Saturday, May 30, 2020

POLICE SQUAD! - THE COMPLETE SERIES (1982) (Via Vision Blu-ray Review)


Label: Via Vision Entertainment

Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: M
Duration: 150 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Video: 1080p HD (1.33:1) Full Frame
Director: David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, Joe Dante, Reza Badiyi
Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Alan North, Peter Lupus, Ed Williams, William Duell

Police Squad! (1982) was a very short-lived parody of police procedural TV shows created by the team behind the blockbuster comedy Airplane! (1980), utilizing the same sort of sight gags, wordplay and non-sequitur humor, starring Leslie Neilsen (Forbidden Planet) as straight-faced Detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin, who for six episodes investigated just a select few of the eight-million stories in the Naked City. Every second of this series is jam-packed with tasty farce, goofy gags and rib-tickling lampooning of vintage detective TV series, some long forgotten (M Squad). Each episode started off with the killing of a guest star who expired before the credits even finished, theses guests including crooner Robert Goulet, and actors Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch) and William Shatner (Star Trek) among them. 

Through the six episode run the straight-faced Detective investigated a murder for profit in "A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise)", corruption in the boxing ring in "Ring of Fear (A Dangerous Assignment)", a protection racket in "Rendezvous at Big Gulch (Terror in the Neighborhood)", a mad bomber in "Revenge and Remorse (The Guilty Alibi)", a kidnapping plot in "The Butler Did It (A Bird in the Hand)", and the suspicious death of a stand-up comic in "Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don't Laugh)". 

If you loved the aesthetic of Airplane!, or most of the Zucker Bros. zany offerings, you're gonna love this gag-tastic series, each episode crammed to the rafters with tasty visual puns, farce aplenty and clever bits of wordplay that I still find absolutely delightful. We get a cast of reoccurring 

characters like Captain Ed Hocken (Alan North, Highlander), Officer Norberg (Peter Lupus, Mission: Impossible), forensic scientist Mr. Ted Olson (Ed Williams, Carnosaur), and a shoeshine guy named Johnny (William Duell, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) who always seems to have the skinny on everyone, which is why he's sought out not only by Det. Drebin, but also by celebrity advice columnist Dr. Joyce Brothers, baseball manager Tommy Lasorda, and even Dick Clark.

In hindsight O sort of had to wonder why such a flip and funny show didn't make it's mark at the time of it's original airings, but it's some relief to know that the idea was resurrected for three feature length Naked Gun films starring Leslie Nielsen in the late eighties and early nineties, the formula worked, but it seems the series was just a bit too far ahead of it's time. It's aged fairly well, some of the series it's lampooning may be lost to static filled channels of time, but the humor, wit and comic acting still packs in the laughs.  

Audio/Video: All six episodes of Police Squad! - The Complete Series arrives on a single disc region-free Blu-ray from Via Vision Entertainment in the original full frame 1.33:1 broadcast aspect ratio in 1080p HD. There's some minor age-related wear by way of scratches and white speckling, but I thought it looked great overall for a forty year-old TV show. The colors are solid, black levels  are strong, and there's appreciable film grain throughout.

Audio comes by way of original mono in Dolby Digital or an uncompressed DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that adds to the the offbeat humor with some off-the-wall foley sound effects that had added punch to it. Unfortunately there are no subtitles on this release, and it would have been nice to have an uncompressed mono audio option, but otherwise I was quite happy with the presentation. 

All the extras are of the archival variety, we get three audio commentaries spread across three episodes. A pair with Producers David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abraham's, and Robert K. Weiss on episodes one and three, plus a commentary on episode six with writer Robert Wuhl. The producer commentaries are solid, fun and informative, though you can tell they didn't do a whole lot of prep beforehand and get caught up in watching and reacting to the episodes from time to time, sort of the way I tell the same joke ten different times and still laugh at myself while I'm telling it. 

We also get an 8-min interview with star Leslie Neilsen who discusses filming the show, and why he thinks it failed to find an audience during it's initial run. There are also two casting tests with actors Alan North and Ed Williams, a fun 5-min gag reel, plus a collection of memos detailing edits requested by standards and practices and the cancellation memo. We also get a brief producer's photo gallery, and a list of potential celebrity deaths that would have occurred at the start of each episode. Another cool extra is the inclusion of a 5-min freeze frame gag with audio commentary.   

Special Feature: 

- Audio Commentaries by Producers David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Robert K. Weiss 
- Audio Commentary with Writer Robert Wuhl  
- Leslie Nielsen Interview (9 min)
- Casting Test – Ed Williams (3 min)
- Casting Test – Alan North (6 min)
- Producers’ Photo Gallery (1 min) 
- List of Celebrity Death Shots
- Production Memo Highlights
- Behind the Freeze Frames (5 min)
- Gag Reel (5 min)

Via Vision entertainment's release of Police Squad - The Complete Series (1982)is a must-have for comedy fans. It's chock full of gags, farce and send-ups of police procedural TV shows, some of them long forgotten, but the writing and acting are sharp and the humor still delivers the funny time and time again. If you're a fan of the Naked Gun films and are unaware of this, or just have not yet checked it out yet, I suggest you get at it, you're missing out, this is funny stuff.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The New Kids (1985) available on Blu-ray on June 29th 2020 from 101 Films


Label: 101 Films
Region Code: B
Rating: 18 Cert. 
Duration: 98 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Audio: English Dual Mono PCM with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th
Cast: James Spader (Sex, Lies, and Videotape), Lori Loughlin (Full House), Shannon Presby (Five Mile Creek

On June 29th 101 Films will release Sean S. Cunningham’s tense and violent horror-thriller The New Kids (1985), title 014 on the 101 Films Black Label. 

A key entry in the 1980s wave of juvenile delinquency movies, The New Kids features early performances from Lori Loughlin and James Spader, the latter in a particularly memorable role. This edition marks a first release for the film in the UK since a VHS release under the title Striking Back in 1988, and includes brand new interviews with director Sean S. Cunningham and writer Stephen Gyllenhaal, a commentary with film critics Sean Hogan and Jasper Sharp, and a limited edition booklet with new writing on ‘80s gang movies and Sean S. Cunningham’s career. 

Limited Edition version comes with booklet and slipcase, limited to 3000 copies 

After their parents die in a car crash, two all-American teens, Loren (Shannon Presby) and Abby (Lori Loughlin) go to live with relatives in a small Florida town. But trouble begins when members of a vicious gang, led by Dutra (James Spader), bet on who’ll be the first to seduce the innocent Abby. When she spurns their obscene advances, the thugs embark on a sadistic campaign of vandalism, arson and assault. The savagery escalates until Loren must defend himself and his sister in a brutal fight to the death in a carnival midway. It’s The New Kids... trying to make it in this town just might kill them! 

Brand New Extras 

- Interview with director Sean S. Cunningham 
- Interview with writer Stephen Gyllenhaal 
- Commentary with film experts Sean Hogan and Jasper Sharp
- Limited edition booklet: Includes ‘80s Gang Violence Movies and The New Kids by Jon Towlson and Pushing the Envelope: Sean Cunningham by Barry Forshaw 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

SATANICO PANDEMONIUM (1975) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray Review)


Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: Spanish PCM 1.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director:  Gilberto Martinez Solares
Cast: Cecilia Pezet, Enrique Rocha, Delia Magana,Clemencia Colin, Veronika Con K, Amparo Furstenberg

In the Mexican nasty-nun entry Satanico Pandemonium (1975) - truly one of the best movie titles ever - Sister Maria (Cecilia Pezet) is a goodly God-loving nun at a convent in the Mexican countryside, during what appears to be the time of the Inquisition. As the film opens she is picking flowers in the forest when she is approached by a sinister-looking man (Enrique Rocha) who appears to her in the nude. Frightened she flees back to the safety of the convent, but the image of the man haunts her. 

She prays but the man holds a strange sway over her, and she has visions of him, often appearing with an apple in hand, which is appropriate as it turns out the man is Satan himself. He later appears to her inside the convent disguised as one of her sister nuns, seducing her before revealing himself for what he is, and thus the evil has been planted within her. As her inherent goodness ebbs away she finds herself committing sinful blasphemies, first stabbing another nun with a pair of scissors, gleefully watching another nun hang herself, and then raping a a sickly adolescent boy before stabbing him to death, and then setting fire the cottage, burning both him and his grandmother alive to cover up her awful crime.

This is a strange film, it has a arthouse style that brought to mind something along the lines of Pasolini (Salo). The way the nun spirals into Satanic madness is fantastic, but even near the start of the film she's already a bit strange, acting on her  Catholic guilt with self-flagellation and wrapping her torso in a thorny cilice that draws blood. After giving into the satanic lesbian temptation, she moves onto raping  and stabbing that kid to death, strangling the suspicious Mother Superior, and eventually leading her entire convent into the arms of the Devil, and doing it all with a lot of not-unappreciated nudity, Cecilia Pezet being quite easy on the eyes. It's a film that's hitting all the nunsploitation touchstones, but doing it in a dreamy  atmospheric way, managing to be distasteful but artier and less vicious than something like Alucarda (1977). 

The film is well-shot and looks fantastic, the Gothic imagery abounds and the blasphemy is deliciously sinful with some cool Italian-style colored lighting that adds to the overall atmosphere, making this film an unforgettable bit of nasty-nun fun.       

Audio/Video: Santanico Pandemonium (1971) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro, presenting the film in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p HD. We get two viewing options, one is a 4K scan sourced from pre-print elements and a 2K scan of a 35mm theatrical print. A text blurb indicates that the there was a "slight optical blemish" on certain reels of the 4K scan source, resulting in Mondo Macabro requesting a new scan from the licencor, but the only element not to have the optical issue was a theatrical print. That said, the theatrical print is in fantastic shape, and comparing the versions I think it's a bit of a toss-up to which I prefer. The 4K pre-print scan features tighter details, stronger clarity and more vivid colors, but the skin tones looks a bit cool at times. What I like about the theatrical print is the strong blue push, I like the aesthetic of it, though I have no idea which is closer to the original theatrical exhibition. The pre-print also version has warmer skin tones, and occasionally stronger primaries, but some of the darker scenes can be a bit muddy. The end result is that I am finding it hard to declare one version better than the other, their both inconsistent, but both are pleasing to varying degrees. There are pros and cons to both, but I give the edge to the 4K pre-print scan. Check out the comparison of the two versions of the film at the bottom of the review, where I have compared 24 screenshots.    

Audio comes by way of Spanish DTS-HD MA mono 1.0 with optional English subtitles. There's some age-related limitations to the fidelity but overall this is a clean and well-balanced audio presentation.  

Extras begin with a brand new audio commentary with Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger of The Daughters of Darkness Podcast, and it's fantastic. They point out that the film is a bit out of the ordinary for the prolific director, and how interesting it is that he doesn't seem to be coming at with a political agenda or particular morality, stating what sets it apart from other nunsploitation entries f the era and how it skirts both exploitation and arthouse.

We also get a set of archival extras with a 15-min interview with writer/co-director Adolfo Martinez Solares who is the son of the director. recounting what it was like working with his father, and that this was the of film he worked on with his father after graduating college, and how the satanic themes of the film deeply affected him, being a believer in God and the Devil. It apparently weighed on him so heavily that he vowed to never to work on films with witchy or satanic themes. He also touches on other Mexican horror films, including his father's Santo films, and tells some interesting cast stories from the making of the film. 

The second of the archival interviews is a 14-min interview with Nigel Wingrove of Redemption Films who talks about his love of nunsploitations films, making his own still-banned in the UK nunsploitation film Visions of Ecstasy (1989), After that he got into distributing cult films instead of making them, with his label really helping bring the seminal nunsploitation films to the forefront. There's clips from The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine (1972), Alucarda (1975), Satanico Pandemonium, and Wingrove's own films, including the aforementioned Visions of Ecstasy (1989) and Sacred Flesh (2000). 

The disc is buttoned up with a 14-min Mondo Macabro trailer reel, which is always a blast to watch. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring that bonkers painting of a nun ripping off her habit to reveal the grinning devil beneath, love that artwork!  

Special Features: 
- Brand new 4k transfer from a film negative.
- Two different versions of the film, 4K scan of pre-print materials and a 2K scan of a 35mm positive print 
- Exclusive interview with writer/co-director Adolfo Martinez Solares (14 min) 
- Audio commentary from Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
- Exclusive featurette on nunsploitation with Wingrove of Redemption Films(11 min)
- Mondo Macabro Trailer Reel (14 min) 

Mondo Macabro's release of Satnanico Pandemonium (1975) is a devilish bit of awesomeness, offering two presentations, a terrific audio commentary, and a cool set of archival extras, what's not to love? If you're into Mexican horror, nunsploitation or just wildly demented world cinema you need this Blu-ray in your life, it's fantastic.   

Top: 4K Scan of Pre-Print Elements
Bottom: 2K Scan of 35mm Theatrical Print