Tuesday, February 13, 2018

FAIR GAME (1986) (Umbrella Blu-ray Review)

FAIR GAME (1986) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: M Mature
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 (No Subtitles) 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Mario Andreacchio 
Cast: Cassandra Delaney, David Sandford, Garry Who, Peter Ford

Fair Game (1986) is one of the many Aussie exploitation movies I discovered while watching the Not Quite Hollywood doc, feverishly scrawling movie titles onto a well-creased legal sized piece of paper that I still have tucked away in my wallet. Quentin Tarantino's over-the-top love for the move as described in the doc made it a must-see film, but somehow it eluded me for years till Umbrella Entertainment released it on Blu-ray, which is what I'm reviewing today. We have a rugged but pretty woman named Jessica (Cassandra Delaney) who is an artist who also runs a ramshackle wildlife sanctuary in the outback, we discover she is regularly harassed by a trio of baddies, the thoroughly unlikable kangaroo-hunters Sunny (Peter Ford), Sparks (Garry Who) and Ringo (David Sandford) who tear around the outback in a souped-up truck called The Beast that looks like an evil-elephant with tusk-like metalwork on it's front end, the thing seriously looks like it belongs in a Mad Max movie with it's red-light eyes on the front, it's no wonder the truck itself adorns so much of the artwork for the film.

Jessica tries to make a nice, simple life for herself in the rural area, selling art and caring for wounded animals, but she is continually harassed by the villainous kangaroo-killers who tear after her Duel-style on the dusty backroads, even occasionally venturing onto her private land and poaching animals. Jessica reports the trespasses to the local constable who does less than nothing about it, turning a blind eye to the harassing behavior of the men while dismissing Jessica's valid claims against them. 

The movie is a series of escalations, her and the men one-upping each other, each time their behaviors becoming more aggressive with the unafraid Jessica sneaking into the men's camp under the cover of darkness to arc-weld their gun arsenal into a useless piece of modern art, further angering the men, who in response turn their gun sights away from kangaroos and onto the woman who is increasingly becoming a thorn in their side. The men peruse her, tracking her through the outback to her sanctuary where they use their monster truck The Beast to quite literally tear through her home's walls while she is inside, their actions turning from just plain aggressive to 'let's kill this woman now' at any expense.

The movie seems to be going down a rape-y path at moments, but it doesn't ever go full-on rape, instead we get a lot of male sexual aggressiveness by way of one of the men sneaking into her home early on and snapping some nude photos of her while she naps, and in one of the more infamous scenes the men capture her and tie her topless to the hood of their truck while driving wildly though the outback, it's the most exploitative part of the film, but surprisingly the movie maintains a somewhat cartoonish quality to the proceedings, which keeps it from being too icky. 

Like any decent slice of ozploitation there's plenty of vehicular-pornography on display, the souped-up monstrous truck kicking up lots of dirt, growling menacingly, being used as a terrifying blunt object of destruction, the opening scenes of the movie really captures how cool looking the thing is as it crests a hill in the dark, a villainous looking piece of truckery with those red-eyes and a spotlight on top. 

Delaney is a damn decent heroine, tough-as-nails and also very easy-on-the-eyes, she's able to convey both vulnerability and inner-strength when called upon, she's got a great set of pipes and holds her own against the viscerally unlikable men, who thankfully each get their proper comeuppance, with the final show down happening at her sanctuary, she having to use unconventional weaponry and improvised traps to battle the men and their beast, all of it well filmed and loaded with some great stunt work and plenty of gritty action.

Audio/Video: Fair Game (1986) arrives on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment as part of their line of Ozploitation Classics, advertised as an all-new  transfer from a newly restored 2K master. The image looks very healthy, a nicely managed grain field, the visuals are strong a nicely saturated, the golden sun-drenched outback look absolutely gorgeous and brutally scorching. The source for the 2K master looks great aside from some minor white speckling throughout, the grain can be a bit pronounced during darker scenes but overall this is a very pleasing image. The disc includes a English DTS-HD MA Mono audio track that nicely exports the stabbing synth score from composer Ashley Irwin, also handling the deep rumble/growl of the beast vehicle and Cassandra's ear-shredding screaming, there are no subtitle options, but at times I could have used them given the thick Aussie accents.

Onto the extras we get a audio commentary from the director and writer, plus 15-minutes of extended interviews with star Cassandra Delaney, which excerpts from the 'Not Quite Hollywood' doc with the still lovely actress recalling the somewhat cartoonish nature of the violence, her infamous topless hood ride, her complete trust in the director and stunt coordinator, and what she thought of working with that snake, which she didn't much care for. 

The extensive image gallery contains a treasure trove of poster and promo artwork, video release artwork, concept artwork, press kit and marketing materials, storyboards and script treatment, plus plenty of behind the scenes images and stills. We also get a selection of storyboards, a theatrical trailer, vintage behind-the-scenes extras, plus five short films from the director totaling about 82-minutes in length, which cannot be viewed separately. 

The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in the usual over-sized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the a-side featuring the original key art and the reverse side features a variant of the same artwork minus the rating label. The disc itself features the same key art minus the logo. 

This release is labeled as a region-free on the case, but as a mote I should point out that while the feature, audio commentary, Delaney interview and gallery played fine on my region A player, a few extras would only play on my region-free set-up. Those that would not play on my region-A set-up include the On Location with Fair Game, 1985 TV Report from ADS-7, 1985 TV Report from NWS9, Action News, Behind the Scene with Dean Bennett, Storyboards and the Mario Andreachio Short Films . 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Director Mario Andreacchio and Writer Rob George
- Extended Interview with Cassandra Delaney from 'Not Quite Hollywood' (15 min) HD
- On Location with Fair Game (4 min)
- Behind the Scenes - 1985 TV Report from ADS-7, State Affairs (2 min)
- Behind the Scenes - 1985 TV Report from NWS9, Action News (1 min)
- Behind the Scene with Dean Bennett (52 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) HD
- Image Gallery (99 Images) HD
- Storyboards (8 min)
- Mario Andreachio Short Films: Vandalism (1981) (14 min), Break-IN(1983) (13 min), Taken By Storm (1984) (25 min), Abduction… Who's Next? (1984) (15 min), Under Pressure (1986) (15 min)

Fair Game (1986) not only lived-up to the Tarantino hype it surpassed it, a fast-paced slice of ozploitation that steers clear of the uber-sleaze while skirting it, and I think it's a better more suspenseful film for it. This seems to be an under appreciated and under seen gem of Aussie exploitation, very pleased to see it get a fantastic region-free release from Umbrella Entertainment. Highly recommended to fans of amped-up survival horror, particularly those with a fondness for badass vehicular carnage. 

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