Sunday, May 30, 2021

Fatal Exam (Home Grown Horrors: Volume One) – Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1988
Director: Jack Snyder
Writer: Jack Snyder
Cast: Mike Coleman, Terry Comer, Carol Carlberg-Snyder, Paul Steger, Gilio Gherardini, Joe Midyett, Maureen Lampert, Greg Rhodes, Teresa Nienhaus, Mike Suzor, Dave Mayer, Karen Greer

Release Date: April 27th, 2021
Approximate Running Time: 114 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $79.98

"A group of college students have been given a very unusual assignment: spend the night inside of a supposedly haunted house, as part of their studies into the supernatural and occult. Although the rag tag team of collegiates would much rather party and get stoned than look for ghosts, it's not long before unexplained events begin to occur. Initially suspecting that some of their classmates might be playing a practical joke, their fears are proven very real when someone - or something - dressed in robes and carrying a scythe starts bumping them off one by one." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 16mm original camera negative".

Fatal Exam comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 42.3 GB

Feature: 33 GB

The source used for this transfer is in very good shape and source related debris is minimal. Image clarity, colors, black levels look very good and there’s a healthy layer of grain.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. Considering the limitations of the source and how the soundtrack that was created in post-production. This audio track sounds good for a low-budget film.

Extras:

Extras for this release include reversible cover art, a Making of documentary titled  Fatal Examination (47 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with English subtitles) and an audio commentary track with director/screenwriter Jack Snyder, composer Carl Leta, special effects William Crawford and actors Terry Comer, Mike Coleman and Dave Mayer.

Summary:

Though the horror genre is the genre that most first-time directors working on a limited budget gravitate towards. The amount of films that succeed and leave a lasting legacy within the horror genre are few and far in between. Case in point Fatal Exam, a film that features a solid premise that is full of possibilities. Unfortunately, the result is a film that’s hampered by lethargic pacing, too many scenes that drag on and an anemic amount of bloodshed. That said, Fatal Exam gets an excellent release Vinegar Syndrome that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and a pair of insightful extras that are more fun than the film.

It should-be noted that Fatal Exam is part of Home Grown Horrors: Volume One, a box set that also has Winterbeast and Beyond Dreams Door.









Written by Michael Den Boer

 Scavenger – Cleopatra Entertainment (Blu-ray/CD Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Argentina, 2019
Directors: Eric Fleitas, Luciana Garraza
Writers: Sheila Fentana, Eric Fleitas, Luciana Garraza
Cast: Nayla Churruarin, Eric Fleitas, Sofia Lanaro, Rosa Cuenya Macedo, Jose Manuel Solis Vargas, Gonzalo Tolosa

Release Date: May 11th, 2021
Approximate Running Time: 79 Minutes 13 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-2 AVC
Rating: R
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital Stereo Spanish
Subtitles: N/A
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $24.95

"Described as "Mad Max meets Natural Born Killers", SCAVENGER takes us to a post-apocalyptic world with its own rules where Tisha (Sofia Lanaro, Aluvión, Paraíso) - a paid assassin and an underground organ dealer with a dark past - will seek revenge from a horrible crime against her family that has marked her entire life." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3/5

Scavenger comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 17.2 GB

Feature: 15.3 GB

Though colors look very good and details generally look crisp, black levels leave plenty of room for improvement and there are some compression related issues.

It should-be noted that Scavenger opens with a flashback moment that’s in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with four audio options, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, a Dolby Digital stereo mix in English, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Spanish and a Dolby Digital stereo mix in Spanish. All four audio mixes sound clean, clear and action sequences sound robust. Unfortunately, there are no English subtitles for the Spanish language tracks.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a slideshow gallery and trailer for Scavenger (1 minute 29 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English), a CD that contains Scavenger's soundtrack and six unrelated trailers for films also released by Cleopatra Entertainment.

Summary:

Scavenger is yet another in a long line of films that was clearly inspired by Mad Max’s post apocalyptic vision of the future. And though Scavenger often excels when it comes to production design. Unfortunately, Scavenger is lacking in every other way. Ultimately Scavenger is a film that lacks heart and soul that post apocalyptic cinema’s most celebrated films have in spades. That said, Scavenger makes its way to Blu-ray via a serviceable release that’s lacking extras and more unfortunately English subtitles for the Spanish language tracks.








Written by Michael Den Boer 

 Smile – Fun City Editions (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1975
Director: Michael Ritchie
Writer: Jerry Belson
Cast: Bruce Dern, Barbara Feldon, Michael Kidd, Geoffrey Lewis, Eric Shea, Nicholas Pryor, Joan Prather, Denise Nickerson, Melanie Griffith, Annette O'Toole, Maria O'Brien, Colleen Camp, Caroline Williams

Release Date: May 25th, 2021
Approximate Running Time: 113 Minutes 7 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: PG
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $34.98

"The town of Santa Rosa is abuzz. That's because it's time again for the yearly Young American Miss Pageant. Talented "misses" from up and down California have gathered for the annual event where they will be choreographed by prickly song and dance man Tommy (Michael Kidd, whose many choreography credits include Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Guys and Dolls), produced by businesslike ex-pageant winner Brenda DiCarlo (Barbara Feldon, TV's Get Smart) and judged by blustery RV salesman and town booster Big Bob Freelander (Bruce Dern, Coming Home, Nebraska, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Meanwhile, Bob's young son Little Bob (Eric Shea, The Poseidon Adventure) and his pals get into some hormonally-fueled hijinks." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "New 2K restoration from its 35mm interpositive".

Smile comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 41.2 GB

Feature: 33.3 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape and the result is an excellent transfer that far exceeds expectations.

Audio: 5/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. The audio is in great shape, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an image gallery, a trailer for Smile (3 minutes 14 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actor Bruce Dern titled Dernsie's Credo (27 minutes 51 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with actor/filmmaker Pat Healy and film curator Jim Healy, reversible cover art and a twelve-page booklet with an essay titled “She’s All an American Girl Should Be”: Satire and Sympathy in Michael Ritchie’s Smile written by Mike McPadden.

Summary:

Michael Ritchie’s Smile is a skillfully laid out satire that gives an unflinching look into the world of beauty pageants. Though Smile’s characters' motivations are often cynical, the way which the actors portray the characters makes it easy to sympathize with them. Another strength of Smile is how the visuals compliment the performances. That said, Smile is a fabulous film that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a wealth of insightful extras.










Written by Michael Den Boer

Friday, May 28, 2021

 Snake Eyes – Paramount Pictures (Blu-ray/Digital)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1998
Director: Brian De Palma
Writers: Brian De Palma, David Koepp
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise, John Heard, Carla Gugino, Stan Shaw, Kevin Dunn, Michael Rispoli, Joel Fabiani, Luis Guzmán, David Anthony Higgins, Mike Starr, Tamara Tunie

Release Date: May 18th, 2021
Approximate Running Time: 98 Minutes 17 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo French, Dolby Digital Stereo Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $22.98

"A shady police detective finds himself in the middle of a murder conspiracy at an important boxing match in an Atlantic City casino." - IMDB

Video: 4/5

Snake Eyes comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 21.4 GB

Feature: 21.1 GB

This release uses the same source that Paramount pervious used for their 2013 Blu-ray release. Overall though this is a recycled transfer it holds up well eight years later.

Audio: 4.5/5

This release comes with three audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English, a Dolby Digital stereo mix in French and a Dolby Digital stereo mix in Spanish. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is a solid mix that takes full advantage of the sound spectrum. Included with this release are removable English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

Extras:

Extras are limited to a trailer for Snake Eyes (2 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital Stereo English).

Summary:

Though Brian De Palma often gets criticized for copying Alfred Hitchcock. Over the of his seven decade career he’s amassed an impressive resume that’s highlighted by films like Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Scarface and Carlito’s Way. That said, though his output over the last twenty-five years pales in comparison to the films he made from the 1970’s through the mid-1990’s. One film that does standout from this later period is Snake Eyes, a film that’s arguably Brian De Palma’s most underrated film.

When it comes to thrillers Brian De Palma is arguably one of the best American directors to work in this genre. When watching a Brian De Palma film visuals always play a significant role and with Snake Eyes he once again delivers strong visuals that enhance the story. With the opening moments featuring a lengthy track shot that follows the protagonist in the moments before the murder occurs. Another area where Snake Eyes excels is its use of sound. That said, Snake Eyes gets a strong audio/video presentation that’s unfortunately lacking when it comes to extra content.










Written by Michael Den Boer

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

 Hercules and the Captive Women – Film Detective (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1961
Director: Vittorio Cottafavi
Writers: Vittorio Cottafavi, Sandro Continenza, Duccio Tessari, Pierre Benoît, Nicolò Ferrari
Cast: Reg Park, Fay Spain, Ettore Manni, Luciano Marin, Laura Efrikian, Mario Valdemarin, Mimmo Palma, Salvatore Furnari, Raf Baldassarre

Release Date: April 13th, 2021
Approximate Running Time: 95 Minutes 9 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $24.95

"Follow the chronicles of Hercules with Reg Park in his Hercules film debut! Action packed from the beginning, Hercules encounters Ismene (Laura Altan) when he must save her from a shape-shifting creature -- and that's just the beginning! Ismene then brings Hercules to Atlantis where they come face to face with the evil Queen Antinea (Fay Spain), Ismene's mother, and try to prevent her dreams of world conquest. Will Hercules prevail?" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "4K Restoration from the original 35mm camera negative".

Hercules and the Captive Women comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 44.8 GB

Feature: 19.1 GB

The source used for this transfer looks clean and source related debris is minimal, colors fare well, black levels leave plenty of room for improvement and though there are moments where the image looks sharp, there are just as many moments where the image looks soft.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. The DTS-HD mono mix in English is in very good shape, dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and any background hiss is minimal. Included with this release are removable English and Spanish subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an introduction by MST3K writer and co-star Frank Conniff (3 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English), a featurette about Italian Sword and Sandal cinema titled Hercules and The Conquest of Cinema (19 minutes 28 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English), bonus feature film Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K): Hercules and the Captive Women (91 minutes 59 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English), an audio commentary with author/film historian Tim Lucas and a twelve-page booklet with an essay titled The Duel of the Titans: Steve Reeves, Gordon Scott, and Reg Park Become Heroes written by C. Courtney Joyner.

Summary:

Italian sword and sandal cinema is a text-book example of a by-the-numbers genre cinema. Though the two Hercules films starring Steve Reeves have a lot of merit, most of the Italian sword and sandal films that followed are not much more than Hercules clones. That said, Steve Reeves' portrayal of Hercules cast a long shadow over all actors who followed him in the role of Hercules. And though Reg Park does a good job in Hercules and the Captive Women. Ultimately his next Hercules film Hercules in the Haunted World would be his best work as an actor.

Italian sword and sandal cinema has not been well represented on home video. With most releases either being pan and scanned versions that severely cropped the scope widescreen frame and transfers from inferior sources. That said, Film Detective’s Hercules and the Captive Women is a strong release that fans of Italian sword and sandal should add to their collection.










Written by Michael Den Boer

Monday, May 24, 2021

 Death Rage – Dark Force Entertainment (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1976
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Writers: Pierluigi Andreani, Leila Buongiorno, Guy Castaldo, Giacomo Furia
Cast: Yul Brynner, Massimo Ranieri, Barbara Bouchet, Martin Balsam, Giacomo Furia, Sal Borgese

Release Date: September 29th, 2020
Approximate Running Time: 95 Minutes 57 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English/Italian
Subtitles: Non-Removable English (for some of the Italian Language dialog)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"Yul Brynner (The Ten Commandments) plays Peter Marciani, a former hitman haunted by his brother's murder. His old gang lures him out of retirement for one last job by revealing the identity of the killer - Gennaro Gallo, the capo of a rival mob. As Peter prepares for the kill, he comes to the grim realization that he's been played for a fool. His former associates are the ones who killed his brother, to ensure he would take the hit on Gallo. Enraged, Peter vows to track down and execute each of his old "friends"...as painfully as possible" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “Brand New Hi-Def Master Created From Original Italian 35mm Print".

Death Rage comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.4 GB

Feature: 21.9 GB

The source used for this transfer looks worn, there’s noticeable source related damage that crops up throughout. Also, there are instances where colors and image clarity fluctuate.

Audio: 3/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English/Italian. There are scenes that were not dubbed into English and for this release those scenes are in Italian. Though the audio comes through clearly, there are some minor imperfections and mild distortion. Included with this release are non-removable English subtitles for some of the Italian language dialog. That said, some of the moments that were not translated are more than background banter and because of this I am giving the audio a 3/5 instead of 3.5/5.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a reversible cover art, a theatrical trailer for Death Rage (3 minutes 50 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian, no English subtitles) and a lung cancer PSA with Yul Brynner 30 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English).

Summary:

Death Rage’s director Antonio Margheriti was a versatile director who worked in whatever genre was popular at that time in Italy. He’s most known for his work within the Gothic horror and Sci-Fi genres. Though he directed many action films, Death Rage is one of only two Poliziotteschi that he directed.

Though Death Rage has most of the elements that have since become synonymous with  Poliziotteschi cinema. The result is a film that feels more influenced by 1970’s American crime films than Poliziotteschi cinema. That said, Death Rage is greatly aided by Yul Brynner’s performance, the action sequences are well-executed and any film that features Barbara Bouchet is a must watch.

Despite this release's serviceable audio/video presentation and lack of extras, this is still a release that most fans of Poliziotteschi will want to add to their collection.










Written by Michael Den Boer

Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman (Limited Edition) – Arrow Video (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1955 (Creature with...