Thursday, January 23, 2020

MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981) (Scream Factory Collector's Edition Blu-ray review)

2-Disc Collector's Edition 

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 91 Minutes & 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: George Mihalka
Cast: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Keith Knight, Alf Humphreys, Cynthia Dale, Helene Udy, Rob Stein, Thomas Kovacs, Terry Waterland 

Twenty years ago in the ting village of Valentine's Bluff a mine tragedy took the lives of five miners on Valentine's Day. The sole survivor was Harry Warden, who was trapped in the mine for six weeks, who resorted to cannibalism to survive! Driven mad by the experience he was institutionalized but managed to escape, returning to the village to have his revenge, killing the supervisors at the mine he blamed for the tragedy, and warning that if the village were to ever have another Valentine's dance he would return to have his bloody revenge yet again! 

Nearly twenty years later the bloody legend of Harry Warden lingers over the village but nonetheless they are gearing up to have the first Valentine's party since the massacre years earlier. The movie opens with a man and a woman in full-on mining gear hooking up down in the mine, the woman peels off her gear in anticipation, suggestively stroking the miner's breathing apparatus. In return the still masked miner throws her violently up against the wall, impaling her on a pickax, with the spike of the implement pushing it's way through her torso and protruding from her tattooed breast.

Later Police Chief Jake Newby (Don Francks, the voice of Sabretooth in the X-Men: The Animated Series) receives a heart-shaped box of candy, but inside is the young woman's bloody heart that's ripped from her chest. The chief cancels the dance but chooses not to let on that Harry Warden has seemingly returned or that there's been a killing. Of course the younger miners and their girlfriends being resourceful, and unaware there's a murderous masked-miner on the lose, carry-on with plans for a V-day party down inside the mine, and that's bad news for everyone.

The young folk include T.J. (Paul Kelman, Black Roses) and his former flame Sarah (Lori Hallier, Warning Sign) who is now dating T.J.'s former best friend Axel (Neil Affleck, Visiting Hours) turned love-rival which causes all sorts of tension as they compete for pretty Sarah's conflicted affections. Other notable party-goers include super-nice guy Hollis (Keith Knight, Of Unknown Origin), who has the sweetest mustache this side of drummer Bun E. Carlos of rockers Cheap Trick, and funny-guy Alf Humphrey (Funeral Home), all of whom convene with others at the mine for some late-night partying, but soon thereafter they find themselves stalked and killed by a masked-miner with a blood-covered pickax.

This is a movie I saw on late-night TV as a kid, and it's long been among my favorites 80's slashers of all time, right up there with Happy Birthday To Me and April Fool's Day, all of which I watched when I was way too young, and they really stuck with me, watching them is like visiting with an naughty old friend. 

It's a Canadian film and it feels it, nearly all the characters are really likable with their Canadian accents, with Axel and T.J. being the least likable of the bunch, each having a chip on their shoulder, but even they aren't awful, and when people start drying you actually feel bad for them. This is contrary to a lot of modern slashers in which the kids are all so fucking annoying, you're glad to see them die, but with MBV I was quite sad to see each of the victims go, all except for the curmudgeonly bar owner Happy, who meets his gruesome end while setting up a prank to scare the party-goers. He takes a pickax right under the chin and through his eye, with his eye dangling off is face by the optic-nerve, the killer then drags his body by the handle of the pickax which is still firmly embedded in his skull! 

Which brings us to the legendary kills from MBV, the kills are fantastic, but for those who caught it in the cinema or on TV like me back in 80's that was not always the case. The film was notoriously heavily edited by the MPAA, who were still sore after facing backlash for letting Friday the 13th (1980) slip by uncut the previous year, with this one losing most of it's gore, cutting the gruesome stuff to shreds. The funny thing is that the film, even in it's cut-up form, is still quite suspenseful and well-executed, with a surprisingly solid mystery surrounding the identity of the killer. 

It wasn't until Lionsgate released a longer director's cut on Blu-ray in 2009 when the remake was hitting theaters that we finally saw this film in it's near complete and extra-gory form. The special effects of Tom Burman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) are on par if not better than vintage 80's effects by Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead). We get the great kill at the top of the film, a person scalded to death face-first in a pot of boiling hot dog water, an old lady is stuffed into a dryer and roasted, there's a brutal hanging-decapitation, the aforementioned pickax through the jaw, and my favorite of the bunch, a young woman lifted off the ground and impaled through the back of the head onto a shower spigot, turning her into a human waterfall, it's all fantastic stuff. The film comes to a finish with a wonderful scene of the killer escaping deeper into the mine after cutting of his own arm, cackling like the demented madman that still gets under my skin. 

Audio/Video: Both the theatrical and director's cut of My Bloody Valentine (1981) arrives on Blu-ray, on separate discs, from Scream Factory framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen, befitting from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. The source looks to be in fantastic shape, with a light layer of grain throughout giving the film a velvety texture with moments of sublime fine detail. Skin tones look natural with pinkish hues, and the blacks look great down inside the cavernous mine, with plenty of shadow detail. The longer-running director's cut features the deleted scenes stitched back into the film, as did the previous special edition Blu-ray from Lionsgate, but it looks as if Scream Factory have gone the extra-mile and done additional restoration and color-correction for these tasty gore-filled tidbits, looking more natural and color saturated. 

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix with optional English subtitles, everything is crisp sounding, replicating the echoey environments down inside the mine and other acoustic spaces nicely. The score from Paul Zaza (Popcorn) sounds terrific, including the creepy folk song “The Ballad of Harry Warden” that plays over the closing credits.  

Looking at the plentiful extras we get over 2-hours worth of brand new interviews with director George Mihalka, actors Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Helene Udy and Rob Stein, plus a 11-min interview with makeup effects designer Tom Burman. They're all asked the same questions, how did they get the part, what was it like working with the director,any memorable anecdotes on set, memories of the late Keith Knight and Alf Humphreys, and the cult-status of the film. It's all good stuff, talking about their experiences on the film, and the long-lasting friendships they developed. All the new interviews are on the first disc with the theatrical cut of the film. 

The first disc is buttoned-up with a cool 12-min video essay comparing the theatrical cut to the director's cut with side-by-side comparisons, trailers, TV and radio spots and a 12-min image gallery with behind-the-scenes still, images from the film, lobby cards and movie posters from around the world. 

On the second disc containing the director's cut we have a brief introduction and a brand new audio commentary with director George Mihalka, plus a 35th anniversary cast reunion panel from the 2016 Bay of Blood Convention featuring the director, actors Lori Hallier, Helene Udy, Rob Stein, Peter Cowper, Thomas Kovacs, Jim Murchison, and the late Alf Humphreys moderated by director Brian Singleton (Forest of the Dead). We also get a 5-min performance of the song "The Ballad of Harry Warden" by actor Thomas Kovacs with an assist from actor Peter Cowper and Jim Murchison from that same convention.

The 2-disc release arrives in a 2-tray Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of artwork featuring new artwork from illustrator Joel Robinson (Black Christmas) and on the reverse wrap we get the original movie poster image, which is my preferred option, not a fan of the new artwork this time, which is also featured on the limited edition slipcase. 

Special Features:
Disc 1 – Theatrical Version (90 min)
- NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative
- NEW An Anemic Valentine – an interview with director George Mihalka (24 min) HD
- NEW From the Heart - an interview with actor Paul Kelman (14 min) HD
- NEW Friends of Mine – an interview with actress Lori Hallier (19 min) HD
- NEW Axel, Be My Valentine – an interview with actor Neil Affleck (14 min) HD
- NEW Becoming Sylvia - an interview with actress Helene Udy (17 min) HD
- NEW The Secret Keeper – an interview with actor Rob Stein (27 min) HD
- NEW Broken Hearts and Broken Bones – an interview with special makeup effects designer Tom Burman (11 min) HD
- NEW Holes in the Heart – a look at the difference between the theatrical version and the uncut version (12 min) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD
- TV Spots (2 min) HD
- Radio Spots (1 min) HD
- Still Gallery (12 min) (141 Images)
Disc 2 – Uncut Version (93 min)
- NEW 4K scan of the uncut original camera negative
- NEW Audio Commentary with director George Mihalka
- Introduction with director George Mihalka (1 min)
- My Bloody Valentine 35th Anniversary Cast Reunion panel at the 2016 Bay of Blood Convention in Florida featuring director George Mihalka, cast members Lori Hallier, Helene Udy, Rob Stein, Peter Cowper, Thomas Kovacs, Jim Murchison, Alf Humphreys and hosted by Brian Singleton (47 min) HD
- Thomas Kovacs performs “The Ballad of Harry Warden” at the Bay of Blood Convention with Peter Cowper and Jim Murchison (5 min) HD 

Scream Factory have done excellent work on the Collector's Edition for this 80's slasher classic, improving up the previous releases A/V and giving fans a bunch of new extras, it's awesome. They're gonna be releasing another one of my favorites very soon, April Fool's Day (1986), and I am expecting more greatness for that long overdue Blu-ray release. I am actually anticipating that release a bit more than I was this one just based on the fact that there has been no Blu-ray for it previously. Here's hoping that after they get that buttoned-up they somehow get their hands on Happy Birthday To Me (1980) and are able to restore all the gore-scenes that have long been missing from that film, it's might seem like a pipe-dream but Scream Factory have a knack for making horror-fan dreams come true.

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