Blu-ray/DVD Reviews


Currently showing posts tagged World War II

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

    Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959)

    Director: Norman Taurog

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Blu-ray Review

    Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

    Director: John Sturges

    Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, John Ericson, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Russell Collins & Walter Sande

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a desert ghost town, Bad Day at Black Rock finds WWII veteran John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy, Inherit the Wind) passing through only to find his visit and reasons for doing so confronted with suspicion and threats from the locals, led by Reno Smith (Robert Ryan, The Set-Up).  Unwelcome wherever he roams, Macreedy’s mysterious presence slowly reveals the town’s deadly secret.  John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven) helms the drama, nominated for three Academy Awards.

    Beautifully shot in the golden vistas of Lone Pine, California and neighboring Nevada, Bad Day at Black Rock is a captivating viewing experience, blending the realms of western noir and suspenseful intrigue.  Following the aftermath of World War II, handicapped veteran John J. Macreedy travels to the sleepy community of Black Rock in search of a man named Komoko.  Met with unwavering suspicion and coldness from the tight-knit locals, Macreedy finds himself refused a hotel room and overwhelmed with questions regarding his business.  Slowly developing a pleasant relationship with the local doctor while, the town sheriff wallows in self-pity and alcohol, the town’s true leader Remo Smith informs the curious traveler that his Japanese friend was interned during the course of the war.  Refusing to believe the questionable tales spun by Black Rock’s aggressively racist residents, Macreedy investigates matters on his own determining more is not right than previously assumed.  With messages to the state police left unsent and Smith’s henchmen hellbent on making the veteran suffer for not leaving well enough alone, a war is waged between Smith longing to keep the town’s secret intact and the outsider with nothing left to lose.  Battling his own personal fight against alcoholism at the time while being questionably too old for the part, Spencer Tracy dazzles in the lead as a suit-wearing mystery man arriving in a dusty town uncovering the worst and then some.  In addition, Robert Ryan plays the film’s heel with a sharp coyness that makes his violent turn against Macreedy in the final act all the more effective.  Furthermore, Smith’s cronies, played namely by Lee Marvin (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and Ernest Borgnine (Marty) who goes toe-to-toe with Macreedy in a barroom brawl, are perfect supporting heavies to Ryan’s calm but dangerous baddie.  An expert demonstration of drama and tensely orchestrated suspense, Bad Day at Black Rock, rightly categorized by Turner Classic Movies’ Robert Osbourne as essential, is just that.

    Warner Archive presents Bad Day at Black Rock with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Capturing the grandiose mountains, blue skies and desert terrain of its setting, colors are bold and beautiful while, skin tones are never comprised.  Featuring crisp levels of detail in the costume’s of Black Rock’s locals and Macreedy’s black suit, sweat beads and dirt scuffs on facial features and attire are captured with ease.  Free of any unwanted scuffs or scratches, the film’s transfer is an absolute stunner.  Equipped with a perfectly suited DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that relays crisp dialogue exchanges and the roar of train engines, quality is of equal measure to its visual counterpart.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Dana Polan and the Theatrical Trailer (3:26).

    Gorgeously photographed and packing powerful performances, Bad Day at Black Rock is a most memorable experience with cutting suspense capable of keeping viewers glued to its unfolding.  Also known as being Spencer Tracy’s last onscreen role for MGM, Warner Archive upgrades this essential slice of cinema to high-definition with splendid clarity and filmic naturalness sure to be hailed as its definitive home video statement.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, Bad Day at Black Rock can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

  • Wolf Lake (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Wolf Lake (1980)

    Director: Burt Kennedy

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

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

    At War with the Army (1950)

    Director: Hal Walker

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

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

    Ten Seconds to Hell (1959)

    Director: Robert Aldrich

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Tropic of Desire (1979) / Fantasy World (1979) DVD Review

    Tropic of Desire (1979) / Fantasy World (1979)

    Director(s): Bob Chinn / Bob Chinn & Jeffrey Neal

    Starring: Georgina Spelvin, Jesie St. James & Kitty Shayne / Laurien Dominique, Sharon Cain & Jon Martin

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Packing a double dose of Bob Chinn skin flicks, the purveyors of pornography, Vinegar Syndrome, invite you to their latest Peekarama offering.  A World War II period piece set in the exotic locale of Hawaii joined by a trippy sexual romp more exotic than Fantasy Island await curious minds.  Restored in 2K from their original camera negatives, Vinegar Syndrome will whisk you away with Tropic of Desire and Fantasy World

    Starring Georgina Spelvin (Erotic Adventures of Candy) as the house mom, Tropic of Desire centers on an island-based brothel serving WWII soldiers the very finest in sexual pleasure.  Fantasy World focuses on two groups of friends as their curiosity leads them to a mysterious club in San Francisco where their sexual fantasies become realities.  Lauren Dominique (Hot Legs), Jesie St. James (Talk Dirty to Me) and Sharon Cain (When She Was Bad) star.


    Set in Director Bob Chinn’s home turf of Hawaii, Tropic of Desire takes place in 1945 during the height of World War II.  Frances‘ is the hottest brothel in town for passing sailors serving their country in search of pleasurable relief.  Stocked with attractive ladies, a group of Navy sailors return to the comfort of the brothel after a long stint at sea.  Jack (Jon Martin) couldn’t be happier to see Donna (Jesie St. James) and get down to business while, Gus (Ken Cotton) wallows in despair at the sudden departure of his favorite whore and lone virgin, Phil (David Blair), loses his nerves.  Tropic of Desire remains relatively light on dialogue opting to focus on the more provocative.  House mother, Frances (Georgina Spelvin), enjoys pleasuring herself by humping a pillow before breaking in Rita’s replacement with oral pleasure.  Meanwhile, the sailors have a gay, old time as Jack reaps the fruits of Donna’s blow job before fornicating and Phil gains an extreme sexual stamina after shedding his virginal wings.  Befriending a fellow soldier, Gus gets over his depression and the two military men sit back with two of Frances‘ finest to witness some highly unusual stag films.  The two get lucky in a variety of ways but surprisingly, the stag film that finds a man losing his watch in a woman after deeply fisting her is what keeps the viewers eyes glued in awe.  Nicely shot with a captivating array of ladies on display, Tropic of Desire is very paint by numbers as far as sexual scenarios are concerned.  A mediocre effort, the film does conclude with a hilarious, poorly staged brawl between a group of Marines and the sailors.

    RATING: 3/5

    Utilizing some of the same sets and actors, Fantasy World yet again finds a trio of Navy sailors hatching the best way to get their rocks off for the evening.  Meanwhile, three beautiful girls touring San Francisco seek some live sexual entertainment for the night as well.  Both groups find themselves at the mysterious Fantasy World nightclub where your most bizarre fantasies become reality.  Hosted by an eccentric MC wearing a white suit and matching face paint, the audience is witness to live reenactments of Adam and Eve that includes Eve getting extra friendly with a real snake before consummating with Adam.  Eventually, members of the two parties are invited on stage to experience their deepest desires.  One sailor longs for the sexual companionship of two women while, one women’s extreme horniness finds her happily administering oral pleasure to several mystery men each with climactic results.  The more prudish and resilient female of the group finds herself in a dominatrix fantasy with the lone sailor as she whips him repeatedly before engaging in endless oral play and doggy style positioning.  The surreal and odd tone of the club makes for a slightly more engaging viewing experience.  The unusual, vaudeville-esque host of the club and the even weirder live sex performances of the evening at the very least make Fantasy World memorable.

    RATING: 3.5/5


    Restored in 2K from their 35mm camera negatives, both films bear 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Each film looks most impressive sporting an overall clean appearance with minimal cases of scratches or debris.  Skin tones are near perfect with natural looking appearances and colors, most noticeable in actresses’ lipstick and nail polish, pop exceptionally well.  Black levels are slightly rougher in Fantasy World where the dark lightning of the club make flakes and speckles all the more noticeable but hardly deterring.

    RATING: 4/5


    Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 mixes, this latest Peekarama effort maintains a light, static hiss throughout both films with only a few noticeable pops.  Dialogue is otherwise clear and audible with nothing left to interpretation.  In addition, more tantalizing sequences, relaying the swashing of tongues or other body parts is surprisingly crisper than anticipated.

    RATING: 3.5/5


    - Tropic of Desire Trailer

    - Fantasy World Trailer

    RATING: 1/5


    Another mature mash-up of erotic features from Vinegar Syndrome’s Peekarama line should get the job done for fans of Bob Chinn’s output.  While, nicely shot and invoking the exotic climate of Hawaii, Tropic of Desire is a slightly underwhelming effort with its greatest attributes being the attractive employees at Frances‘ and the humorous brawl at the film’s finale.  Meanwhile, Fantasy World makes good on its promise of being more erotic than the Ricardo Montalbán starring television show.  The Corman-like recycling of sets and actors matched with the peculiar host of the sexually charged nightclub make this effort a uniquely oddball piece of pornography.  The inspiration for Burt Reynolds’ Boogie Nights character, Vinegar Syndrome has done another fine service preserving more of iconic pornographer Bob Chinn’s output.

    RATING: 3/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #12: Countess Dracula, Happy Days, Vampire Academy, Twilight Time & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #12 includes:

    - Grand Piano (2013) (0:42)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Magnolia Pictures:

    - Wild at Heart (1990) (6:59)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Twilight Time:

    - Used Cars (1980) (14:10)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Twilight Time:

    - Vampire Academy (2014) (21:10)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment:

    - Happy Days Season 5 (27:31)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014

    - House of Dust (2013) (31:47)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment:

    - Countess Dracula (1971) (35:42)
    Street Date: May 6, 2014
    Synapse Films:

    - Flying Tigers (1942) (41:32)
    Street Date: May 13, 2014
    Olive Films:

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (46:52)

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

    Sophie’s Choice (1982)
    Director: Alan J. Pakula
    Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline & Peter MacNicol
    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the best-selling novel by William Styron, Director Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men) brought to life this heartbreaking tale of friendship and the secrets we keep.  Starring Meryl Streep (Doubt), in an Academy Award winning performance, this exhilarating tale is complimented with powerhouse performances that will leave you in awe.  Shout! Factory, in association with ITV Studios, proudly presents Sophie’s Choice in a much deserved collector’s edition.  Ranked #91 in AFI’s Greatest 100 Movies of All Time 2007 list, Sophie’s Choice is a masterwork from all the parties involved.  

    Set in post-World War II Brooklyn, Sophie’s Choice stars Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska, a Polish-Catholic immigrant who survived a Nazi concentration camp.  Living with her middle-aged Jewish boyfriend, Nathan (Kevin Kline), the couple befriend their new neighbor, would-be writer Stingo (Peter MacNicol).  As the couples’ drama unfolds and their bond with Stingo increases, hidden truths are slowly revealed.  

    Meryl Streep’s perfectionism to her craft has earned her a record 18 Academy Award nominations and three wins.  Understandably, many consider her to be the greatest living actress with memorable roles in Out of Africa, Adaptation., and August: Osage County.  With a career as illustrious as Streep’s, it becomes difficult to select a favorite let alone a flaw in her works.  Streep’s magnificent turn in Sophie’s Choice is highlighted by her determination to master the Polish and German language in order to perfect her character’s accent.  Almost immediately, the viewer forgets about Meryl Streep and only knows Sophie Zawistowska.  Streep believably sells the role of a Polish-immigrant struggling with the English language in 1940s Brooklyn.  Streep reportedly begged Pakula on her hands and knees for the role that was originally courting Magda Vásáryová.  Sophie’s Jewish, Holocaust obsessed boyfriend, Nathan, is played with equal brilliance by Kevin Kline (The Big Chill), in his feature film debut.  Kline’s energetic performance is akin to Jekyll and Hyde as he adores Sophie one minute and violently grows bitter, jealous and violent the next.  A film debut of this caliber will remind audiences that Kline may have arguably, been the greatest acting discovery of the 1980s.  Sophie and Nathan’s friendship with their new neighbor, Stingo (MacNicol), is the silver lining that bonds the trio.  Texas born, Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II) made his film debut only a year earlier with 1981’s Dragonslayer before tackling this intense drama.  A fine character actor with roles in Addams Family Values and Bean, MacNicol brings a breath of gravity to the film amongst his new friends’ complicated relationship.  Destined to write the great American novel, Stingo finds himself swept up in Nathan’s bipolar-esque behavior while, falling for Sophie.

    Bonds strengthen as Nathan’s outbursts become more frequent, resulting in the couples’ dark secrets being revealed.  Stingo learns the truth behind Nathan’s alarming behavior while, Sophie confides in her new friend about her concentration camp experiences. Upon arriving at Auschwitz with her two children, a Nazi soldier forces Sophie with the impossible task of choosing which of one her children will be sent to death.  The emotional impact of this haunting sequence will forever be rooted in your conscience.  As Stingo’s love for Sophie becomes clear and their future together within reach, a darkness is cast over the conclusion to this emotionally-wound, perfectly acted character study.  Sophie’s Choice sweeps the viewer into the trios’ relationship, showcasing the finer sides of true friendship and the dark secrets we all try to suppress.  Beautifully shot and remarkably cast, Sophie’s Choice is a riveting drama and heartbreaking tragedy resulting in cinematic perfection.
    RATING: 5/5

    Sophie’s Choice is presented with a 1080 transfer in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  The film is rich with natural grain and accurate skin tones.  Colors are striking and bold, if not, inconsistent at times.  Stingo’s arrival at his new Brooklyn residence pops with bright green lawns and bushes while, dimly lit scenes in Sophie and Nathan’s apartment and Sophie’s time at Auschwitz relay a soft, (most likely) intentional lifeless color scheme.  Moments of flecks and speckles are far and few between with close-ups looking most impressive.  Sophie’s Choice has never had its fair due on home video but thankfully, Shout! Factory’s transfer is the finest its ever looked.
    RATING: 4/5

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Sophie’s Choice is a character driven drama with much dialogue that is nicely and cleanly heard throughout.  No cracks or distortion of any kind intrude, making this mix more than adequate.
    RATING: 4/5


    - New Roundtable Discussion with Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and More

    - Audio Commentary with Director Alan J. Pakula

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Sophie’s Choice is a lengthy, period piece drama about the company we keep and the secrets we hold even closer.  Never boring and always engaging, the combined efforts of the magnificent Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline (in one of the finest film debuts of all time) and the criminally underrated Peter MacNicol, make this tale of three unlikely friends one of the most impressive works of the decade.  Handled with the utmost care, Shout! Factory have preserved this classic film in a worthy collector’s edition release.  Matched with a lovely video transfer, crisp sound mix and wonderful special features including the fantastic roundtable discussion with the likes of Streep and Kline, Sophie’s Choice is the rare example of a perfect film that can now be better appreciated thanks to Shout! Factory’s impressive collector’s edition.
    RATING: 4.5/5