Wednesday, August 30, 2023

To Kill with Intrigue: Limited Edition – 88 Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1977
Director: Lo Wei
Writer: Gu Long
Cast: Jackie Chan, Hsu Feng, Jeong Hee, Shin Il-Ryong, George Wang, Chan Wai Lau, Chan San Yat, To Wai Wo, Yuen Biao, Chin Yuet Sang

Release Date: December 10th, 2018
Approximate running time: 107 Minutes 14 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Mandarin, DTS-HD 5.1 Mandarin, DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Stereo Cantonese
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £14.99 (UK)

"Shot in South Korea, when the country was still a curious entity to the West and under tyrannical one-party rule, To Kill with Intrigue highlights a fast-paced tale of doomed romance and revenge that gives Chan’s token stunts and chopsocky mayhem plenty of space to showcase themselves!" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.75/5

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "2018 2K Scan from the Original Camera Negative".

To Kill with Intrigue comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 33.1 GB

Feature: 28.4 GB

The source used for this transfer is in very good shape, and any source debris is minor. Though colors look very good, there are a few moments where they are not as strong as they should be. The image looks crisp, the black levels fare well, and the compression is very good.

Audio: 4/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 Mandarin, DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Stereo Cantonese), 3.5/5 (DTS-HD Mono Mandarin, DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with five audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Mandarin, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Mandarin, a DTS-HD mono mix in English, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English, and a DTS-HD stereo mix in Cantonese. The two 5.1 tracks and the stereo track all sound clean, clear, and balanced. The two 5.1 tracks do a good job expanding their original mono sources. The two mono tracks have some audio imperfections that have not been cleaned up. That said, the dialog comes through clearly enough to follow all of the tracks. Included are removable English subtitles for the Mandarin language tracks and a second removable English subtitle track for Mandarin text when watching with the English language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a lobby card gallery, a behind the scenes stills gallery, a theatrical trailer (4 minutes 15 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Mandarin with removable English subtitles), an interview with Hong Kong Cinema Expert Rick Baker titled Intriguingly Jackie (20 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), reversible cover art, 4 collectors’ postcards (first print run only), and a O-card slipcase (first print run only).

Summary:

Directed by Lo Wei, who is most remembered for directing two Bruce Lee films, The Big Boss and Fists of Fury. He collaborated with Jackie Chan on six films.

The narrative revolves around the lone survivor of a massacre at the hands of the Killer Bees clan, whose leader spares his life and forces him to suffer for as long as he lives.

The two main characters, Lei Shao-feng and Ding Can-ren, are both driven by revenge. In the case of the former, her revenge was against Lei Shao-feng’s father. And in the case of the letter, the cycle continues when Ding Can-ren kills Lei Shao-feng’s family. Despite revenge being central to the story that unfolds, the result is a film that is much more than a by-the-numbers revenge-themed martial arts film.

Besides revenge, love also plays a role in the story at hand. Lei Shao-feng, in the opening moments, chases away Chin Chin, his pregnant girlfriend, who reluctantly ends up in the arms of his close friend Chen Chun. And Ding Can-ren, who spares Lei Shao-feng’s life, falls in love with him.

To Kill with Intrigue was an early role for Jackie Chan (My Lucky Stars) that was designed to make him the next big star in martial arts cinema. Unfortunately, it is yet another early role for Jackie Chan that does not play to his strengths. Lei Shao-feng, the character he portrays, is a brooding character whose personality is the polar opposite of most of the characters he portrays. The other performance of note is Hsu Feng (The Fate of Lee Khan) in the role of Ding Can-ren, the leader of the Killer Bees. Her martial arts skills are on par with all of her male counterparts.

The deliberate-paced narrative can be quite moving at times. The melodramatic moments are often the culprits responsible for the dragging narrative. Fortunately, when it comes to the action sequences, these always deliver, and they are To Kill with Intrigue’s most durable asset. The most memorable moment is a training sequence with Lei Shao-feng and Ding Can-ren. Ultimately, To Kill with Intrigue may not be one of Jackie Chan’s better films, but it is still a good martial arts film that works as well as it does because of its two leads, Jackie Chan and Hsu Feng.

To Kill with Intrigue gets a good release from 88 Films that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and an informative extra.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Prodigal Son: Limited Edition – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1981
Director: Sammo Hung Kam-bo
Writers: Sammo Hung Kam-bo, Barry Wong
Cast: Sammo Hung Kam-bo, Yuen Biao, Lam Ching-ying, Frankie Chan, Chan Lung, Chung Fat, Dick Wei, Wai Pak, Chin Yuet-sang, Hoi Sang Lee, Wu Ma, James Tien 

Release Date: September 12th, 2023
Approximate running time: 104 Minutes 42 Seconds (Both Versions)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Verisons)
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Cantonese, DTS-HD Mono Mandarin, DTS-HD Mono English (Both Verisons)
Subtitles: English, English SDH (Both Verisons)
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.95

"Leung Tsan (Biao) is a wealthy young man living the dream, thinking he's the "Kung Fu King" of the town of Foshan. However, his dream is about to become a nightmare when he is easily beaten in a fight by the star of a traveling opera troupe, Leung Yee-Tai (Lam Ching-Ying). It is at this low point that the truth is revealed to Tsan - all of his "victories" have been nothing but paid-for set-ups by his family out of a misguided act of protection. With this revelation, Tsan pleads with Yee-Tai to train him in the form of combat that led to his defeat: Wing Chun. Yee-Tai, with the help of fellow Wing Chun master Wong Wah-Bo (Hung), will train Tsan to not only be as skilled as he once thought he was, but even better. Though a mysterious challenger (Frankie Chan) and his ruthless Manchu bodyguards may end the journey before it can even begin..." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5 (Both Versions)

Here’s the information given about the transfer, "It was restored in 2K resolution from original film elements by Fortune Star, who supplied the master to Arrow Video for this Blu-ray release. Further materials were kindly supplied for this release by Eureka Entertainment, originally produced for their UK edition."

Here's information about the two versions, "The film is presented in two versions: The original Hong Kong theatrical release presentation, in which each actor is given their own personal credit throughout the film along with one stylized "word bubble" moment, and the home release presentation that foregoes the aforementioned on-screen texts to represent how the film has typically been presented om past home release versions of the film (VHS, DVD, etc)."

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

Disc Size: 40.5 GB

Feature: 27.8 GB

This transfer uses the same source that Eureka Video used for their Blu-ray release. The source is in great shape and free of any source-related imperfections. Color saturation is very good; the image looks crisp, and though black levels look good, there are moments where they could be stronger. The source for The Prodigal Son is in great shape, free of any source-related imperfections. Color saturation is very good, the image looks crisp, and though black levels look good, there are moments where they could be stronger. This release uses seamless branching for the two versions.

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

There are two versions included with this release, and both versions come with three audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Cantonese, a DTS-HD mono mix in Mandarin, and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. All the audio mixes are in great shape. There are no issues with distortion or background noise; the dialog comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced. Range-wise, all the action sequences sound robust. That said, the differences quality-wise are menial, with the slight edge going to the Mandarin audio track, which sounds fuller than the other two audio tracks. There are three subtitle tracks: removable English subtitles for the Cantonese language track, removable English subtitles for the Mandarin language track, and removable English SDH for the English language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an image gallery (25 images - stills/posters), Hong Kong theatrical trailer (4 minutes 38 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles), English language theatrical trailer (2 minutes 15 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), US home video trailer (1 minute 48 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), alternate English language credits (1 minute 46 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival featurette titled Life Imitating Art, featuring interviews with Wing Chun instructor and producer Guy Lai talking about the art, illustrated via demonstrations by Sifu Austin Goh and Jude Poyer (27 minutes 14 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Cantonese with removable English subtitles), an archival featurette titled The Heroic Trio, featuring interviews with director Sammo Hung and actors Yuen Biao and Frankie Chan (26 minutes 54 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English and Cantonese with removable English subtitles for Cantonese), an interview with Wing Chun sifu Alex Richter titled Wing Chun 101 (36 minutes 1 second, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with martial arts cinema expert Frank Djeng and actor Bobby Samuels, an audio commentary with action cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema, reversible cover art, a slipcover (limited to the first pressing), a double-sided fold-out poster (limited to the first pressing), and 24-page booklet with (limited to the first pressing) cast & crew information, an essay titled The Origins of a Master written by Peter Glagowski, and information about the transfer.

Summary:

From the first time that I saw Yuen Biao, I was immediately impressed by his ability to effortlessly perform ridiculous acrobatic stunts. He would be given the perfect opportunity to showcase his martial arts skills in The Prodigal Son.

The Prodigal Son, like Warriors Two, features the Wing Chun style of Kung Fu. The narrative revolves around a protagonist whose martial arts prowess is due to his father's paying off his opponents. Then one day, he encounters a fighter who humiliates him, and from there, he sets out to become a true master of the martial arts.

Content-wise, The Prodigal Son has all the elements that are synonymous with classic martial arts cinema. Revenge plays a role in the story at hand, as does a lengthy training sequence that features some well-placed humor where the protagonist is being taught a fighting style that resembles going to the bathroom. That said, the fight sequences are spectacular.

The main attraction of The Prodigal Son is Yuen Biao in the role of the protagonist. He delivers one of his most memorable performances, and when it comes to the fight sequences, he’s second to none. Other notable performances include Ching-Ying Lam in the role of a Chinese opera performer with extraordinary martial arts skills and Sammo Kam-Bo Hung in the role of another martial arts master.

From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where The Prodigal Son does not excel. The premise is well executed, and the narrative is a good mix of action and humor. Another thing that sets The Prodigal Son apart from other martial arts movies is that all the main characters have flaws that make them human and add more depth to the story. Ultimately, The Prodigal Son is an exceptional film and a must-see if you're a fan of classic martial arts cinema.

The Prodigal Son gets a first-rate release from Arrow Video that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and insightful extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Monday, August 28, 2023

The Abomination: Collector's Edition – Visual Vengeance (Blu-ray)

Release Date: USA, 1986
Director: Bret McCormick
Writer: Bret McCormick
Cast: Scott Davis, Jude Johnson, Blue Thompson, Brad McCormick, Suzy Meyer, Rex Morton, Victoria Chaney, Gaye Bottoms, Van Connery, Bubba Moore

Release Date: September 26th, 2023
Approximate Running Time: 90 Minutes 15 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"Deep in the heart of rural Texas, a TV evangelist exorcises a tumor from the body of a loyal worshipper, who soon coughs up the growth. Unknown to her, the cancer is actually a carnivorous life form that slithers its way into her son Cody while he sleeps, growing inside him until he is completely under its control. Now Cody must feed the beast fresh victims to keep them both alive, as the monster grows out larger and larger, threatening to feast on everyone in its path." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 2.25/5

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "New producer-supervised SD master from original tape source".

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

Disc Size: 38.5 GB

Feature: 15.1 GB

Shot on Super 8, the source used for this transfer of a SD master from a tape source has its limitations. Image clarity and colors are inconsistent, black levels are never convincing, and any compression-related issues are minor. That said, it is hard to imagine that The Abomination will ever look better than this transfer does.

Audio: 3/5

This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital stereo mix in English with removable English SDH. Though the audio sounds clean, clear, and balanced, range-wise, things are limited.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a Visual Vengeance for The Abomination (1 minute 5 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Bret McCormick original super 8 films (5 minutes 55 seconds, no sound), an image gallery with music from The Abomination playing in the background, a text based interview with “The Abomination”, behind the scenes “The Stairway” (1 minute 21 seconds, no sound), behind the scenes “Tumor Test” (1 minute 37 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo with music from The Abomination playing in the background), super 8 outtakes and raw footage - reel 1 (28 minutes 34 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), super 8 outtakes and raw footage - reel 2 (17 minutes 47 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), a featurette titled The Abomination - Filming Locations Tour (13 minutes 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with audio commentary by director Bret McCormick), an interview by producer Matt Devlen, The Abomination's original VHS distributor (14 minutes 47 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actress Victoria Chaney (5 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actress Blue Thompson (6 minutes 30 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Bret McCormick titled Monster Kid Movie Maverick (73 minutes 37 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with Bret McCormick, Rob Hauschild and Matt Desiderio of Visual Vengeance, an audio commentary with Tony Strauss of Weng’s Chop Magazine, Bret McCormick trailer archive: Ozone: The Attack of the Redneck Mutants, Repligator, Highway to Hell, Reanimator Academy, Children of Dracula, Bio-Tech Warrior, and Time Tracers, reversible cover art featuring original VHS art, 'Stick Your Own' VHS Sticker Set, a folded mini-poster, a six-page booklet with an essay titled The Tumor That Came to Fort Worth: Apocalypse on a Budget written by Tony Strauss, 12-page mini comic book (first pressing only), and a slipcover (first pressing only).

Other extras include trailers for Vampires and Other Stereotypes, Splatter Farm, and Violent New Breed.

Summary:

Directed by Bret McCormick, who made eleven low-budget films over the course of twelve years. And as of this writing, Repligator is the last narrative feature film that he has directed. His only other directing credit is a documentary titled I See World Peace.

The narrative revolves around a deranged man who goes on a killing spree to feed a tumor he calls ‘The Abomination’.

You know you're in for a long, dragged-out narrative when a film begins with a montage of repetitive gore shots, which also happen to be the best moments. Also, it is these moments of gore that are The Abomination’s only saving grace. And though there is an attempt early on to provide some backstory about the protagonist, it does not make the story that unfolds any easier to enjoy.

From a production standpoint, everything about The Abomination screams ultra-low-budget film. Shot on Super 8, and most likely without live sound, since the soundtrack sounds like it was created in post-production. And though there have been many examples of films made under similar circumstances that are actually enjoyable, The Abomination is a hard film to enjoy.

That said, The Abomination is definitely a film that you have to be in the right mind to appreciate, preferably under the influence. If one approaches The Abomination as a film that is so bad it's bad, then it is easier to embrace the absurdity that unfolds.

The Abomination is another solid release from Visual Vengeance that comes with a wealth of extras and presents the film in its best possible audio/video presentation.









 Written by Michael Den Boer

Repligator: Collector's Edition – Visual Vengeance (Blu-ray)

Release Date: USA, 1998
Director: Bret McCormick
Writers: Keith Kjornes, T.G. Weems, Wynn Winberg
Cast: Gunnar Hansen, Keith Kjornes, Randy Clower, TJ Myers, Carl Merritt, Brinke Stevens, Alan York, Rocky Patterson

Release Date: September 26th, 2023
Approximate Running Time: 85 Minutes 26 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"At a top-secret military facility, a group of scientists and army brass work on the "The Replicator Project" which quickly goes awry when it turns all the male soldiers into gorgeous, scantily clad nymphets, who then morph into alligators when they reach the peak of sexual excitement!" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.25/5

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "New, director supervised SD master from original master tapes".

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

Disc Size: 32.2 GB

Feature: 20.4 GB

The transfer used for this is in good shape; it is one of Visual Vengeance’s stronger transfers. That said, it is not without its shortcomings; there are times when image clarity is not as strong and black levels fare well. When it comes to colors and flesh tones, they look correct, and any compression-related issues are not a deal-breaker.

Audio: 3.25/5

This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital stereo mix in English with removable English SDH. This audio track is in good shape; there are no issues with distortion or background noise. That said, range-wise, things can be limited at times. Fortunately, dialog comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a Visual Vengeance trailer for Repligator (1 minute 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), original VHS trailer (3 minutes, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), original deleted opening scene (3 minutes 42 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival making of featurette (4 minutes 49 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with director Bret McCormick (6 minutes 22 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actor Randy Clower (3 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actor Carl Merritt (6 minutes 49 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actress Brinke Stevens (7 minutes 26 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with producer Wynn Winberg (8 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with Bret McCormick and Glen Coburn, an audio commentary with Sam Panico of B&S About Movies and Bill Van Ryn of Drive-In Asylum, reversible cover art with original VHS art, 'Stick your own' VHS sticker sheet, a folded mini-poster, one pair of branded 'X-Ray Specs', 2-sided insert, and a slipcover (first pressing only).

Other extras include trailers for Bio-Tech Warrior, Lycan Colony, and Time Tracers.

Summary:

Directed by Bret McCormick, who made eleven low-budget films over the course of twelve years. And as of this writing, Repligator is the last narrative feature film that he has directed. His only other directing credit is a documentary titled I See World Peace.

The narrative revolves around a group of scientists working on a secret government experiment that involves teleportation. Things go awry when the first test subject, a male, comes back as a hot woman. From there, things further spiraled out of control when modifications led to text subjects that came back as half alligators and half hot women.

Repligator quickly established its subversive tone with an over-the-top pre-credits sequence that's played strictly for laughs. This sequence does a phenomenal job laying the foundation for what follows. In fact, humor is an integral part of everything that happens in Repligator.

Without a doubt, Repligator’s greatest asset is its cast's enthusiastic performances. The cast even has a few faces that fans of horror cinema are sure to recognize, like Gunnar Hanson (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) in the role of Dr. Kildare, a scientist who invented x-ray glasses that allow the wearing to see people naked, and Brinke Stevens (Nightmare Sisters) in the role of Dr. Goodbody. Also, there is humor in most of the character names, like General Mills and Colonel Sanders.

Sure Repligator has all of the traits that are synonymous with low-budget cinema. And yet the result is a film that actually does a great job exploiting its resources for all their worth. Ultimately, Repligator is an absurd film that is way more fun than it should be.

Repligator is another solid release from Visual Vengeance that comes with a wealth of extras and presents the film in its best possible audio/video presentation, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Ghoulies II: Collector's Edition – MVD Rewind Collection (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1987
Director: Albert Band
Writers: Charlie Dolan, Dennis Paoli, Luca Bercovici
Cast: Damon Martin, Royal Dano, Phil Fondacaro, J. Downing, Kerry Remsen, Dale Wyatt, Mickey Knox, Romano Puppo, Anthony Dawson

Release Date: September 12th, 2023
Approximate running time: 89 Minutes 43 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: PG-13
Sound: LPCM Stereo English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.95

"The demonic, toilet-dwelling goblins are back! Stowed away in "Satan's Den," the traveling House of Horror operated by carnival workers Larry and Uncle Ned, the Ghoulies merrily devour the sideshow attraction's patrons... until Larry realizes his horror house is for real and tries to flee the scene!" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "2K scan of interpositive overseen by MGM."

Ghoulies II comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 31.3 GB

Feature: 22.5 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape; any source debris that remains is very minor. Flesh tones look healthy, colors are nicely saturated, image clarity and black levels are strong, and compression is very good.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM stereo mix in English. There are three removable subtitle options: English, French, and Spanish. The audio is clean, clear, balanced, and the ambient sound is well represented. That said, this release's LPCM stereo track sounds vastly superior to the DTS-HD 5.1 track that Scream Factory used for this Blu-ray release.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a photo gallery (stills/poster), a theatrical trailer for Ghoulies II (1 minute 23 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by screenwriter Dennis Paoli (1 minute 15 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), deleted scenes  (2 minutes 43 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with Dennis Paoli titled Under A Magic Moon (33 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival featurette tilted More Toilets, More Terror: The Making of Ghoulies 2 (16 minutes 50 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), reversible cover art, a collectible mini-poster (limited to first pressing), and a slipcover (limited to first pressing).

Summary:

In the mid- to late 1980s, Empire Pictures was a major player in the horror and fantasy film markets. They were only around for five years before they went bankrupt. Empire Pictures made some notable films like Trancers, Re-Animator, From Beyond, Trolls, and two Ghoulies films.

Ghoulies wreak havoc on customers at a carnival who think they're part of the show.

Whenever a film is successful, there is a good chance that there will be a sequel. Case in point: Ghoulies, a film that made seven times its budget. And with Ghoulies II, Empire Pictures took all of the things that made Ghoulies a success and tried to achieve that same success with Ghoulies II, albeit on a much smaller budget.

Fortunately, a reduced budget is not an obstacle for Ghoulies II, a film that does a superb job picking up where Ghoulies left off. And though Ghoulies II is a sequel, it can almost be seen as a low-budget remake of its predecessor. Both films mostly take place in one location: an old mansion in Ghoulies and a carnival in Ghoulies II. Of course, the ghoulies and the mayhem that followed them are the main attractions of both films.

The performances range from adequate to good. And though most performances fall into the former category, at least most of the performances are enthusiastic. The most memorable performance is Royal Dano (The Trouble with Harry) in the role of Uncle Ned, a drunk carnival performer who is in charge of an exhibit called Satan’s Den.

The thing that grabs me when watching Ghoulies is how well put together it is. Though Empire Pictures films are known for their budget limitations, the same cannot be said when it comes to those who worked on these films behind the scenes. Notably, when it comes to John Carl Buechler’s special effects, he was the designer who created the Ghoulies. That said, there is nothing better than practical special effects that are done right. Another key contributor to Ghoulies II is cinematographer Sergio Salvati, who is most known for his collaborations with Lucio Fulci. Ultimately, Ghoulies II is a highly entertaining sequel that is superior to its predecessor.

Ghoulies II gets a first-rate release as part of the MVD Rewind Collection that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and a pair of informative extras, recommended.









Written by Michael Den Boer

Black Circle – Synapse Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Mexico/Sweden, 2018
Director: Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Writer: Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Cast: Christina Lindberg, Felice Jankell, Erica Midfjäll, Hanna Midfjäll, Hanna Asp, Johan Palm, Hans Sandqvist, Inger Nilsson, Iwa Boman

Release Date: September 5th, 2023
Approximate running time: 102 Minutes 38 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Stereo Swedish
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"Two sisters, Celeste and Isa, fall under the terrifying spell of a mysterious vinyl record from the 1970s. Used to help with stress and bring the listener to a state of calming self-hypnosis, the recording has the unfortunate side-effect of manifesting a doppelganger of the listener into our world. This “double” then grows stronger by the day to copy and take over the life of the person who played the vinyl. Seeking the help of the woman who originally created the recording, hypnotist Lena Carlsson (Christina Lindberg, Thriller: A Cruel Picture), Celeste and Isa try to banish the doppelgangers back to their own world before their lives are lost forever." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Black Circle comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 35.7 GB

Feature: 27.2 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape. That said, there are moments in Black Circle in which some footage from the characters' past is deliberately degraded. Colors and flesh tones look correct, the image looks crisp, black levels are strong, and there are no issues with compression.

Audio: 5/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD stereo mix in Swedish with removable English subtitles. Dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and range-wise, this track sounds excellent.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a stills gallery with music from Black Circle playing in the background, a theatrical teaser (1 minute 8 seconds, LPCM stereo Swedish with removable English subtitles), a behind-the-scenes featurette (9 minutes 4 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with director Adrian Garcia Bogliano and actress Christina Lindberg (57 minutes 27 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with Adrian Garcia Bogliano, a short film titled Don’t Open Your Eyes (10 minutes 55 seconds, DTS-HD 5.1 Swedish with removable English subtitles), a CD with Black Circle’s original motion picture soundtrack, and a cardboard insert that has the lists the soundtracks 18 songs. 

A note about two of the extras: the interview with Christina Lindberg is career-spanning.

Summary:

Black Circle began as the short film Don’t Open Your Eyes. Also, Black Circle even shares some of the footage that originated in Don’t Open Your Eyes.

A record from the 1970s hypnotizes two sisters and turns their lives upside down. From there, they look into what is happening to them and discover the record is connected to a therapy that creates ethereal doubles.

Before any of the characters are introduced, Black Circle establishes an uneasy tone that perfectly sets the stage for what follows. In the opening moments, there is footage from the past that gives a glimpse of the future, followed by a shot of a decaying corpse in the bed. All of this happens before the two sisters, who are central to the story at hand, appear.

The narrative does a superb job laying the foundation by giving glimpses of what has happened to the two sisters. This is done by interjecting throughout the narrative footage that correlates with the past. And by the time the moment of truth arrives, everything is crystal clear.

Though there are some viewers who might find them to be one-note performances, that said, the performances work well within the confines of this story. The most notable cast member was Christina Lindberg (Thriller: A Cruel Picture) in the role of a hypnotist named Lena Carlsson.

From a production standpoint, Black Circle is a film that often exceeds expectations. The premise is well executed, and the narrative does a phenomenal job building tension. Also, the sound design is impeccable, and the visuals are overflowing with hallucinatory imagery. The combination of sight and sound creates a synergy that enhances the story at hand. Ultimately, Black Circle is an extraordinary cinematic experience that stands out in a sea of homogenized horror films.

Black Circle gets an excellent release from Synapse Films that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and insightful extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

The Guyver: Limited Collector's Edition – Unearthed Classics (4k UHD/Blu-ray/CD Combo) Theatrical Release Date: USA/Japan, 1991 Director...