Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The Complete Original + Groundbreaking Series - 8 Disc Edition

MYSTERIOUS WORLDS (1980) - 13 Episodes (325 Minutes) 
MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE (1985) - 26 Episodes (650) Minutes
WORLD OF STRANGE POWERS (1995) - 13 Episodes (340 Minutes) 

Duration: 1315 Minutes
Region Code: 1 NTSC 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: Fullscreen (4:3) 

Years before Agents Mulder and Scully of the X-Files TV series rekindled my interest in Cryptozoic oddity and the unexplained sci-fi author Arthur C. Clark (2001: A Space Odyssey) opened my young mind to the myriad of unexplained phenomena in 1980 with the 13-part British mini-TV series Mysterious Universe (1980) documenting some of the most perplexing and sensational weirdness known to man. The show was my early introduction to the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, and flying saucers. Each episode was introduced and ended by Arthur C. Clark and stuffed with first hand accounts and fascinating filmed footage, it was pretty thrilling stuff when I was 10 and watching it again over thirty years later it's still pretty damn entertaining. Watching each episode I found myself cruising Wikipedia to further investigate each strange topic, scouring the Internet for some new tantalizing tidbit of evidence or video footage to appease my craving for more weirdness. 

Revisiting all 52 episodes I was surprised at just how much ground is covered, we get the face on Mars, fairies, zombies, secrets of the Egyptian pyramids,  spirits from the beyond, crop circles, ancient civilizations, the Bermuda triangle and dozens more unexplained phenomena, there's a little bit of everything here for lovers of science fiction, the occult, the supernatural, aliens and pretty much every bizarre phenomena you can imagine.  

Arthur C. Clarke was the perfect commentator for the subject at hand, clearly a man of science with a true passion for the unexplained. He was not given to blind belief without some science-based proof, offering his own observations and beliefs on each sensational topic at the end of each episode. Clarke's a skeptic but a skeptic who seemingly wants to believe there's something more out there in the universe what we can rationally explain, offering the most probable scientific explanation for each oddity. As he says, "I don't pretend to have all the answers, but the questions are certainly worth thinking about.", very true. 

What this set contains are all 52 half-hour episodes of the three separate series - Mysterious World (1980), World of Strange Powers (1985), and Mysterious Universe (1995) spread out over 8 discs.  Strangely, up to the release of this set these episodes have never before been available on DVD. The source material can be a bit sketchy and grainy from time to time but this is a pretty crisp video presentation considering the age and varying source elements of the video footage. We get an English language Dolby Digital stereo audio track with no subtitle options and the set includes no special features whatsoever,  we have only a basic start-up menu offering either the option to play all or choose individual episodes. 

Despite the fact that the presentation is a bit dated without benefit of fancy editing and the fact it can be a bit dry from time to time I still have to give this 8-disc set a high recommend, particularly for fans of conspiracies, the unexplained, TV's In Search of... , Kolchak: The Nightstalker and The X-Files. These tales of the paranormal are thirty plus years old but the mystery and intrigue are timeless, watching it with my own three children I was pleased to see them take an interest in the unexplained wonders of the cosmos much the same way I did thirty plus years ago when I was about the same age, even without the benefit of nostalgia, this is great set. 4 Outta 5 


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

SCREAM FACTORY 2013-2014 Releases with Artwork and Special Features

Updates Shout Factory / Scream Factory releases for 2013/2014


Out on 10/1 

Blood drips from the walls. A terrifying chill permeates through the rooms. Menacing eyes glow from the upstairs window and inside this charming Long Island home, an unspeakable evil lurks the halls, waiting to torment all who dare enter. Experience the ultimate in haunted house films…and delve deeper into the history of the films with vintage special features and all-new special features created for this deluxe collector’s set.

Experience AMITYVILLE 3-D like never before on home video ….in Blu-ray 3-D
Out on 10/22
and its alternate U.S. version of the film, THE CONQUEROR WORM 


Special Features:

• Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price
• Audio Commentary with Roger Corman
• Vincent Price Retrospective Commentary with author Lucy Chase Williams featuring Piotr Michael as the voice of Vincent Price
• Audio interview with Vincent Price by historian David Del Valle
• Theatrical Trailer
•Still Gallery

• Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price
• Audio Commentary by author Lucy Chase Williams (The Complete Films of Vincent Price) and Richard Heft
• Audio Commentary by author Tom Weaver
• A Change of Poe- an interview with director Roger Corman
• Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery

• Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price
• Audio Commentary by author Steve Haberman (Silent Screams: The History of the Silent Horror Film)
• Interview with Roger Corman
• Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery

• Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price
• Rare Prologue
• Audio Commentary with Roger Corman
• Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery

• Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price
• Audio Commentary with producer Philip Waddilove and actor Ian Ogilvy
• Witchfinder General: Michael Reeves’ Horror Classic
• Vintage Interview with Vincent Price conducted by film historian David Del Valle (1987)
• Vincent and Victoria: an Interview with Victoria Price
• Theatrical Trailer
• Additional Vincent Price Theatrical Trailers
• Still Gallery

• Audio Commentary with director Robert Fuest
• Audio Commentary with author Justin Humphreys (Names You Never Remember, With Faces You Never Forget)
• Introductory Price: Undertaking “The Vincent Price Gothic Horrors”
• Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery


Out on 10/22

From the people that brought you Steve Niles’ Remains and Dead Souls comes a terrifying new anthology film based on the human senses…

SMELL – Directed by Nick Everhart. Left by his wife and stuck in a dead-end job, Seth Kyle’s life is the definition of undesirable…until a mysterious saleswoman shows up at his door offering him “a scent to die for.” Armed with a new air of self-confidence and a never-ending barrage of attention, Seth quickly learns that the smell of success comes with a deadly price.

SIGHT – Directed by Miko Hughes. Unsatisfied with his own version of reality, an optometrist develops a machine that can harness the visions of all of his patients. In an attempt to show his favorite patient’s abusive boyfriend the error of his ways, the doctor injects a series of viciously brutal images into his mind, leading to a visceral bloodbath of reality and hallucinations.

TOUCH – Directed by Emily Hagins (My Sucky Teen Romance). After a car accident leaves him stranded in the middle of nowhere, a 12-year-old blind boy stumbles into the stomping grounds of a sadistic serial killer. Using his memory and strong sense of touch, he must navigate through the unfamiliar territory as the killer quickly closes in.

TASTE – Directed by Eric England. A street-smart hacker is brought in for a job interview with a mysterious corporation. He soon learns that the company is led by a man-eater who has impeccable taste…and doesn’t take “no” for an answer.

HEARING – Directed by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton (YellowBrickRoad). While researching an urban legend about a song that’s long been thought lost, a group of friends piece together all the existing recordings of it, bringing it back to life for the first time in decades. Before long, they discover the bone-chilling truth of what happens to anyone who listens to it and why it was buried for so long.

ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON, Vol. 2 [4-Film Feature]

Out on 10/29

THE DUNGEONMASTER (AKA Ragewar) – 1985/Color/PG-13/77 minutes/Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
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 him 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 too.

CELLAR DWELLER – 1988/Color/NOT RATED/78 minutes/Full Frame
The promising career of a horror comic book artist ends in a fiery death when he confronts the carnage of his own imagination in his studio. Years later, an ardent devotee of the artist's work becomes a resident in his house, now an art academy, unaware that her imagination has revived the grotesque murderer of the past…and that she may be the next victim.

CATACOMBS – 1993/Color/R/84 minutes/Full Frame
For over 400 years, the curse of the Abbey at San Pietro was kept a secret. Buried deep beneath the monastery lies the Beast of the Apocalypse. The power of evil is unleashed when an American priest and a beautiful young schoolteacher uncover the unholy terror of a diabolical spell cast centuries ago. Now, it will take the ultimate sacrifice for the curse that will not be denied.

CONTAMINATION .7 (AKA The Crawlers AKA Creepers) – 1993/Color/Rated R/94 minutes/Anamorphic Widescreen (1.87:1)
When radioactive waste from a nearby nuclear plant turns the local trees into man-eating plants, a group of determined villagers must fight them to the death.

NIGHT OF THE COMET (Collector's Edition)
Out on 11/9

Special Features: 
- Commentary with Writer/Director Thom Eberhardt
- Commentary with Stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
- Commentary with Production Designer John Muto
- Valley Girls At The End Of The World – Interviews with Stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
- The Last Man On Earth? – Interview with Actor Robert Beltran
- Curse of the Comet – Interview with Special Make-Up Effects Creator David B. Miller
- Still Galleries (Behind the Scenes and Official Stills)
- Original Theatrical Trailer

Out 11/2013

The original classic siege thriller is intensified further with all-new ‘Scream’-produced extras. Check out the newly-designed key art for our upcoming Blu-ray Collector's Edition of John Carpenter's ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, nicely illustrated by artist James Rheem Davis. (Nov 2013) 

Special Features:
- NEW Commentary with Art Director & Sound Effects Editor Tommy Lee Wallace
- NEW interview with actress Nancy Loomis Kyes
- NEW interview with actor Austin Stoker 
- Commmentary with writer/director John Carpenter 
- Interview with John Carpenter and Austin Stoker 
- Theatrical Trailer 
- Radio Spots
- Still Gallery

BODY BAGS (11/12) 


EVE OF DESTRUCTION – The 1991 Gregory Hines android-gone-amok sci-fi thriller hits Blu and anamorphic widescreen for the first time. 


Special Features: 
- New commentary with legendary Producer Sean S. Cunningham 

SATURN 3 (12/3)

SATURN 3 – This post-Alien 1980 Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett vs. Evil Robot flick gets a considerable upgrade to Blu-ray for the first time. New extras planned. 


SCREAM FACTORY “TV TERRORS” –Two made-for-TV movies - 1978’s THE INITIATION OF SARAH and ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? – will be packaged together on DVD for the first time at a good price. Fans have been asking us if we could exploit more of this made-for TV content so consider this an “experiment”. If this sells well, we would love to look into bringing you a “Volume 2”.


CAT PEOPLE (Jan 2014)

CAT PEOPLE (Collector’s Edition) – The 1982 feline flick (with Nastassja Kinski, sex, violence and a great David Bowie single) arrives on Blu for the first time with all-new extras 

(Jan 2014) 

DARKMAN (Collector’s Edition) (2/18)

The 1990 Sam Raimi cult classic gets the full on ‘Scream’ treatment with all new extras.

NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (early 2014)

VISITING HOURS / BAD DREAMS Double Feature (early 2014)

WITCHBOARD (early 2014)

- NOSFERATU (2014)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blu-ray Review: IN LIKE FLINT (1967)

Label: Twilight Time DVD
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Not Rated 
Duration: 114 Minutes
Video: 1080p Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Director: Gordon Douglass 
Cast: James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb, Jean Hale, Andrew Duggan

The man with the panther stroll James Coburn returns as super-spy Derek Flint in this whimsical Bond-spoof actioner from director Gordon Douglass and once again we get pretty much anything one could want for from a spy-comedy. There are fantastic sets, exotic locations, irreverent and sexist humor, kitschy gadgets, go-go dancing chics, gnarly fashions, and it's all wrapped up in the candy-colored veneer of 1960's technicolor.

Flint once again returns to aid Z.O.W.I.E. when an insidious group of women who run the Fabulous Face Spa infiltrate and replace the President of the United States with a double and assume control of a new space lab orbiting the Earth. Armed with nuclear weapons they threaten to blow up the world unless control is handed over to women - yup, that's right, feminist terrorism. Hilariously the secretive group recruit women for the cause by brainwashing them with hairdryers armed with subliminal messages, "Brainwashing by hair washing". Yeah, sure it's goofy but it's a lot of fun too.  

Aside from the charismatic presence of Coburn as super spy Derek Flint a definite highlight is the return of befuddled spy chief Lloyd C. Cramden         (J. Cobb) who goes undercover dressed in drag to the Fabulous Face spa, it's quite a sight. The set pieces and locations are fantastic, plus the action is ramped-up including a great snow-covered rooftop pursuit that's on par with any 007 film, thrilling stuff. In Like Flint (1967) is not just a great spy-spoof sequel, it's a spy film on par with many of the 007 entries. 

Blu-ray: Twilight Time presents In Like Flint (1967) with a 1080p AVC encoded transfer in it's original CinemaScope aspect ratio, the source print used for the transfer is fantastic. There's a nice grain structure, colors are vibrant, greens and red especially pop, it's a sharp presentation with wonderful clarity and some actual depth to the 1080p image, a very nice transfer. 

There are two audio options including a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono and a 5.1 surround mix. The 5.1 sounds quite nice, dialogue, Jerry Goldsmith's score and effects all sound balanced and clear, it's a punchy track and the Goldsmith score sounds fantastic, there's some nice atmospheric use of the surrounds which add some minor depth. I was surprised at the inclusion of the 5.1 as the previous Our Man Flint (1967) Blu-ray offered only a mono mix, optional English SDH subtitles are included.  

As with their presentation of Our Man Flint (1965) Twilight Time offer copious amounts of extras on the disc beginning with Jerry Goldsmith's isolated music score, a fantastic score with some great spy themes and jazzy swing, it's a lot of fun. 

We get another Audio Commentary with Film Historians Lee Pfeiffer and Eddy Friedfeld who talk at length about spy films of the 60's and 70's. 

There;s over an hour of featurettes with interviews from co-author John Cork, director Michael Mann, author Collin Stutz, Lisa Coburn, Mathew Bradford and many others covering all facets of the production, the parodies it inspired, the kitschy style, the future retro design and spy gadgets and Jerry Goldsmith's fantastic score, this is a pretty stuffed disc. 

My favorite segment would have to be James Coburn: The Man Behind the Spy (14:53) which reveals much about the man with the panther stroll, such as did you know Coburn studied under Bruce Lee! Coburn was a very quirky guy who was into youth culture and marched to his own beat. There's loving tributes from his daughter Lisa Coburn, screenwriter Ben Starr and producer Hilard Elkins as they speak about his career, suffering crippling arthritis in the 70's and winning an Academy Award at the age of 79 plus voicing the character of Waternoose in Pixar's Monsters, Inc (2001)

The plethora of extras are finished off out by screen tests and trailers plus a full-color 8 pg booklet with writings from Twilight Time staff writer Julie Kirgo whom offers an appreciation of the spy spoof, James Coburn and the the film's take on the burgeoning feminist movement. .

Twilight Time's In Like Flint (1967) Blu-ray is bursting at the seams with extras and and a sweet 1080p transfer, this is a great disc. The disc is strictly limited to 3,000 editions and is available from www.screenarchives.com or for inflated prices on Amazon.com or eBay. If this release intrigues you you'd best snap it up quick before it's gone.  

Special Features: 

- Isolated Score Track 
- Audio Commentary with Film Historians Lee Pfeiffer and Eddy Friedfeld
- Derek Flint: The Secret Files (15:34) 
- James Coburn: The Man Beyond the Spy (14:53)
- Designing Flint (11:33)
- Flint vs Zanuck: The Missing 3 Minutes (7:09) 
- Take it Off (8:41) 
- Puerto Rico Premiere (11:42)
- Future Perfect (7:28)
- Feminine Wiles (6:29)
- Spy School (6:28)
- Musician's Magician (5:11)
- Spy Vogue (5:59)
- Screen Test (2:15)
- Trailer #1 (:56)
- Trailer #2 (3:22) 

Verdict: James Coburn again wins me over with his anti-Bond spy persona, super-smart and super-cool from start to finish, if you love spy cinema this is a no-brainer, you must own this technicolor marvel, a blast of retro-spy awesomeness. 4 Outta 5  


Collector's Edition 2-DVD Set 

Label: Yellow Hat Productions
Region Code: 0 NTSC 

Rating: Unrated
Duration: 106 mins
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: 16:9 Widescreen
Director: Paul Davids
Cast: Richard Matheson, Whitley Strieber, Dannion Brinkley, Gary E. Schwartz, Michael Shermer, Forrest J Ackerman, Mark Macy, Joe Moe, Sean Fernald

Paul Davids, the director of the documentary The Sci-Fi Boys spurred this exploration of the afterlife after an odd encounter in a hotel room. While staying at a hote he printed a piece of paper, he then left the room for a few moments and when he returned he found what he believes was proof that his friend, the departed Forrest J Ackerman of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, had reached out him from beyond the grave. Actually, what he found was an unexplained ink smudge on a piece of paper, but this documentary would have you believe it's proof of the existence of the conscious mind from beyond.

Personally I do believe in something in the hereafter. What exactly that is I won't speculate on but I do hope there's something beyond what we know, I wanna believe there's more than just rotting in the dirt. When my younger tragically brother passed on at a young age I found myself speaking to him while I was alone in the dark, I was full of regret and mourning his death, there were so many things I wished I'd said, and I would find myself speaking these things to him as if he were there. Do I think he was present at the time, was his spirit with me, does anyone really know?

Paul Davids and a small group of true believers, scientists and friends of the departed Forrest J Ackerman would have you believe yes, there's something out there. we have entries from respected science fiction authors Richard Matheson, Whitley Strieber, Dannion Brinkley and Michael Shermer, whom all chime in. There are also testimonies and research from scientist including Gary Schwartz, the Director of the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health, here in Tucson, AZ at The University of Arizona, where I work. Schwartz in his lab attempts to communicate with the deceased through a series of yes/no questions and awaits a metered response, which proves absolutely nothing in my opinion. Seriously, until I see an apparition myself it's gonna be difficult for me to believe, not that I do not want to, I just need a little proof.

Some of these testimonies are compelling stories, witnesses recount weird happenings that they assign to the afterlife, but c'mon now, papers falling off a chair... one time! If it weren't for the trappings of Forry Ackerman here I don't think I would have even given this documentary a shot, I hate shows like Ghost Hunters. I do appreciate the fond remembrances of the the world's ultimate science-fiction nerd but as a science-based exploration of life after death the film is utterly lacking, simply stating that science cannot rule out communication from the afterlife does not prove squat.

There are 40 minutes of bonus features including audio excerpts from a 2009 tribute to Ackerman with touching tributes from Rick Baker and Ray Bradbury. There's also a second disc featuring The Life After Death Project 2 - Personal Encounters (101 Mins) with further testimony about personal accounts of supposed life after death. I would much rather watch a documentary about Forrest J. Ackerman's life and what he meant to legions of fans, what happened after his death is of far less interest. 2 Outta 5



Label: Wild Eye Releasing

Release Date: August 20th 2013
Region Code: 0 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: 16:9 Widescreen 
Director: Tom Martino 
Cast: Howard Calvert, Jamelle Kent, Danny McCarty, Matt Rogers, Corey Fuller, Joe Grisaffi
Tagline: Surprise, Surprise White Guys!

Wild Eye Releasing have been putting some fun sub-Troma atrocities for a few year's now, if you're familiar with their output you've got a leg up on the newbies which means you've either chosen to skip it or just embrace the no-budget schlock. In Tom Martino's Race War: The Remake (2012) Baking Soda (Howard Calvert) is a PCP-swilling drug dealer from the ghetto and when intergalactic drug dealers start turning his customers into zombies with their otherworldly space crack he and his pals G.E.D. (Jamelle Kent) and Da Black Kreacha arm up and fuck shit up!

What a strange movie, an offensive and splatteriffic slice of no-budget schlock filled to the brim with toilet humor, racism and insensitivity. It's not particularly clever in any sorta way, it's just crude in-your-face vulgarity with some gory practical effects, it's quite a bloody affair. The comedy is sophomoric, just a never-ending barrage of toilet humor and crude sexual behavior which wouldn't be so bad if the writing was a bit better, but it's pretty miserable.  

There's a nutty cast of ghetto-character that include about every awful racial stereotype you could imagine, the best part of the film by far was Baking Soda and the bizarre Da Black Kreacha whom make quite a duo, did I mention the cum-guzzling weirdo with a gallon of milk for a face?  

There's no shortage of grisly no-budget head trauma onscreen with gallons of blood spraying from gaping wounds and decapitations but to sit through this 95 minute feature will undoubtedly be a chore, even for the most hardened of schlock enthusiasts. 

The disc from Wild Eye includes a few special features including a rambling group commentary that was a bit to chaotic too enjoy, a gag reel, a fun gore reel and a selection of trailers from Wild Eye. 

A bizarre entry even by Wild Eye standards, if you're in the mood for an offensive slice of trash cinema with no little to redeeming value this gets a weak recommend otherwise I say skip it. There's some camp and cult value here, a group viewing of this with a few friends and a lot of beer would not be entirely devoid of fun. I appreciate Wild Eye's commitment to releasing these micro-budget weirdies that not even Troma would pick-up but it doesn't mean I have to enjoy 'em all. 1.5 Outta 5 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blu-ray Review: THE FOG (1980)

THE FOG (1980)
Collector's Edition Blu-ray 

Label: Scream Factory / Shout! Factory 
Region Code:
Rating: R
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curttis, Tom Atkins, John Houseman, Janel Leigh, George "Buck" Flowers 
Tagline: What You Can't See Won't urt You... It'll Kill You!

John Carpenter's The Fog (1980) opens with a great campfire tale on the eve of Antonio Bay's 100th anniversary. Actor John Houseman begins with the phrase "11:55, almost midnight, enough time for one more story..." before he relays a tale of  vengeful sailors returning from their watery graves to a group of children, it's pitch perfect and sets the tone for entire film, it's a traditional and inspired piece of cinema. 

 After the tale at the stroke of midnight strange things begins to happen in Antonio Bay as an unearthly and unseen presence sweeps through the sleepy village causing a rash of supernatural phenomena, horns blare and sirens wail. A local fisherman named Nick Castle (Tom Atkins, Night of the Creeps) drives down a windy scenic nighttime road as we hear the seductive sounds of DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau, Swamp Thing) broadcasting from her  lighthouse studio. Castle picks up a perky hitcher named Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis, Terror Train) when suddenly the windows of the truck shatters violently, the incident apparently so damn frightening that it seems to have scared the clothes right of Elizabeth as the next scene features the pair in a post-coital glow nestled in Castle's bed, ha ha. That Tom Atkins is a chic magnet, thrill me baby. 

At the local Church the drunken Father Malone (Hal Holbrook, Creepshow) sips wine when a sudden rumbling of the Earth loosens a stone in the wall of his rectory revealing a small relief. Inside is the century old diary of one of Antonio Bay's celebrated founding father, Malone's grandfather. The writings in the book implicate Malone and five other conspirators  whom deliberately shipwrecked the clipper ship Elizabeth Dane and it's crew of lepers just off the coast to plunder their riches. 

This same night at sea the fishing trawler the Seagrass and it's crew are overcome by a eerie supernatural fog bank that's arrives from out of nowhere. A century old clipper ship pulls up alongside them and they are boarded by sword wielding, crusty sailors sheathed in fog. It's quite an eerie sight and the men are slaughtered, gutted by hooks and run-through by swords. The next day the bodies are discovered and Antonio Bay might never be the same again, at the stroke of midnight the seaside village is inundated by glowing fog and the arrival of vengeful specters, there's definitely something in the mist! 

The Fog (1980) is an effective little chiller, and while it may not regarded as well as John Carpenter's slasher classic Halloween (1978) but I think it's pretty a fantastic watch, it remains one of my most cherished ghost stories of all time. Antonio Bay is the perfect setting for Carpenter's ghostly revenge thriller, too. It's views are both scenically gorgeous and eerie, particularly when the fog rolls in with the salty lepers in it's midst ready to gut those unfortunate enough to be overcome by the incandescent mist.

And what a cast! We have Jamie Lee Curtis (Terror Train) at her scream queen prime and Tom Atkins who a this point was not just yet a genre staple in great supporting roles. Plus Hal Holbrook, (Ritual) who effortlessly classes up every joint, is pretty great as the drunken priest. The star of the show is the sultry Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing) as the velvet-tongued late night DJ who's sexing up the airwaves on the bay from her remote lighthouse studio. She's truly the star of the film, sort of at the center of everything and the first two put the pieces together, when she's left alone to face off against vengeful spirits in the lighthouse it's great stuff, a real nail biter. Also spicing up the cast are George "Buck" Flowers (They Live) and Janet Leigh (Psycho) in smaller roles, there's just not a bad apple in the bunch. John Carpenter even shows up in a brief cameo at the top of the film. 

It's  super-creepy, from the very start with the pitch prefect campfire tale The Fog (1980) is a spooky haunted attraction, in an age of pre-digital effects we get are some creative old school ingenuity, the fog effects are fantastic and put to shame the soulless 2005 remake. To this day  I cannot see a fog bank and not imagine salty sword-wielding sailor with glowing red eyes emerging to reap their awful revenge. The crusty sailors effects created by Rob Bottin are great and we see quite a bit more of them here with this hi-def presentation that we've ever gleaned before, while it's certainly not a bloodbath film it's grisly in it's own gritty little way, the deaths stick with you. Check out the gruesome death of the poor horny weatherman, a hook right through the throat!

The film is more or less a traditional tale of spectral vengeance but it can get a bit schlocky from time to time and if you know anything about me you can appreciate  that I do love a fair amount of schlock. A few weird jump scares are peppered  throughout that seem slightly incongruous to the scenes wrapped round 'em and here's why... Carpenter administered numerous re-shoots and re-edits following his displeasure with the first cut of the film feeling it lacked shock and awe so he ramped up the violence and gore, and I think it's a better film for it. Another observation is that the sea-faring ghosts seems more like soggy zombies than unearthly specters, which is actually more menacing. Maybe not a perfect film but a spectral classic just the same, this is essential chiller cinema.  

Blu-ray: The Fog (1980) gets a brand new 1080p widescreen (2.35:1) transfer supervised by cinematographer Dean Cundey and it's a marked improvement over the standard-def DVD.Colors appear natural and vibrant while the black levels are deep, this is a very dark film and we're seeing things here in 1080p that we've never seen before,with some very nice fine detail and a nice intact grain structure.

Audio options include English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and a 2.0.  Both are nicely balanced and quite strong with a definite edge going to the 5.1 for the atmospheric use of the surrounds, adding more depth to the proceedings. John Carpenters score still sends shivers down my spine, it's definitely one of those Carpenter films where the visuals and audio elements come together perfectly, it completely ramps up the tension. Optional English subtitles are included on the disc. 

Reversible Artwork
Onto the special features we get all of the extras from MGM's 2005 DVD including the fantastic commentary with writer/director john Carpenter and writer/producer Debra Hill. Always have been a fan of the Carpenter commentaries and this is a great one with an unvarnished recounting of shooting the film and the re shoots and edits done after a disastrous first screening. We also get the two retrospective featurette with input from John Carpenter, Deborah Hill, Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Dean Cundey and Tommy Lee Wallace, a reel of outtakes, storyboards, TV spots and trailers, plus some neat special effects test footage.These were great extras and it's great to see them carried over for Scream Factory's Blu-ray. 

Scream Factory offer a few brand new features beginning with an audio commentary with  Actress Adrienne Barbeau, Actor Tom Atkins and Production Designer Tommy Lee Wallace and it's  warm and friendly one filled with great anecdotes, it's a fun listen and you can tell the trio quite enjoy each others company.  

My Time with Terror with Jamie Lee Curtis (27:54) features the former scream queen in a really talkative mood, this is great stuff. As she sits down for the interview she comments on the fog rolling in just outside the window, noting that it bodes well for the interview and it surely does. Curtis talks about her time on the film and is very honest about how she felt about the film, apparently it's just not her thing, go figure. Lucky for we slasher fans the scream queen speaks about her work on 80's slasher classics Terror Train (1980), Prom Night (1980) and the ozploitation thriller Road Games (1981) with Stacey Keach, probably my favorite of the new extras.

Dean of Darkness (18:40) features cinematographer Dean Cundey speaking of his collaborations with John Carpenter including Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981), Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and the first two sequels to Halloween. It's a great listen as he talks about the style and lighting of each film, noting in particular the great atmosphere of this particular chiller. 

Of course Sean Clark returns with another edition of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – A Look At The Film’s Locations (20:22), always a fun romp and you gotta love Clark's corny sense of humor. Finishing off the new features is an Easter egg hidden away on one of the menus, spoiler alert, it's am ABC Sunday Night Movie promo for The Fog (1980). The set also includes a slip case featuring a great illustration by Justin Osbourne, plus a sleeve of reversible artwork, thinking this is the best artwork so far! 

New Scream Factory™ Special Features:
- New HD transfer of the film supervised by Director of Photography Dean Cundey
- My Time with Terror with Jamie Lee Curtis - Exclusive interview with Actress Jamie Lee Curtis discussing The Fog and covering her legendary early 80s “Scream Queen” career.

- Audio commentary featuring Actress Adrienne Barbeau, Actor Tom Atkins and Production Designer Tommy Lee Wallace
- Dean of Darkness - Retrospective interview with Director of Photography Dean Cundey about his many legendary collaborations with John Carpenter (18:40)
- Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – A Look At The Film’s Locations with host Sean Clark (20:22)

- Easter Egg (1:02)

Extras from the MGM™ DVD Edition:
- Tales From The Mist: Inside The Fog Featurette (27:58)
- Fear On Film: Inside The Fog Featurette (7:42)
- The Fog: Storyboard To Film Comparison (1:25)
- Outtakes (4:10)
- Theatrical Trailers (4:34)

- TV Spots (3:05)
- Special Effects Tests (2:39)
- Photo Gallery (8:02)

- Storyboards (2:18)
- Audio Commentary With Writer/Director John Carpenter And Writer/Producer Debra Hill

Verdict: Thirty plus years later John Carpenter's The Fog (1980) is still an effective chiller with some great atmosphere and an fantastic cast. When I think of a well-crafted tales of terror with a healthy dose of grue this classic immediately comes to mind, an essential purchase. Scream Factory keep doing it right, another outstanding Blu-ray edition  4 Outta 5 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Q THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)


Release Date: August 27th 2013 
Region Code: A NTSC
Duration: 92 Minutes 
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Laarry Cohen
Cast: Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, David Carradine, Richard Roundtree
Tagline: It's Name is Quetzalcoatl.... Just Call it "Q"... That's All You'll Have Time to Say Before it Tears You Apart!

A pair of seasoned cops, Sergeant Powell (Richard Roundtree, Shaft) and Detective Shepard (David Carradine, Kill Bill Vol. 2),  investigate a series of strange murders in New York City. The city is plagued by gory roof-top dismemberment, at the same time a ritually skinned corpse is found in a hotel room, something very strange is going on in Lower Manhattan, including sightings of a giant winged serpent!

Thrown into the mayhem is a quirky small time crook named Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty, The Stuff) who quite by accident stumbles upon the nest of the voracious winged terror in the spire of the Chrysler Building. When Quinn is brought into police headquarters for questioning in relation to a botched jewelry heist he plays the only card he has available, the whereabouts of the beast's nest. Quinn demands not just leniency for his crimes but squeezes a million dollar payday from the city, much to the duress of the Mayor's office and the cops. 

Q is a very simple creature feature with a straight-forward plot and some great character drive drama, it's not rocket science, it's a b-movie science-fiction thriller. While the creature effects are dated in a schlocky sorta way they are nonetheless fantastic and super enjoyable, it's the best sort of low-budget spectacle. If you love vintage stop-motion creature effects prepare to blow a load in your pants, this is a riot. The special effects here are a mixed bag of b-movie awesomeness with some great stop-motion, some not-so-great giant claws grasping a woman from out of a roof-top pool and some poorly matted effects, it's not all high caliber movie magic but it's definitely low-rent entertainment, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

What's so damn enjoyable, and what is typical of Larry Cohen's low-budget features, are the great cast of gritty and neurotic New York City characters, none more so than the superbly unhinged and nuanced performance from Law and Order's Michael Moriarty who steals the film from both beast and co-star, definitely my favorite Moriarty performance. I felt a great deal of  sympathy for his long suffering girlfriend (Candy Clark, The Blob) who just wanted so much to see the good inside of him, but in the end he's just a low-life hood. 

Now the departed David Carradine was an actor with a long pedigree of b-movie credits most of which I've never much cared for, but with Q he gives a great performance as the detective who manages to connect the dots, linking the appearance of the winged serpent Quetzalcoatl with the ritual human sacrifices, plus we have Shaft's Richard Roundtree as his no-nonsense partner, the film has a great cast.  

Giant winged creature, Aztec ritual human sacrifice, a dark comedy laced with some awesome characters, fun dialogue and shoe-string budget special effects. It all adds up to a genuinely entertaining slice of drive-in cinema, if you have love for  The Crater Lake Monster (1977) this one is right up your alley. 

Blu-ray: Back in 2003 Blue Underground Larry Cohen's drive-in classic a very nice DVD release, 10 years later Shout! Factory continue to celebrate b-movie monster romp with a hi-def Blu-ray presented in 1080p widescreen (1.78:1) with an MPEG-4 AVC encode. Q - The Winged Serpent has never looked better! It's not the most eye-popping hi-def you've ever witnessed, there's minor print damage, grain and dirt evident throughout, it's not gonna knock your socks off but the 1080p upgrade is very nice, fans will be quite pleased. The single audio option is English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0  which delivers dialogue and effects cleanly, plus the Robert O. Ragland (Grizzly) score comes through strong, it's a fun soundtrack.

Not a lot of extras on the disc, the main feature being a brand new audio commentary from director Larry Cohen and it's a winner, Cohen's a fascinating filmmaker, his oeuvre from the 70's and 80's is loaded with fantastic cult and b-movie gems and Q is one of his finest moments in my opinion. He fondly recalls filming the creature feature in New York City in the 80's, he heaps praise on actor Michael Moriarty and paints a picture of David Carradine's career both before and after the feature. The commentary starts off with a fun anecdote about the first screening of the film and how patrons fled the cinema as soon as the name of American Pictures International impresario Samuel Z. Arkoff's appeared on screen, now that's quite a reputation. Cohen keeps it interesting for the entirety of the film, an essential commentary from one of the great figures of 70's and 80's exploitation cinema. The only additional features are a theatrical trailer (2:32) and a teaser promo (0:30) for the feature. 

Now, the eternal question is to double-dip or not, if you own the Blue Underground disc you may not wanna trade-in that one quite yet, for starters the DVD has a DTS-ES 6.1 surround audio and there's a different Larry Cohen audio commentary moderated by filmmaker Blue Underground's William Lustig (Maniac, Maniac Cop) that you might wanna hang on to. I'm a fan of Cohen's films and I think its worth the double-dip, just keep in mind that unlike a few of the Scream Factory editions we've reviewed which ported the special features from previous DVD editions and added a few new ones, this is just not that definitive an edition, but it's a very nice 1080p presentation just the same and for some, that's quite enough. 

Verdict: Larry Cohen's Q - The Winged Serpent (1982) holds up quite well with some great performances and strong stop-motion effects work, a drive-in cult classic and a fun genre film. If you haven't seen it in a while check it out, definitely an underrated gem of genre cinema. 3.5 Outta 5