Friday, March 29, 2024

THE SCAVENGERS (1969) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)

aka The Grabbers 

Label: Severin Films 
Region Code: Region Free
Rating: Unrated, R 
Duration: 104 Minutes 21 Seconds (Unrated), 94 Minutes 20- Seconds (R-Rated) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Dual-Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Lee Frost 
Cast: John Bliss, Maria Lease, Bruce Kimball, Uschi Digard

The Scavengers (1969) is another western-roughie team-up from writer/producer Bob Cresse and director Lee Frost, made a year after Hot Spur (1968). Set towards the end of the Civil War we have a band a renegade Confederate soldiers lead by the ruthless, and seethingly racist Captain Harris (Jonathan Bliss, The Thing with Two Heads) are hungry and hate-filled, they are so starved that at the start of the film they are on the verge of carving steaks out of the carcass of a recently dead horse. They're also unaware that the war has ended and that the South has already surrendered. Harris and his men set out to invade a mostly deserted frontier town to intercept a fortune in Yankee gold meant for the Union soldiers' payroll. Arriving they find the place is mostly empty except for a brothel owner and his whores, who are non-political and seem only too happy to cater to the Confederate soldier's needs, but Harris kills him anyway and has the women locked up night a night of debauchery with his men. When he and his soldiers intercept the meager Union convoy, lead by Lieutenant Nelson (Warren James), his fiancee Faith (Maria Lease, Dracula vs. Frankenstein), and her black maid Nancy (Roda Spain), Harris is quite upset that the shipment is much smaller than he anticipated. He refuses to believe Nelson when he tells him that there is no more gold coming and that the war is over, torturing Nelson by letting his men have a go at his wife and maid. Later a small encampment of runaway slaves reluctantly take up arms against the Confederates after one of their own is assaulted, with an appropriately nihilistic and misanthropic finale. 

Not as out and out sleazy as Hot Spur I found this to have some surprising depth to it in regard to racism and prejudices, tapping into the late-60's civil right movement through the lens of Civil War carnage and animosities, but make no mistake about it, this is still a seedy and misanthropic western-roughie from the team that brought us the nazisploittaion classic Love Camp 7. There's an interesting story here about racism in the South though, with characters that are not just one-dimensional but not exactly fleshed-out either, there are shades of grey, with  even the the vile Harris getting some backstory explaining his unending hate for the Yankees and black folks, but it's still plenty sleazy with lots of naked prostitutes being groped by the sleazy Confederate soldiers, but the rape stuff is toned down a bit, but it still has quite a bit of impact.

Like Hot Spur I thought the production designs, locations, costuming and make-ups were well above board for a cheaply made roughie of the era, handsomely shot by Robert Maxwell (The Candy Snatchers), it replicates the era well enough, and looks great here in HD restored from the OCN. Severin offer both the R-Rated and Unrated cuts of the film on Blu-ray, both fully restored and looking terrific, and interesting the R-rated cut is not just the Unrated cut minus some of the stronger scenes, but featuring actual different takes and line readings. 

Audio/Video: The Scavengers (1969) gets a region-free Blu-ray from Severin Films 
scanned in 4K from the original camera negative recently discovered in a Paris lab and presented in both its Unrated and R-Rated Release Versions, presented here in 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1) Both version looks terrific, like Severin's simultaneous release of Hot Spur this is remarkable well preserved for a late-60's sexploitation flick, colors are well-saturated, depth and clarity are pleasing and black levels are solid throughout. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 dual-mono with optional English subtitles, it's clean and well-balanced, with dialogue, score and the sound design coming through nicely. 

Extras include an Audio Commentary With Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin, Severin Films' Andrew Furtado And Temple Of Schlock's Chris Poggiali (Unrated Version Only); 7-min Theatrical Trailer; and the 7-min Theatrical Trailer (Hot Version). The single-disc release arrives in a black keepcase with a 2-sided sleeve of artwork featuring Archival Marketing Materials Reproduced On The Reverse Of The Wrap, and inside is a 34-page Our Family Album – Promotional Program Replica which features cast and crew information, a synopsis, and a letter to exhibitors. 

Special Features: 
• Audio Commentary With Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin, Severin Films' Andrew Furtado And Temple Of Schlock's Chris Poggiali (Unrated Version Only)
• Theatrical Trailer (6:56) 
• Theatrical Trailer (Hot Version) (6:56) 
• Our Family Album – Promotional Program Replica
• Archival Marketing Materials Reproduced On The Reverse Of The Wrap

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Thursday, March 28, 2024

GREEN ROOM (2015) (Second Sight Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Second Sight Films
Region Code: B
Rating: Cert. 18
Duration: 95 Minutes 5 Seconds 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD WIdescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots,  Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner

In the 
Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) directed punk rock thriller Green Room (2015) a scrappy D.C. hardcore punk band the Ain't Rights, comprised of bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin, Terminator Salvation), guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat, Whip It), drummer Reece (Joe Cole, Peaky Blinders), and singer Tiger (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore) ,are on tour the in Pacific Northwest they find themselves low on gas, short on funds, hungry, just as their last gig is cancelled, forcing them to jump onto a bill at the last minute at somewhere they would prefer not to be - a neo-Nazi bar in the middle of nowhere. 

During their set they piss of the crowd of neo-nazi skinheads with a blistering cover of the Dead Kennedys' "Nazi Punks Fuck Off", and afterward while packing up the van Pat goes back to the Green room to retrieve a cellphone, inadvertently stumbling up the aftermath of the murder of a punk rock chic named Emily, by Werm (Brent Werzner) the singer for house band The Cowcatchers. From here things quickly spiral out of control and they find themselves locked in the green room alongside Emily's friend Amber (Imogen Poots, I Kill Giants), who witnessed the murder, and the club's hulking bouncer Big Justin (Eric Edelstein, The Hills Have Eyes 2

With seemingly no chance for escape and a club full of neo-nazis on the other side of the door the members of the Aint Rights and Amber scramble to find a way out of their scary predicament. The skinheads elderly neo-nazi leader Darcy, a truly sinister and brilliantly cast Patrick Stewart (Logan, Picard) shows up and leads a negotiation through the locked door, promising safe passage out of the place with a few caveats, including surrendering the gun they've muscled away from Big Justin. They initially agree but when Pat attempts to hand over the gun minus the bullets the skinheads attempt to force their way into the room, savaging Pat's arm with a bladed weapon, nearly severing his hand at the wrist. Now, realizing that the skinheads have no intentions  of releasing them alive under any circumstances, especially after they discover their basement level drug lab, they have to fight for their survival using anything and everything at their disposal to make it out alive. 

Green Room is tense and visceral, the gore-riddled violence includes vicious attack dog sent it to kill, which rip out throats, multiple stabbing, shotguns blasts, and a boxcutter to the throat. It's an all-out enclosed space nail-biter with loads of suspenseful atmosphere and realistic gut-churning violence that lingered with me far after the credits role. Patrick Stewart is absolutely terrifying here as the charismatic neo-nazi leader, what a great choice to cast him, he fucking nails it. Also, Imogen Poots is a vicious little ass-kicker here, and of course it's hard to watch this and not think about the tragedy of star Anton Yelchin dying in a tragic accident not long after making this cutting his promising career far too short. Truly, a punk rock cinema classic, and one heck of a visceral and violent exploitation flick.  

Audio/Video: Green Room (2015) arrives on Blu-ray from Second Sight Films in 1080p HD framed in 2.35:1 widescreen. The HD image looks solid with excellent depth and clarity, the shadow detail of the dark club interiors are pleasing, and colors maintain their earthy tones in the color-grade. Fine detail inthe close-ups of faces and clothing textures are also solid. Audio comes by way of a robust English language DTS-HD MA 5.1 with optional English subtitles. The track is clean and well-balanced, the live punk songs are absolutely blistering, and gunshots and moments of action get the bass rumble going quite nicely. 

Extras are plentiful, we get a new fan Audio Commentary by Reyna Cervantes and Prince Jackson from Bloody Disgusting, plus and archival Audio Commentary with writer–director Jeremy Saulnier, and  the 10-min archival making of featurette: Into the Pit - Making Green Room. More new extras comes by way of the 32-min Going Hardcore: new interview with writer–director Jeremy Saulnier; the 16-min Punk Rock: new interview with actor Callum Turner; the 15-min Rocking Out: new interview with Composers Brooke & Will Blair; 15-min Going Green: interview with production designer Ryan Warren Smith; and 15-min video essay Nazi Punks F*ck Off: Thomas Caldwell on Green RoomThe single-disc standard release version Blu-ray arrives in an oversized black keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring new artwork by Adam Stothard. 

Special Features:
• NEW! Audio Commentary by Reyna Cervantes and Prince Jackson
• Audio Commentary with writer–director Jeremy Saulnier
• NEW! Going Hardcore: Interview with writer–director Jeremy Saulnier (32:08) 
• NEW! Punk Rock: Interview with actor Callum Turner (15:45) 
• NEW! Rocking Out: Interview with Composers Brooke & Will Blair (15:26) 
• NEW! Going Green: Interview with production designer Ryan Warren Smith (15:05) 
• NEW! Nazi Punks F*ck Off: Thomas Caldwell on Green Room (14:40) 
• Archive featurette: Into the Pit - Making Green Room (9:57) 

Blue Underground Announces the release of Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971) on 4K/Blu-ray!

Blue Underground Presents the Cult Classic
on Limited Edition 4K UHD and Blu-ray

Label: Blue Underground 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: English Version (123 Mins), Italian Version (136 Mins) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 1.0; Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen (2.40:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Directors: Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi

On April 23rd, Blue Underground releases Goodbye Uncle Tom, one of the most graphic and notorious films ever made, on Limited Edition 4K UHD and Blu-Ray.

Originally released in 1971, Goodbye Uncle Tom is an Italian mondo-docudrama based on true events about the rise and revolt of slavery in America.

Directors Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi (Mondo Cane) used period documentation and historical accounts to recreate the antebellum south and the horrors of the slave trade. The film was so shocking in its detailed look at the atrocities of slavery that distributors in the US forced Jacopetti and Prosperi to cut it and radically re-edit the film before release.

Even in its truncated form, Goodbye Uncle Tom created a stir amongst critics. Roger Ebert called it, “… the most disgusting, contemptuous insult to decency ever to masquerade as a documentary.” while Pauline Kael said, “the most specific and rabid incitement to race war," and The Detroit Chronicle hailed it as "a graphic, moving, nerve-paralyzing film."

Goodbye Uncle Tom can now be seen more than five decades after its initial release in both its original uncut Italian version, alongside its drastically different English version, both fully restored in 4K from their original camera negatives. Includes a bonus Blu-ray disc with a wealth of supplemental features that give context to the staggering and violent look back at this horrific chapter of American history.

The 4K UHD and Blu-ray Extras special features include feature-length documentaries; never-before-seen interviews with writers/directors Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi, composer Riz Ortolani and others; rare behind-the-scene footage; English and Italian trailers; still galleries, including Giampaolo Lomi’s behind-the-scenes photos; a bonus CD of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Riz Ortolani; and a collectible booklet.

Special Features: 
Disc 1 (Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras:
- English Version (123 Mins.)
- English Trailer
Disc 2 (Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras:
- Italian Version (136 Mins.)
- Italian Trailer
Disc 3 (Blu-ray) Extras:
- THE IMPORTANCE OF SHOCKING: GUALTIERO JACOPETTI – A feature-length documentary by Director
Andrea Bettinetti (94 Mins.)
- THE GODFATHERS OF MONDO – A feature-length documentary by Director David Gregory (89 Mins.)
- Goodbye Cruel Mondo - Interviews with Writers/Directors Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi, and
Composer Riz Ortolani (20 Mins.)
- Behind-the-Scenes 8mm Footage with Audio Commentary by Production Manager Giampaolo Lomi (50 Mins.)
- Mondo Mercenaries - Interview with Author & Academic Mark Goodall (27 Mins.)
- Abjection Under Authoritarianism - Interview with Professor Matthew J. Smith (20 Mins.)
- Extensive Still Galleries, including Giampaolo Lomi’s Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Disc 4 (CD):
- GOODBYE UNCLE TOM Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Riz Ortolani
- BONUS! Collectible Booklet with new essay by Dan Madigan

Sell Points:
- One of the most shocking and controversial films of all time, now on Blu-ray and UHD for the first time ever!
- WORLD PREMIERE! New 4K 16-Bit Restorations of both the English and Italian Versions from their original
- Blu-rays feature 1080p HD Resolution and newly restored DTS-HD Master Audio
- Bonus Blu-ray Disc with over 5 hours of Extras, including 2 feature-length documentaries and NEVER-
BEFORE-SEEN interviews with Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi, and Riz Ortolani!
- Deluxe packaging includes embossed slipcover, reversible sleeve with alternate artwork, and collectible booklet
- National Print Advertising and extensive Online Exposure
- From acclaimed documentary filmmakers Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi (MONDO CANE, AFRICA
- Features a sweeping score by Academy Award nominee Riz Ortolani (MONDO CANE, CANNIBAL
- Controversial and shocking documentary in the tradition of MONDO CANE, AFRICA ADDIO, and FACES OF
- #2 on Gene Siskel’s list of “10 Sickest Films of 1972” - Chicago Tribune

Film Reviews:
- “INCREDIBLE… You Will Not Believe What You’re Watching! It Makes ROOTS Look Like An Episode Of
THE JEFFERSONS!” – Shock Cinema
- “An All-Time Great Gut-Busting Flick!” – The Amsterdam News
- “The Most Shocking Of The Series… Banned In Several Countries For Obvious Reasons!” – DVD Talk
- “They Have Finally Done It: Made The Most Disgusting, Contemptuous Insult To Decency Ever To
Masquerade As A Documentary!” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

AMELIE (2002) (SPHE Steelbook Blu-ray Review with Screenshots).

AMELIE (2002)

Label: SPHE
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 121 Minutes 45 Seconds
Audio: French DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta, Serge Merlin, Jamel Debbouze, Claire Maurier, Clotilde Mollet, Isabelle Nanty, Dominique Pinon, Artus de Penguern, Yolande Moreau, Urbain Cancelier, Maurice Benichou

Synopsis: Bursting with imagination and having seen her share of tragedy and fantasy, Amélie is not like the other girls. When she grows up, she becomes a waitress in a Montmartre bar run by a former dancer. Amélie enjoys simple pleasures until she discovers that her goal in life is to help others. To that end, she invents all sorts of tricks that allow her to intervene incognito into other people's lives, including an imbibing concierge and her hypochondriac neighbor. But Amélie's most difficult case turns out to be Nino Quicampoix, a lonely sex shop employee who collects photos abandoned at coin-operated photobooths.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's fantastical tale of an imaginative but lonely young woman named Amélie (Audrey Tautou, A Very Long Engagement) who lives in the fantastical Montmartre district of Paris is a pastiche of cinematic perfection, who on the day of Diana, Princess of Wales tragic death discovers a small tin full of childhood memories hidden away inside the wall of her apartment, it having been left there decades ago by a small boy who lived there once. She gets the idea to track down the boy, now a grumpy adult who has forgotten the magic of childhood, to anonymously return his youthful memorabilia. She is so satisfied by the amount of joy that her act of anonymous kindness brings to him that she sets about to anonymously influence the lives of those around her, and in the process finds her own happiness in kindred spirit Nino (Matthieu Kassovitz, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), a lonely young man who works at a sex shop and keeps a scrapbook of torn photos he collects from the trash bins near and around the automated photo booths of Montmartre. 

Full of fantastic, whimsical imagery and inventive lensing by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Across the Universe) that creates an eccentric bubble world on cobblestoned streets of the Montmartre district of Paris, as seen through the eyes of shy-girl Amélie, populated by interesting characters that include reclusive artists Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin, The City of Lost Children) with brittle bone disease that is obsessed with recreating a Renoir painting, her widowed father who becomes a bit of a recluse himself after the death of his wife, and budding an unlikely romance between her her hypochondriac co-worker Georgette (Isabelle Nanty) and with the stalker-ish love-spurned Joseph (Dominique Pinon, The City of Lost Children), and takes the bitter edge away from her widowed concierge Madeleine Wallace (Yolande Moreau, Micmacs) whose late-husband left her for another woman years earlier. Not all of her adventures are altruist or well-intentioned, as she execute a series of pranks on mean-spirited produce-salesman Collignon (Urbain Cancelier, A Very Long Engagement) who verbally regularly abuses good-natured assistant Lucien (Jamel Debbouze). 

It's a beautiful, kind and warm-hearted tale of love and fantasy anchored by the breakout performance from its star Audrey Tautou, and the imaginative visuals of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel. It's just a film that brings a smile to my face every time I watch, and with no 4K UHD in sight this new Blu-ray will do nicely with a strong A/V presentation and a host of extras, including a new 5-min interview with Jeunet and a wealth of archival extras, plus attractive Steelbook packaging. 

Amélie (2002) arrives on Blu-ray from SPHE in 1080p HD widescreen (2.35:1), there's no new information supplied with this release to indicate a new restoration, but there's at least one recent interview with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet saying that it was restored by Sony, so it;s ambiguous. Not having my 2011 Lionsgate Blu-ray available for comparison, a casualty of the "who the fuck did I loanthat to?" it's hard to say for certain how much of an improvement this might be, but just taken on it's own merits this Sony Blu-ray looks terrific.  Grain is well managed and nicely resolved, the source looks terrific with just a few minor specks here and again. Colors look marvelous, the film is bathed in gorgeous greens, red and amber swatches, nicely infused, black levels are rock solid, and depth and clarity please. Fine detail and textures in close-ups also are very pleasing, and the disc is well-authored without any noticeable compression issues to draw the eye away from the excellent HD presentation.  

Audio comes by way of French DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround with optional English subtitles, it;s a nicely immersive track that pulls you right into the fantastical world of Amelie's Montmartre world. The French language audio is clean and well-balanced, while the wonderful score from Yann Tiersen (Good Bye Lenin!) which adds another layer of the fantastic to the visuals also sounds great in the mix. 

Extras include over 90-minutes of archival extras from past releases that explore the making of the film, plus a brand new interview with the director by way of the 5-min Jean-Pierre Jeunet Looks Back, wherein the director recalls some fun anecdotes about the making of the film, it's brief but he packs in a lot of fun memories about it, with some memorable props from the film in the background

The single-disc Blu-ray release arrives in a Limited Edition Steelbook featuring the original movie poster artwork on the front, it's has an attractive metallic finish to it, on the backside is an image of Audrey Tautou as Amélie whimsically reading Nino's scrapbook in bed, while the inner artwork features an exterior shot of the Café des 2 Moulins in Montmartre. 

Special Features:

- NEW! Jean-Pierre Jeunet Looks Back (Blu-ray Exclusive) (5:00) 
- Audio Commentary with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet
- The Look of Amélie (12:47) 
- Q&A With the Director (24:36) 
- Q&A With the Director and the Cast (5:55) 
- An Intimate Chat With Jean-Pierre Jeunet (20:48).
- Fantasies of Audrey Tautou (2:07) 
- Cast Auditions (6:28) 
- Home Movie: Inside the Making of Amélie 12:45) 
- Storyboard Comparisons (0:57) 
- The Amélie Scrapbook
- Trailer (1:11) 

Screenshots from the SPHE Blu-ray: 

Buy it: