Saturday, March 11, 2023

THE GRAND TOUR (1991) (Unearthed Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Unearthed Films
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 98 Minutes 51 Seconds  
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Audio: English 2.0 Stereo PCM with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: David Twohy 
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Ariana Richards, Marilyn Lightstone, Jim Haynie, George Murdock, Emilia Crow, David Wells, Robert Colbert, Time Winters

This 90's straight-to-video time travel gem The Grand Tour (aka Timescape, aka The Grand Tour: Disaster In Time) from first time director David Twohy, who went onto direct The Arrival and the Riddick Trilogy, and is based on the 1946 novella "Vintage Season" by authors Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. Originally planned for theatrical release it ended up being shuffled off onto cable TV, at least here in the U.S., which is probably how it's managed to evade my notice for over thirty years. Now thanks to Unearthed Films the flick gets a spiffy new Blu-ray that should delight those in the know and intrigue those who might have missed it. .  

In it widower Ben (Jeff Daniels, Arachnophobia) is haunted by his wife’s horrific death in a freak car accident involving a horse some years earlier, regularly reliving the tragic event in his nightmares. He lives with his middle-school aged daughter Hillary (Ariana Richards, Jurassic Park) in the town of Auburn, OH, where they're renovating an old Victorian inn in preparation for the summer tourist season. They end up opening the inn early to a group of five mysterious tourists, lead by the peculiar Madame Iovine (Marilyn Lightstone), who insist on staying at the unfinished inn, even though there's more accommodating lodging in town, which the inn overlooks. 

It soon becomes clear to Ben that these are no ordinary tourists, after observing the group and noticing some quirky behaviors he begins to suspect that they are in fact travelers from the future on some sort of historical tragedy tour. What they're in town to witness exactly is unknown, but one of the group named Quish (David Wells, Guyver), when confronted, tells Ben that for his own safety he should gather up his daughter and leave town until he knows it's safe to return. 

He plans to do just that but on the night of the expected disaster his dead wife's bitter father, the crusty old Judge Caldwell (George Murdock, Retribution), who has a lot of pull in the tiny town, serves him with an order declaring him an unfit father, and giving custody of his daughter to the judge. This sets in motion a series of events that end in multiple tragedies, with Ben left to figure out how to go back in time to save the life of his daughter. 

I rather enjoyed this low-budget sci-fi adventure, set in a small town with a solid cast and some decent low-budget effects it pulls it all off quite nicely. It certainly doesn't have a slick blockbuster feel to it, with a straight-to-to-video aesthetic to it, but it's a gem nonetheless, and does good work stretching a buck to give it some solid production value despite budget shortcomings. The sci-fi elements are low-key and while there is a cosmic disaster that unfolds it is smaller scale and visually is kept to a minimum, achieved with some bright lights and miniature work, but it sells the destruction it well enough. The heart of the film is Daniel's character struggling to  reconcile the grief and regret he feels about his wife's death, while attempting to keep his daughter safe from harm. I found the screenplay to be fairly predictable and cliched but I thought Daniels and Richards made a wonderful father/daughter team-up and I enjoyed the time travel shenanigans. This sci-fi adventure film is pretty family friendly fare aside from some brief but startling horse-hoof trauma and the lovely Emilia Crow (Fear City), as a seductive time-travelling tourists, does flash some side-boob for a moment.

It's not a prefect movie but it is a bit of gem in my opinion, one worth seeking out. My only real marks against it are how quick Ben is to figure out the deal with the oddball tour group. The realization just happens a bit quick, and I also thought the technology of time travel involving a passport was hokey, but again, I went with it. It's a bit corny in an 80's Twilight Zone/Amazing Stories sort of way, especially the schmaltzy bit right at the end - but still cool in a retro sort of way.   

Audio/Video: The Grand Tour (1991) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Unearthed Films in 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1) and looks solid. Grain is present throughout, colors looks accurate, and despite some gauzy soft-focus lensing the image does offer some pleasing depth and clarity Audio comes by way of PCM 2.0 stereo with optional English subtitles, and the track is clean and free of hiss or distortion, dialogue is easy to follow and the score from Gerald Gouriet (The Philadelphia Experiment II) has a nice showing in the mix, 

Extras include the alternate 5-min Timescape Title Sequence, an 18-min Lost To Time: Cannes Promo, 4-min of Production Stills, 1-min Poster Mockup & Artwork Gallery, and 10-min of Unearthed Trailers Unnamable (2 min), The Grand Tour (2 min), Dark Side of the Moon (2 min), Nightwish (2 min).  The single-disc release arrives in a clear keepcase featuring a Reversible Sleeve of Artwork with both the theatrical and VHS artwork for the film, we also get a Slipcover featuring the theatrical poster artwork that's limited to the first pressing only. 

Special Features; 
- Timescape Title Sequence (5 min) 
- NEW! Lost To Time: Cannes Promo (18 min) 
- Production Stills (4 min) 
- Poster Mockup & Artwork Gallery (1 min) 
- Unearthed Trailers: Unnamable (2 min), The Grand Tour (2 min), Dark Side of the Moon (2 min), Nightwish (2 min) 
- Reversible Sleeve of Artwork
- Slipcover 

The Grand Tour (1991) delivers a warm hearted and slightly goofy 80's style sci-fi adventure, and I am quite sure this cable TV gem has been overlooked by many given it's relative scarcity. I give big kudos to Unearthed Films for bringing this to the masses on widescreen Blu-ray as part of their Unearthed Classics line-up, definitely a flick worth checking out if you have an affinity for time-travel movies. 

Screenshots from the Unearthed Films Blu-ray: