Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Category

Currently showing posts tagged Guns

  • The Yakuza (1974) Blu-ray Review

    The Yakuza (1974)

    Director: Sydney Pollack

    Starring: Robert Mitchum, Takakura Ken & Brian Keith

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Bringing the honored and dangerous underbelly of gang war traditions to the screen, The Yakuza finds former private eye Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum, The Night of the Hunter) traveling to Tokyo in order to retrieve the kidnapped daughter of a trusted friend whose business ties to a powerful crime boss have soured.  Relying on his Japanese connections and reuniting with an estranged former flame, his post-war lover’s yakuza connected brother Ken (Takakura Ken, The Yellow Handkerchief), cold to Kilmer yet forever indebted to him for saving his sister’s life years previously, aids the American in his journey that embroils them much deeper into the criminal world’s activities than expected.  Gorgeously shot on location predominately in Japan, The Yakuza rewards viewers with a trifecta of powerhouse talent unanimous with the 70s movie revolution including, Screenwriters Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) & Robert Towne (Chinatown) whose noirish mood gives the film its unique tone and Sydney Pollack’s (Three on the Condor) guided direction that handles the sometimes complex narrative with poise.  As Kilmer and Ken’s investigation puts them directly in the crosshairs of the yakuza organization, guns and blades take precedence over negotiations, testing the very limits of honor and exposing the corruptive truths of those once trusted.  Featuring an evocatively cultural East meets West score by Academy Award winning Composer Dave Grusin (The Goonies, The Milagro Beanfield War), The Yakuza is a decently constructed crime-mystery of hardboiled investigation and katana-wielding mobsters that has appreciatively widened its appeal in later years for its unique setup and handsome photography.

    Warner Archive presents The Yakuza with a pristine 1080p transfer, preserving its 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Notably filmic-looking throughout, skin tones are natural with details in sweat beads and battle scars well observed.  Furthermore, the beautiful Japanese exteriors are exceptionally captured while, the gaudy coloring of interior rooms and offices pop nicely.  Meanwhile, Mitchum’s earth tone jackets and turtlenecks are impressively textured with black levels found in the darker suits of the male characters appearing solidly with no traces of digital crush.  Joined by an equally satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that delivers dialogue with no pops standing in its way, Grusin’s excellent score benefits the most with gunfire and the clicking of sword blades making striking effects during fight sequences.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Sydney Pollack, the vintage Promises to Keep (19:26) featurette and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (3:01).  Honor, revenge and tradition all converge in this increasingly appreciated albeit, imperfect neo-noir armed with swords and bullets.  Bowing its head in deserved recognition, Warner Archive awards The Yakuza with a stunning hi-def presentation that will obligate viewers to offer a few fingers in exchange for its exceptional quality.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Warne Archive, The Yakuza can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Band of the Hand (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Band of the Hand (1986)

    Director: Paul Michael Glaser

    Starring: Stephen Lang, James Remar, Michael Carmine, Leon Robinson, John Cameron Mitchell, Danny Quinn, Al Shannon, Lauren Holly & Larry Fishburne 

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Executive produced by Michael Mann (Thief, Heat), Band of the Hand finds five incarcerated youths released to an intense rehab program that teaches them survival and value for one another.  Returning to the gang-infested streets of Miami, the one time criminals wage their own war against the drug kingpins destroying it.  

    Retaining the dangerously seductive allure of Mann’s hit television series Miami Vice with the backwoods survival instincts of Lord of the Flies, Band of the Hand makes crime and violence essential to the scenery that both corrupts and cures the film’s pack of anti-heroes.  Serving time for a multitude of offenses, five juvenile felons including, drug trafficker Carlos Aragon (Danny Quinn, Stradivari), punk turned murderer J.L. McEwen (John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), car thief and attempted prison escapee Dorcey Bridger (Al Shannon, Casualties of War) and rival gang leaders Ruben Pancecho (Michael Carmine, Leviathan) and Moss Roosevelt (Leon Robinson, Cool Runnings) find themselves facing lengthy sentences until fate intervenes.  Unknowingly transported to the swampy Everglades and under the watchful eye of Native American Vietnam veteran Joe Tegra (Stephen Lang, Avatar), the hot blooded teens must learn to work together and survive the cruel conditions of nature in an intensely experimental rehabilitation program.  Sharpening their skills and developing a trusting foundation, the group return to the mean streets of Miami where after revitalizing an abandoned house, seek to do the same for the crime-ridden community.  Igniting a war against feared pimp Cream (Larry Fishburne, Boyz n the Hood) and black magic worshipping drug lord Nestor (James Remar, The Warriors) who claimed Carlos’s girlfriend Nikki (Lauren Holly, Dumb & Dumber) for his own, the band of vigilantes have their work cut out for them.

    Helmed with style and a rebelliously youthful attitude by Paul Michael Glaser (The Running Man), Band of the Hand takes cues once again from Crockett and Tubbs with a pop-rock soundtrack of hits from Bob Dylan (who supplies the film’s title track with assistance from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Prince and Mr. Mister that brings aggressive synergy to the onscreen action.  Following an explosive shootout between the band and Miami’s worst leaving one of their own dead, a go for broke retaliation on Nestor’s drug facility leaves the screen littered with enough bullet holes and bodies to quench the thirst of action hounds.  While the film may be less refined than Mann’s weekly crime series set in the same city, Band of the Hand funnels similar ingredients of fast cars, drug pushers, sexy women and ghettos through the delinquent eyes of teenage thugs turned saviors, making it a worthy and largely overlooked crime thriller drenched in 80s decadence and pastel hues.

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Band of the Hand with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While the film bears its fair share of speckling, rearing its head most noticeably in black levels during countless nighttime sequences, skin tones are generally satisfying with colors found in the vibrant costume choices prevalent during the 80s Miami scene popping as appreciatively as one might hope.  Natural grain is notably retained while, screen jitter is observed but mostly held to the film’s opening sequences.  A mixed bag of quality that thankfully never gravely disappoints where it counts, Band of the Hand makes a respectable first leap to high-definition.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that treats dialogue with prioritization while, the film’s selection of songs celebrates a healthier emphasis of authority, much like sequences of explosive inferno and machine gun fire, the track is a middle of the road affair that suffices.  Although no on-disc special features are included, a Reversible Cover Art revealing slightly modified poster imagery is provided.

    The heat is on as teenage badasses return to their former stomping ground to clean up the filth and mayhem controlling the streets.  Taking on the likes of pimps and pushers, Band of the Hand mimics the style and energy of Miami Vice with enhanced violence and an imperfect yet, still entertaining execution.  Well casted and vibrantly photographed, Glaser’s directorial feature film debut is a promising urban action opus unfortunately missed by many during its initial release.  Arriving on Blu-ray for the first time ever, Mill Creek Entertainment offers the film a decent debut that admires the colorful sights of its 80s fashion choices and Miami hotspots with appreciable quality.  Void of bonus content, the inclusion of reversible cover art is a rare and welcome treat from the budget label.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Band of the Hand 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.

  • The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949) Blu-ray Review

    The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949)

    Director: Preston Sturges

    Starring: Betty Grable, Cesar Romero, Rudy Vallee, Olga San Juan, Sterling Holloway, Hugh Herbert, El Brendel, Porter Hall & Pati Behrs

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When sexy saloon gal Freddie Jones (Betty Grable, I Wake Up Screaming) rages with jealousy towards her beau and accidentally shoots a judge, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend finds the crack shot, skipping town, masquerading as a schoolteacher and striking up a new romance with a well-to-do mine owner until trouble finds her again.  Cesar Romero (Batman), Rudy Vallee (Gentlemen Marry Brunettes), Olga San Juan (Variety Girl) and Porter Hall (His Girl Friday) comprise the supporting cast.

    Marking the Technicolor debut of Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels), The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend is a lighthearted western-comedy that despite Grable’s lovely singing sequences and its vibrant costume designs, lacks the spark of Sturges’ earlier efforts.  Vivacious and handy with a six-shooter, saloon starlet Freddie Jones lets her emotions get the best of her when her gambling boyfriend Blackie Jobero (Romero) takes up with another woman.  Not one to be walked all over, Freddie’s vengeful rage backfires when a missed gunshot finds its way into the derrière of a judge (Porter), guaranteeing her time behind bars.  When her dependable charm turns clumsy, Freddie, along with her coworker Conchita (San Juan), hightail it to Snake City where her cover as an absent-minded schoolteacher and love interest in a gold miner are tested, jeopardizing her life for completely new reasons.  A box-office blunder with its star thinking none too kindly of its finished product, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend is simplistically silly with slapstick gags on display during a third act shootout that amuse yet, never dares to stray from its innocently contrived formula.  Corralling humorous turns from its supporting players, this hot-headed blonde’s getaway makes for a middle of the road detour in Struges’ otherwise impressive body of work.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  While outdoor sequences occasionally suffer from blown out whites and skin tones, particularly in the male cast, wither into yellowish levels at times, Grable’s rosy cheeks are brightly highlighted.  Elements appear in strong order with little to no fallbacks while, the Technicolor photography brings bold life to the film’s costume choices.  Meanwhile, black levels are consistent yet predominately flat.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that projects crisp dialogue exchanges and even healthier singing sequences, any cracks and pops are insubstantial with gunshot effects emphasized accordingly.  Trailers for I Wake Up Screaming (2:16), Daddy Long Legs (2:14), The Devil’s Disciple (2:56) and Support Your Local Sheriff (3:03) are the only supplements included.

    A lesser work than Sturges’ more prominent favorites, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend passes for casual entertainment with meager staying value.  Mildly funny with the bulk of its humor derived from sexual innuendos in the wake of production code censors, Grable’s a doll but her personality only takes the film so far.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ HD treatment satisfies although no feature related supplements are on hand.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Purge: Election Year (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Purge: Election Year (2016)

    Director: James DeMonaco

    Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria & Betty Gabriel

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    At the height of a heated political season, The Purge: Election Year centers on survivor turned security chief Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) whose duty to protect presidential nominee Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost) is compromised.  As her controversial policies to end the savage Purge are despised by the corrupt, navigating dangerous streets and trusting strangers desperate for change may be the only chance to survive the lawless evening.  Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump), Joseph Julian Soria (Max) and Betty Gabriel (Good Girls Revolt) costar.

    In a society overrun by one’s anxious desire to brutally slay for one evening, The Purge: Election Year pits the sadistic holiday against a force for change.  Following the murder of her own family during the first annual Purge, Senator Charlie Roan seeks to abolish the barbaric event and expose higher society’s gains from it with her determined presidential run.  Igniting a movement throughout the country and threatening the stability of the corrupt NFFA, Senator Roan, protected by her head of security Leo Barnes and his team, make the necessary preparations ahead of the new year’s Purge where, for the first time in its history, targeting governmental figures is fair game.  Betrayed and forced to evacuate their shelter, Leo and Charlie trek the anarchic streets of Washington D.C. where alliances with working class citizens and anti-Purge rebels is essential to their survival and the Senator’s destiny to alter the course of the country.  Even more fast-paced and action-packed than its predecessor, The Purge: Election Year polishes its simplistic formula with a marketing campaign and over the top violence that cheekily comments on the slogan of one presidential nominee’s to “make America great again”.  Host to choice soundtrack cuts from T. Rex and a cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.”, Producer Jason Blum’s (Insidious, Sinister) third installment welcomes Uncle Sam costumed killers, candy bar craving looters and white supremacist soldiers stacking the odds against our heroes while, a bloody gun battle in a church paints the walls red and waves a not-so subtle finger at the seething corruption found within political figures and religious organizations.  Financially soaring past its previous entries, The Purge: Election Year arrives with even more refined energy and violent aggression making it the best of the bunch thus far.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Purge: Election Year with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Although not boasting a broad color scheme, skin tones are nicely detailed and true to appearance while, the film’s level of bloodshed and neon-lit masks of various assailants make for the most eye-popping of visuals.  Furthermore, cast under the shadows of night and taking place in dimly lit bunkers and storefronts, black levels are generally pleasing with only occasional hints of digital noise and murkiness in facial closeups.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that handles dialogue with ease and authority, gunfire blasts, explosions and eerie street ambiance dominate the track for a mostly strong presentation.  Special features include, Deleted Scenes (8:05), Inside The Purge (5:31) where returning Director James DeMonaco and his cast reflect on the political themes and increased violence in the film plus, Character Spotlight: Leo (3:34) allows Star Frank Grillo to briefly touch upon his character’s development.  Lastly, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code conclude the supplemental package.

    Darkly fun and serving as good escape from the overwhelming presidential race, The Purge: Election Year paints the screen blood red, white and blue with higher stakes than ever before.  Returning anti-hero Frank Grillo leads a small yet effective ensemble cast to survival as masked Abe Lincoln’s and Lady Liberty’s practice their right to purge in our nation’s capital.  Earning its vote for the franchises most violently entertaining entry to date, Universal Studios Home Entertainment supports the onscreen anarchy with above average technical grades but, lacks more substantial bonus content.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Purge: Election Year can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Deadly Trackers (1973) Blu-ray Review

    The Deadly Trackers (1973)

    Director: Barry Shear

    Starring: Richard Harris, Rod Taylor, Al Lettieri, Neville Brand & William Smith

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After his wife and child are murdered, The Deadly Trackers finds orderly Sheriff Kilpatrick (Richard Harris, Unforgiven) seeking vengeance on the ruthless Frank Brand (Rod Taylor, The Birds) and his trio of thugs.  Tossing jurisdiction to the side, Kilpatrick continues his pursuit into Mexico where the only law the matters is his own.  Al Lettieri (The Godfather), Neville Brand (Eaten Alive) and William Smith (The Mean Season) co-star.

    In what began as a Sam Fuller directed adaptation of his own novel, The Deadly Trackers would ultimately halt production only to return under the watchful eye of Director Barry Shear (Across 110th Street).  Protecting his community of Santa Rosa with the highest regard for the law and a responsible stance on firearms, Irish Sheriff Sean Kilpatrick’s world quickly shatters when a bank robbery explodes into a deadly storm of slaughter leaving his wife murdered and young son trampled to death by horses.  Altered in the blink of an eye, Kilpatrick’s former-self is abolished as his vengeance-fueled pursuit of the criminal quartet leads him into Mexico.  Led by the dastardly Frank Brand in an effectively against type performance by Taylor, the ruthless baddie is assisted by lazy-eyed Schoolboy (Smith), iron handed Choo Choo (Brand) and the eloquent Jacob (Paul Benjamin, Some Kind of Hero) whose race finds him consistently scorned by Brand.  Sidetracked by a law-abiding Federali (Lettieri), Kilpatrick’s rogue journey through the Mexican land finds himself in custody and nearly hanged, only to escape and continue his relentless chase.  Harris delivers a powerful turn as a man with nothing left to lose who suffers physically and emotionally to invoke his own personal justice.  Although never overwhelming and far more suggestive than presented, The Deadly Trackers’ violence of slit throats, point-blank head shots and children in peril make suspenseful sequences all the more tense.  Constantly at odds and resulting in several tussles with his on-off again Mexican sheriff ally, Kilpatrick, virtually blind from a near-fatal gunshot, traces his foe to a convent where Brand’s young daughter is being raised, allowing for an emotionally humanizing sequence between the film’s unforgiving antagonist and his half-Mexican daughter.  Demanding what it means to be a hero and at what cost vengeance must come, The Deadly Trackers is a heart-pounding western, boasting sterling performances from both its leads and Mexican standoff levels of suspense.                           

    Warner Archive presents The Deadly Trackers with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Gorgeously filmic, the grand vistas of the western environment are sharply presented while, the grassy fields during the Mexican sequences are notably vibrant.  Impressing with natural skin tones that strongly detail perspiration and facial hair, only a blemish or two are spotted on this virtually immaculate transfer that transports viewers to the film’s scorching climate while crisply capturing stark levels of bloodshed.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is handsomely relayed with no hiss or pops detected while, the uncredited Fred Steiner’s (Gunsmoke) poignant score and unloading sounds of ammunition all make stirring impacts.  Unfortunately scant, the sole special feature included is the film’s Trailer (2:45).

    Largely underrated, The Deadly Trackers is a simple story of revenge carried out by a small-town sheriff.  Packed with ample levels of emotion and suspense, Harris and Taylor are spectacularly cast as adversaries with the latter’s performance as badman Brand being of particular note.  Ever diverse, the inclusion of this largely neglected western into Warner Archive’s impressive catalog is treated with expected quality and care that will greatly satisfy movie lovers.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available July 26th from Warner Archive, The Deadly Trackers can be purchased via WBShop.com, 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.

  • Dolemite (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Dolemite (1975)

    Director: D’Urville Martin

    Starring: Rudy Ray Moore, D’Urville Martin, Lady Reed & Jerry Jones

    Release by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Capitalizing on his comedic antics, Rudy Ray Moore (Disco Godfather) lit the blaxploitation genre on fire with his feature film debut Dolemite.  After being released from prison following a frame job, badass pimp Dolemite seeks to reclaim his hotspot club and take revenge on his nemesis Willie Green (D’Urville Martin, Sheba, Baby).  Dressed from top to bottom in the flyest outfits South Central has ever seen and aided by his squad of sexy Kung Fu trained bombshells, Dolemite is determined to take his streets back.  In what lacked in professional training, Moore easily makes up for with his hilarious charisma that comes to life through his larger than life urban superman.  In order to restore his reputation and avenge the murder of his nephew, Dolemite hits the ground running pressing local junkies and a trustworthy Reverend for information while sparing time to spit beat poetry and make sweet love to his flock of lingerie wearing beauties.  Complimented by a soundtrack of funky grooves written by Moore and performed by The Soul Rebellion Orchestra, Dolemite is never in short supply of car chases, shootouts and a climactic table turning brawl concluding with a deliciously over the top, organ ripping death cementing Dolemite’s explosive strength.  With a corrupt honkey mayor puppet mastering the city’s crimewave, Dolemite, with unexpected assistance for a smooth brother from the FBI (Jerry Jones, The Long Goodbye), brings stone cold justice to his tormentors in one of blaxploitation’s first and funniest quasi-parodies.

    Beautifully restored in 2K from the rare 35mm negative, Vinegar Syndrome presents Dolemite with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the few exceptions of mild scuffs and scratches, the film is a remarkable upgrade with an undeniable filmic appearance bursting with bold colors, handsome skin tones and solid detail in city streets and interior club dwellings.  An alternate “Boom Mic” version, presented in full screen, is also included showcasing the intrusion of filming equipment and other intendedly offscreen activity.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, dialogue is well preserved with the film’s music cues and firepower effects making stronger mentions on the satisfyingly handled track.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Rudy Ray Moore Biographer Mark Jason Murray, I, Dolemite (24:01), Elijah Drenner’s (That Guy Dick Miller) newly crafted making-of doc on the feature and Lady Reed Uncut (23:14), a vintage sit-down with co-star Lady Reed on her experiences working on the film.  Furthermore, Dolemite Locations: Then and Now (1:47), a Dolemite Theatrical Trailer (2:55), The Human Tornado Theatrical Trailer (2:45), a DVD edition of the release and a Reversible Cover Art preserving the original 1-sheet artwork wraps up the supplemental offerings.  Flashy and unapologetically fun, Vinegar Syndrome’s impressive restoration of this blaxploitation favorite, joined by a loaded barrel of bonus features, proves that Dolemite is nothing short of dynomite!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Dolemite can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Dillinger (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Dillinger (1973)

    Director: John Milius

    Starring: Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Michelle Phillips, Cloris Leachman, Harry Dean Stanton, John Ryan & Richard Dreyfuss

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Chronicling the final months of the infamous gangster, Dillinger stars Warren Oates (The Wild Bunch) as Public Enemy No. 1 John Dillinger on his bank robbing exploits as determined FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson, The Last Picture Show) closes in on his gang’s reign of crime.  Michelle Phillips (Valentino), Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein), Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man), John Ryan (It’s Alive) and Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws) co-star in John Milius’ (Red Dawn) directorial debut.

    Displeased with the outcome of his previously scripted features, the intimidatingly creative John Milius would be lured by American International Pictures to tell the tale of one of America’s most infamous characters.  Smooth as he was crooked, John Dillinger was idolized by the country’s average joes for his style and prison escape abilities while, law enforcement, rightfully so, had little affection for the criminal outside of seeing him push up daisies.  Creative liberties withstanding, Dillinger traces the famed bank robber’s assault on the midwest, his encounter and love affair with Billie Frechette (Phillips), the culmination of his cohorts including, Pretty Boy Floyd (Steve Kanaly, Dallas), Baby Face Nelson (Dreyfuss) among others and FBI Agent Melvin Purvis’ ruthless pursuit of Dillinger leading to his unapologetic demise.  Crafting a mythic tale that lives up to Dillinger’s legendary reputation, Warren Oates, reportedly never deeply researching his character, exudes charisma and ferocity as the commonly nonlethal criminal while, Academy Award winner Ben Johnson’s controlled demeanor and cigar chomping fearlessness wonderfully counterbalances the wildness of Dillinger’s gang of deviants.

    Although its female characters are grossly underdeveloped leading more to be desired from Dillinger and Billie’s relationship, Dillinger’s technical limitations affords the film a raw, documentary-like quality juxtaposed with black and white still photography and era accurate stock footage crafting a tonally rich presentation.  Far more brutal than the eternally hailed Bonnie and Clyde, Director John Milius' debut opus is an ambitious, down and dirty shoot’em up centered on the fascinating Dillinger gang and their violent assault on the country before succumbing to the returned fire of the capture hungry FBI.  Concerned with honoring the larger than life aspects of its titular character, Dillinger enforces the legend with its ruthlessly entertaining depiction.

    Restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents Dillinger with a 1080p transfer, retaining its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Casting a softer focus to retain a naturally lit appearance, colors can appear subdued with bolder choices found in wall paint and particular ensembles making stronger impressions.  Skin tones are rich with the gang’s suits appearing nicely textured while, black levels, although not deeply inky, are sufficiently pleasing with only minor instances of specks and flakes on display.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is audible while, the screeching sounds of getaway vehicles and tommy gun fire leave effective statements.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Author Stephen Prince, a Music & Effects Track, Shooting Dillinger with Jules Brenner (12:01) where the film’s cinematographer sits down for a newly captured interview, Lawrence Gordon: Original Gangster (10:08) hosts the producer as he recollects on his many credits and the film in question and Bullets and Ballads with Barry De Vorzon (12:00) finds the composer of The Warriors and Rolling Thunder sharing his personal experiences on many of his achievements.  Finally, a Still Gallery (99 in total), the Theatrical Trailer (2:23), a 23-page booklet featuring new and vintage essays from Kim Newman and John Astin, a DVD counterpart and a Reversible Cover Art boasting the film’s original 1-sheet poster conclude the releases supplements.

    Violently entertaining and wonderfully capturing a bygone era, Dillinger continues the assault of gangster cinema laid forth by Bonnie and Clyde with skilled performances and a rawness that draws viewers into Dillinger’s getaway ride.  Arrow Video does remarkable service to John Milius' directorial debut with a rich, newly transferred HD presentation and a strong stable of supplements that highlights the contributions of those behind the lens.  No one did it quite like Dillinger as Arrow Video’s capture and appreciation of this underrated AIP effort further cements its status.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Dillinger can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Hateful Eight (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Hateful Eight (2015)

    Director: Quentin Tarantino

    Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen & Bruce Dern

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Director Quentin Tarantino’s (Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds) eighth epic, The Hateful Eight descends on a wintry post-Civil War landscape where eight mysterious strangers ranging from a bounty hunter, hangman, fugitive and others, are all connected by a deadly circumstance.  The ensemble cast includes Tarantino regulars Samuel L. Jackson (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Kurt Russell (The Thing), Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction), Walton Goggins (Justified), Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and other such talents as Jennifer Jason Leigh (Anomalisa) and Demián Bichir (Weeds).

    Presented in six sprawling chapters, The Hateful Eight commands attention from its inception with breathtaking Colorado vistas substituting for Wyoming locales, gorgeously captured on 65mm film.  Hurtling towards the town of Red Rock with fugitive Daisy Domergue (Leigh) in tow, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Russell) intends to see his capture hang for her despicable crimes.  Attempting to dodge an impending blizzard, Ruth’s stagecoach encounters respected bounty hunter Major Maquis Warren (Jackson) and Red Rock’s soon-to-be sheriff Chris Mannix (Goggins), cautiously offering them a helping hand.  Overwhelmed by weather conditions, the oddly paired travelers seek refuge at a desolate haberdashery as they are greeted by unfamiliar faces with questionable motives.  Caring for the local business while its owner is away, Bob (Bichir) finds himself in the company of Red Rock’s executioner Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), simple cowboy Joe Gage (Madsen) and elder Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Dern).  With a hefty sum looming over Domergue’s head, suspicion and an eventual connection amongst the stayers spirals wildly out of control, settled only through bloodshed.

    Deservedly earning Composer Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America) his first Academy Award, The Hateful Eight, although unquestionably epic in scope through its stunning photography, also stands as Tarantino’s most intimately character-driven piece since 1992’s Reservoir Dogs.  With the written word serving as the auteur’s sharpest tool, The Hateful Eight is no exception as Jackson, receiving top-billing for the first time in a Tarantino effort, oozes with monologic swagger as the tough as nails bounty hunter with trigger happy precision and a total disdain for hateful honkies.  In addition, Russell outdoes himself as the justice serving captor of Daisy Domergue who never shies from rearranging his prisoner’s face while, Jennifer Jason Leigh brings fearless insanity to her Academy Award nominated role.  Furthermore, Walton Goggins deserves commendable praise for his gutsy performance that bounces audaciously off of Jackson’s.  For all its many merits, The Hateful Eight loses steam in one of its later chapters with a less than enthralling reveal for Daisy’s conspirators as they overtake Minnie’s Haberdashery and introduce her brother Jody (Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher).  Emerging as a top talent in recent years, Tatum unfortunately feels miscast as Daisy’s delinquent sibling, briefly snapping viewers out of the film’s progression.  Rectifying itself with a blood splattering finale leaving bullet casings and limbs in its wake, The Hateful Eight may not be Tarantino’s finest hour to date but, routinely delivers with its impactful performances and razor-sharp screenplay.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents The Hateful Eight with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.76:1 aspect ratio.  Photographed in Ultra Panavision 70, the fantastic sights of snowy mountains and rolling hills offer exquisite detail.  While the bulk of the film is set inside Minnie’s Haberdashery, the dimly lit, candle hosting ambiance is well-handled allowing textures in fur coats and other heavily layered attire to be easily read.  In addition, skin tones are marvelously detailed with facial air and aging lines prominently displayed while, the unflattering pigment of Daisy’s knocked out teeth and the film’s many buckets of blood make noticeably strong statements.  Although its remarkable roadshow version may not be fully duplicated, The Hateful Eight makes a filmically flawless high-definition debut.  Equipped with a stirring DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is consistently audible while, Morricone’s scoring queues are strongly enforced against the wailing blizzard-like winds and bombastic gunshots littered throughout the film’s effectively placed sound design.  Surprisingly scant, the disappointing level of special features include, Beyond the Eight: A Behind-the Scenes Look (4:58), a standard EPK with brief cast and crew interviews and Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm (7:49) which is a short yet, educational overview of 70mm presented features and the roadshows of yesteryear.  In addition, a DVD release of the film and a Digital HD UltraViolet Code is also included.  

    Gorgeously shot and making exceptional use of depth in its very centralized shooting location, The Hateful Eight is equal parts visually epic and strikingly intimate.  Arguably containing Samuel L. Jackson’s finest performance alongside the noteworthy efforts of Russell, Leigh and Goggins, Tarantino’s bloody journey through the Wyoming wilderness makes slight miscalculations in its final act yet, never jeopardizes the strength of its expertly crafted dialogue and violently entertaining moments.  Although unfortunately offering little in the supplemental department, Anchor Bay Entertainment dazzles viewers with its phenomenal technical grades.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Anchor Bay Entertainment, The Hateful Eight can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Invasion U.S.A. (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Invasion U.S.A. (1985)

    Director: Joseph Zito

    Starring: Chuck Norris, Richard Lynch & Melissa Prophet

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Confronted for the first time with terroristic chaos on American soil, the Cannon Group responds with the action-packed Invasion U.S.A.!  Co-scripted and starring Chuck Norris (Lone Wolf McQuade), the bearded martial artist appears as former CIA agent Matt Hunter, living a quiet life in the Florida swamps, wrasslin’ with gators and offering airboat rides to tourists.  When seedy Soviet agent Mikhail Rostov (Richard Lynch, Bad Dreams) leads an international squad of terrorists to invade the country, Matt is pulled back into the game to bring his longtime foe down.  As Rostov’s men strike fear into the hearts of citizens, authorities can’t be fully trusted leading Matt to wage a one-man war against hundreds.  Spewed from the infamous Cannon Films during the decadent 1980s, Invasion U.S.A. easily ranks as one of the most over-the-top and entertainingly absurd B-movie action pictures of the era.  Donned in denim and strapped with machine guns, Norris unloads endless rounds of ammunition into the mercenaries as the streets of Miami run rampant with race riots and unprecedented guerrilla warfare.  Other notable highlights include, Rostov slamming a cokehead’s snorting pipe through her nostril while, shooting the gonads off anyone who questions him.  Filming in an Atlanta suburb destined for demolition, a Christmastime celebrating neighborhood is impressively blown to smithereens with another soon-to-be demolished shopping mall equally destroyed by Norris’ 4x4 plowing through its walls.  Littered with bullet holes by its finale, Norris demonstrates hand to hand combat on Lynch’s face before bazooka blasting his enemy in one of the genre’s finest mic drops of all time.  Igniting a war only the 80s could offer, Invasion U.S.A. remains as insanely fun as ever and stands as one of Norris’ best in a career filled with extensive macho ridiculousness.

    Shout! Factory presents Invasion U.S.A. with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, daytime swamp sequences appear mildly soft while, skin tones read naturally with Norris’ iconic beard and Lynch’s scarred neck relayed with detailed clarity.  Excellently cleaned up with dirt and debris overwhelmingly unseen, slight speckling appears in black levels without ever compromising their overall inky appearances.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is effortlessly delivered with precision as the film’s nonstop shootouts and explosive anarchy provide room to showoff.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also provided.  Special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Joseph Zito, Loose Cannons with Screenwriter James Bruner (29:04) and Cannon Carnage: The Make-Up Effects of Invasion U.S.A. (17:48) with interviews from Howard Berger, Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero.  Furthermore, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:33), TV Spot (0:31), a Still Gallery (30 in total) and a Braddock: Missing in Action III Theatrical Trailer (1:32) round out the disc’s supplemental content.

    Trading in his slasher movie card for this action bonanza, Director Joseph Zito’s (The Prowler, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) Invasion U.S.A. assaults viewers with a war on our home turf that can only be fought by the machine-gun toting bearded one.  Co-starring beloved character actor Richard Lynch, this balls to the wall effort remains a Cannon Films gem for its sheer firepower and preposterously awesome destruction.  Shout! Factory welcomes the long-anticipated cult favorite with a top-notch HD presentation and newly produced supplements sure to catch fire with fans of this fiery feature.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 15th from Shout! Factory, Invasion U.S.A. can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Sheba, Baby (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Sheba, Baby (1975)

    Director: William Girdler

    Starring: Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, D’Urville Martin, Rudy Challenger & Dick Merrifield

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After a local mob boss threatens her father’s life and loan business, Sheba, Baby finds Chicago based private detective Sheba Shayne (Pam Grier, Coffy) returning home to Louisville to even the odds.  Joined by her father’s loyal partner, Sheba proves to the roughest thugs that her killer instincts are on par with her good looks.  Austin Stoker (Assault on Precinct 13), D’Urville Martin (Dolemite), Rudy Challenger (Detroit 9000) and Dick Merrifield (The Hellcats) co-star.

    Returning to the Blaxploitation genre that catapulted her career, buxom beauty Pam Grier continues her reign of making jive-ass criminals pay the piper with the help of her trusty .44.  A joint production between American International Pictures and Mid-American Pictures, Sheba, Baby finds Grier trading her vigilante antics for a career as a private eye.  After returning home to Kentucky after her father is threatened to sell his business to mobsters, the tough as nails Sheba wastes little time interrogating local scumbags for information.  Using her curvy figure and sexy looks to her advantage, Sheba finds her way to crime boss Pilot (Martin) and his dimwitted cronies.  Engaged in a series of risky run-ins with her prime suspects at a local amusement park, the determined vixen never stops applying pressure, leading her to head honcho Shark (Merrifield) on his high-profile yacht.  Shootouts, water chases via jet skis and Grier’s badass attitude permeate the film until the goon population cowers in defeat.

    Continuing in the tradition of Grier’s other strong-willed roles for AIP, Sheba, Baby lacks the down and dirty edge of Coffy and Foxy Brown although, Grier’s acting abilities and action handling are never in doubt.  Helmed by notable cult director William Girdler (Abby, Grizzly) and produced by David Sheldon (Lovely But Deadly, Just Before Dawn), Sheba, Baby’s increased budget is apparent and effectively put to use in the film’s oceanic climax while, Grier’s rising star power unfortunately kept the bombshell from shedding any skin.  Advertised as “hotter ’n’ Coffy, meaner ’n’ Foxy Brown!”, Sheba, Baby may not quite live up to those expectations but, still greatly entertains with its action-packed sequences and funky tunes establishing the proper groove.  

    Arrow Video presents Sheba, Baby with a 1080p transfer struck from a new 35mm Interpositive, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Scratches and scuffs are nowhere to be seen while, skin tones appear natural and pleasing.  Sunny, exterior moments occasionally appear soft with colors found in the flashy 70s attire making striking statements.  Meanwhile, black levels are excellent with no evidence of crush in this wonderfully, filmic looking transfer.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is well supported and free of any distortion with gunfire and the film’s few music selections making strong deliveries.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Producer/Co-Screenwriter David Sheldon and Audio Commentary with Historian Patty Breen.  In addition, Sheldon Baby: An Interview with David Sheldon (15:16), Pam Grier: The AIP Years (11:54) finds Film Historian Chris Poggiali dishing the skinny on Grier’s knockout roles during her tenure at the drive-in cinema production factory.  The film’s Trailer (1:54), a Still Gallery (18 in total) and a 15-page booklet featuring an essay by Patty Breen are also joined by a Reversible Cover Art utilizing the original 1-sheet poster and a DVD edition of the release.

    Quite possibly the definitive figure of Blaxploitation, Pam Grier exudes attitude and sexiness while letting the barrel of her gun do much of the talking.  Although perfecting her craft with each new role during her formative years, Sheba, Baby lacks the grittiness of Grier’s collaborations with Director Jack Hill while, still upholding many of the entertaining tropes of its popular genre.  Admittedly not her finest outing, Arrow Video expectedly treats this cult favorite like gold with another eye-pleasing transfer and always enthralling new bonus features.  Fans of grindhouse cinema and Blaxploitation beauty Pam Grier cannot be without Sheba, Baby.

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) Blu-ray Review

    Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)

    Director: Mark L. Lester

    Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Tia Carrere & Toshishiro Obata

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in Los Angeles, Showdown in Little Tokyo centers on muscled American detective Chris Kenner (Dolph Lundgren, Rocky IV) steeped in Eastern traditions and the way of the samurai.  When ruthless Yakuza drug lord and murderer of Kenner’s parents Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Mortal Kombat) sets up operation in the local Japanese community, Kenner teams up with Valley born Japanese detective Johnny Murata (Brandon Lee, The Crow) to protect gorgeous witness Minako (Tia Carrere, Wayne’s World) and bring down the narcotics ring.

    Showcasing the wildly diverse directing duties of Mark L. Lester (Roller Boogie, Class of 1984), Showdown in Little Tokyo packs equal doses of punches and laughs for a fast-paced action adventure.  Starring Dolph Lundgren as Detective Chris Kenner, the underworld of Japanese drugs and crime rings threaten the local community with the arrival of Iron Claw Yakuza leader Yoshida (Tagawa).  Following the murder of his parents by Yoshida’s blade years prior, Kenner was raised in the Japanese culture, becoming skilled in combat and weapons.  When fellow Japanese detective Johnny Murata (Lee), raised in sunny California with little to no knowledge of his culture, is teamed with Kenner, the two highly-trained martial artists are determined to see Yoshida brought to justice.  Shortly after taking control of various operations in Little Tokyo, Yoshida beheads a disloyal party girl much to the dismay of her friend and club singer Minako (Carrere).  Willing to testify against the deadly crime leader, Kenner and Murata must keep the attractive damsel protected as they wage a two man war against the overpowering drugs lords.  

    In a yin and yang role reversal with Lundgren as an American absorbed by Japanese culture and Lee as the oriental raised on MTV and California hotspots, Showdown in Little Tokyo provides a solid canvas for the two opposites to comically bounce off one another.  With the ability to leap over moving vehicles and brawl with coffee in hand, Lundgren continues the machismo of entertaining over the top action heroes while, Lee serves as the dominant comedic relief, hilariously complimenting his partner on the size of his “personal pistol”.  With the eternally beautiful Tia Carrere appearing as Kenner’s eventual love interest, Showdown in Little Tokyo offers sizable moments of heavy shootouts and a final samurai sword duel between Kenner and Yoshida in the neon lit streets of Little Tokyo.  Unquestionably silly and excellently action-packed, Showdown in Little Tokyo failed to leave a lasting impression on domestic audiences before being shunned directly to video in international territories.  With a lightning fast runtime and worthwhile laughs to be had, Showdown in Little Tokyo serves as an explosive blast of buddy cop shenanigans and a memorable comedic turn for the late Brandon Lee in one of his final roles.

    Preserving its R-rated cut, Warner Archive presents Showdown in Little Tokyo with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing free of any intrusive instances of dirt or debris, colors are solid with skin tones reading naturally and warm.  With a noticeably filmic representation, the film provides excellent inky black levels with detail found in the Yakuza’s multicolored tattoos and various facial features impressing.  Continuing their dedication to quality transfers, Warner Archive delivers another effort worthy of its praise.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is crystal clear while its respective score and massive moments of gunfire are adequately prioritized providing viewers with a solid listening experience.  Lastly, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:13) is included as the sole special feature.

    Treating likeminded viewers to more cult fare, Warner Archive unexpectedly welcomes the martial-arts laughfest Showdown in Little Tokyo to Blu-ray for the first time ever.  Delivering enjoyable onscreen chemistry and explosive action, Lundgren and Lee are excellently matched as L.A. detectives thwarting a Yakuza drug leader’s plans, leaving a trail of bullets and bloodshed along the way.  Appearing in its finest presentation to date, Warner Archive provides action aficionados with this unsung effort from the director of Commando.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 21st from Warner Archive, Showdown in Little Tokyo can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Foxy Brown (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Foxy Brown (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Terry Carter, Kathryn Loder & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blaxploitation bombshell Pam Grier (Coffy) reteams with Director Jack Hill in Foxy Brown.  High on revenge following the murder of her government agent boyfriend, Foxy goes deep undercover into the seedy world of sex trafficking to make those responsible pay with their lives.  Antonio Fargas (Car Wash), Peter Brown (Teenage Tease), Terry Carter (The Phil Silvers Show), Kathryn Loder (Night of the Witches) and Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses) co-star.

    Following the success of Coffy, American International Pictures hoped to recapture the excitement with a sequel before ditching the idea for an original concept.  With Director Jack Hill and star Pam Grier back in the fold, Foxy Brown may not feel wholly original from their previous collaboration but, most certainly excels in every way.  After her delinquent brother offers up her government agent boyfriend as debt clearance, Foxy Brown is determined to take her revenge.  While her occupation is never revealed, Foxy is a whole lot of woman that is capable of handling herself and anyone who steps in her way.  Adorned with flashy outfits and an even more empowering attitude, Pam Grier once again bears her assets to tantalize her way into a sex trafficking ring linked with high-level drug kingpins.  Grier appears more confident in her role as an independent soul that not only thoroughly entertains but, liberated female audiences during the turbulent decade.  With its theme of revenge carried over from Hill’s previous effort, Foxy Brown is noticeably more extreme with Foxy submitted to forced heroin injections and suggested rape only to respond accordingly by lighting her attackers on fire.  In addition, teaming up with a gang of neighborhood avengers, Foxy castrates a criminal in order to deliver his manparts to his prostitute ring leading girlfriend.  Effective and even more savage much to the delight of exploitation enthusiasts, Foxy Brown has little time for jive, delivering viewers one of blaxploitation’s finest and arguably, Grier’s most entertaining performance.

    Olive Films presents Foxy Brown with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Accompanied with fleeting instances of flakes and speckles, the flashy colors found in wardrobe pop nicely with skin tones and detail in facial features benefitting from its hi-def upgrade.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is pleasing while sequences taking place in a crowded bar suffer slightly from too many components overwhelming the track.  Unfortunately, once again surrendering to overseas releases overflowing with supplements, Olive Films provides no special features on this release.

    The creative combination of Director Jack Hill and leading lady Pam Grier has been cemented in the history of cinema as grindhouse gold.  Slicker, sexier and more violent, Foxy Brown stands as one of blaxploitation’s towering achievements and a standout role for Grier that made her an eternal pillar for 42nd Street.  Making its U.S. debut on Blu-ray, Olive Films delivers a transfer well worth celebrating while, the lack of bonus content disappoints.  The strength and essentialness of the film itself warrants Foxy Brown into every blaxploitation fans‘ collection.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Foxy Brown can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Coffy (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Coffy (1973)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui, William Elliott & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From grindhouse directing icon Jack Hill (Spider Baby, The Big Bird Cage), Coffy stars Pam Grier as Nurse “Coffy” Coffin.  Determined to extract revenge on the drug pushers that hooked her young sister, Coffy uses her undeniable body language and arsenal of heavy firepower to take back the night from society’s scum.  Booker Bradshaw (The Strawberry Statement), Robert DoQui (Robocop), William Elliott (Night of the Lepus), Allan Arbus (Greaser’s Palace) and Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) co-star.

    Following appearances in several women in prison pictures, Pam Grier would graduate to become one of the fiercest and most beloved icons of blaxploitation cinema.  Shot in a remarkable 18 days and centering on a liberated nurse disgusted with the seedy criminals poisoning society, Nurse “Coffy” Coffin (Grier) takes matters into her own hands to avenge the corruption of her young sister to junkies and their organization.  Demanding your attention from its earliest moments, Grier is a magnetic force of beauty that never shies from using her sexuality to con pimps and dealers before putting a bullet in them.  Simple in its execution with revenge her top priority, the stakes are elevated when thugs land Coffy’s longtime copper friend Carter (Elliott) in the hospital.  Displeased with ridding the city of only street level hustlers, Coffy decides to infiltrate drug kingpins with ties to corrupt city officials.  Engulfed in a world of prostitutes and narcotics, Coffy delivers a glorious highlight reel of exploitation from seedy characters and scantly clad women to a barrage of shootouts and an empowered protagonist that talks the talk and walks the walk.  Ever resourceful with razors stashed in her afro and bursting with nonstop attitude, Coffy is a landmark blaxploitation effort that catapulted Grier’s career to new heights and remains one of her most entertaining and enduring works.

    Olive Films presents Coffy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Exhibiting instances of flakes and speckles, Director Jack Hill’s low-budget effort retains a nice layer of grain while relaying natural skin tones and warm colors.  Black levels are respectable with flakes only slightly more apparent but far from discouraging.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is free of any troubling distortion but occasionally sounds restrained.  Unfortunately, unlike overseas counterparts bursting with bonus content, Olive Films‘ release arrives with no special features.

    Applauded for its tough female lead and exceptional exploitative highlights, Coffy set star Pam Grier on a road to stardom that is still revered today.  Serving as one of the finest examples from blaxploitation’s heyday, Coffy’s vigilante tale of revenge dished out by the baddest chick on the block packs the punches to deserve its rightful praise amongst grindhouse aficionados.  Making its long-awaited domestic HD debut, Olive Films delivers the film with appreciable looks and sounds but, drops the ball with zero special features for such a landmark picture of the 70s.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Coffy can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Massacre Gun (1967) Blu-ray Review

    Massacre Gun (1967)

    Director: Yasuharu Hasebe

    Starring: Jô Shishido, Tatsuya Fuji, Jirô Okazaki, Hidekai Nitani & Takashi Kanda

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring genre icon Jô Shishido (Branded to Kill), Massacre Gun focuses on Kuroda (Shishido), a mob hitman who gives up his profession following orders to execute his lover.  Joined by his devoted brothers, hotheaded Eiji (Tatsuya Fuji, In the Realm of the Sense) and aspiring boxer Saburô (Jirô Okazaki, Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter), the trio embark on a deadly retaliation war against the mob that won’t end until one side is defeated.  

    Soaked in monochrome and reminiscent of the moody American film noirs of the 1930s and 40s, Massacre Gun is the embodiment of the “Nikkatsu Noir”, produced by the studio during a booming decade of popularity.  Noticeably more savage and unforgiving than its stateside predecessors, Director Yasuharu Hasebe’s (Retaliation) blood thicker than water tale grooms the viewer with a familiar narrative of turf wars and revenge before shocking the senses with brutal shootouts uncommon for its era.  Jô Shishido stars as the reserved Kuroda, a mobster at odds with his employer after being forced to execute his lover.  Unable to continue his duties, Kuroda respectfully quits his profession only to incense gang boss Akazawa (Takashi Kanda) who won’t take no for an answer.  Simultaneously angered by Akazawa’s overpowering grip, youngest brother and boxing prodigy Saburô (Jirô Okazaki) confronts the crime boss only to have his hands shattered, ending his professional career.  In addition, fellow brother Eiji’s (Tatsuya Fuji) Club Rainbow hotspot and base of their operations is destroyed by Akazawa’s men leaving the brothers shattered and filled with rage.  Determined to take their revenge, the Kuroda brothers slowly begin reclaiming turf from Akazawa as a full on gang war is initiated.  Masterfully directed by Hasebe, Massacre Gun oozes with style as smoke infested bars and back room gambling parties become commonplace in a world where respect is demanded by those most dangerous.  

    With his bed firmly made and pursued by mobsters, Kuroda’s friend and active employee of Akazawa, Shirasaka (Hidekai Nitani), pleads with Kuroda to reconsider his actions to no avail.  With no choices remaining, the two former friends become deadliest of enemies as attempted hits are consistently made on one another’s sides.  With the exception of Kuroda’s lovers murder, Massacre Gun almost fails to live up to its name as the brothers resist the urge to use gun power until a casket housing a dead body and explosives arrives at Club Rainbow.  As the stakes are raised, so is the film’s violence with a firing squad of mobsters going up against a one man army in Kuroda and his rifle.  Over-the-top shootouts and an intense finale on a dormant highway road leave little time to breathe and endless rounds of ammunition and bloodshed on the screen.  Exchanging samurai swords for pistols and honor being substituted for bloodthirsty revenge, Massacre Gun is technically sound with exquisite camerawork from Cinematographer Kazue Nagatsuka (Youth of the Beast) and Shishido’s focused yet, deadly manner making his performance a standout.  Stylistic and wildly violent, Massacre Gun stands as a shining example of the bygone “Nikkatsu Noir” subgenre.

    Marking its Blu-ray debut, Arrow Video presents Massacre Gun with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Nicely detailed and capturing noirish shadows with clarity, Massacre Gun has minor instances of speckling with black levels generally pleasing in the characters’ dark suits.  Some exterior daytime sequences exhibit overblown whites while, each cut in the film demonstrates an occasionally bothersome framing line at the top of the screen.  Anomalies aside, the transfer greatly succeeds where it counts making the viewing experience a pleasure.  Accompanied with an LPCM 1.0 mix and optional English subtitles, the film’s Japanese dialogue is delivered with excellent clarity, free of any distortion.  Exhibiting a fitting jazz score, Massacre Gun delivers with a blaring horn section and a strong sense of depth.  In addition, gunshots rattle the mix with impressive authority, heightening the onscreen violence.  Special features include, an Interview with Jô Shishido (17:38).  Newly produced for this release and accompanied with subtitles, 80 year-old Shishido discusses his impressive career highlights and involvement in the film.  Furthermore, an Interview with Tony Rayns (36:26) is included as Film Historian and Critic Rayns discusses Nikkatsu’s lengthy and diverse filmmaking history.  In addition, a Trailer (2:25), Promotional Gallery (14 still in total), 22-page booklet comprised of various stills and a newly prepared essay by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp, reversible cover art and DVD edition of the release round out the supplemental offerings.

    Excellently capturing a noirish atmosphere and injecting increased levels of violence, Massacre Gun feels strikingly American in its style but, notably original in its delivery.  Sealed with terrific performances and detailed direction, Massacre Gun tells its tale of revenge with the utmost seriousness and the bullets to back it up.  Limited to 3,000 units, Arrow Video debuts Massacre Gun on Blu-ray for the first time with admirable technical merits and scholarly special features that educate the viewer on the film and Nikkatsu’s enduring legacy.  Fans of stylish film noirs yearning for an adrenaline shot will be impressively blown away by Massacre Gun.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow VideoMassacre Gun can be purchased via ArrowFilms.com.ukAmazon.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.

  • Bloody Birthday (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Bloody Birthday (1981)
    Director: Ed Hunt
    Starring: Lori Lethin, K.C. Martel, Julie Brown, Elizabeth Hoy, Billy Jayne & Andrew Freeman
    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A bonafide cult classic of the killer kids subgenre, where three suburban tikes wage a full-scale murdering spree on their quiet community.  Still shocking and controversial, Director Ed Hunt (Starship Invasions) weaves a slasher-esque tale of carnage with the most unlikely murderers at the helm.  Boasting a new HD transfer from the original vault materials, Severin Films proudly presents Bloody Birthday on Blu-ray for the first time in America.

    Bloody Birthday kicks off in Meadowvale, California circa 1970 where three babies are born at the height of a solar eclipse.  10 years later, Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy, X-Ray), Curtis (Billy Jayne, Just One of the Guys) and Steven (Andrew Freeman, Beyond Witch Mountain) begin a sadistic murder spree on the adults in their town.  When fellow classmate Timmy (K.C. Martel, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and older sister Joyce (Lori Lethin, The Prey) learn who’s responsible, the killer trio are determined to keep them quite permanently.  Susan Strasberg (Sweet 16), José Ferrer (Dune) and MTV hottie Julie Brown (Earth Girls Are Easy) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    By 1981, cinemagoers were well aware of the hulking, silent slashers of the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises.  In addition, the sudden popularity in the genre birthed countless imitators whose devious antagonists were generally, insane men hiding behind the disguise of a mask.  Director Ed Hunt’s killer kiddie flick, Bloody Birthday, instead chose to humanize its horror and shock audiences by turning innocence into fear.  Sweet-looking but bearing devilish grins, the deadly children have no remorse for their heinous crimes, similar to a young Michael Myers.  Following traditional slasher tropes, the trios‘ targets are horny teenagers and any authority figure that stands in their way.  Being birthed during a solar eclipse and a hokey astrological explanation serves as exposition for the kids‘ fatal behavior.  While, bordering on the cheesy side, the film earnestly sticks to its guns, ensuring a fun time for all.

    The trio waste little time doing away with Debbie’s father (who also serves as the town sheriff) by pelting him repeatedly with a baseball bat.  With daddy dearest out of the way, our pint-sized serial killers are in possession of his firearm.  Unusual by slasher standards, the kids incorporating a gun into their assaults makes sense given the unfair advantage of their size.  Retrospectively, viewing the film in a post-Columbine age, the effect is even more frightening.  The tiny terrors unleash more death in the form of jump rope strangulations, beatings and most notably, a bow is used to launch an arrow into a victims eye.  Bloody Birthday also supplies a suitable amount of nudity that includes Julie Brown undressing while, Curtis and Steven snoop through a peep hole, confirming that sex is still high on the minds of 10-year-old homicidal children.  Secondly, a sex-craved couple get hot and heavy in a graveyard while, another bare all in the back of a van before Curtis installs bullets through their heads.  After fellow classmate Timmy (Martel) and older sister Joyce (Lethin) learn the truth, the deviants make them their prime targets.  An exciting third act involves siblings dodging bullets and Timmy exchanging blows with Curtis, before the jig gets pulled on the little monsters.  The film concludes open-endedly, leaving room for a potential sequel that sadly, would never come.

    Shot cheaply and quickly, Bloody Birthday is a sadistically fun time, ranking high as one of the best killer kiddie flicks to invade the horror genre.  Reminiscent of Village of the Damned with an 80s slasher twist, Bloody Birthday is an underrated gem ripe for rediscovery.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Severin Films presents Bloody Birthday with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Understandably, Bloody Birthday has never looked phenomenal on home video.  Severin Films upgrades their original DVD release to the Blu-ray format which bolsters decent, albeit slightly washed out colors.  Contrast and detail aren’t meticulously sharp but can still be appreciated most in facial close-ups.  Black levels, while admittedly underlit, can be quite murky, mostly noticed in the opening graveyard sequence.  Fortunately, Bloody Birthday possesses a relatively clean presentation with little to no intruding scratch factors.  A marginal upgrade from its previous DVD release, but unquestionably, the finest the film has ever looked.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 Mono mix, Bloody Birthday sounds rather flat, but audible.  Dialogue comes across fine although, a slight hiss and the occasional pops can be heard on the mix.  A brief audio dropout occurs near the final act but luckily, no dialogue is lost in the moment.  Slightly underwhelming, the mix is still sufficient.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:
    Severin Films has kindly ported over all the features from their original DVD release:

    - Audio Interview with Director Ed Hunt: Nearing over 50 minutes, Hunt sits down and discusses his original interest in filmmaking, attending film school at UCLA and his professional film efforts leading up to Bloody Birthday and beyond.  The interview is  very extensive and informative leaving no stone unturned.

    - Don’t Eat That Cake - An Interview with Lori Lethin: Lethin sits down to discuss her work on the picture, the lack of child safety on the set and her current occupation as a drug and alcohol counselor.

    - A Brief History of Slasher Films Featurette: Adam Rockoff, author of Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986, provides a general history lesson on the popular genre, incorporating clips and poster artwork for some of the most memorable titles.  

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Teaser Trailer: Provided as an Easter egg on the disc.

    - Severin Films Trailers: Includes Bloody Moon, Horror Express, Nightmares and The Baby.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Continuing the cycle of other slashers, Bloody Birthday dares to be unique by placing sweet children as the ruthless killers.  Still controversial, Director Ed Hunt’s killer kiddie flick works low-budget wonders with a fun cast to watch and some brutal murder sequences that are enhanced by the merciless young maniacs.  Severin Films rightly deserves praise for promoting this underrated goodie to HD in its finest edition to date.  The strength and entertainment factor of the film alone deserves a high recommendation to fans in need of more homicidal children in their cult collections.
    RATING: 4/5

  • The Mechanic (1972) Blu-ray Review

    The Mechanic (1972)
    Director: Michael Winner
    Starring: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn & Jill Ireland
    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their working relationship, Director Michael Winner (The Sentinel) and star Charles Bronson (Mr. Majestyk) re-team for a tale about professionalism.  Tough and weathered, Bronson brings his always reliable acting chops to the table that would propel him to superstardom two short years later with Death Wish.  Stylistically taken for granted today, The Mechanic stands tall as a character-driven action thriller with stellar performances and an effective score from Composer Jerry Fielding (The Wild Bunch).  Available in a limited edition of 3,000 units, Twilight Time proudly presents this long appreciated Winner/Bronson collaboration for the first time on Blu-ray!

    The Mechanic stars Charles Bronson as Arthur Bishop, a professional hitman feeling the stress of his work.  After striking up a friendship with a hungry up-and-comer (Jan-Michael Vincent), the student/teacher partnership slowly unravels into dangerous territory.  Keenan Wynn (Nashville) and Jill Ireland (Hard Times) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    Kicking off with a 16-minute dialogue free introduction, The Mechanic quickly draws you into the gritty Los Angeles landscape and Bronson’s calculated surveillance of his next victim.  The fly on the wall approach as we witness Bronson’s crafty steps to ensure the job looks like an accident makes the viewer feel as if they are part of the hit.  Shortly after, Arthur Brooks (Bronson) is summoned by a friend of his late father (Keenan Wynn) for protection only to have Brooks double cross him in the way of business.  Ruthless yet reserved, Brooks is growing tired of his lifestyle and yearns for normalcy.  Returning home to what appears to be a beautiful girlfriend (played by Bronson’s real life wife, Jill Ireland) anxiously awaiting his presence, the two engage in a night of passionate lovemaking.  The following morning, Brooks is seen paying the woman and complimenting her on her role-playing skills, further cementing Brooks’ desire for a regular existence.  The void in Brooks’ life is filled in the form of Steve McKeena, (Jan-Michael Vincent), son of Brook’s last hit.  Surprisingly, McKeena’s determination impresses the seasoned hitman and the two form a partnership.  Deadly and less cautious, McKeena is the perfect contrast to Brooks’ old-school yet effective methods.  Thrilling sequences for the team include a hit gone wrong, escalating into a high-stakes motorcycle chase.

    Director Michael Winner’s focused and quick cut style keeps the energy high as Brooks and McKeena’s relationship is tested as the apprentice challenges the teacher.  Brooks’ anxiety and frequent fainting bouts doesn’t help matters as McKeena becomes more unpredictable.  Leading to an exciting third act with twists at every turn, The Mechanic is a testament to the changing climate in Hollywood at the time where gritty, independent cinema was beginning to take hold.  Remade in 2011 with Jason Statham (Crank) and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) starring, Michael Winner’s original 1972 thriller maintains true style and Bronson’s steady performance would help reinvent the action star image for a new decade.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Twilight Time presents The Mechanic with a 1080p transfer sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Retaining natural grain, The Mechanic looks very pleasing and accurately captures its 70s city landscapes.  Flakes and specks are at a minimum with colors and detail popping nicely.  With the exception of some softer-looking scenes, The Mechanic looks more than satisfying.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, The Mechanic comes in loud and rather robust at times.  Dialogue is crisp while scenes of gunfire and explosions fill your speakers with force.  No noticeable distortion was found, making the audio treatment on par with the film’s excellent transfer.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Cinematographer Richard H. Kline: Moderated by film historian Nick Redman, Kline sits down for his first commentary discussing his early beginnings as a camera operator at Columbia Pictures as well as making over 100 films under Sam Katzman before eventually becoming a director of photography.  Kline recalls his working relationship with Director Michael Winner on several projects and regards him as a focused and talented artist.  Redman does his homework and engages Kline with great questions making this commentary a very beneficial one to listen to.

    - Isolated Score Track: Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

    - 6-page booklet: Includes a well done essay by Julie Kirgo accompanied with screenshots from the film.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Exciting and riveting, The Mechanic is a film many others try to replicate today with lesser results.  Simple in execution, the film thrives on Bronson and Vincent’s chemistry as well as the edge of your seat action sequences that helped propel Winner as a mainstay in the genre.  Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-ray is a knockout with a clean, natural appearance and a lively sound mix.  In addition, Cinematographer Richard H. Kline’s first audio commentary is an informative one, well worth a listen.  Bronson fans will revel in this pre-Death Wish examination of a skilled hitman at odds with his apprentice.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Lust for Freedom (1987) DVD Review

    Lust for Freedom (1987)
    Director: Eric Louzil
    Starring: Melanie Coll, William J. Kulzer, Judi Trevor, Howard Knight & Elizabeth Carroll
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Independent distributors, Vinegar Syndrome, take a breather from their highly successful adult entertainment output to excavate treasures from the Troma Entertainment vaults.  A feministic action tale told behind the bars of a women’s prison sets the course for this 80s cult hit produced by Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger) and directed by Eric Louzil (Class of Nuke’ Em High Part II: Subhumanoid Meltdown, Class of Nuke’ Em High Part III: The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid).  Newly restored from the original negative, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents Lust for Freedom, where girls take the law into their own hands!

    Lust for Freedom stars Melanie Coll, in her only film role to date, as Gillian Kaites, a special undercover agent who experiences the brutal murder of her boyfriend in a sting operation gone wrong.  Looking to move on after the tragedy, Kaites finds herself in a world of trouble as she is subdued and whisked away to a women’s prison.  Corruption and perversion run rampant as Kaites plots a bloody revenge against those responsible for her unjust imprisonment.  

    MOVIE:
    While, intended to be a parody with comedic shades, Lust for Freedom comes across far more earnest than most Troma productions.  Kicking off with a play by play narration by Coll (that continues throughout the film) of an undercover operation, shootouts run amok with some wildly hilarious gunshot reactions and hokey fight choreography that sets the stage for a film of performers trying their best.  Coll’s partner and boyfriend ends up dead resulting in her need to escape the life and surroundings she has come to know.  Driving aimlessly with no true destination in mind, Coll picks up a frantic female hitchhiker in the desert before being stopped by the local sheriff.  It doesn’t take long before the friendly sheriff cons Coll back to the station to drug and relocate her in the local women’s prison.  A dangerous institution where the prisoners are held under false charges and for the wicked amusement of the warden and his cronies, Coll has entered a living nightmare.  Judi Trevor (Leather Jackets) makes a memorable appearance as the despicable head of the prison who makes life horrifying for the inmates.  Lust for Freedom proudly embellishes the popular traits of women in prison flicks with first time lesbian encounters, shower-filled T&A sequences, rape, brutal whippings plus, inmate wrestling matches to the death.  All the ingredients are present and accounted for, albeit, slightly underused especially for a Troma production.  Luckily, the array of actresses‘, with their nicely styled 80s hairdos and fully applied made-up faces, are quite attractive making risque scenes all the more rewarding.  

    The more time Coll spends in this house of horrors, the better she understands the corruption at work and plots revenge.  Teaming up with fellow inmates, Coll relies on her undercover skills and way with firearms to turn the tables on the establishment.  More shootouts, explosions and a wild inferno, all to the blaring songs of Grim Reaper, bring the heinous prison down.  Lust for Freedom works on nearly every level for fans of the women in prison subgenre, although, the more scandalous material could have benefitted from being exploited more.  In addition, Coll’s endless narration to the obvious grows tiresome but never takes away from the fun of the film.  Shot cheaply, the laughable action sequences and the “high speed” car chases that barely crack school zone limits add an air of charm worth reveling in.  Far from perfect, Lust for Freedom separates itself from other Troma productions by winking at the audience instead of cementing the tongue to their cheek, paving the way for an arrestingly good time.
    RATING: 4/5          

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Lust for Freedom in an 1.85:1 aspect ratio, scanned in 2K from a 35mm blow-up negative.  Originally filmed in 16mm, Lust for Freedom experiences instances of vertical lines and flakes early on but, improves as the run time progresses.  A slight speckling appears throughout the film which looks more inherent in the film stock than the restoration process.  The plain and sterile scheme of the prison casts a rather dull appearance especially with the inmates all wearing white.  The few colors present, most notably in Coll’s red shirt before her imprisonment, as well as skin tones pop as nicely as could be expected especially in close-ups.  Vinegar Syndrome’s restoration is a welcome one for a film that would have more than likely received lesser treatment from others.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mix, Lust for Freedom slightly suffers from just being a little too low.  Cranking the volume up will become necessary to pick up all dialogue especially in the prison where voices tend to echo constantly.  Luckily, moments of intense gunfire and the rockin’ tunes from Grim Reaper serve up a nice and welcome oomph to the mix.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Eric Louzil: Louzil discusses the similar artistic sensibilities between himself and Kaufman that drew the two together.  Louzil remains chatty the duration of the film but often spends too much time narrating the onscreen action.  That said, Louzil still serves up an informative listen that is worthy to fans of the film.

    - Interview with Producer and Distributor Lloyd Kaufman: Kaufman sits down for a 10 minute interview discussing how the project came to be, his direct involvement, Louzil’s many talents and more.

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Far from a diehard Troma fan, Lust for Freedom had all the right ingredients to make its way into this women in prison fans’ heart.  Packed with a line-up of beautiful ladies showcasing T&A and choked full of shootouts, bloodshed and a radical heavy metal soundtrack, Lust for Freedom is a winner for viewers looking to spend 90 minutes in the slammer.  Vinegar Syndrome has done yet another fine service to cult fans by dusting off a goody like this and restoring it from the Troma library.  Coupled with a nice and informative assortment of special features, Lust for Freedom is a cult prison flick that fans should sentence themselves to for life.  With access to the vast Troma vaults, one can only hope that Vinegar Syndrome continues to serve up more entertaining odds and ends like Lust for Freedom.
    RATING: 4/5

  • 4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon Volume Two DVD Review


    4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon Volume Two
    Director(s): Steve Carver / Cesar Gallardo / Richard T. Heffron / Howard Avedis
    Starring: Gary Busey / James Iglehart / Jim Mitchum / Connie Stevens
    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shout! Factory returns with another dose of action-powered goodness in this 2-DVD set.  Volume Two presents four more explosive flicks with high-octane star power and enough shootouts and hand to hand combat to enthrall any action aficionado.  With films ranging from 1974 to 1988, this movie marathon is destined to capture the glory days of drive-ins and grindhouses where cult cinema like this ran rampant.  Load those machine guns and wrap those fists as we hit the ground running on this collection…

    Disc 1 pares two exciting gems from 1988 and 1974 respectively.  First up, Gary Busey (The Buddy Holly Story) is Bulletproof.  A Los Angeles cop/ex-CIA agent, Frank "Bulletproof" McBain (Busey) travels south of the border to retrieve a top-secret attack vehicle which has been hijacked by Russian-backed Libyan terrorists.  Darlanne Fluegel (Battle Beyond the Stars, Pet Semetary II) co-stars along with L.Q. Jones (Director of A Boy and His Dog), R.G. Armstrong (Dick Tracy) and the always reliable Henry Silva (Trapped).  Next up, Bamboo Gods & Iron Men stars James Iglehart (Savage!) as champion boxer Black Cal Jefferson.  While on his honeymoon in Hong Kong, an attempt is made by an underworld organization to recover a carved Buddha, which protects a substance powerful enough to control the world.  Cal, along with his wife and mute companion, get caught up in the events and they are the only ones to put a stop to it.

    Disc 2 opens with 1976’s Trackdown where a Montana rancher (Jim Mitchum) comes to Los Angeles searching for his runaway sister (Karen Lamm) who has become entangled in the dangerous world of drugs and prostitution.  Erik Estrada (CHiPS, Light Blast), Anna Archer (Fatal Attraction) and Cathy Lee Crosby (Coach) co-star.  Finally, Connie Stevens (Two on a Guillotine) headlines Scorchy, as a female undercover agent who will stop at nothing to bust a drug-smuggling ring.  Cesare Danova (Animal House) and William Smith (Conan the Barbarian) also star.

    This review was originally published through Euro Cult AV.  To view it in its entirety, click this link:

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Action_Packed_Movie_Marathon_V/action_packed_movie_marathon_v.html

  • The Candidate (1964) w/ Johnny Gunman (1957) DVD Review


    The Candidate (1964) w/ Johnny Gunman (1957)
    Director(s): Robert Angus / Art Ford
    Starring: Mamie Van Doren, June Wilkinson & Ted Knight / Martin E. Brooks, Ana Donaldson & Johnny Seven
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented for the first time on home video, Vinegar Syndrome pairs two very different films together that hail from opposite ends of the track.  A salacious political satire and a late period noir, both filmed in beautiful black and white, come together for one unlikely package.  Will women with looks that kill and some knife wielding mobsters earn a spot on your shelf?  Let’s find out...

    The Candidate stars Mamie Van Doren (Untamed Youth) and June Wilkinson (Career Girl) in a political satire involving the sexcapades of an up and coming politician, played by Ted Knight (Caddyshack).  Eric Mason (Kiss of the Tarantula) co-stars in his film debut.  Next up, Johnny Gunman, takes place over the course of a single night in New York where a tense battle is brewing between two mob boss hopefuls.  Martin E. Brooks (The Six Million Dollar Man) stars in his film debut alongside Ana Donaldson (Kraft Theatre), Woodrow Parfrey (Planet of the Apes) and Johnny Seven (The Apartment).

    MOVIE(s):
    The sexcapades of an up and coming politician sounds almost more appealing as a documentary for today’s audiences but alas this is the basis of our first feature.  The plot sounds ripe for humorous hijinks and maybe some 1960s skin, but sadly that’s not the case.  The trouble with The Candidate is that it never quite knows what it wants to be.  We start off with a campaign manager (Eric Mason) wooing a politician’s secretary (Mamie Van Doren) in hopes to make his way into the candidate’s good graces.  At this point, I was convinced the story would involve Mason and Van Doren hatching a scheme to catch the candidate in embarrassing sexual situations in order for Mason to take control as the next would be senator himself.  Much to my disappointment, the story went another direction.  The film switches back and forth to past events and then jumping forward where the film becomes a courtroom drama.  Knight’s character isn’t even doing anything “wrong” until he begins seeing the gorgeous June Wilkinson, which Mason believes is a bad political move.  Somewhere along the way, Mason knocks up a random broad which results in her aborting the pregnancy and having a disturbing mental breakdown.  Yikes!  The film concludes in the courtroom where see evidence presented in the form of a stag film starring Knight’s latest squeeze, Wilkinson.  The film in turn finds Knight an unfit selection to assume the role of state senator.  But, don’t worry, as if finding out his old lady starred in a sex flick wasn’t enough, Knight becomes overwhelmed by the film and drops dead because of it!  Needless to say, the film ends on a very unexpected, somber note which fell far from my original expectations.  The Candidate told a story without knowing exactly what it wanted to be or achieve.  Luckily, the one shining light of the film is Van Doren and Wilkinson who are so jaw-droppingly beautiful that you’ll nearly forget about the film and focus entirely on them.  The lack of skin was disappointing but expected for such an early execution in sexploitation.  Nothing more than aggressive kissing and a quick peak at Van Doren’s crack is all you get here.  The Candidate was a snoozefest that baffled me at its inability for consistence.  The film is nothing special and only serves as an odd curiosity of early sexploitation mixed with political satire.
    RATING: 2/5

    Teamed up with The Candidate is the late period noir, Johnny Gunman from 1957.  Set over the course of one night in New York, a tense battle ensues between two mob boss hopefuls that can only end with one of them falling.  This lost flick was Written and Directed by Art Ford which would mark his first and only picture behind the camera.  The premise of the film sounded promising enough but the deeper you get in, the more the appeal wears off.  Johnny Gunman fails from stale performances from its cast, mostly from Ana Donaldson who plays Coffee, a woman with dreams of becoming a writer but plans to ditch the city after that doesn’t pan out.  She enters a cafe on her final night in the Big Apple and decides to spend her final hours with three men, one of whom is a mob boss hoping to gain control of the city.  Donaldson has no range whatsoever and has trouble speaking above a whisper.  Her last stab at trying to find something memorable to write about in these three men comes across as uninteresting due to her lack of enthusiasm.  It’s no surprise Johnny Gunman was her first and only film appearance.  At 67 minutes, the film plays at a snail’s speed with not much in the way of excitement happening.  Eventually, it becomes clear that the only way to decide who will reign the city is to meet on a lonely street and have it out like men.  In what concludes as quite possibly the most anti-climatic fight in film history, Johnny Gunman is a failed attempt at capturing the vibe of a quality noir.  The only appealing moments come in the form of exterior shots of Greenwich Village during a street festival that look marvelous.  In addition, one of the final shots of the film finds our hopeful mob boss driving past a gorgeous movie theatre that was playing The Wizard of Oz at the time.  As you can see, Johnny Gunman is far from a masterpiece and fails to entertain anymore than its co-feature.
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    The Candidate has been restored in 2K from 35mm elements and presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The black and white photography looks clean for the most part with only faint cases of lines and scratches present.  Detail comes across nicely, most noticeably in close-ups.  Overall, I walked away pleased with the presentation.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    Like The Candidate, Johnny Gunman was restored in 2K from 35mm film elements.  The film is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio and has its fair share of hiccups.  Scratches and debris are present in the print with exterior shots looking dark and difficult to view.  While close-ups of the cast are nicely detailed, pops in the print occur every so often.  Suffice to say, this is the best Johnny Gunman will ever look and it’s not too shabby, warts and all.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    The Candidate is accompanied with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix which is slightly problematic.  Moments of hissing and an occasional echo of cracks and pops are heard but fortunately don’t intrude on dialogue.  The echo does become tedious as it practically serves as an unintentional piece of background music.  The audio track is serviceable even with these weak spots.
    RATING: 3/5

    Johnny Gunman is equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that is also problematic.  A slight hiss is heard throughout the entire runtime.  Dialogue can be heard well enough but the hissing does get tedious.  One quick audio drop was noticed in the final reel but only for a moment.  The audio mix will get you to the finish line but there’s definitely hurdles on the way there.
    RATING: 2/5

    EXTRAS:

    No special features are included in this collection but a reversible cover is provided which gives Johnny Gunman top billing.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    The Candidate was a convoluted mess that strayed far from what its premise described.  The only worthy mention of the film is the appearances of Mamie Van Doren and June Wilkinson who are both drop dead gorgeous.  Unfortunately, Johnny Gunman fared no better as a failed attempt to capture the spirit of the noir genre they were aiming for.  A stale cast, anti-climatic ending and the lack of an effective score doomed this film from becoming entertaining if handled better.  Vinegar Syndrome should still be praised for rescuing two lost films that would have been permanently extinct without them.  The video and audio presentations on both films are as decent as one could expect from the material.  Sadly, the quality and entertainment value of the productions hurt this release considerably.
    RATING: 2/5

  • Night of the Comet (1984) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review



    Night of the Comet (1984)
    Director: Thom Eberhardt
    Starring: Robert Beltran, Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney & Mary Wornov
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the cinematic year of 1984, audiences were introduced to a team of ghostbusting gents from the Big Apple and a crane-kicking kid.  In addition, teenagers residing on every Elm Street found a new reason to be terrified of their nightmares while Indiana Jones returned to the screen for a journey into a doomed temple.  Amidst all that excitement, a low-budget picture made a splash that showcased teenagers practically inheriting the Earth after its demise.  Scream Factory, the horror off-shoot of Shout! Factory, invites fans to rediscover the cult classic from the producers of Valley Girl.  After nearly 30 years since its original release, let’s see if Scream Factory’s highly anticipated edition has the chops to earn a spot on your shelf or be left for the comet zombies...

    Night of the Comet centers on an exciting night where the first comet to grace the planet in 65 million years occurs.  Unfortunately, not everyone is quite as interested in the event.  Regina Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart of The Last Starfighter) and younger sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney of Chopping Mall fame) are two Valley Girls who are far more involved in their fashion trends, video games and of course, boys!  Upon daybreak, the girls discover they’re the only people left in Los Angeles while the rest of the population is either a pile of ash or a zombie.  What are two Valley Girls left to do in a world to themselves?  Shop, of course!  It isn’t long before the sisters have to defend themselves against ravenous zombies and blood-seeking scientists.

    MOVIE:
    The strength of a film like Night of the Comet comes from its ability to be so many things in one adventure.  While, the concept of the world ending and being the only ones left is far from new, it’s characters and tone make this a unique ride that knows nothing but fun.  Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney’s chemistry is the glue that makes this film as entertaining as it is and allows for terrific humor to emerge.  Stewart’s hardheaded, almost tomboy-like attitude mixed with Maroney’s adorable but quick-witted nature is a perfect combination that never grows tired.  While both characters certainly fit the bill as “Valley Girls”, Stewart manages to hold a job at a movie theater and is gnarly at video games while Maroney wears the title more appropriately as the ditzy cheerleader type.  When the sisters encounter another survivor (Mexican Actor Robert Beltran of Eating Raoul), Stewart injects some hilarious, albeit politically incorrect, insults toward Beltran (“This isn’t date-night in the barrio, Hec-tor”) which makes you nostalgic for times when people weren’t so serious.  Switching gears, the film manages to make way for some creative make-up work on the zombies courtesy of Make-Up Effects Creator David B. Miller (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dreamscape).  Moments of zombie encounters are far and few between, but when they do occur, the jump scares are effective.  Some would consider surviving the end of the world as a tragedy itself, but never doubt the resilience of teenage girls.  Stewart and Maroney revel in the world they’ve inherited by going on an endless shopping spree as they jam to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (performed by Tami Holbrook here).  It’s a scene like this that perfectly embodies the fun factor this film has to offer before being disrupted by a gang of thugs.  These humans on the verge of becoming zombies, headed by leader Willy, have an action-packed shootout with the girls resulting in some choice one liners by the head goon (“I’m not crazy, I just don’t give a fuck!”).

    As if this film wasn’t already hitting all the right cult buttons, more genre actors join the party in supporting roles.  Mary Wornov (Rock ‘n Roll High School) and Geoffrey Lewis (The Devil’s Rejects) are members of a scientific research team who also survived the comet catastrophe.  They are hellbent on scooping up any survivors in order to extract their blood for use in a serum.  The girls now not only have the occasional zombie on the prowl but now human beings gunning for them.  The film’s finale takes place in the scientists‘ secret bunker where the girls are preparing for their imminent doom.  Luckily, you can count on more exciting shoot-outs and explosions before the girls and their faithful companion Hector reclaim the world that is rightfully theirs.  Night of the Comet hits all the right chords in telling a fun, exciting and action-filled roller-coaster adventure.  Sure, there’s the occasional slow spot as the girls are getting accustomed to an empty Los Angles but it doesn’t take long to build its speed back up.  Night of the Comet came out at a time and place that captured a spirit that would be virtually impossible to duplicate today.  30 years later, it’s no real surprise why this film bears the title “cult classic”, it’s a hilarious and scary tale delivered by a talented cast and a bitchin‘ soundtrack.  If there’s one comet-related flick you need to see in the next 65 million years, there’s no question it’s Night of the Comet.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Night of the Comet is presented in a 1080p High-Definition Widescreen transfer (1.78:1).  There’s no denying that this is the best Night of the Comet has ever looked but I couldn’t help but feel there was an aura of softness to the transfer.  By no means deal-breaking, just a pinch softer than what I had expected.  Skin tones are nice and natural while detail looks peachy in close-ups.  Instances of dirt and debris are minimal at best, making this one clean looking transfer with that filmic grain we love so much firmly intact.  Colors pop as well as I had anticipated with highlights being the neon lights in the radio station as well as Stewart’s turquoise jacket and Maroney’s blue and pink cheerleader outfit.  Scream Factory did a wonderful job on this flick and I almost dare anyone to do better.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Night of the Comet features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that fell just a bit short of my expectations.  Dialogue comes across clearly although scenes at the radio station become harder to hear as background music overpowers the dialogue.  Raising the volume level to nearly 60 helped, but it still would have been beneficial to adjust the mix at certain moments.  That said, the terrific 80s soundtrack comes blasting out of your speakers which adds to the enjoyment factor of so many scenes.  Action scenes are blaring as can be while again falling a wee bit below my standards.  I found myself reaching for the the volume button again to really get the full impact out of shootout scenes.  Overall, the film does sound clear with soundtrack moments being the highlight.  My only real complaint is the lack of a louder push at more intense moments.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix and English subtitles are included.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    In true Collector’s Edition form, Scream Factory goes the extra mile in the special features department (NOTE: An interview with Actress Mary Wornov is listed on the back cover of the packaging but was never shot.  A busy schedule prevented this and the packaging was already printed before changes could be made).  

    - Audio Commentary with Writer / Director Thom Eberhardt

    - Audio Commentary with Stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart

    - Audio Commentary with Production Designer John Muto

    - Valley Girls at the End of the World: Stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart contribute to a series of interviews that run roughly 15 minutes.  The actress’ discuss the audition process, the late night shoots, the excitement of filming in a mall to themselves and the lasting impact of the film.

    - The Last Man on Earth?: Actor Robert Beltran sits down for a 12-minute interview injecting interesting anecdotes about his role in the film.  Beltran turned the film down twice before he finally came around and agreed to take the role.  

    - Curse of the Comet: Special Make-Up Effects Creator David B. Miller discusses how his previous work on Michael Jackson’s Thriller landed him the job on Night of the Comet.

    - Behind the Scenes Galleries

    - Film Photo Gallery

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Reversible cover

    - DVD copy

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    Night of the Comet is like a fine wine, it just continues to grow better with age.  The film is a unique bundle of fun that keeps its tongue firmly planted in its cheek.  The core cast do a phenomenal job making us laugh and root for them as they take down zombie scum and buzzkill scientists.  Nearly a year after its announcement, Scream Factory made the wait for this Collector’s Edition well worth it!  A solid video presentation, serviceable audio mix and a plethora of incredible special features along with Nathan Thomas Milliner’s custom artwork make this a crucial addition in every cult enthusiasts‘ collection.  The burden of civilization rests on you owning this!  Bitchin’, isn’t it?
    RATING: 4.5/5