Saturday, March 4, 2023

THE BAD NEWS BEARS GO TO JAPAN (1978) (Imprint Films Blu-ray Review)

Imprint Collection #201

Label: Imprint Films
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG
Duration: 92 Minutes 24 Seconds 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: John Berry 
Cast: Tony Curtis, Jackie Earle Haley, Tomisaburô Wakayama, Hatsune Ishihara

I have a lot of love for the first Bad New Bears film with Walter Matthau as the alcoholic coach Buttermaker, and while I saw most of the sequels on TV as a kid I don't remember a whole lot about 'em after the first sequel Bad New Bears Breaking Training, nor do I have much in the way of of nostalgia for them. My fuzzy recollections of seeing this third film starring Tony Curtis are unimpressive to the least - so with that lets jump into this sequel and see if it delivers the goods or is a no-hitter. 

This time out the Bears are off to Tokyo with their new manager Marvin Lazar (Tony Curtis, The Manitou), a con artist looking to make a quick buck with broadcast rights to the game at the kids expense. There's the expected culture-clash with the the American riff-raff kids facing off against the much superior Japanese team, and while there are some chuckles along the way I did find this to be a bit of a slog. It's as forgettable as I had only half-remembered and Curtis' manic con-man grew tiresome quickly, he's definitely no Buttermaker. We also get a weird love-story of sorts with bad-boy Kelly (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen) stalking a local girl named Akira (Hatsune Ishihara). 

Other hackneyed hijinks include Lazar getting caught-up in a wrestling match, a Japanese variety television broadcast, and more strangers in a strange land shenanigans, but at least it was cool to see Lone Wolf & Cub's Tomisaburô Wakayama slumming it as the Japanese team's coach, but this was and still is a stinker of a sequel. The writing is lazy, the cast are bored, the pace if all over the place, and it's just not funny or heartwarming, falling far short from the original film or it's sequel which featured William DeVane (Testament), and I remembered liking quite a bit. While I didn't love the film I do love that Imprint are making it available on region-free Blu-ray for those who might appreciate more than I do. 

Audio/Video: Bad News Bears Go To Japan (1978) makes it's worldwide Blu-ray debut from Imprint Films in 1080p HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen, sourced from what is likely an older HD master. That said, I thought the visuals were quite pleasing, grain is intact but not as finely resolved as a newer scan would probably have offered, but colors are strong and well-saturated, and we get some solid depth and clarity. Audio comes by way of uncompressed English LPCM 2.0 Mono with optional English subtitles; dialogue is well-balances and clear throughout, and the score from Paul Chihara (Death Race 2000) sound great. Overall it's a bit on the flat side but I would attribute that to source limitation. 

For it's worldwide debut on Blu-ray the film gets a new Audio commentary by film historian Scott Harrison that explores what makes this sequel stand apart from what came before it, the disjointed nature it. Also new the 13-min America’s Wildest Export: Scoring the Bad News Bears Go To Japan – audio interview with composer Paul Chihara who talks about his score compared to the music from the previous two films. The disc is finished-up with a 

The single-disc release arrives in a clear keepcase with a 2-sided, non-reversible artwork option featuring the original illustrated film poster, plus a Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1500 copies with an alternate illustrated theatrical poster artwork. 

Special Features:
- 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-ray
- NEW! Audio commentary by film historian Scott Harrison
- NEW! America’s Wildest Export: Scoring the Bad News Bears Go To Japan – interview with composer Paul Chihara (13 min)
- Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1500 copies with unique artwork

Screenshots from the Imprint Films Blu-ray: