Thursday, January 31, 2019

COBRA (1986) (Scream Factory Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

COBRA (1986)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R

Duration: 87 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 

Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, Brian Thompson, John Herzfeld, Lee Garlington

In my youth growing up in a rural Upstate New York I would catch a lot of films screening at the local psychiatric center in nearby Willard, NY. My father worked there and informed me that the place would screen 35mm movies for the patients once a month, and if we showed up where they screened them the state employees would let us inside to watch the movies for free. About once a month on a Saturday my dad would drop us off nearby and we'd go in and sit in an darkened auditorium along with psychiatric patients. Inside there was a full size movie screen, the seating were fold-out metal chairs positioned in the front of the screen. We could opt to sit right there along with the patients or off on the perimeter of the auditorium where there were some stationary bikes and some Nautilus style weight benches. I would usually opt for the workout benches when possible, but sometimes there were older kids already camped out there I didn't want to hang out with and I would  end up sitting nearby or alongside the mental patients. Every once in a while you would catch a glimpse or hear something you shouldn't see, like a man with tourettes involuntarily shouting profanity or a couple laying on the floor touching each other, all of which at twelve or so I found a little off-putting to say the least. Anyway, it couldn't have been too traumatic for me, the closest real cinema was thirty miles away and my parents rarely would take us, so I caught a lot of films there and kept coming back. 

It was there I saw loads of 80's comedies like Fletch, Dragnet and The 'Burbs, films that were less than a year old, plus some occasional vintage sci-fi like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. One of the strangest experiences was watching One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest there, the irony of which was not lost on me, even at the tender age. I do not recall seeing many horror films there, but a few action films for sure, and Cobra is one I do seem to recall watching. The atmosphere of danger in the film really rubbed off on me during my viewing back then, there's a axe-wielding cult in the film, and it wasn't too long of a stretch for me to imagine the patients surrounding me were the same violent crazies seen in the film. Now I know that's insensitive and not a very nice thing to imagine, but I was young and sometimes when you're that age you don't see things correctly, let alone politically correct, but I do love thinking back to all the movies I saw at the psychiatric center, bemused by the strange looks I incur when during a movie conversation I'll occasionally say "oh yeah, I saw that one at the asylum", and I love bringing up that story every time one of those films gets a new Blu-ray release.    

Directed by George P. Cosmatos (Of Unknown Origin) Cobra (1986) is a star vehicle for 80's man of action Sylvester Stallone, appearing as LAPD's Lieutenant Marion Cobretti, a member of an elite squad of crime-stoppers known as the "zombie squad". He goes by the handle "Cobra", and his favorite weapons are a laser-sighted sub-machine gun and a Colt .45 with a Cobra emblazoned on the pearl hand grip. Even more bad ass is his custom ride, a sweetly modded '50 Mercury Monterrey.

The film opens with a nut job (Marco Rodriguez, The Crow) taking hostages at the local supermarket, shooting up the produce section before blowing a guy away in cold blood. Cobra is called in when negotiations fail, sneaking his way into the market he chugs a can of Coors beer, and spouts off a few tasteful 80s one-liners like "you're the disease, and I'm the cure", before ventilating the guy with a knife and blowing him away.  This sets up Cobretti as a bit of a loose canon, not liked by his peers, and hounded by the media for his brutal take downs of criminals. 

Turns out that the supermarket killer was part of a larger group, a cult set on ridding the world of what it considers vermin, the group is known as The New World Order, and is lead by a guy who calls himself The Night Stalker (Brian Thompson, The X-Files), who has set his sights on a model named Ingrid Knudsen (Brigitte Nielsen, Red Sonja) who was a witness to one of their crimes. Cobretti and his sweets-munching partner Sergeant Tony Gonzales (Reni Santoni, Dirty Harry) are assigned to protect her, and then the violent shit really hits the fan. 

This is a big, bad-ass slice of 80's action that is dripping with excess force, and some tasty slasher-ish tendencies with the cult members regularly stalking and knifing their victims. Stallone is in fine form, his one-liners are some of his best, his character doesn't have a lot of depth, but he has lots of weird quirk. A health conscious eater who cuts his pizza into bite sized pieces with a pair of scissors. It may not be The French Connection but it is a wonderful piece of hyper-violent 80's cinema stylishly shot by director George P. Cosmatos and cinematographer Ric Waite (The Long Riders).

The cult is a strange element in the film, there are scenes throughout of them meeting up in a warehouse, clanging axes together and chanting, ominous stuff that doesn't really jive with the rest of the film, but it looks cool for sure. Brian Thompson as the Terminator-esque baddie is imposing and scary, there's not a lot depth to it, but on a surface level he does what he needs to do, and he has a bad-ass looking knife with a spiked handle that is pretty damn cool. 

Audio/Video: Cobra arrives on Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a new 2K scan from an archival inter-positive performed by Warner Bros.. Having not seen the previous Blu-ray I cannot compare but the film look fantastic, grain is well-managed, the source is clean and free of dirt and blemishes, colors are nicely saturated and the blacks are deep and inky, a great looking presentation with an impressive amount of clarity, depth and fine detail.. 

Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo and 5.1 with optional English subtitles. I preferred the stereo track but the surround does spread around that score nicely, and that awful 80's soundtrack with cuts from John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band and the Miami Sound Machine, terrible music selections on this film, love the film, hate the music. 

Scream Factory come through with some great new extras here, sadly no interview with Stallone, but we do get over 80-minutes of new interviews, beginning with Brian Thompson who gives a rather fun and candid interview, describing how his tiny role in Terminator opened up some doors for him, working on this film with one of his action heroes, including a bad experience filming a fire stunt, and being punched by Stallone, and noting that star seemed to be doing a lot of directing, while saying Cosmatos was a bit of a tyrant on set. Be speaks about being confused about his characters motivations, what sort of movie they were making, and getting little to no input from Stallone or Cosmatos when he asked about character development. 

Marco Rodriguez gets a 24-min interview discussing his career, how due to a miscommunication he thought he had landed the main baddie role in the film, his experience making the film and it's initial success at the box office. He also speaks about being recognized from his small but memorable part on the film, and ends with him leafing through his original script, reading his own character notes written on it. 

Andrew Robinson gives a 14-min talk about the film, admitting he didn't care for the script much - which was written by star Stallone, commenting that he thought Stallone was accessible and friendly, the duality of his nature, some difficulty between Cosmatos and Stallone, and what he feels are the shortcomings of the movie, summing it up as just not his sort of movie, he really gives a fun and candid perspective of the film, telling stories he says he dines out on all day. 

Actress Lee Garlington gives a 9-min interview, beginning by describing the audition, playing Scrabble with Brian Thompson in between set-ups, Stallone's security detail, lots of yelling on set, and knocking Stallone down during one of their scenes together. 

Actor Art La Fleur who plays hot-tempered Captain Sears shows up or an 8-min interview, he speaks about getting the call for the while he was shooting Zone Troopers (1985) in Italy, meeting Cosmatos, working with him and director Cosmatos, and getting the feeling that both the star and the director were co-directing the film, and working with Andy Robinson, Ren Santoni and Brian Thompson. 

The disc is finished-up with a teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and a vintage 8-min EPK style featurette with interviews with Stallone, Nielsen, director George P. Cosmatos, with clips from the film and behind-the-scene video of the making of the film. There's also a vintage commentary with the late director 

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with the same standard one-sheet artwork that;'s been associated with this film for years, it's rare that we get a Collector's Edition without new artwork or at least a reversible option, but I do think that this image of Stallone on a red background is damn iconic, it would be hard to improve upon in my opinion so I am okay with that. 

I am very pleased with the new interviews, but it's too bad we do not the deleted scenes for the film, when the film first went before the MPAA it was rated X for violence, so about 30-40 minutes of violent footage and character building stuff was trimmed from it. A lot of these cuts are detailed by the director in the vintage commentary included on this release. To my knowledge these have never been released on an official home video release. When this release was first announced many including myself were hoping these would finally land on a disc, but nope, didn't happen.  

Special Features:
- NEW 2K Scan Of The Original Film Elements
- NEW Stalking And Slashing – An Interview With Actor Brian Thompson (26 min) HD 
- NEW Meet The Disease – An Interview With Actor Marco Rodriguez (24 min) HD 
- NEW Feel The Heat – An Interview With Actor Andrew Robinson (14 min) HD 
- NEW Double Crossed – An Interview With Actress Lee Garlington (9 min) HD 
- NEW A Work Of Art – An Interview With Actor Art LaFleur (8 min) HD
- Audio Commentary With Director George P. Cosmatos
- Vintage Featurette (8 min) 
- Teaser Trailer (1 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- Still Galleries: Stills (54 Images) 
- Still Gallery: Movie Posters, And Lobby Cards (63 Images) 

Cobra (1986) is a total bad-ass 80's action film with some fun cult and slasher tendencies. Stallone cuts quite a figure in his mirrored glasses chewing on a matchstick, armed to the hilt with an arsenal of gunnery and enough quotable one-liners to please any lover of over-the-top action cinema. The new transfer on the Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory looks amazing and the extras are excellent, if you're a fan of the film I think you will be impressed. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

THE BEST OF 80’s SCREAM QUEENS (88 Films Blu-ray Review)




Synopsis: It was the eighties, man…
And let’s make no mistake about it: when people think of VHS-era SCREAM QUEENS three names come to mind: Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens - the threesome of fear that sliced and seduced a generation of gore-hounds and whose greatest hits can finally be seen in HD from the schlock-lovers at 88 Films! For those unaware (and, really, we need to have some words) Quigley was the Playboy magazine pin-up turned icon of lung-power in such plasma spilling icons as SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985). Stevens, meanwhile, would also drop her dress for Playboy but really stood out thanks to meeting the dangerous end of a drill in SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) prior to headlining such trashy terror totems as SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-A-RAMA (1988) and BAD GIRLS FROM MARS (1990). Finally, by far the most taboo-breaking of them all, Michelle Bauer began her celluloid stint as an XXX-rated raven-haired seductress in the hardcore cult classic CAFÉ FLESH (1982) before going legit with the likes of low budget wonders HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS (1988) and DR. ALIEN (1989).

Label: 88 Films
Region Code: B 
Duration: 82 Minutes
Rating: Cert.18 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Audio Format: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Director: David DeCoteau 
Cast: Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, Brinke Stevens, Timothy Kauffman, Matthew Phelps, C. Jay Cox, Richard Gabai, Dukey Flyswatter

The first film on this set and the real gem of this DeCoteau directed threesome of 80s scream queen mayhem would have to be Nightmare Sisters (1988) starring Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead) , Michelle Bauer (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers), and Brinke Stevens (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama), a horror-comedy cut-up featuring a trio of awkward sorority girl nerds who become possessed by a demonic force and are transformed in horny succubi after dabbling in the dark arts with a cursed crystal ball! 

The film opens with a fun prologue featuring Dukie Flyswatter of horror punkers Haunted Garage as a skeezy mystic named Omar, literally losing his head while consulting with the demonic spirit from beyond the grave. Flash forward and that same crystal ball ends up in the possession of nerdy sorority girl Marci (Stevens), who suggests to her Tri Eta Pi sorority sisters, the bucktoothed Melody (Quigly) and chunky Mickey (Bauer), that they should invite a trio of frat guys over for some party game, including a seance with the crystal ball fun. Before you can say topless s cream queens they are transformed into horny, demonic vixens, dead set on sexually satisfying the frat guys, before murdering them, leaving the guys on the run for their lives, resorting to looking up an exorcist in the yellow pages.

The film is as silly and wonderful as it sounds with all three scream queens losing portions of their clothing for large swaths of the film. We get all three ladies in a bath together sudsing each other's breasts, and Quigley putting on a punk rock cabaret of sorts. 

It starts off a bit slow with some talky set-up but once this sucker gets rolling the cheap horror-comedy elements and gratuitous nudity really come together and it never lets up. The three ladies of cheap 80's horror  really pull off the comedy aspects of the film, they're having fun and I'm having fun watching it, plus the low-budget film looks surprisingly great with some fun colored gel lighting and rubber-faced demons, love it.


Label: 88 Films
Region Code: B 
Duration: 84 Minutes 
Rating: Cert.18 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Audio Format: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Director: David DeCoteau 
Cast: Jan-Michael Vincent, Ken Abraham, Mindi Miller, Jack Carter, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer

In the sultry pot boiler Deadly Embrace (1989) we have scuzzball businessman Stewart Moreland (Jan Michael Vincent, TVs Airwolf),
having an affair with his sex-pot secretary. Having grown tired of his wife Charlotte (Mindi Miller, Body Double) he wants out of the marriage, but doesn't want to pay out the nose for the divorce settlement. To that end he hires beefcake Chris (Ken Abraham, Creepozoids) as a live-in handyman doing work around their home, giving the kid some extra cash to seduce his wife, thereby giving him a get out jail free card. 

The seducing part is not hard as the wife already has eyes for the stud but things get tangled when Chris's girlfriend Michelle (Linnea Quigley, Silent Night Deadly Night) comes to spend the weekend with him, she notices the attraction between her man and his employer's wife and it drives her off the deep end. 

As a kid I loved the 80s TV show Airwolf starring Jan Michael Vincent, so seeing him in this sort of sleazy stuff was a blast, he plays a scumbag very well. Linnea Quigley is fun and all the ladies strip off their clothes to show off their top-shelf assets throughout, which I appreciated, including 80's bombshell 
Michelle Bauer (Demonwarp) in a role credited as the "Female Spirit of Sex" - so you know it's gonna be that sort of fun. High art is ain't but this slice of late night cable trash is sordid and fun in a z-grade cinema sort of way. 

Label: 88 Films
Region Code: B 
Duration: 81 Minutes 
Rating: Cert.18 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Audio Format: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Director: David DeCoteau 
Cast: Lyle Waggoner, Linnea Quigley, Karen Russell, Stephen Steward, Mike Jacobs Jr., Eric Freeman, Richard Sebastian, Victoria Nesbitt  

Finishing up this trio of late-80s trash is the sexy thriller Murder Weapon (1989) starring Linnea Quigley as Dawn, a troubled young woman who has just been released from the loony bin after getting a bit too cozy with her shrink, which forces him to release her early. Through similar means her asylum bestie Amy (Karen Russell) is also released early, for lascivious behavior involving a doctor. Straight out of the asylum the pair of wild and crazy chicks hook up at Amy's mafia connected dad's mansion for a weekend of drinking, partying and getting laid. To that end they invite a group of old flames to the mansion and the deadly games begin! One of the old flames is played by Eric Freeman, who you will certainly best remember as the mad-Santa Ricky from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, with more of his signature muscle flexing and extreme eyebrow acting! 

This sexy-thriller is a bit of nutso fun, with flashbacks to the asylum, and a prologue that doesn't seem to have anything to do with anything, but there's lots of scenes of babes rubbing on sun tan lotion and chilling by the pool, an erotic leg shaving scene, and a fair amount of surprisingly bloody carnage, including a scene of the killer pushing their black-gloved hand right through someones chest and feeding them their own heart, now that's a nice piece of WTF-ery right there! 

So who's the killer, could it be one of the loony-ladies, the mafia connected father, or maybe the burnout rocker ex-flame? The mystery is honestly paper thin, but this sexed-up thriller was a lot of fun, worth it alone for the completely unhinged sex scene with Quigley riding up an convulsive, orgasmic storm atop her lover!

Much like how Deadly Embrace featured a surprising turn from Jan Michael Vincent this one also features a turn from someone who seems to be slumming it, that being Lyle Waggoner, who I best remember a Col. Steve Trevor from the 70's Wonder Woman TV show! Again, this one is no classic of cinema, it feels like a late-80s late night skinemax film with a pinch of insanity thrown in, but its fun and briskly paced, so there's a lot to love about it if you're in the right frame of mind.

Audio/Video: All three films arrive on a 2-disc region B locked Blu-ray set from 88 Films. Nightmare Sisters (1988) takes up all of disc one with a 1080p HD image framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreem. Sourced from the 35mm camera negative, the image looks surprisingly crisp. I think I saw this one on the Up All Nite program on the USA Network back in the day and this obviously blows what I remember seeing away! There's a Vinegar Syndrome credit on here so I am assuming this is the same 2K scan they used for their U.S. release of the film. The PCM 1.0 Mono audio sounds good, clean and free of distortion, optional English subtitles are provided. There are no extras for Nightmare Sisters, or the other pair of films, just a start-up menu with the option to choose English subtitles.

Onto disc two we find Deadly Embrace (1989) and Murder Weapon (1989)sharing disc space, sourced from 2K scan of the 16mm camera negative framed in 1.78;1 widescreen, and again we see a Vinegar Syndrome credit, so this looks to be the same source as their 2016 double-feature Blu-ray of the same pair of films, unfortunately minus the extras that accompanied that release. The source looks near pristine, colors are vibrant, everything is nicely resolved and detailed, a very solid presentation throughout. Audio comes by way of English PCM 1.0 Mono with optional English subtitles, everything sounding clean and well-balanced.

The 2-disc release comes housed in an oversized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of artwork featuring some eye popping artwork from Graham Humphreys, which is also featured in the pair of discs inside, and on the sweet limited edition slipcover.

The Best of 80's Scream Queens is a fun threesome of cheesy goodness, it delivers on what it promises with three films starring a bevy of beloved 80's horror starlets in a trio of goofy, sex shockers that are sure to please fans of late-80s schlock with plenty of gratuitous nudity.