer to Diane.  Kip Niven (Magnum Force), Grant Cramer (Killer Klowns from Outer Space), Louisa Moritz (The Last American Virgin), Taaffe O’Connell (Galaxy of Terror) and Teri Copley (Transylvania Twist) co-star.

    Marking one of the earliest efforts for Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus‘ The Cannon Group, New Year’s Evil continues the holiday-themed slasher trend kickstarted by John Carpenter’s Halloween.  Set amongst the punk music scene of Hollywood, New Year’s Evil attempts to turn the formula of a masked killer on its head by showcasing its culprit early on.  As sexy music emcee, Diane “Blaze” Sullivan, hosts her own televised new year’s event, a mysterious caller promising to off victims as each time zone strikes midnight, leaves Diane chilled.  Using a voice modulator and adorning several different costumes, the killer’s unknown, albeit relatively obvious, connection to Diane is the driving force of the film.  Conflicted with fear and all but oblivious to her withdrawn son (Cramer) who suffers from severe headaches, Diane agrees to go on with the show in hopes of luring the maniac out in the open.  A bonafide time capsule of 1980, New Year’s Evil makes great use of its rock show setting with youthful punks and live music from Shadow, who perform the constantly recycled title track.  While, light on its body count, New Year’s Evil offers enjoyable performances from its main cast and a series of notable locations our killer stalks including, a drive-in movie theater hosting an all-night horrothon and a mental sanitarium.  

    Far from perfect and almost always predictable, New Year’s Evil still offers a charming energy that plays to its nostalgic time period and holiday cash-in title.  An unabashed favorite that attempts to differ from its fellow slashers, New Year’s Evil entertains, both intentionally and unintentionally, with its punk sensibilities and campy, neon-lit, atmosphere.  Featuring notable cult stars and a bitchin‘ retro soundtrack, New Year’s Evil serves well as a prime candidate for fun, late-night slasher consumption.

    Previously released on DVD-R as part of MGM’s Limited Edition MOD program, Scream Factory presents New Year’s Evil with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor, barely noticeable aging artifacts, the transfer impresses with a clean appearance, natural skin tones and remarkable detail in close-ups.  In addition, colors pop nicely from Diane’s glittering dress to the neon lights shining on the live rock bands.  Black levels are handled well with appreciable visibility that improves over its previous release.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, New Year’s Evil offers crisp dialogue levels with no distorting interference.  While, not overly impressive, music packs a noticeable punch with more climatic sequences offering an additional edge within its limited constraints.  Special features include an Audio Commentary with Director Emmett Alston, moderated by Bill Olsen of Code Red DVD.  Although, plagued with its fair share of dry spells, Alston offers notable anecdotes from the making of the film including, its tight budget and speedy 18 day shooting schedule.  In addition, Aine Leicht (Ginger Snaps, Without Warning) once again provides slasher enthusiasts with another detailed retrospective featurette with Call Me Eeevil...  The Making of New Year’s Evil (37:16).  This lengthy look back includes new interviews with Actors Kip Naven, Grant Cramer, Taaffee O’Connell and Director of Photography Thomas Ackerman discussing their unique involvements with the film.  Finally, a Theatrical Trailer (1:46) and reversible cover art round out the supplemental offerings.

    Joining the ranks of other calendar dated slashers including, Halloween and Friday the 13th, New Year’s Evil may fall below the iconic status of its originators but, still casts an identifiable charm for fans with a penchant for its heavy 80s tone.  Littered with punk rockers, gaudy new wave makeup and cheesy tunes, New Year’s Evil offers plenty of slasher staples to keep fans satisfied while, also injecting its own subtle twists for good measure.  Sandwiched between the release of fellow Cannon Film Group slashers, 1980’s Schizoid and 1981‘s Hospital Massacre, New Year’s Evil is an entertaining romp that although, doesn’t pack an overwhelming body count, makes up for in its unrelenting retro atmosphere and willingness to be unique on its limited budget.  Scream Factory’s high-definition treatment is a treasure, offering the film in its best presentation to date with an overly generous supply of bonus content for likeminded fans.  A personal favorite and a proud member of the unofficial holiday slashers collection, New Year’s Evil delights with its campiness and will most assuredly, award viewers with an affection for its bygone decade.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, New Year’s Evil can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) Blu-ray Review

    Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

    Director: William Asher

    Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley & John Ashley

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Everyone’s favorite seaside couple, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, trade in their surfboards for parachutes in Beach Blanket Bingo, the fifth installment of their popular beach party pictures.  When a skydiving publicity stunt to promote the singing career of Sugar Kane (Linda Evans, Dynasty) balloons out of control, Frankie (Avalon) is convinced to take up the dangerous hobby by fellow instructor Bonnie (Deborah Walley, Gidget Goes Hawaiian) in order to make her boyfriend Steve (John Ashley, Young Dillinger) jealous.  Much to her disapproval of Bonnie’s interest in her boyfriend, Dee Dee (Funicello) decides to test out the wild feat of free-falling as well.  Plus, series regular, Bonehead (Jody McCrea, Lady Street Fighter), finds unexpected love with a real mermaid (Marta Kristen, Lost in Space).  Harvey Lembeck (The Phil Silvers Show), Don Rickles (Casino) and Paul Lynde (The Paul Lynde Show) co-star.

    Remaining within the same campy spirit of its predecessors, Beach Blanket Bingo would mark the final starring appearance of Frankie Avalon who, with the exception of a minor role in 1965’s How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, would hang up his bathing suit until the 1987 parody Back to Beach, reuniting him once again with his beach bunny, Funicello.  Giving the waves a break, Frankie (Avalon) and Dee Dee (Funicello) take to the skies for free-falling excitement while, redheaded instructor, Bonnie (Walley), attempts to swoon Frankie in order to make her co-instructor boyfriend (Ashley) a jealous wreck.  Unsurprisingly, Frankie and Dee Dee go through the turbulent motions audiences have come to expect when a new girl strolls along hoping to steal Frankie away.  Still as gorgeous and youthful as their first picture together, Avalon and Funicello’s chemistry remains intact but, one can’t help feel there enthusiasm for the material waning.  Marking the franchise’s fifth installment in less than two years, the formula has become commonplace but, not entirely stale with the welcome return of Eric Von Zipper (Lembeck), joined by his Malibu Rat Pack gang, and Don Rickles, making his fourth appearance in the series in yet another new role enabling him the opportunity to perform stand-up material.  Well-known for its memorable cameo appearances, Beach Blanket Bingo presents the iconic Buster Keaton (having previously appeared in 1964’s Pajama Party) in another hilarious role.  At the ripe age of 70 and only a year before his passing, Keaton demonstrates remarkable energy and accomplishes the physical comedy gags the legend was best known for.

    In addition, introducing an element of fantasy to the long-running series, Bonehead (better known as Deadhead in previous installments), falls madly in love with an exotic mermaid (Kristen) allowing the loyal supporting character to act outside of his usual numskull mentality.  As the film’s antagonist, South Dakota Slim (Timothy Carey, Minnie and Moskowitz), kidnaps singer Sugar Kane (Evans), the beach gang have another dependable rumble and car chase to make the wrongs right before the closing credits.  More catchy tunes and beachside dancing along, with a notable guest appearance from the flamboyant Paul Lynde as Sugar Kane’s agent, allows Beach Blanket Bingo to charm fans who can’t get enough of Frankie and Dee Dee’s fun times under the sun.

    Olive Films presents Beach Blanket Bingo with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Just as colorful and warm as Muscle Beach Party, the fifth installment of the franchise possesses more obvious aging artifacts in the form of specks and flakes.  In addition, skin tones, while generally strong and natural, suffer from an unusual diluted appearance in an early scene that fortunately, lasts only briefly.  Meanwhile, night sequences have a softer appearance that slightly transitions to brighter scenes without greatly disrupting the picture.  With no digital tinkering applied, Beach Blanket Bingo projects a very film quality appearance that pleases but, falls shy of Muscle Beach Party’s transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Frankie and Dee Dee’s latest outing supplies a stronger sound mix than its transfer with clear dialogue and no dropouts to mention.  The original Theatrical Trailer (2:45) is also supplied as the sole special feature.

    The sights and sounds of Beach Blanket Bingo stray close to its established formula, making for more innocent fun with Frankie and Dee Dee.  The supporting cast of McCrea, Rickles and Lembeck supply plenty of laughs and the songs, while not quite as noteworthy as earlier efforts, do their job sufficiently.  Certainly stronger than Beach Party’s original followup, Muscle Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo’s inclusion of gorgeous mermaids and skydiving excitement is appreciated but, ultimately still falls in the middle of the road.  Olive Films‘ transfer projects bold colors and natural grain although, containing far more aging marks than its fellow sequel.  Relaying sound nicely and including the film’s original trailer (unfortunately, lacking on Muscle Beach Party), Beach Blanket Bingo makes a suitable leap to Blu-ray.  Rounding its final franchise laps, AIP’s fifth beach party romp is far from perfect but, makes earnest attempts to supply some worthwhile additions for Avalon’s final starring sendoff.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Beach Blanket Bingo can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.