Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Poison Ivy Collection - Erotic Thrillers Make Their Blu-ray Debuts February 12th, 2019 from Scream Factory

THE POISON IVY COLLECTION

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Duration: 91,106,94,95 Minutes 
Rating: R, Unrated 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD WIdescreen (1.85:1) 

The delightfully sleazy neo-noir Poison Ivy films make their Blu-ray debuts February 12th, 2019 as a four disc Blu-ray box set from Scream Factory. This collection of sinister psychodramas also includes a new audio commentary with co-writer/director Katt Shea, as well as both the rated and unrated versions of each film. Fans can pre-order their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com

Tempestuous young Ivy (Drew Barrymore) befriends introverted teen Sylvie (Sara Gilbert) and seduces her way into the lives of Sylvie's wealthy family in Poison Ivy. In the piquant follow-up, Poison Ivy 2: Lily, a sheltered art student (Alyssa Milano) finds Ivy's diaries and, after reading them, is lured into uninhibited risk-taking to become a wild woman! Then Ivy's sister (Jaime Pressly) visits the Greer residence in Poison Ivy: The New Seduction, and it doesn't take long for her to use her skills of manipulation to throw the household into a slate of panic and deceit. A college freshman (Miriam McDonald) is invited to join an exclusive campus sisterhood where cold blooded ambition causes the group to seduce, blackmail or do away with anyone that gets in their way in Poison Ivy: The Secret Society.

Special Features: 

Poison Ivy (1992) 
- Rated version of the film
- Unrated version (with standard definition inserts) 
- NEW Audio Commentary with co-writer/director Katt Shea(theatrical version)
- Theatrical Trailer

Poison Ivy 2: Lily (1996) 
- Rated version of the film
- Unrated version of the film (with standard definition inserts.)
- Trailer

Poison Ivy: The New Seduction (1997) 
- Rated version of the film
- Unrated version of the film (with standard definition inserts.)
- Trailer

Poison Ivy: The Secret Society (2008) 
- Unrated version
- Trailer


BACKBEAT (1994) ARRIVES ON BLU-RAY FEBRUARY 19th, 2019 FROM SHOUT! SELECT

THE ORIGINAL “FIFTH BEATLE” HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN HIS BEST FRIENDS … THE WOMAN HE LOVED… AND THE GREATEST ROCK & ROLL BAND IN THE WORLD

BACKBEAT (1994) 

Label: Shout! Select
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 100 Minutes
AUdio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Iain Softley
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Ian Hart,  Sheryl Lee

Before anyone had ever heard of The Beatles, there was a group of five playing clubs in Hamburg, Germany. They were raw and irreverent. Now, the story of Stuart Sutcliffe, the “fifth Beatle,” can be told – better than ever! On February 19, 2019, Shout! Select will release BACKBEAT, directed by Iain Softley, on Blu-ray. This enthralling story about the pre-fame Beatles contains special features. Pre-order is available now at ShoutFactory.com

From the director of K-PAX, Hackers, and Skeleton Key, and starring Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks), Stephen Dorff (Blade, Cold Creek Manor), and Ian Hart (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) BACKBEAT is an energetic musical drama chronicling the pre-fame Beatles as they head to Hamburg in search of success. As they gain popularity, the “fifth Beatle,” bass guitarist Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff), falls in love and ultimately must choose between his best friend John Lennon (Ian Hart), his new love Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee) – and the greatest rock-and-roll band in the world.

Winner of the London Film Critics Circle’s British Newcomer of the Year Award and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award for Best Film Music, the 1993 film features a soundtrack that includes music from Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), David Pirner (Soul Asylum) and Mike Mills (R.E.M.)


Special Features:
- A Conversation with Astrid Kirchherr
- Deleted Scenes
- Interviews with Iain Softley and actor Ian Hart
- Iain Softley interview for the Sundance Channel
- Audio commentary with Iain Softley, Ian Hart, and Stephen Dorff
- TV Featurette
- Casting Session


SCREAM FACTORY PRESENTS THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956) IN ITS BLU-RAY DEBUT FEBRUARY 26th, 2019


THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956) 

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 77 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles
Video: B&W 1080p HD Widescreen (2.00:1) & (1.85:1)  
Director: Virgil W. Vogel
Cast: John Agar, Cynthia Patrick, Hugh Beaumont, Nestor Paiva, Alan Napier

From a lost age…horror crawl from the depths of the earth! Scream Factory proudly presents The Mole People on Blu-ray for the first time in North America on February 26th, 2019. Scream Factory’s release presents the film in two aspect ratios (1.85:1 and 2.00:1) and comes complete with special features including new featurette, new audio commentary with Film Historians Tom Weaver and David Schecter and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode of “The Mole People.”

John Agar (Attack of the Puppet People), Hugh Beaumont (Leave It to Beaver) and Nestor Paiva (Creature from The Black Lagoon) star as three archaeologists who discover the remnants of a mutant five-millennia-old Sumerian civilization living beneath a glacier atop a mountain in Mesopotamia.

The party of archeologists come upon an unusual race of albino beings who shun all forms of light and have mutant mole men as their slaves. Because of their “magical cylinders of fire” (what we know as flashlights), these archaeologists are treated like gods – until they try to liberate the mole people. Can the archaeologists escape this hallowed mountain in Asia … or will they be destroyed in a strange underground world?


Special Features:
- The Film Presented In Two Aspect Ratios – 1.85:1 and 2.00:1
- NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historians Tom Weaver And David Schecter
- NEW Of Mushrooms And Madmen: The Making Of The Mole People
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode “The Mole People” (2/15/97) In Standard Definition
- Still Galleries – Movie Stills, Posters And Lobby Cards
- Theatrical Trailer

THE DARK (2018) (Dark Sky Films DVD Review)

THE DARK (2018) 

Label: Dark Sky Films
Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Justin P. Lange
Cast: Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols, Karl Markovics



Here we have a rather intriguing indie film, a dark fairytale of sorts, about two damaged kids who comes together, one the victim of a sexual predator whose inflicted a horrific blinding injury upon the young boy, the other a wild feral girl who seems to have returned from the dead, her face scarred by the actions of another predatory adult. They come together in a wooded under less than ideal circumstances, an area ominously known as the Devil's Den, with the kids striking up a budding friendship while trying to understand one another. 


The young girl Mina (Nadia Alexander) is a gray-skinned ghoul of some sort, not quite a zombie, not quite a vampire, but something in between. The skittish boy Alex (Toby Nichols) has been brain-washed by his previous captor, both are victims. Mina proves to be the protector of the pair, she craves human flesh and inflicts her wrath on any adults who come to near, or would do her or her new found friend harm. 


As the film plays out it has the air of a fable, a dark children's story, with touches that brought to mind Let The Right One In. But this is no mere clone, a surprising assured indie film that has a lot to say without saying too much, keeping an air of mystery about it throughout.


I like that it doesn't lay all it's cards on the table, though we do get some insight into Mina's tragic origins through flashback. She even lays out her story for her new friend,  describing how she's become a local urban legend about a murderous wild child that said to stalk the local woods, but at the heart of the story is the coming together of a pair of damaged kids, and how they manage to save each other, emerging from the darkness of the and into the light.


While I think the title of this film is horrifically generic it's solid indie-horror debut from director Justin P. Lange, a well-made story of dark, kindred spirits finding their way in the horrible world with a great cast and gorgeous autumnal scenery, recommended.  



The DVD from Dark Sky Films looks solid for a standard definition presentation, sadly the only extra is a 2-min trailer for the film and a handful of other Dark Sky Films releases, I would have loved a commentary from this up and coming director. 

THE CHAIN REACTION (1980) (Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray Review)

THE CHAIN REACTION (1980) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Ian Barry
Cast: Ross Thompson, Steve Bisley, Arna-Maria Winchester, Ralph Cotterill, Hugh Keays-Byrne



When a powerful earthquake centered in the Australian outback causes damage to the WALDO (Western Atomic Longterm Dumping Organization) nuclear waste storage facility it releases massive amounts of nuclear contamination into the local groundwater supply. An engineer at the plant named Heinrich Schmidt (Ross Thompson) risks his life to minimize the threat, but winds up doused in hundred of gallons of contaminated waste water, it's a fatal dose. Dying in the hospital he tries to warn his superiors of the impending threat to the larger community, only to discover that they're looking to quietly cover up the accident. He escapes his confines and tries to reach a colleague on the outside who will help spread the warning to the public, but his superiors have other plans. 



Enter Australian everyman, car mechanic Larry Stilson (Steve Bisley, Mad Max) and his wife Carmel (Anna-Maria Winchester), a couple on a weekend getaway when the delirious Heinrich arrives at their cabin, looking the worse for wear, suffering from the effects of radiation exposure, including memory loss, which renders him unable to communicate the threat at hand. 




Unaware of the danger the couple find themselves caring for the engineer, but find they're now unwitting targets are an extermination squad of contamination-suited henchmen lead by the steely-eyed Gray (Ralph Cotterill, Howling III) whom has been dispatched by the WALDO honchos to recover the dying engineer and to keep the impending nuclear threat under wraps!




This is a thriller that works on several levels, it's an atmospheric piece of work, plus we get both the suspenseful thrills and amped-up car chases that were second-unit directed by George Miller, the director of the Mad Max films! Most of the car action involves a Ford Fairlane LTD and Larry's sweet ride, a modified Holden utility  truck with some sporty striping, both vehicles tear it up on the dusty roads with lots of colliding sheet metal and revved-up engines, everything edited to adrenalized perfection. 




The Chain Reaction (1980) has a lot to offer, high-octane car chases, evil corporate baddies, secretive cover-ups, and the threat of a nuclear nightmare - what's not to love!?! Also be on the lookout for a bearded, blink and you'll muss it cameo from Mel Gibson (Mad Max) and Mr Toecutter himself Hugh Keays-Byrne (Mad Max, Mad Max: Fury Road) in a larger role, he's a good guy this time around, but that guy still oozes a strange menace. Bisley plays well as the average bloke sucked into a dirty scheme, he has some good lines, my favorite being "I need some negotiating power – twelve gauge!", that's good stuff! Then you have Ralph Cotterill playing the baddie to the hilt, a bad man on a mission, and completely despicable.




Audio/Video: The Chain Reaction (1978) debuts on region-free Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment as part of their Ozploitation Classics line-up with a new 4K scan, we get a 1080p HD presentation framed in 1.85:1 widescreen. I didn't see any verbage about the lineage of this HD master but it looks terrific, grain in unfiltered and carries with it some impressive detail in close-ups, the colors are rich and vibrant, with a little bit of softness throughout. Black levels are generally very good, with blemishes being relegated too some minor white speckling and a vertical line every now and again, but overall this is a very pleasing image from start to finish. 




Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with optional English subtitles. Dialogue is crisp and clear, depending on your ear for Australian accents, and the electronic score from Andrew Thomas Wilson sounding quite good in the mix. 




Umbrella offer up a nice array of extras for this film, beginning with 64-mins of extended interviews from Mark Hartley's 'Not Quite Hollywood' doc, interviews with stars Steve Bisley and Ana-Maria Winchester, director Ian Barry, and associate producer Ross Matthews. There's also a 33-min vintage making of featurette produced by Mark Hartley, with interviews from Ian Barry, star Steve Bisley, and producer David Elfick, plus 9-min of deleted and extended scenes, and the director's 25-min short film 'The Sparks Obituary' (1978) with an introduction from writer/director Ian Barry. 




There's also a 94-min rough cut of the film titled 'The Man at the Edge of the Freeway' which runs 94-min, sourced from what looks to be a full frame video source, bit not looking too bad all things considered. Extras are finished-up with a trailer, a VHS trailer and a TV spot for the film, plus there's an Easter Egg on the main menu which looks to be an option to watch the film in a full-frame version, sort of a grindhouse viewing option I guess, but it looks to be from the same HD transfer, not the rough cut version. I didn't detect any differences in the content while I skimmed through it, and it the same running time as the main feature, and is framed with a film frame graphic that gives it a 8mm look. 




The single-disc release comes housed in an oversized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the two options are similar but different, both I think are vintage poster artworks, one option with the ratings brand on the cover, the other without, the disc itself features an excerpt of the same key artwork. 




Special Features: 

- Extended 'Not Quite Hollywood' Interviews - presented here three extended interviews conducted by director Mark Hartley for his documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (64 min) 
- Thrills & Nuclear Spills (33 min) 
- The Sparks Obituary (1978) (25 min) 
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (9 min) 
- The Man at the Edge of the Freeway: Early Cut (94 min) 
- Trailer (4 min) 
- VHS Trailer (3 min) 
- TV Spot (1 min) 
- Still Galley (3 min) 
- Easter Egg (92 min) 



The Chain Reaction (1980) looks to have been out of circulation for a bit, it's a film I don't think I'd even heard of until this release was announced. It's nice to see this Aussie slice of action salvaged from the dust bin with a new HD transfer and a sweet set of extras from Umbrella. While the nuclear nightmare story is a product of it's time, the amped-up ozploitation carnage keeps things fresh, a fun watch and a real-deal slice of ozploitation mayhem, highly recommended.



Friday, January 11, 2019

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) (WAC Blu-ray Review)

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) 

Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: A
Duration: 82 Minutes 
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English DTS HD-MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, John van Eyssen


When Hammer found success within horror beginning with Curse Of Frankenstein (1957)
they immediately turned their sights on the iconic bloodsucker with Horror of Dracula (1958), based on the Bram Stoker source but introducing a more overt sexuality into the mythos. With Christopher Lee as the blood-shot eyed vampire, the doomed women absolutely craved his touch and the promise of eternal life, the delight in their eyes is absolutely orgasmic. 


The film opens in 1885 with vampire hunter  Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen, Quatermass 2) arriving at the castle of Count Dracula (Christopher Lee, The Wicker Man) ostensibly to take on a librarian position with the Count, but we come to find out he's on a mission to kill the bloodsucker. He arrives during the daylight hours and meets an attractive woman inside who begs him for help, but before she can reveal from what threat exactly she runs off ito the shadows and hides as Count Dracula makes his impressive, caped presence known. 


The Count greets Harker and plays at being a hospitable host, touring the castle and showing him to his room, only to lock the door behind him, trapping Harker inside. Later Harker manages to escape the room and descends into the Count's subterranean crypt where he sleeps during the day, first staking his vampire bride through the heart. After her death the formerly voluptuous, young woman deteriorates into her true form, that of an old woman. He then moves in on Dracula himself only to find that the sun has already set and the bloodsucker has arisen from his undead slumber, sealing the vampire hunter's fate in the dark of the basement. 


A few days later Harker's vampire hunter partner Van Helsing (Peter Cushing, Corruption) arrives at the castle of Count Dracula in search of his colleague, he finds the castle unsecured and lets himself in, finding the crypt below and coming upon the dead vampire bride, then finding Harker in Dracula's coffin, having been bitten and turned into a vampire. He reluctantly kills his friend, thereby sparing him the curse of vampirism. Van Helsing then returns to the neighboring city where Harker lived, informing Harker's brother Arthur Holmwood (a very young Michael Gough, Satan's slaveand his wife Mina (Melissa Stribling, Crucible of Terror) of his passing, but keeping the supernatural details of his fate from everyone, including Harker's ill fiance Lucy (Carol Marsh, Scrooge). 


Not long after Dracula comes visiting the bed ridden Lucy in her room in the dark of night, slowly draining her of blood with her falling under his spell, becoming one of his vampire brides. Eventually she dies from his nightly feeding, and realizing that she will return from the grave as one of the undead Van Helsing confides in Arthur the true nature of what is happening, with Arthur assuming the role of Van Helsing's vampire hunting partner as his brother did before him, with both setting out to rid the world of Dracula. 


For my hard-earned money Peter Cushing is the best onscreen version of Van Helsing bar none, no one else has ever come close in my opinion. He's driven and commanding, a moral monolith, if he walked up to me and told me we had vampires to kill I'm sure I would be sharpening wooden stakes not long after. He has that specific British gravitas that the role demands, never failing to deliver the goods during his tenure in the role. Also delivering the goods is Christopher Lee as Dracula, his defining role, a undead creature of few words, capable of transforming from charming host to a bloody-eyed, fanged menace with blood dripping from his lips, his mesmerizing eyes casting a spell upon his victims (with the help of some well placed lighting), you can absolutely believe his stare would melt away the moral inhibitions of these young ladies, who are only too happy to have his fangs buried deep in there necks. 


The film is tightly directed by the very capable Terrence Fisher (The Gorgon) from a streamlined script by Jimmy Sangster (The Curse of Frankenstein), this thing moves, and it has a wonderful Gothic atmosphere. The stone walled castle draped in velvet, the Victorian wood paneling and stained glass, the authentoc period costuming all looks very grand indeed, this is a very handsome Hammer horror entry, one of their best, and an essential slice of horror.  


Audio/Video: Horror of Dracula (1958) arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive sourced from the Hammer/BFI Restoration Master, presented in 1080p HD and framed in 1.66:1 widescreen. Grain is well managed with pleasing amounts of fine detail in the velvety period textures and Gothic trappings, skin tones are warm and natural looking, and the blacks are good, though there's a bit of black crush evident as well - it's not perfection but I think this is a very lush and welcomed 1080p presentation.  


Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Mono that shows some age related wear by way of hiss, but it's pretty subtle. The score James Bernard (Plague of the Zombies) sounds terrific, a commanding and ominous score that is still among my favorite of all the Dracula films. 

Sadly, the only extra on this release is a blemished riddled trailer for the film, which is a bit of a disappointment. These Hammer films are much loved and deserve a wealth of extras. While I am pleased to get this on Blu-ray here in the U.S. I do wish it had been afforded a more lavish extras package, a film of this caliber certainly deserves more.
  

The single disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, what I believe is the French illustrated artwork, which is also featured on the disc. 

Special Features:
- Trailer (2 min) HD 


Horror of Dracula (1958) gets a lush looking Blu-ray from the Warner Archive, the lack of extras is a bit of a shame, but the A/V presentation is a true delight. This bloodsucking classic has never looked better on home video here in the U.S., fans of Hammer horror, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee will need this in their collections, highly recommended.