Wednesday, June 28, 2017

EMPIRE PICTURES BLU-RAY COLLECTION (1983-1988) (Blu-ray Review)


EMPIRE PICTURES BLU-RAY COLLECTION (1983-1988)

LIMITED EDITION OF 600

Label: Full Moon Features/Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Audio: English DTS-HD MA, Dolby Digital with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen, Fullscreen
Directors: Charles Band, Rosemarie Turko, Steve Ford, Ted Nicolaou, Charles, Rosemarie Turko, Steve Ford, Ted Nicolaou, Charles , Stuart Gordon, Peter Manoogian, Richard Governor, Mac Ahlberg, John Carl Buechler 


Fans of 80s horror who are of a certain age will most certainly fondly remember the movies made by Empire Pictures, a company started by Charles Band in the early 80's, pumping out a steady stream of low to mid budget horror, cult and science fiction films, many of which which have gone on to a long life as cult-classics and nostalgic horror favorites. Empire's initial success came with the release of the pint-sized terror classic Ghoulies in '85, more success followed with Re-Animator, From Beyond and many more. Empire enjoyed a brief but fruitful tenure before going bankrupt in '88, it was a great run but as they say, all good things must come to an end. That same year Charles Band started Full Moon Entertainment, and launched the hugely successful Puppet Master films, which are still going strong today, but today we gather to celebrate Empire Pictures, with a review of the new Empire Pictures Blu-ray Collection,a 15-disc set spanning '83-'88, a magic period for Band and his merry bunch of horror-makers.

This new box set, available exclusively from www.fullmoondirect.com, is a celebration of the Empire Pictures glory days, assembling 17 films (20 if you count the "bonus" films and the 3-D version of Metalstorm) - all of which have been previously released through Shout! Factory horror imprint Scream Factory previously, and one from Full moon. This is basically a repackaging of those same discs with the same transfers and extras with cool retro key artwork from the empire archives.


Alright, let's dig in and get to the meat and potatoes of this cool set, beginning with the post apocalyptic sci-fi film Metalstorm...   


METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN (1983)
METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN 3-D(1983)

Rating: PG

Duration: 84 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Charles Band
Cast: Mike Preston, Richard Moll, Tim Thomerson, Jeffrey Byron, Kelly Preston


Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) is a sci-fi action film directed by Empire Pictures founder Charles Band (Puppet Master, Trancers) that owes no small amount of pilfered inspiration from the Mad Max movies. Here we have a wasteland ranger named Dogen (Jeffrey Byron, The Dungeonmaster) driving through the wasteland in a futuristic vehicle - or something about as futuristic as something from Roger Corman produced Deathsport (1978) or Battletruck (1982). Dogen is being pursued by a "skybike", which is sort of like the SkyCutter the Mutants flew around on in the 80s TV cartoon Thundercats. The skybike is being piloted by a mercenary working for the nefarious evil overlord Jared-Syn, who is the true baddie in the movie, played by Mike Preston, who played Pappagallo in The Road Warrior. Not only did Charles Band borrow a lot of inspiration from Mad Max but he also snagged one of it's cast to star in this 3D adventure which sort of feels a bit like Mad Max by way of Flash Gordon, but on a budget that would make the Italian Mad Max rip-off Exterminators in the Year 3000 (1983) seems extravagant by comparison. Dogen shoots down the skybike and recovers a red crystal from the dead mercenary, these crystals figure prominently into the somewhat ambiguous storyline. Enter an old prospector and his lovely daughter Dhyana (Kelly Preston, Christine) who are mining for rare crystals when the prospector uncovers an abnormally large shard of the gem which should make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. As he begins to celebrate the find Jared-Syn's son, the half-cyborg Baal (R. David Smith) arrives on scene, the hydraulic clamp-handed Baal squirts the miner with some green-goo which magically transports the miner to a weird alternate-reality, none of which is explained to any satisfaction, nonetheless he murdered. The daughter survives and forms an alliance with Dogen, and with the help of a shaman they are told the red crystal Dogen recovered is a storage device that can store human life force, which ties into a larger crystal in the possession of Jared-Syn.


When Dhyana is later kidnapped by Jared-Syn Dogen seeks the help of a former ranger named Rhodes, played by Tim Thomerson of Trancers fame whom reluctantly aligns himself with Dogen. Together they venture into the wasteland to find Syn and rescue Dhyana. However, the journey is fraught with danger and the pair travel through the territory of the Cyclopean people where they must contend with the race of one-eyed warriors lead by Hurok (Richard Moll, The Dungeonmaster). The cyclopean are none too pleased that the rangers have trespassed on their sacred land, through hand to hand combat Dogen defeats Hurok and they are freed.


The movie is a bit long in the tooth for an eighty-four minute movie, peppered with some fun idea and designs, but the damn thing becomes a bit lost inside it's own mythology, there is so much extraneous stuff happening that I found it all a bit hard to follow, the movie is very unfocused, but if you can check your brain at the door and come into this with some lowered expectations there is a some low-rent science fiction fun to be had, provided you can get past the lo-fi approach, which I was able to to do with out much of a problem, if you love b-movies this should not be a deterrent. 

It is hard not to have fun with the cast of apocalyptic characters crammed into this one. Dogen looks like he walked right off the set off Mad Max with his black leathers and sidearm, but doesn't have a whole lot of presence. All the baddies could be torn from any of the Roger Corman's produced post-apocalyptic movies and the battle vehicles seem to be made from scraps of sheet metal mounted on VW chassis, everything is wonderfully cheap and cheesy, and I expected nothing less from the movie, and walked away a pretty happy camper.

All characters are one-note cardboard cut-outs, there's no depth to any one of them, and with only an ounce or two of charisma to share amongst them at least they were cool to watch. They do what they can with the material, which is honestly not much, but at the movie only comes off as confusing, never quite boring. The mish mash of science and magic doesn't make a whole lot of sense either, you really have to check your brain at the door and just resign yourself to how dumb the whole thing is, and I enjoyed it on that level but make no mistake, this is a bad movie.


Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn was previously issued on Blu-ray from Scream Factory as a 2-disc Collector's Edition, this is the same release but Full Moon have opted to give each version, the 2-D and 3-D,  separate keep cases with alternate artwork, which is cool, but the discs are the same as the 2-disc collector's edition, I think it's a small cheat to have them in separate keepcases, but at least we get two cool artwork options. The image is decently  vibrant and crisp with some nice depth and clarity. The movie does have an abundance of cheesily composited special effects shots so the grain structure and contrast did fluctuate a bit but overall this is a very pleasing experience in HD. The artwork on the the sleeves are different from the Scream Factory release, fans of variant art will certainly appreciate this.

Audio chores are capably handled by DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, both are clean and crisp, though I give my preferred viewing option to the stereo track, the surround mix suffers from some spacial artificiality in my opinion, not every movie needs and.or deserves a surround mix. Optional English subtitles are 

provided.

Special Features:
- High Definition Transfer Presented In Both 2-D And 3-D!
- High Noon At The End Of The Universe – Featuring Interviews With Director/Producer Charles Band, Actors Jeffrey Byron, Richard Moll And Tim Thomerson, Screenwriter/Producer Alan J. Adler, Special Effects Artist Allan Apone, Make-up Artist Kenny Myers And Composer Richard Band (42 min) HD
- Promotional And Behind-The-Scenes Still Gallery (10 min) HD
- Radio Spot (1 min)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (1 min) HD



Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) is a fun low-budget wanna-be science fiction epic loaded with 80s cheese and grandiose ideas executed on a shoestring budget, getting by on 80s nostalgia and cheap action. If you love cheap post-apocalyptic movies you will have fun with this one.

  

THE DUNGEONMASTER (1985) / ELIMINATORS (1986) 

Rating: Unrated / PG-13
Duration: 77 Minutes / 99 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Directors: Rosemarie Turko, Steve Ford, Ted Nicolaou, Charles Band, David Allen, John Carl Buechler, Peter Manoogian / Peter Manoogian
Cast: Jeffrey Byron, Leslie Wing, Richard Moll / Andrew Prine, Conan Lee, Denise Crosby, Patrick Reynolds, Roy Dotrice



THE DUNGEONMASTER (aka RAGEWAR)(1985)

Synopsis: Paul, a young computer ace, is forced to pit his physical and mental skills against unimaginable odds when a hulking wizard looking for formidable opponents picks Paul as his next challenger. Paul faces a series of seven spectacular and death-defying challenges and must survive not only to save his life but that of his girlfriend's too! Jeffrey Byron (Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn) and Richard Moll (Night Court) star in this eye-popping thriller featuring an appearance by W.A.S.P.!

This version of The Dungeonmaster is unrated and different from the PG-13 version shown theatrically and released by Scream Factory as part of the All Night Horror Marathon Vol. 2 DVD, including an additional scene with some nudity, which is always fun for lover's of b-movies, nudity certainly never hurts. I love this slice of '80s b-movie schlock, we have computer whiz Paul Bradford (Jeffrey Byron, Metalstorm) who wears the 80's version of Google Glass that links him into his home computer, the X-Cal-BR8, which allows him to do such nifty things as turn traffic lights green when it suits his needs... AWESOME!  At night Paul is plagued by nightmares, one of which comes true when a demonic wizard named Mastema (Richard Moll, Night Train to Terror) whisks Paul and his girlfriend Gwen (Leslie Wing, The Frighteners) away to a netherworld, where Paul is forced to complete seven challenges or lose Gwen to the devilish demon. Each of these challenge sequences are directed by a different director working for Empire Pictures at the time, making this a strange anthology of sorts. Directors Rosemarie Turko, Steve Ford, Ted Nicolaou, Charles Band, David Allen, John Carl Buechler and Peter Manoogian do their best to keep this thing afloat on a limited budget and for the most part they succeed, creating an entertaining series of connected vignettes, each with it's own flavor
.

In "Ice Gallery" from director Rosemarie Turko Gwen and Paul must face off against a rogue's gallery of Mastema's former challengers, ranging from Jack the Ripper to... Einstein!?! Next up is John Carl Buechler's "Demons of the Dead" which takes place in a cave where Paul is made to battle the undead and contend with the pint-sized demon Ratspit, looking a bit like a reject from Ghoulies. My favorite of the bunch has to be "Heavy Metal" which is directed by Charles band and pits the couple against the metal band W.A.S.P. and their maniacal lead singer Blackie Lawless as the band tears through their song "Tormentor", the short is basically the band's stage show with poor Gwen being the centerpiece, it's truly not anything of substance, I just love the vintage W.A.S.P. performance.

I am a fan of anything David Allen did, he was Empire Pictures king of stop-motion stuff, his entry  "Stone Canyon Giant" pits Paul against a stone giant and is a fun change up, while Steven Ford's "Slasher" has Paul on the run to stop Gwen from becoming a next victim of a serial killer stalking the street of Los Angeles. We're back in a cave for Peter Manoogian's "Cave Beast" and we finish strong with Ted Nicolaou's "Desert Bandit", a cheap Mad Max knock-off with armor-plated golf carts in place of muscle machines, which brought to mind the Roger Corman production Battle Truck, only shorter and therefore a lot less painful.



The movie has a definitive '80's sheen to it, Paul's short shorts are proof of that, as is his fantasy-based Tron-esque costuming, which also smacks of cheapness. The Dungeonmaster (aka Ragewar) may not be a great movie but it is certainly entertaining in a bad '80s sort of way. I cannot imagine my kids watching this and enjoying it, I think you need to have a certain amount of '80s nostalgia and reverence for the era to fully appreciate it, which I have plenty of, so this went down quite smoothly with a few brews and a head full of youthful nostalgia.


ELIMINATORS (1986)


Synopsis: A mandroid – part man and part machine – seeks revenge on the evil scientist who created him. Enlisting the help of a beautiful woman and a mysterious ninja, he pursues the scientist in hopes of stopping him before he can further harm humanity. Andrew Prine (The Town That Dreaded Sundown) and Denise Crosby (Star Trek: The Next Generation) star.

Up next on this double feature is the Eliminators, the movie begins with reclusive inventor Abbott Reeves (Roy Dotrice, Amadeus) hard at work on perfecting time-travel for nefarious reasons, sending his half-human, half-robot "mandroid" (Patrick Reynolds) back to Ancient Rome, which is successful. No longer requiring the "mandroid" he orders his assistant Dr. Takada (Tad Horino, Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey) to destroy his creation, however, Takada has compassion for the "mandroid" and helps him escape from the compound, with Takada dying in the ensuing fire-fight with Reeve's henchmen.


In the aftermath the Mandroid is damaged and he seeks the aid of Colonel Nora Hunter (Denise Crosby, Pet Sematary) who helped design some of his parts. From here Hunter and Mandroid, dubbed John by Hunter, head back to Mexico to put an end to Reeve's diabolical time-travelling plans. The duo enlist the help of a river guide named Harry Fontana (Andrew Prine, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) who guides them down the river to the mad scientist's laboratory, along the way they must fend off Fontana's own personal rogues gallery, including a butch rival river guide named Bayou Betty (Peggy Mannix)

I found it hard to watch this and not think of Astron-6's Manborg (2011), very obviously those guys drew a lot of influence from this one, just look at the design similarities, I found this a ton of fun, again I don't think this is good cinema, but it's fun and entertaining, and further proof that Empire Pictures knew how to stretch a dollar bill to the breaking point. Bringing Andrew Prine into the cast was an inspired idea, the guy is a blast and by far my favorite part of the movie, as is the tiny scout boy named SPOT. The special effects are done by John Carl Buchler and David Allen, a team that deserves a lot of credit for what they were able to achieve on what was likely a teeny-tiny budget, I love the Madroid's mobile unit and overall design, somewhat cheese ball but it's pure 80s awesome at the same time.

Audio/Video: Scream Factory have released both films before, The Dungeonmaster saw an anamorphic widescreen release on the All Night Horror Marathon Vol. 2 DVD while the Eliminators was part of the Sci-Movie Marathon collection as a full frame presentation. Then in 2015 both received an HD upgrade on a double-feature Blu-ray with Eliminators also being upgraded to widescreen. This version on this set is the same disc with artwork that more or less mirrors the Scream Factory artwork, only framed in landscape instead of portrait. Both films arrive on Blu-ray on a single disc, the 1080p HD widescreen (1.78:1) looks good for the most part, it can be a bit soft and some of the optical special effects show some grit, but overall not too shabby.  The English DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo 2.0 does the job, while not the most dynamic but a solid stereo track with optional English subtitles.

These pair of junk-food '80s cheese are not even cult-classics, they're '80s video obscurities, and just having them on Blu-ray might seem like overkill to some, for others, like myself, I welcome it with open arms! 



GHOULIES (1985) / GHOULIES II (1987) 
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 81 Minutes, 89 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Luca Bercovici, Albert Band
Cast: Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelkin, Michael Des Barres, Jack Nance, Mariska Hargitay, Scott Thomson, Keith Joe Dick, Kerry Remsen, Phil Fondacaro, William Butler, Royal Dano, J. Downing, Damon Martin

GHOULIES (1985)

College student Jonathan Graves (Peter Liapis, Ghost Warrior) cannot believe his good fortune when he inherits a sweet mansion that once belonged to his estranged father Malcolm Graves. He moves in right away with girlfriend Rebecca (Lisa Pelkin) with plans to renovate it, but he becomes increasingly obsessed with the occult following the discovery of his journal, turns out that Dad was something of a Warlock. The new found interest in the occult disturbs Rebecca but Jonathan secretly continues to dabble in the dark arts without her knowledge down in the creepy basement. When the two host a housewarming party Jonathan suggest to his friends that they should hold an occult ritual in an effort to summon a demon, which sounds like a great idea to a roomful of drunks. Gathered in the basement Jonathan draws a pentagram and other ritualistic symbols on the floor, but it doesn't seem to summon much of anything... at least at first. It turns out that the spell casting was a success, having conjured not just series of supernatural creatures but a pair of pint-sized minion named Greedigut (Tamara De Treaux, Rockula) and Grizzel (Peter Risch, Something Wicked This Way Comes), who seemingly set out to help Jonathan master his nascent occult powers.


Rebecca and Jonathan host yet another party and invite the same group of friends, an anthology of '80s stereotypes, the drug-addled burnouts, the nerd, a horny beefcake and two young female companions. Notably among them is the very attractive Mariska Hargitay, the future star of TVs Law and Order: SVU, in her very first onscreen role looking so young and sexy. The group fall under the control of Jonathan, who is now much stronger, his eyes now glowing with satanic power, who coerces them into performing another ritual, but it turns out that he has been duped by his diminutive minions who only helped him perform the ritual to resurrect their true master, Jonathan's deceased father Michael Graves (Michael Des Barres, Mulholland Drive) who emerges from his grave to reap a terrible vengeance upon the party goers with some help from his ghoulie demon-spawn.


Viewers might be thrown off by the fact that the creatures take a back seat to Jonathan's exploration of occult in the first film, only coming out to play from time to time in short bursts before receding back into the shadows for long stretches. I still love the creature design, my favorite has feline features, while another has the appearance of a rat, and then there's the iconic ghoulies recognized from the advertising campaign, the slimy green-skinned goblins seen emerging from the crapper and apparently scaring young children away from proper potty training, if Charlie Band is to be believed.

The cast is a bit stuff, Peter Liapis is wooden through and through as the apprentice warlock, as is the porcelain-skinned Lisa Pelkin, and poor Jack Nance (Wild at Heart) just looks lost during his own scenes, as the mansion's caretaker.  

On the other hand Michael Des Barres (one time singer of '80s rockers Power Station) is a lot of fun as the reanimated master of the occult, a blue-skinned spectre who at one point transforms into a horny blond babe (Bobbie Bresee, Mausoleum) to seduce a young man before strangling him with an elongated tongue. As a young teen I found this sexual switcheroo to be quite disturbing. In one of the more genuinely creepy moments a young woman is terrorized by a clown marionette, a gag seemingly borrowed from Poltergeist (1982) but with a green-ooze twist, it's good stuff. All of the murders are happening without Jonathan's knowledge and when he becomes aware that his friends have been murdered he must face off against his father in a battle of the black arts.


The finale is a bit of bust unfortunately, a ridiculous eye-zapping laser show of magic that is the most '80s and dated sequence in the entire damn movie, but you just gotta love it. I freely admit that the scares are few and far between throughout and that my own love for this one is largely based on overwhelming nostalgia, something I have always been able to muster with relative ease. Your own mileage may vary depending on your own level of nostalgia and love of cheesy b-movies, but if you enjoy other empire Pictures/Full Moon Entertainment titles I think it's safe to say you will have fun with Ghoulies.


Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary With Director/Co-writer Luca Bercovici
- FROM TOILETS TO TERROR: THE MAKING OF GHOULIES - New Interviews With Executive Producer Charles Band, Composer Richard Band, Actor Michael Des Barres And Special Effects Makeup Artist John Vulich (30 min) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min)
- Still Gallery (4 Min) (41 Images)


GHOULIES II (1986)

I remember hearing about Ghoulies II only because of the inclusion of the band W.A.S.P. on the soundtrack, a tasty little track called "Scream Until You Like It", W.A.S.P. was one of my favorite heavy metal bands at the time, so was an easy sell for a sixteen year old rocker who loved horror movies. This time around the setting has changed from a musty mansion to a dilapidated carnival roadshow on it's last legs, a great location with a built-in atmosphere which makes for a cool funhouse setting. There's no Jack Nance this time around, but we do get Royal Dano (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) as Uncle Ned, the alcoholic proprietor of a fright house, who along with his nephew Larry (Damon Martin, Pee-wee's Big Adventure) must fight to keep the attraction open when the corporate financial banker arrives with plans to close down the attractions that are bleeding profit. 

Luckily for drunk Uncle Ned, but unluckily for the fun house patrons, the ghastly ghoulies have taken up residence inside the attraction, adding an air of menace to the otherwise hokey scares. However, when Ned sees the demons inside the attraction he tries to stop them, but his nephew Larry and the crew assume he suffering from alcoholic hallucinations. Things kick into gear on the first night they open the attraction, particularly for two jaded kids and a group of trouble-making teens who wanna cause some trouble after the ghoulies break their boom box.
The sequel kicks the fun and the gore up a notch, while I enjoyed the first film the sequel is far and away the superior film, plus we have the added benefit that the creatures are front and center throughout, with more articulation and a more proactive role in the storyline.

Special Features:
- MORE TOILETS MORE TERROR: THE MAKING OF GHOULIES II - New Interviews With With Executive Producer Charles Band, Actors Kerry Remsen And Donnie Jeffcoat, And Special Effects Artist Gino Crognale (17 min)
- Rare Deleted Scenes (3 min)
- Original Theatrical Trailer(1 min)
- Still Gallery (26 Images)

Audio/Video: Both movies were previously issued on a double-feature Blu-ray from Scream Factory, reissued on this set with the same disc with the alternate Empire Pictures artwork on the sleeve, which is way better than the ghoulie in a toilet artworks in my opinion. The image quality is solid, there's a fine layer of film grain and with it some modest fine detail with minor depth and clarity, fans of both films will be pleased by the upgrade. The movies have both English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1 Surround options, with optional English subtitles. I prefer the surround option, which while not the most lively presentation does wonders for the Richard Band (Re-Animator) score.


A solid double dose of '80s creature features and by far the best either film has ever looked on home video. The Ghoulies films are certainly good fun, not tent pole horror by any means, but imminently watchable b-movies with some fun elements that you can enjoy with the kids. I do love the glowing green-eyed occult '80s party atmosphere of the first one, there's just not enough of the ghoulies in it. The sequel remedies that with more screen time for the pint-sized terrors and a fun carnival setting, plus a great tune from W.A.S.P. doesn't hurt either. 


TRANCERS (1984) 
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 76 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround (No Subtitles)
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Charles Band

Cast: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt, Michael Stefani, Art La Fleur, Telma Hopkins

Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson, Dollman) is a grizzled, chain-smoking Trooper from the year 2247. Troopers are a specialized police task force charged with tracking down Trancers... and what are Trancers? They are weak willed people that have been "tranced" by master-criminal Martin Whistler (Michael Stefani) who "trances" victims into zombie-like slaves. It is assumed at the start of the film that Whistler died during a previous encounter with Deth but his zombie disciples still plague the citizens. These "trancers" appear normal until they are triggered and become violent killers. Deth encounters a trancer at a diner and but his loose cannon tactics have angered his superiors. He quits the force only to be summonsed back into service after it is discovered that Whistler has traveled through time to the year 1985 with plans to wipe out the ancestors of the ruling Council.

I do love how time travel is achieved in the film - a serum is

ingested that allows the conscious mind to travel back through one's own bloodline and inhabit the body of an ancestor - that's awesome and I am surprised it hasn't been used elsewhere. In Whistler's case he has traveled "down the line" and into the body of Weisling  - a Lt. in the LAPD circa 1985. Whistler plans to systematically eliminate the blood relatives of the 2247 City Council members and he seems to be succeeding as only one Council member survives in the future. Deth is given a baseball card to assist in identifying the surviving councilman's ancestor in 1985, a down on his luck baseball player named Hap Ashby (Biff Manard, Zone Troopers). Deth arrives in the past in the body of his ancestor Phil Denton, a journalist who loves the ladies - his latest conquest is Lena (Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets). I've never thought of Hunt as a very sexy woman but she's not without her charms here, I can only say is an ill conceived punker. Jack is attacked by a mall Santa who turns out to be a trancer. He kills the trancer in front of a crowd of kids and alarmed parents and he and Lena flee the mall. Whistler as Lt. Weisler arrives on the scene and sends out an APB on Jack for the murder of the store Santa. Definitely a film that will forevermore be on my Christmas to-watch list, this was fun stuff, "Security, we've got trouble at the North Pole."

Trancers is definitely more a sci-fi action film than horror and while the budget is low I admired the films futuristic elements. Thomerson is definitely channeling Bogart as a noir styled gumshoe from the future on the set of a low-budget Blade Runner. Deth has a small assortment of gadgets including the "long second" wrist watch which enables him to slow down time for a very brief period. Let me just say the scenes of slow-mo are not quite up to par with bullet-time from the the Matrix but I enjoyed it.


Trancers is a fun science fiction actioner with a fun cast that is topped off by the awesome Tim Thomerson who has a certain charm not unlike Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season of the Witch), an acerbic detective with no shortage of Eastwood styled one-liners.

Audio/Video: This is the same version that Full Moon released on Blu-ray 2014, same disc and specs/extras repackaged with a variant sleeve of art. The Blu-ray presents the film in 1080p HD widescreen (1.78:), not sure if this is sourced from the original negative but there is a heavy layer of film grain and with it some noise and minor print damage. A few small qualms aside this is quite an attractive presentation and the sci-fi film has never looked better. Audio options include English Dolby Digital stereo and an unimpressive Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound mix - typically FM have opted to not include a lossless audio option on their releases - there are no subtitles. This is the only film on the set not previously issued by Scream Factory, and the only one aside from Arena (which is the only DVD on the set) that does not have lossless audio. 


Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary by Tim Thomerson and Charles Band
- Daniel Griffith's Trancers Featurette CYBERCRIME: THE MAKING OF TRANCERS (14 min) HD
- Rare Interview with Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt, and Megan Ward (2 min) HD
- Complete Trancers: City of Lost Angels Segment from the Pulse Pounders Trilogy ((24 min) HD
- Rare Stills Gallery (2 ) HD
- Rare Full Moon Trailers: Trophy Heads, Ooga Booga, Gingerdead Man vs. Evil Bong, Unlucky Charms, Puppet Master, Puppet Master 2, and Puppet Master III (14 min) HD

A fun sci-fi entry starring the always enjoyable Tim Thomerson that's worth the upgrade with sweetened A/V and a fun assortment of value-added extras - an easy recommend for fans of low-budget sci-fi action fun.


FROM BEYOND (1986) 
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 86 Minutes
Video: 1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Ted Sorel, Kenneth Foree, Barbara Crampton

From Beyond (1986) is a title I snatched-up at my local VHS rental shop as a youth, sight unseen, it looked creepy. It lured me in with pretty much everything a horny gore-hound could want: chills, tits and slime slime-covered sci-fi viscera  It's the film that introduced me to the films of Stuart Gordon and actor Jeffrey Combs, not to mention the teen masturbation fantasy that was/is Barbara Crampton. The only familiar face to me at the time was Ken Foree, from George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978), which even at that young age was already a favorite of mine.

As the story goes, renowned physicist Dr. Pretorious (Ted Sorel, Basket Case 2) and his assistant Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator) are hard at work on an invention called The Resonator, a machine that stimulates the pineal gland located in the human brain with mind-expanding resonant vibrations. A unforeseen side of effect of this pineal stimulation is that those affected are able to perceive another dimension separate from our own reality. It's Tillinghast who first makes this startling discovery while making adjustments to the machine, turning it on he sees creatures resembling moray eels floating in the air, at first intrigued by their appearance his interest turns to fear when one takes a nice bites out of his face, startled he turns it off. The panicked physicist immediately notifies Pretorious who, of course, against Tillinghast's advice turns on the machine and is overwhelmed with a powerful sensation. Pretorious  spouts off  about his insatiable need to see beyond normal human perception, it's almost orgasmic the way he delights in it. All the while Tillinghast implores the scientist to turn off the machine but he refuses, the scene ends with the assistant feeling the house as Pretoprious's corpse lies next to the resonator, his now MIA head having been twisted-off in a grotesque fashion. The experience leaves the Dr.'s assistant near insane, accused of the murder Tillinghast ends up in the loony bin under the care of a Nurse Ratched-type character named Dr. Bloch (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Dolls).



Arriving at the psychiatric hospital to study the case is Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton, Beyond the Gates). After  tests reveal that his pineal gland is much larger than normal she becomes convinced that Pretorious's experiments were successful and that the discovery could benefit the science and study of schizophrenia. Further proving the adage that  the road to Hell is paved with good intentions McMichaels checks Tillinghast out from the psychiatric ward against Bloch's wishes and is accompanied back to the scene of the crime under the watchful eye of Detective Bubba Brownie (Ken Foree, Dawn of the Dead) with the intention of rebuilding and re-creating Pretorous's resonator experiments. That's pretty much in a nutshell is the story, it's pretty simplistic but with a great cast of b-movie stars and some inventive special effects director Stuart Gordon created of my favorite mid-80's science fiction horrors, a slime-covered Lovecraftian classic.

Once the Resonator is brought back online it's not long before all three bare witness to the strange other dimensional creature from beyond, as well as the transformed Pretorious, now transformed into a slime-covered grotesque version of his former self, the lustful doc attacks McMichaels a whom only just barely escapes with her brain intact when Tillinghast and Bubba manage to get past a toothy sandworm-esque creature in the basement to uncouple the power from the machine. The encounter leaves Tillinghast completely bald, the continued exposure to the Resonator prompts his pineal gland to emerge from his forehead like a phallic third-eye and he's cursed with a hunger for human brains!



The film is steeped in creepy atmosphere, the fantastic otherworldly score from Richard Band combines with the neon pink and blue hues to great effect onscreen. Crampton's character as the Dr. driven by ambition and overcome by lustful desires thrilled me as a teen and still does today. The role is a sweet reversal of what we saw in Re-Animator where she played victim to Comb's maniacal Herbert West, it's a delicious twist. The film is wonderfully twisted, perversely sexual and grotesquely slimy, there's a lot to love. The effects team does great work here, not all of it holds-up equally but overall the film was ahead of it's time, ambitious stuff. It's not on the level of John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) but the two are kindred spirits. The Pretorious transformations are particularly fantastic, unsettling stuff which still managed to sends shivers down my spine today.

Audio/Video: From Beyond has been previously released as a 2-disc Collector's Edition from 
Scream Factory, again this is the same Blu-ray disc repackaged with the original Empire Pictures artwork, another cool variant.  The film is presented in original widescreen aspect ratio (1.78:1) and I gather it's sourced from the same master as the MGM's 2007 Unrated Director's Cut, and it looks fantastic, even more so with a sweet 1080p upgrade! The film benefits from increased clarity and depth, there's some great fine details, too. The old school practical and optical effects here from John Buechler, Anthony Doublin, John Naulin, and Mark Shostrom are fantastic and have never looked better.The film has a gorgeous neon color scheme and the otherworldly pink and blue hues pop off the screen. Even twenty-seven years later the film still packs quite a visual wallop. Definitely check out the  featurette on the disc explaining the difficulties incorporating previously cut scenes back into the film, the before and after restoration demo is a revelation, and it's great to see these b-movie masterpieces getting the attention they deserve.



Audio options include choice of 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. The 5.1 surround audio is quite good with some fun use of the surrounds, we definitely get a more enveloping sound field with some depth to it. Dialogue, effects and Richard Band's fantastic score are presented crisply and well-balanced, this is good good stuff.

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with writer Dennis Paoli
Multiple Dimensions – A look at the film’s extensive Make-Up and Creature Effects with Special Effects Creators John Buechler, Anthony Doublin, John Naulin, and Mark Shostrom (23 min)
- Paging Dr. McMichaels – An interview with Actress Barbara Crampton (14 min)
- A Tortured Soul – An interview with Actor Jeffrey Combs (18 min)
- An Empire Production – An interview with Executive Producer Charles Band (5 min)
- Audio Commentary with director Stuart Gordon and the Cast
- The Director's Perspective - interview with Stuart Gordon (1 min)
- The Editing Room: Lost And Found - Gordon Stuart and MGM -restoration team interview (5 min)
- Interview with composer Richard Band (5 min)
- Storyboard to Film Comparisions with Introduction: Introduction (1:23), Appearance of Dr. Pretorius (1 min), Death of Bubba (2 min), Hospital Escape (3 min), Katherine Frees Herself (1 min)
- Gallery (4 min) 

Stuart Gordon's From Beyond (1986) remain a fantastic mid-80's sci-fi horror classic dripping with grotesque creatures and slime covered horrors. Gordon just doesn't get enough praise in my opinion and if you haven't check out his 80's and early 90's oeuvre you are missing out on some excellent cult-classics, this gets a high recommend, my favorite entry on this entire set, hands down. 


TERRORVISION (1986)
Rating: R
Duration: 81 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Cast: Diane Franklin, Gerrit Graham, Mary Warnov, Chad Allen, Jon Gries, Bert Remsen, Alejandra Rey, Randi Brookes, Jennifer Richards, Sonny Carl Davies

Synopsis: Life will never be the same for the Putterman family in Terrorvision. Stanley Putterman (Gerrit Graham) installs a state-of-the-art satellite dish in his backyard. Through a cosmic accident, a wayward monster's energy is beamed across galaxies, into the satellite and onto the Puttermans' television set. The Puttermans don't notice any changes, only better reception and a strange monster continually appearing on the screen. But when the monster leaps off the screen and into the Puttermans' living room, terror erupts, as it needs to feed on humans for its survival!

Oh, 1980’s... how I miss your mesmerizing neon glow... long before Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), Dolls (1987), and Ghoulies (1985) just to name a few, and let's not forget TerrorVision, which begins as the garish 80’s family the Putterman’s are installing their beloved satellite TV. Unbeknownst to them their newly installed satellite dish has picked up an energy beam from the planet Pluton, infecting their TV with a creature from beyond their universe, known as the “hungry beast”. The Putterman’s are comprised of father Stanley (Gerrit Graham, Phantom of the Paradise), mother Raquel (Mary Woronov, Sugar Cookies) both of whom are swingers, their daughter Suzy (Diane Franklin, Better Off Dead) a neon-maned metal chick with a leather and W.A.S.P. t-shirt clad rocker boyfriend, O.D. (Jon Gries, Monster Squad), Grandpa (Bert Remsen) a heavily armed WW2 vet with a bomb shelter in the basement, and their son Sherman (Chad Allen, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie) is an imaginative horror fan, and the only one who realizes what’s going on. A really great cast, putting Mary Warnov and Gerrit Graham together as the mom and dad was pure genius, and Bert Remsen (Remote Control) as the grandfather is a lot of fun.

Sherman’s parents and sister both go out for a night on the town, leaving him and gramps to watch some late-night creature feature hosted by the serpentine-haired Medusa. Both nod off and awaken to the “hungry beast” in their living room, narrowly escaping to the fallout shelter in the basement where they arm themselves to the teeth. Gramps is no match for the hungry beast and is absorbed by the creature, leaving behind a slimy cesspool. Soon after Sherm’s parents and a swinging couple they’ve picked-up arrive back at the house, followed by his sister and her rocker boyfriend. No one believes him, despite the pile of slime on the floor, in the movies no one ever believes their kids. When the creature kills it can emulate the deceased, creating decoys and mimicking their voices, thereby conveniently fooling the unaware into believing the victims are alive, but Sherm knows better. 

Suzy comes to realize that her brother is telling the truth and she and Sherm decide to reach out to TV horror host Medusa (Jennifer Richards), to help destroy the creature, much like Charlie reaching out to Peter Vincent in Fright Night (1985). At the same time here are also transmissions on the TV from the planet Pluton warning Earth of the danger. The transmissions come by way of Pluthar, an extraterrestrial trashman from Pluton whose job it is into atomize the mutated “hungry beast” of his planet and beam them to the edge of the galaxy. He’s made a mistake and the hungry beast has instead been beamed to the Putterman’s home. Pluthar beams himself into Putterman’s home to set things right, however, when Medusa reluctantly arrives she screws up everything by mistakenly identifying Pluthar as the creature. She knocks him upside his head and he implodes. 

Hats off to the L.A. band The Fibonaccis who provide several songs for the soundtrack, including the awesome new-wave 80’s theme song, it’s pretty great. The creature effects are low budget but effective for the film, the Hungry Beast and special effects were created by John Carl Buechler who's done special effects work on films such as From Beyond(1986), Dolls (1987), Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Hatchet (2006). 

Audio/Video: Terrorvision was previously released on a double-feature Blu-ray with The Video Dead (1986), this is that very same disc with the same features/extras, repackaged with Empire branded sleeve of art, and while not a Charles Band/Empire Pictures produced film The Video Dead is included as glorified bonus feature. 

Special Features
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Ted Nicolaou and Stars Diane Franklin and Jon Gries
- Monsters on Demand: The Making of “TERRORVISION” - An all-new retrospective with Writer/Director Ted Nicolaou, Stars Gerrit Graham, Mary Woronov, Diane Franklin, Jon Gries, Chad Allen, Ian Patrick Williams, Special Make-up Effects Creator John Carl Buechler (34 min) HD 
- Poster and Still Gallery (2 min) HD
- Bonus Feature: The Video Dead (1987) 

Terrorvision is a trashy, incredibly fun slice of 80’s cheesiness in the best possible way. Mary Warnov and Gerrit Graham are great as the parents, and the cheesy 80’s special effects work is very nostalgic for me, it totally makes me feel like a kid in the 80s again, high recommend.

TROLL (1986) 
Rated: PG-13
Duration: 82 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: John Carl Buechler
Cast: June Lockhart, Michael Moriarty, Anne Lockhart, Brad Hall, Gary Sandy, Jenny Beck, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Noah Hathaway, Phil Fondacaro, Shelley Hack, Sonny Bono

Synopsis: Lock the doors and pull out the weed-whacker for this house party of horror! One family is about to find out there's no place like home when a troublesome troll starts taking over their building, transforming each apartment into an overgrown garden of ancient evil and turning tenants into a horde of hairy hobgoblins! Michael Moriarty and Julia Louis-Dreyfus star in this super-slimy scare-fest that's "a special-effects pig-out" (Daily News)!

Troll is a fun kids movie about a young girl named Wendy who is possessed by a wizard troll and his bid to break down the barriers between the troll world and the modern world, and of course this all takes place inside a small apartment in San Francisco. Classing up this b-movie slice of fantasy film making are the very cool special effects work from John Carl Buechler and his team, the main troll Torok is a full-on body suit with some great facial articulation, an expressive little beast with actor Phil Fondacaro (Ghoulies 2) beneath the make-up doing a bang-up job. Fondacaro also appearing in a dual role as a pint-sized professor who befriends the young Wendy, only to be transformed into a troll-creature himself.

The movie has a great cast, we have the always awesome Michael Moriarty from Larry Cohen's The Stuff (1985) as Wendy's father Harry Potter - that's right, Harry Potter! Moriarty steals the show in my opinion in a strange scene as he dances along to Blue Cheer's "Summertime Blues" in a strange scene that has nothing to do with trolls whatsoever. His son Harry Potter Jr. (Noah Hathaway) seems to be the only one who recognizes that his sister is acting strange, with him on the receiving end of biting attacks and groin punches. With his parent's turning a blind eye to Wendy's increasingly erratic behavior he confides in a sweet old lady who lives in an upstairs apartment, Eunice, played by June Lockhart, of She-Wolf of London (1946) fame, she adds a wonderful, caring and magical flavor to the movie and tells young Harry about what's happened to his sister, and of brewing war between trolls and mankind, one with ancient origins and which she was part of. Eunice is a centuries old witch who has been standing guard at the gates of reality, enlisting the aid off Henry to protect the world from the evil troll Torok who seems about ready to declare war on mankind, yet again.

This is just fun stuff, totally kiddie friendly movie and a great gateway film to introduce your kids to horror, right alongside Monster squad and The Gate. This is not a great film, but it's got a lot of heart and some memorable weirdness, including the appearance of Sonny Bono as a swinging neighbor, and a pre-Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfus (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) .

Special Features:
- The Making of TROLL Featuring Interviews With Director John Carl Buechler, Producer Charles Band, Writer Ed Naha, Composer Richard Band, Special Effects Artists John Vulich And Gino Crognale, Visual Effects Artists Jim Aupperle, James Belhovek, Linda Drake And Kevin Kutchaver (50 Mins) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins) HD
- Behind The Scenes Still Gallery (1 Min) HD
- Bonus Feature: Troll 2 (1991)

Troll was previously issued on Blu-ray from Scream Factory as a double-feature with Troll 2, which means we get a another bonus film! However, a limited edition of the Scream Factory release included the awesome doc Best worst Movie, a doc about the awful sequel, which this does not include. This package includes the original painted Empire Pictures artwork for the film on the cover, and it's one of my favorites. The making of doc for Troll (1986) alone makes it worth a purchase, it might even be better than the actual movie itself, but don't get me wrong, I still love the movie, even if a lot of it is for nostalgic and for the love of bad-movie reasons. Troll 2 (1991) is not a good movie but it is most definitely not the WORST movie ever made, not by a long shot, but we'll keep letting the hipsters say it if it makes 'em happy.

DOLLS (1987) 
Rating: R
Duration: 77 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Carrie Lorraine, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams

Synopsis: A precocious girl, her nasty parents, two punk-rock losers and a weak-kneed salesman inadvertently become the guests of two ghoulish senior citizens in their dark, haunted mansion. The old couple makes and collects dolls that, when not sitting still like good little mannequins, creep around in the night, offing the guests one by one! You may laugh at first, but if they turn on you, you'll regret it...for the rest of your short life! Guy Rolfe (Puppet Master III, Mr. Sardonicus), Stephen Lee (Robocop 2) and Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) star in this bloody good terror trap that delivers its frights, fun and fantastic effects in equal measure.

In Stuart Gordon's underrated Dolls (1987) we have a fun fairytale type story of an adorable little girl named Judy (Carrie Lorraine) driving through the rural English countryside with her father David (Ian Patrick Williams, Robot Jox) and awful stepmother Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, The Pit and the Pendulum). When they're car becomes stuck in the mud during a downpour they are left to trek through the forest, arriving at a quaint, albeit rundown, home owned by an elderly couple, Gabriel (Guy Rolfe, Puppet Master III) and Hilary (Hilary Mason, Don't Look Now), who invite them in for a stay.

Also arriving during the downpour is the pudgy salesman Ralph (Stephen Morris, War Games), and a pair of British punk chicks, Isabel (Bunty Bailey) and Enid (Cassie Stuart), who are also invited to stay the night. A quirk about the elderly couple is the house is wall-to-wall with handmade dolls of all sorts, you can see an early kernel of what would become Puppet Master here, and no less than Andre Toulon himself, actor Guy Rolfe, is here as the doll maker. Judy and nice guy Ralph take a liking to the old couple and their strange fascination with the dolls, but her parents are creeped out by them, and the punker girls just want to steal all the valuables in the house for some quick cash, but the dolls have other plans for these awful people.

This is a fun 80s fairytale, with the Gothic trapping of an old dark
house film, some fantastic special effects, the stop-motion stuff is on par with the best Puppet Master films, and the cinematography is a step above with great lighting and set-ups loaded with atmosphere and wonder. There's some decent gore as the dolls cause some mayhem, and a great dream sequence involving Judy's beloved stuffed bear, grown to ferocious size with sharp teeth and claws. 

Audio/Video: Dolls has previously enjoyed a Collector's Edition release from Scream Factory, this is the same Blu-ray with the feature, extras and specs, repackaged with variant artwork.

Special Features
- Toys Of Terror: The Making Of Dolls - An All-New Retrospective Featuring Interviews With Director Stuart Gordon, Producer Brian Yuzna, Stars Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Ian Patrick Williams, Executive Producer Charles Band And More! (38 mins) HD 
- Audio Commentary With Director Stuart Gordon And Writer Ed Naha
- Audio Commentary With Cast Members Stephen Lee, Ian Patrick Wiliams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon And Carrie Lorraine
- Storyboard-To-Film Comparison (8 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min) HD 
- Photo Gallery (4 min) HD

Dolls (1987) is an underrated gem of an old dark house tale with whimsical fairytale style of storytelling and some awesome stop-motion animation which brings the titular constructs to life. If you've not checked this one out yet do yourself a favor and do so, it's a true horror treat, and I think one of the most overlooked entries from Gordon's 80s era. 

PRISON (1988)
Rating: R
Duration: 102 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, 5.2 with Optional English subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Chelsea Field, Lane Smith, Viggo Mortensen

Synopsis: Creedmore Prison becomes a supernatural battleground when the specter of Charlie Forsythe, a man executed for murder, returns seeking vengeance from the brutal guard, Ethan Sharpe, who was aware of his innocence. The lives of the inmates hang in the balance as Forsythe and Sharpe lock in demonic combat. Directed by Renny Harlin (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master). Starring Viggo Mortensen (A History Of Violence), Chelsea Field (Dust Devil) and Lane Smith (Dark Night of the Scarecrow).

In Renny Harlin's American debut Prison (1988) we have a spook-story The Road), told at the Creedmore Prison in Wyoming which was shut down in the '60s after the execution of inmate Charles Forsythe (Viggo Mortensen), which we see in the opening scenes, a gruesome death electrocution lots of spasms, burning flesh and sparks. Twenty or so years later the prison is set to be re-open, former guard Ethan Sharp (Lane Smith, Red Dawn) is now the warden, he's heading an overhaul of the near-crumbling prison, and three-hundred inmates are bussed into the deteriorating penitentiary to begin work on the facility. The inmates are instructed to break through a wall of the sealed-off execution chamber, when they do so they unleash a vengeful spirit that begins to kill both inmates and prison staff in equal measure in a series of grisly deaths, which unnerves the inmates, but Sharp attributes the deaths to bizarre accidents.

What we have is a supernatural revenger with a great location, the concrete and iron setting of a dilapidated prison makes for a nice twist on the old dark house trope. Viggo Mortensen plays a dual role, both as the executed killer and a modern day inmate named Burke, a car thief who the warden takes an immediate disliking to, as bares an uncanny resemblance to the executed inmate Forsythe. For his part Lane Smith is fun as the ball-busting prison warden, he doesn't believe in reform, has contempt for everybody and is haunted by nightmares about the Forsythe execution from years ago, losing his grip n reality.  Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr. (Friday) appears as an inmate, an imposing guy but also a bit of voice of reason. Also playing adversary to Warden Sharp is a prison reformer named Katharine (Chelsea Field, Death Spa) who does not agree with his tough-as-nails treatment of the inmates, though she doesn't have a whole lot to do except protest against the warden.

Harlin's eye for keen visuals makes this one a nail-biter at times with chilly atmosphere and some gruesome deaths, with some nice atmospheric cinematography from Mac Ahlberg (Hell Night). The special effects by  John Carl Buechler (Troll) and his team are pretty cool, we have a guy roasted alive in solitary confinement when the metal walls begin glowing red hot, an inmate impaled and wrapped up by duct work, a pipe slowing pushing its way through his forehead, and a guard on an ill-advised nap break wound tightly in yards of barbed wire, a scene that brought to mind something you'd see in A Nightmare on Elm Street entry, which is appropriate since Harlan went on to direct The Dream Master entry in the series. Some of the effects are dates, there's a lot of Shocker-style animated electrical discharges and an eerie blue/white light that sharply pierces the prison dark interiors but overall they hold up damn nicely, imagine The Shawshank Redemption by way of A Nightmare On Elm Street and you have the general tone of this one.

Audio/Video: Again, Prison has been previously released on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, this is the same disc as Scream Factory's
release with the same feature films, specs and extras, repackaged with Empire Pictures artwork, which is actually the same as Scream's reversible option on their release.

Special  Features
- Audio Commentary with Director Renny Harlin
Hard Time: The Making of “Prison” – An all-new retrospective with Director Renny Harlin, Producer Irwin Yablans, Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner, Actor Tom Everett, Stunt Coordinator Kane Hodder, Special Makeup Effects Creator John Carl Buechler, and more
- U.S. Theatrical Trailer
- Poster & Still Gallery
- Original First-Draft Screenplay (PDF format)

Prison (1987) was a fun watch, a supernatural tale of revenge set in a dank, dark prison and loaded with some good suspense and chills with a strong cast. While Stuart Gordon's films on this collection are my favorites, this is the most slick production of them all, top notch direction from Harlan - it's no wonder he went on to bigger things, for awhile anyway. 

CELLAR DWELLER (1987) / CATACOMBS (1988)
Rating: R
Duration: 78 Minutes/84 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional english Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: John Carl Buechler/David Schmoeller 
Cast: Brian Robbins, Debrah Farentino, Jeffrey Combs, Pamela Bellwood, Yvonne De Carlo/Ian Abercrombie, Jeremy West, Laura Schaefer, Timothy Van Patten, Vernon Dobtcheff

CELLAR DWELLAR (1987)

In the John Carl Buechler directed Cellar Dweller (1988) an aspiring artists named Whitney Taylor (Deborah Farentino, TV's Eureka) attends an art academy where years earlier a famous horror comic artists Colin Childress (Jeffrey Combs, From Beyond) was burned alive. The school's Headmistress Mrs. Briggs (Yvonne De Carlo, Silent Scream) doesn't much care for Whitney's macabre artwork, giving her a hard time. She further angers Brigg's when she shows an interest in Childress's work, and the headmistress rtells her not to go into Childress's studio, which is located in the basement of the school, improbably having remained untouched for all these years. 

Whitney inadvertently discovers that her artwork threatens to
unleash the very demonic presence that destroyed Combs character, and art students begin dying and disappearing from around the school. You know with John Buechler at the helm we're gonna get some sweet gore, some nudity, and a fun bitchy appearance from Yvonne De Carlo, Lily Munster herself! Sadly, Jeffrey Combs is relegated to the pre-credit sequence, but the guy always classes up a b-movie with his presence, and Buechler made a fun creature feature. 

CATACOMBS (1988)

Director David Schmoeller(Crawlspace) should be a familiar name for fans of Empire Pictures and Full Moon horror, he alongside Charles Band, Stuart Gordon and David DeCoteau are the most prolific directors in the Full Moon/Empire camps, and I think he's probably the most technically proficient after Stuart Gordon.  His film atmospheric chiller Catacombs revolves around the Abbey of San Pietro where a demonic presence was buried in the catacombs of the cemetery four-hundred years ago,  but when a cute red-headed school teacher named Elizabeth Magrino (Laura Schaefer, Ghost Town) arrives at the monastery and shakes things up a bit, this was fun stuff and there's a great scene with Christ coming down off the cross that's hard to forget.  Pino Donaggio (The Howling) contributed a fantastic moody score for this one, too. 

Audio/Video: Both films previously appeared in full-frame
presentation on Scream factory's  All Night Horror Marathon Vol. 2 DVD , and were subsequently given widescreen presentations with new HD transfers as a double-feature release, and the disc on this set is that sam disc with the same features, specs and extras repackaged with the pretty much the same artwork as the Scream package, only presented in landscape instead of portrait on the sleeve.

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary on Catacombs by Director David Schmoeller

A fun double feature of 80s Empire goodness, some direct-to-video stuff that goes down easy with some cold brews and 80s VHS horror nostalgia.

GHOST TOWN (1988)
Duration: 85 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)

Director: Richard Governor, Mac Ahlberg
Cast: Franc Luz, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Penelope Windust, Bruce Glover, Catherine Hickland


Synopsis: A dusty ghost town, seemingly abandoned, holds the lives of its original inhabitants in an animated netherworld for 100 years…

When a modern-day sheriff's deputy is lured to a desolate, spooky ghost town in search of a missing woman, he comes face-to-face with a malevolent spirit from the town's past. The spell of death and suffering over the undead townspeople must end to set them free from eternal pain. The horrors of a possessed outlaw, in a time-suspended dimension are only the setting for a frightening battle for the mind, nerves and flesh.

Ghost Town is I title I clearly remember seeing on the VHS shelves as a youth,  though I never got around to actually renting it back in the day, the reason being I sort of hated Westerns at that time, I thought those monochrome John Ford and John Wayne westerns were boring, though I have since come around to the more violent Spaghetti Westerns and the old west movies of Sam Peckinpah. 
The movie begins with a would-be bride named Kate (Catherine Hickland, Witchery) cruising down a dirt road at high speed in her red sportscar. 

Apparently having just skipped out on her own wedding with few regrets, she tosses her bridal veil to the wind with a smile and some laughter. The glee doesn't last long though, she takes an ill advised detour which ends with her being carried away by an eerie dust storm to the sound of galloping hoof beats. Hours later the local Sheriff discovers her abandoned car on the roadside and calls in Deputy Langley (Franc Luz, The Nest) to investigate, as he does so the eerie dust storm returns and a gunslinger dressed in black riding a black horse emerges from the dust storm and fires a few rounds at Langer before riding off into the desert.

With his car car now immobilized by the mysterious man-in-black the deputy sets off on foot through the desert in search of the missing woman, along the way he discovers the skeletal remains of a old time sheriff that protected  nearby ghost town back in the old days, the corpse comes to life momentarily and warns the deputy that only he can save his town from certain damnation.


A short time later Langley wanders into the very same ghost town, a rustic collection of dilapidated saloons, brothels and banks populated by handful of ghosts from the Old West. There's a blind gambler (Bruce Glover, Popcorn), a helpful bar wench (Penelope Windust), a blacksmith (Zitto Kazaan) and the dreaded man-in-black, a cursed undead gunslinger named Devlin (Jimmie F. Skaggs) who keeps the inhabitants of the dusty ghost town under his thumb with the help of his his outlaw gang of ghosts baddies.

It's fun watch but it does start off a bit on the slow side with a languid pace, though  the atmospheric cinematography highlights plenty of big sky and open desert vistas, a film I believe was shot right here in Tucson at Old Tucson Studios where many classic Western TV shows and movies were filmed, which translates to a very fine looking set with loads of small flourishes, you get the genuine feeling of an old timey Western town, it looks lived in and then some, not like indie Westerns today that look like fresh-milled lumber bought at the local Home Depot.

The ghosts are dressed in appropriate period garb and Devlin looks pretty menacing as the undead gunslinger with a zombified gunshot wound to the face that adds a lot of character to his face, but he's sort of a one-note baddie, but it works for the movie. Hickland doesn't get much to do, she's definitely a pretty standard damsel in distress, and Lutz is just okay as the modern lawman thrown back in time, he's just as one-note as the baddie, but again it works well enough for the movie that it is. It should also be noted that actress Laura Schaefer (Catacombs) is kind enough to showcase her wonderful breasts for a brief moment for which we should all be thankful for.

Ghost Town (1988) is a low-budget western-horror hybrid with some atmospheric visuals and a fun premise with god production values, it starts off a bit on the slow side but once things get underway this is a spirited shoot 'em up and a fun watch, recommended.



Audio/Video: Ghost Town arrives on the set featuring the same disc artwork and contents as the 2015 Scream Factory framed in the 1.78;1 widescreen aspect ratio. The source material seems to have been in good shape with only minor print damage and some white speckling. The HD won't make your eyes bug out in disbelief but it is an attractively shot film and the HD upgrade looks quite nice, shot by cinematographer Mac Ahlberg (Robot Jox, From Beyond) the film has a nice dusty atmosphere about it that suits the Western tinged ghost story. The image can appears bit soft at times but overall the HD transfer is very nice with strong color reproduction, natural looking skin tones and decent black levels. The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is good and clean, a well-balanced mix of dialogue, score and effects sounds, there are optional English subtitles provided.

If you have a soft spot for Western-horror hybrids I think you will have a lot of fun with his one, just don't expect some lost 80s classic, it's not quite that, but it it a good Saturday afternoon watch. 


ROBOT JOX (1990)
Rating: PG
Duration: 85 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo, Gary Graham, Danny Kamekona, Robert Sampson, Jeffrey Combs


Somehow this is the one Stuart Gordon joint I just never got around to watching in my youth, I've seen the classic stuff (Re-Animator, From beyond) and even most of the more obscure stuff (Fortress, Space Truckers) and the more current stuff (Edmond, has eluded me. I was worried that since I didn't catch this one on VHS back in the day that not having a sense of nostalgia might skew my enjoyment,  because this is totally something aimed at the 80s kids who loved mecha-battle TV shows like vintage Transformers, Voltron and Battle of the Planets, but in the end I think having loved those animated shows as a kid probably amped up my enjoyment of this one.

Fifty years after the nuclear bombs have dropped the remaining people of Earth have split into two separate factions, the Western-influenced Market and the Russian-themed Confederation. Now the Market and Confederation land-resource disputes are settled through gladiator-styled matches fought by human-piloted robots, the pilots are knows as "robot jox". 

The film opens on a snow-covered battlefield in Siberia as the camera pans past the corpses of destroyed robots. The Russian, oops, I mean Confederation pilot Alexander (Paul Koslo, The Omega Man) cripples the Market robot piloted by Hercules. Despite being judged the winner of the match the bastard stomps the defeated bot killing Hercules -- what an asshole. 

The next robo-battle is for the mineral and forestry resources of Alaska, this time the Confederation warrior Alexander is up against the battle-scarred Market champion Achilles (Gary Graham, Alien Nation), and it ends in a draw despite some unfortunate human casualties when Alexander misfires a banned rocket which hurls towards hundreds of spectators in the stands. Achilles maneuvers his robot o block the rocket but is knocked back by the blast onto the spectators, crushing a few hundred to death. In the aftermath Achilles declines to the rematch, having already served his ten-fight tour of duty for the Market, angering both his fans and his sworn enemy Alexander, both of whom taunt the pilot as a coward.

In Achilles place is a female robot jox, or a "gen jox", a genetically engineered warrior bred pilot who has been engineered to have no fear. These genetically engineered jox are termed "tubies" by the veteran pilots, and the two faction don't get along so well. We have some decent sexual-tension between Achilles and Athena though I don';t see why either would be attracted to each other, there's zero chemistry between the actors or their character. Eventually Achilles agrees to the rematch angering Athena which forces her to take drastic measures to ensure she has her chance piloting the robot.

There's also a sub plot involving a robot designer "Doc" Matsumoto (Danny Kamekona) and Southern-fried Texan strategist named Tex Conway (Michael Alldredge), there's apparently a spy selling top-secret information to the Confederation which some believe lead them to Victory, which alongside the Love story only serve to detract from the awesome stop-motion robotic warfare. 

The special effects seem to be a mic of green-screen and vintage stop-motion, masterminded by the late and very great stop motion animator David Allen (Dolls, Puppetmaster)  who was a definite student of the Ray Harryhausen school of stop motion. Love the nostalgic herky-jerky articulation style and the scale model robot looks fantastic, I love this stuff. Love the battle scene, each robot has an array of weaponry they employ to defeat the enemy combatants; lasers, rockets, enormous buzz saw, and a very phallic chainsaws -- some great stuff. 

Gary Graham, whom I loved from the Alien Nation TV show, is in fine form as the Confederate robot jox, but everyone comes fully loaded with an arsenal of silly dialogue on Robot Jox -- so prepare yourself for some goofy verbal vomit, particularly the venomous Alexander played with plenty of Cold War-era vileness by Paul Koslo. While the love-story is a joke and the espionage angle s tolerable the one thing that almost ruined this for me was the anger-inducing final moment of the movie, never before has a fist-bump so angered me!

Audio/Video: Robot Jox arrives on this set sporting the same disc as the Scream Factory release, same extras and transfer, too, repackaged with the same key art as the Scream release. The many optical effects shots make for an uneven viewing experience but I am happy to report the 1080p HD image is pretty strong, with some additional grain and dirt present in the optical effects shots. The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 is strong, a nicely balanced stereo mix of dialogue, score and sound effects that is pleasing to the ears, free of distortion and crisp. There are optional English subtitles available. 

Special Features
- Audio Commentary With Director Stuart Gordon moderated by Michael Felsher
- Audio Commentary With Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry, Mechanical Effects Artist Mark Rappaport, And Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel
- Brand-New Interview With Actor Paul Koslo
- Archival Interviews With Director Stuart Gordon (7 min)
- Archival Interview with Pyrotechnic Supervisor Joe Viskocil (8 min)
- Archival Interview with Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry (7 min)
- Archival Interview with Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel (8 in)
- Archival Interview w. Animation Effects Artists Chris Endicott And Mark McGee (9 min)
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage (14 min)
- On Location Gallery (7 min)
- Illustrations Gallery (4 min)
- Theatrical Trailers (1 min)
- TV Spots (1 min)


It pleases me to see Stuart Gordon's Robot Jox on Blu-ray where I could enjoy it for the first time with the benefit of a nice HD presentation. The disc has some strong A/V qualities and a wealth of extras to enjoy, this was quite a fun smash 'em up robot battle movie that I think kids of the 80s and their offspring should enjoy quite a bit, recommended.


CRAWLSPACE (1986) 
Rating: R
Duration: 80 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: David Schmoeller
Cast: Barbara Whinnery, Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam


Synopsis: Landlord Karl Gunther (Klaus Kinski – Nosferatu The Vampyre) seems like a conscientious landlord who looks out for this female tenants. What they don’t know is that he has an elaborate network of crawlspaces that he uses to watch their every move. Can a new prospective renter stop this apartment building’s rapid turnover rate…or will Gunther continue to make a killing?

When young woman Lori (Talia Balsam, The Kindred) comes to an apartment building looking a place to rent for she is greeted by the creepy landlord Karl Gunther (Klaus Kinski, Aguirre, the Wrath of God), who shows her around and she likes what she sees, but we've already seen Karl up to no good, he's a weird guy, and Lori might turn out to be his next victim. Crawlspace is anchored by a deeply weird and unsettling performance from madman Klaus Kinski, playing the demented son of a Nazi surgeon war-criminal with a deep-seated hatred for women, and an addiction to self-inflicted pain, even a suicidal death wish or sorts. He also has a secret workspace where he devises elaborate booby traps and keep a caged woman whose tongue has removed. 


Crawlspace is a claustrophobic slice of apartment horror that is a real treat, with madman Kinski smearing on lipstick and crawls around the A/C ductwork to spy on his all-female tenants, it's weird and wacky stuff, finely directed by director David Schmoeller (Tourist Trap) with a great score from Pino Donaggio.    

Audio/Video: Crawlspace (1986) was previously issued on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, here we have the same disc, feature and extras as that release repackaged with Empire poster artwork, a cool looking creepy painting. The image is strong within reason, the HD upgrade is clean and well preserved, colors are strong, occasionally looking soft but quite nice all around. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono audio sounds clean and well balanced, the Pino Donaggio score sounds wonderful, optional english subtitles are provided.


Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary by director David Schmoeller
- “Please Kill Mr. Kinski” – a short film by David Schmoeller
- Interview with Make-up effects artist John Vulich (9 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 

Crawlspace (1986) is a wonderfully creepy slice of cinema from Empire Pictures, nicely directed by Schmoeller with Kinski doing what he did best, unnerving you from the first frame to the last, this is a fantastic little thriller and I think it's probably Schmoeller's best film. 


ARENA (1989) 
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English subtitles 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Peter Manoogian
Cast: Claudia Christian, Hamilton Camp, Marc Alaimo, Paul Satterfield, Shari Shattuck

Set in a galaxy probably far far away we have Earthling Steve Armstrong (Paul Satterfield, the blonde douche from The Raft sequence of Creepshow 2) who works aboard a space station as a short order cook with his four-armed alien pal Shorty (Hamilton Camp, Evilspeak). Not content to be a fry cook Steve has dreams of becoming an Arena fighter, a brutal sport dominated by alien-fighters, but is stuck on the grill, that is until Arena fighter Vang arrives at the diner, throws some shade at Steve and then has his ass handed to him by the surprisingly skilled Earthling.

Steve is fired from his job after the fight with Vang, but the ruckus catches
the attention of a Arena fighter promoter named Quinn (Claudia Christian, The Hidden), who is not happy that her best fighter has been just trounced by an Earthling, but she sees Steve as a new fighter prospect, particularly when he wipes the floor with her henchmen who she sends to rough him up.

No human has not been competitive in the Arena in about fifty years, they're not seen as worthy competitors, but the stubborn Steve begins making a name for himself around the station, and eventually Quinn sponsors him, and he begins kicking alien ass in the Arena, leading up to a title fight with the reigning champ Horn, a bullish looking dude who works for a seedy underworld fight promoter named Rogor (Marc Alaimo, who played Gul Dukat on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). Alaimo is not the only Deep Space Nine alumni either, his right-hand man, the rat-faced Weezil, played by Armin Shimerman who played the ferengi Quark, his character look quite a bit like Quark, too.

The simplistic fight-club premise of the story is anchored by loads of cool alien creations from special effects genius Screaming Mad George (Society), the standout in my mind being the a long-legged insectoid character named Sloth, and then there's Stitches, a reptilian heavyweight, who sadly only gets a brief sparring appearance. Looking at the design of these characters you can see a lot of work went into creating them, too bad some only get fleeting appearances. There are so many aliens, at times it feels like an extended Star Wars Cantina scene, there's even a few aliens who look familiar including a General Akbar knock-off at the bar.  

Audio/Video: When this set was announced I think the inclusion of Arena was much ballyhooed, previous released by Shout! Factory as part of their four movie Sci-Fi Movie Marathon set fans were clamoring for an Widescreen HD upgrade, but it was later clarified that this would be the same disc and transfer that Shout! used for their release, apparently there are no usable film elements to do an HD transfer, which is a shame, this is a fun sci-fi action films and there are plenty of fans who would jump on a Blu-ray of it. Arena shares space on the disc with a full frame version of Eliminators, which can be found elsewhere on this set with a new widescreen HD upgrade. It has been repackaged in a blu-ray keepcase, though it does say DVD on the spine. There are no extras on the disc for either film.

The flick is a lot of sci-fi action fun, it's a bit on the cheap side but the budget dollar is stretched for all it worth up on the screen. There's a bit too much shiny satin and sequins for my tastes, the sets are cheap, but they do a lot with a little, and it ends up feeling like a low-budget episode of Deep Space Nine. Hopefully someone is able to dig up some film elements worthy of a new  widescreen HD master, this would be worth a revisit in widescreen HD, I know it would elevate it a few notches.

Box Set Packaging: This fifteen disc (19 film) set comes packaged in a sturdy black collector's box with white/silver "Charles Band's Empire Pictures" lettering on all six sides. One side additionally list the contents, and is individually hand numbered and signed by impresario Charles Band, my set is #230/600. The top lifts off revealing the inner box to have cool Empire artwork collages that wraps around all four sides. Inside the inner box are seated fifteen discs housed in standard blue keepcases with cool retro Empire Pictures artwork on black backgrounds, the spines adorned with the Empire logo and the movie titles in their original fonts. As stated in the individual reviews the discs are the exact same as were included with various Shout! Factory and Scream Factory releases with no new supplemental material, the discs have the same artwork and catalog numbers as the Scream releases. It's an attractive set and the they look gorgeous sitting together in that sexy black box.

PACKAGING SHOTS










Inside you will also find an oversized 24-page glossy booklet, about the same size as the Blu-ray keepcase, with writing from Delirium editor Chris Alexander, plus information about each of the movies with synopsis and background info, good stuff.

24-PAGE BOOKLET 




This is a fun set loaded with awesome 80's horror and sci-fi movies that fans of a certain age will recall with vivid intensity from their days cruising the local video shop for VHS horror flicks back in the 80s. If you're a collector chances are that you might own a few of these as released by Scream Factory, and the reason to upgrade would be for the collectable limited edition box with the Charles Band signature and cool variant Empire Pictures artwork.  

The Empire Pictures Blu-ray Collection will set you back $250 and is available exclusively from www.FullMoonDirect.com website or at certain horror cons. Full Moon packaged the Hell out of this sucker, shipping it in a box within a box within a box with three layers of bubble/package wrap, it arrived safe and secure - way better than your average Amazon shipping scenario, and the shipping is FREE. Last time I checked the website that a had a little over 200 left in stock - so if this seems like something you cannot live without you'd best go get it. There's still plenty more Empire Pictures stuff out there which has not been properly upgraded to Blu-ray, would love to see a second box set, more Scream Factory releases, or a new line from Full Moon celebrating those films, too, keep that 80's horror love alive! 


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