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Currently showing posts tagged Kino Lorber

  • The Scar (1948) Blu-ray Review

    The Scar (1948)

    Director: Steve Sekely

    Starring: Paul Henreid, Joan Bennett, Eduard Franz, Leslie Brooks, John Qualen, Mabel Paige & Herbert Rudely

    Released by: KL Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After a casino hit gone wrong, The Scar finds on-the-run gambler John Muller (Paul Henreid, Casablanca) evading mobsters that want him dead.  Bearing a striking resemblance to psychiatrist Dr. Batrok, Muller decides to take control of the good doctor’s life in the perfect scheme to stay alive.  While Bartok’s secretary (Joan Bennett, Dark Shadows) grows suspicious of her employer, Muller slowly begins to inherit Bartok’s own personal troubles.  Steve Sekely (The Day of the Triffids) directs.

    Soaked in juicy thrills and the threat of danger constantly looming, The Scar, initially released as Hollow Triumph, may be the spawn of respected Poverty Row distributor Eagle-Lion Films but, rises above its inherent B-picture DNA to deliver a tense noir unafraid of remaining in the gloomy shadows.  Based on Murray Forbes’ novel, recently released prisoner John Muller seeks to get rich quick and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty in the process.  A brilliant mind who ditched out on medical school, Muller gathers his old cronies together for a hit on feared mob boss Rocky Stansyck’s casino only for the plot to crumble, leaving some dead and Muller wanted the same way by the mobsters.  Relocating, Muller is mistaken for a local psychologist who, with the exception of a glaring scar upon his cheek, could pass as the doctor’s twin.  Running low on options and using his education to his advantage, Muller, simultaneously wooing Bartok’s beautiful secretary Evelyn Hahn as himself, sets out to impersonate the psychoanalyst.  Fudging up which cheek to scar after disposing of the actual Bartok, Muller’s act surprisingly fools patients and friends alike only to have Evelyn, Bartok’s former mistress, not fully convinced.  Paranoid after several close calls with Stansyck’s henchmen and emotionally conflicted with Evelyn, Muller’s new life may not be quite as innocent as he once assumed.  A crafty potboiler that invites viewers into the mind of a calculated crook, The Scar may not be a game changer but, greatly impresses with its gorgeous monochrome photography and a surprisingly bleak conclusion that outshines any of its more contrived, albeit still entertaining, moments.

    Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics welcomes The Scar to Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  While bouts of scratches and reel change pronunciations are spotted, overall clarity is strong while, black levels, seen in the film’s many suits and coat jackets, are deeply inky.  In addition, facial details are best observed in medium shots with tighter angles, although still pleasing, appear noticeably softer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is relayed audibly with gunshots and suspenseful music cues registering as defiantly as expected for a film of its age.  A mild layer of static is also present but thankfully never overly intrusive.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Imogen Sara and Trailers for 99 River Street (2:13), Cry of the City (2:33), Shield for Murder (1:45), Boomerang (2:30) and He Ran All the Way (2:13).

    A well-oiled noir that engages and never bores, The Scar arrives with clichés to spare but, the combined performances of Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett mixed with the film’s striking appearance and daringly somber finale make it a solid getaway car for noir enthusiasts.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics’ new remastering of the picture is a welcome upgrade that preserves the thriller for years to come.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, The Scar can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Skull (1965) Blu-ray Review

    The Skull (1965)

    Director: Freddie Francis

    Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Jill Bennett, Michael Gough, George Coulouris & Christopher Lee

    Released by: KL Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a story by Robert Bloch (Psycho), The Skull centers on occult antiquities collector Dr. Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing, Horror of Dracula) whose encounter with the skull of the Maquis de Sade proves frightening.  Forewarned of its effects by friend and former owner of the dreaded remains, Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee, The Curse of Frankenstein), Maitland’s livelihood quickly becomes threatened by the skull’s evil forces.

    A supernatural mystery produced by noted Hammer competitor Amicus Productions, The Skull is a stylishly eerie effort from British genre titan Freddie Francis (The Evil of Frankenstein, Tales from the Crypt) that utilizes atmosphere and improvisational knowhow to its advantage.  Following a historically earlier pre-title sequence where a grave robber’s excavation of the Maquis de Sade’s cranium leaves him dead from an unknown presence, The Skull’s modern day London setting introduces occult collector Dr. Christopher Maitland whose pricy offering of the very same specimen by a shady dealer proves far too expensive albeit, very intriguing to the curious researcher.  Learning the item was stolen from a fellow colleague who was glad to be free of it, warnings of its evil capabilities fall on Maitland’s deaf ears, prompting him to retrieve it after the thieving dealer is unexplainably killed.  Casting a spell of madness and nightmarish hallucinations upon on its new owner, Maitland’s terrifying firsthand experience with the skull reveals its true potential to the previously skeptical scholar.  Headlining the feature with expected grace, Peter Cushing sells his descent into terror with a conviction memorably showcased during a particularly nail biting nightmare sequence of forced Russian roulette.  Appearing in a guest starring role, Christopher Lee’s small but welcome inclusion as a rare non-villain gives an added class to the film’s ghoulish festivities while, Francis’ resourceful direction, demonstrated in the film’s frantic and virtually dialogue-free final act, is overwhelmingly suspenseful regardless of the “floating” skull’s noticeably seen wires.  An early chapter in Amicus’ horror history, The Skull remains an effectively strong picture of its creepy caliber with its direction earning the most praise of all.

    KL Studio Classics presents The Skull with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing noticeable signs of scuffs and speckles throughout its runtime, colors also appear occasionally drab while, skin tones and delicate facial features revealing aging lines and acne scars are well-detailed.  Meanwhile, black levels are mediocre yet, costume textures and the many artifacts spotted in Maitland’s library are agreeable.  Although a fresh scan would have been appreciated, the results remain quite adequate.  Equipped with a rather flat but serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is handled sufficiently while an early encounter between Maitland and Marco, the sleazy dealer, registers slightly lower.  Scoring cues are decent but lacking oomph with a mild layer of hiss detected.  Special features include, an expertly researched Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Jonathan Rigby on The Skull (24:14) and Kim Newman on The Skull (27:18), both of which offer encyclopedic insight into Amicus Productions, its founders, Freddie Francis and Robert Bloch’s original short story making each featurette invaluable compliments to the film.  Furthermore, The Skull: “Trailers from Hell” with Joe Dante (2:36) and additional Trailers for Tales of Terror (2:21), The Oblong Box (1:56), Madhouse (1:48), House of the Long Shadows (2:27) and The Crimson Cult (2:03) are also provided alongside Reversible Cover Art.

    A well recommended Amicus offering, The Skull brings some of gothic cinema’s finest faces together for chilling thrills and consummate direction from Freddie Francis making it a technical sight to appreciate given the film’s originally less than solid screenplay.  Possession, death and the black arts reign wildly in this nightmare come to life with a most fascinating selection of supplements making KL Studio Classics’ upgrade of the film an easy choice for fan’s unholy collections.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, The Skull can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • They're Playing with Fire (1984) Blu-ray Review

    They’re Playing with Fire (1984)

    Director: Howard Avedis

    Starring: Sybil Danning, Eric Brown, Andrew Prine & Paul Clemens

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Combining skin and thrills, They’re Playing with Fire stars Sybil Danning (Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf) as a sultry college professor who seduces a horny student (Eric Brown, Private Lessons), entangling him in a dangerous plot to obtain her in-laws wealthy inheritance.  Andrew Prine (Amityville II: The Possession) and Paul Clemens (The Beast Within) costar.

    Shrouded as a wild sex-romp in tune with most young men’s desires, They’re Playing with Fire, albeit being very tantalizing, pulls the carpet under its audience in one of the oddest genre switch ups of the decade.  Incessantly drooling over his foxy professor, Mrs. Diane Stevens, and performing odd jobs aboard her luxurious yacht, college student Jay Richard’s lusting pays off when seduced by the blonde bombshell.  Unknowingly plotting a scheme with her husband Michael (Prine) to inherit his family riches from her in-laws, a virtually harmless crack at prowling to scare off the elderly Stevens’ backfires on Jay when a masked assailant ruthlessly knocks off Michael’s mother and grandmother instead.  Trapping him in a seductive love triangle with life or death stakes, Jay’s hormonal jackpot grows grayer by the day.  Regarded as exploitation royalty, Sybil Danning makes mouths water with her fiercely flirtatious performance and sizzling nude sequences that, much to the delight of teenage boys during the video boom, are plentiful.  In a deliriously unexpected spin for viewers assuming the plot from its provocative poster art, They’re Playing with Fire morphs into an erotically-charged thriller with slasher elements that pollinate the film with bloody bursts of violence catching first time watchers off guard.  Helmed by Howard Avedis (Scorchy, Mortuary), They’re Playing with Fire, rightly earning Danning one of her finest performances in a career of countlessly sexy and sleazy roles, is a wild effort right down to its even kookier reveal of the true murderer that is as unusually different as it is libido driving.

    Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics upgrades They’re Playing with Fire with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Revealing satisfying layers of detail in facial features, skin tones are sound with Danning certainly showing off her fair share during the film’s many moments of passion.  Meanwhile, costumes, background pieces and bolder colored vehicles pop quite decently with the film’s source material arriving in tiptop shape and generally free of any unsavory scratches.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles character exchanges, both in intimate, hushed tones and louder barroom environments, nicely while, music cues are well orchestrated and ear-pleasing.  Special features include, Sun & Seduction with Sybil Danning (18:25) where the still mightily attractive lead reveals she landed the role based on her appearance in Playboy Magazine and her initial concerns that the script was overly convoluted.  Furthermore, Danning recalls many a fan encounters where the film played heavily into their puberty and instances of teens stealing the videotape from their fathers!  The genre titan, although finding him cute, reveals costar Eric Brown made the shoot difficult due to his unwillingness to be nude in the film.  Lastly, Trailers for They’re Playing with Fire (1:25), The Bitch (2:38) and The Stud (2:52) conclude the disc’s supplements.

    Beloved by Mr. Skin himself and most young men who experienced the film’s sumptuous offerings during its heyday, They’re Playing with Fire offers plenty of bare-breasted Sybil Danning and a chameleon-like plot that supplies an alarmingly fun touch of slasher elements for fans of the decade’s body count pictures.  A career high for the buxom B-movie queen, carnal delights never tasted this sweet or deadly before her voluptuous college professor wraps her legs around such impressionable hound dogs.  KL Studio Classics’ high-def handling of the sexy sizzler is a solid boost in quality with Danning’s newly recorded chatty sit-down a fine inclusion.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, They’re Playing with Fire can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Don't Give Up the Ship (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959)

    Director: Norman Taurog

    Starring: Jerry Lewis, Dina Merril, Diana Spencer, Mickey Shaughnessy, Robert Middleton, Gale Gordon, Mabel Albertson & Chuck Wassil

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Unbelievably based on an actual incident, Don’t Give Up the Ship stars Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor) as a wet-behind-the-ears naval newlywed who is whisked away from his honeymoon by a committee investigating the disappearance of the battleship previously under his command.  Suffering a mental block, a blonde bombshell of a psychiatrist (Dina Merril, Operation Petticoat) is brought in to help rattle the officer’s memory.  

    Produced in accordance with the U.S. Navy who are praised for their cooperation and sense of humor at the film’s onset, Don’t Give Up the Ship interrupts the celebratory victory of World War II when a displeased congressman refuses to approve a $4 billion appropriation fund for the Navy due to the mysterious disappearance of destroyer vessel, the U.S.S. Kornblatt.  Tying the knot with his lovely new bride Prudence (Diana Spencer, TV’s Johnny Ringo), the dimwitted but harmless Lieutenant John Paul Steckler VIII is quickly fingered by an investigative committee and summoned to the Pentagon to explain the most unusual circumstance behind the whereabouts of the ship that was under his control.  Ordered to locate the vessel in mere days while being hilariously disrupted at every chance of intimacy with his wife, Steckler’s mental block and seemingly tall tales about the events surrounding the Kornblatt make matters laughably more difficult for the Navy veteran.  Aided by an attractive psychologist tasked with helping Steckler remember the stranger than fiction facts, comical hijinks including, sharing a train compartment with another woman much to the dismay of his wife, being captured by Japanese soldiers unaware of the war’s conclusion and a deep sea exploration finding the goofy cadet and a fellow Navy man confronted by sharks, mermaids and a massive octopus.  While the funnyman’s madcap energy and comedic timing are the heart of the film, Don’t Give Up the Ship is a fairly middle-of-the-road effort from Jerry Lewis’ career of laughs with a plot that runs its course by the time the end credits roll.  Although Steckler’s robbed opportunities at whoopee making become repetitive, Lewis’ brand of childish silliness and knee-slapping physicality still make for a fine time.

    Newly remastered in 4K, KL Studio Classics presents Don’t Give Up the Ship with a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  A gorgeous sight to behold, the monochrome photography looks stunning with excellent detail observed in skin tones, the fairly basic Navy uniforms and the film’s underwater sequence that is relayed with the utmost quality.  Boasting deeply inky black levels and hardly a scratch to be seen, it doesn’t get much better than this for a film so many decades removed.  Charmed with an equally impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that appears basic enough yet, sells dialogue exchanges, city street ambiance, and hurricane winds with top-notch care.  Although unrelated to the main feature, the disc’s sole special feature is Trailers for After the Fox (2:49), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2:23), Haunted Honeymoon (2:19), Life Stinks (2:01), Delirious (2:22) and The Couch Trip (1:14).

    Helmed by Academy Award-winning Director Norman Taurog (Slippy, The Wizard of Oz, albeit uncredited for his contributions on the latter), Don’t Give Up the Ship succeeds in letting Lewis does what he does best while, carrying the otherwise mediocre plot on his shoulders with ease.  Unable to keep your eyes off of the animated thespian for fear of missing the slightest funny nuance, Lewis keeps the ship afloat steadily.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics’ exceptional 4K mastering of the feature is an absolute knockout and now the only way to view this well-received comedy.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Don’t Give Up the Ship can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Teen Witch (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Teen Witch (1989)

    Director: Dorian Walker

    Starring: Robyn Lively, Zelda Rubinstein, Dan Gauthier, Joshua Miller & Dick Sargent

    Released by: Kino Lorber

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A bonafide titan of cult cinema categorized by many under the “so bad, it’s good” section, Teen Witch exudes a laughable charm with countless quotable one-liners and even goofier musical interludes that must be seen to be believed.  Originally intended as the female equivalent to the Teen Wolf films, Teen Witch casts its own spell focusing on high school nobody Louise Miller (Robyn Lively, The Karate Kid Part III) whose crush on senior hunk Brad (Dan Gauthier, Son in Law) and hopes of popular acceptance are a stretch far from her reality.  Learning of her ties to Salem’s witches on her 16th birthday, Louise, mentored by palm reader Madame Serena (Zelda Rubinstein, Poltergeist), uses her spectacular powers to turn herself from brainy introvert to the most popular girl in school.  Helmed by Making the Grade’s Dorian Walker, this supernatural love story remains a riot from start to finish with Louise’s hilariously cruel and occasionally creepy younger brother Richie (Joshua Miller, Near Dark) stealing scenes as he dramatically ridicules his sister for being a dog before having the tables turned on him.  While its girl meets boy and falls in love structure is certifiably formulaic, Teen Witch’s major draws come from the not-so intentional humor derived from its gaudy 80s sensibilities and beyond wacky rap battle song numbers that will leave viewers crying with tears of laughter.  Sprinkled with quintessential sexy sax music and rise to popularity montages, Louise’s decision to ultimately ditch spells in order to gain real love is as cheesily enjoyable as one might expect.  Sharing company with similar misunderstood blunders as The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and Howard the Duck, Teen Witch, much like its counterparts, is a wildly fun concoction fit for cult loving cinema hounds.

    Kino Lorber presents Teen Witch with a radiant 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Minor specking aside, colors featured in the loud clothing and makeup choices of the era pop solidly while, skin tones remain strong with natural grain layers firmly intact.  Sharp and crisp-looking throughout, Teen Witch has never looked better on home video.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is clear-sounding with musical moments during the girl’s locker room sequence, the infamous rap duel and the closing prom night scene all offering increased weight much to the delight of listeners.  

    Packaged with a first-rate supply of newly crafted supplements, the disc’s many special features include, an Audio Commentary with Stars Robyn Lively, Joshua Miller, Dan Gauthier & Mandy Ingber, Finest Hour: Robyn Lively on Teen Witch (23:19) sits down with the lovable lead today as she recalls the audition process and heaves praise for each one of her cast members, Dan Gauthier Remembers Teen Witch (20:14) catches up with Brad today in an equally lengthy interview where viewers learn the production introduced him to his costar and future wife.  Furthermore, Lisa Fuller Remembers Teen Witch (3:50) echoes many of her husband’s warm sentiments making the film with hazier clarity, Maken It Big: Mandy Ingber Remembers Teen Witch (16:19) discusses her love for costar Lively, her lack of confidence in Walker’s vision and embarrassment having to film the much discussed rap scene while, The Music of Teen Witch (21:18) catches up with Music Producers Larry & Tom Weir as they discuss their approaches to the film’s pop and rap numbers, the latter of which they knew little to nothing about after the production insisted upon its inclusion in the film.  Finally, Top That: A Conversation with Robyn Lively & Mandy Ingber (15:38) is a sweet and candid reunion between the two friends as they exchange memories from the shoot.  The film’s Trailer (2:17) concludes the impressive slate of extras.  A financial disaster left to die, Teen Witch has not only survived years of ridicule but, reemerged as a justifiable treasure of cult cinema.  Spells, dreamy hunks, gorgeous girls and… rap all serve their role in making this cheesy good time one that dares to be topped.  Kino Lorber outdoes themselves with the care given to such a B-movie favorite with its definitive collection of extras leaving fans bewitched.  Top that!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber, Teen Witch can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Wanderers (1979) Blu-ray Review

    The Wanderers (1979)

    Director: Philip Kaufman

    Starring: Ken Wahl, John Friedrich, Karen Allen & Toni Kalem

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Richard Price’s novel, The Wanderers centers on a Bronx gang of teens whose experiences growing up in the mid 60s provide a rich canvas for youthful decadence and eventual maturity against an ever-changing world.  Philip Kaufman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Right Stuff) directs this coming-of-age wonder.

    Depicting a time and place in New York City all but lost to time, The Wanderers fascinating depiction of universal themes plaguing directionless street dwellers during the final stretch of their teen years rings with pure sincerity nearly four decades later.  Set in the radically changing year of 1963, high school gang, The Wanderers, spend their days less worrying about their futures than defending their turf against rival hoods and chasing tail.  Sporting identical jackets bearing their squad name and greased up hairdos, the Italian teens find themselves embroiled in a racially tense standoff against the black Del Bombers while losing a fellow member to leather-bound baddies the Fordham Baldies.  Leaning on his girlfriend’s mafioso father for assistance, Wanderers leader Richie (Ken Wahl, Wiseguy) simultaneously falls for new girl on the block Nina (Karen Allen, Raiders of the Lost Ark) in a controversial move that puts him on the outs with best friend Joey (John Friedrich, The Final Terror) and the rest of his gang.  Upholding their tough guy personas through violent brawls and chauvinism, The Wanderers manages to break through these shell casings as friendships are tested, hearts are broken and unexpected responsibilities are sprung upon them.  As the nation reacts and changes following the assassination of JFK, a high stakes football game against their African-American foes spirals into an all out war, finding the once divided units battling a shared enemy.  Beautifully aided by a soundtrack of doo wop hits and other golden oldies, The Wanderers is the perfect bridge between other youth centered pictures like American Graffiti and The Warriors.  While its setting may be a thing of the past, The Wanderers speaks a language firmly rooted in the tender years of youth that is as unforgettably beautiful and painful as our own memories.

    Newly restored in 2K, KL Studio Classics proudly presents The Wanderers with a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 (1:78:1 for its included Preview Cut edition) aspect ratio.  Sporting a wonderfully cleaned up appearance free of unsightly scratches or tears, skin tones are warmly inviting while, filmic quality is as organic as can be.  Furthermore, the dingy city alleyways and storefronts are excellently presented with colors and textures found in the wide variety of gang jackets and the Del Bombers’ loud football uniforms popping nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that does a fine job relaying dialogue recorded on busy New York streets, the film’s period soundtrack cuts make for the strongest enforcements on the otherwise healthy track.  

    Divided over two discs featuring both its Theatrical Cut (1:57:09) and rare Preview Cut (2:03:50), Disc 1’s special features kicks off with a Director’s Statement (1:56) followed by an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Philip Kaufman.  Also included, Back in the Bronx with Richard Price (35:18), The Wanderers Forever!: Live Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum with Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Tony Ganias & Richard Price (16:35) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:52).  Meanwhile, Disc 2’s offerings feature an Introduction with Stars Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Tony Ganias (0:40), an Audio Commentary with Columbia University Film Professor & Author of Philip Kaufman Annette Insdorf, The Wanderers Q&A at The Cinefamily with Philip Kaufman, Alan Rosenberg & Peter Kaufman (31:59), an Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum with Philip Kaufman (19:46), an Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum with Richard Price (16:41), the Re-Release Trailer (1:40) and a TV Spot (0:33).

    A continually growing cult classic and a high-water achievement in coming-of-age cinema, The Wanderers recalls the struggles and fears common in most teens attempting to make sense of the big world surrounding them with a palpable relatability few films capture.  In one of their standout efforts of the year, KL Studio Classics reinstates this golden oldie back into the public eye with a gorgeous 2K restoration, hefty supplements and dual cuts of the film that make joining up with this particular gang a splendid life choice.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, The Wanderers can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Chamber of Horrors (1940) Blu-ray Review

    Chamber of Horrors (1940)

    Director: Norman Lee

    Starring: Leslie Banks, Lilli Palmer, Gina Malo & Conny Van Dyke

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Imported by Poverty Row distributor Monogram Pictures shortly after a British band on horror fare was lifted, the adaptation of Edgar Wallace’s The Door with Seven Locks, retitled to the more attention-grabbing Chamber of Horrors for American shores is a convoluted labyrinth of intrigue that thrives on its solid atmosphere.  Following the passing of a wealthy lord who’s entombed with a treasure of jewels requiring seven keys to undo its locks, the unlikely heiress to his fortune, June Lansdowne (Lilli Palmer, The House That Screamed), finds herself and those closest to her entangled in a tortuous web of murder and deceit.  Hamming it up nicely as the suspected Dr. Manetta (Leslie Banks, The Most Dangerous Game) whose affection for collecting historical torture devices is far from subtle, Chamber of Horrors plays more directly as a murder mystery than its more garish title suggests although, a prominent chamber where artifacts of death are on display serves as host to some of the film’s more memorable and revealing sequences.  Jaw-droppingly beautiful and injecting a fearless sense of adventure into her role, Lilli Palmer does admirably in her headlining performance contrary to early criticisms at the time of the film’s release.  Occasionally heavy-handed and bewildering in its explanations for the criminal parties seeking to make the riches their own, Chamber of Horrors may not be all that’s expected of it and instead better appreciated as a complex whodunit with effective shades of ghastly set pieces.

    KL Studio Classics presents Chamber of Horrors newly remastered with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Commonly sporting sporadic instances of scratches and vertical lines, overblown white levels, presumably from overexposed film elements or harsher onset lighting, casts many moments in a bright wash that takes away from the atmospheric setting and corresponding details.  Otherwise, black levels spotted in costumed attire are as deep as one might expect while, facial closeups of the thespians capture respectable intricacies.  Surely the elements are far from pristine but, the upgraded high-definition picture is the best a feature of this ilk will ever look.  Matched with a rather problematic DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 that relays inconsistent dialogue levels that range from clear to muffled and echoey, static is also present requiring essential volume increases and a sharp ear to collect all the track has to offer.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle and Filmmaker Kenneth J. Hall that finds genre enthusiast Del Valle right at home dishing one intriguing anecdote after another with Hall complimenting the conversation nicely.  A horror aficionado like no other, Del Valle’s infectious love for the genre and his well-prepared words are always a treat to listen to for likeminded viewers.  Finally, Trailers for White Zombie (2:46), The Black Sleep (1:36), The Undying Monster (1:04) and Donovan’s Brain (2:02) are also included alongside Reversible Cover Art.  An acceptable investigative thriller that only trips up due to its own narrative complexities, Chamber of Horrors comes cautiously recommend for those knowing more or less what’s in store while, the expert commentary track provided is worth the price alone.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Chamber of Horrors can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Invisible Ghost (1941) Blu-ray Review

    Invisible Ghost (1941)

    Director: Joseph H. Lewis

    Starring: Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, John McGuire & Clarence Muse

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The first of nine Monogram Pictures features produced by genre dabbler and schlockmeister Sam Katzman (Earth VS. The Flying Saucers, The Giant Claw), Invisible Ghost combines the realms of psychological horror and the murder mystery for an evocative gothic fused tale guided by one of the genre’s finest presences.  Continuing to mourn the loss of his unfaithful wife, the friendly Mr. Kessler (Bela Lugosi, Dracula) is plagued with homicidal urges after being hypnotized by the image of his wife who, unbeknownst to the good doctor, lives in secret in their cellar.  As several murders take place at Kessler’s estate with his daughter’s (Polly Ann Young in her final film role) beau wrongly sentenced to death for them, the convicted’s twin brother (John McGuire of Sands of Iowa Jima fame playing double duty as both Ralph and Paul Dickinson) arrives on the scene searching for answers.  Predominately set at the scene of the crimes, Invisible Ghost juggles its approaches in terror efficiently with its rather absurd premise of fatal secrets and a hallucinatory tone taken seriously by its players.  Turning an otherwise monotonous role into a worthy watch, Bela Lugosi dominates the film with his Jekyll & Hydish personality and striking stare making his juxtaposition as a loving father to an oblivious sinister strangler a grisly delight.  Easily digestible and enjoyably spooky, Invisible Ghost remains a well-constructed and moody descent into unknowing madness.

    Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics presents Invisible Ghost with a 1080p transfer, retaining its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Expected of lower-budgeted cheapies from the era, the black-and-white photography bears several instances of film degradation in the later portion of the film while, the overwhelming majority of its hour long runtime greatly impresses with striking black levels observed during nighttime sequences and in the suits of the actors.  In addition, detail seen in closeups of Lugosi as he slowly descends upon his sleeping maid are excellent and earn the transfer its highest marks of quality.  Equipped with a serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is handled decently with “S” sounds registering particularly sharp while, a mild surface of hiss is detected throughout.  Supplemental material includes, an Audio Commentary with Film Historians Tom Weaver, Gary Rhodes & Dr. Robert J. Kiss that finds Weaver predominately guiding the well-researched track with Rhodes and Kiss relegated to guest appearances that still add quality value to their portions of the film.  Lastly, Trailers for White Zombie (2:46), The Black Sleep (1:36), The Undying Monster (1:04) and Donovan’s Brain (2:02) are also included.  Graciously handled to the best of their abilities, KL Studio Classics brings Invisible Ghost back from the dead much to the appreciation of Lugosi completists.  A juggling act of horror approaches that give the film a peculiar style and iconic star with plenty to chew into, Invisible Ghost is a gothic gas worth being hypnotized by.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Invisible Ghost can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • A Game of Death (1945) Blu-ray Review

    A Game of Death (1945)

    Director: Robert Wise

    Starring: John Loder, Audrey Long, Edgar Barrier & Russell Wade

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Readapting Richard Connell’s thrilling tale just over a decade after its pre-Code movie makeover from the directors of King Kong, A Game of Death is a briskly paced and suspenseful jungle-based adventure where the hunter becomes the hunted.  Starring John Loder (How Green Was My Valley) as noted author and respected hunter Don Rainsford who after becoming shipwrecked, finds shelter in Erich Kreiger’s (Edgar Barrier, Macbeth) exotic island homestead.  An isolated locale hosting fellow shipwrecked siblings Ellen (Audrey Long, Born to Kill) and Bob (Russell Wade, The Body Snatcher) Trowbridge, their welcoming host proves sinister as his homicidal tendencies to hunt humans across his vast land are revealed.  Tensely orchestrated by the masterly Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Haunting) while recycling selected footage from The Most Dangerous Game, A Game of Death never wanes in its excitement with commendable performances put forth by the respectably gruff Loder and deliciously wicked Barrier as the German human hunter who prefers a bow and arrows over rifles.  Climaxing with a fog-entrenched pursuit through the island’s jungle greenery with hungry bloodhounds on Don and Ellen’s coattails, A Game of Death is a thoroughly entertaining catch, tonally reminiscent of the weekly film serials of the era with an unquestionably cinematic punch drawing viewers into its horrifying island of danger.

    Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics proudly presents A Game of Death with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing age-related traces of speckles and scratches to varying degrees, the 1945 black-and-white remake overwhelmingly impresses with its conveyed detail in Kreiger’s prize room and the dirt and blood stains found on Rainsford’s attire.  Meanwhile, black levels bear strong deepness while, recycled footage from the ship’s destruction to instances of the hounds pursuing Don and Ellen show obviously grainier levels.  Equipped with a basic-sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is decently relayed with increases in volume recommended to fully capture their entirety.  Furthermore, mild instances of hiss are present but never deal-breaking on the track while, obscene cracks or pops are thankfully excused.  Special features include, a richly researched Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith and Trailers for The Quatermass Xperiment (2:13), The Earth Dies Screaming (2:14), 99 River Street (2:13) and No Highway in the Sky (2:09).  An excellent second stab at Connell’s revered short story, A Game of Death keeps its suspense high and runtime swift ensuring a pulse-beating good time for all.  Bestowing a solid HD remastering on the RKO thriller with a recommended audio commentary, KL Studio Classics have claimed another keeper in their hunt for film’s treasures.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, A Game of Death can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 23 Paces to Baker Street (1956) Blu-ray Review

    23 Paces to Baker Street (1956)

    Director: Henry Hathaway

    Starring: Van Johnson, Vera Miles, Cecil Parker & Patricia Laffan

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Philip MacDonald’s novel and invoking an unmistakably Hitchcockian tone that stumbles only slightly in its execution, 23 Paces to Baker Street offers thrills and intrigue when American playwright Philip Hannon (Van Johnson, Battleground), blind and now residing in London, overhears a potentially criminally-minded conversation involving kidnapping and extortion.  Reporting his findings to the local authorities with little evidence to act on other than his instincts, Hannon, with assistance from his loyal butler (Cecil Parker, The Ladykillers) and ex-fiancée (Vera Miles, Psycho), takes matters into his own hands.  Filmed on location in England and the Fox studio lot, Henry Hathaway (Niagara, True Grit) directs with precision while, Milton Krasner’s (All About Eve) cinematography brings a warm vibrancy to Philip’s tidy flat and dreary mood to the fog-entrenched streets of London.  While striking similarities to Hitchcock’s own Rear Window including, protagonists both restrained by physical debilities and consumed by mysterious plots may hinder its overall effectiveness and a finale riddled with unanswered questions regarding the shrouded child-napping culprit, 23 Paces to Baker Street stands tall as a moderately effective whodunit worthy of more eyes spotting it.

    Beautifully restored in 4K, KL Studio Classics welcomes 23 Paces to Baker Street with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 2.55:1 aspect ratio.  Shot in colorful CinemaScope, the mystery-thriller arrives with little to no source damage while, details shine most effectively in Philip’s London flat with textures in costume attire reading nicely.  Skin tones are warm and natural-looking with black levels looking respectably inky with occasional variances in lieu of intentional fogginess understandably clouding some moments.  Although slightly imperfect, KL Studio Classics’ restoration marks the film’s finest home video outing to date.  Joined by an exceedingly strong DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is sharply relayed while, sound effects from gun shots to pinball machine racket all offer distinct exchanges.  Furthermore, Leigh Harline’s (Pinocchio) score of dramatic cues and romantic melodies are sonically pleasing, making for the grandest statements on the track.  Special features include, an expert Audio Commentary with Film Historian Kent Jones and Trailers for 23 Paces to Baker Street (2:15), Cast a Giant Shadow (3:38), Foreign Intrigue (1:55), The File of the Golden Goose (2:37) and When Eight Bells Toll (2:49).  Lastly, a Reversible Cover Art is also included.  Familiar territory to The Master of Suspense’s work, 23 Paces to Baker Street instills gorgeous photography and a generally curious plot of its own to make its investigation a recommendable one to viewers.  Appreciatively restored to its finest state yet, KL Studio Classics’ 4K presentation is a filmic sight to the beholder sure to please without fail.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, 23 Paces to Baker Street can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) Blu-ray Review

    No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

    Director: Corey Yuen

    Starring: Kurt McKinney, J.W. Fails, Ron Pohnel, Kathie Sileno, Peter Cunningham, Kent Lipham & Jean-Claude Van Damme

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Unquestionably reminiscent of other more prominent teenage-geared martial arts pictures, No Retreat, No Surrender plays far more emphasis on its combat sequences as evidenced by its unoriginal narrative and charmingly cheesy performances.  After a pack of threatening mobsters with plans of taking over every dojo in the country descends on his father’s establishment, Bruce Lee obsessed teen Jason Stillwell (Kurt McKinney, Guiding Light) and his family head to Seattle to start anew.  Finding a pal in the break-dancing R.J. Madison (J.W. Fails, 21 Jump Street) and rekindling a romance with a former flame, Jason finds himself targeted by overweight bully Scott (Kent Lipham, Extreme Prejudice) and local karate hothead Dean Ramsay (Dale Jacoby, Ring of Fire) on the regular.  Consistently outmatched by his peers and punished by his father for his improper use of fighting, Jason seeks solace at the gravesite of martial arts legend Bruce Lee.  Training in an abandoned house with a shrine to his hero, Jason is stunned when the ghost of Lee returns to personally guide him on his path to becoming a prized fighter.  Trouble strikes again when a local tournament is disrupted by the mobsters and their deadly enforcer Ivan “The Russian” Kraschinsky (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kickboxer) who ravages the competition with only young Jason left to defend the community and his family’s name.  An unsurprisingly first time effort for much of the principal talent, No Retreat, No Surrender is a ridiculous fight feature with hilarity to be had at the expense of the film’s goofy screenplay and unexpectedly silly plot device of Bruce Lee returning from the grave to play sensei.  Adorned with amusing training montages, a feverishly high-powered theme song and a fast-paced final round bout between the American teen and oh-so-80s Russian villain, No Retreat, No Surrender can’t help but be a fun time, using its amateurish shortcomings to its full advantage.

    KL Studio Classics presents No Retreat, No Surrender for the first time on high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing surface scrapes and scratches throughout its runtime, colors are bold and exacting seen through the bright costume choices with sharp detail observed in facial closeups.  Furthermore, skin tones are consummately natural with a solidly filmic presence left intact.  Joined by a rather shoddy DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that struggles to make any definable distinctions, dialogue is serviceable while, music, roaring crowds and the clatter of punches being thrown fall flat and underwhelming.  Although pops and other such anomalies are virtually absent, a large increase in volume during viewing is essential for the rather subdued track.  

    Containing both its recommend International (1:38:55) and U.S. Theatrical Cuts (1:24:01), additional special features include, an Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Keith W. Strandberg, Stand on Your Own with Kurt McKinney (17:12) where the film’s star recalls training in martial arts his entire life, landing the gig during an open casting call and the production spending more rehearsal time on fight choreography than the actual performances.  In addition, McKinney delves into the rather shady circumstances that convinced both he and Van Damme to pass on the sequel.  Lastly, Trailers for the International Cut of No Retreat, No Surrender (3:20), An Eye for an Eye (1:52), Enter the Ninja (2:53), Avenging Force (1:18), Revenge of the Ninja (1:41) and Steele Justice (1:36) are also on hand.  Delightfully silly with respectable fight sequences featured, No Retreat, No Surrender may technically be a poorly made effort but, one that cult enthusiasts will revel in for all its dodgy issues and valiant efforts.  Making its Blu-ray debut with both cuts included, KL Studio Classics delivers a roundhouse kick of satisfaction to fans anxiously awaiting for this Cold War of martial arts movies.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, No Retreat, No Surrender can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • One Million Years B.C. (1966) Blu-ray Review

    One Million Years B.C. (1966)

    Director: Don Chaffey

    Starring: Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Martine Beswick, Robert Brown, Percy Herbert & Yvonne Horner

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Exchanging gothic ambiance and monsters for prehistoric excellence, One Millions Years B.C. would skyrocket to become Hammer Film Productions’ biggest box-office smash and one of science fiction’s finest efforts of the era.  After being banished by his own tribe, Tumak (John Richardson, Black Sunday) scours the desolate wasteland and stumbles upon the generous and resourceful Shell People.  Finding a kindred spirit in the beautiful Loana (Raquel Welch, Fantastic Voyage), the two decide to face the land on their own, confronting a siege of deadly dinosaurs and other ferocious beasts on their journey.  Guided only by a documentary-like narration by Vic Perrin (The Outer Limits) and grunts of caveman lingo, One Million Years B.C. thrives on its visual splendor of gorgeous rocky vistas and fantastical elements that find our heroes pitted against giant iguanas, spiders and brilliantly conceived stop-motion dinos.  Engineered by Harryhausen-effect driven wizardry and keen direction by Don Chaffey (Jason and the Argonauts), the scantly-clad sight of sex symbol Raquel Welch in the starring role not only is invaluable to the film’s success but, a lasting testament to its impact on popular culture.  Featuring barbaric beatdowns amongst the many tribesmen, soaring Pteranodons flying off with victims and a volcanic finale, One Million Years B.C. is a towering achievement of special effects magic, ranking as one of the best fantasy features of its time.

    Gorgeously restored in 4K, KL Studio Classics welcomes One Million Years B.C. to domestic high-definition with a flawless 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Colorful and crisp, filmic quality is excellent while, skin tones remain immaculate with detail in the film’s stop-motion critters relaying their many intricacies with ease.  A first-rate achievement that will leave fans young and old bewitched by its restoration, stampedes of praise can only be recommended.  Equipped with an equally satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that gives prominence to the thundering crash of dinosaur attacks and the more subtle grunts of its human characters, the track satisfies on all fronts.  Appreciatively appeasing completists of the film, the preferred International Cut (1:40:37) and shorter U.S. Cut (1:31:59) are included on separate discs with Disc 1’s supplemental offerings featuring an expert Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, an Animated Montage of Posters and Images (3:05) and the Original International Theatrical Trailer (3:00).  Joining the U.S. Cut on Disc 2, bonus features include, vintage offerings such as Raquel Welch: In the Valley of the Dinosaurs (7:45), An Interview with Ray Harryhausen (12:29) and a 2016-shot Interview with Martine Beswick (16:36).  Lastly, the Original U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:08) rounds out the disc’s extras.  A fantastical fun time that highlights some of Harryhausen’s finest stop-motion effects work and the sexy radiance of Raquel Welch, One Million Years B.C. is a primeval journey into the past that glows with imagination and wonder.  Already ranking as one of the year’s genre must-haves, KL Studio Classics’ 4K restoration is a stunning sight that includes both cuts of the film and a healthy spread of bonus content sure to please cavemen from all walks of life.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, One Million Years B.C. can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • No Highway in the Sky (1951) Blu-ray Review

    No Highway in the Sky (1951)

    Director: Henry Koster

    Starring: James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Glynis Johns, Jack Hawkins, Janette Scott, Elizabeth Allan, Ronald Squire & Jill Clifford

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Nevil Shute’s acclaimed novel, No Highway in the Sky stars James Stewart (Rear Window) as bookish aeronautical engineer Theodore Honey whose unproven theory concerning the failure of England’s Reindeer planes is challenged under dire circumstances.  Aboard a Reindeer plane crossing its calculated flying time of disaster, the absent-minded yet nonetheless determined Honey painstakingly struggles to convince the crew of the certain doom that awaits them while, inspiring a famous actress passenger (Marlene Dietrich, Witness for the Prosecution) adored by his late wife and a kind flight attendant (Glynis John, Mary Poppins) to trust his judgement.  Suspending viewers in a dizzying trance of nail-biting suspense, No Highway in the Sky reteams Stewart with his Harvey director, the underrated Henry Koster, in a professionally constructed aviation feature that not only puts lives in peril but, Honey’s credibility and sanity under fierce examination.  Almost singlehandedly, Stewart’s performance of an eccentrically forgettable scientist and single father makes the film, as unconventional as it is, soar as gracefully as it does with Honey’s stirring sticktoitiveness serving as its glue and offering audiences a leading man to believe in.

    KL Studio Classics presents No Highway in the Sky with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of expectant traces of speckling and sporadic vertical lines, the black and white cinematography arrives in otherwise splendid condition with strong detail observed in facial features while, Stewart’s dark suit and jacket are displayed with throughly inky levels.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that captures dialogue exchanges with ease, the engines of the Reindeer plane roar satisfactorily without overwhelming the track’s more primary concerns.  Surprisingly and most pleasingly to report, cracks and pops are of no discernible concern.  Special features include, a rather chatty and informative Audio Commentary with Film Historian Jeremy Arnold & Bob Koster that deeply covers the film’s making as well as the directorial career of Koster’s father who claims No Highway in the Sky was one of the late Koster’s proudest efforts.  In addition, Trailers for No Highway in the Sky (2:09), Deadline - U.S.A. (2:45), Ten Seconds to Hell (2:14) and Witness for the Prosecution (3:07) conclude the on disc supplements while, Reversible Cover Art reveals the film’s gorgeous U.S. 1-sheet poster presented centerfold style.  Richly conceived and remarkably performed by Stewart, No Highway in the Sky is an undervalued suspense-drama worthy of new sights now made possible by KL Studio Classics’ solid hi-def handling.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, No Highway in the Sky can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Scavenger Hunt (1979) Blu-ray Review

    Scavenger Hunt (1979)

    Director: Michael Schultz

    Starring: Richard Benjamin, James Coco, Scatman Crothers, Ruth Gordon, Cloris Leachman, Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall, Richard Mulligan, Tony Randall, Dirk Benedict, Willie Aames, Stephanie Faracy, Stephen Furst & Richard Masur

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After the passing of eccentrically wealthy game maker Milton Parker (Vincent Price, House of Wax), Scavenger Hunt brings his fifteen diverse would-be heirs together for a competitive shot at his $200 million estate.  Simply instructed, whoever finds all the items by the day’s end will be hailed as the winner in this mad dash through the streets of sunny California.  Michael Schultz (Car Wash) helms the ensemble comedy.

    Feeding the flame that gave rise to other comical rat races in pursuit of cold hard cash, Scavenger Hunt follows the formula admirably with a mansion sized cast serving as its most prized asset.  Summoned for the announcement of dearly departed millionaire Milton Parker’s will, fifteen possible heirs to his fortune including, his staff of servants: Jenkins (Roddy McDowall, Fright Night), Henri (James Coco, Man of La Mancha), Jackson (Cleavon Little, Once Bitten) and Babette (Stephanie Faracy, The Great Outdoors), son-in-law Henry Motely (Tony Randall, The Odd Couple) and his four children, Parker’s widowed sister Mildred Carruthers (Cloris Leachman, The Last Picture Show), her buffoonish son Georgie (Richard Masur, The Thing) and their greedy attorney Stewart Sellsome (Richard Benjamin, Westworld) plus, Parker’s nephews Kenny (Willie Aames, Charles in Charge) and Jeff (Dirk Benedict, The A-Team) Stephens, joined by Mildred’s stepdaughter Lisa (Maureen Taffy, Grease 2) and thoughtless cabbie Marvin Dummitz (Richard Mulligan, Empty Nest) all arrive with a once in a lifetime opportunity at luxury and wealth.  Required to retrieve an endless supply of oddball items including, but surely not limited to, an ostrich, crystal ball, toilet, safe, moose head, false teeth, fox tail and even a fat person, the diverse pool of participants form five separate teams in order to better their odds at the desirable $200 million.  

    Featuring additional appearances from Scatman Crothers (The Shining), Meat Loaf (Roadie) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) as a fitness instructor, Scavenger Hunt is littered with one loony sequence after another when Richard Benjamin’s Stewart suffers from a case of bad luck with elevators and a run-in with a violent biker gang while, a high-speed pursuit of the many scavengers through San Diego is met with expected crashes and a lemon meringue mess.  While the film may not be the laugh-a-minute bonanza one might expect with a runtime that overextends itself by a minuscule margin, Scavenger Hunt packs plenty of physical sight gags and feverish energy to make the ride a worthy one.  Additionally, the dynamite selection of performers also ranks as one of the finer ensemble casts found in a star-studded comedy of its ilk.

    KL Studio Classics welcomes Scavenger Hunt to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Maintaining intermittent moments of softness, colors are bright and bold with Kenny and Jeff’s orange van as well as Stewart’s baby blue suit popping most effectively.  Furthermore, skin tones are healthy and respectably detailed with the greenery of the San Diego Zoo making an authentic presence.  Natural grain is evident throughout with no digital-noise tinkering observed.  Equipped with a rather hollow sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible yet, lacks a stronger push that trickles down to the film’s rather lifeless score and dull-sounding action sequences.  A faint hiss is detected throughout but hardly a deal breaking bother.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Schultz, Play to Win with Richard Benjamin (10:07) where the star recalls his early work on the stage and other career highlights while, addressing Wile E. Coyote’s direct inspiration on his character in the film.  Benjamin also praises Schultz’s generous nature and his love for Laurel & Hardy that he also injected into the film’s many physically funny moments.  In addition, Winner Take All with Richard Masur (10:12) confirms the obvious that the film was consciously attempting to be Hellzapoppin’ and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World for the late 70s.  Masur shares that his character and mannerisms in the film were based on a young neighbor while, recalling the difficulty of handling an ostrich which can be extremely dangerous to contain.  The Risky Business star also praises Leachman and her underrated comedic abilities.  Lastly, Trailers for Moving Violations (1:28), After the Fox (2:49) and Married to the Mob (2:09) are also included along with Reversible Cover Art.

    A zany romp where the working class and well off compete for a shot at millions, Scavenger Hunt stays the course of similar ensemble efforts before it with varying results.  While its laughs aren’t always as huge or memorable as its impressive cast, the film’s hunt for absurd items and the physical exploits that follow in their pursuit make for an entertaining journey to take with the fellow scavengers.  Arriving on Blu-ray with strong albeit, uneven technical grades, KL Studio Classics buffers the release with a welcome assortment of new cast interviews and a filmmaker’s commentary worth exploring.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Scavenger Hunt can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Internecine Project (1974) Blu-ray Review

    The Internecine Project (1974)

    Director: Ken Hughes

    Starring: James Coburn, Lee Grant, Harry Andrews, Michael Jayston, Christiane Kruger & Keenan Wynn

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When former secret agent Professor Robert Elliot (James Coburn, The Great Escape) is offered the prestigious position of advisor to the President of the United States, The Internecine Project explores his devious plot to exterminate the few with knowledge of his dark past.  Lee Grant (Damian: Omen II), Harry Andrews (Moby Dick), Michael Jayston (Zulu Dawn), Christiane Kruger (Mother) and Keenan Wynn (Point Blank) costar.

    Co-scripted and produced by Barry Levinson (Who?), The Internecine Project is an intricately plotted examination of corruption, espionage and murder in the pursuit of power and greed.  Continuing his ascension in the political stratosphere, Professor Robert Elliot welcomes the coveted role of advisor to the President with pleasure.  Pleased with the life changing opportunity, Elliot, a former secret agent with skeletons in his closet, quickly realizes that with every achievement comes backlash from others.  Devising a grand plan to eliminate four individuals that could potentially threaten his future, the soon-to-be advisor intends to rid them all in a single evening.  Expertly crafted with no loose ends leading back to its puppet master, civil servant Alex Hellman (Ian Hendry, Repulsion), elderly masseur Bert Parsons (Andrews), high-end hooker Christina Larsson (Kruger) and diabetic scientist David Baker (Jayston), all fall for Elliot’s scheme, unknowingly offing one another consecutively.  Providing each individual with detailed instructions while playing a clever game of phone tag with Elliot each step of the way to report their progress, the diverse quartet find themselves picked off by a deadly injection of insulin and a fatal frequency of sound waves among other tragedies.  An intriguing premise with the always dependable Coburn leading the pack, The Internecine Project leaves much to wonder about Elliot’s past while his hunger for control remains his main source of fuel.  A product of its time that handles suspense sufficiently with an unexpected albeit, karma-serving conclusion, The Internecine Project may be too vague for some while, satisfying others with its devotion to fiendish plots.

    Leaping to high-definition, KL Studio Classics presents The Internecine Project with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Softly photographed with fleeting instances of scuffs, colors are satisfactory with natural appearances in skin tones and respective details preserved.  Not a particularly vivid-looking feature, darker levels found in Elliot’s quiet study and the night time homicides carried out by the supporting cast are well-handled under intended low lighting.  Overall, the Ken Hughes thriller makes an agreeable debut on the format.  Joined by a decent DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is efficiently relayed while, the scoring cues of Roy Bud (Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger) make their point in bulking up the film’s tenser moments.  Far from a sonically-charged sound mix, the track achieves the necessary.  Ported over from Scorpion Releasing’s previous DVD release, special features consist of Decoding the Project: Conversation with Writer Jonathan Lynn (18:47) where Lynn discusses taking the project on for free since he had no credits at the time, his fond memories of Levinson and the changes made following Director Ken Hughes’s involvement.  Lastly, a Trailer Gallery featuring The Internecine Project (3:00), Harry in Your Pocket (1:59), Loophole (1:26) and The Naked Face (2:10) conclude the supplements.

    While power is central to Elliot’s endgame, The Internecine Project feels one-sided with so little known about the dirt threatening his career, leaving the brutal and occasionally silly murders as the film’s true calling card.  Coburn is expectedly aces in the lead role with a twisty conclusion that could have felt even more heightened provided more substance to the brilliantly lethal professor was spared.  Carrying over the previously available interview with Screenwriter Jonathan Lynn, KL Studio Classics sees the film receives respectable hi-def treatment.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, The Internecine Project can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Who? (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Who? (1975)

    Director: Jack Gold

    Starring: Elliot Gould, Trevor Howard, Joseph Bova, Edward Grover & James Noble

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the disappearance of a noted American scientist after a near fatal wreck in the Soviet Union, Who? finds the survivor reappearing unrecognizable as a robotic-hybrid of his former self.  Tasked with determining the true identity of this metallic being, FBI agent Sean Rogers (Elliot Gould, The Long Goodbye) remains cautiously unsure whether who stands before him is the wounded scientist or an elaborate rouse by Russian forces.  Trevor Howard (Meteor), Joseph Bova (Serpico), Edward Grover (Death Wish) and James Noble (Benson) costar.

    Based on the sci-fi novel by Algis Budrys, Who? stages a tediously dull thriller of uncertain identities and international espionage, brought to life by performances as yawningly robotic as the film’s scientist in metal clothing.  After American scientist and leader of the confidential Neptune Project, Lucas Martino (Bova), vanishes following a deadly car crash along the Soviet border, the thought to be dead professor emerges with his brain and right arm intact whereas the remainder of his body is of robotic material.  Escorted back to the custody of domestic agencies, FBI agent Sean Rogers is all but certain Martino is not who he says he is.  Part paranoid and inclined to trust his instincts, Rogers, through countless interrogations and investigations into the roboman’s past, must determine the truth including the likelihood of Russian intelligence attempting to obtain more information on the Neptune Project.  Juxtaposing between the FBI and the Soviet’s time with the robot assumed to be Martino, Who? is a slow-burn that stumbles to remain interesting or exciting with the exception of a far too short airport runway car chase.  Unintentionally silly in its roboman design and doused in somber tones leaving the film cold to the touch, Who? sounds far more intriguing than it is entertaining resulting in an otherwise forgettable curiosity piece.

    KL Studio Classics presents Who? with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Containing numerous instances of scratches, speckles and cigarette burns to varying degrees, picture quality falls generally softer with black levels, evident in the film’s opening border exchange of Martino, leaving more to be desired.  In addition, skin tones are handled decently while, detail is not of the sharpest caliber with colors occasionally failing to remain consistent.  Although its elements appear to not be the most well maintained, the high-definition transfer remains of average grade.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 that neither gravely disappoints or overwhelming satisfies, dialogue is efficiently exchanged with cracks and pops present mostly during reel changes.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Jack Gold, moderated by Film Historian Anthony Sloman.  Finally, a Trailer Gallery consisting of The Long Goodbye (2:31), Busting (2:45), The Offence (1:51) and The Naked Face (2:10) conclude the disc’s supplemental package.

    An intriguing premise that lacks style, Who? short-circuits quickly turning a quality cast into a siege of wooden performances, chalking this Cold War thriller into a battle badly lost.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, KL Studio Classics brings the peculiar spy feature to hi-def with passable grades that bare their fair share of battle wounds yet, get the job done all the same.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Who? can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • Loophole (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Loophole (1981)

    Director: John Quested

    Starring: Albert Finney, Martin Sheen, Susannah York, Colin Blakely, Jonathan Pryce & Robert Morley

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Robert Pollack, Loophole centers on career criminal Mike Daniels (Albert Finney, Big Fish) and his cronies as they embark on an ambitious heist of one of London’s most prestigious bank vaults.  Requiring the services of a straight man in the highly successful yet, unemployed Stephen Booker (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now), the desperate architect agrees to join the team in hopes of turning his misfortunes around.  Susannah York (The Awakening), Colin Blakely (The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes), Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) and Robert Morley (Around the World in Eighty Days) costar.

    Marking the final directorial effort of John Quested (Philadelphia, Here I Come), Loophole is a tightly crafted and well-executed crime picture bringing the worlds of expert thieves and one down on his luck businessman together for the heist of a lifetime.  Suffering from a series of professional setbacks and living a lifestyle well beyond his means, respected architect Stephen Booker is offered a position unlike anything else.  Discovering a vulnerability in the underground sewer systems, professional bank robber Mike Daniels targets the International Securities Bank holding millions and requires Stephen’s architectural expertise to navigate the team’s entry.  Struggling to repay his own debts while funding his wife’s (York) new interior design business, Stephen agrees to the arrangement pending no violence is utilized.  Efficient and precise in their work, the crew penetrate a nearby manhole cover as they descend under the city to eventually emerge through the floor of the thought to be impenetrable vault.  Tearing through brick walls and combatting poisonous gas, rats and unexpected flooding, the well-thought-out scheme may cost the men their lives before recovering their riches.  Hosting excellent performances from both Finney and Sheen, Loophole may not be the most exciting of pictures yet, the thieving crew’s calculated plot and refreshing camaraderie between them make the film an engaging watch.  In addition, although Stephen’s insistence of nonviolence foreshadows the likelihood of a rogue teammate backstabbing his allies, the lack of such an expected cliché makes seeing the charismatic crew succeed in their mission all the greater.  Critically panned and largely overlooked by audiences at the time of its release, Loophole is a crafty crime thriller worthy of retrieval from the vault.

    Presented with a 1080p transfer and sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, KL Studio Classics’ handling of Loophole is a passable effort that admires accurate skin tones and only slight traces of speckling seen mostly during the film’s opening.  Far from a wide-varyingly colorful feature, costume textures are pleasing while, the crew’s yellow truck pops effectively.  Furthermore, once the thieves enter London’s sewer system black levels are respectable with visibility generally satisfying.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue with ease, Lalo Schifrin’s (Mission: Impossible) score is presented with decent, if not, inconsistent effectiveness while, the click-clang and explosive sound effects during the crew’s penetration of the sewer rings nicely.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director John Quested, moderated by FilmWax Radio’s Adam Schartoff.  Lastly, a Trailer Gallery featuring Loophole (1:26), When Eight Bells Toll (2:49), Juggernaut (2:54), Thunderbolt & Lightfoot (2:00), The File of the Golden Goose (2:37) and The Internecine Project (3:00) conclude the disc’s bonus offerings.

    While Loophole may not take more dramatic chances with its narrative, the film offers wonderful performances from its entire cast and delivers an excellent overview of the painstaking planning of a job, perhaps better than most heist films before or after.  Scant on extras, KL Studio Classics breaks this bank robbing picture into the HD realm with admirable results, sure to satisfy cinematic heist hounds with a penchant for the overlooked.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Loophole can be purchased via KinoLorber.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Park Is Mine (1985) Blu-ray Review

    The Park Is Mine (1985)

    Director: Steven Hilliard Stern

    Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Helen Shaver & Yaphet Kotto

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the suicide of his fellow solider, The Park Is Mine centers on a disgruntled Vietnam war veteran (Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men) whose disappointment in his country’s respect for vets turns dangerous.  Staging an elaborate take over of New York’s Central Park, the ex-solider’s attempt to bring attention to the bigger issues are met with resistance by the city’s police force and equally skilled commandos.  Helen Shaver (The Believers) and Yaphet Kotto (Alien) costar.

    A surprising made-for-TV effort that exudes cinematic flair, The Park Is Mine, a byproduct of the era’s lucrative Canadian tax-shelter program and a home video mainstay guaranteed to be seen in local shops’ action sections, manages to pack a suspense-filled feature of firepower.  Based on the book by Stephen Peters while deviating from its source’s much darker tones and casting a far more humble light upon its protagonist, The Park Is Mine finds jobless and directionless war veteran Mitch (Jones) grieving over the loss of his former brother-in-arms and uncovering his friend’s unfulfilled attempt to make the masses reappraise their view of sacrificing soldiers.  Examining his fallen comrade’s detailed plans and already implemented tactics to successfully take over the city’s expansive Central Park, Mitch, equally dissatisfied with his own life’s hand, takes command of the operation.  Decorated in war paint, a Yankees hat and heavily loaded with artillery and explosives, Mitch’s terroristic takeover is met with unsuccessful thwarts by New York’s finest before the city’s under appreciated citizens see the system-shaker as a hometown hero.  While the film is complimented with supporting turns by Yaphet Kotto, a pillar of police procedurals and gangster pictures as a cautious officer, Helen Shaver as a daring news camerawoman who gets personally embroiled in Mitch’s one-man war and Gale Garnett (Mad Monster Party) as Mitch’s estranged wife who supplies unintentionally welcome comic relief as she hassles her husband with phone calls during his coup, Tommy Lee Jones’ performance single-handedly dominates the film with the precise blending of a calculated war expert and the shakiness of a distressed man winging his uncertain actions.  Climaxing with a fatal showdown against deadly mercenaries, The Park Is Mine may keep its bodycount low but maintains a tight pace and explosively well-handled action set pieces.  Further cementing its big-screen aura, Tangerine Dream’s (Thief, Risky Business) electronically-charged score adds a cherry-topping flavor to this effectively dramatic showcase of urban warfare and anti-heroes defending their turf and wrongly overlooked commitments to their country.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Park Is Mine with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Excusing minor instances of speckling, natural grain is apparent and most pleasing while, skin tones are nicely preserved with Mitch’s fading warpaint and perspiration also well-detailed.  In addition, colors found in Central Park’s robust greenery and the police officer’s bullet-proof vests pop strongly with nighttime sequences demonstrating easy-to-see black levels throughout.  Although several quick drops in volume occur during a diner sequence between Shaver and her colleague, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 handles the duration of all other dialogue with crispness and clarity while, the film’s machine gun blasts and other explosions make respectable racket on the track.  Meanwhile, Tangerine Dream’s underrated synth-score is nothing short of a listening pleasure whenever its head is reared.  Special features include, a highly informative Audio Commentary with Film Historian Nathaniel Thompson that covers the intriguing background of the film’s Canadian production backers, the tonal and character development changes made between the book and its adaptation plus, the onscreen acting talent and plenty of other worthy film recommendations that come up in discussion.  Furthermore, Trailers for The Park Is Mine (2:08), Blown Away (1:35), The Package (2:18), Report to the Commissioner (2:21) & Busting (2:45) round out the on-disc supplements with a Reversible Cover Art also on hand.

    Impressing with its big-screen bravado, superior acting talent and choice score compliments of electronic mavericks Tangerine Dream, The Park Is Mine appears more brutal than what is presented while orchestrating well-conceived suspense and a vastly underrated turn from Jones.  Airing on HBO and routinely stocked on video store shelves before their decline, The Park Is Mine remains a worthy thriller to take to the front lines.  A most welcome addition to their wildly diverse catalog, KL Studio Classics salutes this Vietnam vet feature with a top-notch HD debut and a valued commentary track, as informative as its film is entertaining.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Park Is Mine can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Doomwatch (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Doomwatch (1972)

    Director: Peter Sasdy

    Starring: Ian Bannen, Judy Geeson, John Paul, Simon Oates, Jean Trend, Joby Blanshard, George Sanders, Percy Herbert, Geoffrey Keen, Joseph O’Connor & Shelagh Fraser

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When citizens of a small island community develop aggressive behavior and monstrous disfigurements, Doomwatch finds the determined Dr. Del Shaw (Ian Bannen, The Flight of the Phoenix) and local schoolteacher Victoria Brown (Judy Geeson, The Lords of Salem) risking their lives to uncover the horrifying truth.  Costarring the likes of John Paul (A Countess from Hong Kong), Simon Oates (The Terrornauts) and George Sanders (The Jungle Book), Hammer horror veteran Peter Sasdy (Countess Dracula, Hands of the Ripper) directs.

    Spun-off from the short-lived BBC series of the same name while serving little to no consequence for the uninitiated, Doomwatch relegates several cast regulars to supporting parts in exchange for headliners Bannen and Geeson to pave a new path for its big-screen opus.  Marketed with an enticing campaign in tune with its director’s more horror-oriented efforts, Doomwatch’s environmentally cautious tale pits anti-pollution scientist Dr. Del Shaw on an investigation off the island village of Balfe where the citizens have demonstrated peculiar behavior and even more questionable physical changes.  While the townsfolk hold firm to their belief that their sickly states are God’s punishments for generations of inbreeding, Shaw suspects radioactive waste and illegal dumping in their surrounding waters to be the root of the problem.  Untrusted by the masses with many debilitating into murderous mongoloids, Shaw, along with his only onsite ally Victoria Brown and his headquarters of likeminded scientists, must make the citizens understand the gravity of their conditions before Balfe as they know it becomes extinct.  Loaded with lab coat deliberations, scuba-diving investigations and far too seldom appearances from the island’s mutated locals, Doomwatch's not-so subtle message signaling the dangers of pollution feels ahead of its time and far more potent in today’s environmentally conscience society yet, can’t help but mildly disappoint for cloaking itself as the sci-fi thriller it is not.  Boasting a stirring score from John Scott (Man on Fire) and watchable performances from its principal players, Doomwatch may not fully live up to its promotional campaign of island-infested monsters but, delivers a respectable message with a handful of thrills to go around.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Doomwatch with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Making a strong leap to high-definition, skin tones are consistently handled with detail in the disfigured local’s faces nicely highlighted.  Meanwhile, the softness found on the island’s misty surroundings remains intact while, black levels waver from respectable to slightly murky, seen most apparently during the film’s opening.  Lastly, scant scratches are observed but never deter from watchability.  Equipped with a satisfactory DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is crisp with only heavier accents occasionally requiring a boost in volume due more to their thickness and less with the mix’s performance.  In addition, John Scott’s riveting score provides exceptional ambiance on the track while, several cracks and pops make their presence heard.  Special features include, an On-Camera Intro by Director Peter Sasdy (2:18), an Audio Commentary with Director Peter Sasdy, Doomsday with Judy Geeson (6:20) where the film’s female lead recalls the difficult shoot on Cornwall and its unpredictable weather conditions, her attraction to the hot-button issue of pollution for taking the role and her admirations for her fellow costars.  Lastly, Trailers for The Island of Dr. Moreau (2:12), The Neptune Factor (3:02) and War-Gods of the Deep (2:21) are also included.

    Not quite the deep sea excursion into grotesque beasts one would hope, Doomwatch delivers a halfway decent plot exposing the dangers of pollution and a troubled island of misfits at its mercy.  Sure to please slightly more for those not expecting a B-movie bonanza, the environmental thriller would have only benefitted from more genre tropes but alas, remains a decent effort with a certifiably green agenda.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics delivers the film spinoff with a most pleasing presentation and a welcome array of special features including, a new interview with Star Geeson and commentary track from its 81-year-old director.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Moving Violations (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Moving Violations (1985)

    Director: Neal Israel

    Starring: John Murray, Jennifer Tilly, James Keach, Wendy Jo Sperber & Sally Kellerman

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After breaking the rules of the road, Moving Violations finds lazy landscaper Dana Cannon (John Murray, Scrooged) and a group of other disobedient drivers sentenced to traffic school.  When their tight-laced patrolman teacher (James Keach, The Long Riders) and a corrupt judge (Sally Kellerman, Back to School) conspire to cash in on their impounded vehicles, the reckless class shift into high gear to get even.  Neil Israel (Bachelor Party) takes the directing wheel in this comedy crash course.

    From the makers behind Police Academy and borrowing heavily from the boys in blue’s formula, Moving Violations sets an unlucky band of motor vehicilists off in the hilarious race of their lives against the man.  Headlining in one of his few film roles and uncannily exuding the comic charm of elder brother Bill, John Murray’s Dana finds himself wrestling the feathers of traffic deputies Halik (Kean) and Morris (Lisa Hart Carroll, Terms of Endearment) enough to lose his license and land himself behind a desk in a teeth-pulling traffic course.  Joined by a ditzy rocket scientist (Jennifer Tilly, Bride of Chucky), a geeky puppeteer (Brian Backer, The Burning), an unwavering hypochondriac (Wendy Jo Sperber, Back to the Future), a pipe-smoking car doctor (Fred Willard, Best in Show) and a horror movie hound (Ned Eisenberg, Hiding Out) among others, Dana’s incessant sarcasm and class clownish hijinks do him no favors against his strict arresting officer and new teacher, ensuring his class a tough as nails road ahead.  Sparing time for romance with his raspy-voiced NASA classmate and a memorable lovemaking sequence in zero gravity, the classes troubles are only beginning when Halik and their sentencing judge hatch a plan to fail them at all costs in order to split the cost of their impounded cars.  Bending the rules and going behind enemy lines, the license-less students attempt to retrieve the necessary evidence only to have a convention hall of officers on their tails.  Featuring Don Cheadle (The Avengers: Age of Ultron) in his film debut as a fast food server and capturing nostalgic footage of new wave punkers, Moving Violations drives wildly and attracts big laughs thanks to an animated cast and a simplistically silly tale that saves seriousness for the other slowpokes on the road.  A solid entry into the underdogs against higher society genre of comedy making, Moving Violations rarely misses a funny beat and keeps the hilarity honking.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Moving Violations with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a healthily filmic appearance with only very scant traces of flakes and speckles, colors are prominent in bold costume choices while, skin tones always read naturally and well-detailed.  Furthermore, exterior daytime sequences seen in the film’s big chase finale are crisply photographed with a nighttime scene set outside of a punk club handling the lower lighting and neon signage just as appropriately.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that prioritizes dialogue with ease, hiss and cracks are unnoticed while, Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” makes a notably rockin’ appearance on the track.  Special features include a lively Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Neal Israel that covers all aspects of the film’s development and shooting including, its fast-paced writing process and interesting revelations regarding Michael J. Fox’s interest in the lead role before producer concerns about his age cancelled what could have been and Israel’s own experiences in traffic school.  Finally, Trailers for Moving Violations (1:28), Up the Creek (3:16), Porky’s II: The Next Day (2:26), Porky’s Revenge (1:27) & Miracle Beach (2:01) round out the supplements.

    A well-oiled comedy that hits the ground running with ample absurdity, Moving Violations is a pleasant detour through familiar territory from the era that still holds up.  Featuring funny performances from all, namely Murray, whose comedic timing and mannerisms eerily echo that of his Ghostbusters starring brother, this laugh at punished drivers never runs out of gas.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics takes viewers for a ride with a solid HD transfer and a director commentary track well worth listening to.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available December 13th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Moving Violations can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Finders Keepers (1984) Blu-ray Review

    Finders Keepers (1984)

    Director: Richard Lester

    Starring: Michael O’Keefe, Beverly D’Angelo, David Wayne, Ed Lauter, Brian Dennehy, Pamela Stephenson & Louis Gossett, Jr.

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    On the run from the law and a mob of angry roller derby women, a masquerading con man boards a train and inadvertently finds himself in possession of $5 million bucks sought out by several other equally greedy parties in Finders Keepers.  Featuring an ensemble cast of characters, the madcap comedy stars Michael O’Keefe (Caddyshack), Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation), David Wayne (How to Marry a Millionaire), Ed Lauter (Cujo), Brian Dennehy (Best Seller), Pamela Stephenson (History of the World: Part 1) and Louis Gosset, Jr. (Enemy Mine).

    In the vein of other rat race styled comedies populated by familiar funny faces, Finders Keepers models its narrative appropriately with a high stakes pursuit for loot aboard a moving train and a broad spectrum of talent after it yet, virtually derails for its lack of laughs.  Suiting up in soldier attire to evade law enforcement, smooth operating shyster Michael Rangeloff (O’Keefe) hitches a cross-country train ride pretending to be ushering the remains of a fallen soldier back home.  Shortly after striking up a romance with fellow passenger and neurotic wannabe actress Standish Logan (D’Angelo), the professional con man realizes the contents of the casket contain millions of dollars ripped off by a thief (Lauter) and his runaway girlfriend (Stephenson).  Maintaining bogus identities and dodging the likes of the FBI and a bloodthirsty crook, Michael and Standish, with assistance from the former’s cool as ice mentor Century (Gossett, Jr.), confront a not-so-delusional train conductor, disturb desecrated ground and hobble through a house on wheels to protect their stash of cash.  Featuring an early appearance from a young Jim Carrey (Dumb & Dumber), Finders Keepers struggles to find an engaging rhythm amidst its intendedly frantic developments.  While D’Angelo’s comically judgmental tone and belief that Hollywood is the playground for homos and vibrator salesmen stand as humorous high points, Richard Lester’s followup to blockbuster sequels Superman II and III loses steam almost as quickly as it leaves the station.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Finders Keepers with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Kicking off with subpar black levels and skin tones that read overly warm during a nighttime heist, quality vastly improves during daytime sequences where skin pigments, facial details and costume attire relay naturally pleasing levels and vivid colors.  Presentation is clean with no overt levels of print damage while, film grain is abundant and healthy.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is reasonably relayed although sequences aboard the train with the clacking sounds of metal across the tracks occasionally overwhelm while slight instances of hiss are also heard.  Hardly a dynamic track, soundtrack cuts from The Beach Boys, Supertramp and Don McLean make strong appearances throughout.  Although no bonus features related to the film itself are included, Trailers for Married to the Mob (2:09), Real Men (1:27), The Couch Trip (1:14), Delirious (2:22) and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (2:11) are on hand.

    While the necessary ingredients to deliver a comedy romp are mostly prevalent, Finders Keepers takes a wrong turn that wastes an otherwise strong cast on a script lacking funnier gusto.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics supplies the ensemble effort to high-definition with decent to strong technical grades but an empty loot bag of relevant extras.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Finders Keepers 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.

  • Wolf Lake (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Wolf Lake (1980)

    Director: Burt Kennedy

    Starring: Rod Steiger, David Huffman, Robin Mattson, Jerry Hardin, Richard Herd & Paul Mantee

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Writer/Director Burt Kennedy (The Train Robbers), Wolf Lake centers on decorated WWII veteran Charlie (Rob Steiger, In the Heat of the Night), along with his war buddies, who travel to a Canadian lakeside for a weekend of hunting.  Shortly after meeting caretaker David (David Huffman, Blood Beach) and his girlfriend, tension rises once his recent past as a war deserter is revealed.  Short on tolerance, Charlie engages in a crazed hunt for the couple, invoking David’s own ruthless survival instincts.  Robin Mattson (Santa Barbra), Jerry Hardin (Cujo), Richard Herd (Planes, Trains & Automobiles) and Paul Mantee (Framed) costar.

    Surprisingly filmed in Mexico, Wolf Lake is a rarely seen yet, masterfully achieved effort that examines the contrasting viewpoints amongst soldiers, divided by generations and unique experiences.  Delivering a powerhouse performance, Rod Steiger conveys unwavering patriotism, vulnerability, anger and madness in his role as lead hunter and WWII vet Charlie whose crackpot remarks towards reserved caretaker David ignite a war of differences between the two former soldiers.  Learning of David’s wartime desertion while coping with the death of his own son killed in Vietnam, Charlie’s emotions run rampant with desires to make David pay for his cowardice ways.  When a belligerent evening of drinking brings harm to David’s girlfriend, a new war is claimed between the two parties.  Methodically tracking the couple with rifles, Charlie and his cohorts find an admirable opponent in David who is merely trying to stay alive.  Featuring a shrieking score from Composer Ken Thorne (Superman II) and nail biting suspense throughout, Wolf Lake is a vastly underrated chapter in the annals of Vietnam War centered pictures with Steiger’s phenomenal performance ranking among one of his best and unfortunately overlooked.  

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Wolf Lake with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While image stability is slightly uneven at times with scratches and scruffs making occasional notices, skin tones are accurate and well-defined while, the isolated scenic locations retain their natural splendor.  Furthermore, speckling is not uncommon in lower lit sequences with the overall condition of its elements satisfying otherwise.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, cracks and pops make seldom statements while, dialogue is audibly relayed with outdoorsy ambiance including, howling winds and chirping birds sounding clear while, Thorne’s musical queues make passable strides in effectiveness.  

    Special features include, Jerry Hardin and Richard Herdon on Wolf Lake (10:17).  In this brief featurette, the elderly actors recall the bond formed between the cast at the film’s isolated location with mentions of Burt Kennedy’s own decorated war history and his respected talent.  In addition, Lance Hool on Wolf Lake (11:21) finds the producer recollecting on his unique upbringing in Mexico that earned him parts in Howard Hawks films and other features before transitioning to producing.  Hool discusses the casting of Steiger and his unbelievable audition, the film’s controversial themes that caused physical fights during test screenings and its slow distribution death resulting in Hool turning down future Vietnam related pictures such as First Blood and Platoon.  Furthermore, a Trailer Gallery consisting of Avenging Force (1:18), Malone (2:00), Assassination (1:57), Steele Justice (1:36) and Hero and the Terror (1:26) are included with Alternate Artwork concluding the supplemental package.

    Emotionally charged and unnervingly thrilling, Wolf Lake stands as one of Steiger’s most passionate performances that has remained largely unseen due to the film’s hot-button themes released in the wake of the controversial Vietnam war.  Although not taking place on the frontline of battle, Writer/Director Burt Kennedy’s character-driven opus, surrounding the expectations of a soldier and the damaging effects of war on those involved, is a powerful showcase of different opinions turned deadly.  Worthy of praise for rescuing such a rediscovered gem, Kino Lorber Studio Classics welcomes the film to HD with expected quality and insightful interviews regarding the film’s unique making and unfortunate release history.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Wolf Lake can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Trouble Man (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Trouble Man (1972)

    Director: Ivan Dixon

    Starring: Robert Hooks, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite, William Smithers, Paula Kelly & Julius Harris

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When full-time hustler and licensed private eye Mr. T (Robert Hooks, N.Y.P.D.) is hired by two thugs to investigate their compromised gambling operation, Trouble Man finds the smooth talking enforcer engaged in a web of gang wars and murder in order to clear his slandered name.  Paul Winfield (The Terminator), Ralph Waite (The Waltons), William Smithers (Scorpio), Paula Kelly (Soylent Green) and Julius Harris (Super Fly) costar.

    A step above the average blaxploitation feature, Trouble Man highlights the bustling lifestyle of South Central’s own Mr. T whose expert pool skills, fashionable style and ladies man swagger compliment his no-nonsense street smarts and sharp business savvy as the ghetto’s personal problem solver.  Approached by local thugs Chalky (Winfield) and Pete (Waite) to uncover the masked thieves responsible for disrupting their gambling circuit, Mr. T finds himself entangled in a gang war when rival crime lord Big (Harris) is gunned down, laying the blame on the very capable hands of the inner city private detective.  Pursued by vengeful gangsters and local law enforcement, Mr. T unbuttons his expensive jacket and leads a one man army to bring his foolish framers down.  Charismatically charged, Robert Hooks headlines as the smooth soul brother whose martial arts expertise and whip-cracking demeanor ignites the film’s contagiously cool aura while, Motown legend Marvin Gaye’s choice musical accompaniments can’t be overstated.  Tightly edited by Michael Kahn before his career spanning collaborations with Director Steven Spielberg, Trouble Man is wickedly fun with memorable performances and action-packed gang warfare justifying itself as one bad motha worth investigating.

    With the exception of speckling observed during dimly lit sequences, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is overwhelmingly clean with no overt levels of damage while, the film’s inherent softness, as a product of its time, remains intact without compromising detail.  Meanwhile, flesh tones are eye-pleasing with more flamboyantly colorful attire and vibrant 70s decor popping nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that occasionally requires volume increases, dialogue is largely audible with few softer spoken exchanges registering not as strongly.  Thankfully, Marvin Gaye’s main title theme and other melodic queues are projected sharply with gunfire effects throughout the film’s final act making appropriate statements.  Relatively scant, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historians Nathanial Thompson & Howard S. Berger with a Trailer Gallery featuring Trouble Man (2:30), Truck Turner (5:13), Across 110th Street (2:58), Cotton Comes to Harlem (2:11) and Report to the Commissioner (2:21) concluding the extras.

    Absurdly included amongst the fifty worst films of all time in Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss’ 1978 paperback, Trouble Man is far better and more entertaining than its reputation suggests.  Battling to clear his name while always ensuring time for beautiful girls, Robert Hooks leads the way with an entertaining turn loaded with attitude and leaving his enemies calling for mercy.  Boasting a soulful score from Marvin Gaye and a film appreciators audio commentary, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ HD treatment of this underrated blaxploitation picture is as cool as the original Mr. T.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Trouble Man can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Fuzz (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Fuzz (1972)

    Director: Richard A. Colla

    Starring: Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Tom Skerritt, Yul Brynner & Raquel Welch

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When a crazed extortionist targeting public officials descends upon Boston, Fuzz finds the bumbling forces of local law enforcement determined to capture the mysterious criminal using any goofy means necessary.  Burt Reynolds (Deliverance), Jack Weston (The Thomas Crown Affair), Tom Skerritt (Top Gun), Yul Brynner (Westworld) and Raquel Welch (Fantastic Voyage) star in this crime-comedy from Director Richard A. Colla (Battlestar Galactica).

    Set in the 87th Precinct where an apple green makeover is in progress and incompetence runs thick, Fuzz oddly melds police procedural with comedic antics in pursuit of saving Beantown from a mysterious criminal mastermind.  Based on the popular book series and scripted by its creator Ed McBain (under the pseudonym Evan Hunter), Fuzz is as loud and bustling as its set city with rampant activity, chain-smoking and overlapping conversations taking place amongst the undercover detectives’ workspace.  Proving their hilarious nincompoopness time and again, Detective Steve Carella (Reynolds), masquerading as a hobo finds himself torched by youthful punks for kicks while, the arrival of the jaw-droppingly foxy recruit Det. McHenry (Welch) leaves the station struggling to pick their tongues up from the ground.  Following extortion demands and hits on several esteemed city officials from a villainous deaf man (Brynner), the entire department pull their efforts together to bring down the methodical baddie.  Boasting a fine ensemble cast, Fuzz is tonally peculiar but, generally succeeds in capturing laughs while, its more serious agenda as a hard-nosed copper feature feels rather routine.  Although charmingly dated with great moments featuring Reynolds and Weston undercover as nuns while, Welch and Skerritt get trapped within a sleeping bag conducting surveillance, Fuzz has sporadic shades of fun, best served as a nostalgic time capsule where antiquated appearances from speed dial cards and 25 cent peepshow booths take place.

    Newly remastered, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Fuzz with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While its opening titles of city life feature murkier black levels, skin tones are pleasing and well-detailed with the apple green paint applied to the 87th Precinct popping suitably.  In addition, textures seen in costume choices are respectable with natural grain well intact and print damage being of minimal concern.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible but can present challenges attributed to actors intentionally speaking over one another.  Occasionally hollow sounding with street ambiance and other subdued effects proving more fortuitous, the final product is decent at best.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Richard A. Colla, moderated by Filmmaker Elijah Drenner.  Covering a vast array of topics including, Brian De Palma’s original attachment to the film, praising Hunter’s charming script and location shooting versus backlots, Drenner does an admirable job pulling anecdotes from Colla about the production and his television career.  In addition, “Trailers From Hell” with Josh Olson (3:05) and Trailers for Fuzz (2:58), White Lightning (2:25), Gator (1:09), Sam Whiskey (2:24) and Malone (2:00) round out the bonus features.

    Aligning a comedic touch to the more traditional cop drama it becomes in its later half, Fuzz makes its goofiness prominent and enjoyable with the ensemble cast noticeably having a great time.  A relic of its era that still musters mild charm, Kino Lorber Studio Classics welcomes the adaptation to high-definition with middle of the road results and enlightening commentary on the film from its maker and Academy Award nominated Screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) respectively.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • The Astro-Zombies (1968) Blu-ray Review

    The Astro-Zombies (1968)

    Director: Ted V. Mikels

    Starring: Wendell Corey, John Carradine, Tom Pace, Joan Patrick, Tura Satana & Rafael Campos

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From cult icon Ted V. Mikels (The Doll Squad), The Astro-Zombies centers on mad scientist Dr. DeMarco (John Carradine, House of Frankenstein) whose crazed experimentations on the deceased to bring life to his robotic creations gains the attention of others.  Pursued by international spies, criminals and the CIA, the man made monsters escape leaving a trail of blood in their wake.  

    Unsurprisingly produced in less than a week with a considerable sum of its budget accounted for star John Carradine’s fee, The Astro-Zombies is out of this world awful, daring curious viewers to survive through its wildly overlong runtime and dense plot.  Failing to blend several genres in one, Ted V. Mikels’ sci-fi stinker, long considered one of the worst films ever made, channels paint drying as the elderly Carradine yawningly tinkers with laboratory equipment and spats scientific jargon while, later a topless, body painted dancer flaunts to the camera far longer than required.  Secretly developing solar-powered astro-men who laughably bear similarities to uncoordinated men in Halloween masks, Dr. MeMarco’s efforts are desired by Mexican baddies led by the foxy Santana (Tura Satana, Faster, Pussycat!  Kill!  Kill!) while, CIA agents lead an investigation to stop DeMarco at all costs.  Featuring painfully dull characters and overreaching in its attempts to throw everything and the kitchen sink into its final product, The Astro-Zombies remains puzzlingly tedious even when delivering on its colorfully gaudy poster art during the film’s lackluster climax.  Directly influencing horror punk pioneers The Misfits’ memorable song of the same name, The Astro-Zombies merely holds appeal for bad movie aficionados with a glutton for cinematic punishment.

    Newly remastered, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Astro-Zombies with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Unavoidably retaining traces of scratches, scuffs and lines, screen judder is routinely present while, colors appear rather drab and inconsistent.  Meanwhile, skin tones waver from natural to pinkish with black levels leaving more to be desired.  A product of its making and unkempt source materials, Mikels’ D-grade picture may not look ideal but surely won’t look any better.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue struggles to be heard, often overwhelmed by low recording levels or muffled exchanges.  Underwhelming to say the least, the track thankfully lacks disruptive moments of hiss or pops but, generally disappoints.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett of RiffTrax, an Audio Commentary with Director Ted V. Mikels and a third Audio Commentary with Horror Cinema Historian Chris Alexander.  In addition, Trailers for The Astro-Zombies (2:16), Beware! The Blob (1:45), The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (2:13) and Deranged (1:40) are included along with a Reversible Cover Art.

    Far removed from the more direct alien exploits anticipated by its alluring 1-sheet, The Astro-Zombies is a disastrous blunder of nonsensical overindulgence and scatterbrained filmmaking.  Mind-numbingly lame and seemingly never-ending, Kino Lorber Studio Classics appreciatively gives the cult junker a new HD remastering that although, still plagued with anomalies, shows improvement.  Adorned with several vastly unique commentary tracks and a reversible cover art, The Astro-Zombies will unfortunately leave viewers’ faces in a pile of flesh.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available October 11th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Astro-Zombies can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) Blu-ray Review

    The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

    Director: Terrence Fisher

    Starring: Willard Parker, Virginia Field, Dennis Price, Thorley Walters, Vanda Godsell, David Spenser & Anna Palk

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following a worldwide extraterrestrial assault, The Earth Dies Screaming follows several survivors whose defenses and ingenuity depends on the future of the human race.  Willard Parker (Kiss Me Kate) headlines this British science fiction opus, scripted by Harry Spalding (Curse of the Fly, The Watcher in the Woods) under the pseudonym Henry Cross.

    Surrounded by a siege of collapsed bodies and witness to vehicular disasters, The Earth Dies Screaming finds civilization ravaged by robotic saucer men, leaving only a handful of survivors to counteract the invasion.  Breezy and immensely entertaining, Director Terrence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, The Mummy), commonly known for his gothic masterpieces for Hammer Films, brings ample tension and desolate dread to one of his only proper sci-fi centered features.  As the metallic monsters repurpose fallen humans as eerie, white-eyed hunters, The Earth Dies Screaming, led by an American surrounded by local Englishmen, unquestionably bears its influence on George A. Romero’s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead while, remaining a terrifically undervalued end of days feature in its own right.  Shot at Shepparton Studios in London, suspicion amongst the surviving humans and an expectant mother contribute added doses of suspense to this space age thriller that concludes on an explosive note.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Earth Dies Screaming with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing no detrimental marks of age-related scuffs, the film’s monochrome photography is beautifully relayed with sharp detail and black levels leaving deeply inky impressions.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is well handled and absent of hiss or pops while, the remainder of the rather tame track makes admirable strides through its score and collisions into the alien robots.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith, an Animated Photo Montage (3:37) and Trailers for The Earth Dies Screaming (2:14), Invisible Invaders (2:00), Chosen Survivors (3:06), Panic in the Year Zero (2:24) and The Satan Bug (2:12) rounding out the supplements.

    Trading Dracula’s fangs for terror from above, The Earth Dies Screaming maintains Terrence Fisher’s exacting touch with thrills and atmospheric suspense.  Wildly underrated while influencing later day genre efforts, the menacingly titled British feature stands out against its rampant American made counterparts of the era.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics welcomes the sci-fi favorite to high-definition with impressive technical grades that genre fans will be happy to have invade their collections.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Earth Dies Screaming can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Haunted Honeymoon (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Haunted Honeymoon (1986)

    Director: Gene Wilder

    Starring: Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, Dom DeLuise, Jonathan Pryce & Paul L. Smith

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Heading into their wedding weekend, Haunted Honeymoon finds Larry Abbot (Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory) and his fiancé Vickie Pearle (Gilda Radner, Saturday Night Live) visiting the gothic mansion of his great Aunt Kate (Dom DeLuise, Silent Movie).  Unbeknownst to Larry, his loved ones are secretly conducting a psychological procedure to help the talented actor overcome his irrational phobias and frantic nerves by scaring him to death.  When creepy happenings occur and a potential werewolf on the loose, Larry begins suspecting someone in his family wants him gone for good.  Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), Peter Vaughn (Straw Dogs), Paul L. Smith (Sonny Boy) and Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) costar.

    In his final directorial outing, Gene Wilder reteams with his late offscreen wife Gilda Radner and Blazing Saddles costar Dom DeLuise for a bone tickling blend of humor and haunts.  Best known as the popular stars of the radio hit program Manhattan’s Mystery Theater, engaged couple Larry and Vickie look to officially tie the knot at the grand homestead of Larry’s eccentric Aunt Kate.  Feeling on top of the world yet, struggling to overcome his unexpected bouts of nervous phobias, Larry’s uncle, Dr. Paul Abbot (Smith), has discovered a cure for his nephew that involves scaring him beyond belief.  With family and loved ones congregating at the mammoth mansion, Aunt Kate confidentially wills her fortunes to Larry while Dr. Abbot secretly informs the others of his planned experiment.  Before long, an electrical blackout, a thunderous storm and talk of a werewolf leaves the entire estate uneasy and suspicious of one another, fueling the notion that someone close to Larry may be jealous of his eventual riches.  Establishing a wonderful gothic ambiance and romantically real chemistry between Wilder and Radner, Haunted Honeymoon offers delightful doses of comedic spurts thanks largely to DeLuise’s hilarious turn in drag as the passive aggressive Aunt Kate.  In addition, Radner and DeLuise cut a rug during a wonderful song and dance routine that ranks as one of the film’s shining moments.  Proving to be capable behind the camera as well as in front, Wilder’s charm and comedic timing can hardly be matched with a knee-slapping sequence involving Wilder’s Larry using the legs of unconscious butler Pfister (Bryan Pingle, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) as his own during police questioning.  While its murder mystery style plot may have been dated for its time resulting in a box-office bomb, Haunted Honeymoon, although no classic to be sure, has aged favorably and juggles lighthearted laughs with innocent scares nicely.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Haunted Honeymoon with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly remastered, Wilder’s horror/comedy retains its intended, foggy appearance with skin tones remaining steady throughout.  In addition, colors are crisp with detail nicely impressing in the mansion’s decrepit walls and rain droplets on the leather gloves of Larry’s stalker displayed vividly.  Boasting healthy black levels and a noticeably clean appearance, the creepy comedy makes a healthy HD debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue makes easy and clear transitions with the lively score, notably Radner and DeLuise’s musical number, thunderstorm effects and spooky sound cues making the most of their efforts.  Unfortunately limited to just Trailers for Haunted Honeymoon (2:19), The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (2:53) and Life Stinks (2:01), the lack of bonus contents is disappointing nonetheless.  

    Tapping into the familiar horror/comedy formula of Young Frankenstein albeit with lesser results, Haunted Honeymoon still offers plenty of laughs with Wilder and Radner’s chemistry and DeLuise’s dragtastic performance being of particular note.  In the wake of Wilder’s passing, his final bow behind the camera, as well as his curtain call collaborations with Radner and DeLuise, may still not be a comedy masterpiece but will undoubtedly bring delight to those who can’t howl at the moon without laughing.  Graduating to high-definition, Kino Lorber Studio Classics has done admirable work in preserving this comedy chiller for years to come.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Haunted Honeymoon can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Beware! The Blob (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Beware! The Blob (1972)

    Director: Larry Hagman

    Starring: Robert Walker, Gwynne Gilford, Richard Stahl, Richard Webb, Godfrey Cambridge, Carol Lynley, Larry Hagman & Shelley Berman

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing the gooey mayhem, Beware! The Blob finds a community under attack when a geologist’s token from the North Pole thaws and unleashes an all-consuming feast on its terrified citizens.  Starring a plethora of familiar faces and cult figures including, Robert Walker (Easy Rider), Gwynne Gilford (Fade to Black), Sid Haig (Spider Baby), Shelley Berman (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) among others, Jack H. Harris (The Blob, Dark Star) executive produces this followup.

    Oozing to theaters well over a decade after its classic predecessor, Beware! The Blob misfires in capturing the simple charms of its originator and instead opts to embrace the modern hippie culture of its era with droopy, tensionless results.  Returning home from his Arctic job assignment with a frozen keepsake in tow, Chester (Godfrey Cambridge, Watermelon Man) and his wife’s forgetfulness allows the mysterious capsule to thaw unleashing unexpected slimy mayhem.  Consumed while watchingThe Blob on television, Chester’s takeaway from the North Pole descends upon the local population, crossing paths with neighborhood gal Lisa (Gilford) and her boyfriend Bobby (Walker) who live to warn others only to have their cries fall on deaf ears.  Introducing spacey hippies, local law enforcement types and a troop of boy scouts to the festivities, directionless performances and meandering conversations between characters permeate the runtime until the Blob far too sporadically claims victims.  Unsurprisingly improvised with its screenplay greatly ignored, Beware! The Blob collects a diverse pool of talent including, but not limited to, an ape-suit wearing Gerrit Graham (Phantom of the Paradise), Burgess Meredith (Rocky) as a rambling wino, Cindy Williams (Laverne & Shirley) toking as a pot-smoking hippie and Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough) as a dorky Scoutmaster, the lackluster sequel overwhelmingly stumbles with a bowling alley attack, akin to the original’s Colonial Theatre stampede but far less exciting, and an intendedly tense ice rink climax that arrives too little, too late.  Helmed by Larry Hagman in his only feature film credit, Beware! The Blob was re-released at the height of Dallas’ popularity, bearing the clever tagline, “The Film that J.R. Shot!” yet, failed to capture anything more than mild curiosity.  Lacking the fun of the original film and dawdling for much of its runtime with its titular monster a near afterthought, Beware! The Blob is a bubbling mess.

    Newly remastered, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Beware! The Blob with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Arriving with cases of speckling over its opening titles, the sci-fi sequel appears with a softer focus that can be attributed to its limited budget and on the fly making.  Skin tones are reasonably relayed while, colors in funky fashion choices and the Blob’s pinkish hues impress the most.  A welcome upgrade that still bears its battle wounds, the star-filled feature looks respectably decent.  Equipped with a rather disappointing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, cracks and pops are not uncommon while, dialogue exchange is modest at best with muffled moments and poor sound mixing heavily apparent.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith, an Alternate Title Sequence (2:42) bearing its Son of Blob moniker and Trailers for Beware! The Blob (1:45), The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (2:14), Deranged (1:34) and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (2:14).

    A far cry from its iconic 1958 brethren, Beware! The Blob is a clumsy, unguided sequel that misses the mark on what should have been a simple, entertaining formula.  With no shortage of famous faces onscreen, the impaired direction and sheer lack of suspense or Blob-related appearances in the film shatters its chances, leaving it dazed in a cloud of its own bewilderment.  Presented with a new HD master, technical grades waver from sufficient to underwhelming with scant special features rounding out this bland schlockfest to beware.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available September 20th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Beware! The Blob can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Grandview, U.S.A. (1984) Blu-ray Review

    Grandview, U.S.A. (1984)

    Director: Randal Kleiser

    Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Jason Leigh, M. Emmet Walsh & Troy Donahue

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Grease, Grandview, U.S.A. centers on the romantic love triangle between demolition derby owner Michelle “Mike” Cody (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween), her hotshot driver Ernie “Slam” Webster (Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing) and high school graduate Tim Pearson (C. Thomas Howell, The Outsiders) in the rural community they call home.  

    Longing to follow his dreams of studying oceanography, recent high school graduate Tim Pearson finds himself bewitched by the beautiful proprietor of Cody’s Speedway Mike Cody after requiring a tow.  Struggling to keep up with repairs to her late father’s business while her star driver Slam Webster discovers his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight) is cheating on him, heartache and confusion settles in for the grease-monkey enthusiasts.  Displeased with his father’s dishonesty to shut down Mike’s business for the town’s own greedy advancements, Tim’s music video styled daydreams about Mike prompts a romantic fling between the two and a demolition derby debut for the former high schooler.  Meanwhile, intoxicated with anger towards his estranged wife and getting even by hilariously bulldozing his former residence, Slam’s own desires for Mike come to light forging an emotionally sensitive crossroad between the trio.  Shot on location in Illinois, Grandview, U.S.A. spotlights an impressive cast of young talent at the peak of their careers, an idyllic small-town American setting and a soundtrack of MTV hits from Air Supply and Robert Ponger & Falco.  Although boasting watchable performances with appealing chemistry plus, brief appearances from Michael Winslow (Police Academy) and the Cusack siblings, Grandview, U.S.A. missteps with an unraveling third act that hosts a business in flames and relationships forged that make Tim’s encounter with Mike all but pointless.  Driving off into the sunset with Slam’s damaged vehicle and his intended future ahead, Grandview, U.S.A. works itself out far too simply with little regard to its promising setup.  Hardly a destructive mess, this three-lane love story runs out of fuel by its conclusion, leaving viewers only decently entertained and mildly disappointed.

    Newly remastered in high-definition, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Grandview, U.S.A. with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing rather radiant sans minor speckling, colors in costumes are boastful while skin tones are natural and nicely detailed.  Meanwhile, the rural farmland community is lusciously preserved with film grain firmly intact.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is sufficiently handled with zero cracks or pops sidetracking its presentation.  Music cuts and car crashing effects prominently heard during derby sequences make ample notices on the mix as well.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Unfortunately, no special features of any kind are included on this release.

    With promising ingredients from its homey setting and talented leads, Grandview, U.S.A. takes an unfortunate detour into mediocrity with a finale that puts all its pieces back together haphazardly.  Worthy of a view for its cast assemblage alone, Kino Lorber Studio Classics debuts the film on high-definition with a gorgeously filmic presentation that should easily appease viewers while, the lack of any supplemental offerings remains unfortunate.  Although viewers may not want to remain full-time residents, Grandview, U.S.A. is still cautiously recommended to visit.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 6th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Grandview, U.S.A. can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • My Bodyguard (1980) Blu-ray Review

    My Bodyguard (1980)

    Director: Tony Bill

    Starring: Chris Makepeace, Ruth Gordon, Matt Dillon, John Houseman, Craig David Nelson, Kathryn Grody, Adam Baldwin & Martin Mull

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After being hassled by high school bullies and extorted for lunch money, My Bodyguard finds polite teen Clifford Peach (Chris Makepeace, Meatballs) enlisting the services of towering mute Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin, Cohen and Tate) to protect him.  As their business arrangement morphs into a budding friendship, the two unlikely pals learn to stand tall against their enemies and depend on one another.  Ruth Gordon (Rosemary’s Baby), Matt Dillon (Little Darlings), John Houseman (The Paper Chase), Craig David Nelson (A Small Circle of Friends) and Martin Mull (Roseanne) co-star.

    A time capsule of adolescent bullying dilemmas and a sincere encapsulation of what it means to not fit in, My Bodyguard takes its cheekily designated title and exceeds the expectations of its jokier marketing campaign to deliver a coming-of-age dramedy with a much deeper substance and potent performances from its young cast.  Marking the directorial debut of Tony Bill (Untamed Heart), mild-mannered teen Clifford Peach finds his new start at a public high school under fire when bad boy Melvin Moody (Dillon) and his cronies target the newbie with daily demands for his pocket money or else.  Reluctant to bow to their demands, Clifford’s harassment reaches a boiling point prompting the clever sophomore to seek assistance from the most intimidating presence in the entire school.  Rumored to have raped a teacher and killed a police officer, oversized mute Ricky Linderman is courted to be Clifford’s personal protection system.  After rejecting the offer, the introverted misfit saves his would-be employer from a painful beating prompting an unexpected friendship between the two.  Harboring a dark past unrelated to schoolyard rumors, Ricky opens up to his new friend as the pair scour junkyards for motorcycle parts and enjoy fine dining with Clifford’s childlike grandmother (Gordon) at a ritzy Chicago hotel managed by his father (Mull).  More trouble arises when Moody hires his own muscular bodyguard to even the odds resulting in a last stand where Clifford and Ricky choose not to walk away from their problems but, defends themselves together.

    Interestingly scripted by Alan Ormsby (Cat People, Porky’s II: The Next Day), My Bodyguard is a charming staple released during the dawn of the teen film that packs enough heart and soul to be celebrated in the same vein as other commonly hailed underdog efforts.  Hot off the success of Meatballs, Star Chris Makepeace is perfectly cast as the shy, scrawny sophomore whose smarts far outweigh his fighting abilities while, Adam Baldwin makes a cunning film debut with his emotionally rattled performance as Ricky.  In addition, Matt Dillon makes hating him an absolute joy with his slicked back hair and occasionally unhinged attitude the driving force of his memorably tormenting character.  Featuring brief glimpses of Joan Cusack (Toy Story 2) as a friendly classmate and George Wendt (Cheers) as a blink and you’ll miss him maintenance man, My Bodyguard may seem superficially silly yet, upon further inspection the low-budget favorite makes important statements on the value of friendship and weaves a much more endearing narrative than one might expect.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents My Bodyguard with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing no severe age-related imperfections and retaining a filmic touch, the small scale production casts a softer focus while, skin tones are respectably presented and bolder colors spotted in the film’s ice blue title sequence pop nicely.  Set in the overcast city of Chicago, gloomy exteriors are not uncommon with black levels appearing decently and containing only slight speckling during skyline overviews.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is reasonably relayed with occasional moments suffering from lower levels or echoes off bathroom walls.  Absent of any cracks or pops, Composer Dave Grusin’s (Tootsie) score, best observed during the opening and closing sequences, are also warmly conveyed on the mix.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tony Bill & Film Programmer Jim Healy.  Lively and informative, the two participants explore a variety of topics regarding the film’s making including, the script changes to make the lead character a teen instead of a child, many of the cast members being plucked from Chicago’s respected Second City and the impressive careers so many of the first time performers went on to obtain.  In addition, five TV Spots (2:39) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:19) are also included.

    Ranked as one of the 50 Best High School Movies by Entertainment Weekly, My Bodyguard takes careful consideration in building a teenage tale that both relates and entertains.  Heartfelt yet, never preachy, the young cast of up and comers sell the film with conviction that allows it to make the notion of high school bodyguards as plausible as the worst of bullies.  Making its high-definition debut, Kino Lorber Studio Classics ushers the film with a soft but, true to its source presentation that is most acceptable.  Accompanied with an engaging audio commentary track, My Bodyguard is an essential slice of teen cinema worthy of your lunch money.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 6th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, My Bodyguard can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Report to the Commissioner (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Report to the Commissioner (1975)

    Director: Milton Katselas

    Starring: Michael Moriarty, Yaphet Kotto, Susan Blakely, Hector Elizondo & Tony King

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the gritty landscape of New York City, Report to the Commissioner stars Michael Moriarty (The Stuff) as rookie cop Bo Lockley whose youthful determination leads to the death of a fellow undercover officer.  Yaphet Kotto (Alien), Susan Blakely (The Towering Inferno), Hector Elizondo (Leviathan) and Tony King (Hell Up in Harlem) co-star in this dramatic thriller from the director of When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? 

    Based on the novel by James Mills, Report to the Commissioner opens on the tragic aftermath of a shootout leaving one female victim dead.  Redirecting viewers to the events leading up to this fatal outcome, inexperienced cop Bo Lockley (Moriarty) is assigned to track the whereabouts of a young runaway named Chicklet, rumored to be wandering the streets of the Big Apple.  Unbeknownst to Lockley, the alleged runaway is undercover officer Patty Butler (Blakely), willingly shacking up with heroin pusher Thomas “Stick” Henderson (King) in order to gather hard evidence.  While Lockley acts in good confidence to find the missing girl, his role contrived by his superiors is only meant to further convince Stick of his live-in girlfriend’s false identity.  After being advised to forget Chicklet as quickly as he finds her, Lockley is determined to rescue her causing a violent showdown between the inexperienced officer and the neighborhood drug lord.  Shot on location in the bygone grime of New York City’s grindhouse and strip club infested streets, Report to the Commissioner bolsters a strong supporting cast including, Yaphet Kotto as Lockley’s streetwise partner Richard “Crunch” Blackstone, Hector Elizondo as corrupt Captain D’Angelo and a young Richard Gere (American Gigolo) making his screen debut as a fedora wearing pimp.  In addition, Michael Moriarty carries the film superbly well as the conflicted Lockley struggling to maintain a decent stature while, confronted with the dark underbellies of criminals and interdepartmental politics.  After Butler is killed in the middle of gunfire, a tense chase sequence from rooftops to a stalled elevator shaft ensues between Lockley and Stick, leaving the two soaked in perspiration with their guns permanently pointed at one another.  While Lockley’s fate over the shooting of Butler is heavily questioned for the sake of his superiors’ livelihood, Report to the Commissioner concludes on an unexpectedly somber note that will stay with viewers long after the end credits.  Tightly paced and excellently acted, Report to the Commissioner delivers a hard-nosed tale of crime and undercover investigations come undone, leading to a thrilling conclusion.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Report to the Commissioner with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting natural grain and a noticeably filmic quality, Report to the Commissioner contains only minor flakes in its presentation while, skin tones are lifelike with crisp detail revealing aging lines and constant perspiration in facial closeups.  Meanwhile, black levels contain slightly more speckling without ever compromising watchability.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible even during the film’s many exterior scenes set against the hustle and bustle of New York City streets.  Composer Elmer Bernstein’s (The Great Escape, Ghostbusters) score and the film’s few gunfire moments ring loudly when designated.  Arriving virtually barebones, special features included are limited to the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:21).

    In his second to last feature film, Director Milton Katselas’ exploration of a rookie cop’s idealism amongst the crime and politics of New York City delivers ample drama and action.  Supported by a committed cast and the tonally perfect landscape of the Big Apple’s nearly forgotten dangers, Report to the Commissioner is an exceptional police procedural that showcases the seedier sides of those who are meant to uphold the law.  Graduating to an impressive high-definition transfer, Kino Lorber Studio Classics preserves the rich, filmic quality of this gritty drama much to the delight of viewers.  Suspenseful and action-oriented, Report to the Commissioner earns its badge of approval.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 7th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Report to the Commissioner can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) Blu-ray Review

    The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

    Director: Don Taylor

    Starring: Burt Lancaster, Michael York, Nigel Davenport, Barbara Carrera & Richard Basehart

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau finds Andrew Braddock (Michael York, Logan’s Run), the sole survivor of a shipwreck, finally discovering land after an extended period at sea.  Home to the brilliant but, mad Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster, The Train), Braddock begins fearing for his life when Moreau’s experiments of animalistic monstrosities become evident.  Nigel Davenport (Chariots of Fire), Barbara Carrera (Embryo) and Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) co-star.

    Continuing their output of H.G. Wells adaptations following 1976’s The Food of the Gods, American International Pictures would bring to life one of the author’s most noted stories.  Drifting at sea for days, Andrew Braddock (York) finds salvation after discovering an exotic tropical island.  Home and base of genetic experimentations for Dr. Moreau (Lancaster), Braddock turns fearful when Moreau’s god complex of turning wild animals into humans is revealed.  Developing an attraction for the island’s gorgeous Maria (Carrera), Braddock is determined to escape the wrath of Moreau’s bizarre surgeries before he becomes his next target.  Lacking the tense tone of its previous film adaptation, 1932’s Island of Lost Souls, The Island of Dr. Moreau still delivers with lavish scenery, shot on location in The Virgin Islands and the effective casting of Burt Lancaster as the twisted Dr. Moreau.  Displaying an array of wild animals including, lions, tigers, bears and panthers, Director Don Taylor’s (Damien: Omen II) sci-fi oddity packs its most memorable punch with memorable make-up designs courtesy of John Chambers (Planet of the Apes).  With respectable performances from York and Davenport, appearing as Moreau’s assistant Montgomery who develops a conscience only to pay heavily for it, The Island of Dr. Moreau may not tower the effect of its predecessor but, still delivers as a mildly entertaining mad scientist effort with the star power and modern day movie magic to justify its merit.  

    Presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, The Island of Dr. Moreau maintains its share of softness while, colors generally please with skin tones reading naturally.  Detail is most respectable in facial close-ups and the impressive make-up designs of the island’s monstrous creatures.  In addition, black levels appear decently with only mild instances of noise on display.  With its elements in decent shape, The Island of Dr. Moreau makes an acceptable leap to high-definition.  Meanwhile, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix provides clear dialogue levels with hiss or static a nonissue.  Instances of stronger sound effects ranging from gunshots and thunder impress if not, ringing too sharply at times.  Other island ambiance and growling animal noises are also balanced effectively.  Special features include, an Extended Trailer (5:51), Original Theatrical Trailer (2:13) and a Deleted Final Image only included on the network television airing of the film.

    Boasting an impressive performance from Burt Lancaster as the demented Dr. Moreau and top-notch make-up work, The Island of Dr. Moreau slightly suffers from a lack of tension that was so well utilized in its 1932 counterpart.  Missteps aside, Director Don Taylor’s retelling makes serviceable strides in capturing a tone true to Wells’ spirit.  Making its Blu-ray debut, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents this jungle nightmare with a pleasing transfer sans mild age-related issues that should satisfy audiences all the same.  Fans of Wells’ timeless tales and American International Pictures’ drive-in opuses will find their fair share of charm in this science fiction shocker.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 23rd from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Island of Dr. Moreau can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Malice (1993) Blu-ray Review

    Malice (1993)

    Director: Harold Becker

    Starring: Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, Bill Pullman, Bebe Neuwirth & George C. Scott

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Harold Becker (The Onion Field), Malice centers on laid-back college dean Andy Safian (Bill Pullman, Lake Placid) coping with a string of on-campus rapes.  In addition, as Andy struggles to renovate his house, his wife Tracy (Nicole Kidman, Eyes Wide Shut) begins developing severe stomach cramps.  Shortly after inviting the cocky and charismatic Dr. Jed Hill (Alec Baldwin, The Departed) to move in with the couple, Andy’s life is turned upside down by a series of chilling events.  George C. Scott (Hardcore), Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers), Peter Gallagher (American Beauty), Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man), Tobin Bell (Saw) and Anne Bancroft (The Graduate) co-star.

    Co-scripted by Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), Malice is a deliciously deceptive thriller that oozes style and intrigue.  Living an idyllic life, college dean Andy Safian (Pullman) is rattled when a serial rapist claims several victims on his campus.  Following the recovery of one survivor, Andy is reacquainted with former high school alumni Dr. Jed Hill (Baldwin), forging a new found friendship.  New to the community, Andy invites Jed to move in with him and his wife Tracy (Kidman) to help alleviate financial pressure.  Shortly after, one of Andy’s students is discovered dead marking him a possible suspect in the mysterious crimes.  In addition, as Tracy’s stomach cramps increase resulting in emergency surgery, Jed serving as the acting surgeon confronts Andy with a difficult decision that will weigh heavily on the couple’s future.  Before long, Tracy is devastated with the outcome prompting her to abandon Andy and file a lawsuit against Jed’s malpractice.  Shrouded in mystery and loaded with red herrings, Malice welcomes viewers into the false normalcy of Andy and Tracy’s marriage before slowly unveiling the sinister surface below.  Pullman and Kidman evoke genuine chemistry as a loving couple while sharing steamy sequences of ecstasy together.  Meanwhile, Baldwin effortlessly projects sex appeal and charm as the Safian’s unexpected roommate who becomes a crucial part in their complicated story of conspiracy and shady characters.  While the film’s serial rapist subplot serves as nothing more than a suspenseful smokescreen, Malice ultimately delivers a chilling thrill ride that leaves viewers unsure who to trust.  Accompanied by a haunting score by Jerry Goldsmith (Poltergeist, Rudy) and atmospheric cinematography by Gordon Willis (The Purple Rose of Cairo), Malice is an edge of your seat, character-driven mystery that is sorely lacking in today’s cinematic landscape.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Malice with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Free of any discernible scratches and bearing a filmic appearance, colors pop boldly while skin tones remain warm and inviting.  Evident in wardrobe, facial details and backgrounds, detail is crisp and clear while, black levels, sans minimal instances of speckling, appear inky and visible.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible and excused of any distortion while, Goldsmith’s ghostly score and sound effects ranging from a rainstorm to glass shattering deliver a noticeably pleasing increase in authority.  Finally, special features include, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:57) and The Onion Field Theatrical Trailer (1:59).

    Rarely missing a beat, Malice is a wickedly entertaining examination of three individuals and the complex circumstances that befall on them.  Constantly keeping viewers guessing and in a state of shock, Director Harold Becker’s thriller delivers memorable performances from its core performers and effective turns from its supporting players including, Bebe Neuwirth and Anne Bancroft.  In addition, Kino Lorber Studio Classics issues this endlessly mysterious gem with splendid technical specifications that greatly enrich the viewing experience.  Blending deception, murder and betrayal, Malice is an exhilarating mystery that will viewers blindsided.

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • An Eye for an Eye (1981) / Hero and the Terror (1988) Blu-ray Reviews


    An Eye for an Eye (1981) / Hero and the Terror (1988)

    Director(s): Steve Carver / William Tannen

    Starring: Chuck Norris, Christopher Lee, Mako & Maggie Cooper / Chuck Norris, Brynn Thayer, Steve James & Jack O’Halloran

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving up two explosive action outings from the 1980s, Kino Lorber Studio Classics proudly presents An Eye for an Eye, starring Chuck Norris (Missing in Action, The Delta Force) as San Francisco detective Sean Kane (Norris).  Consumed with revenge following the murder of his partner, Kane ditches the badge for vigilante justice to expose a powerful drug ring responsible for the crime.  Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man), Richard Roundtree (Shaft), Mako (Sidekicks), Terry Kiser (Weekend at Bernie’s) and Maggie Cooper (Falcon Crest) co-star.  Next up, Chuck Norris headlines as Los Angeles detective Danny O’Brien in Hero and the Terror.  After nearly losing his life to capture ruthless serial killer Simon Moon A.K.A “The Terror”, O’Brien is haunted by nightmarish memories of the ordeal.  Escaping prison years later, The Terror is back on the loose and claiming victims left and right with O’Brien the city’s only hope to stop him.  Bryan Thayer (Kansas), Steve James (American Ninja) and Jack O’Halloran (Superman II) co-star.      

    Following the murder of his partner, San Francisco detective Sean Kane quits the force in order to wage a war of revenge on those responsible.  After his fallen partner’s girlfriend Linda (Chao) informs Kane that a massive drug cartel was behind the murder, Linda falls prey to the deadly wrath of the organization.  Appearing in one of his first starring roles, international superstar Chuck Norris takes hold of the part as a broken police officer determined to find his friends killer’s with a staunch seriousness that lets his fists do most of the talking.  Far from lacking a sense of humor, Kane seeks out his martial arts mentor and Linda’s father, Chan (Mako), to aid him in the hunt while, simultaneously providing viewers with a comedic chemistry as Chan constantly criticizes his protege’s concentration during dangerous encounters.  Surrounded by a colossal cast of living legends and character actors, An Eye for an Eye pits Kane against the charming yet, merciless drug lord Morgan Canfield (Lee) who intends to unload a major import of narcotics into the country, unless he can be stopped.  While the film’s premise may feel generic, An Eye for an Eye plays to its strengths with sequences of heavy gunfire and explosions plus, countless opportunities for Norris to partake in hand to hand combat or lack thereof when Kane’s hands are bound allowing him to only kick his assailants.  Uncovering a web of police corruption throughout his investigation and engaging in a steamy fling with Linda’s news editor, Kane puts those closest to him in danger the deeper he digs.  Marking their first collaboration (followed by 1983’s Lone Wolf McQuade), Director Steve Carver injects the necessary bits of adrenaline to keep the film moving while, the beardless Norris roundhouse kicks his way to a final standoff with Canfield’s impenetrable, elevator-shoe wearing bodyguard.  An entertaining and well-cast production, An Eye for an Eye delivers in the action department while, serving as an admirable early effort for Norris as his star status rose to greater prominence.

    Based on the novel by Michael Blodgett, Hero and the Terror would serve as an attempt for star Chuck Norris to grow beyond his traditional martial arts star roots.  Reteaming once again with Cannon Films, Norris plays the lead role of detective Danny O’Brien, haunted by his past of a serial killer he captured years prior.  Preparing for the birth of his daughter with his girlfriend Kay (Thayer), O’Brien’s world is turned upside down when news emerges that Simon Moon has escaped.  Presumed dead after a motor vehicle accident, O’Brien is confident The Terror has not only survived but, claiming new victims.  Meanwhile, as the city of Los Angeles celebrates the renovation of a theater Moon once used as a hideaway, women who were last seen on the premises begin disappearing.  Convinced The Terror has returned home, O’Brien begins hunting  for the unstoppable killer in the secret passages of the theater.  With an intriguing plot and suspenseful opening, Hero and the Terror quickly derails as O’Brien’s relationship with his pregnant girlfriend and her commitment issues take center stage.  Focusing too deeply to be considered mere character development, the tame action-thriller begins to share more in common with a soap opera.  As more victims emerge including a fellow officer, O’Brien uncovers Moon’s secret whereabouts leading to the most exciting brawl of the film on the rooftop of the theater.  Lacking a conscience and possessing virtually supernatural strength, Moon’s character feels slightly out of touch in a film that appears grounded in reality.  Failing to capture an audience at the time of its release, Hero and the Terror tanked at the box-office and would ultimately end Norris’ relationship with Cannon Films.  Although the skeleton of its premise is inviting, Hero and the Terror unfortunately fails in its execution.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents both An Eye for an Eye and Hero and the Terror with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  While possessing minimal softness, An Eye for an Eye bolsters a filmic appearance with healthy colors and clear detail in facial features.  Arriving later in the decade and appearing slightly sharper than its predecessor, Hero and the Terror also relays a strong sense of color and texture.  In addition, both films possess respectable black levels while, instances of flakes and mild murkiness are captured but not overwhelming.  Satisfying in both cases, Hero and the Terror squeaks by as the favored transfer.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films deliver dialogue respectfully although, moments of hushed tones can sometimes be overwhelmed by external factors.  The heavier shootouts and fireworks explosion in An Eye for an Eye deliver an added sharpness while both film’s scores are implemented nicely.  Special features found on An Eye for an Eye include, an Audio Commentary with Director Steve Carver, An Eye for an Eye Theatrical Trailer (1:52) and the Hero and the Terror  Theatrical Trailer (1:26) while, Norris’ 1988 effort recycles the An Eye for an Eye Theatrical Trailer (1:52) and the Hero and the Terror Theatrical Trailer (1:26).

    Pulverizing retro action fans with a double helping of Chuck Norris, An Eye for an Eye may possess a routine plot but, delivers where it counts with fun doses of action and an entertaining cast that easily trumps the missed opportunity of Hero and the Terror.  Riding high on the success of his previous Cannon Films efforts, Norris’ attempt to diversify himself was an honorable move that unfortunately backfired and ended his Cannon alliance.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents both films with appreciable boosts in quality that will please likeminded action buffs as they kick and punch these adventures into high gear.

    An Eye for an Eye RATING: 3.5/5

    Hero and the Terror RATING: 2/5

    Available June 16th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, An Eye for an Eye and Hero and the Terror can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962) Blu-ray Review

    The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962)

    Director: Jess Franco

    Starring: Howard Vernon, Hugo Blanco & Gogo Robins

    Released by: Redemption 

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    When one thinks of Euro-sleaze, most die-hard fans of this genre will immediately think of the one and only Jess (Jesus) Franco.  He was the master filmmaker for Euro-Sleaze movies, which were often eclectic with many ladies often appearing nude in his films. During the early 1960s, when Franco had started to direct some period black and white, Gothic films including The Awful Dr. Orlof, there was always a little touch of his groundbreaking style including some nudity and sadism.  The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, Franco’s second horror film, was another step closer to the type of films most Franco aficionados are familiar with.

    The story of The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus concerns women who are being stabbed to death in a European village by an unseen killer.  Many of the residents there strongly believe it’s the ghost of Baron Von Klaus, a sadist (hence the title Sadistic) from the 17th Century who brutalized women.  They feel his spirit lives on within his modern day relatives.  The film turns into a creepy mystery as the villagers try to discover who has the spirit of Baron Von Klaus within him.  Appearing sinister and strongly resembling the baron based on a picture on the wall in the Von Klaus castle, Max Von Klaus (Howard Vernon) becomes the main red herring of the film.  Ludwig, played by Hugo Blanco, also has a key role in the movie as a pianist and the son of Baron Von Klaus.  The film does have one really powerful scene for its time which eventually became a Jess Franco trademark where a woman, Margaret, played by Gogo Robins gets stripped, molested, whipped and chained up by the killer.  This one scene alone really makes the picture; otherwise, it is an at times tedious film with some musical numbers.  The crisp black and white cinematography also helps the viewing experience as it captures the atmosphere found in many international films from the period.  Ultimately, Franco achieves a very creepy, artistic and yet, slow paced movie.

    Redemption has released The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus in a beautiful 1080p AVC encoded letterboxed transfer.  Outstanding and sharply detailed, black levels are strong as are whites while, film grain is present throughout.  The audio is a robust LPCM 2.0 in its original French language.  What really stands out in the audio are all the musical numbers with the piano.  Since the movie was never dubbed into English, there are very easy to read English subtitles on this release.  No extras are included on this release.

    Fans of Jess Franco should not pass up this film in their collection.  It’s a chance to see his early work which is atmospheric, stylish and with a small touch of the Franco sleaze that he would become renowned for. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 9 from Redemption, The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus can be purchased from KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) Blu-ray Review

    X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

    Director: Roger Corman

    Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt & Don Rickles

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Director Roger Corman (Tales of Terror, The Haunted Palace) sets his shocking sights on X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, starring Academy Award winner Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) as Dr. Xavier.  In an attempt to improve human eyesight, the daring doctor concocts a formula for X-ray vision.  Impressed with his achievement but ignored by his peers, Xavier successfully tests the experimental drug on himself before aftereffects of terror emerge.  Diana Van der Vlis (The Swimmer), Harold J. Stone (The Wrong Man), John Hoyt (Gimme a Break!) and Don Rickles (Toy Story) co-star.

    In arguably one of Corman’s most profound efforts of the 1960s, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was unsurprisingly produced quickly and cheaply while supporting impressive, if not dated, visual effects.  Following their collaboration on 1962‘s The Premature Burial, Ray Milland headlines as the curious Dr. Xavier, determined to see beyond normal human standards.  Discovering a formula for X-ray vision and finding little support from his fellow professionals, Xavier chooses to experiment on himself.  After witnessing humorous situations of party guests booging in their birthday suits, Xavier’s abilities begin to waver forcing the doctor to unwisely increase his dosage.  After a moment of pressure costs a colleagues life, Xavier evades law enforcement by joining the ranks as a sideshow performer.  Comedy legend Don Rickles co-stars as a seedy carnival barker who realizes Xavier’s true powers and greedily uses them to his advantage.  In addition, Corman camp regular Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors) makes a brief appearance as an obnoxious audience member convinced Xavier’s powers are a ruse until proven wrong.  With his vision and sanity on the brink, Xavier’s loyal and beautiful assistant, Dr. Diane Fairfax (Diana Van der Vlis), attempts to ease his situation to no avail.  Offering little hope, Xavier sees into a future of dark despair before leading to a startlingly grim finale with staying power.

    Scripted by Robert Dillion (The Old Dark House) and Ray Russell (Zotz!) respectively, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was originally released as a supporting feature with American International Pictures’ Dementia 13.  Ray Milland commands the picture with his performance of a rebellious doctor overtaken by his own experiment.  In addition, Don Rickles shines in one of his better roles as the villainous carnival barker while, Diana Van der Vlis is competent, if not forgettable, as Xavier’s assistant and suggested love interest.  Delivering a noted sci-fi shocker for its time, Director Roger Corman’s tightly paced story and visual guidance allows X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes to stand the test of time with a terrifying ending of despair.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Supporting healthy, natural grain levels, mild instances of flakes and speckles are on display while skin tones are nicely detailed and colors, most noticeably in wardrobe and Xavier’s POV sequences, pop accordingly.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is satisfactory with no intruding signs of distortion and Composer Les Baxter’s score relayed effectively.  Special features are a plenty with an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Roger Corman, Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Terror Vision!: Joe Dante on X (6:07) finds Corman protégé Dante offering his first encounter with the X-ray thriller and his encyclopedic film knowledge on the film’s lasting impact.  In addition, a Rare Prologue (4:59), Trailers from Hell with Mick Garris (2:34) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:19) round out the disc’s impressive supplemental package.

    Suspenseful and still shocking, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes offers a glimpse into a doctor consumed by his own nightmarish creation.  Ray Milland steers the picture wonderfully with a strong supporting cast, highlighted by Rickles‘ delightfully unsavory performance.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics treats this Corman gem like gold with a vastly improved video transfer and appreciable special features that shine a well-deserved light on this quality sci-fi effort.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available May 12th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Cover Up (1949) Blu-ray Review

    Cover Up (1949)

    Director: Alfred E. Green

    Starring: Dennis O’Keefe, Barbara Briton, William Bendix & Art Baker

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a charming Midwest town in the wake of a possible suicide, Cover Up stars Dennis O’Keefe (Raw Deal) as insurance investigator Sam Donovan following up on his deceased policyholder.  Convinced murder is at hand but, struggling to receive assistance from fellow citizens, least of all the local sheriff (William Bendix, Detective Story), Sam finds love and answers in local bombshell Anita (Barbara Briton, Mr. & Mrs. North) as the truth slowly unravels.

    Taking a cue from Billy Wilder’s film noir classic Double Indemnity, Dennis O’Keefe stars as ace insurance investigator Sam Donovan arriving in a peaceful, small-town community to uncover the answers surrounding a policyholders supposed suicide.  Before exiting his train, Donovan catches the attention of the strikingly attractive Anita (Briton), beginning a romance that will persist throughout the picture.  Getting right down to business, Donovan finds the suicide’s circumstances questionable after the murder weapon is reported missing and the local sheriff highly uncooperative.  As townspeople grow weary of Donovan’s questions and likely suspects including, the niece of the deceased and her probable husband, coming into focus, Donovan is more than convinced that someone wanted his universally hated policyholder dead.  With the investigation taking longer than expected, Donovan and Anita’s brief encounter escalates to true love until, several clues indicate someone close to her may be responsible for the crime.  With the writing seemingly on the wall, Cover Up descents into a tense final act that throws viewers for a satisfying twist most will not see coming.

    With snappy dialogue and stylish cinematography courtesy of Ernest Laszlo (Ten Seconds to Hell), Cover Up is an intriguing mystery that keeps viewers guessing until the end.  Dennis O’Keefe possesses the looks to woo his leading lady and the tenacity to crack the case while, Barbara Briton turns heads in every frame with her perfect smile and effortless grace.  In addition, William Bendix steals scenes as the secretive sheriff who gives O’Keefe’s Donovan a run for his money.  Filmed in gorgeous black and white photography and guided under the well executed direction of Alfred E. Green (Baby Face), Cover Up is an underrated murder mystery gem, ripe for rediscovery.  

    Newly remastered, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Cover Up with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.37:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor speckling and brief instances of softness,Cover Up achieves strong detail in facial features and its small-town setting.  The period photography offers satisfyingly inky black levels with only a later sequence in a dimly lit room bearing signs of noise.  Generally clean looking, Cover Up looks as good as it plays.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Cover Up relays underwhelming dialogue levels that project on the low side, requiring a vast increase in volume.  With a hint of hiss apparent on its mix, dialogue levels are still audible with no other distracting occurrences to mention.  Unfortunately, no special features are included on this release.

    Well shot and cleverly crafted, Cover Up is a tightly paced mystery thriller with admirable performances and a left field twist ending.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ new high-definition remaster is a valued effort that preserves this lesser discussed picture for a whole new generation to discover.  Although, set during the Christmas season, Cover Up will hardly keep viewers out in the cold with a crime tale this satisfying.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 24th from Kino Lorber Studio ClassicsCover Up can be purchased via KinoLorber.comAmazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • At War with the Army (1950) Blu-ray Review

    At War with the Army (1950)

    Director: Hal Walker

    Starring: Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Mike Kellin & Polly Bergen

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking their debut as a comedy team, At War with the Army stars Dean Martin (Ocean’s Eleven) and Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor) as a bossy first sergeant and clumsy private stationed at an army post during World War II.  Equally yearning to escape their surroundings for various reasons, the childhood friends find themselves in a variety of comical situations while, putting their singing and dancing chops to the test.  Mike Kellin (On the Yard) and Polly Bergen (Cry-Baby) co-star.

    Based on a play by James B. Allardice, At War with the Army would reunite Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis following their brief appearances in My Friend Irma and its sequel, My Friend Irma Goes West.  In their first effort as a comedy duo, Jerry Lewis appears as the geeky Pfc. Alvin Korwin, rarely capable of doing anything right in his troop and desperately attempting to receive permission to see his wife and newborn baby.  Meanwhile, Dean Martin co-stars as Korwin’s childhood friend and higher ranking 1st Sgt. Vic Puccinelli who longs to leave the mediocrity of his respected desk position to transfer overseas for active duty.  Stuck in the day to day activities of maintaining their compound, the two find themselves in a series of situations involving their need to rehearse for an upcoming talent show and Korwin trying his best to avoid higher-ranking officials determined to make his life miserable.  Weaving in the duo’s endless talents, Martin and Lewis inject entertaining musical numbers into the film along with several notable gags including, Lewis dressed in drag and the duo performing very spot-on impersonations of Barry Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby.  In addition, Mike Kellin (Sleepaway Camp) makes his film debut as Korwin’s least liked superior, Sgt. McVey, who drunkenly takes a liking to Lewis while adorned in dress and wig.  

    For their first outing, At War with the Army gives glimpses into the fine-tuned chemistry of Martin and Lewis that would prevail in later efforts.  Although, occasionally humorous, At War with the Army suffers from sharing its spotlight too generously with supporting characters that are never as charismatic as its stars.  In addition, as the film progresses, Martin and Lewis’ shared screen time runs scant until their enjoyable Army act allows both their strengths to shine.  Concluding with an overlong gag of miscommunicated information amongst characters, Korwin and Puccinelli obtain what they wanted and find themselves once again on equal ground.  A decent debut that would fall into the public domain after an endless legal bout, At War with the Army won’t leave viewers overly impressed but, offers a fun point of reference for an iconic duo whose collaborations would carry on another 13 films.  

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents At War with the Army with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.37:1 aspect ratio.  Newly remastered in high-definition, the film opens with a heavily scratched title sequence that transitions to a transfer bearing scuffs and vertical lines.  Considering its public domain stature and assumed lack of care for its elements, At War with the Army still maintains a satisfying filmic appearance and decent detail in facial features.  While, the transfer has its obvious drawbacks from age, At War with the Army still easily satisfies for a film with its heavily distributed history.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, At War with the Army maintains a mild hiss as dialogue kicks off restrained before slightly improving to more audible conditions.  Meanwhile, song numbers offer better clarity and another light boost in quality.  On par with its video transfer, At War with the Army sounds respectable given the circumstances.  Finally, no special features have been included on this release.

    A partnership long considered one of entertainment’s finest, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’ debut effort finds the duo comfortable in their skin but, doesn’t offer them the ideal canvas to let their showmanship truly shine.  Separating them for one too many instances and crowding moments with forgettable supporting characters, At War with the Army while, capturing several colorful moments, lacks the punch from later Martin and Lewis entries.  Nestled in the public domain since the 1970s, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ high-definition transfer is a valiant effort that will leave Martin and Lewis fans pleased so long as expectations are maintained.  Like Abbott and Costello before them, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’ efforts continue to be cherished by generations young and old.  Admittedly, At War with the Army is far from comedy gold but, the uninitiated need look no further to begin their cinematic journey with Martin and Lewis.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available March 24th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, At War with the Army can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Hester Street (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Hester Street (1975)

    Director: Joan Micklin Silver

    Starring: Steven Keats, Carol Kane, Mel Howard, Dorrie Kavanaugh & Doris Roberts

    Released by: Kino Lorber

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in 1896 on the Lower East Side of New York City, Hester Street focuses on Yankl (Steven Keats, Death Wish), a Russian Jewish immigrant, who has adapted the name Jake and grown accustomed to the American culture.  Working for $12 a week and engaged in an affair with a dancer (Dorrie Kavanaugh, Ryan’s Choice), Jake’s wife, Gitl (Carol Kane, Annie Hall), and their young son finally arrive in America to start their new life.  Unfortunately, when Gitl has difficulty adapting to her new environment, tensions arise in their marriage.  Mel Howard (The Washington Affair) and Doris Robert (Everybody Loves Raymond) co-star.

    Based on the novella by Abraham Cahan, Hester Street is a moving and accurate depiction of immigrant struggles at the turn of the century.  Chasing the American dream of a free world, Yankl (Keats) works tirelessly to raise the necessary funds to have his wife and son join him.  Three years into his stay, Yankl, now known as Jake, has fully adapted to the American culture, prompting him to shave off his beard and enter into a new relationship with Mamie (Kavanaugh).  After Jake’s wife, Gitl (Kane), and their son, Yossele, arrive on Ellis Island, Jake is confronted with his traditional Jewish past that he has long since repressed.  Although, overjoyed with their presence, Jake quickly grows bitter and abusive with Gitl for her unwillingness to adapt to the American culture he loves so much.  Nominated for an Academy Award, Carol Kane delivers a quiet, hauntingly memorable performance as a culture-shocked Jewish immigrant with her sorrowful eyes and desperation to retain her traditional identity.  In addition, Steven Keats equally shines in his role as the very flawed and relatable Jake.  Working hard while, ditching his roots for capitalist pursuits and the company of other women, Jake is constantly at odds with his uncooperative loved ones and his need for acceptance and wealth in The New World.  While, broken English, thick accents and occasional Yiddish encompass the film, the performances are only heightened by the detailed, at times difficult, speech patterns.  With their differences shifting them farther apart, Hester Street is a heartbreaking account of Jewish immigration and the uncertain future awaiting in a land that held such promise for all.

    Shot for under a million dollars, Hester Street wonderfully captures the trials and tribulations of all immigrants hoping to carve out a better life for themselves.  With its black and white photography, minimalist set decoration and screen accurate wardrobe, Hester Street feels almost documentary-like in its natural ability to capture its 1890s time period.  Released during a time when female filmmakers were largely uncommon and inspired by her own Russian Jewish lineage, Director Joan Micklin Silver (Chilly Scenes of Winter) pours her heart into every frame, rewarding viewers with a one of a kind experience that was originally hailed as an “ethnic oddity”.  Selected in 2011 for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress, Hester Street is an absorbing and culturally important film that masterfully captures the heartache of immigration and the fruitless attempts for wealth.

    Kino Lorber presents Hester Street with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With scratches and debris present throughout, Hester Street still satisfies with reasonable black levels and adequate detail in close-ups.  While, some sequences demonstrate slightly overblown whites, the transfer feels fitting and nicely compliments the film’s period setting, warts and all.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Hester Street suffers from a mild hiss throughout its runtime prompting increases in volume while, dialogue is relayed efficiently enough allowing viewers to capture the thicker accents with little difficulty.  Unfortunately, no special features are included on this release.

    Equally dismal and hopeful, Hester Street engages the viewer with its character study of immigrants yearning to accept a new home while, struggling to give up the old country.  Well regarded for its exceptional performances from Kane and Keats, Director Joan Micklin Silver’s feature film debut is handled with such passion and attention to human emotion, its value to film history is no surprise 40 years later.  Making its Blu-ray debut, Kino Lorber’s transfer shows signs of some wear and other anomalies but, makes great strides delivering a presentation to be satisfied with.  Containing a strong, universal message, Hester Street is a remarkable effort worthy of recommendation.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 17th from Kino Lorber, Hester Street can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • 52 Pick-Up (1986) Blu-ray Review

    52 Pick-Up (1986)

    Director: John Frankenheimer 

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5    

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

  • Ten Seconds to Hell (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Ten Seconds to Hell (1959)

    Director: Robert Aldrich

    Starring: Jeff Chandler, Jack Palance, Martine Carol, Virginia Baker & Wes Addy

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Ten Seconds to Hell takes place in the aftermath of WWII where a group of German demolition experts have been assigned the very dangerous duty of defusing unexploded Allied bombs.  Karl Wirtz (Jeff Chandler, Broken Arrow), Eric Koetner (Jack Palance, Batman) and the rest of the group agree to a morbid pact where a percentage of their pay is added into a pool to be split between any survivors of their high-risk job.  As stress and tensions mount, Wirtz and Koetner begin vying for the affection of Margot Hofer (Martine Carol, The French, They Are a Funny Race) making matters worse.  Virginia Baker (Something Wild), Wes Addy (Network) and Robert Cornthwaite (The Thing from Another World) co-star.

    Co-produced by Hammer Film Productions slightly before their outings with gothic horror would propel them to greater success, Ten Seconds to Hell is a postwar study that pits our characters in no safer conditions than during their wartime service.  Returning home from the battlefields and offered the high-paying position of defusing bombs, Eric Koetner (Palance) is grateful but, equally cautious.  Joined by their fellow soldiers, Karl Wirtz (Chandler) provokes Eric insisting he will outlive him in their new assignment.  Before long, a decision is agreed upon for the small outfit to contribute half their pay to be awarded to whomever survives their defusing duties.  Intelligent and genuinely concerned for the safety of his men, Eric is constantly at odds with the increasingly untrustworthy Karl.  Moving into an approved boarding house maintained by the beautiful Margot Hofer (Carol), Eric and Karl’s personalities continue to clash as Karl’s drunken advances to Margot incenses Eric, revealing a genuine fondness for the widow.  As several assignments result in fatal outcomes for their team, Eric and Karl must find a way to coexist and trust one another in order to survive.

    Based on the novel “The Phoenix” by Lawrence P. Bachmann, Ten Seconds to Hell is endlessly tense as Aldrich commands the camera during the deactivation scenes with expert detail.  In addition, Palance and Chandler’s conflicting personalities of a noble man and devious ex-soldier make for excellent drama in this period character study.  Shot on location in Berlin, Ten Seconds to Hell offers haunting imagery of a war-ravaged city, exceptionally captured by Cinematographer Ernest Laszlo (Stalag 17, Logan’s Run).  Containing sporadic narrations that carry a hokey, radio serial vibe, Ten Seconds to Hell’s only drawback is the forced love affair between Eric and Margot that feels wholly unnecessary as a means to create additional conflict between Eric and Karl.  While, Martine Carol’s performance as Margot is admirable, Eric and Karl’s years of wartime experiences would have sufficiently painted a history revealing their quarreling friendship without the involvement of a generic love triangle.  Nonetheless, Ten Seconds to Hell is a riveting picture with captivating performances and a suspenseful pace, leaving audiences on the edge of their seat.

    Newly remastered, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Ten Seconds to Hell with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of noticeably scratchy stock footage during its opening credits, Ten Seconds to Hell possesses inky black levels and vivid detail in its black and white photography.  Aging wrinkles and perspiration in closeups are clearly captured with only minor flakes and slight blowouts during sunnier, exterior shots making themselves modestly known.  Nearly 60 years after its original release, Ten Seconds to Hell looks fantastic on high-definition!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is surprisingly crisp with no overly intruding static to report.  Other components including, the film’s score and bomb blasts offer appropriate contrast when implemented.  Finally, a Theatrical Trailer (2:15) serves as the disc’s sole special feature.

    Far less harrowing than most war pictures, Ten Seconds to Hell welcomes soldiers home with an equally dangerous mission that maximizes suspense and drama.  Continuing to feel its effect in recent pictures such as 2008’s The Hurt Locker, Ten Seconds to Hell guides the viewer into the frightening reality of bomb defusing with less trust for those guarding your life.  Jack Palance and Jeff Chandler offer assertive performances keeping viewers transfixed to the screen while, the tense defusing sequences leave nail-biting impact.  Kino Lorber Studio Classics delivers Ten Seconds to Hell with a beautifully filmic video transfer and an approving sound mix.  While, the finished film differed from Director Robert Aldrich’s original vision, prompting him to remove his name as producer, Ten Seconds to Hell remains a grim and powerfully suspenseful picture highlighting the high-risk role of bomb defusers.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Ten Seconds to Hell can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • House of Mortal Sin (1976) Blu-ray Review

    House of Mortal Sin (1976)
    Director: Pete Walker
    Starring: Anthony Sharp, Susan Penhaligon, Stephanie Beacham & Norman Eshley
    Released by: Redemption Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kino Lorber, under their Redemption Films banner, continues their onslaught of releases from famed British horror maestro, Pete Walker (The Flesh and Blood Show, Frightmare).  Controversial and twisted, House of Mortal Sin casts a dark shadow over the sanctity of religion with a blackmailing, inappropriate priest at center stage.  Co-starring Susan Penhaligon (Patrick), Stephanie Beacham (Schizo), Norman Eshley (See No Evil) and Sheila Keith (House of Long Shadows), Redemption Films proudly presents the film fully uncut.  

    House of Mortal Sin centers on a young woman, Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon), who confesses her most intimate details to Father Xavier Meldrum (Anthony Sharp).  Unfortunately, Father Meldrum has no tolerance for sinners and records their conversation in a blackmail attempt.  Suspicions are raised as bodies begin turning up, but no one believes that a holy man could possibly be responsible, except Jenny.

    MOVIE:
    The 1970s reigned supreme with religious-themed horror films that rattled the box-office.  House of Mortal Sin is a unique entry in the canon in that it does not hold the devil responsible for evildoings, but instead a respected priest.  Pete Walker’s own resentment towards attending Catholic school resulted in his film that never shies away from exposing the hypocrisies of the institution.  Anthony Sharp (Barry Lyndon) wonderfully captures the aged, yet respected Father Xavier Meldrum who is widely regarded amongst his community.  Shortly after Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) admits to the seasoned clergyman about her abortion, an unhealthy obsession begins.  Father Meldrum records the intimate information and uses it as a ploy to keep Jenny within his grasp.  Unfortunately, most people find her accusations ridiculous as a servant of the church would never do such wrongdoings.  In this sense, House of Mortal Sin serves as an interesting time capsule where people would not commonly accuse a clergyman of committing any harm.  Of course, today we live in a society where cases of abuse at the hands of priests have become all too common and sadly, unsurprising.  Thankfully, House of Mortal Sin chooses not to be a tale of child abuse at the hands of the church but more in the vein of a slasher film.  Father Meldrum’s obsession with Jenny causes him to lash out at those closest to her resulting in several murders including a grizzly strangulation with a Rosary.  In addition, Meldrum possesses shades of Norman Bates as a man with a mommy complex.  He confides in his elderly mother who can no longer speak but is obviously disturbed by her son’s actions.  Meldrum’s mother is cared for by the equally devilish and one-eyed, Miss Brabazon (Sheila Keith), who takes great pride in abusing the ailing woman when her mad son isn’t watching.

    House of Mortal Sin continues to surprise as the film’s final act doesn’t include the typical final girl and madman showdown.  Nonetheless, Pete Walker’s opus concludes on a satisfyingly, somber note that’s quite effective.  House of Mortal Sin may not have possessed children or projectile pea soup, but still delivers a chilling tale of a disturbed priest hellbent on teaching sinners a lesson.  Headlined by a talented cast that turn in memorable performances, Pete Walker’s exercise in Catholic-horror will surely shock and entertain those brave enough to endure creepy clergymen.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    House of Mortal Sin is presented in a 1080p transfer bearing a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Minor instances of speckles aside, the transfer looks exceptionally clean sporting a healthy layer of grain. In addition, colors translate well with skin tones appearing natural as can be.  In comparison to some of Kino’s previous Walker titles that were slightly more problematic, House of Mortal Sin ranks as one of their finest looking transfers yet.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 mix, House of Mortal Sin has no noticeable issues to speak of with dialogue coming across very clearly.  A very pleasing and modestly effective audio mix make this a pleasurable listening experience.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Pete Walker and Jonathan Rigby:  Rigby, author of English Gothic, moderates this highly informative commentary track that has been kindly ported over from the previous DVD release.

    - Pete Walker: An Eye for Terror Part 2: Elijah Drenner interviews Walker in this 11 minute featurette that finds the director explaining his first interest in filmmaking as well as his own opinions on his films now.

    - Pete Walker Trailers: Includes The Flesh and Blood Show, House of Whipcord, Frightmare, The Comeback and Home Before Midnight.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Kino Lorber’s exciting Redemption banner does a fine service in their continuing efforts to bring Pete Walker’s work to the high-definition realm.  House of Mortal Sin is an effectively creepy take on a disturbed and obsessive priest.  Anthony Sharp steals the show as the twisted Father Meldrum who poisons and strangles his way through victims with no remorse.  Pete Walker’s tale of corruption and religion makes a wonderful leap to Blu-ray with a satisfactory video presentation and an informative array of special features to cut into.  Unquestionably, House of Mortal Sin is a personal favorite of Walker’s many works and one that is screaming to join your collection.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #10: Newhart, Escape from Tomorrow, The Demons, Vinegar Syndrome & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #10 includes:

    - The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (1971) / A Clockwork Blue (1972) (0:39)
    Street Date: March 28, 2014
    Vinegar Syndrome: http://vinegarsyndrome.com/

    - Newhart The Complete Third Season (9:25)
    Street Date: April 22, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Godzilla: The Complete Animated Series (14:06)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com/

    - Escape from Tomorrow (2013) (20:37)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Cinedigm: http://www.cinedigm.com/

    - The Demons (1973) (29:25)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (34:20)

  • The Black Torment (1964) DVD Review

    The Black Torment (1964)
    Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
    Starring: John Turner, Heather Sears, Ann Lynn, Peter Arne & Norman Bird
    Released by: Kino Lorber

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Soaked in gothic atmosphere reminiscent of the Hammer horror films of the decade, Compton Films issued their own response with this eerie period piece.  Shot at the iconic Shepperton Studios, Robert Hartford-Davis (Corruption) directs this hauntingly underrated execution in British horror.  Previously released in less than stellar presentations, Kino Lorber, in conjunction with their Redemption line, proudly presents The Black Torment mastered in HD.  Largely forgotten since its theatrical run, The Black Torment has been resurrected with the intent of striking fear into your soul!

    Set in the 18th-century, The Black Torment stars John Turner (The Power of One) as Sir Richard Fordyce returning to his country estate with his new bride played by Heather Sears (The Phantom of the Opera).  After the brutal rape and murder of a young girl, suspicion increases as the locals believe Sir Richard is responsible.  Firm on his innocence, citizens are not convinced while Sir Richard begins experiencing severe mood changes and supernatural events.  As more people continue to disappear, Sir Richard begins questioning his own sanity.

    MOVIE:
    The stalking and eventual murder of a young, beautiful girl sets the gears in motion for this deliciously gothic whodunit.  Returning home from his honeymoon, Sir Richard Fordyce (Turner) is greeted by his wheelchair-bound father, his caretaker and sister of Sir Richard’s late first wife and her cousin Seymour.  Rumors have escalated amongst the townsfolk that Sir Richard is responsible for the girl’s death.  Shot cheaply without compromising style, The Black Torment takes its time establishing its characters while lavish sets and costumes attract the viewers eye.  As more victims disappear, Sir Richard is haunted by visions of his late wife who committed suicide some years earlier.  John Turner balances the gentlemanly and unhinged side of his role convincing the audience something is astray.  The gorgeous Heather Sears compliments Turner as a lovely devoted wife who eventually is consumed to fear him as an erratic and possibly deadly man.  While, often compared to the efforts of Hammer horror and possessing its fair share of eroticism, The Black Torment is far more tame compared to the popular studio.  In addition, death scenes are present but rely on showing less in order to suggest more to the audience, a tactic that is proven successful here.  The Black Torment may be considered slow moving to some but, its patience to develop its principal characters against the gloomy gothic setting works to its advantage.  

    Ghostly happenings and an uncertainty of who’s committing the murders adds a true level of mystery to this entertaining thriller.  As the finale approaches, the culprits dying words answer all questions in a surprising, albeit slightly over explained, attempt at wrapping up loose ends.  Beautifully shot by Peter Newbrook (whose sole directorial effort would come in 1973 with The Asphyx), The Black Torment is a spooky, period piece that wonderfully captures the gothic atmosphere only selected studios could achieve so well.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Released twice before with unimpressive results, Kino Lorber have presented The Black Torment in HD from 35mm archival elements.  Preserving its 1.66:1 aspect ratio in anamorphic widescreen, The Black Torment has never looked better.  Black levels are lively and vivid while flesh tones are relayed accurately.  Detail is quite nice and most appreciated in the lavish set design of Sir Richard’s estate.  Most noticeably is the remarkably clean presentation of the transfer.  No lines or scratches to be seen which only enhances the viewing pleasure of the film.  Admittedly, it’s a shame Kino Lorber decided against a Blu-ray release as the appearance of the elements are far superior compared to past Redemption titles issued on the format.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, The Black Torment is clear and surprisingly very robust.  No distortion to speak of and Robert Richards‘ powerful score rattles your speakers with his thunderous horns and elegant string sections.  No complaints to be seen here!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Robert Hartford-Davis Interview: This rare 13-minute interview finds Hartford-Davis discussing his cost conscience way of filmmaking while mainly speaking of the business side of the movie industry.  The interviewer tends to ask a question before stopping and attempting to simplify its delivery which tends to get tiresome.  The inclusion of this rarity is still a treat for fans of Hartford-Davis‘ work.

    - Trailers: Includes The Blood Beast Terror, Virgin Witch, Killer’s Moon and Burke and Hare.

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    Banished to obscurity and nearly forgotten, The Black Torment has thankfully been resurrected much to the delight of gothic horror fans.  On par with Hammer horror films, The Black Torment weaves a thrilling tale set against murder and the supernatural.  The lush production design, impressive performances and patient pace make The Black Torment a wonderful addition to British horror’s history.  Kino Lorber’s HD presentation is unquestionably the best the film has ever looked.  The proper aspect ratio preserved and the overall clean appearance of the film will hopefully encourage Kino to issue this underrated gem on Blu-ray in the near future.  Rounding out the release with a rare interview from Director Robert Hartford-Davis should make picking up The Black Torment simple for those with an affection for full moons and the fog infested scenery of British horror.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7: Monsters, Odd Thomas, The Slumber Party Massacre, Buck Wild & MORE!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7 includes:

    - Monsters: The Complete Series (0:43)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    eOne Entertainment: http://entertainmentone.com/home

    - The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) (7:03)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Return to Nuke'Em High Volume 1 (2013) (12:23)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Odd Thomas (2013) (18:12)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Tom Holland's Twisted Tales (2013) (24:34)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Buck Wild (2013) (30:30)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Millennium Entertainment: http://www.millenniumentertainment.me/

    - The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) (35:09)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Frightmare (1974) (41:08)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (48:23)