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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.

  • Hired to Kill (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Hired to Kill (1990)

    Director(s): Nico Mastorakis & Peter Rader

    Starring: Brian Thompson, Oliver Reed, George Kennedy & José Ferrer

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Bursting with explosive action, Hired to Kill stars Brian Thompson (Cobra) as mercenary Frank Ryan whose latest assignment sends him into a crumbling country to locate a rebel leader.  Undercover as a flamboyant fashion designer, Thompson is aided by seven seductively dangerous female soldiers to overpower the totalitarian regime controlled by the corrupt Michael Bartos (Oliver Reed, Spasms).  George Kennedy (The Delta Force) and José Ferrer (Dune) co-star in this gun-toting spectacle co-directed by Nico Mastorakis (The Zero Boys).

    Reimagining The Magnificent Seven with women, Hired to Kill stars the poor man’s Arnold Schwarzenegger Brian Thompson as skillfully trained mercenary Frank Ryan whose weakness for money presented in leather briefcases leads him to the fictional country of Cypra where an imprisoned leader requires busting out to restore balance to his corruptly tainted homeland.  In order to operate safely, Ryan trades in his macho card for an undercover identity as a fashion designer.  Making clear of his disdain working with women, Ryan is sent into the field with seven  deadly bombshells, acting as his supermodels and his only team of soldiers.  Rubbing elbows on their mission with Cypra’s criminal mastermind Michael Bartos, Oliver Reed’s eccentric and occasionally tipsy performance as the film’s baddie, adorned by a no-nonsense handlebar mustache is pure entertainment that reaches its apex when testing Ryan’s suggested homosexuality by grabbing a handful of crotch inviting a smooch from the muscular American.  Interspersed with training montages of Ryan’s female squad, comprised of such notable names as Barbara Lee Alexander (Psycho Cop Returns), Michelle Moffett (Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans) and Jordana Capra (After Midnight), as they perfect their runway skills while sharpening their aim, Hired to Kill throws political double-crosses and fallen heroes into the mix to expectedly up the ante for its final act.  Slightly overlong with its machine gun fueled sequences growing redundant, Hired to Kill is an enjoyable toast to over the top action cinema that entertains more than its direct-to-video reputation would suggest.

    Newly restored in 4K, Arrow Video presents Hired to Kill with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Looking sharper than ever, detail greatly impresses in facial closeups while, skin tones are always natural and clear.  In addition, the grassy locale of the fictional country (shot on location in Greece) offers strong contrast as the film’s presentation appears free of any scuffs or scratches.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is excellently handled with zero issues in audibility.  Furthermore, sequences of heavy firepower, helicopters and explosions appropriately rattle the speakers to good measure.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Editor Barry Zeitlin, Hired to… Direct: Behind the Camera with Nico Mastorakis (27:26) where the film’s co-director and producer sits down for a lengthy discussion detailing the film’s beginnings, casting, Reed’s turbulent onset behavior and the unfortunate tragedy that resulted in the death of Stuntman Clint Carpenter.  Also included, Undercover Mercenary (17:33) features a new interview with Star Brian Thompson where the action hero recalls his early memories catching the acting bug, juggling college and securing film work and memories from the Hired to Kill shoot including an instance where Reed dropped his pants and urinated during a take.  Finally, the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:50), a Stills Gallery (7:18), the Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-Rom content), a 23-page booklet featuring stills and a new essay by James Oliver plus, a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster conclude the extra feature offerings.

    Plastered with babes, bullets and a deliciously silly performance from Oliver Reed, Hired to Kill is precisely what one comes to expect from the ultra machismo days of action cinema.  Delivering an impressive scale of explosive anarchy for its stature, Brian Thompson brings the proper equipment to this gun show with unexpected, yet nonetheless humorous touches through his eccentric undercover identity.  Meanwhile, Arrow Video delivers a remarkable presentation for this cult loved DTV effort with an enjoyably candid spread of new bonus features that viewers will be thrilled with.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Hired to Kill can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Bolero (1984) / Ghosts Can't Do It (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Bolero (1984) / Ghosts Can’t Do It (1990)

    Director: John Derek

    Starring: Bo Derek, George Kennedy, Andrea Occhipinti, Ana Obregon & Olivia d’Abo / Bo Derek, Anthony Quinn, Don Murray & Julie Newmar 

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring striking beauty Bo Derek (10), Shout! Factory proudly presents a double feature of the sex symbol’s steamiest features!  In Bolero, Derek stars as a curious graduate who intends to discover her womanhood during a journey to the world’s most exotic locations.  George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Andrea Occhipinti (The New York Ripper), Ana Obregon (The Gamble) and Olivia d’Abo (The Wonder Years) co-star.  Next up, Ghosts Can’t Do It centers on happily married couple Katie (Derek) and Scott (Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life) who despite their age difference, lead a fulfilling life.  After coming to terms with her husband’s death, Katie reconnects with Scott’s impatient ghost as she scours the globe for a suitable body for him to be reincarnated in.  Don Murray (Bus Stop) and Julie Newmar (Batman) co-star.  

    Helmed by her late husband John Derek (Tarzan, the Ape Man), Bolero finds virginal graduate Mac MacGillvary (Derek) determined to find her ideal sexual suitor.  Following a celebratory striptease and receiving a lucrative inheritance, Mac, along with best friend Catalina (Obregon) and her faithful chauffeur Cotton (Kennedy), travel to Arabian locales to sow her wild oats only to be underwhelmed by a sleepy shiek mid-seduction.  Hightailing to Spain, Mac becomes enamored with attractive bullfighter Angel (Occhipinti) who successfully deflowers the head over heels American.  Tragedy strikes when her lover is gored, prompting Mac to oversee his full recovery in hopes of spending the rest of their lives together.  A product of the wild Cannon Films, Executive Producer Menahem Golan demanded the film’s many sex sequences be amplified much to the dismay of both Derek’s.  Hardly uncommon for the independent producing mavericks, Bolero, although technically a period piece boasting beautifully scenic locations, is quickly reduced to an exploitative sizzle reel of Derek’s fabulous nude figure.  While its erotic sequences are relatively tame by today’s standards with the uncomfortable exception of 14 year-old Olivia d’Abo appearing fully exposed in several scenes, Golan’s refusal to cut the film to meet proper ratings approval resulted in then distributor MGM to drop the feature.  Released independently, the uninspired effort spotlights Derek having honey suckled off her breasts, nude horseback riding and easily the decade’s cheesiest, fog-entrenched sex scene captured in slow-motion with a hilariously neon lit “extasy” sign in the background.  Dragged through the mud by the Razzie Awards, Bolero would unsurprisingly be nominated for Worst Picture of the Decade (only to lose to 1981’s Mommie Dearest).  Outside of its generous footage of Derek and her female co-stars in their birthday suits, Bolero lacks any true merit, only to be appreciated as a retro train wreck.

    After suffering one of the most talkative heart attacks captured on film, the elderly Scott (Quinn) recovers only to end his own life with a gunshot.  Leaving his gorgeous and much younger wife Katie (Derek) to grieve, Ghosts Can’t Do It finds Scott’s spirit returning to comfort and guide her on a quest for a young body to be reborn into.  Living off the luxuries of Scott’s $2 billion wealth, Katie travels to tropical locales for some fun in the sun while, juggling the responsibilities of Scott’s valued company with assistance from the recently deceased.  In what would be their final creative collaboration between the Derek’s, Ghosts Can’t Do It is a painfully dreadful romcom with a fantasy flair that fails on all levels.  Never shy to shed some skin, Bo Derek’s looks do little to save this turkey from would ultimately be crowned Worst Picture of 1990 by the Golden Raspberry Awards.  With an eye-rolling cameo from The Apprentice star and presidential candidate Donald Trump, Ghosts Can’t Do It never achieves a laugh and dawdles for much of its runtime in a longwinded search for Scott’s ideal body.  Signaling the last headlining appearance by the blue-eyed beauty, Ghosts Can’t Do It is a horrendous effort deserving to rest in peace for all eternity.         

    Shout! Factory presents both films in 1080p, with 1.85:1 (Bolero) and 1.78:1 (Ghosts Can’t Do It) aspect ratios respectively.  Possessing moderate levels of flakes and speckles, Bolero’s skin tones waver from warmly detailed to taking on softer appearances.  Meanwhile, exterior footage of the Moroccan environment, textures in wardrobe and the film’s many horses appears lush while, black levels are so-so.  In its spirited co-feature, picture quality is superior with no intrusive anomalies on display and more consistently accurate skin tones present.  In addition, colors of Derek’s bright ensembles pop magnificently under the film’s sunny climates.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue in both films are well-handled with nothing lost in translation while, scoring moments are adequately stacked.  Special features include, a Bolero Trailer (2:36) and a Ghosts Can’t Do It Trailer (2:48).

    The magnetic allure of Bo Derek can hardly be overstated with her two starring efforts in this collection prioritizing her outstanding figure.  Although both films are a barrel of disappointment, Bolero can be mildly appreciated for the exploitative influence of Cannon Films while, Ghosts Can’t Do It is an abysmally unfunny feature best forgotten.  Arriving with only their trailers attached, Shout! Factory gives both films commendable high-definition upgrades, ensuring that one fan’s trash can be another’s treasure.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, Bolero / Ghosts Can’t Do It can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.