Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Category

Currently showing posts tagged Parody

  • Assault on New Releases #11 - Halloween Edition: Count Dracula's Great Love (1973), Child's Play (1988) Collector's Edition, Burial Ground (1980), Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991) & Lady in White (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973)

    Director: Javier Aguirre

    Starring: Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Haydée Politoff, Mirta Miller, Ingrid Garbo, Álvaro de Luna de Luma & José Manuel Martin

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring Spain’s premiere horror star Paul Naschy (Night of the Werewolf), Count Dracula’s Great Love finds a carriage of travelers derailed and kindly taken in by the handsome Dr. Marlow (Naschy).  Secretly harboring his true identity as the Prince of Darkness, Marlow stalks and seduces his way to the necks of his gorgeous guests, transforming them into bloodthirsty slaves while, shy virginal Karen (Haydée Politoff, Queens of Evil) becomes the apple of his eye and essential to his much grander plan.  Boasting gothic ambiance, full moons and eroticism, Javier Aguirre (Hunchback of the Morgue) directs with elegance in this atmospheric tale that presents a memorable interpretation of Dracula who is quick to whip and axe his victims as commonly as sink his fangs into them.  Weaving a narrative of originality and rich complexity, Count Dracula’s Great Love remains effective for Naschy’s understated performance and the film’s blood ritual used to resurrect Dracula’s deceased daughter, concluding in lovesick tragedy.

    Beautifully scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm internegative, Vinegar Syndrome presents Count Dracula’s Great Love with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While minor intrusions from scratches and cigarette burns are evident, the Spanish feature has never looked better.  Bringing vibrant life to skin tones and the colorful costume choices of its actresses, detail is crisp preserving the fog-entranced tone while, black levels seen in Count Dracula’s cape, casket and dark dwellings are exceptionally inky.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the film’s English dub track may register t’s and s sounds too sharply but, overwhelmingly exudes clean and audible dialogue levels while, cracks and pop are minimal and of little to no notice.  Presenting both its uncut U.S. edition and its original Spanish language version, viewers are informed that the latter, lacking proper elements from its licensor (and missing shots due to content that are only found in its English counterpart), is presented from lesser quality video sources and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in order to appreciatively appease fans yearning for both cuts.  Meanwhile, special features include, a never before released Audio Commentary with Director Javier Aguirre & Actor Paul Naschy featuring optional subtitles in both English and Spanish plus, a newly captured Video Interview with Actress Mirta Miller (8:22) with optional English subtitles.  Furthermore, the U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:04), a Still Gallery (2:16) and a 6-page booklet featuring an informative essay from Mirek Lipinski are also included alongside a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art.  Fans of horror’s more gothic and erotic outings will take pleasure sinking their fangs into this significant Spanish offering, splendidly brought to high-definition by Vinegar Syndrome for the first time ever!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Count Dracula’s Great Love can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Child’s Play (1988)

    Director: Tom Holland

    Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent & Brad Dourif

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Instilling a new titan for modern horror and ushering in a frightening franchise of sequels each varying in quality, the original Child’s Play still reigns as the most effective and chilling of Chucky’s many chapters.  When innocent six-year-old Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent, Wait Until Spring, Bandini) is presented with a Good Guy doll on his birthday, strange occurrences and the death of his babysitter raise questions of responsibility in their wake.  Unsuccessfully convincing his single mother and a homicide detective that his doll is alive and behind the recent string of murders, Andy finds himself pursued by the tiny terror in order to take over his soul.  Before the bodycount pictures its later entries would become with the foul-mouthed killer serving as their marketing mascot, Child’s Play’s less is more approach keeps viewers questioning the validity of Andy’s claims more so than blindly assuming his doll is truly possessed.  Wrapped in mystery and edge of your seat suspense with an oftentimes forgotten voodoo subplot, Child’s Play holds up strongly with a believable blend of special effects wizardry, an urban Chicago setting and top-notch performances with Dourif’s shrieking voice as the crazed Chucky leaving an indelible mark on the nightmares of viewers for years to come.

    Newly scanned in 2K from the interpositive, Scream Factory presents Child’s Play with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Casting a darker yet, more natural appearance during nighttime sequences, skin tones are accurate and nicely detailed while, colors found in Chucky’s red-striped and denim attire along with the neon-lit signage of the toy store in the film’s opening pop well.  Scuffs and other blemishes appear to be absent while, softness during daytime exteriors and inside the Barclay’s apartment look similar to its previous release.  Admittedly modest in its improvements, Scream Factory’s latest stab at Child’s Play unquestionably ranks as its best looking.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that projects solid dialogue and booming displays of authority during thunderstorms and Joe Renzetti’s (Poltergeist III) creepy score, sound quality is superior.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Impressively packed with new and old offerings, Disc 1 features a new Audio Commentary with Director Tom Holland plus, a repurposed Audio Commentary with Actors Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks & “Chucky” Designer Kevin Yagher.  Furthermore, another vintage Audio Commentary with Producer David Kirschner & Screenwriter Don Mancini along with hilarious Chucky Commentaries on select scenes are also included.

    Kicking off Disc 2, Behind-the-Scenes Special Effects Footage (1:00:08), Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Till the End (40:53) and Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky with Ed Gale (40:02) comprise the release’s newest and highly fascinating featurettes while, Evil Comes in Small Packages (24:49), Chucky: Building a Nightmare (10:05), A Monster Convention (5:26), Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play (6:15) and a Vintage Featurette (4:54) from MGM’s previous release are ported over.  In addition, a TV Spot (0:17), Theatrical Trailer (2:02), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (37 in total), a Posters & Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (20 in total) and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster conclude the all encompassing slate of extras.  A frightening sophomore followup from Director Tom Holland (Fright Night), Child’s Play maintains its reputation as one of the better supernatural slashers of the 80s while, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition, sprawling with bounds of extras, is nothing short of a gift from the mighty Damballa himself.

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

    Burial Ground (1980)

    Director: Andrea Bianchi

    Starring: Mariangela Giordano, Karin Well, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Peter Bark & Roberto Caporali

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented under its alternate The Nights of Terror title, Burial Ground hosts a smorgasbord of guts and bloody depravity when a country getaway for several couples quickly turns into a fight for their lives against reanimated corpses.  Preoccupied with their own sexual appetite when a scientist’s tinkering with evil forces unleashes hell’s hungriest zombies, the couples struggle to defend themselves while keeping the rotting forces from gaining entry into the mansion.  A wall-to-wall bonkers example of Italian exploitation at its finest, Burial Ground’s plot may be paper thin but, graciously overcompensates with gallons of gore and some of the genre’s most memorable zombie designs befit with gaping facial holes, horrific skeletal features and squirming maggots oozing from their pores.  Weaponizing themselves with pickaxes, scythes and other garden tools, the ravenous undead decapitate the help and repeatedly feast on the torn out organs of their prey.  Perhaps even more memorable than the zombie’s persistent attacks, Burial Ground’s bizarro meter soars when Michael (Peter Bark, Arrivano i gatti), the peculiar-looking son of Karen, grows oddly attracted to his mother and makes an incestuous pass at her in the heat of zombiepalooza.  With options running low and escape unlikely, nothing can prepare viewers for Burial Ground’s absurd mouthful of a finale that draws its line in the sand as one of the great “what the…” moments of splatter cinema.

    Gorgeously restored in 2K from pristine elements, Severin Films presents Burial Ground with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  True to its description, this newly struck scan is leaps and bounds superior to past releases with a blemish-free appearance, strong facial tones and impressive detail bringing out the intricacies of the many zombie makeup designs and their intendedly heinous features.  Furthermore, the film’s plethora of blood pops loudly while, black levels, even during the film’s more dimly lit sequences, are effectively inky, allowing viewers to fully appreciate all that is occurring.  Definitive as can be, Severin Films deserves the utmost praise for their esteemed handling of this Italian gorefest.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible throughout without any static or pops detected.  In addition, a separate Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian mix is included with optional English subtitles.  Bonus offerings include, Villa Parisi - Legacy of Terror (15:47) where Movie Historian Fabio Melelli revisits the filming locations that date back to the 17th century and have been utilized by Italian film productions beginning in the 1960s through the present.  Meanwhile, Peter Still Lives: Festival Q&A with Actor Peter Bark (7:35), Just for the Money: Interview with Actor Simone Mattioli (8:57) and The Smell of Death: Interviews with Producer Gabriele Crisanti & Actress Mariangela Giordano (9:20) are joined by Deleted/Extended Scenes/Shots (10:24), the Theatrical Trailer (3:31) and Reversible Cover Art.  Lastly, limited to the first 3,000 units, an exclusive slipcover featuring new artwork by Wes Benscoter is also included.  Riding high on a profoundly successful 2016, Severin Films continues to spoil exploitation enthusiasts with their treatment of Burial Ground, so definitive that the opening of hell’s gates can be the only justification for quality of this caliber.

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991)

    Director: Anthony Hickox

    Starring: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Michelle Johnson, Dana Ashbrook, Michah Grant, Eric Brown, Clare Carey, Patrick Macnee & David Warner / Zach Galligan, Monkia Schnarre, Alexander Godunov, Martin Kemp & Bruce Campbell 

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Melding the humorously wacky with the horrific, Waxwork finds a group of collegiate friends who stumble upon a mysterious wax museum displaying the most vile monsters, madmen and psychos albeit without victims.  Before long, their innocent tour lures them into its dark magic to become permanent members of the establishments morbid offerings.  Starring Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) with appearances from distinguished Englishmen and talented thespians Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) and David Warner (Tron) as the villainous museum owner, Waxwork’s greatest strength lies in its animated displays that honor the classic monsters of yesteryear and submerging would-be victims into their appropriately themed worlds.  Transforming into mini films within a film, the high maintenance China (Michelle Johnson, Death Becomes Her) finds herself immersed within Count Dracula’s gothic castle and forced to duel against his bloodthirsty brides while, the chain-smoking Tony (Dana Ashbrook, Twin Peaks) stumbles into the full moon lit backwoods where the beastly Wolfman (John-Rhys Davies, Raiders of the Lost Ark) hunts.  While the rather busy narrative throws touches of black magic, evil trinkets, freakish butlers and interdimensional realms to the forefront that occasionally scatterbrains the proceedings, Waxwork’s free-for-all conclusion pitting the likes of Marquis de Sade and zombies against the privileged Mark (Galligan) and his wheelchair-bound godfather right the ship in this clever sendup of classic chills under the guise of 80s video age eye-candy.

    Surviving the fiery events of the original film, Mark and Sarah (replaced by Monkia Schnarre, The Peacekeeper) return in Waxwork II: Lost in Time when a resilient zombie hand from the wax museum murders Sarah’s stepfather, pinning the blame on her.  Determined to prove her innocence, the two recover a magical compass enabling them to time travel through dimensions in order to gather the proper evidence to clear Sarah’s name.  Far more fantasy based than its predecessor with the characters winding up in medieval times to combat a black magic wielding sorcerer, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, using Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking-Glass as a loose template, makes greater use of hilariously parodying genre films than properly traveling through historical events.  Making stops at Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and the streets of London during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, Alien, The Haunting and Godzilla among other films all find their way cheekily homaged in this more refined sequel.  Graced with brief roles from B-movie legends Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and David Carradine (Death Race 2000), Waxwork II: Lost in Time widens its universe even more so, delivering a followup with more comedic oomph that surprisingly exceeds its originator by a narrow margin.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate, under their Vestron Video Collector’s Series imprint, presents both Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Bearing generally clean appearances with scant scratches and slight speckling during darker sequences, colors pop effectively with skin tones reading nicely although, softness is not wholly uncommon or overly unpleasant.  Furthermore, its sequel noticeably improves during its extended black and white sequences mocking The Haunting that shine more sharply than the first film.  Respectable upgrades on both features will leave the overwhelming majority of fans more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is admirably conveyed while occasional moments during the first film find character lines at odds with other dominating sound factors.  Otherwise making solid use of their respective musical scores, both tracks strongly live up to expectations.  

    Providing each film on their own Blu-ray disc, special features on Waxwork’s Disc 1 include, an Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan and an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon.  Additionally, The Waxwork Chronicles (1:22:17), another first-rate Red Shirt Pictures production divided into six parts, explores the development and making of both films with newly captured interviews from Writer/Director Anthony Hickox, Editor Christopher Cibelli, Producer Staffon Ahrenberg, Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Bob Keen, Actors Zach Galligan, Monika Schnarre and many others covering everything Waxwork related fans would ever want to know.  Also included, a vintage The Making of Waxwork (24:06) featurette, the Theatrical Trailer (2:02) and a Still Gallery (7:55) conclude the disc’s helpings.  Next up, Waxwork II: Lost in Time’s Disc 2 opens with another Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan, an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Steve Schiff, a Music Video (3:50), Theatrical Trailer (3:03), Still Gallery (7:17) and a Reversible Cover Art capping off the double feature’s supplemental package.  Nostalgia will surely ring loudly for viewers raised on both Waxwork features during the heyday of video rental.  A clever and unique injection of horror and comedy during the slasher prominent decade, both films, with its 1991 sequel having a slight advantage, are enjoyable excursions into silliness that have been passionately peppered with ample bonus features to continue making the legacy of Vestron Pictures proud.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost in Time can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Lady in White (1988)

    Director: Frank LaLoggia

    Starring: Lukas Haas, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco & Katherine Helmond

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the wholesome suburb of Willowpoint Falls circa 1962, Lady in White centers on monster kid Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas, Mars Attacks!) who narrowly escapes death at the hands of a mysterious child murderer.  Aided by the first victim’s ghost, Frankie vows to bring the elusive killer to justice who may be closer than he knows.  Capturing the virtually lost magic of small-town Americana and shot on location in the picturesque region of Upstate New York, Lady in White weaves its atmospheric tale of local legends, ghosts and cold-blooded murder with expert direction and grounded performances that shine with pure naturalism.  Following Frankie’s supernatural encounter, the neighborhood myth of the lady in white searching for her fallen child ties into the picture’s larger story with the very real threat of her assailant still at large injecting a genuine undercurrent of thrills.  Reminiscent of Stephen King’s best coming of age fables, Lady in White’s acute capturing of simpler times while, injecting deeply rooted themes of family, facing fears and discrimination come from a creative voice of passion and experience that Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Fear No Evil) conveys in earnest.  An underrated masterwork with an innate connection to the heart and mystery of childhood, Lady in White remains as riveting as ever, eclipsing its reputation as one of the finest ghost stories of its kind.

    Debuting on high-definition with 2 Discs featuring the Director’s Cut (1:57:49, Disc 1), Theatrical Version (1:53:34, Disc 2) and the preferred Extended Director’s Cut (2:06:52, Disc 2), Scream Factory presents Lady in White with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Utilizing the film’s interpositive and an archived film print to assemble the never-before-released lengthier director’s cut, the inherently soft photography is perfectly maintained while, fall leaves and seasonally appropriate greenery are lively looking.  Seamlessly blending its two elements for a first-rate restoration, the director’s intended cut looks excellent whereas the film’s alternate versions are of equal merit.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that forewarns hiss and pops that are hardly noticeable on its extended version, dialogue is never inaudible with the subtle ambiance of howling winds and crashing waves complimenting the proceedings nicely while, the film’s beautiful music selections, handled also by its Writer/Director, perform most effectively.  In addition an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  However unfortunate that no new supplements were produced for the release, vintage bonus features found entirely on Disc 1 include, an Introduction with Frank LaLoggia (0:46), an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Director’s Cut only), Behind-the-Scenes Footage with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (16:21) and optional commentary from its creator.  Furthermore, Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (36:13) and optional commentary, a Promotional Short Film (7:18), the Theatrical Trailer (1:57), Alternate Trailers (7:10), TV Spots (1:34), Radio Spots (2:21), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Montage (28 in total) and an Extended Photo Gallery (21 in total) wrap up the on-disc extras while, a Reversible Cover Art is also included.  An evocative coming of age chiller ripe for rediscovery and annual viewing, Lady in White is a prime ghostly offering for the Halloween season that stands out for its relatable themes and haunting narrative worthy of the deepest respect.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Lady in White can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

     

  • Dolemite (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Dolemite (1975)

    Director: D’Urville Martin

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

    Release by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • The Ice Pirates (1984) Blu-ray Review

    The Ice Pirates (1984)

    Director: Stewart Raffill

    Starring: Robert Urich, Mary Crosby, Michael D. Roberts, Anjelica Huston & Jack Matuszak

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in an intergalactic future where water is of utmost value and controlled by the evil Templars, The Ice Pirates centers on a motley crew of swashbuckling adventure seekers who dare to rebel.  Accompanied by an attractive princess, the unlikely heroes charter a mission to locate her missing father on a rumored planet engulfed with the prized resource.  Robert Urich (S.W.A.T.), Mary Crosby (Dallas), Michael D. Roberts (Rain Man), Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family) and Jack Matuszak (The Goonies) comprise the ensemble cast.

    Influenced by George Lucas’ Star Wars saga and the post-apocalyptic insanity of Mad Max, The Ice Pirates protrudes its tongue into cheek for an inherently comic space adventure.  Ravaged by the villainous Templars, the future of the galaxy appears grim with water in short supply.  Led by the daring Jason (Urich) and his loyal team of pirates, the understandable thieves attempt to steal ice from the regime before crossing paths with the royal Princess Karina (Crosby).  While others evade capture, Jason and best friend Roscoe (Roberts) are sentenced to slavery where the unpleasant procedure of castration is performed before joining other high-pitched, leotard wearing prisoners.  Fortunately, the princess has other plans when she hires Jason and his soon to be reunited crew on a dangerous mission to recover her father.  From valiant sword fights to destructive droid battles and a trippy time-warp conclusion, the fate of the universe rests on the futuristic pirates discovering a mythical water planet that may or may not exist.

    Modestly successful at the box-office, The Ice Pirates adheres to the tropes of other such space epics of the era while, taking itself none too seriously much to the enjoyment of viewers.  Marking an early appearance from Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as one of Jason’s fellow cronies and one of the respected John Carradine’s (House of Frankenstein) final efforts, The Ice Pirates delivers top-notch special effects magic and enthralling production design that unashamedly caters to its over the top decade.  Packed with hilarious racial jokes and sexual innuendoes that unquestionably flew over the heads of its intended PG-rated audience, The Ice Pirates is a bonafide cult favorite that keeps its action rolling while laughing all the way to the end credits.

    Warner Archive presents The Ice Pirates with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a noticeably filmic appearance, detail is sharp with textures in costumes choices and skin tones pleasing throughout.  Colors found in the neon buttons of various space shuttles and other robotic characters pop nicely while, black levels waver from moments of satisfaction to instances of speckles and mild noise.  A healthy upgrade from previous releases, The Ice Pirates makes an impressive high-definition debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is clean and audible with action sequences involving laser blasts, explosions and other chaos registering with a slightly restrained presence.  Meanwhile, special features include, the film’s Trailer (2:20).

    Although imperfect, The Ice Pirates is a genuinely fun and engaging exploration of 80s science fiction that aligns impressive visuals with harmless mockery of its very genre.  Warp speeding to Blu-ray for the first time ever, Warner Archive presents the cult hit with an overly pleasing presentation sure to quench the thirst of the nostalgic and first time curios.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, The Ice Pirates can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Student Bodies (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Student Bodies (1981)

    Director: Mickey Rose

    Starring: Kristen Riter, Matt Goldsby, Joe Flood, Joe Talarowski & Jerry Belson

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Making light of the popular slasher genre, Student Bodies takes place at Lamab High School where a dimwitted serial killer, nicknamed The Breather, makes the more promiscuous teens his prey.  When good girl Toby (Kristen Riter) begins to unravel the mystery, everyone is considered a suspect in this horror parody.  

    As Paramount Pictures reaped the box-office benefits of Friday the 13th, the studio quickly shifted to mock the popular body count pictures only a year later.  Kicking off on Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis’ birthday, a bizarre serial killer with severe breathing trouble stakes his claim on the sexually-partaking students of Lamab High School.  With an array of deadly devices at his disposal, The Breather instead makes paperclips, trash bags and eggplant his weapons of choice to tidy up the horny student body.  Best known for its gag of keeping track of its death toll including the swatting of a fly counting as half a kill, Student Bodies leaves no character free of eccentricities with teachers, parents and the uniquely double-jointed janitor Malvert all suspected as the killer.  Following slasher movie tropes, the virginal final girl Toby (Riter) takes matters into her own hands to discover the identity of The Breather while simultaneously being accused as the culprit.  

    Effected by an industry strike during its making, Mickey Rose (Co-Writer of Woody Allen’s Bananas) was credited as sole writer and director although, Michael Richie (The Bad News Bears, Fletch) was in fact its lead director.  Silly yet, lacking any sizable laughs, Student Bodies is a parody with its head cut off, intent on making fun of slasher cinema but too reliant on arbitrary gags that never fully pay off.  A box-office bust at the time of its release, Student Bodies would find a second life for insomniacs on late night television.  With a bloodless body count yet hilariously earning itself an R-rating for the silliest of reasons, Student Bodies concludes with a fever dream of delusion that makes the bulk of its runtime nearly void.  Predating the popular parodical Scary Movie series, Student Bodies, haphazardly attempts to craft a horror-comedy hybrid that, much like its moronic killer, never quite catches it breath.

    Olive Films presents Student Bodies with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably possessing specks and flakes throughout its runtime, colors appear occasionally washed out but, not nearly deal-breaking.  With natural grain intact, Student Bodies is far from pristine looking but satisfies.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is serviceable with audibility never a problem.  Meanwhile, sound effects of loud ringing phones, high school band instruments and shattering glass offer a slight burst in impact that is fitting.  No special features are included on this release.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Student Bodies 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.

  • The Compleat Al (1985) DVD Review

    The Compleat Al (1985)

    Director(s): Jay Levey & Robert K. Weiss

    Starring: “Weird Al” Yankovic

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Similar to 1984’s rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, the almost-true story of another rock and roll legend is hilariously retold.  Tracing the early rise and mass success of Grammy award-winner “Weird Al” Yankovic, The Compleat Al takes viewers behind the scenes and into the comedic genius that is Al.  Rescued from VHS obscurity, Shout! Factory invites viewers once again to embrace their weird side with this concocted chronicle.

    Blending fiction and reality, The Compleat Al is the hysterical mockumentary that takes viewers behind the curtains of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s rise to fame.  From his childhood years to successful stardom, The Compleat Al captures classic moments of Yankovic‘s many journeys and contains eight of “Weird Al’s” classic music videos.  

    MOVIE:

    Riffing the 1982 renowned documentary The Compleat Beatles, the prince of parody, “Weird Al” Yankovic, continues his goofy shenanigans with his own faux rockumentary, tracing the genesis of his creative genius.  Incorporating actual home videos and scripted, albeit comical, interviews with the real Mr. & Mrs. Yankovic, The Compleat Al chronicles “Weird Al’s” early interest in music continuing through his high school and college years before hitting the big time.  Yankovic takes great pride in poking fun at the typical road to stardom story by embellishing the greater majority of his tale with over the top interpretations.  In addition, The Compleat Al incorporates footage from Yankovic’s short-lived MTV show, Al TV, which was a parody of the network itself along with awkwardly funny moments of Yankovic’s Japanese trip.  With the utmost respect for The King of Pop, “Weird Al” reinterprets his encounter with Jackson in gaining permission to parody “Beat It” with knee-slapping results.  Best viewed as a greatest hits package of “Weird Al’s” countless comedy hits, The Compleat Al also contains eight music video classics including “Ricky”, “Eat It”, “I Love Rocky Road”, “I Lost on Jeopardy” and more.

    Falling only slightly short of Yankovic’s feature film classic, UHF, The Compleat Al is a laughable look at the distorted history of “Weird Al”.  A true product of its time with its comedic integrity still intact, Dick Clark, Rick Derringer and Phil Ramone all offer their own phony accounts with Yankovic’s talent, proving the infectiously fun nature of this entertaining “real-life” account.  

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    The Compleat Al arrives in a full-screen transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Previously only available on home video and LaserDisc, The Compleat Al makes its DVD debut bearing its VHS roots.  Containing flakes, speckles and occasional tracking lines, the mockumentary still manages to relay decent colors given Yankovic’s eccentric and flashy styles.  Considering its obscurity, The Compleat Al provides a nostalgic viewing experience for Gen Xers who recall catching the faux tale on Showtime or their personal VCRs.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, The Compleat Al never sounds extravagant or greatly disappoints.  Dialogue is even and clear with no audio dropouts while, Yankovic’s music videos do embrace a slightly louder kick.  Restrained to its video age limits, The Compleat Al relays the necessary goods, providing a suitable, yet contained, listen.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Film Trailer (0:32)

    • Extended Film Trailer (5:18)

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

    Collecting cobwebs on the shelves of VHS collectors for nearly 30 years, The Compleat Al finally makes it long-awaited DVD debut.  Off the wall and far from true, “Weird Al” Yankovic weaves a hilarious tale of dreams and successful triumph with his music videos serving as the bread and butter of this obscure mockumentary.  Shout! Factory has treated fans to another welcome slice from “Weird Al’s” comedic career, missing in action for far too long.  True to its video age appearance and scant on special features, the previous unavailability and its genuine strength of hilarity within, The Compleat Al is a necessary addition for fans of the funny, the weird or more likely, both.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 11thThe Compleat Al can be purchased via Shout! FactoryAmazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (34:20)