Thursday, March 1, 2018

BLACK EAGLE (1988) (MVD Rewind Blu-ray Review)

BLACK EAGLE (1988)

2-Disc Special Collector's Edition


Label: MVD Rewind Collection
Duration: 94 Minutes/104 Minutes
Audio: English Stereo 2.0
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: PCM 2.0 Stereo, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround (No Subtitles) 
Director: Eric Karson
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sho Kosugi, Doran Clark, Bruce French, William Bassett 


So just be forewarned I was never a big 80's martial arts/action film fan, sure I caught a few on cable from time to time but didn't get overly excited at the prospect of a ninja film, I was a horror kid! Since I am being so honest right now I'll just admit that I think this is the first time I've actually sat through a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie from start to finish, and this isn't even really a Van Damme movie, this is a Sho Kosugiso flick, and I did at least sit through Ninja III: The Domination (1984). Obviously, I am not the target market for this release of Black Eagle (1988) on Blu-ray from MVD Rewind, but I did give it a watch!

The movie such as it is opens with an American F-111 carrying an experimental laser targeting system, the fighter jet is shot down by the Russians over Malta, and the aircraft is ditched in the ocean. In the aftermath both the Americans and the Russians arrive in the area to seek it out. We have Russian Colonel Vladimir Klimenko and personal assassin Andrei (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bloodsport), on the American side we have C.I.A. operative Dean Rickert (William Bassett) who calls in an American ultra-special operative code named "Black Eagle", Ken Tani, played by Shô Kosugi (Ninja III: The Domination) who goes undercover as a marine biologist performing research in the waters off of the coast of Malta, alongside Rickert. Neither the Russians or the Americans are fooling each other with their various subterfuge and ruses though, everyone seems well aware of what the other is up to in short order. 

Going back a bit, I should point out that the Americans have to coerce the at first unwilling Tani into joining the mission by flying his kids to Malta before he even knows about the mission, forcing his hand in the matter, which is very shady, and of course he has to keep them safe from danger, the C.I.A. even assign a female operative Patricia Parker (Doran Clark, The Warriors) to nanny the young boys in his absence, but of course neither can keep themselves nor the young boys out of harm's way for long.

I didn't find there to be a whole heck of a lot of intrigue or suspense with Black Eagle, it's a fairly generic action flick, but the locations in Malta do offer some scenic vistas and make for a great backdrop to a lackluster action flick. As action beats go my favorite scenes have Kosugo being chased across rooftops and taking out baddies one by one, and of course Kosugo goes up against Van Damme a few times, the first two are short skirmishes with some decent moves, but the third and final is the money shot of the whole film, this is why you watch this flick, to see Kosugi and Van Damme face off against each other! 

Audio/Video: The straight-to-video Black Eagle (1988) arrives on dual format Blu-ray/DVD from MVD Rewind, framed in 1.78:1 widescreen and looking to have been bombarded with a massive dose of digital noise reduction, wiping away fine detail and leaving behind a lot of plasticine unpleasantness. The source also shows quite a bit of minor print damage throughout, this is not a great looking release, far less stellar than what we've come to expect from MVD Rewind so far. Looking at the audio we have a Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 mix for the theatrical version and a PCM 2.0 Stereo track for the extended version, the PCM 2.0 sounds good (not great) offering a deeper and more robust accompaniment, there are no subtitle options, so far none of the MVD Rewind titles have subs. This looks to have been sourced from an existing master provided by the licensor, it's too bad MVD couldn't have had a new crack at creating a new HD master themselves.

Onto to the extra, this is where this release shines, MVD Rewind offer up both the 93-minute theatrical cut and the 104-minute extended cut. There are also a handful of MVD exclusive extras, the best being a 21-minute career retrospective with Kosugi, a 35-minute making of doc, 19-minutes of interviews of the cast and crew sharing stories about Van Damme, and a 27-minute interview with screenwriter Michael Gonzales. Additionally we get deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer. 

The 2-disc dual format release comes housed in a clear Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of one-sided work featuring the original VHS release artwork, it also includes a slipcover (o-card) with the same artwork. This release, as with all of the MVD's Rewind releases, comes with a dual-sided fold-out poster with the same artwork. The discs themselves as usual are white with simple black lettering of the movie logo. The slipcover is limited and only accompanies the first pressing of the release, it has a nicely worn patine with VHS-style stickers on the slipcover, giving it an proper shelf-worn look, the artwork on the keepcase wrap does not have the artificially worn look about it, and the spine is numbered, this is release number three for those keeping score.


Special Features: 
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of the main feature.
- Original 2.0 Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray) and Dolby Digital 5.1.
- Includes 93 minute theatrical version + 104 minute uncut extended version of the film.
- Sho Kosugi: Martial Arts Legend - featuring new interviews with Sho Kosugi and Shane Kosugi and more) MVD Rewind EXCLUSIVE! (21 min) HD 
- The Making of BLACK EAGLE - featuring new interviews with Director / Producer Eric Karson, Screenwriter Michael Gonzalez and stars Sho Kosugi, Doran Clark, Shane Kosugi and Dorota Puzio) MVD Rewind EXCLUSIVE! (35 min) HD 
-Tales of Jean-Claude Van Damme - Brand new interviews with cast and crew tell stories about working with the legendary action star) MVD Rewind EXCLUSIVE! (19 min) HD 
- The Script and the Screenwriters - featuring Michael Gonzales, Eric Karson and more) MVD Rewind EXCLUSIVE! (27 min) HD 
- Deleted Scenes 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (SD)
- Collectible Poster

Black Eagle (1988) looks and feels like to the late-80s straight-to-video action flick that it is, while I am sure that the Shô Kosugi’ and Jean-Claude Van Damme action fans out there will be excited by this release but it was a bit of a slog, with the exception of a few well-staged action scenes every now and again. I don't know what it is, I love grubby b-movie, exploitation and horror flicks, but for some reason action films have never been my bread and butter. The new dual-format release from MVD Rewind has a sub par A/V presentation, but it is loaded with a plentiful amount of extras and some very nice packaging. 

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