Horror Anthology ‘The Monster Mash’ Due on Blu-ray March 26 From BayView

BayView Entertainment will release the horror anthology The Monster Mash on Blu-ray Disc March 26 via the Allied Vaughn manufacture on demand service.

An anthology throwback to the days of creature features that dominated television sets across America, the film follows Dr. Freudstein, along with his sidekick Ludwig, as they fumble to create a bio-mechanical experiment all while hosting “The Monster Mash Triple Feature Show.” The Monster Mash features three gruesome mini horror films: “Whispering Hollow Road,” which is a dark shadowy noir with a monstrous twist; “The House,” a modern gothic tale of lycanthropy; and “Homebound Horror,” a grimy grindhouse tale of revenge of extraterrestrial proportions.

 

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BayView to Bow ‘Bulletproof Jesus: The Director’s Cut’ on Blu-ray Feb. 27

BayView Entertainment will release the action-sci-fi-fantasy film Bulletproof Jesus: The Director’s Cut on Blu-ray Disc Feb. 27 via the Allied Vaughn manufacture-on-demand service.

The film follows Jesus, who is on a self-imposed sabbatical in the modern mortal world and is warned that the warlords of the Apocalypse are assembling their armies for the final overthrow of humankind. This Christ is a conflicted man, a master of combat and martial arts who assembles a group of mercenaries to battle the forces of Lucifer.

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Directed by William Lee, the film stars Lee, Johanna McGinley and Hayley Sunshine.

Allied Vaughn Seeks to Change Physical Media Supply Chain with New ‘Intelligent E-Commerce’ Solution

Allied Vaughn has announced a new “Intelligent E-Commerce” solution it says will help content distributors maximize sales, minimize resources, and optimize profits.

It’s all part of a big push by the Minneapolis-based company to be seen as a one-stop distribution resource for studios as well as independent film distributors involved in the physical media business.

At the heart of this lies Allied Vaughn’s belief that as brick-and-mortar retail space allotted to DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays continues to shrink, e-commerce is an increasingly vital part of any sales equation.

“The migration of in-store sales to online sales fundamentally changes the way we do business and how we reach the consumer,” said Allied Vaughn president Doug Olzenak.

E-commerce accounted for 44% of packaged media sales in 2022, the last year for which full-year figures are available. That same year, Amazon sold more than 100,000 unique SKUs of packaged media titles, while mass merchants experienced significant declines.  With the reduction of shelf space at Walmart stores and the exit of Best Buy from the business in 2024, only a very small offering of new releases and catalog titles are expected to be sold through traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, while e-commerce is on track to continue to sell larger quantities and a wider breadth of titles.

Allied Vaughn says its Intelligent E-Commerce solution is effectively changing the physical media supply chain — providing DVD, Blu-ray and UHD licensing, asset preparation, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing under one roof.

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Reducing the supply chain overhead allows for more titles to be released into the market, resulting in a better customer experience, curated by consumer demand. The optimization of the supply chain not only reduces costs for the studio, but also expands selection and creates efficiency for retailers.

“Inventory surplus of packaged media is more of a problem today than when significant volume hid these issues at the industry’s peak,” Olzenak says. “Liquidation and discount bins diminished the value of intellectual property by flooding the market with overstocks. Matching supply with demand through the use of a minimum inventory and an on-demand supply chain maximizes availability, customer experience and studio sales lift.  The end result is a supply chain in lockstep with the ecommerce sales channels of today and tomorrow.”

Real-time manufacturing, Olzenak maintains, provides a best-in-class retail in-stock rating, cost savings, and a 24-hour ship window. The result is timely delivery that meets the expectations of today’s consumers.

While the traditional in-store supply chain is negatively impacted by the declining market, he notes, Allied Vaughn says its proprietary Intelligent E-Commerce solution is optimized for online sales and integrates both supply chain and sales channel management into one process. Additionally, it eliminates the need for warehousing, creating a more efficient ordering process.

The result is higher net margins using fewer studio resources, Olzenak says.

“Reducing costs and risk while improving the customer experience requires an integrated manufacturing, distribution and fulfillment model,” Olzenak says. “Allied Vaughn provides a model that makes many of a studio’s expenses obsolete. Furthermore, integrating with top ecommerce retailers to eliminate the cost of and time to ship to third party fulfillment companies.  With Allied Vaughn, we replace a complex, antiquated system with one that is lean and fluid.”

While many are aware of Allied Vaughn through its manufacture-on-demand (MOD) model, the company boasts a successful track record in all facets of distribution.

Mike Haney (Allied Vaughn photo)

Mike Haney, Allied Vaughn’s VP of content licensing, notes that over the last 15 years, Allied Vaughn has released more than 7,000 titles from Warner Bros./Discovery, Universal, Paramount, Sony, FOX, MGM and Lionsgate — including such iconic Blu-ray box sets as Universal’s “The Office” and “Parks & Recreation” and Paramount’s “Cheers” and “Frasier.”  Allied Vaughn is one of the only distributors offering 4K UHD TV series such as Paramount’s “Station 11,” “Jack Ryan” and “Reacher” along with classic 4K movies such as Warner Bros/Discovery’s The Outsiders and Giant.

Along with releases from all the major studios, Allied Vaughn licenses and distributes more than 20,000 titles from more than 300 independent distributors. The company has paid more than $200 million in royalties and shipped more than 10 million units to consumers.

“The industry has reached an inflection point,” Olzenak says. “Now is a great time to act to  maximize profits from packaged media for the next 10 years.”

Chinese Action Drama ‘Never Say Never’ Due on Blu-ray Dec. 26 From BayView

BayView Entertainment will release the Chinese action drama Never Say Never on Blu-ray Disc Dec. 26 via the Allied Vaughn manufacture-on-demand service.

In the film, when a down-on-his-luck former fighter is accosted by a gang of young bandits, he recruits them for his second shot of glory at his upstart training facility. But after his past shady dealings and get-rich-quick schemes come to life, he’s forced to figure out how to lead his students without passing along the stigma of his troubled past.

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A Disturbance in the Force

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Allied Vaughn/Giant;
Documentary;
$22.49 DVD, $24.95 BD-R;
Not rated.
Features Seth Green, Paul Scheer, Kevin Smith, Bruce Vilanch, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Donny Osmond, Mick Garris, Taran Killam, Gilbert Gottfried, Kyle Newman.

As Star Wars exploded into a cultural phenomenon in the summer of 1977, there was great anticipation for the burgeoning franchise the film would spawn. But how the story would continue was anybody’s guess.

While George Lucas had begun to work on the sequel that would become The Empire Strikes Back, it was still years away, and the Hollywood marketing machine wouldn’t be satiated without something to maintain audience interest until then.

Amid an uptick in merchandise, and toys on the horizon, Lucas agreed to allow CBS to make a holiday special to air in the fall of 1978. The result is one of the most infamous misfires in television history — a disastrous, cheap-looking “Star Wars”-themed variety show that would have been a forgotten footnote of the franchise were it not immortalized on bootleg video after its single airing.

A Disturbance in the Force is a great documentary that explores the making of and legacy of the Star Wars Holiday Special, which was embraced by fans as the campy but fun underbelly of the franchise at one point before prequels and other spinoffs diluted some of the property’s credibility.

Directed by Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak, and produced by that duo alongside Fanboys director Kyle Newman, A Disturbance in the Force meticulously places the Star Wars Holiday Special in the context of its age through a fantastic selection of vintage clips. Television at the time was seen as disposable entertainment, dominated by variety shows that would maybe air once without much thought if they’d ever be seen again. The “Donny & Marie” show in September 1977 staged its own “Star Wars” episode that is now widely viewed as a notorious precursor to the Holiday Special, and is so wacky it has to be seen to be believed (it’s easy enough to track down on YouTube).

The Star Wars Holiday Special was originally intended as a one-hour one-off about Chewbacca’s family celebrating “Life Day,” an important event in the “Star Wars” galaxy. Lucas himself even wrote a treatment for the story, which he handed off to the production team before setting his sights on Empire.

Meanwhile, not wanting to let the popularity of “Star Wars” go to waste, CBS expanded the special to two hours, and applied a variety show format to round out the time, seemingly with Lucas’ blessing. The core “Star Wars” cast even signed up to appear (though Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill later lamenting their appearances is one of the highlights of the documentary).

But in an age where the gap between television and film was much greater than it is now, producing “Star Wars” on a TV budget proved to be a difficult proposition. The special’s original director quit, and the new director, a veteran of TV production, admits he never met Lucas while making the show. The guest cast, consisting primarily of Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Bea Arthur, while appealing to the older CBS audience, were a strange fit for the younger and hipper “Star Wars” crowd (all of Carney’s scenes reportedly had to be filmed in the morning, as he had a penchant for cocktails at lunch). And post-production was left up to a pair of variety show producers who had no experience in editing. The result is a textbook lesson in the importance of maintaining creative control of an IP.

The documentary employs a series of talking heads to discuss the special. A number of them worked on it and provide valuable insights into how the show went off the rails. Others are celebrities and “Star Wars” fans such as Kevin Smith, Seth Green, Paul Scheer and Patton Oswalt who reflect on the bizarreness of the segments, which ranged from 10 minutes of Wookiees going about their day without any dialogue, to Bea Arthur singing to the patrons of the cantina.

The special’s most outrageous bit is probably Chewbacca’s father watching what amounts to space porn in the family living room — in the form of a virtual reality chanteuse designed to stimulate his pleasure centers with a song and some proto-ASMR. The part of Grandpa’s lust object was intended to be played by Cher, but when she dropped out the production settled for Diahann Carroll instead.

For his part, Lucas reportedly once claimed to want to destroy all copies of the Holiday Special (which now also is readily available on YouTube), which is why it has never made its way to an official home video release.

Any bits of praise for the special are reserved for an animated segment that was commissioned by Lucas to introduce the character of Boba Fett. Called “The Story of the Faithful Wookiee,” this cartoon is the only part of the special to receive an official Lucasfilm release, appearing as an extra on some Blu-ray boxed sets of the films, and available on Disney+.

There’s also some discussions about how other aspects of the special eventually made their way into “Star Wars” canon, and how fans now celebrate Nov. 17, the day of the special’s airing, as “Life Day,” an unofficial holiday with elaborate ceremonies at the “Star Wars” lands at Disney theme parks.

With most of the attention focused on the making of and legacy of the special, the documentary glosses over the particulars of how it ended up being disseminated on bootleg video. Kevin Smith notes this was the era before widespread adoption of VCRs, but they did exist. The VHS and DVD copies that eventually found their way to fans through conventions, mail order, online and other underground means seem to be sourced from a number of different copies, and it would have been interesting to delve into where those came from. Some are edited, while others have all the original commercials, and the quality is usually degraded from being copied multiple times. The documentary only briefly touches on this aspect of the Holiday Special phenomenon in a segment that plays during the closing credits. Perhaps there was more to this that was cut from the documentary, but if there was the DVD and manufactured-on-demand Blu-ray don’t provide any answers as they don’t include any bonus materials.

All in all, the documentary is a must-see for “Star Wars” fans, and a fun look back at the early years of the franchise.

Sock Puppet Horror-Comedy ‘Stitches’ Due on Blu-ray Dec. 26 From BayView

BayView Entertainment will release the sock puppet horror-comedy Stitches on Blu-ray Disc Dec. 26 via the Allied Vaughn manufacture-on-demand service.

In the film, which features an all sock puppet cast, on a week-long vacation, Mary and friends travel to a remote cabin. Once they discover the origins of an Evil Witch, all is not as it seems. Forget the weekend — they may not survive the night. 

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Directed by Ian Goodwin, the film features the voices of Alyse McCammish, Logan Bernard and Dylan Kay.

 

A Bronx Tale

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Allied Vaughn/Tribeca;
Drama;
$24.95 Blu-ray, $39.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong language and several scenes of violence.
Stars Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Lillo Brancato, Francis Capra, Taral Hicks, Kathrine Narducci, Joe Pesci.

This burrough-fixed gangster bio recounts the start-up years of Calogero Anello, a streetwise stripling of Sicilian descent played alternately by 9-year-old Francis Capra and 17-year-old Lillo Brancato Jr. Loosely based on the one-man play written by and starring Calogero Lorenzo Palminteri — or do you say Chazz? — it has the distinction of being one of only two films directed by Robert De Niro. (Given the choice, I’d watch A Bronx Tale 10 times before ever paying a return visit to the pedagogic history lesson that is The Good Shepherd.) Unfamiliarity with newcomer Palminteri and the prospect of another mob movie, this one starring De Niro cast in the Ward Cleaver role, combined to keep audiences at bay. They were wrong. Time has been extremely kind to this solidly constructed 1993 coming-of-age drama. Given the genre and their past collaborations, a little Scorsese couldn’t help but have rubbed off, just not enough to keep De Niro from honestly dealing with topics that for years have eluded his mentor. The student even went so far as doing his teacher one better.

As long as he could remember, Colagero, “C” for short, had his eye on the neighborhood crime boss, Sonny (Palminteri). He couldn’t wait for school to end so he could sneak out of his parent’s flat and snake through the passageways and back alley that deposited him three doors down at Chez Bippy, a mob watering hole owned by Sonny. The day Sonny finally returned C’s gaze forever cemented their future. The boy witnesses his idol shoot a fellow thug gangland style over a parking space altercation that went bad. C oscillates between a morally upright working class father (De Niro) slowly losing his son’s grip — Lorenzo makes his living behind the wheel of a bus — and a made mentor whose motto was, “The working man’s a sucker.” When it comes time to finger the shooter in a lineup, much to Sonny’s eternal gratitude, C dummies up. The witness identification plays out with the same style of subjective exposure and lean intensity one associates with a Budd Boetticher Ranown Western. 

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Released three years after Goodfellas, at first glance, A Bronx Tale could have easily been mistaken for a continuation of Henry Hill’s youthful indoctrination, right down to the “Social Club” milieu and a grouping of colorfully-named, idiosyncratic schifosos needed to flesh out the background. Rather than speak, Tony Toupee chose to sing every word. The guy with the graham cracker complexion went by Frankie Coffee Cake. JoJo the whale was so fat, legend has it his shadow once killed a dog. It is pretty obvious how Sonny’s right hand man earned the name Joey Whispers. And in one of Palminteri’s finest thumbnail summations, Eddie the Mush was such a loser, the teller at the racetrack would give him his tickets already ripped up. 

I had to laugh when it was reported that Scorsese rewrote Killers of the Flower Moon to beef up the female lead. Since when does he give a hoot in hell about female characters? In all of his films, only one woman stands out: Sharon Stone in Casino. (Just because Lorraine Bracco is awarded a chunk of narration in Goodfellas doesn’t make her an equal participant.) Always one to complain about unnecessary romance in male-driven movies, Jane (Taral Hicks) is more than just African-American elbow dressing. Without once playing slut or Playmate of the Month, Jane is in full control of the relationship. It is she who asks C out and when it comes to a first kiss, it’s Jane who shows him what to do with his lips. She’s also the first to call him out when a gang of mini-mafiosa dog piles her brother for having the gall to bicycle through their white neighborhood.

To C, the ‘n’ word was a part of his day-to-day lexicon. De Niro has long been known to court black women. (If you don’t believe me, check out the Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin.) The audience I saw it with opening weekend chuckled when, upon learning of his son courting a “colored girl,” Lorenzo voices his disapproval of interracial relationships. When it comes to presenting racist characters Scorsese, trusting that his viewers know the scumbags he presents are not to be admired, puts it all out there without once commenting on behavior or lecturing an audience on how to think. After all, that’s the way these animals talk. Palminteri and De Niro take it one step further by having C lose his cool and drop the ‘n’ word while in mid-argument with Jane. It’s a moment he lives to regret, but because the filmmakers wanted the romance to end happily, it feels rushed to the point of piercing credulity.

The film will forever live on in the annals of cool for one of Sonny’s conceits that is never drawn attention to. While driving his red Cadillac convertible from his home to the Chez Bippy, he throws the car into reverse and doesn’t stop until he gets there. Neither does cinematographer Reynaldo Villalobos, who captured the ride in one glorious unbroken take. Is that cool or what?

The new-to-Blu-ray release includes freshly minted interviews with Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri. Subject for further research: for a tragic example of life imitating art, Google Lillo Brancato

‘Pennyworth’ Final Season Slated for Disc Sept. 26

Allied Vaughn and Warner Bros. will release Pennyworth: The Third and Final Season on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Sept. 26.

Based on DC’s Batman comics, “Pennyworth” follows the adventures of Alfred Pennyworth decades before becoming Bruce Wayne’s butler.

Jack Bannon stars as Alfred, a former British SAS soldier in his 20s, who forms a security company in 1960s London and goes to work with young billionaire Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge), who has not yet fathered Bruce.

In the third season, which was given the subtitle “The Origin of Batman’s Butler,” the action picks up after a five-year time jump. A cultural revolution has changed the world for better or worse — ushering in a new age of superheroes and supervillains.

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Also arriving Sept. 26 on DVD and Blu-ray will be Pennyworth: The Complete Series.

The show’s cast also includes Emma Paetz, Hainsley Lloyd Bennett, Ryan Fletcher, Dorothy Atkinson, Paloma Faith and Jason Flemyng.

The show was presented by Epix for its first two seasons before moving to HBO Max for its third.

Comedy Thriller ‘Breakup Mountain’ Due on Blu-ray Disc July 25 From BayView

BayView Entertainment will release the comedy thriller Breakup Mountain on Blu-ray Disc on July 25 through manufacture-on-demand company Allied Vaughn.

In the film, Ben and Yasmina have been dating on and off for years, but things have reached a breaking point. Ben suggests they take a trip to a cabin for a last hurrah, to finally end the relationship. Once there, a stranger shows up at their door, seeking help. When he attacks them and is killed in the process, things really begin to spin out of control.

Directed by Joe Leone, the film stars Leone, Vincent Kevin Daniels and Jade Haley.

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BayView to Release Mystery Thriller ‘Devils Lake’ on Blu-ray July 25

BayView Entertainment will release the mystery thriller Devils Lake on Blu-ray Disc July 25 through manufacture-on-demand company Allied Vaughn.

The film follows Jake Barker, who thought he left Devils Lake, but Devils Lake never left him. As soon as he returns to Devils Lake, murders begin to happen — again.

Directed by Ted Pfeifer, the film stars Pfeifer, Justin Ament and Ryan Deal.

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Devil’s Lake from cara Shapiro on Vimeo.