Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Body Stealers: Tigon Collection – 88 Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1969
Director: Gerry Levy
Writers: Michael St. Clair, Gerry Levy
Cast: George Sanders, Maurice Evans, Patrick Allen, Hilary Dwyer, Pamela Conway, Allan Cuthbertson, Carl Rigg, Sally Faulkner, Michael Culver, Shelagh Fraser, Neil Connery, Robert Flemyng, Michael Graham, Carol Hawkins

Release Date: May 20th, 2024
Approximate Running Time: 92 Minutes 21 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £16.99 (UK)

"When paratroopers begin to go missing during routine jumps, investigators are sent to shed some light on the mystery. However, things get complicated very quickly when an alien invasion plot is discovered." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Brand New FULLY UNCUT 2K Remaster from the Original Camera Negative featuring never before released sequences."

The Body Stealers comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 44.3 GB

Feature: 27.3 GB

The source looks excellent; this is another solid encode from Fidelity in Motion. Flesh tones look healthy, colors look correct, image clarity, black levels, and compression are solid, and the image always looks organic. That said, some of the aerial photography does not look as strong as the bulk of the film.

Audio: 5/5

This release comes with one option, a LPCM mono mix in English with removable English SDH. The audio sounds excellent, the dialog always comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced and robust when it should.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 27 seconds, Dolby Digital momo English, no subtitles), an interview with Will Fowler titled A Career Man, he discusses the life and career of George Sanders (20 minutes 59 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by Jon Dear titled Invasion of The Body Stealers (11 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), a featurette titled The Making of The Body Stealers (41 minutes 37 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival audio commentary with actor Patrick Allen, moderated by author John Hamilton, an audio commentary with film critics David Flint and Allan Bryce, reversible cover art, a glossy O-ring (limited to the first pressing) and a 28-page booklet (limited to the first pressing) with an essay titled Tony Tenser The Godfather of British Exploitation written by John Hamilton, and publicity stills.

Summary:

The Body Stealers is one of only two feature films that Gerry Levy directed.

Wanting to avoid a scandal, NATO brings in outside investigators to look into the missing paratroopers who vanished into thin air.

The Body Stealers is a late 1960s British sci-fi film that has elements reminiscent of Dr. Who and The Avengers. There is actually a direct connection to Dr. Who in The Body Stealers; the spaceship originally appeared in Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. That said, though The Body Stealers is sci-fi, it is not a special effects-heavy film, and there is very little in the film that looks futuristic.

Despite an opening that leaves more questions than answers, things start to come together in the finale act. And though the explanation behind why the men disappeared is far-fetched, why would alien beings go to such extremes to pull off their elaborate plan when they could have just the humans for help?

The most interesting aspect of The Body Stealers is its cast, which features several recognizable faces. None is more notable than Neil Connery (Sean Connery’s brother) in his second of only three feature films; he is most known for appearing in the James Bond spoof Operation Kid Brother. The producers obviously cast George Sanders (All About Eve) because of his name, yet his character lacks depth and remains a background figure. That said, The Body Stealers is not the kind of film that one watches because of its performances.

From a production standpoint, The Body Stealers has several areas where its budgetary limitations show. Fortunately, when it comes to its narrative, it does a good job building towards its big reveal finale. Ultimately, The Body Stealers can be a fun film if not taken too seriously.

The Body Stealers gets an excellent release from 88 Films that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Fearless Hyena Part II – 88 Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1983
Director: Chan Chuen
Writer: Lo Wei
Cast: Jackie Chan, Dean Shek, Yam Sai-koon, Kwan Yung-moon, James Tien, Chan Wai-lau, Austin Wai

Release Date: May 20th, 2024
Approximate Running Time: 92 Minutes 5 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Cantonese, DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono English (Alternate)
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £16.99 (UK)

"By the early 1980s, Jackie Chan’s popularity made him box-office gold. Thus when, midway through filming the sequel to his hit The Fearless Hyena, Chan walked off the production to defect to rival studio Golden Harvest, producer Lo Wei opted to complete the film with the help of stunt doubles and recycled footage. The result—the tale of two lazy cousins (Chan and Austin Wai Tin-chi) who join forces to avenge the deaths of their fathers—may not be pure Chan, but there are plenty of loony pleasures (including our hero fighting an adversary with his feet!) to be had." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray Presentation in 2.39:1 Aspect Ratio."

Fearless Hyena Part II comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 29.5 GB

Feature: 22.8 GB

The source looks great, considering that it incorporates footage from multiple films. That said, there is a slight dip in quality when it comes to footage sourced from other films. The colors look very good, the image clarity and black levels are strong, and there are no issues with compression.

Audio: 4.25/5 (DTS-HD Mono Cantonese), 3.75/5 (DTS-HD Mono English), 4/5 (DTS-HD Mono English - Alternate)

This release comes with three audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Cantonese, a DTS-HD mono mix in English, and a DTS-HD mono mix in English labeled alternate track. All three audio tracks sound clear and balanced. The Cantonese language track and alternate English language track are more robust than the other English language track. Included are removable English subtitles for the Cantonese language track, and when you watch in English, there is a second removable English subtitle track for Cantonese text.

Extras:

Extras included with this release include a stills gallery with music from the film playing in the background, Japanese theatrical trailer (1 minute 35 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 47 seconds, LPCm mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles), Japanese end credits (2 minutes 19 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese, no subtitles), export opening credits (1 minute 58 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), a featurette titled Fake Shemps - How Fearless Hyena II Was Completed Without Jackie Chan (16 minutes 23 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with Frank Djeng and F.J. DeSanto, reversible cover art, a slipcase (limited to the first pressing), and a 32-page booklet (limited to the first pressing) with an essay titled Two Tigers on a Mountain: The Fractious Story Behind Fearless Hyena II written by David West, and archival promotional materials.

Summary:

The Ying-Yang brotherhood thwarts the plans of evil kung fu masters, Heaven and Earth. Two of its members come close to dying but manage to escape. The surviving members of the Ying-Yang brotherhood and their children are forced to fight for their lives years later when Heaven and Earth discover where they are hiding.

Throughout his career, Jackie Chan has had a few movies that are mostly compilations of footage from other films. And though there is some new footage in Fearless Hyena Part II, about ¾ of the footage is footage taken from other films or newly shot footage revolving around a subplot with characters loosely connected to Jackie Chan’s character. Needless to say, making a film under these circumstances is not an easy task, and the result is a film that is vastly subpar when compared to Jackie Chan’s most celebrated films.

The footage revolving around the newly created subplot opens Fearless Hyena Part II; it is a lengthy flashback sequence that sets up the events that follow. Despite this scene being born out of necessity, it is actually a very good opening, and the martial arts hold up well. Unfortunately, things start to unravel after this sequence with the first recycled footage of Jackie Chan.

The most memorable moment is the scene where Jackie Chan’s character, who is looking for a job, interacts with Dean Shek’s character. That said, their onscreen chemistry and comedic timing are impeccable. Also, the moments with Jackie Chan are filled with his trademark humor, while moments without him have a darker tone.

The mishmash narrative  has problems, none more detrimental than pacing issues. Something you can count on with Jackie Chan films are exceptional finale fight sequences; unfortunately, his double does not live up to expectations. Also, it would be unfair to judge performances considering the way Fearless Hyena Part II came to be. For a film that comes up short in more ways than it succeeds, Fearless Hyena Part II is an entertaining film for all the wrong reasons.

Fearless Hyena Part II gets a solid release from 88 Films that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and informative extras, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Behind Convent Walls – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1978
Director: Walerian Borowczyk
Writer: Walerian Borowczyk
Cast: Ligia Branice, Howard Ross, Marina Pierro, Gabriella Giacobbe, Rodolfo Dal Pra, Loredana Martinez, Mario Maranzana, Alex Partexano, Olivia Pascal, Gina Rovere

Release Date: April 29th, 2024
Approximate Running Time: 94 Minutes 42 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK)

"Behind the walls of an apparently serene convent, a zealous abbess tries in vain to keep order and prevent her sexually repressed charges from experiencing the sins of the flesh. When the unfortunate young nuns get out of control, the church inflicts cruel punishment for their carnal crimes." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “Behind Convent Walls has been restored exclusively by Arrow Films.

The original 35mm negative was scanned in 2K resolution at Cinema Communications, Rome. The film was graded and restored in 2K resolution at R3Store Studios, London. Much of Behind Convent Walls was photographed handheld and with filters, contributing to a film presentation that is both intermittently unsteady and in soft focus.”

Behind Convent Walls comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 35.8 GB

Feature: 25.4 GB

The source looks excellent. Behind Convent Walls has an intended soft-focus look, and this transfer does a great job retaining it. Flesh tones are healthy, colors look correct, image clarity is strong, black levels and compression are solid, and the image always looks organic.

Audio: 4/5 (LPCM Mono Italian), 4.5/5 (LPCM Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, an LPCM mono mix in Italian and an LPCM mono mix in English. Both audio tracks are in great shape; dialog comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced. That said, the English-language track sounds more robust than the Italian-language track. Included are removable English subtitles for the Italian language track and removable English SDH for the English language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian with removable English subtitles), an appreciation by film scholar Virginie S√©lavy titled Anarchic Nuns and the Artistry of Desire (18 minutes 37 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), a short film directed by Walerian Borowczyk titled Brief Von Paris (40 minutes 31 seconds, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital mono with French text and removable English subtitles), an audio commentary by film critic Justine Smith, reversible cover art, a slipcover (limited to the first pressing), and a 24-page booklet (limited to the first pressing) with cast & crew information, an essay titled Daughters of Lilith: Borowczyk’s Behind Convent Walls and the Chthonic Woman written by Kat Ellinger, original press materials, and information about the restoration.

Summary:

Directed by Walerian Borowczyk, an animator turned provocative filmmaker whose notable films include Goto, Isle of Love, Blanche, The Beast, and The Margin.

Abbess Flavia Orsini struggles to retain control of a convent filled with sexually repressed nuns. The Mother Superior’s niece Clara is her strongest ally, as she believes that a spiritual calling led her to the monastery. Will Abbess Flavia Orsini quench the lustful desires that burn in virtually every one of the nuns at the monastery before their wicked ways convert her niece Clara into a sinner?

Behind Convent Walls was adapted from Roman Walks, a story written by the notorious 19th-century French author Stendhal. And though Behind Convent Walls has many of the elements that are synonymous with the nunsploitation genre, the result is actually not as exploitative as in most nunsploitation films. That said, though all genres have their tropes, it is the way in which Walerian Borowczyk uses them that sets Behind Convent Walls apart from other nunsploitation films.

Though most of the nuns have fully embraced their vocation, there are a few who have not. In the case of the latter, most of them were forcibly sent to the convent by their parents. In charge of the convent is a domineering mother superior who punishes anyone who exhibits free will, ensuring that they remain faithful to their calling. And just like any bad behavior left unchecked, it spreads like wildfire throughout the convent. That said, at its core, Behind Convent Walls is about free will and repressed feelings.

The entire cast are phenomenal, especially Ligia Branice’s (Blanche) portrayal of Sister Clara, the niece of the mother superior. In Behind Convent Walls' most infamous scene, Sister Clara comes across a large piece of wood that is lying in a pile of glass, and with those fragments of glass, she makes a dildo out of that piece of wood. This scene is nothing short of amazing, as Ligia Branice, the actress who portrays Clara, loses herself in the moment. This is a bold scene that dances the line between art and pornography, and as usual, director Walerian Borowczyk beautifully captures this moment of pure ecstasy.

From a production standpoint, there is no area where Behind Convent Walls is lacking. The deliberate, paced narrative does a superb job building momentum. Luciano Tovoli's (Suspiria) exquisite cinematography is filled with symbolic imagery. Another strength of the visuals is the soft-focus lighting that gives the nuns a more angelic look that contrasts with their naughty deeds. Ultimately, Behind Convent Walls is a powerful tale about faith and desire, making it a must-see film if you are a fan of nunsploitation cinema.

Behind Convent Walls gets an excellent release from Arrow Video that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and insightful extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Monday, May 20, 2024

The Boss: Limited Edition – Raro Video UK (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1973
Director: Fernando Di Leo
Writers: Peter McCurtin, Fernando Di Leo
Cast: Henry Silva, Richard Conte, Gianni Garko, Antonia Santilli, Howard Ross, Pier Paolo Capponi

Release Date: April 29th, 2024
Approximate running times: 109 Minutes 16 Seconds (Italian Theatrical Version), 108 Minutes 21 Seconds (English Export Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Versions)
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian (Italian Theatrical Version), DTS-HD Mono English (English Export Cut)
Subtitles: English (Italian Theatrical Version), English SDH (English Export Cut)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £14.99 (UK)

"In Di Leo’s The Boss, Henry Silva plays mob enforcer Nick Lanzetta, who assassinates key members of a rival gang in order to put his boss in a position to seize power. However, one surviving member of the gang, Cocchi (Pier Paolo Capponi, The Cat o' Nine Tails) plots his revenge involving corrupt cop Torri (Gianni Garko, If You Meet Sartana Pray For Your Death), leading to a bloody series of double-crosses and power plays to find who will ultimately become the boss." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (Both Versions)

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, “2020 4K restoration of the original negative".

The Boss comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 37.1 GB

Feature: 30.6 GB

This release uses seamless branching for the two versions. Despite Raro’s 2012 Blu-ray being MPEG-4 AVC instead of VC-1 like most of the earliest Blu-ray releases, That transfer looked awful; it was plagued by digital noise reduction. Fortunately, this new release corrects all of the issues present in their previous Blu-ray release. That said, this new transfer is a substantial upgrade that obliterates their 2012 Blu-ray release.

Audio: 4.25/5 (DTS-HD Mono Italian), 3.75/5 (DTS-HD Mono English)

The Italian theatrical version comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian with removable English subtitles. The English-language export cut comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English with removable English SDH. Both audio tracks sound clean, clear, and balanced. That said, the Italian language track is noticeably more robust than the English language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an image gallery (17 images - posters/lobby cards/German press book), a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 29 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian with removable English subtitles), an interview with Fernando Di Leo biographer Davide Pulici (35 minutes, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an archival documentary titled Mafia Stories with actors Gianni Garko, Pier Paolo Capponi, producer Armando Novelli and director Fernando Di Leo (23 minutes 42 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with non-removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with film critic Rachael Nisbet, reversible cover art, and a 24-page booklet (limited to 3000 copies) with cast & crew information, an essay titled Eccellenza, baciamo le mani: Mafia and Politics in Fernando Di Leo’s Il Boss written by Dr. Giulio Olesen, and an archival interview with Fernando Di Leo.

Summary:

Directed by Fernando Di Leo, a filmmaker who is most known for his work in the Poliziotteschi genre. Notable films he directed are To Be Twenty, Slaughter Hotel, and Caliber 9. The Boss (AKA Wipeout!) is the third and final film, which makes up a trilogy of films known as the Milieu Trilogy. The other two films are Caliber 9 (also known as Milano Caliber 9) and The Italian Connection (also known as Manhunt).

The narrative revolves around Nick Lanzetta, a hitman caught in the middle of a Mafia war between the Sicilians and the Calabrians.

It is not surprising that Fernando Di Leo excelled in the Poliziotteschi genre. Very few filmmakers working in 1970s Italian cinema had the knack for creating tense and brutal action set pieces like Fernando Di Leo. Case in point: The Boss’ pre-credits opening, where Nick Lanzetta launches an assault that burns his targets to a crisp, making them unidentifiable. The hitman carrying out these killings displays ferocity intended to send a message.

Content-wise, all of the elements one would expect from a mafia film are on display throughout The Boss. At the heart of the narrative is a powerful struggle in which characters make and break alliances. And when you think that you know where things are going, along comes another double cross that shakes things up, culminating with an unforgettable finale that perfectly brings everything together.

Performance-wise, the cast is all excellent in their roles, especially Henry Silva’s (Almost Human) portrayal of Nick Lanzetta, a meticulous assassin all too willing to do anything the boss asks him to do. Despite his typecasting, he delivers one of his more memorable performances. Pier Paolo Capponi’s (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion) portrayal of Cocchi is the other notable performance. His character is driven by revenge; his brother was killed by Nick Lanzetta. That said, he delivers a performance that rivals the intensity of Henry Silva’s performance.

From a production standpoint, though, The Boss is the weakest of Fernando Di Leo’s Milieu Trilogy. It is still a great finale that embodies all of the elements that are synonymous with Fernando Di Leo’s best films. Ultimately, The Boss is an unflinching portrayal of the criminal underworld that fans of Poliziotteschi cinema are sure to enjoy.

Raro Video UK gives The Boss its best home video release to date, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Sunday, May 19, 2024

The End of Civilization: Three Films by Piotr Szulkin: Limited Edition – Radiance Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Poland, 1981 (The War of the Worlds: Next Century), Poland, 1985 (O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization), Poland, 1986 (Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes)
Director: Piotr Szulkin (All Films)
Cast: Roman Wilhelmi, Krystyna Janda, Mariusz Dmochowski, Jerzy Stuhr, Marek Walczewski (The War of the Worlds: Next Century), Jerzy Stuhr, Krystyna Janda, Kalina Jedrusik, Mariusz Dmochowski, Marek Walczewski, Jan Nowicki, Henryk Bista, Leon Niemczyk, Krzysztof Majchrzak (O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization), Daniel Olbrychski, Jerzy Stuhr, Katarzyna Figura, Mariusz Benoit, Henryk Bista, Marek Walczewski (Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes)

Release Date: December 4th, 2023
Approximate Running Times: 97 Minutes 39 Seconds (The War of the Worlds: Next Century), 90 Minutes 9 Seconds (O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization), 84 Minutes 28 Seconds (Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (The War of the Worlds: Next Century, O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization), 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes)
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Polish (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £37.49 (UK)

"Masquerading as both works of science fiction and horror, Piotr Szulkin's satirical, surrealistic apocalypse trilogy is Polish cinema's best-kept secret. These highly imaginative works of fantasy are bound by a preoccupation with the machinations of power and a distinct visual sensibility. 

In a radical reworking of the H.G. Wells classic, War of the Worlds: Next Century, tells the story of Iron Idem (Roman Wilhelmi), a television host, who finds himself contending with a Martian invasion, whose takeover involves collaborating with the state and manipulating the populace through a media apparatus made up entirely of fake news... 

Meanwhile, in O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization, the survivors of a claustrophobic, subterranean world in ruins are pacified by Soft (Jerzy Stuhr), who engineers a mass collective dream of escape through means of a mythical vessel, The Ark...

Finally, in the darkly comic Ga-Ga: Glory to the Heroes, Scope (Daniel Olbrychski) must be tried and convicted of a heinous crime for him to participate in a bloody, televised gladiator contest...

Frequently butting heads with Polish authorities before and after the collapse of Communism, writer and director Piotr Szulkin remains a unique visual stylist whose parables of power transcend easy genre pigeonholing." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (War of the Worlds: Next Century, O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization, Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes)

Here’s the information provided about the transfers, "War of the Worlds: Next Century, O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization and Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes were restored by WFDiF, Perspective Film Studio and Sound Palace in collaboration with the Polish Film Institute and Studio Zebra. The restorations were supervised by Piotr Szulkin, Witold Sobocinski, and Nikodem Wolk-Laniewski. Additional color correction was preformed by Radiance Films on Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroesin 2023."

The War of the Worlds: Next Century comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 33.9 GB

Feature: 26.5 GB

O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 31.7 GB

Feature: 25.8 GB

Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 29.8 GB

Feature: 24.1 GB

Piotr Szulkin, the director, supervised the existing masters used for these transfers, and in most areas, the sources overlap. The transfers for all three films look excellent. Flesh tones look healthy, color saturation is very good, image clarity, black levels, and compression are solid, and there do not appear to be any issues related to digital noise reduction. That said, grain is more noticeable in Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes than in the other two films.

At the time I am writing this, I do not own or have not seen Vinegar Syndrome’s Piotr Szulkin's Apocalypse Tetralogy. Based solely on screenshots I have seen, there are a few areas where that release differs from Radiance Films release: there are color differences, and Vinegar Syndrome’s release frames The War of the Worlds: Next Century and O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, while Radiance Films frames these two films in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

Audio: 4.5/5 (LPCM Mono Polish - The War of the Worlds: Next Century, LPCM Mono Polish - O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization, LPCM Mono Polish - Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes)

Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCm mono mix in Polish with removable English subtitles. All of the audio tracks are in excellent shape, free of any distortion or background noise. Dialog comes through clearly; everything sounds balanced and robust when it should. Also, all of these audio tracks are great range-wise.

Extras:

Extras on the Blu-ray disc with The War of the Worlds include reversible cover art, an animated short film directed by Jan Lenica titled Labyrinth (14 minutes 56 seconds, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, LPCM mono with Polish text and removable English subtitles), a video essay titled PRL - Polish Post-Apocalyptic Fables by Dobrotka Wieckiewicz on how science fiction, surrealism and the grotesque was used to explore themes of consumerism, reification and alienation by Piotr Szulkin and others during the Polish People's Republic (6 minutes, LPCM stereo with English text, no subtitles), and a documentary titled Samosiuk. The Independent Film Republic on War of the Worlds cinematographer Zygmunt Samosiuk (30 minutes 13 seconds, LPCM stereo Polish and English with non-removable English subtitles for Polish). 

Extras on the Blu-ray disc with O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization include reversible cover art, an animated short film directed by Miroslaw Kijowicz titled Cages (7 minutes 51 seconds, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, LPCM mono with Polish text and removable English subtitles), an interview with production designer Andrzej Kowalczyk titled Retrofuturism (23 minutes 28 seconds, LPCM stereo Polish with removable English subtitles), and an audio commentary with Michael Brooke.

Extras on the Blu-ray disc with Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes include reversible cover art, an animated short film directed by Zofia Oraczewska titled Banquet (8 minutes 40 seconds, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, LPCM mono with Polish text and removable English subtitles), an archival interview with director Piotr Szulkin and screenwriter Tadeusz Sobolewski titled Sunday with Piotr Szulkin (22 minutes 13 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Polish with removable English subtitles), and an audio commentary with Daniel Bird.

Other extras include removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings and an 80-page booklet with (limited to 3000 copies) cast & crew information for each film, an essay titled The War of the Worlds: Next Century - The Media Invasion written by Piotr Kletowski, an essay titled Having a Blast: Piotr Szulkin’s Nuclear Holocaust written by Michal Oleszczyk, an essay titled Piotr Szulkin and Exercises in Futility written by Olga Drenda, an archival interview with  Piotr Szulkin by Ela Bittencourt, an essay titled The Grotesque, the Philosophical and the Absurd: Three Animated Counterpoints to Szulkin’s Apocalypse Trilogy written by Daniel Bird and information about the transfers.

Summary:

The War of the Worlds: Next Century: Three days before the dawn of a new millennium, Martians land on Earth.

The War of the Worlds: Next Century is an imaginative reimagining of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. The narrative revolves around a protagonist named Iron Idem, a news reporter who tries to expose the truth behind the Martians. He holds principles firmly, but as the narrative unfolds, they gradually take away the things he values for defying the status quo.

Just like Orson Welles did with his radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, Piotr Szulkin uses the modern medium of television to showcase how misinformation can spread like wildfire. From its opening setup, The War of the Worlds: Next Century is a biting social commentary on the role that propaganda plays in the news industry. Though the protagonist projects himself as someone free of restraints, it quickly becomes clear that those behind the scenes pull the strings. The people he works for manipulate him in a way that reflects how they treat the public they are supposed to inform. That said, the exportation of propaganda from the news is more relevant than ever.

Though there is really only one character, Iron Idem, with substantial screen time, when it comes to the performances, no matter how small the role, the entire cast is excellent. That said, Roman Wilhelmi’s nuanced portrayal of Iron Idem shines the brightest. It is through the eyes of his character that the story unfolds, and from the moment we meet his character until his moment of truth, he delivers a pitch-perfect performance.

From a production standpoint, it is mind-blowing what Piotr Szulkin is able to deliver considering the resources he had to work with. Nowhere is it clearer than when it comes to the Retrofuturism set and costume design. Another area where The War of the Worlds: Next Century excels is its stylish cinematography, which heightens the mood. That said, one of the most visually stunning moments is a home invasion sequence where the police cut through the protagonist's door with chainsaws. Ultimately, The War of the Worlds: Next Century is an extraordinary critic of the dangers of authoritarianism.

O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization: The survivors of a nuclear war live in an underground bunker, waiting for a fabled Ark to come and rescue them from their misery.

O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization is a claustrophobic post-apocalyptic film that pushes minimalism to the extreme. The basic narrative revolves around a protagonist named Soft, who keeps other survivors' hopes alive by talking about a mythical Ark. Most of the characters that he interacts with have accepted their fate; they aimlessly wander throughout the underground bunker. Characters embrace their enslavement and the decaying bunker, symbolizing the crumbling Soviet Union.

Though it has the core elements that are synonyms with post-apocalyptic cinema, O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization is a film that is in a class all of its own. Also, it is a film overflowing with social commentary and symbolism. At its core, O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization is an allegory about the human condition.

When it comes to the performances, the entire cast is great in their roles, especially Jerzy Stuhr’s portrayal of Soft. He delivers a phenomenal performance of a man given the task of creating hope for a society on the brink of extinction. Another strength of the performances is how well-defined the characters are.

From a production standpoint, O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization is a film that exceeds the sum of its parts. The narrative does a great job building momentum, and a driving score reinforces the immediacy of the events that unfold. Again, the set design is impeccable; it is a mix of modern and future aesthetics. Also, the visuals do an amazing job of heightening the mood. The most striking moment visually is a scene where a character reveals to Soft two women he has frozen to preserve them for the fabled Ark. Ultimately, O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization is a thought-provoking post-apocalyptic film whose haunting finale images will linger in your mind.

Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes: In the 21st century, prisoners are sent to explore unfamiliar worlds.

Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes is a science fiction film laced with dark humor and an abundance of absurd moments. The narrative revolves around a reluctant hero named Scope, a prisoner sent on a mission to explore undiscovered planets. Though he is expecting the planet to be unlike anything he has ever seen, it actually resembles Earth. Upon his arrival, the inhabitants of this planet greet him as a hero. Has he discovered a utopia, or is something sinister awaiting him?

Though the look and feel of Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes mirrors that of Piotr Szulkin’s other films, it is hard not to see how much his style resembles Terry Gilliam’s, notably Brazil. Piotr Szulkin, like Terry Gilliam, works wonders with limited resources. Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to the set and costume design, which are a mixture of modern and futuristic elements.

The cast is all outstanding in their roles, and their performances verge into over-the-top territory. That said, Daniel Olbrychski, in the role of scope, is the only grounded character in a world of outlandish characters. He delivers a performance that perfectly complements the operatic performances of the rest of the cast.

From a production standpoint, there is no area where Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes does not deliver, and then some. Its briskly paced narrative is a steady mix of subversive humor and the bizarre. Once again, Piotr Szulkin creates visually arresting moments that heighten the mood. Ultimately, Ga-ga: Glory to the Heroes is a highly entertaining sci-fi/comedy hybrid that fans of dystopian black comedies should thoroughly enjoy.

The End of Civilization: Three Films by Piotr Szulkin is an excellent release from Radiance Films; each film gets a solid audio/video presentation and informative extras, highly recommended.



























Written by Michael Den Boer

The Body Stealers: Tigon Collection – 88 Films (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1969 Director: Gerry Levy Writers: Michael St. Clair,...