Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Olive Films
  • 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.  

  • Night Game (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Night Game (1989)

    Director: Peter Masterson

    Starring: Roy Scheider, Karen Young, Richard Bradford, Carlin Glynn & Paul Gleason

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set against the backdrop of Major League Baseball, Night Game stars Roy Scheider (Sorcerer) as Texas police detective Mike Seaver.  When a string of mysterious murders linked to night baseball games strikes the Galveston area, Seaver must connect the dots before another life is taken.  Karen Young (9 1/2 Weeks), Lane Smith (The Mighty Ducks), Richard Bradford (The Untouchables), Carlin Glynn (Sixteen Candles) and Paul Gleason (Die Hard) co-star.

    Continuing in his string of gritty crime thrillers, Roy Scheider appears unconvincingly as Texas detective Mike Seaver, hot on the case of a ruthless serial killer with a weakness for blondes.  Murdering his victims with a hook-like instrument and leaving them with mysterious notes, Seaver and his team are left with few leads as more bodies begin turning up on Galveston’s beaches.  Juggling his recent engagement to the much younger Roxy (Young) and feeling pressure from his superiors, Mike, a former minor league ball player, takes notice of the questionable coincidences between the murders and the Houston Astros‘ winning streak.  Before long, it’s clear whenever Astros pitcher Silvio Baretto takes the team to victory, another murder is committed leading Seaver on a hot trail to pinning his suspect down.  

    Shot on location in Galveston, Texas and the Astrodome in Houston, Night Game stumbles to build a story of suspense and criminal intrigue.  Considerably miscast, Scheider does little to disguise his New Jersey roots as a Texan and appears generally unenthusiastic in his performance.  Cloaked in far too much mystery until its closing moments, attempts to bulk Scheider’s character up with a past as a former minor leaguer and being the son of a crime boss is suggested but, never serves much purpose to the plot.  With viewers left clueless the entire picture about the killer’s identity, the reveal is ultimately unoriginal and wildly underwhelming.  In addition, wasting the talents of supporting players such as, Lane Smith (My Cousin Vinny) and Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club) in throwaway roles, Night Game suggests a worthwhile thriller with its alluring slasher-esque poster art but, instead delivers a curveball of disappointment.

    Olive Films presents Night Game with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a natural, filmic appearance and inconsequential moments of speckling, Night Game delivers strong detail with perspiration off baseball players‘ faces and wardrobe relaying sharply.  Skin tones are inviting while, black levels are handled appropriately with little to no crushing observed.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible and crisp with Composer Pino Donaggio’s (The Howling, Blow Out) score delivered authoritatively and balanced evenly with sound effects.  Unfortunately, Night Game strikes out with no special features.  

    Performing poorly at the box-office, Night Game never strives to be original and wallows in the tropes of other run-of-the-mill crime thrillers.  Instead of weaving a quality tale of mystery, viewers are left oblivious to its uninspired outcome with Scheider closing the decade out on a low note.  Olive Films delivers the film for the time on Blu-ray (and DVD) with pleasing technical achievements sans special features.  Boasting a better poster design than memorable film, Night Game is an unfortunate bust.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Night Game can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945) Blu-ray Review

    The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)

    Director: Robert Siodmak

    Starring: George Sanders, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ella Raines & Monya MacGill

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a play by Thomas Job, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry centers on aging bachelor Harry Quincey (George Sanders, All About Eve) who finds love with a New York fashion designer (Ella Raines, Impact).  Unfortunately, Harry’s last chance at marriage is threatened when his neurotic sister Lettie (Geraldine Fitzgerald, Dark Victory) uses her health conditions to take advantage of her brother.  Determined to carve a life out for himself, Lettie goes to depraved measures to keep her brother well within her reach.

    Produced by Joan Harrison (Ride the Pink Horse, Alfred Hitchcock Presents), The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry is a thrilling film noir camouflaged under the quaint serenity of a New England town.  Working tirelessly at a fabric mill to provide for his two sisters, Harry Quincey (Sanders) sees no hope of finding true love until Deborah Brown (Raines), a New York fashion designer visiting Harry’s workplace, enters his life.  Immediately taken by Deborah’s free-spirited personality and charming good looks, Harry may have just found true love until, his sister Lettie (Fitzgerald), bedridden for weeks on end and constantly in need of her brother’s attention, does her best to halt the blooming romance.  Geraldine Fitzgerald plays the role of an overbearing woman with a clearly incestuous obsession for her brother with a magnetic quality that boarders on insanity.  As his promising future with Deborah seems over before it started, Harry slowly uncovers startling information about Lettie that prompts him to reevaluate her control on his life.  

    Increasingly engaging and Hitchcockian in tone, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry pushes an ordinary man to his limits to cut out the weakness holding him back.  Keeping viewers on the edge of their seat, the film, well on its way to achieving high-profile status, falls prey to a compromised finale to appease the strict censorship code of the 1940s.  A lasting reminder of the damages of censorship, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry cops out with a predictably happy ending that feels wholly forced in a film that thrives on its deceitful and morbid attributes.  Although, the cast is topnotch in their respective roles and the noirish atmosphere shines through the greater majority of its runtime, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry nearly jeopardizes itself with an ending that should have never been but, alas is.

    Making its Blu-ray debut, Olive Films presents The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 1.37:1 aspect ratio.  Showing its neglectful age, the film is littered with considerable scratches and speckling throughout the entirety of its runtime.  At times bothersome, detail is luckily strong in facial features and shadows while, inconsistent black levels waver from steadily inky to overrun with flakes.  Considering the decades since its release, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry makes its first Blu-ray (and DVD) appearance in the best condition possible given the circumstances.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is clear and offers nice depth with no audio dropouts to note.  A slight level of hiss is detected but, only makes itself noticeable during completely silent moments of no consequence.  Unfortunately, no special features are offered on this release.

    Beautifully shot and boasting a wickedly intriguing story of incestuous infatuation and homicidal tendencies, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry seemed destined for greatness only to be sabotaged by a painfully forced ending.  While its compromised finale doesn’t doom the entire picture, Director Robert Siodmak’s (The KIllers) film noir still impresses with excellent performances and an unsettling atmosphere.  Arriving on Blu-ray for the first time ever, Olive Films does its best with a respectable transfer that gives film noir buffs the opportunity to experience this worthy effort.  While its presentation may not always be the strongest and lacking any supplemental features, the overall strength of the picture makes this release well recommended.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Facts of Life (1960) Blu-ray Review

    The Facts of Life (1960)

    Director: Melvin Frank

    Starring: Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Don Defore & Ruth Hussey

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of White Christmas, The Facts of Life centers on longtime friends and polar opposites Larry Gilbert (Bob Hope, Some Like It Hot) and Kitty Weaver (Lucille Ball, I Love Lucy).  When their spouses are unable to join them on a planned getaway to Acapulco, the two find themselves enraptured with their surroundings and eventually each other.  As their magical vacation comes to close, Larry and Kitty must wrestle with their guilt and love for each other as they decide their fate.  Don Defore (Hazel), Ruth Hussey (The Uninvited), Philip Ober (North by Northwest) and Marianne Stewart (Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte) co-star.

    Following their previous collaborations on Sorrowful Jones and Fancy Pants, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball would reteam 10 years later for a romantic comedy, plagued with behind the scenes turmoil.  From Ball being knocked unconscious during filming to Director Melvin Frank breaking his ankle, Ball’s own Desilu Studios, where a percentage of filming took place, would also partially burn down.  Production woes aside, The Facts of Life details a simple story of love found in the most unexpected places.  Maintaining a typical suburban existence of raising children and spending time with the same friends, Larry Gilbert (Hope) and Kitty Weaver (Ball) sense something lacking in their personal lives that their own spouses fail to notice.  When a couples vacation to Acapulco is planned, Larry and Kitty’s spouses are unable to join leaving the two casual friends to spend the exotic getaway together.  Before long, Larry and Kitty fall madly in love with one another while celebrating their catch of a marlin and sharing romantic dinners together.  As the sun sets on their unexpected love affair, reality sets in when they return home, conflicted with guilt and overwhelmed with their undeniable attraction for each other.

    Far more romantic than comedic, The Facts of Life weaves a tale from a simpler time where married couples still slept in separate beds.  Hope and Ball’s chemistry is contagious and proves to still be sharp following a decade long hiatus.  While their developing love in Acapulco is charming enough, the inclusion of both characters having children makes their actions feel wildly selfish as opposed to simply leaving unappreciative spouses.  As Larry and Kitty attempt to continue the affair on their home turf, comical situations ensue when their local cleaning man nearly catches the couple necking at a drive-in movie.  Plus, a weekend getaway backfires due to inclement weather and a leaky roof bringing out the grouchier sides of their personalities.  After much discussion involving finances, lawyer fees and the remarriage of their spouses, the spark ignited in Acapulco begins to dim as Larry and Kitty are faced with the hard reality of their choices.  Occasionally sweet and heavy on dramatics, The Facts of Life is a heightened account of a love affair that begins earnestly but, sells itself short with an unsatisfying conclusion.  

    Olive Films presents The Facts of Life with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, the film appears inherently soft with Saul Bass’ animated title sequence looking less than stellar.  Luckily, the black and white photography registers modest detail and generally strong black levels, most evident in Hope’s dark hair and countless pieces of wardrobe.  Meanwhile, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix relays audible, if not inconsistent, dialogue levels that sometimes require an increase in volume.  A slight hiss is detected on the mix but, never intrudes on the picture.  Expectedly, the only special feature offered is the Theatrical Trailer (2:41).

    Nominated for five Academy Awards and winning for Best Costume Design, The Facts of Life is noticeably more dramatic than past Hope/Ball collaborations while, attempting to deliver a romantic tale of forbidden love and its aftereffects.  Hope and Ball’s chemistry is intact and effective but, their motives feel too selfish to fully get behind.  In addition, their final decision regarding their newfound love feels entirely wasted and the picture suffers as a result.  Olive Films ushers the romantic dramedy onto Blu-ray with sufficient quality that is a fair upgrade from past DVD releases.  Viewers expecting a knee-slapping riot with comedic legends like Hope and Ball in the driver’s seat will be disappointed but, as a relatively grounded film on the complexities of love, The Facts of Life suffices.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Facts of Life can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980) Blu-ray Review

    How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980)

    Director: Robert Scheerer

    Starring: Susan Saint James, Jane Curtain, Jessica Lange & Richard Benjamin

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring Susan Saint James (Love at First Bite), Jane Curtain (Saturday Night Live) and Jessica Lange (American Horror Story), How to Beat the High Cost of Living centers on three high school girlfriends, all grown and realizing their marriages and suburban lifestyles are less than idyllic.  Down on their luck and each desperately in need of money, the trio hatch a scheme to steal a stash of prize money from their local mall resulting in a series of hilarious mishaps.  Richard Benjamin (Westworld), Dabney Coleman (WarGames), Eddie Albert (Green Acres), Cathryn Damon (Webster) and Fred Willard (Best in Show) co-star.

    Gestating for nearly a decade, Screenwriter Robert Kaufman (Nothing Personal) would finally see his project come to fruition under Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures after being purchased by Filmways Pictures.  Having originally shown interest from all the major studios and aiming for top-tier talent including, Shirley MacLaine, Faye Dunaway and Sally Field, all of whom, although interested, refused to share the spotlight with two other leading women.  Following Kaufman’s most recent success with 1979’s Love at First Bite, American International Pictures agreed to fund the film with a cast of up and comers, lending the film its greatest assets.  Divorced and attempting to raise her children while, juggling a new boyfriend, Jane (Saint James), is nearly broke after learning she’s pregnant.  Meanwhile, Jane’s best friends are in no better shape with Elaine (Curtain in her film debut), being left by her husband for a younger woman and with no money to pay their mortgage while, Louise (Lange) suffers a devastating blow when her unprofitable antique shop is confronted with a lawsuit by her loving husband (Benjamin) to wipe away the increasing debt.  Left with little money and their undying friendship, the unlikely trio vow to get their finances back in order by cleverly stealing a giveaway prize of cash at the local mall.  Proving they can carry out the scheme just as well as any man, the women find themselves stealing items from a hardware store while, Jane’s children wait in the car and utilizing a bright yellow canoe as their getaway vehicle.  When their once solid plans begin to unravel, Elaine even subjects herself to a hilarious striptease in front of the entire mall in order to recoup the money.

    Earning a slim profit at the time of its release, How to Beat the High Cost of Living stands as a strong female driven comedy long before it was commonplace.  While its humor may, at times, feel dated, its delivery and comedic timing from the film’s lovely trio still extract the necessary laughs from its viewers.  In addition, Richard Benjamin, playing Lange’s hilariously horny veterinarian husband, is a scene stealer, providing excellent chemistry with his onscreen wife while, Jane Curtain’s Saturday Night Live co-star, Garrett Morris, makes a welcome cameo appearance in one of the film’s funnier moments.  Plus, the sultry Sybil Danning (Battle Beyond the Stars) appears as Benjamin’s head turning secretary.  Demonstrating the ever-changing economic times and a woman’s desire to be more than a housewife, How to Beat the High Cost of Living paints its characters in a realistic light while, injecting ample humor into one of the more underrated female-starring gems of the 1980s.

    Olive Films presents How to Beat the High Cost of Living with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Exhibiting bold colors in its animated opening title sequence, light instances of insignificant flakes and speckles arise throughout the transfer.  Skin tones are warm and natural with excellent detail to be appreciated in close-ups of its three leading ladies.  In addition, occasional moments of mild softness occur mostly in wide, establishing shots with black levels relaying respectable visibility and only scant instances of debris.  Filmic and generally lively looking, How to Beat the High Cost of Living checks out nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible and crisp in this talky-driven picture with no hiss or distortion to mention.  Arriving with a single special feature, Olive Films accompanies the film with the Theatrical Trailer (2:55).  

    Centering on a trio of friends confronted with personal dilemmas and financial woes due to inflation, How to Beat the High Cost of Living is not only genuinely comical but, eerily reminiscent of ongoing issues today.  Although, the casting of unknown talent may have been for economic reasons, it generated an unexpected formula of hilarity that would reunite Saint James and Curtin for their successful sitcom, Kate & Allie.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Olive Films rewards fans of this 35 year-old comedy with a delightful transfer that shines in high-definition.  Cleverly crafted and carrying the torch for a future of female-driven comedies, How to Beat the High Cost of Living is a laugh-fest waiting to be rediscovered.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Olive Films, How to Beat the High Cost of Living can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The End of Violence (1997) Blu-ray Review

    The End of Violence (1997)

    Director: Wim Wenders

    Starring: Bill Pullman, Andie MacDowell, Gabriel Byrne, Traci Lind & Loren Dean

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The End of Violence centers on Hollywood producer Mike Max (Bill Pullman, Independence Day) who has made his fortune on big-budget action films with no redeeming social value.  After Max is kidnapped and nearly killed, his life takes a drastic turn when he chooses to ditch his former lifestyle and embrace a new society.  With his unhappy wife (Andie MacDowell, Sex, Lies, and Videotape) on the verge of leaving him and a surveillance expert (Gabriel Byrne, The Usual Suspects) intensely concerned with the fearful security tactics being implemented unknowingly on society, the characters paths cross in this social commentary on commercialism and introspection.

    Entered in the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, The End of Violence sets its course with an interesting plot of Hollywood royalty turned upside down after a near death experience.  Unfortunately, German Director Wim Wenders’ (Paris, Texas) examination of paranoia and consumerism quickly loses its focus with a stock of lifeless performances that fail to attract the viewers’ attention.  After being kidnapped and nearly murdered by two thugs, Hollywood hotshot Mike Max (Pullman) opts out of legal assistance to discover who wants him dead, instead choosing to lay low with his gardener’s Spanish speaking family.  Apparently fueled by paranoia but, adapting to his new surrogate family comfortably, Max attempts to investigate the matter on his own.  Meanwhile, surveilling Los Angeles via security cameras, Ray Bering (Byrne) happens upon Max’s dangerous encounter only to be locked out of his system shortly after by a questionable superior, leading Ray to question the security operations motives.  As an ongoing investigation into Max’s whereabouts persists, Max’s bored wife Page (MacDowell), intent on leaving her husband before his disappearance, decides to move on with her life by capitalizing on his fortunes.  Slowly paced and painstakingly dull, The End of Violence attempts to weave a web of intrigue that never fascinates leaving the cast to dawdle as the plot boringly aligns their stars.

    With supported performances from Director Sam Fuller (Shock Corridor), Loren Dean (Gattaca), Marshall Bell (The Rum Diary), Frederic Forest (Apocalypse Now) and Udo Kier (Melancholia), The End of Violence failed miserably with critics and although, produced for a mere $5 million, tanked at the box-office.  Over halfway through its runtime, Max’s personal snooping around finally reveals his connection to surveillance operator Ray that is hardly surprising, leaving Andie MacDowell with little to do aside from appearing in swimsuits and lingerie.  While, its intentions may have flown over the heads of many, The End of Violence never makes a compelling feature out of its mildly attractive plot ultimately, becoming as forgettable as the dial-up internet connection so prominently found in the film.

    Olive Films presents The End of Violence with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Making its Blu-ray debut, Director Wim Wenders’ poorly received feature arrives with a lively picture that boasts warm skin tones, excellent detail in facial features and Los Angeles backgrounds while, black levels are handled appropriately leaving no disrupting signs of crush on display.  Faint instances of flakes and speckles appear but, never disrupt the viewing experience on this otherwise pleasing transfer.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is relayed with terrific clarity and depth while, music, although relatively scant and uneventful, rings nicely in their passing moments.  Furthermore, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:26) is the sole supplement of the disc.

    Scatterbrained and largely unimpressive, The End of Violence has its intentions in the right place but, sorely fails in its execution with a plot that drives off the rails at times, leaving the talented thespians out to dry.  Luckily, Olive Films’ high-definition treatment services the film nicely with a quality transfer and crisp sound mix but, the film’s lackluster quality and unsympathetic characters severs any hope of a memorable cinematic experience.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The End of Violence can be purchased via OliveFilms.comAmazon.com and other fine retailers.   

  • Best Seller (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Best Seller (1987)

    Director: John Flynn

    Starring: James Woods, Brian Deenehy & Victoria Tennant

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Rolling Thunder, Best Seller centers on veteran police office and best-selling author Dennis Meechum (Brian Deenehy, First Blood).  Widowed and raising his only daughter, Dennis owes his publisher an overdue followup but, suffers from writer’s block.  When Cleve (James Woods, Videodrome), a self-professed career hitman, approaches Dennis about penning his story, Dennis is skeptical but, intrigued.  As the facts surrounding Cleve’s many hits for a high powered executive turn out true, the possibility of the damaging tell-all tale endangers Dennis and those closest to him.  Victoria Tennant (Flowers in the Attic), Allison Balson (Little House on the Prairie) and Paul Shenar (Scarface) co-star.

    Scripted by Larry Cohen (The Stuff, Maniac Cop), although, heavily rewritten by Director John Flynn, Best Seller kicks off in Los Angeles circa 1972 where a trio of Richard Nixon mask wearing gunmen attempt to rob a police evidence facility.  After a struggle ensues and shots are fired, Officer Dennis Meechum (Deenehy) survives the account to publish a novel based on his experiences.  Over a decade later, Meechum, now a detective and raising his only daughter following his wife’s untimely passing, owes his publisher a long overdue followup.  From the shadows, Cleve (Woods) offers Dennis a proposition to pen his life experiences as a career hitman in order to get even with his unappreciative former employer, wealthy executive David Matlock (Shenar).  Curious but, cautious, Dennis is not easily convinced about his collaborators evidence until threats confront them both.  In addition, Dennis realizes that his history with Cleve predates their most recent encounter, making trust between the detective and hitman incredibly tense.  As research continues on the tell-all book, Dennis finds himself in over his head with his daughter in mortal danger.

    Failing to light the box-office on fire, Best Seller is a uniquely different buddy film where law enforcement and career criminal must team up to combat a larger threat.  Brian Deenehy fits comfortably in the role of a respected detective who finds himself unable to produce material for a followup novel.  Dennehy treads the line perfectly of an aggressive cop willing to go to the limits while, possessing an air of sophistication that sells his dual career as a respected author.  Meanwhile, James Woods, in arguably his most underrated role of the decade, plays the snappily dressed Cleve with a fast tongue and an even quicker trigger finger.  Woods brings the right energy that makes Dennis and the viewer equally intrigued and unsure of his questionable motives.  From a kindhearted demeanor to a bloodthirsty killer instinct, Woods’ performance and his yin and yang relationship with Deenehy elevates the film beyond the standard crime picture.  Shot on location in Los Angeles and New York City, Best Seller is a throughly entertaining and tightly orchestrated effort that separates itself from the bunch, courtesy of Woods and Deenehy’s captivating chemistry.

    Olive Films presents Best Seller with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Beginning with a noticeably softer image, the film quickly improves with inviting skin tones and a well-handled color scheme.  Flakes and speckles are mild leading to a nearly blemish free picture while, detail in close-ups wavers in sharpness from decent to strong.  With a healthy layer of grain intact throughout the majority of its runtime, Best Seller satisfies on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix, the film relays all dialogue with clarity and ample range while, Composer Jay Ferguson’s (License to Drive, Bad Dreams) far too brief funky synth score sets the mood accordingly.  Finally, the sole supplement is the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:44).

    Criminally (no pun intended) underrated and capturing top-notch performances from its two leads, Best Seller takes the buddy formula of past crime offerings and delivers a refreshingly suspenseful response.  Olive Films’ high-definition treatment will appease viewers while, the strength of the film and most notably, Woods’ role earning Best Seller a strong recommendation to the uninformed.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Best Seller can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Dangerously Close (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Dangerously Close (1986)

    Director: Albert Pyun

    Starring: John Stockwell, Carey Lowell, Madison Mason, Bradford Bancroft & J. Eddie Peck

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Albert Pyun (Cyborg), Dangerously Close focuses on The Sentinels, the self-proclaimed teenage guardians of their high school.  Weeding out those they deem unfit, their gang-like activity is questioned after a student winds up dead.  When the school newspaper editor, Donny Lennox (J. Eddie Peck, The Young and the Restless), seeks the truth, The Sentinels up their aggressive ante to a whole new level.  John Stockwell (Christine), Carey Lowell (Law & Order), Madison Mason (Dreamscape), Bradford Bancroft (3:15) and Dedee Pfeiffer (The Horror Show) co-star.

    While, Cannon Films found their way into every niche genre imaginable during the 1980s, the teen crime film was far and few between for the low-budget titan.  Marking only his third feature after The Sword and the Sorcerer and Radioactive Dreams, Director Albert Pyun makes his Cannon debut with a relatively grounded story about a gang of jocks who deliver “safety” and swift justice to fellow high school students they view as insignificant.  In what would be perceived as the squarest club to be apart of, The Sentinels take their narc-like position very seriously and are constantly at odds with the burnouts and punks of their class who ridicule them for their Nazi-like behavior.  On the surface, protecting the school from graffiti and theft appears noble but, when The Sentinels take unkindly to those who oppose them, over the top pranks turn into actual murder.  Level-headed and intelligent school paper editor, Donny Lennox (Peck), is willing to better understand The Sentinels and is invited into their pack only to be at odds with his mohawk-toting best friend Krooger (Bancroft).  Before long, Donny finds himself deep in the thicket of something sinister resulting in a full blown murder investigation and the disappearance of Krooger.  Donny knows that he must get to the bottom of The Sentinels plans and uncover the truth before he’s next on the chopping block.

    About as exploitative as an episode of 21 Jump Street, Dangerously Close manages to deliver earnest performances from its young cast but, lacks the juicier elements one expects from a production bearing the mark of Cannon.  Meanwhile, horror enthusiasts will be delighted to catch minor appearances from Thom Mathews (The Return of the Living Dead), Miguel A. Núñez Jr. (Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning) and Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge).  The inclusion of punkish characters and Krooger’s ridiculous Knight Rider-esque car make for fun eye candy although, the film suffers to find a stable footing midway through its runtime.  As Donny teams up with Julie (Lowell), a fellow Sentinels girlfriend, to reveal the true culprit behind the shady doings at their high school, a hilarious albeit, played totally straight, battle incorporating paintball guns and firecrackers ensues.  Bolstering a righteous 80s soundtrack including, hits from Robert Palmer, Fine Young Cannibals and The Smithereens, Dangerously Close isn’t quite the knockout one would hope but, still manages to be a decent Cannon foray centering on high school hooligans.

    Olive Films presents Dangerously Close with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  To viewers‘ delight, this lower-budgeted affair shines in high-definition with natural skin tones and bold colors that pop most effectively.  Detail is rather striking in closeups of The Sentinels painted faces during their “hunting” sequences while, black levels ring decently with slight murkiness appearing at times.  Minimal flaking in its transfer aside, Dangerously Close delivers with a relatively clean and surprisingly rich looking presentation.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Dangerously Close relays dialogue with reasonable authority with some moments requiring a slight raise in volume.  The 80s pop-rock soundtrack delivers with better authority while, the mix overall never suffers from any hiss or other audio distortion.  Finally, the sole special feature included is the Theatrical Trailer (1:33).

    With an enticing plot and a radical soundtrack, Dangerously Close forgets to entertain in its second half with uneventful sequences and a rather underwhelming finale.  Released during a storm of rebellious teen flicks, Dangerously Close settles somewhere in the middle for a film that should have been much more under the shield of Cannon Films.  Thankfully, Olive Films delivers with a wonderful transfer that should easily appease the most dedicated of Pyun fanboys.  Scant on special features, worshippers of the church of Cannon won’t bat an eyelash adding this tale of teenage trouble into their high-definition libraries.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Dangerously Close can be purchased via OliveFilms.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.

  • Muscle Beach Party (1964) Blu-ray Review

    Muscle Beach Party (1964)

    Director: William Asher

    Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Don Rickles & Luciana Paluzzi

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their fun in the sun, Frankie Avalon (Drums of Africa) and Annette Funicello (Babes in Toyland) return as surfing lovebirds Frankie and Dee Dee in Muscle Beach Party.  When their favorite beach spot is overrun by body-building meatheads and their whistle-blowing trainer, Jack Fanny (Don Rickles, Toy Story), the gang’s getaway of fun looks unlikely.  Plus, when Julie (Luciana Paluzzi, Thunderball), a rich contessa, sets her sights on Frankie, a beach battle gets underway with Frankie and Dee Dee’s love on the line.  Buddy Hackett (The Love Bug), Peter Turgeon (Airport) and Rock Stevens (Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon) co-star.

    Muscle Beach Party, the second of seven popular beach party films produced by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures, finds our attractive leads, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, returning to their sunny playground of good times and maximum surfing.  Upon arrival, the gang find an unfriendly team of body-builders, led by their equally distasteful trainer, Jack Finney, making the beach their own personal hot spot.  Meanwhile, tensions run hot when, to Frankie’s dismay, Dee Dee wants him to long for more in life than just catching the next big wave.  Temperatures skyrocket when the gorgeous and spoiled rich contessa, Julie, steals Frankie away with promises of kickstarting his music career and wealth beyond his wildest dreams.  Following in the same tradition as its predecessor, Muscle Beach Party finds an endless array of attractive teens singing and dancing their cares away to happening surf music.  Simple and innocent, Muscle Beach Party teeters by shining a brighter focus on the clueless meatheads and Julie’s mission to find an attractive lover than the fun-loving couple we had a blast with in the original Beach Party.  Buddy Hackett lends his comedic chops as Julie’s business advisor and voice of reason to Frankie, helping the teen idol learn the errors of his ways.  Meanwhile, Rock Stevens makes his film debut as lead meathead Flex Martian, who catches Julie’s eye before Frankie enters her radar, leading to further tension between the two beach groups.  Minimal on plot but, always prioritized on fun, Muscle Beach Party finds Frankie and Dee Dee patching things up effortlessly just in time for the end credits.  

    Scattered with more original songs, some written by several members of The Beach Boys, sung by its youthful cast, Muscle Beach Party also includes a memorable early appearance by Little Stevie Wonder performing an original tune.  In addition, following Beach Party’s Vincent Price cameo, AIP regular Peter Lorre (The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors) turns up briefly in one of his final film appearances.  Common in most sequels, Muscle Beach Party fails to live up to the nonstop fun of its originator, spending considerable time on its mildly humorous supporting characters than its stars, who are regulated to second best.  Still considered a fun time in the sun, Muscle Beach Party is a noticeably weaker film but, supplies enough of its dependable elements to make this wave worth riding.

    Presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Muscle Beach Party is another knockout transfer for Olive Films.  Flowing with bright colors from the teens‘ multicolored bathing suits to their tan complexions, detail is crisp and only showing moments of slight wear in its stock surfing footage.  Infrequent nighttime sequences showcase only mild instances of softness while, sunny daytime scenes take up the bulk of the film’s runtime.  With natural grain firmly intact, Muscle Beach Party has never looked better than this.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, dialogue levels are mostly clean and clear with brief moments of decreased levels during scenes at Scrappy’s.  Musical numbers pack an added boost in volume quality while, Funicello’s rendition of “A Girl Needs A Boy” suffers from a tinny echo which may have been how the song was originally recorded.  Unfortunately, Muscle Beach Party makes its Blu-ray debut with no special features.

    Carrying on the carefree shenanigans of Frankie, Dee Dee and the rest of the beach gang, Muscle Beach Party stumbles with its first half focusing far too heavily on supporting characters while, Avalon and Funicello’s story, as minimal as it is, falls by the wayside.  Luckily, its catchy tunes and appearances from Buddy Hackett and Don Rickles make this Beach Party followup a suitable one.  Although, lacking with any special features, Olive Films‘ Blu-ray treatment arrives with impressive technical feats making the film shine like never before.  A slight disappointment in the wake of the original film, Muscle Beach Party still contains the beaches, babes and tunes audiences come to expect with enough humor to not make this effort a total wipeout.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • How to Murder Your Wife (1965) Blu-ray Review

    How to Murder Your Wife (1965)

    Director: Richard Quine

    Starring: Jack Lemmon, Virna Lisi, Claire Trevor, Eddie Mayehoff & Terry-Thomas

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Sex and the Single Girl, How to Murder Your Wife stars Jack Lemmon (The Apartment) as wealthy cartoonist Stanley Ford, living the luxurious single life in Manhattan.  After a drunken proposal takes place at a friend’s bachelor party, Stanley seeks an immediate divorce.  Unfortunately, the new, strictly Italian speaking Mrs. Ford (Virna Lisi, The Secret of Santana Vittoria) will have none of it, taking over Stanley‘s life in the process.  Frustrated and longing for his freedom, Stanley expresses his internal thoughts through his comic character who devises the perfect murder.  Terry-Thomas (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), Eddie Mayehoff (Artists and Models) and Claire Trevor (Key Largo) co-star.

    Scripted by George Axelrod (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), How to Murder Your Wife takes a man’s seemingly perfect existence and creates his worst nightmare after an excessive evening of drunken dabbling.  Living in a gorgeous Manhattan townhouse adorned with Margaret Keane paintings, Stanley Ford (Lemmon) earns his riches penning the successful Bash Brannigan comic strip.  Pampered by his loyal butler Charles Firbank (Thomas), Stanley takes great pleasure in his bachelor lifestyle with no intentions of settling down.  While, attending a fellow bachelor party, Stanley, noticeably intoxicated, is overwhelmed by the sight of an Italian bikini-clad beauty emerging from a cake.  Before long, Stanley awakes to learn that not only is he married to the bombshell but, she doesn’t speak a lick of English!  Seeking help from his lawyer Harold Lampson (Mayehoff) to no avail and the new Mrs. Ford vehemently against divorce, Stanley finds himself in the biggest pickle of his lifetime.  Desperate to return to his playboy existence, Stanley begins plotting ways to murder his wife through the help of his popular comic strip.

    As its content would surely suggest a darker comedic tone, How to Murder Your Wife is played surprisingly broad with Lemmon’s likable personality allowing the viewer to playfully bask in the otherwise morbid plot.  Defining beauty, Virna Lisi sizzles as Stanley’s Italian wife who although, not able to speak his language immediately, demonstrates a genuine affection for her American mate.  As the marriage lengthens, Stanley’s world is turned hilariously upside down as he gains weight from his wife’s delicious, albeit fattening, home cooking and expelled from his all-male health club after Mrs. Ford’s abrupt appearance.  In addition, Terry-Thomas serving as Stanley’s butler with a bitter distaste for his new bride is one of the film’s shining lights, weaving memorable comedic relief.  While, Stanley uses Bash Brannigan to hatch a plan to pull off the perfect murder, Mrs. Ford takes notice of the not so subtle sketches.  Heartbroken, Stanley’s wife disappears leading authorities to believe he committed actual homicide.  Occasionally humorous with an overtly hokey courtroom sequence where Stanley defends himself to a jury of “lenient” married men, How to Murder Your Wife is a comical depiction of the arresting burden men feel towards marriage and the limits one soul will take to salvage his carefree lifestyle.  Earning Jack Lemmon a Golden Laurel for his performance, How to Murder Your Wife is hardly a sidesplitting affair but, does make for lighthearted entertainment at the expense of marriage turmoil.

    Olive Films presents How to Murder Your Wife with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Bursting with vibrant color and accurately relayed skin tones, How to Murder Your Wife astounds with its clear picture, free of aging artifacts, and remarkable detail.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, How to Murder Your Wife compliments its splendid transfer with a mix of audible dialogue levels leaving little to no room for disappointment.  Finally, an original Theatrical Trailer (3:55) serves as the disc’s only special feature.

    Mildly amusing with appreciable onscreen chemistry between Lemmon and Lisi, How to Murder Your Wife won’t slay its audiences to extreme measures but, injects enough charm worthy of seeking out.  Olive Films presents the Richard Quine comedy with a pristine transfer and satisfactory sound mix that should easily please viewers.  Also including its original trailer, How to Murder Your Wife may be far from a comedic cornerstone but, still makes for decent entertainment.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, How to Murder Your Wife can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Road to Hong Kong (1962) Blu-ray Review

    The Road to Hong Kong (1962)

    Director: Norman Panama

    Starring: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope & Joan Collins

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the final installment in the popular Road pictures, The Road to Hong Kong reteams the talented duo of Bing Crosby (Holiday Inn) and Bob Hope (The Cat and the Canary) this time as Harry Turner (Crosby) and Chester Babcock (Hope).  As they set their sights on their latest scheme, Chester encounters memory issues.  After coming into contact with a miracle drug, Chester memorizes a highly desired top-secret formula making the team wanted by some very unfavorable fellows and within the company of the gorgeously alluring spy, Diane (Joan Collins, Dynasty).  Featuring several cameos including, Road pictures alumni Dorothy Lamour, The Road to Hong Kong continues the gags and giggles tradition audiences have come to expect from previous entries.  

    After a decade long absence, Crosby and Hope would return to their beloved franchise filled with minimal plots and maximum gags.  Fearing series regular Dorothy Lamour was too old to return as a leading lady (Lamour was 48 at the time, compared to her 59 year-old co-stars), Crosby insisted on the younger Joan Collins as her replacement.  Meanwhile, Hope’s loyalty and refusal to do the film without her would lead to Lamour’s extended cameo appearance in this series farewell.  Maintaining its well-established mashup of genres and improvisational bravado, The Road to Hong Kong is as silly as it gets with the aging Crosby and Hope appearing as fraud artists who come into possession of a secret rocket formula.  After recovering from an injury, Chester’s memory is scattered leading the scammers to a Tibetan temple where a miracle drug is administered granting Chester a photographic memory.  Before disposing of the written formula, Chester memorizes its contents making the unlikely duo wanted by an evil spy organization.  Pursued by the beautiful spy Diane, who finds herself involved in a love triangle between the two partners, Harry is driven to turn their misfortune into a profitable one.  Filmed at Shepperton Studios in England and shot in black and white to preserve the series’ integrity, The Road to Hong Kong throws everything and the kitchen sink at its viewer including, song and dances, espionage, slapstick comedy and space travel.  Crosby and Hope’s chemistry is still firmly intact with Hope relying on tried and true gags such as breaking the fourth wall to receive assistance from the special effects team to elude danger.  Plus, Lamour’s extended cameo that includes a song with her former co-stars, makes a laughable passing comment regarding the critics’ view of the film’s plot.   

    While, its quality compared to previous installments is subjective, The Road to Hong Kong is an absolute gas that was oddly ahead of its time, parodying spy movies before the James Bond franchise would popularize the genre.  Scattered with hilarious cameos from Peter Sellers and fellow “Rat Packers” Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, this series finale is an enjoyable romp that while, not nearly as critically appreciated as its Paramount predecessors, still entertains with its over the top shenanigans from its aging  headliners.  

    Olive Films presents The Road to Hong Kong with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor vertical lines, scant scuffs and rougher-looking stock footage, The Road to Hong Kong marvels with an overwhelmingly clean appearance, solid detail and inky black levels allowing viewers to better appreciate  busy Hong Kong backgrounds and Joan Collins‘ jaw-dropping beauty.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, The Road to Hong Kong relays audible dialogue sans distortion or noticeable static.  Finally, the sole special feature included is the original Theatrical Trailer (3:13).

    While, it hardly feels like a definitive conclusion (a proposed sequel, The Road to the Fountain of Youth was scripted in 1977 but, scrapped following Crosby’s death), The Road to Hong Kong manages to conjure its usual array of endless gags and musical numbers much to the delight of fans.  Crosby and Hope, although older, still appear to have a hoot with the material while, Collins injects a welcome youthful presence to a franchise on its final wheel.  Joining her former partners in crime, Dorothy Lamour, and the film’s countless other cameos, give the final Road  picture a memorable sendoff with their appearances.  Marking the only Road installment currently on the format, Olive Films welcomes The Road to Hong Kong to Blu-ray with wonderful technical achievements, awarding the viewer with a satisfying viewing experience.  Containing only the film’s trailer, the quality and hilarity of Crosby and Hope’s final Road outing is well worth hitching a ride with.

    RATING: 4/5    

    Available now from Olive Films, The Road to Hong Kong can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.