Friday, October 20, 2017

THE LIFT (1983) (Blue Underground Blu-ray Review)

THE LIFT (1983)
Limited Edition (3000) DVD/Blu-ray Combo

Label: Blue Underground
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 99 Minutes 
Audio: Dutch: DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1; Dutch, English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 ; Dutch Dolby Digital Surround EX 5.1; Dutch, English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Dick Maas
Cast: Huub Stapel, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Josine van Dalsum

Synopsis: There is something very wrong with the elevator in a stylish office high-rise. The passengers never end up on the floor of their choice. They end up dead! When Felix, an inquisitive repairman, investigates the faulty deathtrap, he discovers that something other than malfunctioning machinery is to blame. Some dark, distorted power has gained control of the elevator for its own evil design. After his horrifying discovery is given the shaft by the authorities, he joins a nosy female journalist to battle the unholy force inside THE LIFT!

The Dutch 80's sci-fi horror flick The Lift (1985) opens inside the Icarus office building where a rowdy group of late-night revelers find themselves trapped in an elevator when the power goes out during a storm. One of the couples attempt to make the most of it, with the man groping the woman's bare breasts greedily in the dark, but soon the air proves too thin and they all nearly suffocate. Lift repairman Felix Adelaar (Huub Stapel, Amsterdamned) shows up to check out the faulty equipment but can find no malfunction that would account for the lack of air or any other mechanical-based issues. 

However, the elevator soon racks up a decent body count, beginning with a blind man who walks into an empty shaft and falls to his death, and a security guard loses his head when his he becomes stuck in the doors as the lift descends upon him. It's a fun scene, though the prop head looks mighty fake it is still a fun low-budget decapitation with his head falling several stories down the shaft, landing on the corpse of the as of yet undiscovered blind man. Another security guard, who was helpless to prevent the tragedy, though he didn't seem to try all that hard, can be seen puking into his cap when it happens. 

Felix makes several more trips to the office building to check on the elevator but each time finds nothing peculiar, though he does meet a reporter named Mieke (Willeke van Ammelrooy) who teams-up with Felix to get to the bottom of the seemingly murderous lift. What they discover is a weird experiment being conducted by Rising Sun, a manufacturer of microprocessors, who secretly supply electronics for the Deta Liften, the elevator company that manufactures the lift and who employ Felix as a repairman. His nosing around angers his boss, who puts him on a leave of absence, but Felix is already obsessed with the lift and he and Mieke continue their investigation on their own.

The movie is a weird little entry, the idea of a killer elevator is truly absurd, but is no less strange that a killer car (Christine, The Car, The Hearse) or dry-cleaning press (The Mangler), and Maas clearly knows that, but the actors play this straight as can be, and it makes for a fun, campy watch. There are some slow parts though, Felix sorting through various newspaper  clippings and circuitry diagrams for the lift can me a bit tedious, and the growing rift between he and his wife doesn't exactly set the film on fire, but the fun kills and well-crafted low-budget thrills make for a good watch with stylish visuals and an incredulous premise that somehow works.  

A scene involving a young girl playing in the lobby near a trio of lift doors is well done, she plays a game with the seemingly sentient apparatus, a sort of peek-a-boo that nearly ends in the young girl's death, crushing her precious dolly in it's doors. The finale of this one is a bit kooky, with Felix facing off against the lift's organic-microprocessor brain, but it does manage to squeeze in one more kill with the lift using it's tentacle-esque cables to murder one f it's creators, it's a fun scene and close the movie out on an appropriately cheesy/awesome note. 

Audio/Video: The Lift (1983) debuts on Blu-ray and DVD in the US from distributor Blue Underground with a brand new 2K restoration from the original negative approved by director Dick Maas, framed in the original 1.66:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The image looks solid with a nice looking grain field, the oftentimes neon-infused visuals pop in a low-budget sort of way, but there are certain limitations due to the source, with some scenes looking softer than others, but the transfer and encode look fantastic. Audio on the disc comes by way of a fun Dutch DTS-HD MA  5.1 surround mix with optional English subtitles, the surrounds get some use for this one, which is awesome. There are also DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mixes in both Dutch and dubbed-English, the dubbed track is not too bad, but the dialogue obviously sounds more natural and less canned on the Dutch tracks, with the synth score from Maas also coming through with more power and fidelity on the Dutch tracks. 

Onto the extras we have a new commentary from Writer/Director Dick Maas and Editor Hans van Dongen moderated by David Gregory, a lively discussion as the director recalls making this low-budget horror film, how certain effects were achieved, creating the synth score himself and the inspirations seen in the movie from Jaws to Star Wars. He also tells of how actress Willeke van Ammelrooy was not a fan of his direction style, after the film wrapped she left him a cassette tape with notes on how to be a better director with actors, which he never listened to. There's a nine-minute interview with star Hubb Stapel, a continuation of his boat-tour interview we saw on the Amsetrdamned disc, speaking of how he came from a theater background, having appeared in a stage pay of Harold and Maude, being cast in the role, struggling a bit with how Maas directed, and the success of the film, and how he didn't receive any work after the film for another two years, despite how successful it was. The extras are finished up with a gallery of various poster and release artwork from various territories, behind the scenes images, still, Dutch and US trailers and Maas' 2003 short film "Long Distance". 

This 2-disc release comes housed in a clear Criterion-style Scanavo case with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring two art options including the original VHS artwork sporting the infamous tagline "Take the stairs. Take the stairs. For God's sake take the stairs!!!". The discs likewise offer up the same two key artworks on their visage. There's a 20-page collector's booklet with new writing on the film by former Fangoria editor Chris Alexander, this includes cast, crew info plus chapter selection, and behind-the-scenes images and stills, plus various posters for this and the American remake and John Carpenter's Christine. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Dick Maas and Editor Hans van Dongen moderated by David Gregory 
- Going Up – Interview with Star Huub Stapel
- “Long Distance” – Short Film by Dick Maas (2003) (4 min) HD
- Dutch Trailer (4 min) HD 
- U.S. Trailer (2 min) HD 
- Poster and Still Gallery (88 Images) HD 
- BONUS 2o-Page Collectible Booklet with new essay by writer and filmmaker Chris Alexander

Blue Underground give The Lift (1982) a top-floor 2-disc release, the new 2K transfer looks great and the extras are a great value-add. I've only seen a handful of Dick Maas's movies, but I love them all so far, his quirky sense of humor an affinity for stylish well-staged thriller/horror action continues to please. In my opinion you can never have too much Dick Maas, and Blue Underground continue the love with this release, which coincides with their release of Maas' American remake of The Lift, Down (2001), starring Naomi Watts (Twin Peaks: The Return), also on 2-disc DVD/BD, and to be reviewed soon.