Friday, November 29, 2019

Konga (1961) Roars Onto Blu Ray Kino Classics

        The early '60 was an interesting time for Hollywood, as it was slowly phasing out films aimed to older people and moving into counter culture teen-aged fare. It was also a time when studios started tackling more taboo subject matter as the Production Code was slowly easing up on its grip. Like the ape itself, Konga (1961) is a film very much of another age. Its more of a creature-feature you`d expect from the '40's or '50's and not the same year as films like West Side Story, Judgement at Nuremberg etc.

Konga (1961) Dec 3rd 2019

Directed By: John Lemont

Starring: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad, Austin Trevor, George Pastell

Dr Charles Decker (Michael Gough) presumed lost in Africa but returns alive and well with chimp in head and an amazing discovery. He has found a way to grow plants to huge sizes and, as you might have already guessed his monkey sidekick is going to get the same Bert I Gordon treatment. However the Doctor uses his new giant monkey friend to get revenge on those who he feels has wronged him in the past.

       Its easy to pick apart whats bad about Konga, from its plot holes, its bad dialogue and the special effects that are laughably bad even for this type of film.  And lets not even get started on how much of a King Kong ripoff the film is. But I might be able to forgive all this if it wasnt for, this being a giant ape movie that skimps on the ape. The film spends a lot of time in lengthy dialogue and exposition and not enough on actual big monkey terror filled hi-jinks. This is kind of disappointing as the audience has to wait nearly an hour to we get full on ape-action.  The pace is also not helped when over half way in we switch to some teen-aged subplot in the form of a field trip Deckers students take. Not only a jarring late addition but adds zero to the overall story, besides maybe giving Konga a victim. Its smacks of producers tacking it on to appeal to the "teen-market" which was flourishing in the '60's.In fact a working title for this film is I Was a Teen-Aged Gorilla  The one bright spot is Michael Gough who really makes this movie. He plays the sinister mad doctor with his signature charm and swagger, delivering his lines with the pur that is a mix of malevolent yet soothing. Outside of Price, Gough had such an amazing voice, especially for villains. Truly Michael laps up this role with vigor and its such fun watching him in action.

       I was hoping for a cheesy monster movie with one of my favorite British actors Michael Gough but the film never fully commits to its, lets face it silly plot. What we get is a slog to a fun third act. But its too little-too late. It feels like John Lemont could have taken things less seriously and played up the inherit b-movie charms. If only the rest of the film had the fun energy of the final fifteen minutes this could have been a really enjoyable cult classic. Kino Classics restores this film in 2k and WOW does this film really POP with color. Obviously the producers wanted to show off that they had the budget for color and everything is so vivid in its palate. For the most part the picture is artifact free and has a crisp clean look. Extras include a vintage Radio Spot, Image Galley and Trailer.

Great release with an awesome looking picture for a sadly Meh movie.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Beyond the Door III Vinegar Syndrome Review

First off, to make things clear, Beyond the Door III  has nothing to do with Beyond the Door (1974) and Shock aka Beyond the Door II (1977). BTD was tagged on after the fact.

Director Jeff Kwitny has only one other director credit, the slasher outing Iced (1988) so I wasn't expecting much. But shocking it is a lot of fun and is one of weird, whacked out gems that seemed to languish in obscurity that is  until now thanks to the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome.

Beyond the Door III Aka Amok Train (1989) Oct 29th 2019

Directed: Jeff Kwitny

Starring: Mary Kohnert, Bo Svenson, Savina Gersak

      Beverly (Mary Kohnert) is a mousy and seemingly misfit among her classmates and generally gets made fun of. Her and her peers, as part of a class are venturing out into Europe for a field trip. But it seems that Beverly is special after all, being singled out by the same cult the kids are studying. Whilst the kids are asleep in their room a mysterious fire breaks out and after fleeing from cult members they board a train to seek safety. But of course they are anything but, when the evil is still among them.

   I kept the plot vague because there are a lot of weird twists and turns and one bat shit crazy finale. BTD has its host of problems like, bad acting, all over the place plot and characters that feel underdeveloped. Having said that, the film is expertly paced and wastes little time in ramping up the acid fueled story. Thats the thing I loved about this movie, for as messy as the plot is , it was never boring. You always had something going on from surreal visuals, cheesy dialogue and of course a lot of blood and gore. This brings me to another brilliant thing about this movie, which is its amazing practical splatter effects. Even as jaded as I have become, the gore is really something to behold and as dated as some of the effects look they still are pretty grisly. Highlights are a double kill (edited between the two) of a man being burnt alive and another poor guy slowly being beheaded.  Adolfo Bartoli did the cinematography and it is incredible. Bartoli a longtime Full Moon/Empire DP really gives this film dreamlike quality. It is dripping with atmosphere and utilizes the bleak countryside to its upmost creepiness. Clearly the look of the film is partly inspired by Bava and Argento. BTD does struggle with its story and the very end feels underwhelmed however I was entertained by the films style and over-the-top grand guignol type blood shed. It a film that is campy, yet its drug laced moments give it a waking nightmare kind of feel.  Overall a fun film that you should check out especially if you are a fan of strange cinema.

      Vinegar Syndrome goes full steam ahead with this release. We get a stunning 4k print using 35mm material. The new restoration shows of Bartoli's incredible visual flare and poorly lit scenes are now thankfully visible. It also sounds great with a nice 2.0 digital HD mix. And of course as you`d expect the disc is choked full of great features that fans have come to expect from the company. This includes a director interview, interview with cult actor Bo Svenson (Kill Bill Vol 2) and cinematographer Adolfo Bartoli. This gives you a great cross section of perspectives and the interviews are wildly entertaining. As I mentioned above I loved the look of the film so having someone like Bartoli get an interview is amazing. Despite its flaws this is a wonderfully bat-crap-crazy film and VS has provided some great supplements to go with it. Consider is a Must Own!

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Faithful Man (2018) Kino Lorber Blu Ray Review

A Faithful Man (2018) Kino Lorber Nov 19th 2019

Directed By: Louise Garrel

Starring: Louise Garrel, Laetitia Casta, Lily-Rose Depp, Joseph Engel

Abel (Louise Garrel) seems to have a good life living with his girlfriend Marianne (Laetitia Casta). His life comes crashing down when she reveals she is pregnant with his best friend Pauls baby. She asks him to leave and he simply walks out of her life without protest. Years pass and Paul suddenly dies and its shortly after the funeral where Abel trys and rekinkle his love. Enter Paul's sister Eve (Lily-Rose Depp) who has been in love with Abel since she was a young girl. Now Eve and Marianne fight over Abel whilst also dealing with other dramas that come with it.

       I think the biggest flaw with this film is that, Abel (Louise Garrel) is kind of a dud of a character so its hard to imagine how two women would be fighting over him.  As Depp's character says "Its war" referring to the two going to battle over him. This smacks of some narcissism on Garrels part who not only directs the film but cast himself as the lead and co-wrote the screenplay. Deep describes Garrel's character as the most beautiful man alive...Um. No. Like seriously who writes that bout themselves? Both of these women are so clearly out of this guys league. I`d maybe buy it if Abel has a lot of charm and swagger or something interesting about him, but he doesn't. So, its hard to accept why this love triangle is happening in the first place. This is a big problem as its the foundation for the entire plot. Story wise its a bit all over the place, you have the love triangle, you have issues with Marianne's kid Joseph who may or may not be Abels. Then its sort of suggested that foul play was involved in Pauls sudden death, which is sort of explored but then weirdly dropped. Characters motivations are also kind of hard to swallow. For example Marianne tells Abel she literally flipped a coin to decide whose child she was going to say it was. In any normal situation you`d be furious or at the very least totally mistrusting of this person. Its also not the first strange thing she does/says in the film. But thats the thing, characters act so abnormally its hard to really understand anyone's true motives. It takes one out of the film which never feels like it finds its footing and sets up story lines and never resolves them. Depp and Casta give fine performances but they get lost in their strange sycophantic feelings towards Abel.   A Faithful Man seems hollow and a bit of a cinematic vanity project of Louise Garrel. Its plot is underwhelming and feels like its there only serve to showcase Garrel as a brooding ladies man instead of a honest and deep story about love and obsession.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Boys Next Door (1985) Severin Blu Ray Review ! Winning Sheen Style!

Penelope Spheeris is a filmmaker that is incredibly interesting to me. She started out making films like Decline of Western Civilization Trilogy an invaluable documentary about the punk scene as well as the cult punk classic Suburbia (1983) and The Boys Next Door (1985). She went onto make big budget Hollywood family films. Then she just kind of stopped and hasnt directed a feature since 2012. I was really excited when Severin announced they were releasing this '80's movie that doesn't get talked about nearly enough.

The Boys Next Door (1985) Release Date Nov 19th 2019

Directed By: Penelope Spheeris

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Maxwell Caulfield, Christopher McDonald, Hank Garret, Patti D' Arbanville, Moon Unit Zappa

       The film opens with a unnerving credit sequence about real life serial killers, and while its a bit heavy handed its effective none the less. It sets the tone for a bleak, cold and grim film. Spheeris pulls zero punches in terms of showing real life monsters and doesn't glamorize or glorify them. The film wisely builds up the first murder at an exhaustive pace and it when it comes it hits you like a sledge hammer.

Its really disturbing and it got to me I think even more being a gay man. The film is a dark character study so it hangs on its performance. Thankfully they are spot on. Maxwell Caulfield gives a down right terrifying performance as Bo. When he flies into a rage it feels like the actor is truly unhinged and out of control. Sheen is also great and helps balance out Maxwell's character. Charlie at this point was not quite a break out star, only doing one notable film at this point Red Dawn (1984). As much as I love Sheen its almost distracting seeing him in a gritty movie like this. Its funny to think he plays the less crazy character out of the pair. The legendary Christopher McDonald also has a small role. Boys Next Door is styled in a very punk rock way, both in its amazing soundtrack and also bright green and purple hues for certain scenes. This is such a well crafted haunting little film and its had to believe its directed by the same person as The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) or The Little Rascals (1994). Imagine renting this movie in the '90's thinking you`get something similar.

  Severin REALLY outdid themselves with this release and its features. The film is restored in 2k and looks great. You can really notice this new print in night scenes. Penlopes punk flare with its neon hues really pops here. The bonus features are great as well. First off I was really delighted that a commentary by director Penelope Spheeris and star Maxwell Caulfield is included. She and Maxwell are entertaining as hell. This disc also features some great interviews including author Stephen Thrower,, Penelope Spheeris, Maxwell Caulfield, Christopher McDonald and they even tracked down the street band performers from the film. Its these little attentions to details that makes Severin such an exciting label. Rounding out the features is an alternative Opening Title sequence and extended scenes, and an original trailer.

A Must Own!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Unmasked Part 25 (1989) The original Meta Slasher Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Review

By the end of the '80's the slasher genre was well past its expiration date and was more about parodying these films rather than taking them in a new interesting direction. You saw this with films like Doom Asylum (1988) and the film we are going to talk about today, Unmasked Part 25 (1989).

Unmasked Part 25 (1989)

Directed By: Anders Palm

Starring:Gregory Cox, Fiona Evans, Edward Brayshaw

Clearly Unmasked pays not so subtle homage to Friday the 13th (1980) and its later entries, it obviously not only uses Jason's iconic hockey mask (that didnt come into play until the third film)
it also features the killer, named Jackson having a similar tragic backstory ala the first Friday film. But its not just slashers that it 'borrows' from. It also nods to Bride of Frankenstein (1935) even paraphrasing a famous speech given by the blind hermit to the Monster. I also cant help but feel like the love story between a disfigured misunderstood man and a blind woman seems a lot like The Toxic Avenger (1984). Unmasked draws inspiration from a lot of films but never feels like it finds its own voice. Its a slasher send up with a strange love story that is fairly earnest in its execution but we never know exactly what is meant to be serious and what is meant to be taken as stabbing satire. The meta humor and fourth wall breaking jokes come off more awkward and jerky than as clever as the screenwriter maybe thought they were. Its a movie about a killer with a midlife crisis but they never really explore this as much as they could.

         One on the plus side the effects are OUTSTANDING! The gore and splatter effects feel equal parts over-the-top cartoonish and grisly realistic striking a perfect balance. Even the chewed up face of Jackson (Gregory Cox) shown in full daylight is decent. The film has a visual flare that I wasn't expecting in a good way. Neon reds an greens light certain set pieces which felt very much like a a tip of the hat to Bava/Argento. Some of the jokes are really quite brilliant-but some feel like they fall flat.

Unmasked is a really interesting beast as its clearly taking the piss out of the genre but strives for some actual emotional weight, does it mix well? Sort of. While the plot has some holes and could have used some tightening up, its clear that the filmmakers love the genre and modern slashers they reference but also try and make Jackson almost like some classic literary figure like  The Frankensteins Monster and Erik from The Phantom of the Opera which is pretty interesting in the context of the story. Its fun and gory enough to 'mask' over some of its less than stellar qualities. Its bad but its earnest nature and eye popping visual flare and great effects makes it hard to out right hate. A film worth watching especially for hardcore slasher fans.

Vinegar Syndrome really does a EXCELLENT job with this release. First off we get a beautiful looking print. Taken from the original 35mm negatives the team really make this late '80's film shine. As I said i loved the visual flares that filmmakers provided and this new print really POPS!  As always the extras are fun and we are treated to some great stuff. We get not one but two a lively commentaries. One  with writer/producer Mark Cutforth moderated by Justin Dectoux of Laser Blast Society. The commentary is with director Anders Palms moderated by film journalist David Flint.

As much shit as I give this film it wasn't terrible and Vinegar Syndrome really put a lot of hard work into this release. Well done!

Great Day in the Morning (1956) Warner Archives Nov 26th 2019

Great Day in the Morning (1956) Warner Archives Nov 26th 2019

Directed By: Jacques Tourneur

Starring: Virginia Mayo, Robert Stack, Ruth Roman, Alex Nicol, Raymond Burr

Director Jacques Tourneur sadly was never recognized for an Academy Award despite making some of the greatest films of the ‘40’s including the Noir classic Out of the Past (1942) and the haunting psycho-sexual horror-thriller Cat People (1942). He also has delighted horror fans with such gems as I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and Comedy of Terrors (1963). Tourneur worked in many different genres and Great Day in the Morning was his drama epic. A smooth talking stranger traveling through wins a bar in a card game. Things are far from great for the young man as a host of town folks arent too keen on having him around including two women and a band of Union Sympathizers. 

      Great Day is a film very much a product of its time, one of those big splashy color action films that died out after much gritter smaller budget counter culture films like Easy Rider (1969) roared into theaters, upsetting the old Hollywood guard. What we get here is a eye popping colored costume drama that has an emotional core but all the trappings of a bygone era of cinema. The film is beautifully shot and is, as most bigger budget films populated by great actors and in smaller roles wonderful character actors. Robert Stack has a leading man charm that carries the film and the always great Raymond Burr gives a terrific performance. Having said that its really the women that truly shine in this one. Ruth Roman, probably best known for Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) is such a treat to watch. Her beauty, talent and the way she carries herself is all on point and she really knows how to command attention. Not to be outdone is Virginia Mayo (Best Years of Our Lives) is equally good as one of two women attracted to our Stack's character. The writers give her more depth than you'd expect for this time period and while she sadly isnt allowed to have much agency within the story she is still given some great emotional weighty scenes to show off her talents. Despite its great cast and well done technical merits the film tends to be dull in places and doesnt focus on its core emotional centerpiece. I do like that the impending Civil War is used as a backdrop for the plot and its themes. Still, it is a sweeping and well made period drama and even though I am not a huge War film fan I enjoyed it. It has a charm only a late '50s bright colored costume drama from Hollywood.

Warners Blu Ray looks great! This film was done in old school Technicolor and WOW does the colors really pop with this new restoration. Images have depth and detail which you frankly do not get with older releases.The disc includes four short films directed by  Jacques Tourneur.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Sobering 'Day of Wine and Roses' Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

Days of Wine and Roses (1963) Warner Archives Oct 29th 2019

Directed By: Blake Edwards

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Jack Klugman, Charles Bickford, Alan Hewitt

Blake Edwards has directed such classics as Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and the classic screwball comedy's like  The Great Race (1965) and The Pink Panther (1963) . And while he mastered the art of laugh out loud comedy he also could do emotionally wrenching movies like Days of Wine and Roses (1962).  Joe Clark (Jack Lemmon) is a high spirited PR executive who meets a lovely secretary Kristen (Lee Remick). At first the pair seem opposites but with Clark's charm he wins her over and the two quickly develop a romance -but the problem is Joe is already in love with booze. Now straight edged Kristen starts Joe's pension for drinking and the two spiral within their now toxic relationship. Often considered the most haunting and devastating honest film about alcoholism ever put to screen Days of Wine and Roses is really a great film.  At nearly two hours the time is paced incredible well and Edwards takes us on a roller coaster of highs and lows and a descent into rock bottom. Blake wisely never judges his characters but rather presenting an honest look into a problem many people struggle with daily. The real tragedy of the story is how addiction can leak onto those we love and its heartbreaking to see good girl Kristen going down a dark path. 

Of course the film hangs onto its stellar performances. Lemmon admitted in the '90's that like his character Joe, he he himself really did struggle with alcoholism. Lemmon must have used those demons to portray the lovable but damaged alcoholic.   Jack brings a nuance to the role that is startling and true. Equally great is Lee Remick. Arguably Remick has the more challenging part, as she must transform from a good girl secretary to a mirror image of Joe Clark's battered addiction. Both Lemmon and Remick were nominated for Oscars for their performances but sadly neither one. In fact this film was not even nominated for the Best Picture Oscar which in hindsight is a huge snub. Heartbreaking, truthful and filled with unforgettable moments and performances Days of Wine and Roses is a masterpiece and considered the best film about its subject matter. 

Warner Archives really does a great job with this 2k scan of this classic film. Details are sharp and the new print really shows off Philip Lathrop (The Pink Panther, Earthquake) outstanding cinematographer. Warner has really been doing a fantastic job with how much care they put into restoring their back catalog . The sound is great as well and sound cases Four time Oscar winner Henry Mancini's excellent score. Warner was able to port over Edward Blake's auto commentary and considering Blake passed away in 2010 so it makes this artifact invaluable. It also includes a vintage interview with Jack Lemmon which like the commentary is such a great feature to have. Rounding out the features is an original trailer. I am a huge fan of this movie and as always Warners has taken special care in making this film look and sound great and port over some great extras. A must own!  

Friday, November 15, 2019

Future-Cyber Punk Masterpeice Robo Cop (1987) Given the Deluxe Treatment by Arrow Video

Robo Cop (1987) is a film I came to later in life (in my 20s) and instantly fell in love with. Arrow Video has really put their heart and soul into this release which quite honestly is the best us fans are likely to ever get.

Robo Cop (1987) Arrow Video Nov 26th  2019

Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Ray Wise, Miguel Ferrer

Robo Cop works on a lot of levels. On the surface you have a gritty yet darkly funny fast paced action film that delivers on great over-the-top performances, action and some ‘80’s style ultra-gore that boarders on the cartoonish. Speaking of, the villains are equally over-the-top and its always fun to see Kurtwood Smith from That 70s Show as the ring leader Clarence. However, if you scratch just below the surface the film is brimming with a biting social satire and even a Christ-allegory (comfirmed by Verhoeven himself) . So, if you enjoy it for its surface level fun or also take in its sardonic message about ‘80’s consumerism and greed intermixed with a  violence in a future punk version of Detroit, it’s a damn great movie. Robo Cop is to me cinematic comfort food and is the kind of film you can put on any time and enjoy it. Arrow has CRUSHED it with their new release of the film. 

I cant believe my mail box didn't explode with all the amazing awesomeness that was delivered with Arrow's Robo Cop 2 Disc Edition. The label has really went above and beyond and even further with this release. The picture is scanned in 4K from original camera negatives from MGM and approved by Paul Verhoeven himself. The picture looks incredible and is crisp, clear and lots of details really pop with this restoration. Disc One Includes the Directors Cut. This disc has the bulk of the extras: They include: archival commentary by Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison and Ed Neumeier . This was recorded for the theatrical cut and re-edited in 2014 for the directors cut. Two new commentaries are included one by Film historian Paul M Sammon and another by fans Christopher Griffith, Gary Smart and Eastwood Allen. The Boardroom: Storyboard with commentary by Phil Tippett, Four deleted scenes, Composing Robo Cop: New tribute to Robo Cop composer Basil Poledouris, Robo Props: A look at original props from the film, 2012 Q&A with the filmmaker and cast/crew, Robo Cop Creating a Legend three archival featurettes, Robo Talk a new conversation with co writer Ed Neumeier and filmmaker David Birke and Nick McCarthy (director of Orion Pictures), Truth of Character a new interview with Nancy Allen, Casting Old Detroit a new interview with casting director Julie Selzer, Connecting the Shots a new interview with second unit director Mark Goldblatt. WHEW! Seriously this level of extras is staggering. The features also include an Easter egg hidden feature and theatrical trailers.

Disc Two Theatrical Cut: Features the original cut of the film with an archival commentary by Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison and Ed Neumeier, Two Isolated Score tracks (the Original and Final Theatrical Mix). One of the real treats is a Third cut of the film, the edited for television version, which includes alternate dubs and edits of several scenes, A Split screen comparisons between the Directors cut and the Theatrical Cut and the edited for TV version. This is a really great feature which not enough labels do. Rounding out the goodies in this set is a booklet 79 page booklet written by Omar Ahmed, Eric Niderost, Christopher Griffths and Henry Blyth. They all do a very fine job telling the story behind the film. A great fold out poster is included with newly commissioned art as well as the original poster on the reserve side. You also get some six collectible postcards.

Overall: For just under thirty bucks on Amazon, Arrow has jammed PACKED this release and in my opinion is worth very penny. You will pay more than a dollar for this set but its worth every penny.

 Arrow is such an interesting label as it can do small gems like The Prey and  bigger cult films like Robo Cop with the same kind of love and attention. Without a doubt on my list for best release of 2019. So if you are on the fence about this release -pull the trigger on it, you wont be disappointed.

An Early Christmas Present from Kino: Christmas in July (1940) Kino Classics

Christmas in July (1940) Kino Classics Release Date: Nov 26th 2019

Directed By: Preston Sturges

Starring: Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, William Demarest, Rod Cameron

Based on the play “A Cup of Coffee” (also written by Preston in ’31) Christmas in July (1940) centers around a young down on their luck couple Jimmy (Dick Powell) and Betty (Ellen Drew). A big coffee slogan contest held by Maxford House Coffee (a not so subtle nod to Maxwell House) is under way with the grand prize of twenty-five thousand dollars. Jimmy has pinned all his hopes on winning the contest. His co-workers play a nasty prank and makes him believe that he has won the contest with a fake telegram, which he then presents to the clueless coffee president. He as many of us would starts spending the check, not on himself but on gifts his mother, girlfriend and his friends in his neighborhood. Of course, hijinks ensue when its discovered the telegram was fake. 

Prestson Sturges never really became a household name and is really only known by hardcore fans of classic Hollywood. Christmas in July comes just a year before Preston would make some of his best loved films like The Lady Eve (1941) Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942). Sadly, while this is a fun enough movie it never really raises to the heights of those later films. 

Let me first say what’s good about the film. Sturges comedic and sometimes wry wit is on full display and his trademark lively back and fourths as well as natural sounding dialogue despite some very fantastical situations. His cast shines with Dick Powell playing a lovable every man, whom the audience can very much relate. Powell showcases his charms that made him a hit in films like Murder, My Sweet (1944) and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). Ellen Drew a B-picture actor does a fine job as Jimmy’s girlfriend Betty. If, like me you never heard of Ellen Drew you are not alone. Sadly she never reached the same level of stardom as her male co-star and it’s a real shame as she is very good in this film. At a brisk hour and seven minutes this is a breezy and enjoyable film. The problem was I had seen this film after his better works and I couldn’t help be a bit disappointed. While yes its funny and it has a certain charm it never reaches the comedic heights as say, The Lady Eve (1941) nor the kind of emotional levels as say an Ernest Lubitsch or Frank Capra film. And while yes, it is a screwball comedy however that doesn’t mean the story can’t be elevated by a strong emotional core.  July kind of has this but frankly the writing isn’t polished enough to hit on anything that deep or profound. 

At the end of the day July is a big ball of '40's screwball fluff that, while never gets that deep, is still a lot of fun. Its the kind of movie you can watch on a lazy day and switch off your brain. Kino Classics has released this film in a nice new restoration which looks and sounds fantastic. A running commentary with film historian Samm Deighan. Rounding out the features is an original trailer. If you are a fan of TCM and classic and very light comedies from the ‘40’s you should defiantly put this on your Christmas wish list.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Woman Chasing The Butterfly of Death Flaps its Way to Blu Ray thanks to Mondo Macabro

Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death (1978) Mondo Macabro Oct 22nd 2019

Directed By: Ki-young Kim

For the adventurous cinema lover, branching out into world cinema is a great way to discover the interesting, thought-provoking and in the case with the film I’m going to be talking about, the downright insane. Released by Mondo Macabro the leading label for international genre fare comes Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death by Korean director Ki-young Kim.

 On a trip with some friends, a young student meets a mysterious woman with a butterfly necklace. She offers the student a drink and after he consumes it the woman tells him she poisoned them both, not wanting to die alone. Thankfully he survives but the woman does not. Now stricken with depression the man decides to kill himself. Before doing so he is interrupted by a crazy book salesman who tries to convince him that the secret to cheating death is through sheer willpower. To make matters more bizarre the student comes in contact with the skeleton of a two-thousand-year-old woman which, naturally comes to life and demands a human liver. Things only get more bizarre as the young man goes down a rabbit hole of madness and death in this South Korean horror/fantasy.

The Butterfly that Chases Death might be a challenging view for most people if they are not familiar with films from this region. The notion of straight-forward logic and common sense that we take for granted as a Western audience is bound to be warped given our different cultural perspective. Plot wise the film follows its own set of rules and as cliché as it sounds, the experience really does feels like a bizarre nightmare intertwined with a modern folk tale. Like any good folk tale, it tackles deeply rooted themes but in an otherworldly and fantastical way and of course, with a profound message at its core. As the film’s title suggests the over-arching theme and message of the film is death, those who fear it, those who embrace it, and others who try and overcome or outrun it. The filmmakers tie these elements into its extremely loose plot which feels more like a series of vignettes than a tight cohesive story. Despite this lack of traditional structure, Butterfly is engaging, even if only to see what insane set-piece is coming around the bend. For those who can handle a loose and at times downright baffling plot Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death is quite a rewarding film that tackles a very human subject like our own mortality but in a strange and at times beauty way.  Due to Kim’s lack of budget the film can be at times hooky but I find it only adds to its overall charm.

Butterfly has been restored in gorgeous 2k using original film negatives. Considering this film is over forty years old and the elements were probably not treated the best, it’s a small miracle we are getting a print that looks this good. Colors are rich and vivid which is most evident in night scenes or scenes that were poorly lit. This high def print also means you can see the wires on some skeletons but I don’t think anyone was under the illusion they were really moving about on their own anyways. I’m always incredibly impressed when Mondo Macabro can not only rescue a film from almost total obscurity but managed to track down and interview people from the production. In this case we get three interviews which includes actress Lee Hwa-si, producer Jung-Jin-woo and cinematographer Koo Koong-mo and Korean cinema expert Darcy Paquet. Paquet gives a highly interesting overview of Kim’s work and the themes and motifs he used throughout his career. Not only are these rare interviews engaging but they also help put the film into a cultural perspective that, frankly, helped me like the film more on repeat viewings. As a film fan it’s a rare treat to have this kind of insight from the actual people who made it. The disc also includes a feature length commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Paul Quinn of the Whats Korean Cinema podcast, which, like Paquet’s interview, manages to be both entertaining and informative while also providing much needed cultural context.

We live in a great time when, not only do we get to see a little-known film like Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death in stunning 2k but we also get an array of bonus features that go in-depth into the making of the film and its place in cinema. Mondo Macabro has released this as a limited edition of a thousand units and is currently sold out. Not to freight though, a standard edition is now out and available on their website! 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Noirvember: Seven Days to Noon (1950) Kino Review

Noirvember: Today we are looking at a British Noir that explores the atomic age paranoia.

Seven Days to Noon (1950) Kino Lobre Nov 5th 2019

Directed By: John Boulting, Roy Boulting

Starring: Barry Jones, Olive Sloane, Andre Morell, Joan Hickson, Victor Maddern

Seven Days to Noon seems to play  off of a London still scarred from the destruction of WWII and its paranoia and anxieties over atomic weapons. In '50's post WWII America, was also exploring this theme in the gaze of any number of radioactive created creatures and beasties along with aliens -another by product of a post WWII US was the film Noir, which often centered around pulp crimes stores with German Expressionistic moody lighting and a bleak outlook. Not to be out done the Brits also made their own Noir films and today we are looking at one of them. A scientist named Professor Willingdon (Barry Jones) goes rogue and smuggles out a highly explosive bomb. He writes to the Prime Minster (Ronald Adam) that if he doesn't denounce the use of atomic weapons to the country he will blow up a huge chunk of London, killing innocent people. A huge manhunt is on and the clock is ticking. Noon is a movie very much of its time, and can very much be a meditation on life and fear in a still recovering London. Several scenes including the finale take place in a bombed at church, which seems fitting as the film not so subtly references the bible on many occasions. I'm not what contextually these biblical references add to the movie or the story but we get them regardless. 

Probably the most interesting thing about the film is how the character of Willingdon is portrayed. It is really interesting that the"villain" of the piece is framed as not as a raving madman hellbent on blowing up London nor is her entirely sympathetic though I think he is lit more of a 'the ends justify the means' way. He clearly is still the bad guy yet its this gray area in his character that is pretty remarkable. Its something you defiantly would not have seen in an American films at the time. 

Bringing Professor Willingdon to life is Barry Jones (Brigadoon) who gives a layered performance as the fugitive scientist. The film could have done a better job at racket up the tension, something Hitchcock could have easily done if he was not making American films by this point (his film Stage Fright was released this same year). And, yeah maybe its unfair to compare this to a Hitchcock film but I cant help but think someone with his skill at creating tension and suspense is greatly needed here. Overall its a good film though at times it does slog along and lacks some needed suspense. Kino Classics releases this Brit Noir just in time for Noirvember. The picture looks great and really captures the amazing work of Gilbert Taylor. You may not know Taylor but hes done everything from Star Wars: A New Hope, The Omen, Repulsion and Hitchcocks Frenzy just to name a few. His work is brilliant and this new restoration really highlights his genius as a cinematographer.  The extras include a gallery and trailer. A hidden gem about post War paranoia in Britain, Seven Days to Noon is a solid thriller and in a way a character study as well. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Operation Crossbow (1965) Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

So, honest time. Operation Crossbow was a film I had never heard of and if im being brutally honestly not something I had high expectations. While I do love action films, War films have never really been that appealing to me. But I had heard good things and I've been trying to break out of my cinematic comfort zone-so here we go.

Operation Crossbow (1965) Released Nov 12th 2019

Directed By: Michael Anderson

Starring: Sophia Loren, George Peppard, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Richard Johnson

A small band of American Allies are sent into enemy territory when intelligence learns that the Nazi's are working on powerful rocket.  The smart scrappy rag tag group must stop the launch before it can do serious damage. Problems arise when their allies are one by one compromised. Despite not being that excited about this film going in I must admit I was pleasantly pleased with it overall. This is one of those movies that is fun to watch on a lazy cold Sunday and switch off. I can certainly see the film having influences over other films most notably I got a Inglorious Bastards (2009) vibe throughout. My biggest issue I think with this film is, at nearly two hours it does feel a bit bloated in parts. Some scenes just do nothing but stop the film dead in its tracks. The first act is a bit of a slog with lots of lengthy exposition and setting up characters. I cant totally fault the film for that, as it is important stuff its just a bit of a bore. However thankfully the second act picks up and seems to clip at a decent pace for the entire rest of the run-time. Even with some slow bits I was completely engrossed into the plot the characters even though we know virtually nothing about them. Anderson probably best remembered for directing Logans Run (1976) injects some levity, action and nice set pieces in his epic. Some measures are taken to make the film more realistic than most. For example I loved the fact that the German's actually SPEAK GERMAN! The costumes and production values are great as well. Overall I came with low expectations but was happy to find out this is a good film that if trimmed a bit could have been great.

Warner Archives provides a nice restoration. I dont know if its a 2K but its a nice clean clear print. Certain moments look abit darker/blurry but this is only very very briefly. Overall the picture is WA's typical excellence. They will are killing it with their recent releases. The extras are a little skimpy for this release. We do get a nice  a vintage featurette entitled A Look at Crossbow. Rounding out the features is a trailer. Operation Crossbow is a film that despite some dull parts entertained me and I am glad I took a chance on it.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

It Always Rains on Sunday (1947) Kino Blu Ray Review

It Always Rains on Sunday (1947) Release Date Nov 5th 2019

Directed By: Robert Hamer

Starring: Googie Withers, Jack Warner, John McCallum, Edward Chapman, Susan Shaw

Taking place on a rainy Sunday on Londons East End, the film follows several stories of criminals, cops, kids and troubled marriages in this interesting post WWII British melodrama. I wasnt a big fan of this movie right away and honestly it took me a second view to warm up to it. The biggest thing was the first go around I thought the main drive of the story was the plot between the wanted criminal on the lamb and showing up at his ex girlfriends house, her now a married woman with kids. So, needless to say when the film was criss-crossing between these other unrelated plot lines it was confusing to say the least. Only later did I learn that this film deliberately bounces back and forth between subplots as a sort of anthology. Once I knew what I was dealing with on my second viewing I liked it a lot more, especially now that I wasn't trying to connect every story thread together like some detective. What struck me from the start was the care in which the filmmakers took in giving us a rare look into the lives of lower middle classic people in East London and it is incredibly easy to get swept away by the stunning black and white photography by Douglas Slocombre (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lion in Winter), Slocombre and director Robert Hamer craft a stark, darkly funny and intimate portrait of life for some characters of East London. The film was landmark for putting a spotlight on a grime chapter in post-WWII London and acts as a time capsule of a certain time and period. 

Kino Classics has really given this film a great release. The new HD restoration is very well done and showcases Slocombres breathtaking photography, which looks incredible. You really notice little details that seem to pop with this restoration. 

The extras are great as well. A feature length commentary by Film historian Imogen Sara Smith helped give me some better insight into the film and its production. We also get a nice retrospective on the film entitled: Coming in from the Rain: Revisiting It Always Rains on Sunday which runs about sixteen minutes. Like the commentary this featurette really helps one put the film in a better perspective and helps give you both some historical and societal context. Really great stuff.  Rounding out the features is a locations featurette and trailer. Kino Classics gives an A+ release to this under loved British film and that is what I adore about this label. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Flowers in the Attic (1987) dances onto Blu Ray from Arrow Video

Flowers in the Attic was a outstanding book by VC Andrews that spawned a series of sequels and two film adaptations. Well both screen versions change things from the book (the newer film is more faithful) both are entertaining in their own ways. Jeffery Bloom, probably best remembered by horror fans for directing the 1980 cult classic Blood Beach was tasked to bring the dark and haunting novel to the big screen. Books are never easy to adapt let alone one that is as controversial as this was and still is.

Flowers in the Attic (1987) Release Date Nov 12th 2019

Directed By: Jeffery Bloom

Starring: Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, Jeb Stuart Adams, Ben Ryan Ganger, Nathan Davis

I was a big fan of the book series by Ms. Andrews and read them probably in my mid teens. Sure, other kids had hoped on the Harry Potter craze but I enjoyed this perverse and harrowing Gothic novel with an updated twist. Looking back I was an off kid. Needless to say I am a big fan of the book series and later Blooms adaptation. In 2014 a more faithful television movie was produced (though as mentioned above it still omitted things and changed things around) but I still have a soft spot for the original 80s film. Shortly after losing their father, a group of children are mysteriously spirited away in the middle of the night by their Mother (Victoria Tennant) and hidden away in an attic. The Mother assures her kids its all for the sake of gaining her Fathers affection and thereby getting written back into his will. Without this money she tells them, they will have nothing at all. Keeping strict order in the attic is the Grandmother (Louise Fletcher) who over sees everything with an iron fist.

It has been quite a while since I seen Bloom's version of FITA and it held up for me...for the most part. My chief complaint I think is the acting which ranges from wooden to over the top. It almost feels soap opera level at times, which I guess is fitting as the film acts as a preserve daytime soap. And, while I hate to single one actor out, I feel like Swanson gives an uneven performance as Cathy. This so-so acting is kind of disappointing when you consider this movie is based around story and performance rather than showy set-pieces. Despite this the film is rather good. Sure Bloom takes liberties with its source material and the more taboo aspects of the movie are toned wayyy down however the core of the book remains intact. Bloom makes the best of the films modest budget and the production looks much more expensive than it was. The fact that a bulk of the film takes place in a bedroom and attic and a few interiors helped quite a lot im sure. I think I was most surprised by how creative the camera work is and how shots seem to be carefully crafted for maximum effect. Add a tight story with a brisk run time coupled with a wonderful score by Christopher Young (Hellraiser, Drag me to Hell) and you get a solid adaptation of a wonderful and strange book. Also for any haters out there, dont forget Andrews herself signed off on the screenplay. Interesting side-note Wes Craven drafted a script and was set to direct until that fell through. Craven had always explored the fractured family core so this would have been right in his wheelhouse. Sadly, of course we never got that film however Bloom does a great job with what he had to work with. Limitations with budget and studio meant a more faithful adaptation couldn't be done and I dont fault the filmmakers for that. Honestly it boils the essence down to its core. Interestingly enough scenes were filmed that explored the incest aspects (which is a major part of the book) but, though it was extremely tame it was scrapped. While not loved by critcs the film went onto gross over double its money and is still enjoyed by fans.

The picture is a slight improvement over the previous Image Entertainment edition which was already pretty good. While you still see some artifacts the picture for the most part is crisp and clean. We get a nice 2.0 Mono that showcases Young's incredible score. Dialogue is clear as well as the sound design. Where FITA shines is the host of new features. We get a slew of entertaining interviews from cast member Jeb Stuart Adams (Chris), Composer Christopher Young, Cinematographer Frank Byers and production designer John Muto. This really covers just about every major aspect of the films production. Fans also get a rare look at the alternate ending which was shown only at test screenings. Included is the final edit of the ending with commentary by replacement director (uncredited) for the scene Tony Kayden. Editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine Kat Ellinger provides an insightful commentary for the film. Oddly enough Jeffery Bloom is no where on this disc but Arrow, being the completest they are no doubt tried to get him for an interview or commentary. It makes me curious if Bloom doesnt want to talk about the movie or it was a simple case of scheduling. The packaging his great featuring new art by Haunt Love and includes original cover on the reserve. Also a booklet is included with an essay by author Bryan Reeseman. Overall: While the film has its flaws it remains a 80's cult classic that, despite it playing with kid gloves with the source still manages to be a wildly entertaining film. If you are new to this film or a fan this is a must own! Arrow really went above and beyond for fans of FITA!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Noir November Woman in Hiding (1950) Kino Classics Blu Ray Review

Noir November keeps on lurking in the shadows. This week we have Woman in Hiding from 1950 starring the lovely and talented Ida Lupino. If you are interested in Ida Kino has recently released a box-set of movies she directed.

Woman in Hiding (1950) Release Date Nov 5th 2019

Directed By: Michael Gordon

Starring: Ida Lupino, Howard Duff, Stephen McNally, Peggy Dow, John Litel, Irving Bacon, Taylor Holmes

Woman in Hiding (1950) wastes no time with a very dramatic opening of a woman who will later learn is named Debora (Ida Lupino) getting in a violent car crash. A team goes on the search for her and she is presumed dead. Was it an accident or did she kill herself?  Through a flashback we learn the tragic event took place during the night of her wedding to the handsome Selden Clarke IV (Stephen McNally). But Debora is not dead and she soon finds herself swept up into a deadly murder plot.

Unlike in the last Noir I reviewed Naked Alibi (1954) WIH features a strong woman and an more involved and interesting story. Michael Gordon's film starts as a dark Gothic romance that spirals
into a bleak Noir. The first act is incredibly tight with a nicely paced mystery and there defiantly were some nice 'Oh shit' moments that helped keep me on my toes. And for the most part the film manages to keep up its steam through its brisk run time. The twists themselves are handled well and while some elements were kind of predictable I still thought they were entertaining none the less. I have to give huge props for the filmmakers for writing Lupino character as  a smart woman with agency and its clear that, even though she is victimized she is far from a victim. And while Keith (Howard Duff) does come to her aid its Lupino;s character who outsmarts and escapes Clarke several times throughout the film. She is very much in control of her situation. This is pretty refreshing not only for a Noir, but for films at the time in general. Gordon sustains the menace and tension until a great finale. Woman in Hiding also features some incredible black and white photography by cinematographer William H Daniels. Daniels won an Oscar for another better known Noir, Naked and the City (1948).  Like the title would suggest, Woman in Hiding, has been hidden for far too long and thanks to Kino Noir fans can finally discover or re-discover it with a great re-release.

Kino has lovingly restored the film and it looks great. Daniels stark black and white photographer is truly celebrated here and every little detail is sharp and crisp. Any scratches and artifacts have been removed and what we as fans get is a clean and vivid picture. As with Naked Alibi Kat Ellinger gives a wonderfully insightful feature length commentary that helps gives context to the film. Rounding out the features is a trailer. This is a worth while film and an equally great disc. Consider this a must own for Noir lovers.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Noir November: Naked Alibi (1954) Kino Classics Blu Ray Review

We're kicking off Noir November with Kino Classic's release of Naked Alibi (1954) starring Sterling Hayden and Gloria Grahame.

Naked Alibi (1954) Release Date Nov 5th 2019

Directed By: Jerry Hopper

Starring: Sterling Hayden, Gloria Grahame, Gene Barry, Chuck Conner's, Max Showalter, Marcia Henderson

Al Willis (Gene Barry) is the prime suspect in the killing of three police officers. Willis swears his innocents. Chief Joe Conroy (Sterling Hayden) is fired for police brutality when he is caught roughing up his suspect, by a photographer no less. Even though the Chief is stripped of a badge he and other officers still follow the man nearly around the clock.  Its through this that we soon learn that Al isn't quite the good wholesome family man he presents himself as. Directer Jerry Hopper never really made it big in films but in the latter part of his career found steady work as a television series director doing everything from The Addams Family, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke etc. Here he dips his toe into the world of Noir with Naked Alibi.  As much of a Noir fan I actually never heard of this one despite being a huge fan of both Gloria Grahame and Sterling Hayden. The film has a weird message, making the abusive cop played by Hayden as the hero and his constant abuse and harassment of Willis justified. But its not the films morals I have a problem with, as most Noir films and by extension their heroes or anti-heroes often exist in this morally gray area-some even being more villains themselves. No, what bothered me about this film it its kind of unremarkable. I would have loved a bigger build to some of the films revelations as well as giving the characters a bit more agency within the plot. Grahame is in my opinion woefully underused and is more of a sympathetic victim rather than a strong willed femme-fatale. The film does have its highlights which of course includes its leads Hayden and Grahame who turn in a effortless performance. It also has a rich and moody Noir look thanks to Oscar winning cinematography Russell Metty. Metty really helps set the tone of the film and his talents have been used for classics like Bringing up Baby (1938) and Touch of Evil (1958). 

 At a pretty brisk run time of just under ninety minutes, Naked is perfectly serviceable but in my honest opinion kind of by-the-numbers Noir, despite its talented cast.  I just was looking for a tighter more focused script that hit a little harder. 

Once again Kino out does themselves with presenting a outstanding Blu-Ray! Naked Alibi never looked better with a sharp picture that gives depth to its beautiful black and white contrast. It really highlights Metty's skill as a cinematographer.  For being a film made over sixty years ago it looks fantastic with no distortion, scratches or artifacts. It also sounds great sporting a 2.0 mono soundtrack. The extras include a feature length commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger which is informative and entertaining to listen to. Rounding out the features is a trailer. For fans of this film its a worthy addition to your collection. 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Werewolf in a Girls Dormitory (1961) Howls onto Blu Ray Review

In the annuals of great movie titles you have The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and of course Werewolf in a Girls Dormitory. These titles may not be subtle but they are so damn memorable. I had avoided this movie somehow, despite being very much aware of it and this kind of schlock being in my wheelhouse. Now with Severin re-releasing this film in a brand new uncut transfer its the perfect time to watch this hair raising '60's black and white oddity.

Werewolf in a Girls Dormitory (1961) Severin Films Release Date Oct 29th 2019

Directed By: Paolo Heusch

Starring: Barbara Lass, Curt Lowens, Carl Schell, Mary McNeeran, Grace Neame

The arrival of a new science teacher brings with it savage wolf attacks for the co-eds of a school for troubled girls. It turns out that a student named Mary Smith (Mary McNeeran) was blackmailing a teacher and ends up brutally killed. Everyone thinks it was done by an animal but her friend isn't so sure. Who could the werewolf be and how many will die by its vicious grasp. So, if you love a lot of talking, WIAGD is the film for you. Basically you have the mystery surrounding one of the girls who is attacked at the start of the film as well as who the titular werewolf is. Its sort of like two different movies are mashed together. What bogs the film down isnt just its mishmash plot but loads and loads of talking scenes that work to dump lots of exposition to the audience. This would be OK if the story seemed to pay off in a interesting way. I think you have to be a hardcore fan of retro-cheese to find some fun in this movie. And while I do love a good-bad movie I found this a bit on the dull side. I guess I was hoping the film played up the humor and camp aspects rather than present a way too serious mystery-werewolf film. I will say I loved some of the cheesy dialogue as well as the moody atmosphere which very much benefits from the black and white photography.  

Werewolf has for a long time languished in the public domain hence you've no doubt have seen this re-released many many times on VHS and later DVD. And as you might expect from small labels re-releasing most were not very good using old scratchy prints. Not all mind you but nothing like what we are getting in 2019. Severin is the first North American label to take this film scrub it up and make it worthy of having in ones film library. The film is given a brand new 2K scan from vaulted film elements which is nothing short of amazing considering its a wonder these elements even still exist.   The picture is incredible and I recently compared to to some older releases and the difference is like nice and day. I adore the fact that Severin can take a film like Werewolf in a Girls Dormitory and give it a shiny new coat on HD. For purists the film is presented in both its original Italian Mono (with subtitles) as well as an English Dubbed Mono track. Its this attention to detail that makes labels like Severin top dog. The extras are slim but still damn good. An interview with the screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi is includes and was very entertaining. Probably my favorite feature is the commentary by Actor Curt Lowens moderated by David Del Valle (from the Retromedia DVD release) is ported over.  Lowens had passed away in 2017 making this a worth while artifact for fans of this film. The icing on the cake is Del Valle himself who is always fun to listen to. Both the US and Italian original trailers are also provided as well as the Alternative Opening with the infamous "Ghoul in School" which is sadly not on the soundtrack-most likely due to rights issues.

Other treats in this release is a re production of the Original Photo-Comic & Directions to be a Werewolf. The other fun thing is the addition of a soundtrack CD of the films score. I may not have been a huge fan of this film however I can tell a lot of love and care was put into this release. It looks amazing and has some great extra features. This is the definitive release of this film. A Must Own!

Now Available from Severin Films!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Mr Nice Guy (1997) Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

With Criterion releasing Police Story 1 and 2 and now Warner Archives Mr.Nice Guy, its been a good year for fans of the high flying action packed Jackie Chan. Chan is legendary in the field of stunt work but also oozes charm that translates to the silver screen. Chan has been acting and doing his amazing physical stunt work since the early '60's however he didnt truly become a household name until the mid to late '90's. His break out movie to Western audiences was of course Rush Hour (1998) released just a year prior to Mr.Nice Guy.  Thanks to Warner Archives we get to see this legendary late '90's film of Chan's in a regular and extended cut.

Mr. Nice Guy (1997) Released Oct 29th 2019

Directed By: Sammo-Bo-Hung

Starring: Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Miki Lee, Barry Otto, Vince Poletto

Nice guy Chief Jackie (Jackie Chan) finds himself in hot water when he gets mixed up with a reporter. This reporter just happened to film a drug deal between two feuding crime families. Now they are after her VHS taped evidence and anyone connected to her which now includes Jackie. Mr. Nice Guy wastes no time featuring a pretty jarring murder-moments later we are introduced to our lovable hero played by Chan. Despite some tonal issues MNG really dishes up just about everything you could want in a '90's action flick. Everything is so deliciously over the top from the laughable 'drug lords' that feel like they are out of a comic book to the hammy acting and cartoon style high flying action. Seriously the first ten minutes are nearly non stop over the top set pieces. It may sound like im slamming the film but far from it-its a temple to action-cheese and Chan carries the film to perfection. Speaking of I think it goes without saying but im going to anyways, Jackie Chan and his charisma is on point and its not hard to see why Hollywood snapped him up to headline films like Rush Hour. You instantly like his character and its always fun to marvel at Chan's impressive stunt work. The film finds a nice balance between the action and comedic elements and while it never really breaks the mold in terms of an original story, its still a whole lot of fun. I truly feel that the filmmakers were in on the more tongue in cheek moments, but it never feels like full on parody. I had never seen this movie and this seemed like the perfect time to do so.

New Line famously had cut the film for its American release trimming nine minutes of footage, re-arranging some scenes and also dubbing certain actors. These cuts were to get the film to a PG-13 level but also to appeal with a Western audience. If you always wanted to see the original cut, you are in luck because thanks to Warner Archives you now can. The film looks great as it has a brand new 4k scan from the original film footage. The picture looks great and the image is crisp with no color de-grading or distortion. The sound is great as well with a nice clear 2.0 Mono track. Sadly the disc has no features besides a trailer-it does have the original NL version if for some reason you pine for the PG-13 version instead. Even though I cant see watching this cut of the movie I love the fact that its available as well.

Critics at the time were rather harsh on this film and it holds a 41% freshness rating on Rotten Tomato -but honestly I think those critcs that didnt like it couldnt see the fun in the film and only focused on its somehwhat cliched plot. For those who love these types of films you wont be disappointed. It serves up high flying kicks to the face, big loud set pieces and a heaping helping of '90's cheese Jackie Chan style! This is a must own title for funs of  Chan and action films in general. Stuffy critics be damned.

Out Now from Warner Archives!