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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 BFG (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The BFG (2016)

    Director: Steven Spielberg

    Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall & Bill Hader

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the beloved book by Roald Dahl, The BFG focuses on orphaned human bean Sophie (Ruby Barnhill in her film debut) and her wondrous friendship with an enormous giant (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies).  Experiencing unimaginable adventures and facing their biggest fears together, the two once lost souls discover what dreams are made of within each other.

    In a career spanning nearly 50 years filled with countless achievements ranging from fantasy to the factual, The BFG marks Director Steven Spielberg’s first production helmed under the magical Disney banner.  Reteaming with the creative talent responsible for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial including, the late Screenwriter Melissa Mathison, the long-awaited live-action adaptation maintains the whimsy and heartfelt connections to Spielberg’s more fanciful features with the technical advantages of today’s visual effects exquisitely bringing to fruition the film’s larger than life characters.  Exuding unfiltered innocence and bravery to the role of young Sophie, Ruby Barnhill joins the growing list of child actors appearing in a once in a lifetime Spielberg role and excelling beautifully.  Continuing their successful collaboration from Bridge of Spies, Academy Award winner Mark Rylance brings a childlike glee and emotional center to the titular role that enriches the film’s chemistry between the tender tall man and his sweet sidekick.  Furthermore, the combined efforts of Jemaine Clement (What We Do in the Shadows) and Bill Hader (Inside Out) welcome hilariously buffoonish and foreboding clout to the villainous residents of Giant Country in their pursuit for human nourishment and tormenting the BFG.  

    Faithfully adapted and retaining the signature tongue of the film’s towering characters, The BFG suffers from a simple-mindedness that although, charming and sweet, inhibits the fantasy feature from topping the flawlessness of Spielberg and Mathison's sci-fi classic.  Built and thriving on the BFG’s bond with Sophie, their dream-catching adventures and the effectively subtle hints into the giant’s previous friendship with a human, the film’s rather bland and uneventful military climax pales in comparison to its more intimate moments.  Bringing renewed laughs to the otherwise cheap gag of fart humor and cloaked with an enchantingly quaint score from go-to Spielberg Composer John Williams (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark), The BFG may not be an immediate classic but, lovingly reminds viewers of the power and necessity for innocent escapism.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The BFG with a reference quality 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Richly capturing the aging wrinkles and intricate gray hair follicles in the BFG’s motion-captured face, skin tones in the film’s human characters excel with natural bliss while, the fog-entrenched streets of London and the giant’s dimly lit cave showcase the utmost revealing of black levels.  In addition, textures in the costumes, both real and computer generated, are pristine with the luminescent colors of whizzing dreams glowing beautifully.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that captures the clarity of dialogue and the ambiance of floor creeks and meowing cats, the film’s track supports all areas with no disruption.  Furthermore, the bass heavy steps of the giants and John Williams’ highly recommendable score are worthy reminders of the film’s impressive soundscape.  Special features include, Bringing The BFG to Life (27:09), an in-depth series of video diaries hosted by Ruby Barnhill with onset footage and interviews from the likes of Spielberg, Executive Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Producer Frank Marshall and many others scattered throughout.  Furthermore, The Big Friendly Giant and Me (1:55) is a lovely short told through illustrations inspired from Dahl’s books that detail the BFG’s friendship with the bean that preceded Sophie, Gobblefunk: The Wonderful Words of The BFG (3:16) serves as a lighthearted resource to the film’s funky speech patterns and Giants 101 (4:57) finds fellow giants Jemain Clement and Bill Hader detailing the making of their characters and movements.  Lastly, Melissa Mathison: A Tribute (5:54) is a farewell featurette to the memory of Mathison containing priceless footage of her on The BFG set collaborating with Spielberg and company.  A Sneak Peek at 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37), a DVD edition and Digital HD Code formally conclude the release’s supplemental offerings.

    Spielberg’s movie magic teamed with Dahl’s timeless tales may be the cinematic embodiment of pure imagination.  A technical marvel with the relationship between human and giant being the film’s true strengths, The BFG, remaining true to its source material, underwhelms in a third act attempt at action excitement.  Nonetheless, while Spielberg’s latest may be imperfect, the reunion amongst the human beans behind E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial still offers enough heart and a fine farewell from Mathison worth celebrating alone.  Disney’s high-definition presentation is nothing short of remarkable while, its bonus offerings are limited but offer respectable insight into the film’s making.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, The BFG can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Elstree 1976 (2015) DVD Review

    Elstree 1976 (2015)

    Director: Jon Spira

    Starring: Various

    Released by: MVD Visual

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Documenting the lives of those behind the countless masks and helmets of George Lucas’ original sci-fi phenomenon, Elstree 1976 centers on the diverse personalities of the bit actors and extras that would ultimately comprise the film’s vast galaxy and how their lives have since been affected being apart of its global impact.  

    Spearheaded through a Kickstarter campaign, Director Jon Spira’s (Anyone Can Play Guitar) love letter to the unsung beings that donned heavy makeup and increasingly difficult to see through headwear in the original Star Wars are interviewed to divulge their unique tales landing fleeting yet, generally memorable roles in arguably the greatest blockbuster of all-time.  With many barely grasping the scope of what they were associated with at the time, Elstree 1976 allows each subject to reveal their early beginnings, long before the acting bug took hold.  Emerging from all walks of life across North America and overseas, the selection of interviewees spend considerable time sharing personal childhood memories and their earliest ambitions, providing a deeply rich portrait of each speaker.  Surprisingly, the film’s non-Star Wars related moments prove to be the most engaging as each subject’s candidness makes them solidly grounded and sympathetically relatable.  Featuring David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back) as the more prominent talking heads of the documentary, Elstree 1976’s other participants including, Derek Lyons (Temple Guard / Medal Bearer), Angus Maclnnes (Gold Leader) and John Chapman (Drifter), although loquacious in their interviews, have such “blink and you’ll miss them” appearances in the original film that their insight grows tiresome quickly.  

    With many of the participants no longer in the business, Elstree 1976 winds down with an interesting overview of the thriving Star Wars conventions that many of the film’s costumed players attend for financial means.  The interviewees discuss at great length the politics of their appearances and what they consider in bad taste when other unsung extras join the circuit to make a quick buck themselves.  No matter how minuscule their roles may have been, the subjects of Elstree 1976 hold warm memories of their once in a lifetime experiences onset yet, the overwhelming majority of the interviews related to Star Wars are never deeply interesting with the documentary suffering as it drags itself to a conclusion.  A well-intentioned salute to the background players that comprised both sides of the Force, Elstree 1976 is hardly a definitive document on Lucas’ runaway hit but, contains several worthy interviews that Star Wars devotees will find of interest.

    Shot digitally, Elstree 1976 is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that appears as acceptable as can be.  Restrained to tight closeup style interviews, colors are presented adequately while, film clips from several films and onsite footage from autograph conventions also appear with ease.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, the controlled settings of each interview allows for perfectly audible dialogue levels to be captured.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.  Unfortunately, no special features have been included.

    Earning the adoration of fans worldwide for their brief but, endearing appearances, Elstree 1976’s willingness to shine an honorary light on Star Wars’ many costumed characters and the men and women behind those faces is a gracious notion yet, one that stumbles with one too many monotonous asides.  While the film’s earliest moments prove most interesting, only dedicated fans of George Lucas’ sci-fi saga will take interest.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 28th from MVD Visual, Elstree 1976 can be purchased via MVDShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Venom (1982) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Venom (1982)

    Director: Piers Haggard

    Starring: Sterling Hayden, Klaus Kinski, Sarah Miles, Susan George, Nicol Williamson & Oliver Reed

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Alan Scholefield, Venom concerns a criminal trio consisting of an attractive maid (Susan George, Straw Dogs), a temperamental chauffeur (Oliver Reed, The Curse of the Werewolf) and an international terrorist (Klaus Kinski, Nosferatu the Vampyre) as they attempt to kidnap a young boy from a lavish London townhouse.  When complications result in a murdered police officer, the unexpected arrival of a deadly black mamba escalates the danger for both the captors and their hostages.  Sterling Hayden (The Killing), Nicol Williamson (Excalibur) and Sarah Miles (The Big Sleep) co-star in this suspenseful thriller.

    The result of a troubled production that initially went before cameras under the direction of Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) before being replaced by Piers Haggard (The Blood on Satan’s Claw), Venom strikes viewers with its simple tale of criminal mischief gone wildly south.  When a planned kidnapping derails into a heart pounding hostage situation, a delivery mixup inviting the world’s most lethal snake into the film’s central location brings certain doom to its many players.  Headlined by the equally hotheaded Kinski and Reed, their clashing offscreen personalities serve their onscreen counterparts well with knife cutting tension as Kinski utilizes Reed as his go-to whipping boy while the Burnt Offerings star boils with anger in his eyes.  Graduating to a tense standoff between crooks and cops, Venom’s true bite comes in the form of its slithery serpent that navigates through the home’s heating ducts and leaps to attack leaving the sexy Susan George on ice in the film’s most grizzly death sequence.  As the sickly child, his elderly grandfather and a herpetologist fear for their survival, Venom strikes sharply as the reptile slides its way up a wounded Reed’s pant leg during another satisfyingly uneasy moment.  While the film would be far more revered in later years on home video, Venom is a notably tense slice of reptilian celluloid, boasting worthy performances from its varied cast and sinking genuine fangs of fear into the uninitiated.  

    Beautifully remastered in 2K, Blue Underground presents Venom with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Looking healthier and more vivid than its previous release, skin tones are pleasingly natural while colors in wall paint are more prominent with detail appearing noticeably sharper.  In addition, print damage in the form of scuffs and scratches are thankfully nonexistent.  Matched with a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, optional Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes are also included.  Meanwhile, special features include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Piers Haggard, the Theatrical Trailer (1:23), Teaser Trailer (0:29), three TV Spots (1:30), a Poster & Stills Gallery (76 in total), a 17-page booklet featuring stills and a deeply researched essay by former Fangoria Editor Michael Gingold.  Finally, a DVD edition and a Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s supplements.

    In one of the few snake-related thrillers of its day, Venom ranks highly with its casting combo of Kinski and Reed plus, its highly suspenseful sequences achieved through the use of real black mambas.  Better appreciated thanks to Blue Underground’s newly remastered Blu-ray, Venom still has the power to make your skin crawl!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Blue Underground, Venom can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Felicity (1978) Blu-ray Review

    Felicity (1978)

    Director: John D. Lamond

    Starring: Glory Annen, Christopher Milne, Joni Flynn, Jody Hanson, Marilyn Rodgers, John Michael Howson & Gordon Charles

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented in its unrated director’s cut, Felicity stars Glory Annen (Spaced Out) as sheltered teen Felicity Robinson who finds herself experiencing a series of changes and sexual curiosities.  Whisked away from her uptight English all-girl school for a holiday in Hong Kong, Felicity engages in the many pleasures the bustling city has to offer in order to quench her voracious appetite for the erotic.  Christopher Milne (Thirst), Penthouse model Joni Flynn, Jody Hanson (The Call of the Wild), Marilyn Rodgers (Patrick), John Michael Howson (Nightmares) and Gordon Charles co-star.

    Erotically charged yet, tantalizingly classy, Felicity centers on the sexual awakening of a shy Catholic schoolgirl whose rapid libido can hardly keep up with her curiously wandering thoughts.  From innocently staring at the evolving bods of her classmates in the showers, Felicity (Annen) is treated when her father arranges her to stay with associates of his in Hong Kong for holiday.  Reading from the not-so-subtle Emmanuelle, the teen finds herself turned on while spying on fellow passengers who have chosen to join the mile high club in their seats.  Arriving in the exotic eastern city to stay with a hip, wealthy couple, Felicity’s desires increase as she peaks on her hosts having intimate sex while pleasuring herself to the sight of their thrusting bodies.  Beautiful and bubbly, Glory Annen, aged 26 at the time, convincingly plays the precocious schoolgirl with ease while her appetizing figure is proudly put on display for much of the film’s runtime.  Following an empowering shopping spree for sexy lingerie, Felicity wines and dines with an older crowd before uncomfortably losing her virginity on the hood of a sports car.  Relishing the Pandora’s box that’s been opened, sexually adventurous Me Ling (Flynn) takes Felicity under her wing where steamy lesbian action takes place before the young woman falls for handsome photographer Miles (Milne) who rescues the damsel from Chinese hoodlums.  Unquestionably exploiting its markedly “barely legal" starlet, Felicity’s intent feels far more sincere than most similarly themed films and presents its hotter sequences with obvious taste and appreciative lightheartedness.  Crowned with genuinely romantic notions, Felicity remains an erotic wonder that made target audiences quiver with lust, continuing to keep its reputation instated today.

    Restored in high-definition for the first time, Severin Films presents Felicity with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing softly with white levels overblown at times, the dreamlike aura of its photography appears to be intentional yet, compromises a more detailed image.  Meanwhile, skin tones are moderately pleasing while, black levels show slight traces of murkiness with only scant instances of dirt and debris spotted throughout its runtime.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is surprisingly crisp while, the film’s catchy song numbers make stronger impacts.  Nicely packed, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director John D. Lamond & Star Glory Annen.  In addition, previously available on DVD via Severin’s Intervision sub label, two of Lamond’s other features, 1978’s The ABCs of Love and Sex (1:22:58) and 1975’s Australia After Dark (1:28:08) are included both with optional audio commentaries with Producer/Director John D. Lamond & Not Quite Hollywood Director Mark Hartley.  Finally, Not Quite Hollywood Out-Takes with Actress Glory Annen, Director John D. Lamond and Cinematographer Garry Wapshott (59:03) are joined by a John D. Lamond Trailer Reel (18:24) featuring Nightmares, The ABCs of Love and Sex, Felicity, Pacific Banana, Breakfast in Paris and Sky Pirates.

    Deflowered on high-definition courtesy of Severin Films, Felicity continues to make fans of the erotic sensation shake in glee from its sexually charged exploration of a young woman’s titillating discoveries.  Exceedingly stuffed with two extra features from Lamond’s career and extended interviews from Hartley’s insightful Ozploitation documentary, Felicity’s Blu-ray debut is a treasure trove of sexy Aussie cinema!

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Felicity can be purchase via SeverinFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2013) DVD Review

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    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2013)
    Director: Jonathan Newman
    Starring: Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, Ioan Gruffudd, Aneurin Barnard & Sam Neill
    Released by: Image Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Weaving the worlds of magic and adventure, a young hero facing unstoppable odds must retrieve his younger brother while, a diabolical villain intends on possessing a relic with supernatural powers.  The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box packs limitless imagination and colorful characters in a Victorian era setting in London.  Available also on Blu-ray, Image Entertainment proudly presents the fantastical film adaptation of the G.P. Taylor best-selling novel.  Let us explore the mystery and excitement of this heroic tale...

    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box centers on teenage Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard) as his life is turned upside down when his parents vanish and younger brother are kidnapped.  Teaming with trusted agent and family ally, Charity (Michael Sheen), the duo follow clues to the Prince Regent Hotel where the monstrous Otto Luger (Sam Neill) is feverishly searching for an ancient relic.  The lost artifact could bring devastating results to humanity if Mariah and Charity don’t retrieve it.  The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box co-stars Lena Headey (300), Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) and Keeley Howes (Death at a Funeral).

    MOVIE:
    Shot on the relatively low-budget of $25 million, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box looks and feels far more in tune with other Hollywood blockbusters.  Invoking the youthful charisma of Young Sherlock Holmes and the adventurous tone of the Indiana Jones franchise, the film dares to fill the void of the recently deceased Harry Potter series.  Surprisingly, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box succeeds in delivering a compelling story and a charming sense of excitement that most films of this stature often miss.  While, not boasting a cast of A-list names, the performers play their roles admirably and offer a sense of gravity to each part.  Michael Sheen’s eccentric Charity is a humorous and intelligent agent who retrieves lost antiques from falling into the wrong hands.  With shades of Robert Downey Jr.‘s Sherlock Holmes, Sheen plays the role with a true sense enthusiasm.  In addition, Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) plays the villainous role of Otto Luger with a dry wit that serves his performance well.  Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) appears as Neill’s second in command and plays the part with a devilish charm while Ioan Gruffudd (Horrible Bosses) makes a brief turn as the young lead’s father.  Aneurin Barnard portrays the heroic protagonist, Marich Mundi, with all the necessary chops and emotion to give the audience a hero worth rooting for. 

    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box does a remarkable job in creating a world of Victorian era beauty and ancient wonder.  The film also offers a sensational amount of action set pieces, considering the limited budget.  A fun, albeit short, final sword battle between Sheen and Neill taking place aboard a moving steampunk inspired drill while, Barnard hangs from a chain feels not far removed from Pirates of the Caribbean.  The unnoticeable uses of CGI to create certain set pieces are a true testament of how best to use the overly dependent technology. 

    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box is an effectively told, magical adventure tale shot on a wildly modest budget.  While, looking and feeling like other similarly themed projects, the film dons its own personality and rewards the viewer with charming performances and wonderfully orchestrated actions sequences.  Hinting at future adventures in an early end credit scene, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box has all the potential to expand its world as long as later installments contain the same delightful sense of mystery and excitement.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Image Entertainment presents The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box in a vibrant 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Flesh tones are accurately presented with detail looking sharp especially in wardrobe and the majestic Prince Regent Hotel.  Black levels are reasonably decent while moments in darkened caves leave more to be desired.  Presumably, the Blu-ray edition will only enhance the pros and improve the very minor cons.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box never disappoints in relaying dialogue but action-filled moments could have benefitted from a louder push.  Overall, the mix is a serviceable one.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - The Making of The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box: What appears as a typical promotional fluff piece, turns out to be a rather interesting featurette.  The cast, crew and author all share their input on the film as well as admitting that filling the void of Harry Potter films was intended.  Fly on the wall footage is captured of the crew battling treacherous weather conditions and the cast rehearsing stunt pieces.  A far more informative behind the scenes look than expected.

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box is an entertaining, imaginative tale suited for the entire family.  With shades of National Treasure, Young Sherlock Holmes and the Indiana Jones films, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box maintains its own unique spirit and is conveyed by a marvelous cast.  With its heart in the proper place, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box has all the potential to follow in the tradition of Harry Potter by delivering future installments that exceed the original.  Image Entertainment’s DVD release is equipped with more than decent AV quality that will surely be eclipsed by its Blu-ray counterpart.  In addition, the behind the scenes featurette provided informative insight to the film’s creation.  The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box pleasantly surprised with its old school approach to magical storytelling that sadly, seems to be fading from today’s cinema landscape.
    RATING: 4/5