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  • Undercover Blues (1993) Blu-ray Review

    Undercover Blues (1993)

    Director: Herbert Ross

    Starring: Kathleen Turner, Dennis Quaid, Fiona Shaw, Stanley Tucci, Larry Miller, Park Overall & Tom Arnold

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When undercover spies Jane (Kathleen Turner, Romancing the Stone) and Jeff (Dennis Quaid, The Rookie) Blue take a well-deserved vacation with their infant daughter, their exploits in espionage are not far behind.  Set in the gorgeous locale of New Orleans, Undercover Blues finds the wildly in love couple pulled back into the fold to stop Czech arms dealer, Novacek (Fiona Shaw, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).  Never ones to take their job too seriously against dangerous odds, hilarity and action ensue during the Blues’ unconventional getaway.  Stanley Tucci (Spotlight), Larry Miller (10 Things I Hate About You), Park Overall (Mississippi Burning) and Tom Arnold (True Lies) co-star.

    From Director Herbert Ross (The Sunshine Boys, Footloose), Undercover Blues matches the comically capable talents of Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid for a family-oriented spy adventure set in the romantic Jazz capital of the country.  Shortly after arriving in New Orleans for their long overdue vacation with their new baby, unsuspecting spies Jane (Turner) and Jeff (Quaid) Blue find themselves tangling with street thugs (Academy Award nominated Tucci and comedian Dave Chappelle in his first role) before local law enforcement grow suspicious of the tourists.  Summoned back into field work by their superior (Academy Award nominated Richard Jenkins, The Visitor) to retrieve experimental C-22 explosives from a villainous arms dealer, the Blues see no reason why business should interfere with pleasure.  Taking their daughter to the local zoo and enjoying fine dining while conducting their investigation, the Blues’ sarcastic demeanor and endless tussles with vengeful local criminal Muerte make for the film’s limited highlights.  Although Turner and Quaid create wonderful chemistry together and appear to be having a ball, Undercover Blues’ story is far too generic with lackluster action presented, offering little outside of the Blues’ personality quirks and hilariously unruffled reactions.  Shot on the actual streets of New Orleans, Undercover Blues failed to register with audiences during its original release but, manages to squeeze several laughs out of its otherwise bland plot.

    Olive Films presents Undercover Blues with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Culled from what appears to be a dated master, the opening credits open softly with countless instances of dirt and debris spotted.  Transitioning to the film, skin tones are moderately pleasing ranging from warmly accurate to occasionally softer appearances.  Exterior footage of New Orleans streets and wild animals at a local zoo sport pleasing boosts in color definition while, the few nighttime sequences appear free of any disrupting digital artifacts.  Although dust and speckles continue to arise throughout the runtime, instances are of little to no dilemma.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is pleasantly satisfactory with delivery always audible and crisp.  Meanwhile, jazz parades and the film’s final act involving several explosions, a getaway helicopter and gunfire provide marginal yet, pleasing quality boosts in this otherwise tame mix.  Expectedly scant, the sole special feature included is the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer (1:55).

    Although lacking in originality, Undercover Blues delivers entertaining comic performances from Turner and Quaid who make the most of their New Orleans adventure with baby in tow.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Olive Films welcomes this forgotten effort with suitable audio and video specifications that should appease most viewers.  While by no means essential, Turner and Quaid’s charm and undeniable likability make Undercover Blues a curious effort.    

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Undercover Blues can be purchased via OliveFilms.com,

    Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #9: Count Dracula (1970), Zombie High (1987), Axe (1975) / Kidnapped Coed (1976), Women's Prison Massacre (1983), Corruption (1983) & The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1963) Blu-ray Reviews

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #9

    Count Dracula (1970)

    Director: Jess Franco

    Starring: Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Herbert Lom, Maria Rohm, Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams & Paul Muller

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Intent on crafting the most faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s iconic novel, Director Jess Franco (99 Women) would lure Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man) from his fanged appearances for Hammer Films to headline as the Count.  Soaked appreciatively in gothic atmosphere, Franco’s interpretation unfolds faithfully enough before taking several liberties of its own.  Following Jonathan Harker’s (Fred Williams, She Killed in Ecstasy) escape from Castle Dracula, the film dawdles with recuperation and Van Helsing’s (Herbert Lom, Spartacus) convincing of the black arts to several characters permeating the runtime.  Although its narrative proves to be uneventful in several areas, Christopher Lee’s performance is captivating with his bloodshot eyes and graying mustache adding a visual flair to the timeless character.  In addition, Klaus Kinski (Jack the Ripper), perfectly cast as the disturbed Renfield, is grossly underused in a role otherwise tailor made for the thespians eccentric energy.  While lacking a more erotic flair accustomed to other Franco efforts, Count Dracula achieves moments of glory with Lee’s engrossing performance and the film’s grandiose locations yet, never overcomes its monotonous attempts at plot development.  

    Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Severin Films presents Count Dracula with a 1080p transfer capturing natural skin tones and boldly represented colors, best appreciated in the film’s period costume choices.  With the exception of one reinstated sequence of scratchier quality, the transfer is virtually free of any wear and tear while, black levels are satisfactory with only occasional murkiness on display.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible with the film’s chilling score effectively relayed throughout.  Accompanied with a five-star spread of supplements, Severin Films includes the expressionistic feature Cuadecuc, Vampir (1:06:18), an Audio Commentary with Horror Historian David Del Valle and Actress Maria Rohm, Beloved Count (26:24) featuring an interview with Director Jess Franco, A Conversation with Jack Taylor (10:00) and Handsome Harker (26:14) with Actor Fred Williams interviewed.  In addition, French Director Christophe Gans hosts an appreciation of Jess Franco’s Count Dracula in Stake Holders (7:32) while, Christopher Lee Reads Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1:24:08) plus, the German, French, Italian & Spanish Alternate Title Sequences (1:36) are also included alongside the film’s German Trailer (3:08).  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Count Dracula can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Zombie High (1987)

    Director: Rob Link

    Starring: Virginia Madsen, Richard Cox, James Wilder, Sherilyn Fenn, Paul Feig & Kay E. Kuter

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shot entirely at the University of Southern California, Zombie High stars Virginia Madsen (Candyman) as the bright Andrea Miller.  After accepting a scholarship to the prestigious Ettinger boarding school, Andrea takes notice of the unusual drone-like behavior of her fellow students.  Before long, a deep rooted secret amongst the school faculty is revealed leading Andrea and her boyfriend Barry (James Wilder, Delta Phi) to fend for their lives.  Scripted by no less than three writers, Zombie High was the brainchild of USC film stockroom handler Aziz Ghazal who, under a unique circumstance with producers, offered the school’s facilities and equipment in exchange for students to intern on a professional film set.  With the exception of its cast and several behind-the-scenes crew members, Zombie High is an impressive accomplishment yet, not one of renowned quality.  Devoid of any scares whatsoever, Director Rob Mink’s sole feature consists of a cast of talented up and comers including, the future Academy Award nominated Madsen, Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) and future Bridesmaids director Paul Feig delivering a poor man’s Duckie.  While the vibrant young thespians give earnest performances, the dull storyline and two-dimensionality of their characters suffocate the film.  Although professionally produced under its student film-like circumstances, Zombie High is painfully uneventful and seemingly forgets to include its titular creatures until its final fleeting moments.  

    Scream Factory presents Zombie High with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Inherently soft at times, remnants of digital noise can be spotted in the film’s first half during dormitory scenes and dimly lit moments that thankfully subsides later on.  While flesh tones appear decently and bolder colors found in Madsen’s bright sweaters pop best, the transfer is satisfactory given its unconventional history.  Equipped with a disappointing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue registers overwhelmingly low with volume increases essential during viewing.  In addition, the film’s generic rock soundtrack, while providing decent boosts in quality, does so at the expense of drowning out more dialogue.  Limited with its offerings, special features include the film’s Trailer (1:05), uncredited liner notes found on the reverse wrap and a DVD edition of the release.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Zombie High can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Axe (1975) / Kidnapped Coed (1976)

    Director: Frederick R. Friedel

    Starring: Leslie Lee, Jack Canon, Ray Greene & Frederick R. Friedel / Jack Canon, Leslie Rivers, Gladys Lavitam & Larry Lambeth

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Restored from their original negatives, Severin Films proudly presents the early efforts of Director Frederick R. Friedel on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  Marking his directorial debut, Axe centers on three murderous criminals who seek refuge at an isolated farmhouse occupied by a withdrawn teenager and her paralyzed grandfather.  Shot inexpensively and running barely an hour, Axe is an unsettling tale that presents its characters with little to no exposition yet, never compromising their chilling believability.  Following the murder of a gay man and dehumanizing target practice with a market clerk, the chain-smoking Steele (Jack Canon, Maximum Overdrive), Lomax (Ray Greene) and younger, more hesitant Billy (Frederick R. Friedel) invade a desolate farmhouse to evade capture.  The beautiful Leslie Lee plays the emotionally stunted Lisa as she calmly premeditates her brutal revenge against her unwanted guests.  Contemplating suicide before savagely fighting back, Lisa’s actions are equally warranted and alarming.  Unfairly included on the U.K.’s banned list of video nasties, Axe oozes rural dread with exceptional style and effective editing that increases its artistic quality more than its grindhouse reputation suggests.

    Next up, Kidnapped Coed, billed as The Kidnap Lover, finds money hungry crook Eddie (Canon once again) kidnapping red-headed richie Sandra (Leslie Rivers, Reform School Girls) only to have his hostage form an unusual attraction for her abductor.  Canon excels as the heavy determined to kill if his ransom isn’t delivered with the timid Rivers playing nicely off of him.  Encountering several unsavory characters that arguably rival Eddie’s own demeanor, the cigarette-puffing crook slowly opens up to his victim, igniting an unlikely romance between characters from different tracks of life.  Nicely developed and crafting a well-executed tonal change, Kidnapped Coed is a fitting followup to Friedel’s previous effort in terror that although briefly timed, plays exceedingly well.  

    Severin Films presents Axe and Kidnapped Coed with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Although speckles and instances of cigarette burns are apparent, both films admirably shine with noticeably filmic representations while, appreciative detail, natural skin tones and boldly presented blood pop nicely in both features.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is audibly satisfactory with mild instances of hiss and static occasionally detected.  Although Kidnapped Coed serves as the stronger audio candidate, both films get the job done.  In addition, each film contains an optional German audio track.  Rightly saluting both films with numerous bonus features, Severin Films provides Audio Commentaries on both with Writer/Director Frederick R. Friedel, Production Manager Phil Smoot & Makeup Artist Worth Keeter.  In addition, Friedel’s intriguing hybrid cut of both films entitled Bloody Brothers (1:29:11) is also included with an introduction by Friedel and an Audio Commentary with Nightmare USA Author Stephen Thrower.  Furthermore, At Last…  Total Terror!: The Amazing True Story of the Making of Axe & Kidnapped Coed (1:01:40) is a newly produced retrospective work featuring interviews with key talent and visits to the original shooting locations.  Also included, Moose Magic: The George Newman Shaw & John Willhelm Story (38:35) traces the history of the films’ talented musicians while, Stephen Thrower waxes intellectual on Axe & Kidnapped Coed (9:15) with a selection of Trailers, TV Spots & Radio Spots (8:31) rounding out the disc’s supplemental content.  Finally, located on a separate compact disc, both films’ original soundtracks are included with 7 bonus tracks from Shaw & Willhelm.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Axe / Kidnapped Coed can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Women’s Prison Massacre (1983)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

    Starring: Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Ursula Flores, Maria Romano, Raul Cabrera & Antonella Giacomini

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Repurposing much of the same cast and filmed back to back with 1982’s Violence in a Women’s Prison, Director Bruno Mattei’s (Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror) Women’s Prison Massacre continues the sleazy tradition of scantly clad females doing hard time.  When reporter Emanuelle (Laura Gemser, Black Emanuelle) is framed for drug smuggling and sentenced to prison, she is confronted with unspeakable violence from fellow inmates and guards.  While attempting to maintain her sanity, a deadly pack of arriving male prisoners invade the prison as Emanuelle and her trusting cellmates seek to regain control.  Gabriele Tinti (Rider on the Rain), Ursula Flores (Violence in a Women’s Prison), Maria Romano (Thor the Conqueror), Raul Cabrera (Allonsanfan) and Antonella Giacomini (The Seven Magnificent Gladiators) co-star.  A genre staple of grindhouse cinemas and drive-in theaters during the 70s and 80s, Women’s Prison Massacre takes the familiar tropes of attractive females, inhumane violence, corruption and nudity to steer its own exercise in exploitation.  Hypnotically beautiful, Laura Gemser headlines as the wrongly imprisoned Emanuelle who vows to expose the corrupt politician responsible for her incarceration.  In addition to defending her life against pale-skinned inmate Albina (Flores) and mistreatment from guards, Women’s Prison Massacre injects healthy doses of lesbianism for good measure.  Although the arrival of the male prisoners increases the action and exploitation including sequences of rape and a twisted game of Russian roulette, their inclusion feels slightly out of character for a traditional WIP film and steals attention away from Gemser and her supporting players.  Unquestionably cut from the same cloth as other films of its ilk, Women’s Prison Massacre is not nearly as impressive as other efforts although, its hilarious dubbing and jaw-droppingly funny dialogue provide plenty of entertainment.

    Scream Factory presents Women’s Prison Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Possessing a fairly soft appearance, the film is free of any scratches or other extremely undesirable blemishes while, skin tones are modestly pleasing.  In addition, black levels found in the dirty and dimly lit prison appear generally hazy at times yet, never overwhelm ones viewing.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the poorly dubbed dialogue is efficient although never overly impressive.  Scoring queues, gunshots and screams show signs of increased authority while remaining generally restrained.  Furthermore, no unfavorable levels of hiss or static were detected.  Surprisingly, no special features have been included on this release.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Women’s Prison Massacre can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Corruption (1983)

    Director: Roger Watkins

    Starring: Jamie Gillis, Kelly Nichols, Tiffany Clark, Tanya Lawson, Tish Ambrose & Vanessa Del Rio

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The desire for power becomes more than one man bargained for in Director Roger Watkins’ Corruption.  Unsure if he can repay a debt owed, Williams (Jamie Gillis, Dracula Sucks) finds his life controlled by his lenders only to have his associate betray him in exchange for his own sense of power.  Following the kidnapping of his sister-in-law, Williams is caught in a deranged sexual underworld with his unsavory half-brother as his guide and unlikely only hope for a way out.  An all-star ensemble of porn royalty including, Kelly Nichols (Dixie Ray Hollywood Star), Tiffany Clark (Hot Dreams), Tanya Lawson (Kinky Business), Tish Ambrose (Streetstar) and Vanessa Del Rio (Lips) co-star.  Although narratively vague in its storytelling, Corruption is undoubtedly a visual splendor, courtesy of valued Cinematographer Larry Revene (Deranged, Doom Asylum) whose lighting and camerawork intoxicates the frames with genuine atmosphere.  Juxtaposed with heavy doses of tantalizing sex sequences ranging from lesbianism and bondage to deep throated decadence and surreal necrophilia, Corruption may not gel with those left questioning its darkly surreal tone yet, deserves utmost appreciation for its rich photography and steamier moments brought to life by some of the eras most favored performers.

    Restored in 2K from the 35mm original camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome’s efforts are nothing short of exceptional.  With skin tones looking lively, detail in textures and closeups greatly impressing plus, striking colors found in sexy lingerie making admirable pops, Corruption spoils viewers with its near impeccability.  While black levels seen in a dimly lit bar scene and a sexual encounter in a black room showcase instances of flakes and noticeable digital noise, Vinegar Syndrome has treated the film with an expected level of care leaving it in better shape than ever.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, crackling is occasionally heard but, never interferes in the delivery of dialogue while, the eclectic score of sexy saxophone themes, wailing electric guitars and synthesized beats sound terrific.  Special features include, Through the Lens: Larry Revene & Corruption (12:25) where the talented DP reminisces on the productions charming cast and Watkins’ acute eye and talented abilities as a writer and director.  In addition, the Theatrical Trailer (3:18), Pressbook Gallery (0:53) and DVD edition of the release are also included.  Furthermore, Vinegar Syndrome has included the profound easter egg of Roger Watkins’ nasty 1977 shocker The Last House on Dead End Street (77:58) on disc.  Although a Blu-ray edition of the film is currently being prepped, this sample course is in fact uncut yet, far from what the finished release will look like.  Finally, a Reverse Cover Art utilizing Corruption’s original 1-sheet poster concludes the supplemental offerings.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Corruption can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com.

    The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

    Director: Joseph Green

    Starring: Herb Evers, Virginia Leith & Leslie Daniel

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Distributed by independent mavericks American International Pictures, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die centers on Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers, Escape from the Planet of the Apes) who after losing his future bride in an accident, swears to resurrect her through medical experimentations.  Salvaging her head while feverishly scouring for a suitable body replacement, the conscience Jan (Virginia Leith, Violent Saturday) begins losing her mind while planning her revenge on the man who unethically kept her alive.  Cheaply produced for less than $70,000, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die laid dormant following its completion in 1959 before being acquired by AIP several years later.  Pushing its mad scientist agenda of absurdist surgeries and eerie experiments, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die relies equally on buxom beauties and curvy strippers to attract attention.  Following Dr. Bill Cortner’s desperate mission to locate a proper body to attach to the head of his lover, Cortner attends smoky bars and bikini modeling shows for prime candidates.  Busty broads and floor pummeling catfights add to the film’s sexual sleaziness that largely separates it from other Z-grade sci-fi pictures of the time.  Longing to be put out of her misery, Jan befriends an imprisoned creature in Bill’s laboratory to assist in her revenge scheme.  Tearing the arm off of the good doctor’s assistant, the concealed monster (played by noted Israeli circus performer Eddie Carmel a.k.a. “The Jewish Giant”) surprisingly lives up to expectations when his facially deformed, pinheaded self is revealed in the film’s final moments.  Undeniably bizarre and equally entertaining, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die follows the familiar path of a scientist with a god complex while, its inclusion of seductive pinups sells the film even more.

    Scream Factory presents The Brain That Wouldn’t Die with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Newly restored from its negative, this uncut presentation contains mild instances of speckles and cigarette burns while, its black and white photography largely impresses with admirable detail in closeups and wardrobe.  In addition, black levels appearing in Dr. Cortner’s vehicle and the bloody aftermath of Kurt’s arm being removed look refreshingly inky.  With filmic grain present throughout its entirety, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die lives on looking better than ever!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, several cracks and pops arise without sacrificing any dialogue along the way.  Otherwise presented cleanly, speaking bits and the film’s score come through nicely.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Steve Haberman and Author Tony Sasso with Haberman offering plenty of informative anecdotes along the way while, Sasso relies on pointing out the obvious onscreen.  In addition, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode of the film (presented in standard definition) is included alongside, Alternate Model Footage (1:26).  Culled from the international cut and lacking sound, this brief sequence showcases the beautiful Adele Lamont posing nude for photographers.  Finally, a Photo Gallery (3:46) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:54) conclude the disc’s bonus content.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Living in Oblivion (1995) 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

    Living in Oblivion (1995)

    Director: Tom DiCillo

    Starring: Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, James Le Gros & Peter Dinklage

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Centering on the problematic struggles of independent filmmaking, Living in Oblivion stars Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) as strung out movie maker Nick Reve.  Low on patience and intensely overwhelmed with obtaining the necessary scenes for his latest film, hilarious insanity ensues amongst onset drama, egotistical actors and his own elderly mother walking onto set.  Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich), Dermot Mulroney (Stoker), James Le Gros (Point Break) and Peter Dinklage (Games of Thrones) co-star.

    Developed out of Director Tom DiCillo’s (Johnny Suede) own frustrations helming his debut effort and continuous problems securing financing for future projects, Living in Oblivion takes a satirical yet, bizarrely accurate look at the insanity of crafting cinema.  Divided into three sections, the indie effort juxtaposes between black-and-white photography and color as passionate filmmaker Nick Reve (Buscemi) is haunted by nightmare scenarios taking place on set of his latest picture.  From intrusive boom mics slipping into frame to the camera operator falling ill mid sequence, the line between fantasy and fiction become drastically melded.  Also experiencing anxiety riddled dreams, lead actress Nicole Springer (Keener) attempts to conceal a one-night stand with her conceited co-star Chad Palomino (Le Gros) that eventually spills onto set, causing an all-out war amongst Nick and his headliners.  Amusingly segueing to the reality of the set, Nick attempts to stage a dream sequence involving Nicole and hot-headed dwarf Tito (Dinkalge in his film debut) who doesn’t take kindly to direction.  Making matters worse, Nick’s senile mother wanders onto set to become the unexpected savior of the troubled production.

    Shot during a fast-paced 16 day schedule and funded through close friends, Living in Oblivion is a comical depiction of the pain and compromise seldom discussed about the filmmaking process.  Steve Buscemi shines as the hopeful director attempting to roll with the hiccups while, simultaneously losing his mind.  Supported by side-splitting turns by Dermot Mulroney as the eye-patch wearing cameraman Wolf and James Le Gros as a Hollywood hotshot chasing arthouse praise, their conflicting personalities and antagonizing exchanges with one another make for some of the film’s most humorous moments.  While the indie wave of the decade paved the way for such notable talents as Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), Kevin Smith (Clerks) and Richard Linklater (Slacker), no feature captured the pride swallowing agonies of no budget filmmaking in such a supremely quirky and playful way as Tom DiCillo’s Living in Oblivion.

    Shout! Factory presents Living in Oblivion with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a new restoration supervised by DiCillo, the film, shot on 16mm with its later half upgraded to 35mm, debuts with considerable speckling during its opening titles that decrease during its runtime while, boasting occasional scratches elsewhere.  Early moments incorporating black-and-white photography also appear expectedly soft but never unacceptable.  Considering its minimal budget and chosen film stock, the feature looks as good as can be expected with skin tones registering mostly natural and bold colors found in lively wardrobe choices and the faux set popping most nicely.  While it may not always sparkle and shine like most Hollywood blockbusters, Shout! Factory’s most recent restoration of this low-budget favorite marks its finest home video appearance to date.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible and pleasing with only minor instances of pops heard.  Character driven and light on dynamic sound effects, the mix is more than adequate for the film’s limited means.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tom DiCillo, the newly produced retrospective In Our Own Oblivion: The Miracle of Making a Film (42:20) welcomes DiCillo, Producer Marcus Viscidi and Stars Steve Buscemi, James Le Gros, Danielle von Zerneck and Peter Dinklage as they share their memories of the production.  In addition, a Deleted Scene (2:07), Q&A with Tom DiCillo & Steve Buscemi (16:43) and a DVD edition round out the gracious supplemental package.

    Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Living in Oblivion, although mildly dated in how technologically simple indie productions have become to produce, still feels refreshingly accurate in tracing the dilemmas and never-ending setbacks involved in movie-making.  Snappily written and earning the Best Screenplay Award during 1995’s Sundance Film Festival, Director Tom DiCillo’s heartache and frustrations thankfully gave birth to an ingeniously funny examination of guerrilla filmmaking and its dementedly devoted creators like few have.  Wonderfully appreciated by its distributor, Shout! Factory honors the beloved indie favorite with an admirable restoration and a pleasing spread of vintage and newly produced special features.  Sometimes surreal but always hysterical, Living in Oblivion has yet to lose its delightfully offbeat charm.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available November 17th from Shout! Factory, Living in Oblivion can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #6: Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Spaced Invaders (1990) & Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Blu-ray Reviews

         

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #6

    Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

    Director: Leigh Whannell

    Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell & Lin Shaye

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Leigh Whannell (Saw, Dead Silence), Insidious: Chapter 3 travels back in time to the early origins of spiritualist Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye, Ouija) as grieving teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott, A.N.T. Farm) seeks her assistance to contact her late mother.  Living a fragile existence, Elise has sworn off her psychic practices until Quinn finds herself the victim of a supernatural entity.  With assistance from amateur ghost chasers Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Specks (Whannell), Elise must venture once more into The Further to save Quinn’s life.  Following its financially successful predecessor that tended to over-explain and tarnish the mystique of its supernatural antagonists, Insidious: Chapter 3 moves backward for a prequel based tale that packs several effective jump scares while lacking the originality of its franchise starter.  Shining a welcome spotlight on spiritual expert Elise and to an unfortunately lesser extent, the fan-favorite duo of Tucker and Specks, the paranormal happenings of the film are far too generic to stand out.  Donning multiple creative roles in front and behind the camera, Whannell’s first directorial outing is hardly a wasted affair with an admirable performance from Shaye and unique make-up designs of the film’s ghostly apparitions.  While its competently constructed and occasionally succeeds at building tension, Insidious: Chapter 3 never rises above mediocrity.  

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Insidious: Chapter 3 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a crystal clear picture, skin tones are always natural-looking while, detail in costumes and set decoration are splendid.  From excellently saturated colors to the dark explorations of The Further, black levels are astoundingly inky and free of any digital noise.  With no anomalies on display, Insidious: Chapter 3 appears hauntingly perfect.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is exceptionally crisp while music cues and startling jump scares offer a shrieking depth that greatly impresses the entire runtime.  Special features include, Origin Story: Making Chapter 3 (19:04), Stunts: The Car Crash (9:35), Macabre Creations (8:58), Cherry Glazerr: Tiptoe Through the Tulips (5:16), Being Haunted: A Psychic Medium Speaks (11:34) and Deleted Scenes (5:16).  Additionally, Previews for The Final Girls (2:48), Air (2:12), Risen (1:31), Extinction (1:59), Lake Placid VS. Anaconda (1:37) and Broken Horses (2:35) are included along with a Digital HD Code.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Insidious: Chapter 3 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Spaced Invaders (1990)

    Director: Patrick Read Johnson

    Starring: Douglas Barr, Royal Dano, Gregg Berger & Ariana Richards

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Co-produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label and Smart Egg Pictures (Critters), Spaced Invaders finds a quiet midwestern community uprooted on Halloween night by a crew of misguided martians mistaking Orson Welles’ infamous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast as a call for hostile takeover of the human infested planet.  Hip yet wet behind the ears, the mini martians find themselves on a series of unexpected misadventures as they attempt to return to their home planet safely.  Marking the inaugural feature of Director Patrick Read Johnson (Baby’s Day Out, Angus), Spaced Invaders takes the zaniness of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and sci-fi shenanigans of Howard the Duck to deliver an over the top space comedy for preteens.  While attempting to invade Earth, the five dimwitted martians quickly realize their nonthreatening, Halloween costume appearances doesn’t bode well for them as new kid in town Kathy (Ariana Richards, Jurassic Park), dressed in full Alien garb, befriends the green visitors.  As Kathy’s sheriff father (Douglas Barr, Deadly Blessing) and the elderly Mr. Wrenchmuller (Royal Dano, The Dark Half) eventually suspect invaders from Mars are in town, the young girl seeks to help her new friends return home much to the dismay of their ship’s Enforcer Drone committed to seeing Earth in ruins and the martians pay for their failures.  Silly although rarely humorous, Spaced Invaders makes attempts to appear hip to its then audience but, stumbles at every turn.  While its animatronic effects are generally pleasing and reminds viewers of a more charming time for movie magic, Spaced Invaders tends to overstay its welcome by its final act, dragging its feet to see the martians make their expected getaway back to Mars. 

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Spaced Invaders with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably dated, flakes, speckles and occasional vertical lines are on display while skin tones are decently relayed with mediocre detail.  Bolder colors such as bright reds pop reasonably well although others appear rather drab.  Meanwhile, black levels possess their share of speckling and fail to bolster more pleasing, inkier results.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, sound is largely dull and unimpressive while dialogue is at least audible and free of any severely intruding factors.  Expectedly, no special features are included.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Spaced Invaders can be purchased via MillCreekDirect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

    Director: Francis Ford Coppola

    Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins & Keanu Reeves

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blending the narrative of Bram Stoker’s iconic tale and the factual history of Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s Dracula centers on the tragic Transylvanian prince (Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy) as he travels to 19th-century London in search of love.  After an encounter with the radiant Mina (Winona Ryder, Edward Scissorhands) who bears a striking resemblance to his late wife, Count Dracula’s overwhelming passion brings darkness and horror to those who care for Mina.  Drenched in gothic atmosphere with an acute sense of detail, Director Francis Ford Coppola’s (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) exceptional adaptation successfully paints its antagonist less as a bloodsucking monster but more a tragic Shakespearean figure audiences empathize with.  Brilliantly performed by Gary Oldman, Count Dracula’s unique costume designs and deliciously offbeat makeup brings to life a one of a kind interpretation of the grim character.  In addition, the supporting thespians including, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins as an eccentric Van Helsing and Tom Waits as the deranged Renfield deliver excellent performances while Keanu Reeves’ Jonathan Harker serves as the sole casting miscalculation.  Although considered cliché today, Reeves poor English accent and flat performance consistently removes audiences from the otherwise mesmerizing film.  Insistent on utilizing practical effects from luscious matte paintings to various in-camera techniques, Director Francis Ford Coppola achieves an array of visual splendor that captivates audiences.  Deservedly earning itself three Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects Editing, Coppola’s erotically charged and frighteningly surreal adaptation has aged considerably well, living on as one of the more ambitious retellings of the Count’s fateful saga.

    Following its previously subpar release, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly mastered in 4K, the results are night are day with impressive textures, excellently inky black levels and naturally fitting skin tones.  While a minor framing adjustment is present on the release, it’s hardly deal breaking to excuse the overwhelmingly positive attributes to the transfer.  Further complimented by sharper detail and beautifully relayed colors to better highlight the various costume designs and ever-changing lighting effects, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never looked better.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, audio is pitch perfect with flawless dialogue levels and Composer Wojciech Kilar’s (The Ninth Gate) empowering score enthralling listeners.  In addition, hushed tones, thunderous sound effects and eerie ambiance all excel with proper balance and effectiveness.  The bountiful special features include, an Introduction by Director Francis Ford Coppola (3:55), a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola, Visual Effects Director Roman Coppola & Makeup Supervisor Greg Cannom as well as a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola.  Additionally, newly included featurettes Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (29:11) and Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son (20:07) are joined by previously available supplements The Blood is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (27:48), The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka (14:02), In Camera: Naïve Visual Effects (18:46), Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula (12:06), Deleted & Extended Scenes (28:14) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:36).  Lastly, a Digital HD Code closes out the release’s gratifying supplemental package.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Foxy Brown (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Foxy Brown (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

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

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Night Game (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Night Game (1989)

    Director: Peter Masterson

    Starring: Roy Scheider, Karen Young, Richard Bradford, Carlin Glynn & Paul Gleason

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set against the backdrop of Major League Baseball, Night Game stars Roy Scheider (Sorcerer) as Texas police detective Mike Seaver.  When a string of mysterious murders linked to night baseball games strikes the Galveston area, Seaver must connect the dots before another life is taken.  Karen Young (9 1/2 Weeks), Lane Smith (The Mighty Ducks), Richard Bradford (The Untouchables), Carlin Glynn (Sixteen Candles) and Paul Gleason (Die Hard) co-star.

    Continuing in his string of gritty crime thrillers, Roy Scheider appears unconvincingly as Texas detective Mike Seaver, hot on the case of a ruthless serial killer with a weakness for blondes.  Murdering his victims with a hook-like instrument and leaving them with mysterious notes, Seaver and his team are left with few leads as more bodies begin turning up on Galveston’s beaches.  Juggling his recent engagement to the much younger Roxy (Young) and feeling pressure from his superiors, Mike, a former minor league ball player, takes notice of the questionable coincidences between the murders and the Houston Astros‘ winning streak.  Before long, it’s clear whenever Astros pitcher Silvio Baretto takes the team to victory, another murder is committed leading Seaver on a hot trail to pinning his suspect down.  

    Shot on location in Galveston, Texas and the Astrodome in Houston, Night Game stumbles to build a story of suspense and criminal intrigue.  Considerably miscast, Scheider does little to disguise his New Jersey roots as a Texan and appears generally unenthusiastic in his performance.  Cloaked in far too much mystery until its closing moments, attempts to bulk Scheider’s character up with a past as a former minor leaguer and being the son of a crime boss is suggested but, never serves much purpose to the plot.  With viewers left clueless the entire picture about the killer’s identity, the reveal is ultimately unoriginal and wildly underwhelming.  In addition, wasting the talents of supporting players such as, Lane Smith (My Cousin Vinny) and Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club) in throwaway roles, Night Game suggests a worthwhile thriller with its alluring slasher-esque poster art but, instead delivers a curveball of disappointment.

    Olive Films presents Night Game with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a natural, filmic appearance and inconsequential moments of speckling, Night Game delivers strong detail with perspiration off baseball players‘ faces and wardrobe relaying sharply.  Skin tones are inviting while, black levels are handled appropriately with little to no crushing observed.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible and crisp with Composer Pino Donaggio’s (The Howling, Blow Out) score delivered authoritatively and balanced evenly with sound effects.  Unfortunately, Night Game strikes out with no special features.  

    Performing poorly at the box-office, Night Game never strives to be original and wallows in the tropes of other run-of-the-mill crime thrillers.  Instead of weaving a quality tale of mystery, viewers are left oblivious to its uninspired outcome with Scheider closing the decade out on a low note.  Olive Films delivers the film for the time on Blu-ray (and DVD) with pleasing technical achievements sans special features.  Boasting a better poster design than memorable film, Night Game is an unfortunate bust.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Night Game can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) Blu-ray Review

    The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966)

    Director: Norman Jewison

    Starring: Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Alan Arkin, Jonathan Winters & Paul Ford

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studios Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set on the fictional island of Gloucester off the coast of Massachusetts, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming centers on a Soviet submarine of non-threatening Russians as they run aground near the American island.  Stuck and embarrassed to seek international help, a group of soldiers embark on U.S. soil to locate mechanical assistance, igniting a storm of hilarious panic on the local population.  Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Eva Marie Saint (Grand Prix), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), Brian Keith (The Wind and the Lion), Theodore Bikel (The Defiant Ones), Jonathan Winters (The Smurfs) and Paul Ford (The Phil Silvers Show) lead the ensemble cast.

    At the height of Cold War tension and amongst other cinematic wartime responses including The Bedford Incident and Fail-Safe, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming would offer a noticeably more humorous approach to the grim subject.  Based on the novel by Nathaniel Benchley, this satire of wartime worries and Soviet paranoia would headline a charismatic ensemble cast including, Alan Arkin in his film debut and a screenplay from William Rose (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner).  In an instance of art and life coming together, comedic genius Carl Reiner plays vacationing comedy writer Walt Whittaker joined by his loving wife Elspeth (Saint) and their two children.  Soaking in the New England island, an unexpected Soviet submarine, innocently enjoying the American scenery, grounds to a startling halt.  Unable to move, Lieutenant Yuri Rozanov (Arkin), aided by several others, leads a mission to summon local reinforcement to help free them when a series of incidents convince the quiet island’s population that their international enemies have invaded.  Nominated for several Academy Awards, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming follows the local police chief (Keith), along with fellow officer Norman Jonas (Winters), as they attempt to make sense of the fast-traveling news of a Soviet attack.  Meanwhile, the Whittaker’s, aware of the Russians‘ harmless intentions, have little luck improving the situation as hilarious rumor after rumor emerges, increasing the havoc.  As the film follows several groups of characters, as well as highlighting a blooming romance between the Whittaker’s babysitter (Andrea Dromm) and a handsome Russian (John Phillip Law), The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming often feels dated, never fully living up to its uproarious reputation.  Comedy icon Carl Reiner as the leading straight man feels vastly underused while, the young Arkin steals the thunder with his uncanny accent and difficulty with the English language.  While, several moments of genuine humor take place, most notably when Reiner and Gloucester’s switchboard operator attempt to escape from Russian capture, the overwhelming lack of music makes most sequences appear drier than intended.

    Notable for shining Russians in a positive light, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming concludes with a heroic display of courage between the local population and their onetime foes sending the film off on a charming note.  Admired for its favorable impact in both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming may not be the most efficient comedy of its kind but, does offer a handful of laughs within its rather lengthy 126 minute runtime that are well worth a shot.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Littered with its fair share of flakes and speckles, colors waver from the satisfying sight of warm skin tones and beautiful exterior shots to the slightly dingy black levels seen in nighttime sequences.  Retaining its natural grain with digital tinkering spared, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming should appease most.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming arrives with dialogue sounding rich and clear while, its brief uses of music and other striking sound effects offer a suitable boost without ever overwhelming.  Special features include a vintage Making-of Featurette hosted by Producer/Director Norman Jewison as he explains the picture’s history in this absorbing watch (23:00) joined by an Original Theatrical Trailer (4:29).

    A critical and commercial hit, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming dares to look into the face of raging war and laugh, side by side with our proposed enemies.  Starring an endlessly talented cast, Director Norman Jewison’s (In the Heat of the Night) wartime parody ultimately suffers from being a dated product of its time and falling short on more laughs than anticipated.  Luckily, Kino Lorber Studio Classics‘ Blu-ray treatment shines with satisfying tech-specs and a worthwhile interview with Jewison.  Worthy of experiencing, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming  contains decent humor but, should not be expected to issue full-blown war on viewers‘ funny bones.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Love at First Bite (1979) / Love at First Bite (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Love at First Bite (1979) / Once Bitten (1985)

    Director(s): Stan Dragoti / Howard Storm 

    Starring: George Hamilton, Susan Saint James & Richard Benjamin / Jim Carrey, Lauren Hutton & Cleavon Little  

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents a pair of neck biting vampire comedies sure to tickle your funny bones!  First up, Love at First Bite stars George Hamilton (Zorro: The Gay Blade) as Count Dracula who, after being banished from his castle must relocate to New York City.  Out of touch with the times and society, the Count is determined to woo an attractive fashion model if the big city doesn’t swallow him first.  Susan Saint James (Kate & Allie), Richard Benjamin (Westworld) and Arte Johnson (Evil Toons) co-star.  Next up, Once Bitten finds Jim Carrey, in one of his earliest roles, as shy, awkward Mark Kendall.  When a sexy vampire countess (Lauren Hutton, American Gigolo) targets Mark’s virginal blood to retain her youthful beauty, a frantic race against time ensues to seduce Mark for good before he sheds his virginity.  Karen Kopins (Troop Beverly Hills) and Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles) co-star.

    Considered one of the top grossing films of its year, Love at First Bite focuses on the Count when his own locals grow tired of his antics, banishing him from his own castle.  Joined by his faithful companion Renfield (Johnson), Count Dracula heads to the Big Apple to start anew while, prowling for flashy fashion model, Cindy Sondheim (Saint James), who he’s admired from afar.  George Hamilton makes a convincing, if not strikingly tan, Dracula with a Lugosi-like accent firmly in place.  The hard-drinking, psychologist dependent Cindy falls victim to the charms of the Count while, her shrink and beau, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg (hilariously played by Richard Benjamin), takes none too kindly to the caped foreigner.  As a descendent of Van Helsing, Rosenberg (name changed strictly for “professional reasons”) vows to destroy Count Dracula once and for all.  While, Love at First Bite accounts for several humorous moments including, Rosenberg attempting to harm the Count with a Star of David instead of a cross and a barrage of comical cameos from The Jeffersons‘ Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford plus, Barry Gordon (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Michael Pataki (Rocky IV), the film suffers from a slight identity crisis.  Favoring its more romantic angle at times over knee-slapping laughs, Love at First Bite doesn’t reach its full potential but, does manage to capture the Big Apple during the last gasps of disco.  Joined by a groovy dance sequence between Hamilton and Saint James to Alicia Bridges‘ “I Love the Nightlife” (previously removed on past home video releases), Love at First Bite is a charming time capsule with noticeable wire-hanging bats and a memorable gothic score from Charles Bernstein (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

    An unabashed childhood favorite, Once Bitten pushes its teen comedy angle instead of attracting screams.  Hollywood newcomer Jim Carrey headlines as the slightly awkward 18-year-old Mark Kendall, determined to lose his virginity to girlfriend Robin (Kopins) to no avail.  A far cry from the comedic force the world would know a few short years later, Carrey’s nervousness plays to the advantage of his character.  Lauren Hutton stuns as the seductive Countess hellbent on literally milking Mark for his virginal blood.  After a one-night stand with the blonde bombshell, Mark begins growing paler and resistant to bright lights as his fixation on her strengthens.  Robin, along with Mark’s bumbling Burger Circus employee best friends, Jamie and Russ (Thomas Ballatore and Skip Lackey, respectively), become concerned with his appearance, the trio begin investigating.  Hilariously, Jamie and Russ decide to locate fang bites on Mark’s body in the locker room showers prompting gay gossip headlines among the other students.  With the Countess aided by her flamboyant butler (Little), a public attempt to lure Mark’s attention takes place at the high school Halloween bop.  Marking one of the cheesiest dance-offs of the 1980s, Kopins and Hutton battle for Carrey’s attention to the sounds of Maria Vidal’s “Hands Off” with hilarious choreography to boot.  As time looms, the Countess must continue feeding off of Mark’s blood before, his virginity is taken and her youthful looks gone, leading to a final chase and escape sequence at the Countess‘ upscale mansion.  Much like its 1970s co-feature, Once Bitten captures mid-80s Hollywood hot spots in all their neon glory with genuine punks and valley girls walking the streets.  Complimented with a synth-heavy, guitar riffing score from John Du Prez (UHF), Once Bitten unapologetically follows tropes of past teen comedies but, remains a nostalgic trip of cheese to please.  

    Scream Factory presents Love at First Bite and Once Bitten with 1080p transfers, both sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Marking their Blu-ray debuts, Love at First Bite arrives with slightly murky black levels seen mostly in Dracula’s fog-entrenched castle.  Colors are generally satisfying with warm skin tones and inky blacks relayed in Hamilton’s caped attire.  Instances of flakes and speckles are apparent but, far from intrude, leaving the film with pleasing clarity.  Meanwhile, Once Bitten kicks off with a softer appearance seen in the Countess‘ bright white mansion before transitioning to a lively picture of, at times, bursting color.  Skin tones are accurate with bold colors, most noticeably the Burger Circus‘ exterior and Mark’s ice cream truck, leaping off the screen while, scuffs and scratches are virtually nonexistent on this satisfying HD upgrade.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films have no trouble relaying dialogue while, musical moments such as, Love at First Bite’s “I Love the Nightlife” dance number and Once Bitten’s Halloween bop sequence, offer a nice additional boost in quality.  Relatively light on special features, this double feature of vampiric laughs comes with a Love at First Bite Theatrical Trailer (3:03) and Radio Spots (2:03) whereas, Once Bitten receives a Theatrical Trailer (0:57).

    Experimenting with new ground, Scream Factory takes a break from their bonafide horror classics to treat viewers with a double feature of fangtastic comedies.  While, Love at First Bite has its charms with memorable comedic cameos, nostalgia reigns supreme awarding Once Bitten the frontrunner of this collection.  Bare on special features, both films make their Blu-ray debuts with pleasing technical honors that should easily appease fans.  The blending of frightful funnies is a welcome change of pace for Scream Factory aficionados and one that will hopefully persist in the future.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available February 10th, Love at First Bite / Once Bitten can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) Blu-ray Review

    The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

    Director: Woody Allen

    Starring: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello & Diane Wiest

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As The Great Depression takes hold of the country, an unhappily married New Jersey waitress (Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby) turns to the magic of the movies for escapism. When her favorite movie star (Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom) emerges from the screen, a charming romance ensues.  Sweet and enchanting, The Purple Rose of Cairo co-stars Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing) and Diane Wiest (Edward Scissorhands).

    Delicately straddling the line between reality and fiction, The Purple Rose of Cairo is a tender love letter to cinema akin to Ed Wood and Matinee.  Critically applauded but, financially stunted at the box-office, Woody Allen’s tragi-comedy speaks to the average day dreamers quietly suffering in their daily lives but, rejuvenated by the alluring glow of the silver screen.  Mia Farrow headlines as Cecilia, an oppressed, overworked wife and waitress, constantly abused by her unfaithful, unemployed husband (intensely portrayed by Danny Aiello).  Cecilia’s escape is at her local movie house where Hollywood’s endless tales transport her to dreamlike states where her favorite actor, Gil Shepherd (Jeff Daniels), melts her heart with his talents and good looks.  Farrow’s wide-eyed, childlike enthusiasm easily relates to those who care deeply for cinema and are as affectionately moved by its sweeping images.  When Shepherd’s latest film, The Purple Rose of Cairo debuts, Cecilia finds herself returning to encore shows only to witness Tom Baxter, Shepherd’s onscreen persona (also played by Daniels), leaping off the screen and entering Cecilia’s reality.  As Baxter lacks real world skills and Cecilia’s desperation to rid herself of her depressing lifestyle becomes clear, the two connect and fall hopelessly in love.  Through all its genuine magic and emotional chemistry perfectly delivered by Farrow and Daniels, Allen injects heaps of playful humor from disgruntled moviegoers less impressed with a movie star stepping through a screen and more concerned with being ripped off.  In addition, Baxter is understandably confused when a working girl (Diane Wiest) invites him to her brothel for an “experimental adventure” leading to an adorably hilarious exchange.  

    As word reaches the Hollywood big shots and Gil Shepherd himself, the pack head to New Jersey to contain the possibility of endless Tom Baxter’s escaping screens.  Genuinely sweet and determined to be more than a supporting actor, Shepherd is quickly taken by Cecilia’s kindness and admiration for his talents.  Before long, Cecilia finds herself in a confusing love triangle where two men, one real, the other fictional, are vying for her love.  As our hearts are invested as much as Cecilia’s, the difficult option of choosing between her fantasies or reality is a heart-rending, bittersweet sendoff that equally delights our imaginations and forces us to confront the imperfect complexities of life.  Delightful and enduring, The Purple Rose of Cairo could very well be Allen’s finest effort and one that wears its adoration for romance and movie magic proudly on its sleeve.

    Twilight Time presents The Purple Rose of Cairo with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Gorgeously shot by Cinematographer Gordon Willis (The Godfather), colors, or lack thereof, are relayed nicely while, the transfer bears only minor instances of flakes and speckles.  Closeups aren’t drastically sharp but do offer suitable detail that appease.  Overall, The Purple Rose of Cairo maintains a natural, filmic appearance that delivers considerably.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, The Purple Rose of Cairo projects clear dialogue with no issues to speak of.  Expectedly, the mix never charges with much authority but, does offer an appreciated boost with the loud horn section at the Copacabana.  Relatively light, special features included are an Isolated Score Track, Original Theatrical Trailer (1:37), MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06) and a 6-page booklet bearing stills from the film and another spot-on analysis and appreciation for the film from Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo.

    Remarkably acted and achingly moving, The Purple Rose of Cairo speaks to the dreamers whisked away to exotic lands of adventure and romance from the unspooling of film reels.  Farrow and Daniels could hardly be more perfect with their intoxicating chemistry and Allen’s witty handling of dialogue carving out the film’s optimal quality.  Twilight Time delivers Allen’s 1985 gem with a filmic video appearance and fitting sound mix while, special features unfortunately fall on the lighter side, Julie Kirgo’s latest essay is as always, enriching.  Breezy at only 82 minutes, The Purple Rose of Cairo is essential viewing for anyone swept away by the magic of movies and the enchanting spell they cast.  Fade out.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now in a limited edition of 3,000 units, The Purple Rose of Cairo can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

  • Million Dollar Arm (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Million Dollar Arm (2014)

    Director: Craig Gillespie

    Starring: Jon Hamm, Pitobash, Aasif Mandiv, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin & Bill Paxton 

    Released by: Disney

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    No stranger to fact-based sports dramas, Disney has once again turned to the headlines to spin a new tale of inspirational underdogs akin to Miracle and Invincible.  From Director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, Fright Night), two Indian teens whisked away from their native land by unbelievable circumstances is what dreams are made of.  Headlined by a diverse cast of seasoned veterans and up-and-coming talent, Million Dollar Arm will leave you uplifted and applauding.

    Million Dollar Arm stars Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as sports agent JB Bernstein.  Along with partner Ash (Aasif Mandiv, Premium Rush), their recently formed company is struggling to make ends meet.  In a desperate attempt to attract talent, Bernstein travels to India to stage a pitching contest in order to discover untapped athletes.  Embarking on an inspirational journey of self-discovery and teamwork, Bernstein returns to America with two Indian youths to transform them into Major League players.  Pitobash (Shanghai), Lake Bell (Childrens Hospital), Alan Arkin (Argo) and Bill Paxton (Edge of Tomorrow) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Sentimental and inspiring, Million Dollar Arm continues a long streak of successful true life sports tales Disney has perfected.  Based on the 2008 signing of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Million Dollar Arm traces their incredible road from their desolate Indian land to the United States.  Jon Hamm leads the film as business-obsessed sports agent, JB Bernstein, at odds with keeping his independent company afloat.  Hamm does well in the role as a wealthy, self-absorbed man with little regard to anything other than signing the deal.  With money and resources dwindling, Bernstein hatches an idea to scour the unexploited region of India to discover their first Major League ballplayers.  Aided by a local interpreter (Pitobash) and talent scout (Arkin), Bernstein hosts Million Dollar Arm, a pitching contest to locate the finest talent with financial benefits for those selected.  Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) and Madhur Mittal (Treasure Island) portray the fish out of water winners with ease, invoking wonderful emotion and humor in their performances.  Brought to America to hone their techniques with pitching coach Tom House (Paxton), Rinku and Dinesh have difficulty adjusting to their new surroundings.  Preoccupied with other business and neglecting his pupils, Bernstein must reevaluate his life to better understand the value of teamwork.  In addition, striking up a charming romance with his tenant (Bell), Bernstein learns to put his heart and others before business, allowing his young friends to rise above adversity.

    Far from a sports enthusiasts, Million Dollar Arm is precisely the kind of uplifting drama that moves you emotionally.  Slightly formulaic and predictable, Million Dollar Arm is still a wonderful film possessing strong values all audiences can relate to.  Destined to leave viewers with a lump in their throats by its finale, Million Dollar Arm is another heartfelt home run for Disney.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Million Dollar Arm arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  From the hot, sandy climate of India to the flashy Los Angeles cityscape, colors consistently shine with detail nicely relayed.  Skin complexions are accurate and warm while, black levels are handled nicely falling only a few hairs shy of perfection.  Clear and vibrant, Million Dollar Arm is a pleasing sight.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Million Dollar Arm continues to work its magic.  Character-driven, dialogue is heavy and always relayed clearly with no issues.  The hustle and bustle of the Indian sequences supply the mix with various background noises of traffic and car horns that are nicely balanced.  Composer A.R. Rahman’s (Slumdog Millionaire) score of blending western and eastern cultures is the track’s highlight.  Empowering each sequence and providing added boosts in authority, Rahman’s musical queues always reward the viewer.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Training Camp (6:18): Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal share their experiences preparing for the film with various trainers and ballplayers.

    • Their Story (2:54): A much too brief featurette focusing on the real JB Bernstein, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel discussing their incredible true story.

    • Million Dollar Music by A.R. Rahman (2:34): Rahman shares anecdotes about his approaches to the material and the various songs crafted.

    • Deleted Scenes: A collection of three brief and forgettable scenes understandably left out of the final cut, JB’s Problem (0:44), Sold (0:55) and I’d Take 10 Dollars (0:40).

    • Alternate Ending (0:49)

    • Outtakes (2:04)

    • Digital HD Code

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:

    Filled with heart and a story of dreams coming true, Million Dollar Arm is an inspirational effort accomplished by a terrific cast, gorgeous locations and an effective score.  Marking another rousing success with sports dramas, Disney’s Blu-ray treatment, although short on features, is sure to satisfy fans with beautiful visual and audio treatment.  Million Dollar Arm may not stray far from most fact based films of this ilk but, it’s effectively told and will undoubtedly encourage tears of joy for some.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now, Million Dollar Arm can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #1: Neighbors (2014), Stagefright (1987) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray Reviews

    Neighbors (2014)

    Director: Nicholas Stoller

    Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco & Christopher Mintz-Plasse

    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Parents to a baby girl and new homeowners, Mac (Seth Rogen, This is the End) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne, Bridesmaids), are adjusting to their new suburban existence when the Delta Psi Beta fraternity moves in next door.  Led by their president, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron, That Awkward Moment), the frat’s parties continue to grow in size as the Radner’s patience wears thin, prompting a hilarious war between the two neighbors.  Dave Franco (21 Jump Street), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Carla Gallo (We Bought a Zoo) and Lisa Kudrow (Friends) co-star.  

    Funnyman Seth Rogen teams with Director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement) in this modern day Animal House tale of debauchery disrupting the lives of two thirtysomethings.  The unlikely combination of Rogen and High School Musical hunk, Zac Efron, hardly screams comedic gold but, Efron makes a surprising turn as the fraternity president who knows no bounds.  The personality clashes and age differences make for hilarious on-screen chemistry and a drunken debate of whether Michael Keaton or Christian Bale is the definitive Batman will surely ignite laughter and off-screen arguments amongst viewers.  As a house war erupts between the two parties, sabotage antics reach wild heights in this comedy hit.  Co-stars Rose Byrne and Ike Barinholtz are the standout performances with hysterical dialogue that further cements their comedic status.  While, the final act may drag itself out a few minutes too long, Neighbors is still an entertaining romp of college humor hijinks that allows fresh blood like Efron to capably play in the Rogen sandbox of modern comedy.

    Universal Studios presents Neighbors with a 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Crisp and sharp, skin tones appear natural while, colors are always bold and refreshing.  Black levels are also handled very nicely, most noticeably in the neon-lit rave sequence, leaving room for no issues to be seen.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Neighbors sounds just as good as it looks with dialogue always coming across clearly and the modern hits soundtrack offering an added boost for your listening pleasure.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Neighbors arrives with a generous offering of special features including, Blu-ray exclusive content such as an alternate opening (6:40), deleted/alternate scenes (12:55) and On Set with... (3:41), a brief featurette with Dave Franco as your tour guide showcasing a fundraiser Delta Psi Beta hosts in the film.  In addition, a gag reel (5:57) and Line-O-Rama (2:52) join more informative, albeit brief, featurettes covering various areas of the production such as An Unlikely Pair (5:34) focusing on the pairing of Rogen and Efron, Partying with Neighbors (7:17), highlighting the central elements that created the on-screen hilarity and The Frat (5:44) where the cast of Delta Psi Beta discuss fraternity legends.  Finally, a DVD edition and Ultraviolet code round out the supplemental package.

    With little competition combatting it, Neighbors has been crowned by many to be the funniest comedy of the year.  Hardly breaking new ground, Neighbors is still a barrel of laughs allowing Rogen to do what he does best while, inviting welcome newcomers such as Efron, Byrne and Barinholtz to his comedic circle.  Universal Studios’ audio and visual presentation is pitch perfect with a decent array of special features that offer more added humor than informative production accounts. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Neighbors can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Stagefright (1987)

    Director: Michele Soavi

    Starring: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Mary Sellers & Piero Vida

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of The Church and Cemetery Man, Stagefright centers on a group of young actors rehearsing a new musical based on a murderer.  When a madman escapes from the local institution, the show’s director locks his cast inside the theater overnight accidentally with the killer.  With no escape, the stage is set for a night of suspense and blood.  Also available on DVD, Blue Underground proudly presents this Italian shocker, newly transferred in high-definition from the uncut negative, and loaded with newly produced special features.

    A protege of Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera), Michele Soavi would mark his directorial debut with this low-budget, atmospheric tale of terror.  Set in a dingy theater house where a group of starving artists perfect their experimental musical production, a former actor gone mad escapes the confines of his imprisonment to paint the stage red.  While, the film starts off rather slow with the cast aggressively rehearsing their offbeat production, Stagefright truly shines after the killer takes possession of an equally odd owl mask to fall into character.  Once the show’s director locks his team indoors to rehearse through the night, the escaped maniac utilizes a variety of power tools to make his own personal casting cuts.  Brutal and shocking, Stagefright retains its momentum thanks to Composer Simon Boswell’s (Hardware, Lord of Illusions) blending of operatic, synth-heavy tunes.  Nicely photographed by Renato Tafuri (The Church), Stagefright doesn’t always possess the effortless style of Argento’s earliest works but, obviously demonstrates the chops of a young director from the same school of filmmaking.  A third act confrontation on the theater’s catwalk between the sole injured victim and the masked killer is both thrilling and terrifying, sending Stagefright off on a satisfying final note.  Unique and dreamlike, Stagefright remains one of Soavi’s finest efforts due to its claustrophobic setting, startling gore effects and frantic score courtesy of Simon Boswell.

    Unsurprisingly, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a marvel.  Presented in a 1080p widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Stagefright improves astonishingly over previous DVD releases.  Detail is most impressive in facial close-ups while, colors pop nicely in this generally low-lit film.  Skin tones always appear natural with healthy film grain left intact.  Handled with the utmost care, black levels are consistently visible and show no signs of crushing or pixelation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is relayed clearly with no distortion to speak of.  That said, several moments of characters speaking in hushed tones may require the occasional increase in volume.  Boswell’s exhilarating synth-heavy score sounds sensational, making itself a  personal highlight of the mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Blue Underground compliments their rich audio and visual presentation with a plethora of newly produced bonus features including, Theatre of Delirium - Interview with Director Michele Soavi (19:01) where Soavi recounts the difficult shooting schedule and  credits his experiences with Dario Argento in learning how to create tension and atmosphere.  In addition, House of the Company - Interview with Star David Brandon (11:40), Blood on the Stage Floor - Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice (14:00), The Owl Murders - Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Pietro Tenoglio (11:21) and The Sounds of Aquarius - Interview with Composer Simon Boswell (18:02) round out the impressive array of informative interviews found on the disc.  In addition, a theatrical trailer (2:18) and poster & still gallery (74 in total) have also been included.

    Akin to a frightening fever dream, Stagefright uses its limited budget to its advantage.  Predominately centered in a darkened theater, the owl-masked murderer stalks his prey with patience leaving his victims shy of limbs.  Nicely detailed, possessing sound black levels and free of any aging artifacts, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a sight to be seen with an equally impressive sound mix to satisfy viewers.  In addition, the newly-included assortment of special features are a treat to sit through and should appease dedicated fans.  A delightful directorial debut, Michele Soavi’s Stagefright remains a fan-favorite of late 80s Italian horror that is ripe for revisiting.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Stagefright can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Teri McCinn, Edwin Neal & Gunnar Hansen

    Released by: Dark Sky Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Eaten Alive, five youths head out on a weekend getaway in rural Texas only to fall prey to a family of ruthless cannibals.  Shocking and controversial, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has unleashed a world of horror on viewers for over 40 years becoming a masterpiece of genre filmmaking.  Dark Sky Films proudly presents the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in an all-new 4K transfer with a newly crafted 7.1 surround sound mix supervised by Director Tobe Hooper.

    Shot in the sweltering summer of 1973 in Austin, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has achieved iconic status for changing the face of cinema with its brutal depiction of macabre realism.  Equally loved and hated, Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper’s enduring opus has unanimously remained in the public conscience as a groundbreaking effort of independent cinema.  Inspired by the heinous exploits of real-life serial killer Ed Gein, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre grows more grizzly with age as its vintage quality and boiling backroads setting leaves viewers with a hellish representation of a living nightmare.  The equally believable cast headlined by Marilyn Burns as Sally, are our guides as their afternoon of fun morphs into an odyssey of madness.  The horror that unfolds at the Sawyer residence, home of Leatherface and his disturbed family, are the film’s most disturbing moments that have lifted it to iconic heights.  Imagery of human bone constructed furniture and a victim hung on a meathook is just the beginning of this grueling experiment in shock value.  Barely maintaining her sanity and survival, Sally is subjected to a terrifying dinner with her captors before attempting her escape.  Drenched in bright red blood on a highway, Sally is confronted and evades the maniacal Leatherface, angrily waving his deadly power tool in an unforgettable final image.

    Chilling and unsettling, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has remained a cinematic landmark since rattling the public’s senses during the tumultuous 1970s.  Simple in its execution, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s grimy production value matched with its uncomfortable tone sends viewers through a relentless viewing experience that feels authentic.

    Scanned in 4K, Dark Sky Films presents The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in a 1080 anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on their already impressive 2008 release, Dark Sky Films’ latest transfer is the best yet!  Shot guerilla-style, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre retains its warm, Texas appearance with skin tones reading reasonably sharp and accurate.  Lines and debris that have plagued so many previous releases are extinct in this transfer while, always maintaing a layer of natural grain.  Consistently underlit, black levels are nicely handled, especially during Leatherface’s pursuit of Sally in the fields.  Action is satisfyingly visible with no crushing to speak of.  Supervised by Writer/Director Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes equipped with a newly created DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround mix that picks up dialogue clearly with no intrusions and chaotic moments of chain saw mayhem roars across this impressive mix.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Stereo 2.0 and Original 2.0 Mono mixes have also been included.  

    Bursting with bonus content, the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition arrives with four commentary tracks including: 1) Writer/Producer/Director, Actor Gunnar Hansen, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, 2) Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger & Paul A. Partain and Production Designer Robert Burns.  Plus, two newly recorded tracks from: 3) Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper and 4) Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor Larry J. Carroll and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolauo.  A separate Blu-ray disc of additional bonus features include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (1:12:49), Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (1:11:42), A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen (8:03), a vintage walk through tour from 1993.  In addition, Off the Hook with Teri McMinn (17:02), The Business of Chain Saw: An Interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman (16:27), a new, albeit silent due to the audio being lost, selection of deleted scenes & outtakes (15:07), Grandpa’s Tales: An Interview with John Dugan (15:48), Cutting Chain Saw: An Interview with Editor J. Larry Carroll (10:47), vintage deleted scenes & outtakes (25:23), a blooper reel (2:22), Outtakes from The Shocking Truth (7:40), Horror‘s Hallowed Grounds: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (20:19), where Host Sean Clark visits the original shooting locations, Dr. W.E. Barnes presents Making Grandpa (2:45), a still gallery (2:27) and several trailers, TV & radio spots round out this impressive assortment of special features.  An accompanying DVD edition of the film and special features disc is also included for standard definition needs.

    As effective as it was 40 years ago, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre continues to shock and mesmerize viewers with its unsettling presentation of cannibalistic killers in the barren backroads of Texas.  In a time of endless catalog re-releases of subpar standard, Dark Sky Films have delivered fans the definitive release of this low-budget spectacle.  Beautifully scanned in 4K with an impressive 7.1 surround mix, Dark Sky Films has left no stone unturned with over four hours of bonus content to delve into.  Endlessly disturbing and terrifying, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre never fades in quality and Dark Sky Films‘ 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition firmly proves that the saw is still family!

    RATING: 5/5

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available right now and can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #3: Night of the Demons, Witchboard, Man in the Dark 3D and More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #3 includes:

    - Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Witchboard (1986)
    Street Date: February 4, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Night of the Demons (1988) Collector's Edition
    Street Date: February 4, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Captain Phillips (2013)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Sony Pictures: http://www.sonypictures.com/

    - Man in the Dark 3-D (1953)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Twilight Time: http://www1.screenarchives.com/index.cfm

    - Vic (2006)
    Street Date: December 10, 2013
    Grindhouse Releasing: http://www.grindhousereleasing.com/

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #2: Danny Phantom, Rewind This!, Robocop, Bullet in the Face and More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #2 includes:

    - Bullet in the Face The Complete Series
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Robocop (1987) Unrated Director's Cut
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    MGM: http://www.mgm.com/

    - NYPD Blue Season 5
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Danny Phantom The Complete Series
    Street Date: January 28, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Rewind This! (2013)
    Street Date: January 14, 2014
    MPI Home Video: http://www.mpihomevideo.com/

    - Runner Runner (2013)
    Street Date: January 7, 2014
    20th Century Fox: https://www.foxconnect.com/

    - You're Next (2013)
    Street Date: January 14, 2014
    Lionsgate: http://www.lionsgate.com/