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  • Creepshow 2 (1987) Limited Edition Blu-ray Review

    Creepshow 2 (1987)

    Director: Michael Gornick

    Starring: Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour & Tom Savini

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Once again inspired by the moralistic terror tales of EC Comics, Creepshow 2 lures viewers into three stories of the macabre focused on a vengeful Indian statue, an oil slick hungry for teens and a relentless hitchhiker who won’t take no for an answer.  Starring an ensemble roster including, Lois Chiles (Broadcast News), George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Dorothy Lamour (The Greatest Show on Earth) and Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn) as The Creeper, Michael Gornick (TV’s Tales from the Darkside) directs the horror anthology sequel.

    Scripted by original Creepshow helmer George A. Romero, the frightening followup, a victim of reduced budgets and scary segments, struggles to achieve the morbidly gleeful heights of its predecessor while making the best of its efforts with occasional moments of eerie excellence.  Drawing horror hounds into the comic carnage via wrap-around segments starring Special Makeup Effects maestro Tom Savini as the ghoulish Creeper, Creepshow 2’s opening tale, Old Chief Wood’nhead, starring George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour in her final performance as elderly general store operators who fall victim to senseless murder is generally dull as board until the shop’s Native American warrior statue comes alive to retrieve an eye for an eye.  As the thieving trio, headed by a notably long-haired and bare chested hoodlum (Holt McCallany, Alien 3), plan to skip town, Old Chief Wood’nhead’s deliciously un-PC scalping of the assailant nearly forgives the installment’s stale buildup.  Meanwhile, an idyllic day at the lake turned deadly earns The Raft the highest honors for the sequel.  When four horny teens find themselves stranded on water, the stalking presence of a foreboding oil slick slimes its way through the cracks of their raft to dine on their young bodies.  As they drop like flies and a pervy attempt at nookie goes south, The Raft keeps suspense central with a splashingly sinister finale fitting for the lone swimmer who couldn’t keep his hormones under control.  Finally, The Hitch-Hiker finds a wealthy businesswoman and gigolo customer roadblocked by nightmarish images of the hitcher she accidentally killed.  Simple yet effective, gunshots and continued car ramming does little to shake the bloodied man who just wants a ride.  Concluding with an expected jump scare and an animated interstitial where a Venus Fly Trap feasts on a four-course meal of schoolyard bullies, Creepshow 2, a staple of late night programming and weekend rentals, may not equal its predecessor’s tighter stories, sense of humor or star power yet, the followup, specifically the strength of its second lakeside segment, captures a nostalgic charm that makes the ride a worthwhile one.

    Newly restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents Creepshow 2 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably revealing more information on either sides of frame more so than previous releases, colors are radiant as can be with details in Old Chief Wood’nhead’s sunbaked features nicely revealed while, the bright yellow speedo and other skimpy swimwear in The Raft pop brightly.  Furthermore, cleanup, outside of fleeting instances of speckles during darker sequences found in The Hitch-Hiker, is top-notch easily making this presentation the best the sequel has ever looked.  Equipped with varying audio options, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix boasts audible dialogue deliveries with the film’s synth-heavy opening title sequence sounding excellent.  Optional LPCM 1.0 Mono and 2.0 Stereo mixes have also been included for your listening pleasure.  

    Well packed with content, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Gornick, moderated by Perry Martin, Screenplay for a Sequel with George A. Romero (10:45) where the zombie cultivator discusses his love for the anthology format and heaps praise on Gornick for delivering a quality picture under unideal circumstances, Tales from the Creep with Tom Savini (7:53) finds the actor discussing the technical process of becoming his ghoulish onscreen character, Poncho’s Last Ride with Daniel Beer (14:44) finds The Raft costar reminiscing on the brutal shoot, his health scare with hypothermia during filming and Gornick’s endless support while, The Road to Dover with Tom Wright (13:51) has the trained actor detailing his early professional roots and his skills as a stuntman that helped land him the role as the deadly hitcher.  Other vintage supplements recycled from the Anchor Bay release include, Nightmares in Foam Rubber (32:03) featuring interviews from FX Artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero and My Friend Rick (2:43) where Berger recalls his early encounters and fascination with his mentor Rick Baker while, a Behind-the-Scenes featurette (5:50), Image Gallery (3:34), Trailers & TV Spots (3:24) and the Original Screenplay (BD-ROM) are also on hand.  Finally, a 19-page booklet featuring stills and a new essay entitled Deadtime Stories by Michael Blyth is included along with a Creepshow: Pinfall Limited Edition Comic Book that brings life to one of the sequel’s exorcised segments and a Reversible Cover Art featuring both new imagery by Michael Saputo and the film’s original 1-sheet poster rounding out the hefty bonus offerings.

    Nearing its own 30th anniversary, Creepshow 2 suffers from standard sequelitis and a shortened stack of segments that disrupts its full potential while, persevering to deliver shades of genuine fun.  Although The Raft remains the fan-favorite of the followup, its co-features vary in mileage yet retain a charm that makes revisiting them a pleasurable blast from the past.  In their latest excavation from the Lakeshore catalog, Arrow Video has pulled the curtain back on the much-requested anthology with a definitive video treatment, a handsome stack of supplements and a gorgeously designed package sure to hitch a ride with fans.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available December 13th from Arrow Video in a limited 3,000 unit release, Creepshow 2 can be purchased via 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.