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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.

  • 52 Pick-Up (1986) Blu-ray Review

    52 Pick-Up (1986)

    Director: John Frankenheimer 

    Starring: Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, Vanity, John Glover & Clarence Williams III

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of The Manchurian Candidate, 52 Pick-Up centers on successful Los Angeles entrepreneur Harry Mitchell (Roy Schieder, Jaws) who, along with his city council running wife (Ann-Margret, C.C. & Company), lead the good life.  When Harry is confronted by a trio of blackmailers, led by the sadistic Alan Raimy (John Glover, Gremlins 2: The New Batch) with video evidence of his secret affair, tensions mount as Harry attempts to pit the criminals against one another.  Clarence Williams III (The Mod Squad), Vanity (Never Too Young to Die), Robert Trebor (Talk Radio) and Kelly Preston (Death Sentence) co-star.

    While, best remembered for their enjoyable cult classics and over the top action extravaganzas, the stars would align several times for Cannon Films, pitting A-list talent both behind and in front of the camera to deliver something truly worthwhile.  Releasing films at a rapid pace, 1986 would see the juggernaut company, led by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, reach their pinnacle with a whopping 43 films.  Based on the novel by Elmore Leonard (“3:10 to Yuma”, “Get Shorty”), 52 Pick-Up is a suspenseful thriller combining exceptional directing and memorable characters with remarkably sleazy Los Angeles locations.  Roy Scheider leads the film as a lucrative businessman and former soldier who refuses to bow down to the demands of pornographic blackmailers.  Confronted with evidence of his affair with a young stripper (Preston), Alan Raimy (Glover) demands $105,000 per year from Harry to keep the tarnishing footage out of the limelight.  John Glover’s maddening performance as the lead blackmailer is the film’s highlight with his striking eyes and ruthless perseverance to obtain Harry’s money a magnetizing sight.  In addition, Clarence Williams III and Robert Trebor both offer worthwhile turns as Raimy’s partners with Trebor, greatly impressing as an openly gay strip club owner with emotional depth for his slimy yet, sympathetic character.  Set in some of Los Angeles‘ seedier bars and strip clubs, 52 Pick-Up finds our blackmailers hosting a party with scantly clad guests including, appearances from porn icons Ron Jeremy, Amber Lynn and Jamie Gillis.  Coming clean to his devoted wife (Margret), Harry ultimately risks both their lives choosing to resist the very serious threats, leading to one chilling turn after another.  

    With critical opinions mixed and a poor box-office reception, 52 Pick-Up still remains an engaging thriller with a top-notch cat and mouse story between blackmailers and their  target who fights back.  Joined by a welcome appearance from the gorgeous Vanity as a fellow stripper, 52 Pick-Up stands as one of Director John Frankenheimer’s strongest efforts of the decade and another intense performance from Scheider.  

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents 52 Pick-Up with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Opening with a softer image and light speckling, the film proceeds to a much cleaner picture with warm skin tones.  Meanwhile, detail is crisp in Scheider’s gruff complexion, wardrobe choices and backgrounds.  Black levels are handled nicely in the many dingy bar and underlit strip club sequences with no crushing to speak of.  Bearing a healthy layer of grain without any digital manipulation applied, 52 Pick-Up pleases on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always nicely relayed and appropriately prioritized with Composer Gary Chang’s score of synth and jazz elements richly captured.  Finally, a Theatrical Trailer (1:44) is the sole special feature of the disc.  

    Tense and gripping, 52 Pick-Up is a fast-moving concoction of thrills and endless suspense.  Highlighted by performances from Roy Scheider and its unhinged antagonist John Glover, 52 Pick-Up blends blackmail and the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles to deliver a first-rate effort from Cannon Films during the height of their success.  Furthermore, Kino Lorber Studio Classics‘ Blu-ray treatment compliments the film with a visually pleasing transfer and well balanced audio mix.  Cannon Film completists will relish in this darkly engaging effort, destined to leave you on the edge of your seat.

    RATING: 4/5    

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, 52 Pick-Up can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.