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  • The Undertaker (1988) Blu-ray Review

    The Undertaker (1988)

    Director: Franco De Stefanino

    Starring: Joe Spinnell, Rebecca Yaron, Patrick Askin, Susan Bachli & William Kennedy

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In one of his final film roles, Joe Spinnell (Maniac) stars in The Undertaker as a crazed mortician who takes pleasure in making the local population apart of his personal body collection.  As more people go missing, his nephew Nick (Patrick Askin) grows suspicious of Uncle Roscoe’s devious activities pitting him and those closest in harm’s way.

    Helmed by no shortage of four directors under a phony foreign pseudonym and virtually lost to time for the better part of 30 years, The Undertaker adheres to the bloody tropes of slasher cinema with cult heavyweight Joe Spinnell delivering a most stupefyingly peculiar performance.  Mumbling through much of his role as a high-strung funeral director with a fetish for corpses, Spinnell’s deranged demeanor can hardly be contained as he sobs uncontrollably before savagely ripping his victims apart making the unpredictability of his range the film’s main vocal point.  After being lectured on the subject of necrophilia at his local university, Roscoe’s nephew Nick quickly grows weary of his uncle’s funeral parlor exploits, opening a can of worms he wished he never did.  Muddled by several promising but, nonetheless wasteful subplots involving the local police investigating a series of missing persons and a movie theater security guard who’s certain of Roscoe’s dirty deeds, The Undertaker keeps the “bigger is better” hairstyles of the era, ample helpings of T&A and top-notch deaths including, a switchbladed eyeball, scorched face via frying pan and a beheading in healthy supply.  Methodically tracking his victims, leading to a climatic assault on Nick’s teacher Ms. Hayes (Rebecca Yaron) with machete in hand and an abrupt final frame from beyond the grave, The Undertaker may not be a bonafide diamond in the rough but, its excavation remains of utmost importance for exploitation hounds that will treasure Spinnell’s maddening performance put to celluloid only a year before his untimely death.  

    Scanned in 2K from the 35mm camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome ushers The Undertaker to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  At the mercy of incorporating six minutes of VHS workprint footage to ensure an uncut presentation, the overwhelming majority of the film looks splendid with rich colors, natural skin tones and sharp detail observing Spinnell’s facial scars all looking tip-top.  Understandably, the VHS-culled sequences are in rather drab shape although, footage from a satanic feature Roscoe watches looks more effective in its ratty condition.  The final showdown in Ms. Hayes’s apartment and Roscoe’s dimly-lit basement dwelling can also be harder to make out but these brief moments of unavoidable haziness are a minor setback to an otherwise sound presentation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix that encounters strides of sharp sibilance, dialogue is sufficiently projected with soundtrack cues occasionally overwhelming exchanges.  Furthermore, cracks and pops are far and few between.  

    Special features include, a Director’s Intro (0:15) by William Kennedy, Audio Commentary with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy and Making The Undertaker with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy (20:45) that provides curious viewers with answers to everything and more regarding the troubled production as well as Kennedy’s praise for what he believes is one of Spinnell’s finest performances.  In addition, Rough Cut Outtakes (9:54), an Archival Promotional Video (5:07), a Production Still Gallery (17 in total) and a 6-page booklet featuring an exemplary essay by Michael Gingold is also included.  A DVD edition of the release is also on hand.

    Following vastly murky bootlegs and a previously released censored version, The Undertaker makes its Blu-ray debut in style with a rewarding transfer that can only be praised for its restored bliss and completeness.  Coupled with intriguing supplements and a blood splattered, coffin shaped O-card, Vinegar Syndrome, much like Roscoe’s penchant for bodies, makes The Undertaker one victim of a release Spinnell fans won’t want to miss in their collection.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome and limited to 3,000 units, The Undertaker can be purchased exclusively via VinegarSyndrome.com.

  • On Dangerous Ground (1952) Blu-ray Review

    On Dangerous Ground (1952)

    Director: Nicholas Ray

    Starring: Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond & Charles Kemper

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Gerald Butler, On Dangerous Ground centers on hard-nosed city cop Jim Wilson (Robert Ryan, The Wild Bunch) who after being disciplined for excessive force on the job is sent upstate to investigate the murder of a young girl.  Ida Lupino (High Sierra), Ward Bond (Wagon Train) and Charles Kemper (Yellow Sky) costar.

    From rainy metropolis streets to the desolate snowy wilderness, On Dangerous Ground exudes a gritty, weathered dynamic common to the most stylish of film noirs and inflicts a depraved loneliness upon its crime stopping leading man.  While his fellow coppers manage to leave their baggage on the beat, years of cleaning up after pimps, hoods and winos have cast a disgruntled shadow upon New York detective Jim Wilson.  Reprimanded for roughing up one too many suspects, Jim is reassigned upstate to assist in locating the murderer of a young girl.  Teamed with the vengeance-fueled father of the deceased (Bond), Jim’s tracking of the culprit leads him to the cabin of Mary Malden (Lupino) whose blindness and relation to the killer crafts a complicated entanglement between the two lonely souls.  Wonderfully encapsulating the visual aura of noir with smoky alleyways, the fedora-wearing fuzz and rarely seen, for its time, usage of hand-held photography that offers effective stabs of realism, On Dangerous Ground thrives on Ryan’s battered performance of a detective overwhelmed by the plague of life in the big city and Lupino’s beautiful turn as his blind host who after enduring personal tragedy, still finds solace in Jim’s company.  Honored with a prized score from Bernard Herrmann (The Wrong Man, Taxi Driver), On Dangerous Ground is only rattled by a saccharine ending that feels forced and lacks the deeper impact of a more downbeat finale originally intended by its director.  Nonetheless after the dust has settled, Nicholas Ray’s (Rebel Without a Cause) moody crime drama appeals to the finer attributes of the genre with its swift direction and visual aesthetic that likeminded cinephiles of RKO’s rich history lovingly celebrate.

    Warner Archive presents On Dangerous Ground with an impeccable 1080p transfer (1.37:1) that brings exceptional detail in its monochrome photography through radiant black levels, excellently textured costumes and sharply handled facial features.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that spares viewers any popping distortion, dialogue is clear and exacting while, Bernard Herrmann’s thrilling musical queues give surprisingly strong passes on the track for a film of its age.  Recycled bonus supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Glenn Erickson that is as rich and expertly researched as one could expect with the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:10) also on hand.

    Haunted by loneliness and criminal delinquents, On Dangerous Ground delivers a praiseworthy performance from Robert Ryan who finally finds redemption in the tortured soul of Ida Lupino’s Mary.  Capturing the gritty style of film noir, Nicholas Ray’s examination of crime-filled streets and unsavory characters matched with the beauty of its rural Colorado filming locations give the feature its true value.  Exquisitely upstaging its previous release culled from subpar elements, Warner Archive’s new 4K remaster is a revelation that gives the film a second picturesque life.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, On Dangerous Ground can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Midnight Run (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Midnight Run (1988)

    Director: Martin Brest

    Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina & Joe Pantoliano

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After embezzling millions from the mob to donate to charity, sensitive accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin, Beethoven) skips bail and becomes a moving target for his former employers.  When the financial opportunity of a lifetime arises, Midnight Run finds ex-cop turned bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro, Goodfellas) jumping to haul The Duke cross-country back to Los Angeles for a $100,000 payday.  Pursued by both the FBI and the mob, Jack and Jonathan find themselves working together throughout their hilarious adventure to stay alive.  Yaphet Kotto (The Running Man), John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop), Dennis Farina (Get Shorty) and Joe Pantoliano (Memento) co-star.

    A hilarious road trip that takes thrilling turns and action-packed shifts, Midnight Run boasts one of the decade’s most unexpectedly funny and brilliantly matched casting combinations with Hollywood legend Robert De Niro blending laughs with his valued tough-guy persona and the wildly underrated Charles Grodin’s subtle gentleness and dry demeanor both collectively earning the comedy its true payoff.  Earning a living as a skilled bounty hunter, former Chicago cop Jack Walsh hopes to leave the business behind for good after securing and safely delivering white-collar criminal Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas for a handsome six-figures.  Uncomfortable with his standing as an unbeknownst employee of the mafia, Jonathan embezzles $15 million from mob kingpin Jimmy Serrano (Farina) and nobly donates the funds to charity.  Rightly fearing for his life while the FBI is determined to have The Duke testify against Serrano, Jack hightails it to New York to bring his bounty back west which proves easier said than done.  Comically clashing from their introduction, Jack grows disgruntled with Jonathan by the second after the latter’s fear of flying derails their quick getaway to Los Angeles.  Through trains, automobiles, grand theft auto and dwindling cash, the two polar opposites can’t catch a break as Serrano’s men, the feds and an opposing bounty hunter (Ashton) who continuously falls for Jack’s false kindness close in on them.  From one misadventure to the next, Jonathan’s attempts to get to know his cold companion are typically met with knee-snappingly profane responses before an expected friendly bromance that will save their necks kicks in.

    Boldly casting the lesser known Grodin over prominent funnyman Robin Williams, Producer/Director Martin Brest’s (Scent of a Woman) instincts wisely paid off as the improvisational spirit and inherent chemistry with co-star De Niro is what makes the film a comedy standout.  Excellently juxtaposed with high-speed chases, intense shootouts and perfectly cast supporting turns from veteran character actors, Midnight Run continues Brest’s flawless handling of action and humor following the wild success of the original Beverly Hills Cop.  A modest hit that would continue the further exploits of Jack Walsh with three TV movie sequels starring Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore) in the De Niro role, Midnight Run is a flawless romp bursting with hysterical energy and excellently crafted characters that annoy, enlighten and rescue one another, much to the endless enjoyment of backseat viewers along for one of the era’s most undervalued rides.

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the interpositive, Shout Select presents Midnight Run with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing strongly organic with natural grain firmly intact, skin tones are quite pleasing with admirable detail while, the textures of Jack’s leather jacket are well presented.  Sunny rural exteriors are lush with black levels containing evidence of speckling that seeps its way into other various sequences.  Commonly spotted in striped clothing or dimly lit moments, the aforementioned speckling may not be deal breaking yet, makes its presence known with varying degrees of intrusion.  Thankfully free of any scratches or scuffs, Midnight Run makes a solidly definitive leap to domestic high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, effects work and Composer Danny Elfman’s (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Batman) excellent score arrive with sharp clarity and robust range.  An equally pleasing optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Granted Collector’s Edition treatment, special features are headlined with a newly recorded Interview with Robert De Niro (8:51).  Although brief and overly reliant on voiceover narration, De Niro speaks highly of working with Brest who he wishes would produce more features and praises Grodin’s comedic abilities with warm memories all around for the film.  Meanwhile, We Got the Duke: An Interview with Actor Charles Gordin (12:24), Moscone Bail Bonds: An Interview with Actor Joe Pantoliano (14:19), Hey Marvin!: An Interview with Actor John Aston (17:23) and I’m Mosely!: An Audio Interview with Actor Yaphet Kotto (7:36) have all been ported over from Second Sight’s international release.  Lastly, Midnight Writer: An Interview with Screenwriter George Gallo (24:43), a Vintage Making-Of Featurette (7:26), the Theatrical Trailer (1:12) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s impressive supplemental offerings.

    Ballooning into a bonafide cult favorite, Midnight Run is the vehicle that fully embraced De Niro’s  comedic diversity while his superb chemistry with the understatedly hilarious Grodin makes the film a cross-country adventure classic.  Making significant improvements over foreign releases, Shout Select’s 2K scan is top-tier with previously available but, nonetheless excellent bonus features ported over on top of a very special new De Niro interview capping this Collector’s Edition on a strong note.  With a tough bounty hunter and a sensitive criminal as your co-passengers on this odyssey of thrills and laughter, Midnight Run is simply the best ride to catch!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Midnight Run can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Class (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Class (1983)

    Director: Lewis John Carlino

    Starring: Rob Lowe, Jacqueline Bisset, Andrew McCarthy & Cliff Robertson

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shortly after arriving at his new prestigious prep-school, lonesome Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy, Mannequin) is motivated by his outgoing roommate Skip (Rob Lowe, The Grinder) to explore uncharted dating zones.  Catching the attention of a sexy and sophisticated woman, Jonathan’s affair turns out to be more than he imagined after learning it’s with Skip’s mother.  Jacqueline Bisset (Bullitt), John Cusack (Say Anything…), Alan Ruck (Ferris Buller’s Day Off) and Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man) co-star.

    Keeping in tradition with other teenage hormonal features of its era, Class balances the scandalous love affair between a high school senior and his roommates mother with obvious humor and surprisingly well-handled, if not unexpected, dramatics.  After being encouraged by best friend Skip (Lowe) to hitch a ride to Chicago for a steamy one-night stand, Jonathan (McCarthy) finds himself captivated by the mature and breathtaking Ellen (Bisset) leading to a sexual rendezvous in an elevator before relocating to a hotel room.  Riding high on his conquest, Jonathan and Ellen’s affair develops over the weeks with the prep-schooler falling madly in love with his new flame.  Shortly after Jonathan’s true identity is revealed, their blossoming relationship is unsurprisingly damaged, sending the heartbroken teen on a downward spiral of depression.  In order to lift his best friend’s spirits, Skip invites Jonathan over to his house for the holidays realizing his recent bombshell is in fact Skip’s own mother.  Awkward encounters and mounting lies steer Class into a more dramatic territory that separates itself from similar pictures without ever sacrificing quality.  Furthermore, fellow brat packers Lowe and McCarthy gel excellently together, making practical jokes and playfully insulting one another to create one of the great bromances of the decade.  As the damaging news of his mother’s affair hits Skip in the final act while, a school investigation to sniff out cheaters potentially threatens Jonathan’s livelihood, the two best friends prove after beating the bejesus out of one another that bros still apparently come before hoes, including your own alcoholic mother.  While its setup would normally lend itself to countless skintastic scenarios, Class is relatively tame with the major exception being Virginia Madsen (Dune), in her first role, having her blouse torn off in a most comical sequence.  Accompanied by a romantically elegant score by Elmer Bernstein (Ghostbusters), Class may not be the most sexually exploitative teen flick of the 80s but, still manages to be particularly funny and a pinch more sophisticated than expected.

    Olive Films presents Class with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing filmic and free of any dirt or other aging artifacts, Class relays accurate skin readings while, the film’s color scheme of browns and other earth tones satisfy with Skip’s red hot sports car popping most impressively.  In addition, black levels spotted in shadowy rooms and jet-black prep school coats are inky and defined.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is prominently prioritized with no difficulties in audibility present.  Cracks and pops are nonexistent with Bernstein’s score and the film’s few soundtrack bits also relayed appropriately.  Typically scant, the sole special feature is the film’s Trailer (2:30).

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Tomorrowland (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Tomorrowland (2015)

    Director: Brad Bird

    Starring: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson & Raffey Cassidy

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of The Incredibles and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Tomorrowland brings former boy-genius Frank Walker (George Clooney, Up in the Air) and curious teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson, The Longest Ride) together for a mission to uncover a mysterious utopian realm that can salvage their own world’s future.  Hugh Laurie (House M.D.), Raffey Cassidy (Dark Shadows), Kathryn Hahn (Bad Words), Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele) and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side) co-star.

    Inspired by the limitless possibilities of a better tomorrow and Walt Disney’s own conceptual views for an innovative utopia, Tomorrowland brings viewers back to a simpler, more optimistic time where a young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson, Harvey Beaks) brings his intelligent enthusiasm to the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  Although dismissed for his inventions impractical functionalities, Frank is charmed by Athena (Cassidy) who bestows upon him a mysterious pin leading him to a futuristic world unlike anything seen before.  With hope and promise within reach, present day optimist Casey Newton (Robertson) refuses to accept the declining climate of her world littered with global warming, wars and starvation while, searching for the answers to correct it.  Also granted with a similarly mysterious pin, Casey is given a glimpse into the euphoric world of tomorrow only to be pursued by crazed robots intent on eliminating her.  Joining forces with the eternally youthful-looking Athena and an elder Frank (Clooney), the trio travel to Tomorrowland to learn of an impending apocalyptic disaster claiming their world and must devise a way to change their futures.

    Cloaked in mystery and coyly promoted with a less is more approach, Tomorrowland is a refreshingly original concept that confronts today’s overly cynical audiences with a much needed dose of adventurous buoyancy.  A visual delight of futuristic landscapes and technological advancements, Director Brad Bird’s sci-fi opus delivers strong performances from the always dependable Clooney and his talented young co-stars Robertson and Cassidy.  In addition, Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of the cold-hearted Nix is accomplished with glee and well-executed dry humor.  Co-scripted by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus), structural issues unfortunately plague Tomorrowland’s action-packed pace with an abrupt halt that nearly severs its momentum.  Critically divided and failing to impress at the box-office, Tomorrowland remains a wondrous achievement that dares to be unique and generally succeeds.  While it may not be immune to imperfections, Tomorrowland will enchant audiences with repeated viewings and most assuredly grow in appreciation as the future nears.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Tomorrowland with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.20:1 aspect ratio.  Presenting a wide canvas of natural skin tones, space age vistas and flawless detail in costumes and exceptionally crisp black levels, Tomorrowland is a sight of perfection that deserves the moniker of high-definition reference material.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is excellently prioritized while the effective sound design and Composer Michael Giacchino’s (Super 8, Jurassic World) rousing score, which ranks as one of the year’s best, pushes the mix to exciting bounds.  Special features include, a Plus Ultra Short (3:18) to be played optionally before the feature, Remembering the Future: A Personal Journey Through Tomorrowland with Brad Bird (7:09), Casting Tomorrowland (7:27), A Great Big Beautiful Scoring Session (6:03), The World of Tomorrow Science Hour - Hosted by Futurologist David Nix (5:08) and an Animated Short: The Origins of Plus Ultra (3:36) which serves as a slightly extended version of its counterpart.  In addition, Brad Bird Production Diaries (4:34), a Blast from the Past Commercial (0:41), Deleted Scenes with Filmmaker Introductions (23:28) and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Disney Parks (0:32), K.C. Undercover (0:32), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (1:52) and Inside Out are also included.  Furthermore, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code round out the release’s supplemental offerings.

    Escorted to a great big beautiful adventure, Tomorrowland impresses upon viewers the magical possibilities of a brighter future while bearing in mind the harsh conditions affecting our world today.  Bursting with originality and imagination, Director Brad Bird’s live-action sophomore effort is not without its faults but, ultimately triumphs.  Blasting to home video, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment awards Tomorrowland with reference worthy technical merits creating an out of this world viewing experience.  Transported to a world of unparalleled wonder, Tomorrowland will leave lasting impressions on those considered dreamers.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available October 13th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Tomorrowland can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) / The New Barbarians (1983) / Escape from the Bronx (1983) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Reviews

    1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) / The New Barbarians (1983) / Escape from the Bronx (1983)

    Director: Enzo G. Castellari

    Starring: Vic Morrow, Christopher Connelly, Fred Williamson, Mark Gregory & Stefania Girolami / Giancarlo Prete, Fred Williamson, George Eastman, Anna Kakis & Giovanni Frezza / Mark Gregory, Henry Silva, Valeria D’Obici, Timothy Brent & Antonio Sabato

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blue Underground braces viewers for three doses of post apocalyptic devastation and motorcycle street gangs, Italian style!  First up, 1990: The Bronx Warriors takes place in the no man’s land of the Bronx circa 1990 where attempts at law and order have been eliminated.  When a wealthy woman from Manhattan escapes into the wasteland, her corrupt father hires a trained mercenary to recover her.  Unfortunately for the cities corporate brass, gang leader Trash unites rival street dwellers to wage war in order to protect their turf.  Vic Morrow (Twilight Zone: The Movie), Christopher Connelly (Manhattan Baby), Fred Williamson (Hammer), Mark Gregory (Thunder) and Stefania Girolami (The Last Shark) star.  Next up, set in the year 2019, The New Barbarians takes place in the aftermath of nuclear devastation where the brutal Templars and their leader One rule with an iron fist.  When the lone warrior Scorpion rescues the gorgeous Alma from their grasp, Scorpion joins forces with the tactical Nadir and a struggling group of survivors to battle their evil oppressors.  Giancarlo Prete (Street Law), Fred Williamson (The Legend of Nigger Charley), George Eastman (Stagefright), Anna Kakis (2019: After the Fall of New York) and Giovanni Frezza (The House by the Cemetery) star.  Finally, continuing the exploits of Bronx Warrior Trash (Mark Gregory), Escape from the Bronx takes place in the year 2000 where a wealthy corporation seeks to bulldoze the entire borough to create an upscale community.  Sending death squads to clear out the remaining inhabitants, Trash and fellow gang members refuse to go out without a fight.  Henry Silva (Trapped), Valeria D’Obici (Midnight Killer), Timothy Brent (Ladyhawke) and Antonio Sabato (Grand Prix) co-star.      

    Reminiscent of 1979’s The Warriors, 1990: The Bronx Warriors takes place in the gang-infested wasteland of the Bronx where police presence and public safety is nothing but a memory.  When the wealthy and attractive Ann (Girolami) travels to the dangerous area to escape her Manhattan existence, she quickly falls for sympathetic gang leader Trash (Gregory).  Heiress to the family’s powerful company, her corrupt father hires ruthless mercenary Hammer (Morrow) to retrieve her only to be met with resistance from the Bronx’s motorcycle riding deviants.  Shot on location in the increasingly dangerous borough, 1990: The Bronx Warriors comes loaded with top-notch production value from a grittier New York that no longer exists.  Action is a plenty when Ann is captured by the rival Zombies gang, prompting Trash and his loyal Riders to risk life and limb trekking across their danger zone.  Seeking assistance from the King of the Bronx himself, The Ogre (Williamson), Trash and his companions battle countless goofy gang members from tunnel dwelling freakazoids to glitter-faced baton twirlers with hand to hand combat and deadly spears.  As Hammer simultaneously infiltrates the Bronx with blowtorch equipped troops, alliances are compromised amongst Trash and his friends leading to an explosive conclusion with the ruthless Hammer receiving a gloriously pointy demise.  An excellent product of gang war wastelands protecting their turf from the man, 1990: The Bronx Warriors is action-fueled spaghetti cinema at its finest.

    Also known as Warriors of the Wasteland, The New Barbarians rides high on the post-apocalyptic success of 1981’s The Road Warrior.  Following a similar plot line, this Italian production once again realized by Director Enzo G. Castellari (Light Blast) takes place in the not too distant future of 2019 where nuclear devastation has eliminated virtually all life.  Predominately populated by the book hating, totalitarian warriors The Templars and their leader One (Eastman), innocent civilians starve and fear for their lives.  Unapologetic in his disdain for the ruthless gang, lone warrior Scorpion (Prete) rescues the beautiful Alma (Kanakis) from them, determined to find permanent salvation for her.  Shot on location in Rome, The New Barbarians injects an added production value of futuristic vehicles and laughable space age costumes matched with a funky, synth-heavy score courtesy of Claudio Simonetti (Demons) of Goblin fame.  Although teaming up with ace marksman Nadir (Williamson) to protect a group of innocent survivors and Alma, Scorpion suffers the wrath of The Templars by being captured and unexpectedly raped by the skunk-haired One before retaliating full force.  While explosive car stunts impress with plenty of decapitated heads and impaled torsos, The New Barbarians falls somewhere in the middle of mediocrity during a time where Mad Max ripoffs were reaching their maximum.  With plenty of fun to still be had and Williamson stealing scenes with his amusing performance, The New Barbarians entertains but, oftentimes sticks too close to formula to stand on its own merits.

    Following the events of 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Escape from the Bronx takes place a decade into the future where the neglected borough has continued to rot into further decay.  Former leader of The Riders, Trash (Gregory) is now a respected loner who is once again pulled back into the fire following the murder of his parents by a mega-corporation.  Hellbent on exercising the existing Bronx in order to make way for an idyllic community, the General Construction Corporation send in countless death squads, headed by the savage Floyd Wangler (Silva), to exterminate any remaining occupants.  Joining forces with hometown reporter Moon Gray (Dobson), underground dweller Strike (Brent) and his young son Junior (Alessandro Prete, Ironmaster), the trio rally the support of fellow gangs to fight off the man once again.  Bursting with action and featuring nearly 200 casualties, Escape from the Bronx is a no holds barred followup that manages to bring the Bronx to an even more rubbled state.  With the exception of Henry Silva’s excellent appearance and Timothy Brent’s Strike bludgeoning a villain with the butt of a shotgun, the sequel lacks more memorable supporting characters to compliment Trash’s war against corporate tycoons.  Shot on location in the Bronx and Rome, Escape from the Bronx, under its alternate Escape 2000 title, was lovingly roasted on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its seventh season awarding it even more cult acclaim.  While falling slightly shorter than its originator, Escape from the Bronx will ultimately leave action buffs raging with testosterone at the sheer volume of over the top fatalities and nonstop explosions.

    Newly transferred in high-definition, Blue Underground presents all three films with 1080p transfers, sporting 2.35:1 aspect ratios.  With all films appearing free of any prominent scratches or scruffs, skin tones look pleasing and non waxy with respectable detail on display.  While not entirely free of digital noise, instances of pixelation can be spotted most prominently in the backgrounds of dilapidated buildings seen in 1990: The Bronx Warriors.  Fortunately, these issues are far from deal breaking and are still a vast improvement over their standard definition predecessors.  Colors spotted in flashier costume choices and gore pop nicely offering solid contrast to the bland and desolate environments of the films.  In addition, black levels during the films’ underground sequences can often appear murky and lacking inkier levels.  Admittedly, the transfers do have their shortcomings but, the effort to deliver upgraded products is equally evident with their lush colors and noticeably cleaner appearances leaving expectant fans generally pleased with the results.  Accompanied with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is always robust and clear without a trace of hiss or distortion.  Each film’s respective score along with sequences of intense gunfire, laser blasts and fiery explosions emerge from the speakers with noticeable authority that is well balanced throughout.  Bestowed with Collector’s Edition banners, each film arrives with a plethora of exciting bonus content with 1990: The Bronx Warriors including, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 1 (14:09), Sourcing the Weaponry (11:55) where Castellari guides us through the Italian Weapons Rental House of Paolo Ricci and Adventures in the Bronx (7:20) with Stuntmen Massimo Vanni interviewed about his experiences on the film.  In addition, Theatrical Trailers including, the International Trailer (2:42), Italian Trailer (2:41), Escape from the Bronx Trailer (3:15) and The New Barbarians Trailer (3:25) are also provided with a Poster & Still Gallery (100 in total) and a DVD edition of the release rounding out the supplemental package.  Next up, The New Barbarians arrives with an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 2 (13:55), Tales of the Hammer (20:22) with Star Fred Williamson offering a fascinating career retrospective that stands as the disc’s standout feature.  Also included are Theatrical Trailers for the International Trailer (3:25), Italian Trailer #1 (3:26), Italian Trailer #2 (1:58), 1990: The Bronx Warriors Trailer (2:42) and Escape from the Bronx Trailer (3:15).  Finally, a Poster & Still Gallery (97 in total) and a DVD edition of the release conclude the bonus offerings.  Lastly, Escape from the Bronx includes, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 3 (13:16), The Hunt for Trash (12:42) with Bronx Warriors Superfan Lance Lanley sharing his passion and enthusiasm for the films along with Theatrical Trailers for the International Trailer (3:15), Italian Trailer (3:15), 1990: The Bronx Warriors (2:42) and The New Barbarians Trailer (3:25).  A Poster & Still Gallery (77 in total) and a DVD edition of the release are also included.  

    Submerging viewers with a trinity of post-apocalyptic warfare and urban gang battles, Blue Underground ensures an action-packed serving of spaghetti cinema for cult enthusiasts.  While 1990: The Bronx Warriors is the fan favorite of the three, The New Barbarians still offers a fun dose of futuristic goofiness with Escape from the Bronx assaulting viewers with endless action.  Newly transferred in high-definition, each film makes earnest strides, with a few warts along the way, in delivering noticeable upgrades from their past releases.  With impressive remastered mixes and brand new, quality bonus features, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The New Barbarians and Escape from the Bronx make their Blu-ray debuts with a thundering crash, ready to wage war on your cult library!

    1990: The Bronx Warriors RATING: 4/5

    The New Barbarians RATING: 3.5/5

    Escape from the Bronx RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Blue Underground, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The New Barbarians and Escape from the Bronx can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • That's The Way of the World (1975) Blu-ray Review


    That’s the Way of the World (1975)
    Director: Sig Shore
    Starring: Harvey Keitel, Ed Nelson & Earth, Wind & Fire
    Released by: Scorpion Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Independent distributor Scorpion Releasing is back with another sting of diversity in their exciting Blu-ray catalog.  Harvey Keitel (Mean Streets) stars as a hot-shot music producer who’s caught between creating the music he cares for and the music he’s forced into by his superiors.  Artistic tensions escalate as seedy business politics and corruption consume the purity of music.  Scorpion Releasing proudly presents That’s the Way of the World in a brand new HD master from an interpositive.  Produced and directed by Sig Shore (Superfly), this unique flick marks a time and place in music history, but is it a golden oldie or a one-hit wonder?  Turn up the jukebox and let’s boogie...

    That’s the Way of the World centers on Coleman Buckmaster (Harvey Keitel), an ambitious young music producer with A-Kord Records.  As he works closely with an up-and-coming band named The Group (played by Earth, Wind & Fire who also contribute the music to the film) who he believes has what it takes to make it big, Buckmaster is forced to concentrate all his efforts on an unknown trio The Pages.  The pressures and seedy business practices of the industry begin to weigh down on Buckmaster who must make crucial decisions that will impact the bands under his supervision and his personal relationships.

    MOVIE:
    Admittedly, I’m a sucker for films that take place deep within the entertainment industry.  There’s never a shortage of crushed hearts and broken dreams when it comes to characters navigating the world of razzle dazzle.  That’s the Way of the World takes place in New York City which is home turf to some of Keitel’s most memorable performances in such fare as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver.  Keitel breathes life into the role of music producer Coleman Buckmaster effortlessly.  It’s easy to believe in his performance as he focuses in on musical notes with the same precision a chemist handling chemicals would.  Paying more attention to the knobs and buttons in his recording studio, Keitel invokes a passion in his character that is obvious in his dealing with The Group (played by Earth, Wind & Fire).  When the president of A-Kord Records interrupts and forces Buckmaster’s attention on an unknown trio, The Pages, tensions rise.  Buckmaster is torn between his passion project with The Group while being forced into a sound he cares nothing for.  The Pages, a wholesome family trio are far from their cookie cutter image of perfection and hide a much darker backstory.  With the strain of industry politics weighing down and his personal and professional relationships suffering, Buckmaster decides to play the game to his advantage.  As the film progresses, Buckmaster’s motivations seem unclear as he surrenders himself to his seemingly hopeless situation by striking up a romance with The Pages‘ lead singer and eventually marrying her.  As the viewer, we’re confused by Buckmaster’s willingness to give up so easily on his passion since he doesn’t even go down the clichéd road of burning out on drugs.  Of course, the reasons behind this are all explained in the finale in a manner that Buckmaster puts as how the way the world works.  It’s a satisfying conclusion that took a road that left slightly more to be desired.  Luckily, the music from Earth, Wind & Fire is a major draw for the film as the influential band were at the peak of their careers.  In addition, live performances from the funkmasters (some of which take place at a roller derby!) are a wonderful sight with stage antics that excite and music that will keep you bopping your head to the beat.

    That’s the Way of the World also makes phenomenal usage of New York City streets that capture an incredible time in not only music, but the city itself.  In addition, when Buckmaster joins The Pages’ lead singer (played by Cynthia Bostick) on a trip to Hollywood, more terrific street shots are captured making this film a great time capsule of some of the country’s greatest cities at such an exciting time.  

    Many industry professionals have praised That’s the Way of the World for its accuracy in capturing the seedy underbelly of the record business.  The film definitely earns its marks in that department but still falls shy from being a truly great gem.  The film packs one of Keitel’s more intriguing performances of the 1970s with a killer soundtrack supplied by the iconic Earth, Wind & Fire along with some prime footage of New York City and the Los Angeles area.  That’s the Way of the World entertained me but fell slightly short due to the lack of drama some of the characters experienced throughout the film.  While, it strayed from selling the typical “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” story, more of that might have been beneficial in making the film all the more entertaining.  That’s the Way of the World is still a film that offers a lot of quality merits and shouldn’t be overlooked when discussing films about the entertainment industry.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    (NOTE: That’s the Way of the World is presented in HD from a slightly different cut than the original theatrical presentation.  Usable HD materials for the theatrical cut were not sufficient hence the cause for the slight difference in its HD presentation).

    That’s the Way of the World is presented in a 1080p anamorphic HD master (1.78:1) from the interpositive.  Overall, the film looks quite nice with a filmic layer of grain intact throughout the entire runtime and skin tones looking strikingly accurate.  Instances of debris and pops in the print are seen occasionally but nothing of real distaste.  Black levels leave slightly more to be desired with a faint haze in darker scenes but again nothing too distracting.  Considering the HD print was struck up from several different sources, I’m quite content with the video presentation.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    That’s the Way of the World comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that is decent enough.  Dialogue scenes come across clear for the most part but there are instances when conversations fall a little on the low side.  Nothing a little raise to the volume button won’t fix.  The powerful music from Earth, Wind & Fire is as loud and robust as one would hope and their musical live performances are some of the standout moments for the audio mix.  It should be noted that actors’ lips were always a hair behind the actual audio track.  This is certainly nothing that takes away from the serviceable audio quality but it couldn’t help but be noticed.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Theatrical Version: Presented in standard definition, the theatrical cut clocks in nearly four minutes longer than the HD presentation with the most noticeable inclusion being a sex scene between Keitel and Bostick.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Still Gallery

    - Scorpion Releasing Trailers: Includes Horror on Snape Island, Grizzly, Deathship and Day of the Animals.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Scorpion Releasing never seizes to amaze me with their dedication to cult cinema of all genres.  That’s the Way of the World was an intriguing picture with standout performances from Keitel and a soundtrack so catchy, you’ll be singing it for days.  While, the film won’t go down as an essential film about the innerworkings of the record industry, it still comes recommended for its accurate depiction of a business that can make dreams comes true for the fortunate and destroy lives for the unprepared.  Scorpion Releasings‘ handling of the film is quite possibly the best this music-centered flick is bound to see.  The HD master looks about as pristine as one could hope to achieve considering the hurdles that were undergone.  The inclusion of the theatrical cut was also a nice touch for completists sake.  That’s the Way of the World may have fallen short of my expectations but it’s still a film I am pleased to have in my Scorpion collection and one I can see myself revisiting.
    RATING: 3.5/5