Sunday, March 25, 2018

FULL MOON HIGH (1981) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG 
Duration: 93 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Larry Cohen 
Cast: Adam Arkin, Roz Kelly, Ed McMahon, Elizabeth Hartman, Bill Kirchenbauer, Joanne Nail, Demond Wilson, Louis Nye, Jim Bullock, James Dixon, Kenneth Mars

1950's teen high-school football player Tony Walker (Adam Arkin, Halloween H20) is dragged Transylvania on an ill-fated vacation by his father (Ed McMahon, The Tonight Show), while there a gypsy palm reader informs him that he is cursed to live an unnaturally long and ageless life, which turns out to be very true, later that same night he is attacked and nibbled on by a werewolf. Not quite realizing what has happened to himself he returns to the states and has a hard time adjusting to his new furry-lifestyle. The werewolf transformations in this one are real bad, and there's absolutely no gore - in fact there might not even be a drop of blood in this thing. The "attacks" come down to our teen werewolf chasing down women in the neighborhood and nibbling on them, not so much killing them as really inconveniencing them. One day his dad walks in on him while he's he transforming and puts a fright into him, his dad runs down to the family bomb shelter and locks himself in for safety, inside he discharges his weapon and the bullet ricochets comically for what feels life forever, eventually killing him, which happens off screen. All of a sudden were at his funeral, there's no good transition scenes in this whole film, everything is poorly stitched together with smash-cuts. After his father's death he leaves town and wanders the world for several decades, there's a cheesy montage with awful headlines like "werewolf eats Chinese, hungry half hour later". Spurred on by the fact that his hometown team has not beaten there rivals in the decades since he left town the night before the big game her returns to Full Moon High - that's the actual name of the school, signing up for classes and joining the football team hoping to finally beat the local rivals and somehow put his life back together. 

This is wacky one folks, the comedy is running wild, Cohen throws everything and the kitchen sink at the screen to see if it sticks - and a lot of it does not. It's loaded with cornball puns, spoof humor, some satire, the material is fun, whimsical and lighthearted, while there are no scares or thrills you just might find yourself howling at the lunar-lunacy of it all, or dying from how dumb it is, and boy oh boy is it dumb. Adam Arkin is so young and fresh-faced here, coming off as a young Jerry Seinfeld by way of David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London), a naive sort of fool who never seems to fully wrap his head around his affliction, it's a silly role but I thought he was charismatic and enjoyed how unembarrassed to just go for it.

The film is capably directed, though it feels slapdash at times, especially when the passing of decades is represented by an hour glass on a string being jigged across a darkened room along with series of presidential portraits being changed in accordance with the times, it definitely has a lo-fo charm about it. There's a ton of familiar faces here, we have Kenneth Mars from Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein as a very hands-on football coach turned high school Principal, Julius Harris from Cohen's Black Caesar shows up as a airplane hijacker, comedian Bob Saget appears as a sports reporter, and Jim J. Bullock shows up as the effeminate son of a character named Jane, played by Roz Kelly of New Year's Evil, a girl who lusted after Tony as a teen, and now as a mother still lusts after him when he returns to the neighborhood decades later. 

Audio/Video: Larry Cohen's Full Moon High (1981) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, this looks like it is sourced from a theatrical print, though one in great shape with really only some white speckling to note as far as blemishing goes, colors are robust, grain is well-managed, and the black levels and shadow detail are quite impressive.  The lone audio option is a DTS-HD MA mono track, it has limitations but sounds just fine with no distortion, there are no subtitle options.

Extras are slim but appreciated considering the former obscurity oif it, we get a 3-minute trailer in HD plus a brand new audio commentary from writer/producer/director Larry Cohen, moderated by King Cohen doc director  Steve Mitchell, and it's a keeper. Cohen is a master commentator, it's a warts and all commentary, pointing out the locations used, the cast of characters appearing on-screen, with some good moderation from  Mitchell who keeps the conversation focused and on-point.  

Special Features:

- NEW audio commentary with writer/producer/director Larry Cohen, Moderated by KING COHEN filmmaker Steve Mitchell
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min) HD

It's been a great year for Larry Cohen's films arriving on Blu-ray, from Black Caesar courtesy Olive Films to the It's Alive Trilogy and The Ambulance from Scream Factory, however this is a lesser entry among his filmography, it's a bad movie. 1981 was a banner year for werewolf movies, we had An American Werewolf in London, The Howling and Wolfen... classic stuff, and then there's Full Moon High, the worst of the bunch. If you enjoy bad, madcap monster movies this might be worth a watch, but if you're a gore-hound without a funny-bone this is one to avoid. 

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