Sunday, January 31, 2021

Room for One More (1952) Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

Room for One More (1952) Warner Archive 1/26/2021

Directed By: Norman Taurog 

Starring: Cary Grant, Betsy Drake, Mary Treen, Irving Bacon, Randy Stuart 

Disclaimer: Warner Archive has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    A typically middle-class husband named George (Cary Grant) and Rose (Betsy Drake) with kids of their own start to take in and adopt several kids, lifting them from terrible situations. Norman Taurog director of Boys Town (1938) and, the 1938 version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer tackles this early '50's comedy. This movie is certainly a comedy, yet surprisingly the film tackles a some heavy issues such as child-abuse, child neglect and the negative scarring it can have. The movie finds an interesting way of broaching these subjects and not shying away from them whilst also keeping things on the light side and, features some amazing comedy gags. The inflatable boat in the desk bit is classic. This is hard thing to pull off but the film manages nicely. Cary Grant's charm is in full effect and, the quippy dialogue he is given really allows him to shine in this film. Equally good, and, in my opinion the beating heart of this film is Betsy Drake. Drake offers up a warm, witty and world-wise woman, like a greatest hit's of what a perfect mother should be. It's worth noting that Grant and Drake were actually married at the time of filming. You can tell because the two have not only a natural chemistry with one another but, the pair of talented actors play off of each other incredibly. The children are a huge piece of this movie, both in terms of comedy but also pathos. It's a credit to Taurog that he selects some really fine child actors that seem to be able to handle the emotional weight as well as the lighter moments. 

   Room for One More is a movie with a great deal of heart and tenderness, yet I think it never skirts the line into overly sappy or sentimental. Okay, maybe just a little but, the film is so well made you easily forgive some indulgences. You also have to give the movie a lot of props for tackling a subject like adoption and, highlighting that troubled kids need good homes as well. Also, some of the abused kids behavior seems realistic. For example the first adopted girl Jane (Iris Mann) hoards food in secret which is a real disorder associated with abused children. Though it may never be considered a 'classic', Room for One More has laughs, heart and some great acting. 

Picture: Room for One More continues the long line of amazing restorations. The film looks pristine with artifacts or scratches scrubbed clean. Black and white contrast is well balanced achieving a nice clean clear look. Really excellent work.  

Sound: Just like the picture, Room for One More has a nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely with no background hiss present. 

Extras: The disc includes two classic Warner cartoons Feed the Kitty and Operation: Rabbit and trailer. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

So Evil My Love (1948) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

So Evil My Love (1948) Kino Studio Classics 2/9/2021

Directed By: Lewis Allen 

Starring: Ray Milland, Ann Todd, Leo G. Carroll, Geraldine Fitzgerald 

    So Evil My Love (1948) is loosely based on a true crime involving the mysterious death of a bannister, and adapted from the novel For Her to See by Marjorie Bowen.  In a chance meeting Olivia Harwood (Ann Todd) nurses back to health Mark Bell (Ray Milland). It turns out that Mark is a rogue-scheming man that uses people, especially women for his own ends. Olivia having fallen for Bell spirals into blackmail and murder in this '40's era thriller. Part Noir, Part Gaslight Gothic, this movie is an incredibly well crafted. I will say from the outset, So Evil, My Love is a movie that demands and also greatly rewards audience attention. This is because Lewis Allen (best known for the amazing '44 film The Uninvited) layers the movie with clever foreshadowing, bitter irony and little details that make the movie worth repeat viewings. I'm also a sucker for Victorian setting's that are the back-drop of intrigue. And while yes, Allen gives us the typical twists-and-turns So Evil is a pretty interesting character study, not only with Milland's Mark Bell but also Olivia. This attention to Olivia and how she not only gets tangled in Marks scheme but weaves her very own, is actually really refreshing in films of this ilk. Ray Milland in my opinion is at his very best when he's playing villain's such as his part for Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder (1954). Even though Milland is such a heel in this movie, he still retains his charms. This makes it believable he would have this kind of devilish spell over woman. Ann Todd certainly holds her own. As I mentioned she is richly written and given a lot of agency in the plot. Todd really shows a great deal of range and is every bit of Milland's equal. And, the two really play off one another beautifully. The movie is not without it's issues and, there is no doubt that the movie could easily have been given a trim down. Though, I will counter that the slow burn makes certain twist reveals more impactful. If you love drawing room/Gas light murder mysteries I would give this a watch. It's a refreshingly provoctative outing that should be talked about more.  

Picture:  So Evil My Love comes in a brand-new 2k transfer. The film has a sharp clarity and, the black and white photography color wise is well balanced and maintained throughout. I will say as good as the transfer look it does have some artifacts and some rough paces in terms of scratches etc. As Kino typically is stellar in their transfers I chock this up to poor original elements. Overall, you can tell the movie certainly looks much better in HD. It's not perfect but it certainly does the trick nonetheless. 

Sound: So Evil features a well handled 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely and there are very little in the way of background hiss or distortion. 

Extras: So Evil My Love features a stellar commentary with historian Imogen Sara Smith. Smith is incredibly informed and engaging. A really worth while commentary. Also includes a trailer. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Survival Skills (2020) DVD Review

Survival Skills (2020) Kino Lorber 2/2/2021 

Directed By: Quinn Armstrong 

Starring: Stacy Keach. Vayu O'Donnell, Tyra Colar, Spencer Garrett, Emily Chisholm 

      Framed as a 80's era VHS training tape the film narrated by Stacy Keach (known any as The Narrator) introduces us to Jim (Vayu O'Donnell) a bright peppy 'every man' as we follow him through a year on the police force. The jolly optimistic man soon discovers that his job isn't all its cracked up to be in this savagely funny satire. On the surface Survival Skills is a very basic even thread bare plot -yet, its thanks to Quinn Armstrong's brilliant use of wit and white hot satire that it takes a just OK premise into a darkly funny and harrowing odyssey. By the end, the film had me shook and 'reeling' in the best possible way.  I hate comparing other filmmakers to one another but in this case I couldn't help but feel like Armstrong was channeling the great Quentin Dupieux in terms of the surreal living comfortably right next to the real. Now, admittedly Survival is no where near as insane as a Dupieux outing yet it strikes just the right cord between weird, surreal and the heartbreaking real. 

    The film uses a lot of fourth wall breaks. Now, I can already hear the groans but, hear me out. Quinn does an amazing job at transcending and even brilliantly incorporating those breaks into the narrative. It's something that is incredible hard to pull off well but damned if he doesn't do it beautifully. I've seen other films attempt this to some degree of success but maybe nothing this polished and evocative.  The scratchy, low-fi VHS quality is sure to make us older film nerds happy yet taking this a step further this too is used in clever ways to highlight important moments. For example, the more wear our hero Jim experiences the more wear on the VHS tape there is. Not to mention some very jarring scratching screeching sounds bridging some scenes.  That my friends is fucking genius. Using chapters ala a training video is a cool and interesting way of highlighting important narrative points and I haven't seen that done before in this way. There is even a  hilariously sitcom segment involving Jim and his Dad (R. Hamilton Wright). Another example includes Jim's girlfriend in her 50's era typical 'have a good day routine' yet the camera lingers on her after the 'bit' is over and suddenly we see her almost robot-like not sure what to do when he's not on screen. It's funny on a surface level yet also has some sinister undertones in the meta-text of the scene. That's the kind of playfulness this film takes advantage of and its really makes for a wholly wild and interesting watch.

     I love when a movie surprises this jaded critic and stuff like that deserves all of our praise. It's almost kind of hard to write a review for a film that just needs to be seen to be believed (and yes I know how corny and cliched that sounds) but its true. This is a comedy first and foremost  but Quinn doesn't spare us on the bleak, depressing and harrowing aspects of Jim's job. It's not easy to balance comedy and dark subject matter yet thanks to a well structured and smartly written screenplay the two tones work in harmony. Besides a great script what really sells this film and its somewhat subtle sometimes not so subtle subtext is the actors. Stacy Keach, beloved cult star is so damned amazing in this (and really anything he does) and he brings the right amount of hammy and hard boiled to the role. Its a joy, nay, an honor to watch such artistry at work. Seriously, you have to be dead inside not to get excited when you see this gentlemen on screen. Playing our smiley peppy hero Jim is Vayu O'Donnell. O'Donnell brings a quiet dread, sympathetic, harrowing and above all funny performance. Like Keach, he knows the line between over-the-top and never actually skirts it, yet comes deliciously close. At the end my heart really bled for this character. Honestly, I could go on and on because everybody is so fantastic in this film. You have a genius script brought to life by its performers. This is even more incredible when you take a step back and realize that this is Quinn Armstrong's first feature, having previously worked on shorts (including a short based on this feature). The fact that this filmmaker already has these kinds of skills behind the camera makes me think, look out this filmmaker is going places. A darkly brilliant take down of Reagan era police-force that sticks with you long after its over. 

Picture: Typically I always want the best picture quality. So, I was a tiny bit sad when Survival Skills came out on 780p DVD. However, thinking about it, I think it actually works well within the films low-fi aesthetic. In fact, I dont think I would want to see this film in a pristine 1080 or higher.   

Sound: Survival Skills, has a skillfully done DTS 5.1 track. Dialogue comes through nicely with a good robust quality overall. 

Extras: Domestic Violence and Law Enforcement Today: A Conversation with Neslie Akkol & Kassandra Villarreal of the Good Shepherd Shelter (8mins) A short featurette on real life abuse and violence situations. A really interesting, sobering and informative segment.

Getting the VHS Look (6min) the writer/director takes us through the process of getting the cool VHS look achieved in the film. 

Survival Skills (Short) (8mins) The original short film that inspired the feature film.

Training Videos (5mins) A featurette featuring some wild real life police training videos. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

After the Thin Man (1936) Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

 After the Thin Man (1936) Warner Archive 2/26/2021

Directed By: W.S Van Dyke 

Starring: William Powell, Myna Loy, James Stewart, Elissa Land 

   Based on the book by the same name, The Thin Man (1934) was a huge success with critics and audiences alike, making a nice profit as well as being nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. It also helped further establish the careers of William Powell and Myna Loy, making them highly in-demand A-listers. It's no wonder that the studio was hot to follow up to ride the wave. Though, it would be two years until the famous sleuthing duo would return. After the Thin Man takes place shortly after the first film and see's Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy) taking a much needed break on New Year's Eve. The couple are swept up in a new case when a member of Nora's cousin's husband goes missing. Like the couple themselves the murder-mystery starts out at a rather casual pace, as Nick and Nora trade wry witty remarks whilst slugging down their weight in booze. However, once things get going the plot thickens with a ton of twists, turns and misdirection. 

   The screenwriting team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, who wrote the first Thin Man (as well as a slew of other hits) once again knocks this movie out of the park. Present is the wonderfully dry wit, banter and well crafted plot that made the first movie a true gem in early Hollywood cinema. I tried to keep the plot vague because there is so many moving parts and twists that it keeps you engaged throughout. William Powell and Myrna Loy obviously return and is of course poured into the role. The couple had made a total of fourteen movies together and it's easy to see why. Right along side Hepburn and Tracy or Bogart and Bacall they are among the most iconic duo's in screen history. It's truly magical to watch the two shine on their own but also play beautifully off of one another. It's also notable for being an early screen role for James Stewart (having been in only seven feature length films prior). In a rare move for a sequel, After the Thin Man made even more money at the box-office and, it would go onto to spawn a whooping five more entries, ending with Song of the Thin Man in 1947. Though each movie has it's own set of charms, this if often considered the highlight of the sequels. It's a really rare thing when the sequel to a fantastic movie is just as fantastic. Such is the case with After, which manages to somehow re-capture lightening in a bottle, and has been beloved since it's release. 

Picture: WA has touted this as a new 4k transfer and, Wow! This black and white film really impresses with it's extremely well handled contrast. For a film that is over eighty years old the picture is pristine in it's presentation. Grain is well maintained and all artifacts and scratches has been cleaned up. Skin tones are well balanced and sets and locales really pop. 

Sound: After has a nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely with no audio-drop out issues. Being an older film there are some hiss background noise but, honestly it's nothing that is extremely distracting from the film. Overall, its a well maintained track. 

Extras: After the Thin Man has some fun supplements. Included is the comedy short: How to be a Detective, Classic cartoon short: The Early Bird and the Worm. Also included is a radio show program with Powell and Loy, Leo is on the Air Radio promo and original trailer. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Rejoice! The Theatre Bizarre (2011) on HD! Review

 The Theatre Bizarre (2011) Severin Films 1/26/2021

Directed By: Richard Stanley, David Gregory, Douglas Buck, Buddy Giovinazzo, Tom Savini, Jeremy Kasten, Karim Hussain 

Starring: Udo Keir, Virginia Newcomb, Catriona MacColl, Tom Savini, Debbie Rochon, Shane Woodward, Lynn Lowry, Elissa Dowling 

    The Theatre Bizarre (2011) is a movie I have been in love with shortly after it came out. In fact, before I wrote my first book The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema for Schiffer I was shopping around a book on the making of Theatre Bizarre. I had archived rare photos, interviews but sadly I could not find a publisher interested in it.  I did keep a cool momentum, a DVD cover which I had signed by some of the directors and crew members. The film opens with a girl named Enola Penny (Virginia Newcomb) who seeks shelter in a old theater which she assumes is empty. Yet, Peg Poett (Udo Keir) is waiting on stage to present to her six tales of horror. 

    Much like Mick Garris's Showtime series Masters of Horror, The Theatre Bizarre brings together talented transgressive directors and allows them the creative freedom to craft their very own vision of terror. I will be reviewing each segment as well as the wrap-around segment. First let me talk about the excellent framing device directed by Jeremy Kasten. The movie is based off the Paris Grande Guignol which was known for brutal stage shows. Peg Poett, expertly played by the legendary Udo Kier makes for the perfect host and, the mini-"plays" that are performed on the stage that serves as intro's into each story is simply a stroke of genius.  There is more I could say about this framing device but I don't want to spoil it for anybody who has not seen it. This anthology really starts with a bang with Richard Stanley's entry Mother of Toads. Two tourist discover a mysterious woman named Mere Antoinette (Catriona MacColl) who entraps them in a web of occult horror. Stanley takes the typical horror troupe of two outsiders and blends a wicked sense of black humor, skillful direction and of course a surreal fever dream like quality. The director is no stranger to the occult and here he really taps into that with unnerving aspects. It very much put me in mind of a Tales from the Darkside episode with it's off-beat charms. Buddy Giovinazzo probably best known directing Combat Shock (1984) delivers a twisted love story in his entry I Love You.  A husband goes berserk after his wife lives him for his best friend.  You could easily say this is a pretty bare-boned narrative and, that it could have used a hook to give it an extra punch. And, you`d be right. However this is actually what I really like about it. Giovinazzo executes everything with this ice-cold detachment that makes for a chilling watch.  Tom Savini's directs the next segment Wet Dreams. Like Mother of Toads, this feels like a fun throwback to Amicus's anthology, yet done more gore and sexuality. It has a nice twist wonderfully bitter irony and, because its Tom Savini, features some nice gore and a wonderfully black humor. The Accident directed by Douglas Buck (Cutting Moments) is probably the most understated segment and, one that actually stuck with me for many years after watching. A mother explains death to her little girl after the witness a roadside accident.  Most may say it's not "horror" but, in my opinion it's themes of death reflects the most primal form of fear. This short has a chilling yet deeply moving and profound message and it's one that never fails to hit me like a punch to the face. Vision Stains the nice segment directed by Karim Hussain and tells of a woman that injects fluid of of peoples eyes and injects them into her own. This allows her to see the persons memories. She later writes down their story to preserve it. Stains works because it plays with some really interesting high-concepts whilst also offering a profound message in a non-pretentious way. This has some great shades of an early surrealist Argento outing with shades of Romero's Martin (1977). A scene with the syringe in her mouth is no doubt a wonderful nod to that film. The last segment is Sweets directed by David Gregory. Sweets is a candy-colored carnival of perversion that probably has the most obvert humor, albeit on the dark, or- bitter-sweet if you`d like. I love it all, from Estelle's (Lindsay Goranson) Siouxsie Sioux inspired look to the surrealist post-modern art style. This is truly an amazing work of surrealist cinema. It's really the high-note that this anthology needed. As I stated this has been a firm favorite of mine since it first came out and, it's pretty amazing to have over the years talked to a lot of the creative people involved with this film. In fact I will be interviewing director Douglas Buck so please stayed tuned for that. A fever-nightmare of perversion made by some of the most talented transgressive filmmakers of our time. 

Picture: The Theatre Bizarre is a very visually provoctative film and I'm happy to say it looks great on 1080p. Shot on digital the movie has really transferred well and the end result is a crisp clear looking movie. Colors really pop, especially in Sweets by David Gregory.   

Sound: The Theatre Bizarre has a really well done DTS 5.1 track. Dialogue comes through nicely with no audio drop out issues. I was really pleased that we got a 5.1 here as the sound design and score really benefit from this robust track. Also included is a English 2.0 and a French 2.0 track. 

Extras: The Theatre Bizarre which was created by Severin founder David Gregory is rightly jammed packed with a treasure trove of features! The film features new commentaries one from 2012 and a newly recorded 2020 track. The real gem is of course Backstage: The Making of The Theatre Bizarre which is a feature length documentary covering every aspect of the making of the film. 

French TV On-Set Report of Richard Stanley's Return to Genre Film (7mins) This fun and rare interview with Stanley on location during the shoot of Mother of Toads. 

It also features two making of featurettes: Making of Vision Stains by Filmmaker Pat Tremblay and Making of The Accident by Pat Tremblay

Shock Till You Drop's Choice Cuts With: Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Jeremy Kasten

These bite-sized interviews done for Shock Till You Drop are really entertaining and enlightening. 

Boswell Scores An Interview With Mother of Toads & Vision Stains Sound Composer Simon Boswell (10min). A great interview with Boswell a legendary composer of such projects as Richard Stanley's Hardware (1990) and Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave (1994). Featuring some great behind the scenes footage. 

Mother of Toads Extended Cut (20mins) A nice extended version of Richard Stanley's segment. 

Rounding out the features is Trailers for the film. 

Synchronic (2019) Well Go USA Blu Ray Review

Synchronic (2019) Well Go USA 2/26/2021

Directed By: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead  

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton 

    Having just come off amazing outings like Spring (2014) and more recently The Endless (2017) Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have proved that they can make a visually stunning, yet thought-provoking films. Now they are tackling more acid-like outings with Synchronic. Two New Orleans paramedics named Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) encounter a series of strange deaths linked to a party-drug called synchronic. Two major life events such as Steve getting the news he has cancer and Dennis's daughter going missing kicks off a weird and world-breaking adventure. 

    So, I am somebody that loves really polished high-concept science fiction. Recent examples is 2020 Possessor and, of course I would put Synchronic neatly in that category. Benson and Moorhead hooked me right away with this mystery of young people dying horrible deaths. As the movie unfolds the movie cleverly morphs into a surreal and thought provoking mediation on life, death and the very nature of time. Here's the thing. I'm not the biggest fan of time-travel movies, yet, Synchronic does something really interesting with this premise that makes it feel fresh. Sure, it leans on short-hand science troupes however, the time travel narrative is really a McGuffin for the the profound things the filmmakers have to say about having meaning in life and doing everything you can to make what's left of your life count. On the fact of it it may sound pretentious but I think the filmmakers are able to hammer these core themes home with expertly timed emotional peeks without getting too cheesy or cliched. Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan are really amazing in their respective roles and, they are given enough space to shine on their own, but, also play off each other nicely. It helps that the filmmakers give them a lot of fleshing out. Visually the film is just breathtaking with polished CGI that works in perfect tedium with the story it's telling.  Synchronic is a trippy  high-concept sci-fi film with a real beating heart at the center. 

Picture: Synchronic features a nice 1080p transfer. The visuals are vivid with colors that really pop and details in clothing textures, sets, locales and of course CGI rendering. Being a new film filmed in digital you of course are going to be getting the best looking transfer. It's a shame that Well Go didn't do a UHD version, maybe someday. 

Sound:  Synchronic  features a really nicely done DTS 5.1 track. Dialogue comes through nicely with no audio drop-out issues. Sound effects and sound design offers a nice full robust sound experience in my opinion. 

Extras: Synchronic has a vast array of extras. Highlights include a engaging commentary with the directors and producer. Also included is:

Making Of (15mins) A great making of with interviews with the cast and crew. 

Previsualization (8min) The directors show some rare pre visualized scenes which act as a live-action storyboard. 

VFX Breakdown (2mins) A short be really fantastic look at the films FX visuals. 

Deleted Scene: (1min), Alternate Ending (1min) An alternate ending with introduction by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead. 

Rounding out the features includes a teaser and original trailer for the film. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Family Portrait (2003) Severin Blu Ray Review

Family Portrait aka Family Portrait: An American Trilogy  (2003) Severin Films  2/26/2021

Directed By: Douglas Buck

Starring: Gary Betsworth, Nica Ray, Sally Conway, Larry Fessenden, David Thornton 

Cutting Moment (1997), Home (1998), Prologue (2003) 

    If you ever wondered what the closet thing to an American Jorg Buttgereit film, Cutting Moments and Home from 1997/98. would be it.  These films really have the oppressive feel, nihilism raw and brutality that makes for a pretty painful watch. The first segment in the trilogy, Cutting Moments is about a decaying family with a husband Patrick (Gary Betsworth) son Joey (Jared Barsky) and wife Sarah (Nica Ray). Whilst a numb Patrick watches TV downstairs, Sarah finds a sick way of reliving stress. Cutting Moments really should be touted among the best shock-cinema of the '90's. At the time horror  (Cutting Moment skirts the line of horror and drama, but for this lets just go with the former for now) with few exceptions was pretty tame in regards to really extreme gore-outings. This was long before A Serbian Film (2010) or even the August Underground series. But, I would say that Buck doesn't aim to shock just for shock sake and Moments really has a lot of say about the bleakness of, what can, from the outside seem like a great home life. Sarah is a kind attractive woman that is driven insane by how cold, unloving and detached her husband is. The gore, which is done by Tom Savini is of course extremely well done but, actually not that graphic. Having said that, Doug makes it so personal that you feel every cut. This is why I think its a brilliant movie. It's painful in a deeply human way and therefore it makes for a memorable experience. I would actually like to dive deeper but cannot due to spoilers. Maybe I will re-visit this one in more depth.  Next is HomeHome centers around a husband named Gary (Gary Betsworth) of a religious family who finds a way of dealing with his wife and daughters sins. At first this was a little confusing because I didn't realize that Gary Betsworth was playing a different character. Though it's not as strong as Cutting Moments, this entry has the same kind of isolation and creeping dread that made it spellbinding. It's also more complex story wise, opening things up to tell the story of a husbands abuse as a child and the echoes that it had on his life as an adult and now father himself. I think where this falls flat is that the drama and horror could have been pushed further and, I seems like Buck was holding back in a sense. Whereas Cutting Moments will stay with me for awhile, I dont think Home has the same kind of power. The final story Prologue which was released in 2003 and see's Billy (Sally Conway) who survived a brutal attack that resulted in losing both her hands. She returns to her hometown where she finally deals with who attacked her. Prologue is perhaps the strongest and my favorite story in the 'Family' trilogy. It adds more scope and depth coupled with a clear sense of Douglas growing a lot as a visual storyteller. The winter farmland is beautifully used is a metaphor for the isolation,  and overall bleakness of the characters world. Overall, each film has a refreshingly devastating, unnerving take on the family landscape. Though it may be a little bit slower paced than what most audiences may be use to, it's a film rewards your attention. Buck masterfully plays with gender, sexuality, perversion in a cutting edge way. A true work of dangerous art. 

Picture: Severin has provided a really nice looking restoration here. The image has a nice clarity with fine grain that is consistent throughout. There are some artifacts in the print but honestly I think it only enhances the mood and feel of the film. 

Sound: Family Portrait has a nice Mono track. Dialogue is clear and audio has no drop out issues or background distortion. 

Extras:  Severin has once again provided fans with a nice array of bonus features. Included is a option to play Cutting Moments, Home and Prologue as stand alone shorts. Also included is After All (1994) Douglas Bucks very first short film.  Two feature length commentaries: 1) Douglas Buck 2)Maitland McDonagh. 

Cutting Moments Interview conducted in 1998 (47mins). This wonderfully candid interview, Buck explores the origins of the film, casting and filming. It also includes interview with Nica Ray, Gary Betsworth, Tom Savini and some behind the scenes footage. 

That's Dark Podcast on Cutting Moments plus an interview with Douglas Buck: Cutting Moments part 1, 2, Douglas Buck Interview

Rounding out the Bonus is:

Prologue Deleted Scene, Behind the Scenes of Prologue, Still Galleries and Family Portrait Trailer. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Dark Intruder (1965) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

Dark Intruder (1965) Kino Studio Classics  2/2/2021 

Directed By: Harvey Hunt

Starring: Leslie Nielsen , Peter Mark Richman, Judi Meredith, Vaughn Taylor 

Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   It's hard to believe it but, there was a time when Leslie Nielsen was more of a dashing leading man rather than the king of slap-stick comedy.  It might be up for debate but, I think that the modern horror film was birthed with 1960's Psycho and later cemented with 1968's watershed Night of the Living Dead (1968). Yet, despite getting some true gems like Peeping Tom (1960), The Innocents (1961) and Brides of Dracula (1960), the genre still was sometimes churning out pretty goofy shlock from this era. Such is the case with Dark Intruder from 1965. But, thats OK, we here at Video Attic love and celebrate the B-film. A detective named Brett Kingsford (Leslie Nielsen) starts to investigate a series of gruesome murders taking place. Each time a creepy idol is left at the scene of the crime. A far-out mystery unfolds in this off-beat outing. So, I'll be frank, Dark Intruder was a movie that on face value seems like a dud. However, I happily ate my words by it's short 60 minute run time. The film's biggest strength outside of it's leading man is how really interesting plot which has a heaping helping of occult horror with a sprinkling of an good old fashion Victorian turn of the century mystery. It's also extremely moody with tons of Gothic-Noir lighting and, wonderfully foggy London streets. Camera angles and framing are well thought out, something I wasn't expecting from a movie of it's ilk. Meanwhile, a monster prowls and, wisely we only hear the beast and see just fragments of him. There are moments when, similar to Cat People (1942) the roar fills the room, yet, we don't see the fiend. This creates some nice tension. The movie is a mystery, and it's engaging enough that I was never bored as it unfolded. Though, honestly the glue that ties this altogether is really Leslie Nielsen. It's hard to overstate the obvious but, wow, Nielsen really had buckets full of charm and, he really plays up this playboy detective to the hilt. The actor always plays the situation deadly serious and damned if you don't buy into it because he's such a good salesman. If I had to lobby a compliant it's that the movie could have used more polish when it came to certain narrative elements. Also, I felt that the movie could have used expanded upon, as it only clocks in at an hour. [Please note: Afterwards I learned this was actually suppose to be an hour-long television pilot]

And, when we actually do see the monster, its kind silly. Overall, this is a well shot, well acted horror outing that is dripping with haunting-Victorian era atmosphere.  Though it can get a bit cheesy Dark Intruder is a really a wild and engrossing little film. By no means a masterpiece it's still a worth a blind buy. 

Picture: Dark Intruder sports a nice 2k transfer. The film really looks great. The image retains a great level of detail in sets, costumes and locales. The low-key Noir like photography is truly celebrated here. Grain levels are consistent and, I could not see any scratches and artifacts present. 

Sound: Dark Intruder has a nice 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely with no hiss or audio drop out. 

Extras:  Dark Intruder has some nice features including a feature length commentary by Film Historian/Screenwriter Gary Gerani. Gerani provides a wealth of info. Like, I had no idea that Dark Intruder was actually meant to be a anthology with Leslie Nielsen detective character as a proto-Kolchak (long before that show). Gary is well researched and engaging. This disc also includes an interview with Mike Westmore, Makeup Artist and Bud Westmore's Nephew. Rounding out the extras are trailers for this film and others. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Paramount's Dreamland (2019) Blu Ray Review

Dreamland (2019) Paramount Pictures 1/19/2021

Directed By: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte 

Starring: Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel, Darby Condon 

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    2019's Dreamland is a movie that slipped well under my radar, as that year had some amazing films. And, honestly if it wasn't for Margot Robbie in the lead I might not have requested it at all. Set during America's Great Depression, a farm boy named Eugene (Finn Cole) life is changed forever when he meets an outlaw named Allison Wells (Margot Robbie). Instead of turning her in for the bounty, Eugene hides the fugitive with designs to help her flee to Mexico. Dreamland is a frustrating experience. It's frustrating because clearly there is a lot of great elements at play here, but shoddy execution. As for what works: For starters the movie is incredibly photographed. D.P Lyle Vincent who has done stellar work in films like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), Thoroughbred (2016) and more recently HBO's Bad Education (2019). Vincent's visual scope is nothing short of magical as he paints a picture that is equal parts breathtaking, haunting and isolating. Couple this with a production design that is incredibly grounded in the time period and, it's easy to truly get swept away in the story. Margot Robbie is of course stellar and, as always breaths life into her character. Finn Cole is also good but, frankly isn't at her level. The film is also filled with a fantastic supporting cast. This is all great but my issue with this film is with the screenplay. This film marks Nicolaas Zwart first feature length script. And, while it's far from being terrible it has a host of problems. There is an attempt to flesh out characters but they still end up feeling strangely hallow. Furthermore, the movie doesn't really add anything new to the whole-outlaw/romance genre. This basically has the same beats that you might expect. I will say though, the movie does inject some tender/realistic moments that was a nice surprise. This movie is suppose to be part romance and, as hard as the filmmakers try I don't think that Finn and Robbie have on screen chemistry. It's not a commentary on either's performance, it's just there's no sparks. Dreamland is a movie that is ambitious but runs out of steam before it even got started. It has nothing new to say about it's themes on family, sex, violence and death and the fame of being an outlaw. But, I think you cannot deny that Robbie is truly one of the films saving grace. 

Picture: Dreamland was shot on digital and of course looks great when transferred over to 1080p. Lyle Vincent's brilliant photography really looks sharp, crisp and vivid in HD. Color levels are well maintained throughout. Details like clothing texture, sets, locales really stand out here. 

Sound: Dreamland sports a nice DTS 5.1 track. Dialogue comes through nicely as does the films sound design.  Overall it's a robust sound presentation which in my opinion was very solid. This isn't a movie that I think demands something like 7.1 as it's not as bombastic in it's sound effects etc. 

Extras: None 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Cleansing Hour (2019) DVD Review

 The Cleansing Hour (2019) RLJE 

Directed By: Damien LeVeck 

Starring: Ryan Guzman, Kyle Gallner, Alix Angelis 

    Max (Ryan Guzman) is a popular Internet priest that hosts a show called The Cleansing Hour. The problem is, Father Max is a phony, using his platform to make money from the show and his merch. Helping him is his best friend Drew (Kyle Gallner). One night Drew's fiancé Lane (Alix Angelis) is asked to sub for the actor being possessed on the live-cast. This live show goes smooth until a real demon takes ahold of Lane and the team must find their strength to defeat true evil. Damien LeVeck's second feature film is a mess but an interesting one. I will give the film a lot of credit it takes the concept of fame/money driven world of Internet content and folds in the aspect of religion which, with the rise of mega-churches (with their own merch) rakes in billions. And, I think for the most part this is a clever concept for the movie to hang it's hat on. Ryan Guzman gives a solid acting performance as Max. He really brings some pathos to a d-bag character. Kyle Gallner also is tasked with a lot of the emotional heavy-lifting and he delivers a gut-punching and believable performance. Alix Angelis plays both Lane and her possessed counterpart. She really handles this duel role well and, I`d argue has the hardest job acting wise. My biggest issues with this film is it never leans hard enough into the themes of Internet celebrity and also doesn't hit the comparison between some religious "celebs" making money to what Max is doing hard enough. This seems to be a huge missed opportunity. As steady as the story is, it does start to go off-the-rails at the midway point. I think what saves it for me is the movie has a certain sense of self-awareness. The movie while yes is earnest in it's story, still has some tongue-in-cheek moments. The finale is a bit out of left field however, it's fun, outrageous and also, showcases another element that I liked about this film, which is the effects. Outside of some dodgy CGI, the film showcases some great special effects. The last ten minutes really had me beaming with the film throwing some goopy, slimy effects. I need to keep this vague as I want to keep this totally spoiler free. This movie is a mixed bag due to some wildly uneven plotting, and some clichés. Max's backstory with a nun is kind of laughable and felt very out of nowhere. Not to mention some  cringe-worthy moments. The killing of a drag performer felt a bit yikes and needless. What saves the movie for me is it did try and serve up some thought provoking  elements and subvert some troupes (even though it leans into a lot of them as well). Overall, a fun enough watch but nothing that is mind blowing. 

Picture: Currently in the US Cleansing Hour is on available on DVD. This is kind of a shame because the movie has some nice visuals and atmosphere. Having said that the 780p transfer is pretty decent picture wise. Obviously, this would be better on HD but the digital film still looks slick and nicely done even on this lower quality format.  

Sound: Cleansing Hour has a pretty well done DTS 5.1 track. Dialogue comes through well. The music and sound effects come through nicely. 

Extras: Extras include: Directors commentary, On the Set of The Cleansing Hour and The Cleansing Hour Short Film.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Paramount Presents #13 The Court Jester (1955) Comes to HD!

The Court Jester (1955) Paramount Pictures 1/26/2021

Directed By: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama 

Starring: Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, Cecil Parker

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    13 seems to big a lucky number, as the 1955 classic The Court Jester coming to Paramount Presents!! Hubert (Danny Kaye) is a awkward carnival worker who has to pose as a jester in order to seat the rightful king on the throne. The Court Jester (1955) is the kind of sweeping lavish Vista Vision production that, just a decade or so later would be totally out in favor for more counter-culture movies like Easy Rider (1969). Even though this movie was even out of vogue at the time of it's release it's been re-discovered as a true Hollywood gem, thanks to television airings and, of course home video releases. This is actually the first time I've seen this movie and, I must say the film is every bit as charming and fun as I had heard. This movie is a musical and, I think some films struggle to properly incorporate the songs into the narrative. Jester perfectly nails this element and not only are the songs catchy but they feel very organic to the story it's telling.  As for the film itself, it's a wild fun pop-art fairy tale-like send up of adventure movies. Yet, the movie never spoofs the genre, but acts as a earnest love-letter to the high flying, Errol Flynn type movies of a bygone era. Visually the movie is a brightly colored fever-dream that only Hollywood could conjure up. This movie was made for four-million which is nearly forty-million, it sadly was a risk that didn't pay off. I mention this because, they movie really does have this lavish over-the-top look. The costumes are amazing in there detail and the sets and locales give the movie a huge scope. 

   The writing is also a real asset here. Truly, we get some whip-smart dialogue that crackles and hilarious set-pieces that never fails to deliver the laughs. Speaking of, Danny Kaye is a scream as the titular Jester. Kaye was best remembered for films like White Christmas (1954) as well as heading his own show The Danny Kaye Show (1963-67) which ran for over one-hundred episodes. The crooner really had a ton of charisma and he brings that to every single moment in the film. This also features a fantastic supporting cast with Angela Lansbury, Glynis Johns and, of course Basil Rathbone who simply devours the role as the villainous Sir Ravenhurst. The Court Jester was a movie that really belonged in the '30's or '40's but, thankfully we got a big budget version as a last hurrah for the adventure films that died and later came back in the form of high-concept fantasy outings like The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001).  If you have never seen this movie and you are a fan of things like The Adventures of Robinhood (1938) you will really enjoy this film. 

Picture: I know the year just started however, The Court Jester is already in the running for best restoration of the year. According to the Paramount press release: 
For this new restoration, the original negative was scanned at 6k and one of the separation masters was also scanned and recombined with the negatives scans to address color fading in the negative.  

The movie has a very vivid look with the colors being well-handled throughout. Grain is actually really well maintained which means the film elements must have been in good condition. Outdoor scenes have this lush, gorgeous look to it. I cannot over-state how fantastic the color grading and temperature is throughout. Clearly a lot of love has gone into the look of the film.  

Sound: Jester features a robust DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through incredibly well as does the music and sound design. 

Extras: Court Jester features a brand new feature: Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin Discusses The Court Jester. This is a very enjoyable deep-dive into the film, the filmmakers and the actors that bring this movie to life. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Suspect (1944) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

The Suspect (1944) Kino Studio Classics 2/9/2021

Directed By: Robert Sidomak 

Starring: Charles Laughton, Ella Raines, Dean Harens, Henry Daniels, Stanley Ridges, Rosalind Ivan

Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    Director Robert Sidomak was well known in many genres especially in the mystery/Noir-genre with classics under The Killers (1946), Phantom Lady (1944) and Criss Cross (1949) under his belt. I wouldn't say this is Noir per-say but it certainly fits within Sidomak's other murder-mystery/thrillers. Philip (Charles Laughton) is a mild-mannered married man that is living in a hellish marriage with his wife Cora (Rosalind Ivan). After the chance meeting with a pretty young woman named Mary (Ella Raines) the pair fall in love despite Philip being married. Christmas Eve the couple have a verbal fight, as Cora has found out about Mary. Later, Cora dies suddenly from a fall. Naturally Philip becomes the suspect in her death. Thus begins a mystery set in 1902. The Suspect is a movie that I found both really interesting but, also underwhelming. From a technical standpoint the film is stunning. Director of photography Paul Ivano gives the film a bigger scope and depth with his expert camera work and German expressionistic, moody lighting. Though Ivano didn't do many note worthy films (though he is given an uncredited work on '31 Frankenstein), his resume includes over one-hundred credits which is incredibly impressive. In front of the camera the larger than life Charles Laughton commands every scene, though, turns in a more reserved performance. With Laughton's impish grin and swagger he could play subtle and still get his point across. In a supporting role Rosalind Ivan gives a wonderful turn as a overbearing wife. It's a thankless role but the character actor makes the most of it. Ella Raines plays the opposite coin to Ivan and, again, isn't given much to do but is still stellar. Outside of the lead, I would say Henry Daniels is the most memorable as the wicked Mr. Simmons. Daniels whose starred in classics like The Philadelphia Story (1940), The Great Dictator (1940) and, Witness for the Prosecution (1957) (also starring Laughton) really delivers the goods. My biggest issue is that Suspect feels flatly written. Characters feel underdeveloped and the plot could have used more tense moments. Also, the movie really lacks any great twists and turns to make it more engaging. I could only wonder what somebody like Fritz Lang or Alfred Hitchcock would have done with the material. The movie is not without it's charm and, as I said it looks great and is populated by some amazing actors and a solid score is the legendary Frank Skinner (Harvey, Arabian Nights). It's just I felt that the story could have used a punch-up and even would have benefitted from being longer. Overall, an enjoyable but flawed flick. Still worth a watch. 

Picture: The Suspect comes to Kino sporting a brand-new 2k transfer. The black and white photography is well balanced with a nice contrast. Grain is fine and well maintained. Overall, most of the artifacts and scratches have been scrubbed. Though, there are some very minor blemishes. A really good looking film and I can't think of this movie looking better. 

Sound: Suspect has a really nicely done 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely and, I could not detect any unwanted background hiss or distortion. Skinners nicely done score is also celebrated here. 

Extras: Extras include a feature length commentary by author and historian Troy Howarth. I have heard many of Mr. Howarth's commentaries and, I never cease to be impressed and engrossed by them. Clearly, a lot of work and research goes into making Suspect's track a lively and informative one. Make sure to give this a listen to! 

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933) Kino Studio Classics 2/2/2021

Directed By: James Whale 

Starring: Nancy Carroll, Frank Morgan, Paul Lukas, Gloria Stuart, Jean Dixon 

Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   James Whale is probably best known for his horror films like Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) however, I am here to tell you his non-fright films are excellent and well worth exploring. Fans can rejoice as, Kino Studio Classic has provided a rare pre-code Whale film in 2k!  When a doctor kills his wife in a jealous fit, his attorney friend Paul (Frank Morgan) must defend him. He soon suspects his own wife of cheating in this pre-code melodramatic. The Kiss Before the Mirror is a movie that would not have been the same had it been made just a year or so later, after the Hays Code was strictly enforced in '34. Whales was the kind of filmmaker that didn't just enjoy skirting the stuffy Hollywood censors, he positively relished it. And, I loved seeing that cheeky humor and sardonic dry wit is in full display here. 

    Real talk, Kiss Before the Mirror has it's share of issues and missteps. Namely, I think the movie is incredibly overwrought. Probably too much for its own good but, its a testament to Whale's skill that he could make this work anyways. As always the director had a keen eye for detail, not only in great production design but, in the way he tells the story as much visually as he does with dialogue. Keep in mind the sound was still fairly new at this point. To achieve this breathtaking work, Whale employed cinematographer Karl Freund. Freund photographed everything from Dracula (1931). Metropolis (1927), Key Largo (1948) and, even directed The Mummy (1932) and Mad Love (1935) for Universal. Freund leans his German expressionist lighting and expert camera skills to help give this a film that feels much bigger in scope and more expensive. The other thing that helps this movie is the fantastic cast. Gloria Stuart, who worked with Whale a total of three times (Old Dark House, The Invisible Man and this film) doesn't have very much screen time but really shines nonetheless. Frank Morgan gets to flex is dramatic chops and, the actor brings a lot to the part. The doe eyed Nancy Carroll is also equally great in what could have been a pretty thankless role. In a supporting role Jean Dixon is a sassy firecracker that again, makes the most of her small part. In my opinion this is a lesser Whale outing however, it's still a really fascinating pre-code film.  There is this tag-of-war with gender politics (covered in depth in the commentary) that also keep things interesting. Also Whale adds enough polish to make it still very much worth a watch. 

Picture: The Kiss Before the Mirror is another slam-dunk for Kino! Fan's get a nicely handled 2k transfer. Scratches and artifacts are scrubbed clean leaving a nearly pristine print. The film is black and white and the tones are well balanced with deep blacks and a nice contrast. Clearly a lot of work went into this new print and it showcases Freund's photography. 

Sound; Kiss Before the Mirror has a nicely done 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely with very little in the way of unwanted distortion.  

Extras: Extras include a feature length commentary historian Alexandra Hellar-Nicolas. I've heard other commentaries from Alexandra and, as always, is extremely well researched and prepared. What we get is a lot of great context and subtext within the themes of the film. Thought provoking and well worth the listen! 

Friday, January 15, 2021

IFC's The Night (2020) Film Review

 The Night (2020) IFC Films January 29th 2021 

Directed By: Kourosh Ahari 

Starring: Niousha Noor, Shahab Hosseini 

Disclaimer: IFC has provided me with a digital copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   Real talk: 2020's The Night is a horror movie that will no doubt divide it's core audience and, might act as a Rorschach test. Some will see a terrifying exploration into the human soul while others will likely walk away confused. An Iranian couple living in the US named Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife Neda (Niousha Noor) attend a dinner party held by other Iranian couples. Despite objections from his wife, Babak has some shots and some weed to take the edge off. The party winds down and Babak his wife and baby leave. After getting hopelessly turned around the trio spend the night at a hotel in order to get a fresh start in the morning. Things only get worse as the sins of the past haunt the couple in this spine chilling film. From the outset I wanted to give some context as to just why this is a important film. The Night is the first US production approved for commercial exhibition in Iran since 1979. From the outset director Kourosh Ahari is sly in how he presents the start of the film in a very normal, even inviting setting. Yet, even in this moment of normality something feels slightly off balance. Masterfully Kourosh only  amplifies this feeling as traps us the audience in a uncomfortable web of lies and secrets. 

    What's so interesting about this film is it very much plays with the haunted hotel clichés such as: loud banging at the door with seemingly nobody behind it, a very creepy hotel manager, old eerie music playing and, we even get a roaming black cat for good measure. But, as much as the filmmakers are leaning on troupes they are also wonderfully subverting them as. The movie isn't about a haunted hotel as much as its a couple haunted. Haunted by what secrets they keep from one another. Indeed, as pretentious as it sounds, being trapped in the hotel is very much a kin to being trapped in a loveless, tense filled marriage. The movie also smartly plays up how isolating it must be to be Iranian living in the US. Indeed, there is a moment that they fear they are being targeted by harassment and, when they seek the aid of the police they are only mocked. I also want to express how fantastic the leads Niousha Noor and Shahab Hosseini are. 

   I will say as brilliant as the film is its not without its flaws. The action starts to feel very repetitive and serves to slow down the tension and momentum that was crafted in the first act. Also, whilst I am perfectly fine with not getting answers to everything the movie presents, it's still frustrating when certain aspects of the plot that is seemingly important are glossed over or in some cases are only half explored or not at all. Of course, it's hard to go into specifics without going into full spoilers. I was also disappointed when the film did the loud noise in place of a jump-scare at one point. Overall, I think I was able to like the movie despite this because the movie kept me in this constant tense, off-balanced state. This is only the second film from director Kourosh Ahari yet, it feels like a film helmed by someone with decades of features under his belt. A chilling, unnerving exploration told through a cultural lens that we rarely get in horror. It's not going to be for everybody but, if you are willing to go on this journey, it's well worth it. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Paramount's Spell (2020) Blu Ray Review

Spell (2020) Paramount Pictures 1/12/2021

Directed By: Mark Tonderai 

Starring: Omari Hardwick, Lorette Devine, Lorraine Burroughs 

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   Marquis Woods (Omari Hardwick) is a wealthy lawyer with a wife and two children. After the sudden death of his father the family takes their private plane to attend his funeral but it ends up crashing in the backwoods. Marquis finds himself injured and being kept by a mysterious lady named Eloise (Lorette Devine). Spell is a movie that seemingly flew under my radar, but looked interesting enough to justify a watch. Director Mark Tonderai is more of a television director with credits like Gotham, Castle Rock and Locke and Key just to name a few. It seems like maybe he should stick to a short format as, Spell is a huge mess of a movie. 

    So, the movie starts off promising enough as it is atmospheric with some interesting narrative things going on. For example, Marquis overcompensates by spoiling his kids as a result of being the victim of abuse by his father is a storyline you rarely see. The film tries for this undercurrent of race and class divide as well.  Frustratingly, these elements are never explored or connected in a way that is truly effective, nor do they play a big part in the film. It attempts to makes you think it's giving you subtext when it is in fact not. But, I think my biggest issue is this movie is pretty similar to The Skeleton Key (2005). While that movie wasn't perfect it still delivered on a less-is-more stripped down chiller. Spell throws out this less-is-more and as a result it tries way too hard to throw every cliché in the book at you while never finding its own voice. It's a shame because, as I said, there are elements that feel like they could have worked had the filmmakers been more focused. What we get is a under-written, cringe-worthy at times horror outing that spirals into a mess of plot holes and eye rolls. 

Picture: Spell looks great on 1080p. The digital covert to HD ensures we get a crisp image. This movie has a fairly well done visual style and this transfer does it justice. Skin tones are wall maintained and little details like set design and textures stand out. 

Sound: Spell has a nice DTS 5.1 track. Not amazing but effective nonetheless. Dialogue comes through nicely as does music and sound design. 

Extras  Extras include: Deleted Scenes, The Nightmare Spell, Rootwork: Conjuring Spell, The Art Of Hoodoo 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Warner Brothers Blade (1998) Sinks It's Fangs Into UHD!

Blade (1998) Warner Brothers 12/1/2020

Directed By: Stephen Norrington

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorf, Kris Kristofferson, Traci Lords, N'Bushe Wright 

Disclaimer: Warner Brothers Entertainment has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     It's interesting to look back at the state of comic book movies in the mid-to-late '90's. To sum up it was...umm.. Not great. For every Batman Returns (1992) and The Crow (1994) you got stuff like The Rocketeer (1991), Blankman (1994) and The Shadow (1994). These movies failed to find their footing with a mass audience despite going on to achieve some level of cult fame. 1998's Blade came at a time where believe it or not Marvel was not the multi-billion dollar juggernaut and, frankly they were struggling with their properties. It's a small miracle a movie like Blade got made at all considering it was probably considered a risky project. Unlike Batman or Superman, Blade was based off a lesser known IP created in 1973 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan for Tomb Of Dracula #10. They also took a gamble on a relatively unknown director Stephen Norrington who made one low budget film previously. It would also be rated R, also considered risky. This would be the first R-rated Marvel movie (the first R-rated superhero movie goes to The Toxic Avenger 1983) and would see a huge profit of over 100 million dollars on a 43 million dollar budget. Blade follows a half vampire-half human who hunts other vampires. He must aid the human population from being wiped out as food in this action, blood fest. I was curious how Blade held up for me, as it's been probably over a decade since I watched the original film. If I were to sum up this film in just two words it would be cheesy fun. Norrington and writer David Goyer straddle this line between taking the material seriously but also, never forgetting it's suppose to be a enjoyable action film with some humor sprinkled throughout. I also forgot just how moody and atmospheric this film is. It certainly feels like a comic book come to life long before Raimi would perfect this pin-point feeling in his 2002 Spider-Man film. The entire movie has this gloomy tech-Noir-Gothic mixture that feels home in the late'90's cyberpunk And, unlike newer Marvel movies this has a level of sincerity in it's own crazy premise without any winks to the audience. It's actually really refreshing that a movie can allow itself that level of non-irony. Major props for taking a swing at some cool world building and lore heavy plot. 

   Snipes is probably the perfect embodiment of the character and, really in the '90's I couldn't think of a better choice. Wesley has the swagger but also makes Blade a blank slate. The supporting cast is also great with Kris Kristofferson giving a late-career high as the wisecracking, wry witted Whistler. This also features prime-Stephen Dorf as a emo-vampire and the actor actually handles the role well. Of course actors like Udo Keir and Donal Logue are incredibly fun to watch as they devour the scenery. If I had to point to a weak spot acting wise N'Bushe Wright is it. To be fair Wright's Karen is incredibly underwritten and doesn't get to do much. Still, she seems flat with low-energy. So, the movie is far from perfect and I think it's ambitious ideas feel like they get somewhat lost in transition. The movie clocks in at 120 minutes when it could have easily been trimmed down. And, the less said about the horribly dated CGI the better. Overall, I enjoyed this movie way more than I thought I would. It's fun, well directed with a cast that delivers. You can nit-pick all of the films shortcomings but when taken as a cheesy comic book film it sates that thirst.  I am really excited that this most likely means Blade II (2002) will be making it's way to UHD sometime in the future. 

Picture: Like his fangs, Blade looks really sharp in UHD! I really was impressed by the clear uptick in the color, which is more vivid in my opinion than the previous HD release. There are lots of nice detail of things like costumes, textures on costumes and locales. The moody atmosphere I think benefits the most from this new transfer. Though, the downside is that the cheesy CGI is highlighted. Overall, a worthy upgrade. 

Sound: Blade sports a really nice Atmos track. The film is heavy on music, sound effects and design and, in my opinion, offers a complex pulse-pounding sound experience. 

Extras: Blade ports over the same extras previous editions. This includes: Audio Commentary by Cast and Crew, La Magra, Designing Blade, The Origins of Blade: A Look at Dark Comics, The Blood Tide and Original Trailer. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Tales of the Uncanny (2020) Severin Films Blu Ray Review

Tales Of The Uncanny (2020) Severin Films 1/26/2021

Directed By: David Gregory 

Starring: David Gregory, Mick Garris, Rebekah McKendry, Richard Stanley, Ramsey Campbell, Roger Corman, Christopher Alexander, David Del Valle 

Disclaimer: Severin has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    Tales of the Uncanny started life as a documentary on horror anthologies but, then COVID hit and put the stop on that. However, out of eyeballs you make eye jelly as, and thus the documentary took a slightly different turn. Instead Gregory gathers up legendary filmmakers/historians such as Rebekah McKendry, Roger Corman, Joe Dante etc to talk about their favorite horror anthologies and anthology segments. They also rank their favorite overall films and segments.  Gregory says at the start that doing the interviews via Zoom helped in a way because he could get more subjects. And wow. You really have to marvel at the variety of people from Eli Roth, Peter Strickland, Reece Shearsmith, Roger Corman is staggering. Sure, the video quality is what you`d expect but, honestly that didn't bother me in the least. Like all of Gregory's documentaries, he goes above and beyond to pull together such a vast and diverse group of experts. I also love the focus on the female perspective with Heather Buckley, Jenn Wexler and Maitland McDonagh just to name a few. Everybody that is interviewed is so engaging that you cannot help but hang on their every word. From a technical standpoint the film flows really well. It's broken up neatly into segments and offers up the history of the horror anthology from, 1919's Eerie Tales (included as a bonus) all the way through the through modern films like The Theatre Bizarre (2011) and XX (2017) . Also something that I've come to really admire about Gregory's films is he always gives his documentaries a nice visual punch. And, what I mean by that is it's not just a collection of talking-head interviews. But rather, we the audience are treated to a wealth of stills, posters and excellent transitions.  In terms of highlights, I loved the deep-dive into the British films specifically those produced by Hammer rival Amicus. Each decade and even horror themed shows are covered in a wonderfully comprehensive way.  

   As a horror fan I started out watching the HBO's Tales from the Crypt Series when I was 7/8 years old. Looking back it was the perfect starter horror for me, and not only allowed me to explore the horror genre in bite sizes but, it also primed me for feature length horror anthologies. After that it was Creepshow and Tales from the Hood on VHS and later the British anthologies. What I love about Tales of the Uncanny is how it perfectly touches upon how interesting, thought provoking and diverse horror anthologies are. David Gregory takes you on a bloody good journey through not only the history of horror anthologies but how they've impacted pop culture and the horror genre as a whole. A truly stellar film that should be considered a Must-Watch! 

Picture: Tales of the Uncanny is certainly an outliner visually as the bulk of the interviews were recorded on platforms like Skype and Zoom. Thus, the picture quality varies. Though I think it overall looks good. As I said in my review David has a way of making his documentaries more visually interesting than just the interviews and the transitions and things like stills and posters look sharp in 1080p. 

Sound: Tales of the Uncanny has a nice 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely with no drop out issues. 

Extras: What's pretty cool is Severin has provided two older horror anthologies Eerie Tales (1919) and Unusual Tales (1949). 

Blind Fury (1989) Swings Onto Blu Ray from Mill Creek Entertainment

 Blind Fury (1989) 1/12/2021 Mill Creek Entertainment 

Directed By: Philip Noyce 

Starring: Rutger Hauer, Terry O'Quinn, Meg Foster, Brandon Call, Lisa Blount, Rick Overton

Disclaimer: Mill Creek Entertainment has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   In 2019 we lost the screen legend Rutger Hauer. The actor had nearly two-hundred film and television credits under his belt and made such classics as Ridley Scott's Sci-fi Noir Blade Runner (1982) and thrillers like The Hitchhiker (1986). Blind Fury from '89 showcases the actors range for comedy, drama and, of course action. After losing his sight Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer) learns how to wield a sword through training. Now, he must save a fellow Vet and his son in this action comedy. 

    Blind Fury is clearly a American "re-imagined" of the old Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman, which was a series of movies and later a television show. If are you a die-hard fan of ultra '80's-90's action films I think you`ll have a lot of fun with Blind Fury. Director Philip Noyce proves he can juggle action and comedy which is something that is tricky. The fights and action set-pieces are well maintained and the humor, for the most part works to balance out the darker aspects of the plot. The movie also subverts tough-guy troupes when Parker tells the young Billy it's perfectly normal for men to cry, something that I thought was super progressive for an '80's action movie. Of course the films biggest strength is the star Rutger Hauer. This is a movie that relies on someone with presents and charm and Hauer has loads of both. It's great to see this actor showing off his wide range of acting skills. He easily sways from emotional, funny and bad ass. The actor has stated that this was his most challenging role as it required learning to wield a sword. And, I honestly think he's convincing with the weapon. This also features an excellent supporting cast with Noble Willingham and Randall 'Tex' Cobb really giving us deliciously evil characters. Where I think the movie struggles is finding a real emotional core. The film tries hard to connect with its audience on this level but it just comes off hammy and forced. As much as I cant fault a movie for wanting to add depth to its screenplay, in this case I would have liked Noyce to lean into the cheesy fun action. As far as the technical side the film looks great with Oscar nominated DP Don Burgess (Cast Away, Forrest Gump) giving the movie a huge look on a budget. J. Peter Robinson whose score everything from Wayne's World (1992),  Cocktail (1987) and New Nightmare (1994), adds a cool and playful score that is so wonderfully of it's time. Blind Fury isn't maybe as amazing as some had lead me to believe but I ultimately did have a good time watching it despite some so-so plotting and under baked emotional stakes. Hauer truly is a legend and, I think was a big part of why this movie is so beloved and endearing despite being a box office flop. 

Picture: Blind Fury is looking sharp on 1080p. It's by no means perfect but its well above what you may be expecting. Mill Creek has really stepped their game up in terms of sourcing fairly nice transfers for their releases. Grain is smooth and consistent throughout. This transfer really shines in some of it's lower lit scenes which clearly benefit from this HD transfer. As I said in my review Don Burgess shot this film and, he would go onto shoot big budget films and still works in Hollywood. Burgess tight focus is nicely showcased here. 

Sound: Blind Fury has a lossless DTS 2.0 track. Overall, this is a in my opinion a pretty robust and nicely handled track. Dialogue comes through nicely and, surprisingly the sound design really pops at certain moments in the film. 

Extras: None 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Yabba Dabba Do! The Flintstones: The Complete Series on Blu Ray! Review!

The Flintstones: The Complete Series (1960-2015) Warner Brothers 10/27/2020

Created By: Joseph Barbera, William Hanna 

Starring: Alan Reed, Jean Vander Pyl, Mel Blanc, Bea Benaderet 

Disclaimer: Warner Brothers Entertainment has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   Fan's of classic animation rejoice, Warner Bros has opened their vaults and restored one of the most influential animated series The Flintstones (1960-1966). The series has made a crater like impact on not only the land scape of television and animation but also pop culture as a whole. I mean who hasn't ate their body weight in Fruity Peebles or taken a Flintstone vitamin?  And, of course it was the longest running prime-time animated series until it was de-throned by The Simpsons in 1997. What's so interesting about The Flintstones was it was really geared to both adults and children. In fact, the show is largely inspired by The Honeymooners an early sitcom that was firmly for grown up's. This idea of animated shows that could be enjoyed by both kids and adults was something done before our beloved prehistoric family aired but I`d argue that no series firmly ingrained this idea than The Flintstones. While re-watching the series I was struck by just how sharp and witty the writing was especially in the first couple seasons. This idea of taking a classic '50's era sitcom and melding it into a cartoon is genius all by itself, yet the amazing sight gags geared towards the primitive setting takes it to a whole other level.  I will say the series starts off 'rocky' and it takes a little while for the showrunners to truly find their groove. Once they do this brightly animated sardonic look at family life is really a wonder to behold. Even the latter seasons that clearly seem to run out of steam still has a charm that makes it endearing despite the drop in quality. You also cannot help but love just how amazing the hand drawn animation looks. That alone I think gives this series a quality that is still unmatched by modern digital animation. The legacy of The Flintstones can still be felt in shows both animated and live action which will probably out last us all. It was really a pleasure to go back and re-visit this series. This set includes all 167 episodes and two feature length movies The Man Called Flintstone (1966) and the newer Flintstone film The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown (2015). 

Picture: Wow! When I popped this disc in I was totally blown away by the fantastic job that was done with the restoration. The colors are vivid and really pop out on 1080p. Grain is smooth and consistent throughout. Honestly, this was everything I was hoping for when this release was announced. 

Sound: So, you might have heard this release had an audio issue with an episode missing music from its soundtrack. This appears to be only an issue with one episode and though not confirmed there has been talks of a replacement program. Outside of this the sound is not mind blowing, but I think its serviceable.  

Extras: Disc 1: The Flagstones: the rare Lost Pilot 
How to Draw Fred Flintstone

Disc 2: Carved in Stone: The Flintstones Phenomenon 

Disc 3: Songs of the Flintstones Album

Disc 4:All About the Flintstones, Whacky Inventions

Disc 5: Bedrock Collectables: Collecting All Things Flintstones, The Flintstones: One Million Years Ahead of Its Time

Disc 6: First Families of the Stone Age, Hanna-Barbera's Legendary Music Director Hoyt Curtin

Disc 10: Feature Films: The Man Called Flintstone, The Flintstones and WWE Stone Age Smackdown!
Bonus: The Flintstones Meets Pop Culture, The Great Gazoo: From A to Zetox

Fina Thoughts: It's really hard to overstate just how incredibly groundbreaking The Flintstones was on not only animation but pop-culture as a whole. In my opinion, this set is worth every penny. Not only do you get the entire landmark series but WB provides a lot of great extras and, as always the studio prides itself on offering great restorations. Is it perfect? No. But I feel like the transfers alone are miles ahead of the previous DVD's and the addition of two Flintstone features only sweetens the deal. As an animation fan Warners has been really crushing it with their recent releases, especially when it comes to truly celebrating their rich cartoon history. For example, I recently covered their 80th Bugs Bunny collection which curates 60 shorts in stunning HD and loaded with extras. If you are on the fence about The Flintstones consider that this includes a whooping 166 episodes 2 feature films and a ton of bonus features. Yabba Dabba Do Yourself a favor a add to to your collection! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Giant from the Unknown (1958) The Film Detective Blu Ray Review

Giant from the Unknown (1958) The Film Detective 1/19/2021

Directed By: Richard E. Cunha 

Starring: Buddy Baer, Ed Kemmer, Sally Fraser, Bob Steele, Oliver Blake 

Disclaimer: The Film Detective has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   Often times horror fans will say that the '80's was the golden age for horror movies. Yet, we seem to ignore the fact that the filmmakers of the 1980's were inspired by the films of the '50's. Thanks to Film Detective we get a brand-new HD version of 1958's shlock-fest Giant from the Unknown
A large giant in unleashed in a small in this shoe-string budget monster flick. This is what is what Tom Weaver in his track calls a 'back-yard' horror film, which, as the title suggests is a low-budget film made outside of big Hollywood backlots and sets. Giant of the Unknown is basically a greatest hit's of '50's Drive-In era horror flicks with a big brute monster, a small town, bumbling cops, cheesy dialogue and a somewhat lumbering plot. 

   I had heard of this movie before as it was re-released on DVD in 2000 from Image Entertainment. But, this was the first time I actually sat down and watched this, once by itself and later with the commentary tracks. And, you know I wasn't too impressed my first time around however, after re-watching this I must admit it's a fun enough movie. This is by no means a good movie however if you are fond of so-bad-its-enjoyable and watch it with the right crowd, I think you`ll have a good time. Also, I will give the filmmakers credit for pulling off a lot of what they did on a scant fifty-four thousand dollar budget.  Clearly the filmmakers had passion for what they did and there really are some nice camera work, lighting and Buddy Baer is fantastic as the titular giant. The legendary Jack Pierce provided make-up late in his career which is also a highlight. Alex Glasser also provides a solid score. Richard Cuna made some other pretty infamous B-movies including She Demons (1958) and the laughably bad Frankenstein's Daughter (1958). I'm a sucker for any '50's era horror outing and, it's always exciting when a label takes a risk and puts out something like Giant from the Unknown. I think it's well worth checking out, especially for the MST3K crowd. 

Picture: This film boosts a 4k transfer and wow, it's so impressive how good thing film looks. I was hard pressed to find any artifacts or scratches. Even grain has been smoothed out totally. The black and white image is well balanced and offers a pristine image.  I know it's early in the year but this may just make the list of best restorations of 2021. 

Sound: Giant sports a nice 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely with no hiss or background distortion. A really nicely done audio presentation.  

Extras: The film has two feature length commentaries The first is with Historian Tom Weaver, included is some other guests. This is a great track for Monster Kids. Second commentary track is with Co-star Gary Crutcher. 

You're A B Movie Star, Charlie Brown (14mins) Interview with Actor and Screenwriter Gary Crutcher. I really interesting interview with one of the few remaining actors from Giants from the Unknown. He also wrote the infamous Stanley (1972).  Candid fun stories abound. 

The Man with the Badge: Bob Steele in the 1950's (9mins) Historian C.Courtney Joyner gives us a fun overview of Giant actor Bob Steele. Joyner is a really engaging historian and it's always great when he appears on a disc's supplement. I didn't know really anything about Bob Steele so I found this pretty interesting. 

Rounding out the extras is trailer. Giant of the Unknown also comes with a booklet with an essay by Tom Weaver which is chocked full of great info.