Horror Film ‘The Stylist,’ Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Major Dundee’ Among Titles on Blu-ray from MVD and Arrow in June

The horror film The Stylist, Italian crime thrillers from the 1970s, Sam Peckinpah’s Major Dundee and the Japanese film Irezumi are coming to Blu-ray Disc in June from MVD Entertainment Group and Arrow Video.

The Stylist, due June 8, is a female-led psychological horror film nominated for the New Visions Award for Best Motion Picture at the 2020 Sitges International Film Festival and based on co-writer/director Jill Gevargizian’s award-winning short film of the same name. We all dream of being someone else, but for Claire (Najarra Townsend, Contracted), that dream goes from an obsession to a living nightmare. Hairstylist by day, serial killer and collector of scalps by night, Claire’s lonely existence is thrown into turmoil when her regular client, Olivia (Brea Grant, After Midnight, Lucky), asks her to style her hair for her wedding day. Increasingly fixated on Olivia’s seemingly flawless life, Claire vows to lock up her scalp collection and change her ways for good — only to discover that repressing deadly desires is easier said than done.

Coming on Blu-ray Disc June 22 is Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977. The 1970s were a time of intense uncertainty and instability in Italy. Political corruption and widespread acts of left and right-wing terrorism, alongside a breakdown in social cohesion and a loss of trust in public institutions such as the government and police, created a febrile atmosphere of cynicism, paranoia and unexploded rage. Throughout this period, these sentiments found expression in a series of brutal, often morally ambiguous crime thrillers which tapped into the atmosphere of violence and instability that defined the so-called “Years of Lead.” This box set gathers five films from the heyday of the “poliziotteschi” — the umbrella term used to describe this diverse body of films. In Vittorio Salerno’s Savage Three (1975) and Mario Imperoli’s Like Rabid Dogs (1976), random acts of violence committed by vicious young sociopaths threaten the fragile fabric of respectable society. In Massimo Dallamano’s Colt 38 Special Squad (1976) and Stelvio Massi’s Highway Racer (1977), renegade cops battling against red tape and political corruption turn to new and morally dubious methods to dispense justice. Finally, class dynamics are explored in Salerno’s No, the Case is Happily Resolved (1973) as an innocent man finds himself under suspicion for a savage crime committed by a highly respected member of society. The collection features a  line-up of Euro-cult stars, including Joe Dallesandro (The Climber), Ivan Rassimov (Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key), Maurizio Merli (Violent City) and Enrico Maria Salerno (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage).

Due on Blu-ray June 22 is the 1966 Japanese film Irezumi. Drawn from the pen of one of Japan’s foremost writers of the 20th century, Junichiro Tanizaki (A Fool’s Love, The Makioka Sisters), Irezumi is a tale of lust, betrayal and revenge directed by Yasuzo Masumura (Giants and Toys, Blind Beast). Masumura’s muse Ayako Wakao (The Blue Sky Maiden, Red Angel) stars as Otsuya, the daughter of a rich merchant, who is tempted by her lover Shinsuke, a lowly employee of her father’s, to elope. During their flight, Otsuya’s beauty attracts the gaze of Seikichi, a mysterious master tattooist who sees her pristine white skin as the perfect canvas for his art. The image of the large demonic spider that he emblazons across Otsuya’s back marks her as the property of another man, radically altering her relationships with all around her as her personality transforms under its influence. Available for the first time outside of Japan in a new 4K restoration, Irezumi sports some of Japanese cinema’s most respected talent of its day both in front of and behind the camera. The cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Ugetsu) captures the sensual atmosphere of the period setting, while the script by Kaneto Shindo (Onibaba, Kuroneko) lends a modern twist to this feverish meditation on obsession and the act of creation.

After making his classic in Ride the High Country, director Sam Peckinpah took a step towards the epic with 1965’s Major Dundee, coming out on Blu-ray June 29. The drama behind the camera matched the action in front of it. Charlton Heston stars as Major Amos Dundee, a vainglorious Union Cavalry officer, who mounts an expedition to hunt down Apache war chief Sierra Charriba. Building his own army of criminals, ex-slaves and Confederate POWs — among them one Captain Ben Tyreen (Richard Harris), whose intense former friendship with Dundee is tainted with a sense of betrayal on both sides — Dundee heads into Mexico, his eye fixed firmly on a last shot at greatness. Legendarily acerbic, Major Dundee would be the first time that Peckinpah had a movie taken away from him. While a director’s cut may be lost to us, the limited edition shows the thrilling, morally complex epic that Peckinpah was aiming for. The stellar supporting cast includes James Coburn, Warren Oates and L.Q. Jones.

‘Donnie Darko’ 4K Ultra HD, ‘Elvira’ Blu-ray Among Titles Available From MVD and Arrow in April

Donnie Darko on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark on Steelbook Blu-ray, and two 1970s cult films on Blu-ray, Switchblade Sisters and Death Has Blue Eyes, are available in April from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

Richard Kelly’s debut feature Donnie Darko (2001) is coming to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray April 27 in a two-disc set that includes both the theatrical and director’s cut. Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as a cult classic. Donnie is a troubled high school student: in therapy, prone to sleepwalking and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. During that time, he will navigate teenage life, narrowly avoid death in the form of a falling jet engine, follow Frank’s maladjusted instructions and try to maintain the space-time continuum. Described by its director as “The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick,” Donnie Darko stars Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross and Noah Wyle and features a soundtrack of 1980s classics by Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. The new 4K restorations of both the theatrical cut and the director’s cut from the original camera negatives by Arrow Films were supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster and feature Dolby Vision. The release includes a 100-page hardcover book featuring writing by Nathan Rabin, Anton Bitel and Jamie Graham; an in-depth interview with Richard Kelly; an introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal; and contemporary coverage, illustrated with original stills and promotional materials. It also includes a double-sided fold-out poster featuring newly commissioned artwork by Luke Preece; six double-sided collector’s postcards; and limited edition packaging with a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Luke Preece. Both discs include numerous extras, including commentaries and featurettes.

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Horror icon Elvira’s big screen debut Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) is coming to Blu-ray in a Steelbook special edition April 27. In the film, having just quit her job as a Los Angeles TV horror hostess, Elvira receives the unexpected news that she’s set to inherit part of her great aunt Morgana’s estate. Arriving in the small town of Fallwell, Mass., to claim her inheritance, Elvira receives a less than enthusiastic reception from the conservative locals — among them, her sinister uncle Vincent, who, unbeknownst to Elvira, is in fact an evil warlock secretly scheming to steal the old family spell book for his own nefarious ends. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark helped solidify the horror hostess (played by Cassandra Peterson) as a major pop culture icon. Featuring a 2018 restoration from a 4K scan of original film elements, the release includes an introduction by director James Signorelli; 2017 audio commentary with Signorelli, hosted by Fangoria editor emeritus Tony Timpone; 2017 audio commentary with Patterson Lundquist, www.elviramistressofthedark.com webmaster and judge of U.S. TV show “The Search for the Next Elvira”; “Too Macabre – The Making of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark,” a 2018 version of this feature-length documentary on the making of the film, including interviews with various cast and crew and rare never-before-seen archival material; “Recipe for Terror: The Creation of the Pot Monster,” a 2018 version of this featurette on the concept and design of the pot monster, as well as the film’s other SFX; original storyboards; extensive image galleries; original U.S. theatrical and teaser trailers; a limited edition Steelbook featuring newly produced artwork; and a limited edition booklet featuring a foreword by writer and director Sam Irvin and writing on the film by Kat Ellinger and Patterson Lundquist.

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From Jack Hill, director of Spider Baby, Coffy, Foxy Brown and The Swinging Cheerleaders, comes the 1975 grindhouse classic Switchblade Sisters, due on Blu-ray April 27. In the film, Lace (Robbie Lee), the leader of inner-city girl gang the Dagger Debs, meets her match when new girl Maggie (Joanne Nail) moves into the neighborhood. Mistrust and conflict turn to friendship as the girls end up in Juvenile Detention together at the mercy of abusive guards. Meanwhile, the Dagger Debs’ male counterparts the Silver Daggers have to contend with the arrival of a new gang, led by the villainous Crabs (Chase Newhart). But when the girls get back on the streets, a planned retaliation strike in tandem with the Silver Daggers backfires and puts Lace in hospital. Maggie assumes control, teaming up with Muff (Marlene Clark) and her gang of African-American militants from across town to declare all-out war, but there’s a traitor in their midst. Extras include a new audio commentary by historians/critics Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger; “We Are the Jezebels,” an archival documentary featuring director Jack Hill, producer John Prizer, casting director Geno Havans, production designer B.B. Neel, stunt coordinator Bob Minor, and stars Joanne Nail, Asher Brauner, and Chase Newhart; “Gangland: The locations of Switchblade Sisters,” an archival documentary in which Jack Hill and filmmaker Elijah Drenner revisit the shooting locations; Jack Hill and Joanne Nail at the Grindhouse Film Festival, a 2007 archival interview with the director and actor; an interview with Jack Hill, Robbie Lee and Joanne Nail, an archival 1990s interview with the director and stars in conversation with Johnny Legend; galleries of behind the scenes stills, international posters, video covers and lobby cards; theatrical trailers; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil; and, for the first pressing only, an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Heather Drain.

Available now is Death Has Blue Eyes (1976) on Blu-ray, a paranormal action thriller from the director of the cult classic Island of Death (1976). In the film, when local gigolo Chess (Chris Nomikos) greets his vacationing friend Bob Kovalski (Peter Winter) at Athens airport, the pair embark on a string of scams and erotic dalliances that eventually lead them into contact with an elegant wealthy woman Geraldine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin) and her glamorous daughter Christine (Maria Aliferi). Geraldine blackmails the two bachelors into acting as bodyguards for Christine, whom it transpires has telepathic abilities and has had her eye on them for some time. After fleeing from a series of assassination attempts, it soon becomes clear that Geraldine herself might not be quite who she seems, as the two young men find themselves caught up in a political conspiracy of international dimensions. In his debut feature, filmmaker Nico Mastorakis presents viewers non-stop car, bike and helicopter chases, a bevy of beautiful girls with guns, softcore sex scenes, psychic thrills, and Cold War political intrigue set against the picturesque landscapes of 1970s Greece. The release features a new restoration from the original camera negative approved by the director; two versions of the film, the widescreen 1.85:1 version and the full-frame 1.33:1 version; an exclusive new interview featurette with Nico Mastorakis; an exclusive new interview with actress Maria Aliferi; “Dancing with Death,” tracks from the Death Has Blue Eyes original soundtrack; original theatrical trailers; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys; and, for the first pressing only, an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Julian Grainger.

Poe-Based ‘The Bloodhound,’ Japanese ‘Invisible Man’ Classics Due on Blu-ray in March From MVD

Two Arrow Video mystery thriller releases, the double feature The Invisible Man Appears/The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly and The Bloodhound, are coming to Blu-ray in March from MVD Entertainment Group.

Released outside Japan for the first time, The Invisible Man Appears and The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly are available on one Blu-ray March 16. Unique riffs on H.G. Wells’ classic character (though undoubtedly also indebted to Universal’s iconic film series), these are two of the earliest examples of tokusatsu (special effects) cinema from the legendary Daiei Studios. In The Invisible Man Appears, written and directed by Nobuo Adachi in 1949, a scientist successfully creates an invisibility serum, only to be kidnapped by a gang of thugs who wish to use the formula to steal a priceless jewel. In addition to being the earliest surviving Japanese science fiction film ever made, the film’s  special effects were an early credit for the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya, five years before he first brought Godzilla to life. Eight years later, Mitsuo Murayama’s The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly tells the story of a series of mysterious murders where the only clue is strange buzzing noise at the scene of the crime. Could it be linked to secret wartime experiments in shrinking humans to the size of insects? And can a scientist who’s just invented an invisibility ray be the one to stop it? Extras include “Transparent Terrors,” a newly filmed interview with critic and genre scholar Kim Newman on the history of the ‘Invisible Man’ in cinema; the theatrical trailer for The Invisible Man Appears; image galleries for both films; a reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork by Graham Humphreys; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Keith Allison, Hayley Scanlon and Tom Vincent.

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Due March 23 is The Bloodhound (2020). First-time feature director Patrick Picard brings a fresh take to one of the best-known stories from the master of mystery and the macabre Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher. Francis (Liam Aiken, A Series of Unfortunate Events), a dispossessed young man, is summoned to the secluded home of his wealthy childhood friend, J.P. Luret (Joe Adler, The Maze Runner), who is suffering from a mysterious affliction. Upon his arrival, Francis realizes that J.P. and his ethereal twin sister Vivian (Annalise Basso, Ouija: Origin of Evil) are the sole surviving members of the privileged Luret family, whose legacy has been one of depression and self-destruction, and are the only occupants of their family estate. As the old friends attempt to reconnect, a number of inexplicable incidents begin to occur within the house, and Francis finds himself drawn into a world of malaise and despair, where an act of betrayal might provide his only way out. From Leal Naim and Thomas R. Burke, producers of The Endless and Synchronic, The Bloodhound explores themes that are as relevant to today as ever, such as the yearning for emotional connection, the perils of social isolation and the fragility of mental health. Extras include audio commentary by Picard and editor David Scorca; four experimental short films by Picard; “On the Trail of The Bloodhound: Behind the Scenes of a Modern Chiller,” a 45-minute making-of featurette; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel.

‘The El Duce Tapes,’ ‘Shogun’s Joy of Torture’ Due on Blu-ray in February From MVD and Arrow

The El Duce Tapes and Shogun’s Joy of Torture are coming to Blu-ray Disc in February from MVD Entertainment Group and Arrow Films.

The El Duce Tapes comes out Feb. 9. In the early 1990s aspiring filmmaker and part-time actor Ryan Sexton grabbed a camcorder and followed shock rockers The Mentors into the sleaziest and grimy clubs in the Hollywood area. The band, known for wearing black executioner masks over their heads, caused controversy wherever they went with their vulgar lyrics and decidedly non-PC approach. Sexton kept the cameras rolling at all times while putting a special focus on the band’s infamous singer-drummer, El Duce. Now 30 years later, filmmakers Rodney Ascher and David Lawrence have taken the footage and edited it together as The El Duce Tapes, a documentary that John Carpenter has praised as “dark and irresistible.” The Blu-ray Disc comes with special features including unused VHS footage, brand-new audio commentary, and an interview with Steve Broy, aka Dr. Heathen Scum of The Mentor.

On Feb. 23 comes Teruo Ishii’s euro-guro Japanese drama Shogun’s Joy of Torture. This 1968 anthology includes three different tales of crime and punishment, all based on true-life cases. This precursor to Toei’s “pinky violent” films of the 1970s isn’t for the easily squeamish. The opening credits feature a decapitation and a burning at the stake. The film is presented in high-definition and includes a new audio commentary, an interview on the work of Ishii, and a feature that explores the history of Japanese exploitation.

Tremors (Limited Edition)

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD/Arrow;
Horror;
$49.95 Blu-ray, $59.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Victor Wong, Bobby Jacoby, Ariana Richards, Charlotte Stewart, Tony Genaro.

The original Tremors was such an unassuming creature-feature at the time of its release in 1990 that it’s hard to believe it spawned a massive franchise of seven movies and a TV show over the course of 30 years.

Of course, while that first film was the only one released in theaters, the direct-to-video follow-ups have been hugely important in maintaining its status as an iconic cult hit while expanding on the mythology of the deadly Graboids. As a result, the first film holds up remarkably well to the passage of time, maintaining a timeless quality owing to its uncomplicated depiction of small-town American life, and subsequent films’ ability to maintain that charm despite the advent of technological progress.

This new Arrow Films boxed set is a definitive archive of the original Tremors, containing a sharp new transfer of the film and a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes material.

The film stars Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as a pair of hard luck handyman servicing the small town of Perfection in the remote desert of Nevada. When the area is besieged by giant worm-like monsters called Graboids that tunnel though the ground to eat people and livestock, the surviving residents band together to defend their homes from the creatures.

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While the film was shot in 1989, it seems much closer to something one might find in the mid 1990s. It also feels like a throwback to 1950s monster movies, thanks to some nice visual effects work that makes use of practical methods such as miniatures and puppets, rather than the CGI that would come along later (and be used in some of the direct-to-video sequels). The performances, creature effects and offbeat tongue-in-cheek humor make the film, and the franchise, a lot of fun.

Among the more memorable characters are Burt and Heather Gummer, a couple of doomsday preppers played by Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. The role marked the acting debut of country music superstar McEntire, while Gross was just coming off playing the pacifist left-wing dad on “Family Ties,” so playing a paramilitary survivalist was an interesting change of pace for him. Given a chance to expand the role in subsequent sequels increased Burt’s popularity with audiences to the point where he eventually became the face of the franchise — including headlining the seventh movie that just came out in October. Gross is the only actor from the original to appear in all seven films and the TV show (though he wasn’t in every episode).

Also on hand is young Ariana Richards, who would turn up three years later in a similar running-from-monsters role in Jurassic Park. Richards would also return to Perfection in 2001 for the third “Tremors” movie.

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Among the tidbits gleaned from the copious retrospective bonus material, the film was developed under a variety of titles, such as Land Shark and later Beneath Perfection, the preferred title of the creators. To appeal to Japanese investors, Universal Studios changed it to the earthquake-flavored Tremors.

The movie comes with two new commentary tracks — one by director Ron Underwood and co-writers Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson; the other by fan and Tremors expert Jonathan Melville, who also contributes an essay about the history of the film’s sequels to a nice booklet included with the set.

In addition to deleted scenes, the 1996 making-of featurette and EPK profiles from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases, there are also hours of new retrospective featurettes, starting with the half-hour “Making Perfection,” a new documentary produced by Universal. “Making Perfection” includes interviews with several of the filmmakers and cast from the original film, including Bacon, Gross and Richards, and even ropes in Jamie Kennedy, a co-star of the fifth and sixth films.

Other new featurettes include a discussion of the development of the movie with co-producer Nancy Roberts; an interview with cinematographer Alexander Gruszynski; and a discussion of the music of the film with its composers.

Most interesting is a look at the visual effects, which is accompanied by some test footage.

Also included is a montage of edits made to the film to sanitize it for broadcast TV.

The only drawback to the set is that the 4K Ultra HD box isn’t a combo pack. Both the 4K and Blu-ray sets include two discs — one with the film and most of the extras, and a second with a few more supplements. The first disc is either 4K or standard Blu-ray depending on the format indicated on the box, while the bonus disc in both versions is the same standard Blu-ray. The 4K does not include a standard Blu-ray version of the film, so collectors who want that 1080p copy for whatever reason will have to decide between buying both Arrow editions, or keeping their old Universal Blu-rays around.

Extras on that second disc include additional “Making Perfection” interviews, a gag reel, early short films from the creators of Tremors, and footage from a 2015 Q&A event with several cast members and filmmakers conducted at a 25th anniversary screening at the Arclight Hollywood.

Other goodies in the box include a two-sided 16×20-inch poster containing the film’s original poster art on one side and the DVD art on the other; a mini-poster highlighting Graboid anatomy; and lobby cards with images from the film.

 

‘Gamera’ Film Sets Coming to Blu-ray Jan. 26 From Arrow and MVD

Three “Gamera” kaiju film sets are coming to Blu-ray Jan. 26 from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

The Gamera: The Showa Era set includes four discs with Gamera: The Giant Monster, Gamera vs. Barugon, Gamera vs. Gyaos, Gamera vs. Viras, Gamera vs. Guiron, Gamera vs. Jiger, Gamera vs. Zigra and Gamera Super Monster. As giant monsters rampaged the Japanese cinematic landscape during the “kaiju boom” of the mid-1960s, Daiei Studios introduced a new character to the screen that would be embraced for generations: Gamera, the giant, flying, fire-breathing turtle, and friend of all children. Buried under the Arctic ice for several millennia, the colossal chelonian is unleashed upon Japan, leaving havoc in his wake. After becoming an unexpected box office sensation, Gamera returned several more times, leaping to the world’s defense against a motley assortment of evil creatures, from the death-ray-shooting flying terror Gyaos, to the knife-headed alien menace Guiron, to the underwater invader Zigra. The discs feature numerous extras, including commentaries, intros, making-of featurettes, galleries and more.

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Gamera: The Heisei Era features four discs with the films Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris as well as a bonus disc with Gamera the Brave, a mix of family-friendly adventure and kaiju action that is the most recent Gamera film to date. After laying dormant for 15 years, Gamera was rebooted for the big screen in this trilogy masterminded by director Shusuke Kaneko (Necronomicon), writer Kazunori Ito (Ghost in the Shell) and SFX director Shinji Higuchi (who went on to co-direct Shin Godzilla). Trading the campy kid-friendly surrealism of the earlier films for a darker, more realistic tone and innovative special effects, the films in the “Heisei trilogy” are still regarded as three of the best — if not the very best — kaiju films ever made. The discs feature numerous extras, including commentaries, intros, making-of featurettes, galleries and more.

The limited-edition Gamera: The Heisei Era Steelbook release includes three discs featuring the trilogy.

Gamera: The Heisei Era steelbook

‘JSA: Joint Security Area,’ ‘Southland Tales’ on Blu-ray in January From MVD and Arrow

JSA: Joint Security Area and Southland Tales are coming to Blu-ray in January from MVD Entertainment Group and Arrow Video.

On Jan. 19 comes JSA: Joint Security Area (2000), a thriller from Park Chan-wook. It follows a Swiss-Korean major as she leads an investigation into a shooting incident at the North/South Korean border that results in two Korean soldiers’ death. The film became the highest-grossing Korean film when it was released and won multiple awards for best film. In 2009, director Quentin Tarantino placed JSA among his top 20 films since 1992. Special features include new audio commentary by writer and critic Simon Ward; an isolated music and effects track; a newly recorded video interview with Asian cinema expert Jasper Sharp; two archival featurettes on the film’s production; a series of archival introductions to the film by members of the cast; a behind-the-scenes montage; opening ceremony footage; two music videos, “Letter from a Private” and “Take the Power Back”; the theatrical trailer; a TV spot; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kieran Fisher.

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On Jan. 26, Arrow will release Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, starring Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore and Seann William Scott, among others. The story about a conspiracy involving an action film star stricken with amnesia, a porn star with reality TV dreams and a police officer was panned during its 2006 release. Yet, over the years, the film has maintained a strong, loyal fanbase that continues to grow, with many admiring the film’s attempt at doing something grand. Arrow gives the film a new lease on life with new 2K presentations of the film, approved by Kelly, in both the 145-minute theatrical cut and the 160-minute “Cannes cut.” Special features include audio commentary on the theatrical cut by Kelly; “It’s a Madcap World: The Making of an Unfinished Film,” a new in-depth retrospective documentary on the film, featuring contributions by Kelly and members of the original crew; an archival featurette on the making of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew; “This is the Way the World Ends,” an archival animated short set in the Southland Tales universe; the theatrical trailer; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacey; and a limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Peter Tonguette and Simon Ward.

‘Lake Michigan Monster,’ ‘Silent Running’ Among Titles Due on Blu-ray in November From MVD and Arrow

Lake Michigan Monster, Silent Running, Burst City and He Came From the Swamp: The William Grefe Collection are coming to Blu-ray in November from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

Lake Michigan Monster (2018), due Nov. 3, is an action-packed tale of nautical derring-do and monster mayhem. It was the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Feature at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival. The low-budget film — shot with most of the cast also performing multiple roles behind the camera — is a love letter to the sci-fi creature features of the 1950s. This story about an eccentric ship captain determined to tame the beast that slew his father was shot on 16 mm black-and-white film and is the stuff of Saturday matinees. On the shores of Lake Michigan, the eccentric Captain Seafield (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, who also writes and directs) enlists a colorful crew of misfits in a bid to slay the hellish sea monster that prowls the murky depths. But as Seafield’s obsession with exacting revenge on the creature that killed his father threatens to consume him, can weapons expert Sean Shaughnessy (Erick West), sonar whiz Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters) and former N.A.V.Y. — Nautical Athletes and Adventure Yunit — officer Dick Flynn (Daniel Long) hold the show together? Extras include two commentaries and multiple interviews.

Killer sharks, human jellyfish and living mummies appear in the first ever collection of works by William “Wild Bill” Grefé, the maverick filmmaker who braved the depths of the Florida everglades to deliver outrageous exploitation fare. Bringing together seven of Grefé’s most outlandish features, all new to Blu-ray, He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefé Collection, due Nov. 24, features demented jellyfish men (Sting of Death, 1966), zombified witch doctors (Death Curse of Tartu, 1966), homicidal hippies (The Hooked Generation, 1968) and seductive matrons (The Naked Zoo, 1971) — not to mention the ubiquitous go-go dancing college kids. Also in the collection are The Psychedelic Priest (1971), Mako: Jaws of Death (1976) and Whiskey Mountain (1977).

Burst City (1982), due Nov. 10, features dystopian sci-fi, Mad Max-style biker wars against yakuza gangsters and the police, and performances from members of the real-life Japanese punk bands The Stalin, The Roosters, The Rockers and INU. In a derelict industrial wasteland somewhere on the outskirts of Tokyo, two rival punk bands and their unruly mobs of fans gather for a Battle of the Bands-style protest against the construction of a nuclear powerplant, bringing them head to head with the yakuza industrialists behind the development of their turf. This extraordinary celebration of Japan’s punk music scene of the early 1980s thrust Sōgo Ishii (now known by the name of Gakuryū Ishii), the underground filmmaking wunderkind behind such works as Half Human: Einstürzende Neubauten (1986), Angel Dust (1994) and Electric Dragon 80,000V (2001), to the next level and is cited as an early landmark in Japanese cyberpunk cinema.

Due Nov. 17 is Silent Running (1972). Visual effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull (The Andromeda Strain, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) contributed to the ground-breaking special photographic effects of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Four years later, he stamped his own indelible mark on the science fiction genre with his directorial debut — Silent Running. In the not-so-distant future, Earth is barren of all flora and fauna, with what remains of the planet’s former ecosystems preserved aboard a fleet of greenhouses orbiting in space. When the crews are ordered to destroy the remaining specimens, one botanist, Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern), rebels and flees towards Saturn in a desperate bid to preserve his own little piece of Earth that was, accompanied only by the ship’s three service robots.

The Last Starfighter (Limited Edition)

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD/Arrow;
Sci-Fi;
$39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Lance Guest, Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Preston, Dan O’Herlihy, Norman Snow, Dan Mason, Chris Hebert, Barbara Bosson, Vernon Washington.

In the decades since its release, The Last Starfighter has proved to be one of the seminal space fantasies of the 1980s, and Arrow Video’s new special-edition Blu-ray gives it the treatment it deserves.

On the surface, the 1984 space adventure would appear to be a mish-mash of a few of the biggest trends at the time. The plot is a bit Star Wars meets Tron, involving a teenager named Alex (Lance Guest) living in a trailer park and dreaming of a better life as he distracts himself playing a video game called Starfighter. After he sets the high score on the machine, he learns it’s a recruitment tool monitored by a fast-talking alien named Centauri (Robert Preston of The Music Man in his final film role) who wants him to become a warrior for an interplanetary alliance preparing to fend off an invasion, joining the ranks of the starfighters — who serve as elite gunners for the Star League’s fighting ships.

However, when an attack cripples the fleet and kills all the other starfighters, Alex is left as the final hope for the galaxy, aided by his pilot and navigator, Grig, a humanoid lizard played by Dan O’Herlihy, who is perhaps best known as the old man from Robocop.

Overt parallels with the story of Arthur pulling the sword from the stone are no accident, as screenwriter Jonathan R. Betuel had been reading The Once and Future King when he got the idea of substituting a video game for Excalibur.

The film story also offers a touch of The Wizard of Oz in its tale of someone transported from obscurity to a strange land and confronted with the task of freeing it from evil.

But in focusing on the sci-fi and video game crazes that dominated the era, the film and its notion of fanboys becoming the next Luke Skywalker was the ultimate fantasy fulfillment for boys (and perhaps a few girls) growing up in the ’80s.

As if Alex’s offworld adventures weren’t enough, the film adds a subplot about a robot lookalike sent to replace Alex on Earth so no one will notice he’s missing. This dovetails into yet another plot thread of the film, a love story, with Alex promising to take his girlfriend (Catherine Mary Stewart) away to a better life. His robot doppelganger, however, throws a complication into their relationship with his awkward attempts to understand humanity. He’s also the target of alien bounty hunters who want to eliminate the last starfighter to ensure the invasion goes smoothly — the robot serving as a nice decoy while the real Alex prepares for his mission. (The film is at least wise enough to broach the question of why the robots aren’t doing the fighting, even if it doesn’t want to delve too heavily into the answer.)

So, with these additional elements, the presages elements of Starman, which came out later the same year, as well as 1999’s Galaxy Quest, another story of people connected to fictional space adventure discovering the fantasy is real.

It almost seems like too much stuffed into one movie, but director Nick Castle makes it work, aided by several energetic performances and a rousing musical score by Craig Safan. The worldbuilding is sufficient enough to warrant a sequel, but one never emerged despite a few ideas being kicked.

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The bigger irony may be how the film’s credits promote a tie-in video game, which would seem to be an obvious marketing tool for the film, but Atari never got around to making it. A few games based on the film did pop up over the years, but most of these were just retools of pre-existing games, and certainly didn’t match the gameplay depicted within the film itself. As chronicled in the Blu-ray extras, one fan did manage to eventually program a Starfighter cabinet that served as a reasonable facsimile to the game as depicted within the movie.

While the trope of a video game as a recruitment tool has been aped in subsequent movies and TV shows, in terms of film history The Last Starfighter might be most notable as one of the first films to use extensive CGI for visual effects, particularly using computer animation to depict things meant to exist in reality — in this case for all the spaceflight shots. Before this, CGI had been limited mostly to depicting displays on computers and in simulations. Even in Tron, which came out two years earlier in 1982, the CGI effects were used to depict the digital landscape within a computer.

Though the effects were groundbreaking at the time, they are far from photorealistic and still carry the obvious sheen of early CGI, reminiscent of how video games looked in the 1990s. The filmmakers in various bonus materials discuss how time limitations forced them to not fully develop some of the shots as detailed as they would have liked, or the movie could have taken another year to finish. But it was an important step in advancing the technique for visual effects within the industry. For context, it was only nine years before Jurassic Park, and 11 years before the first Toy Story.

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The new Arrow Video edition is a huge improvement over the previously released Blu-ray from Universal Pictures, which originally distributed the film in theaters. The picture and sound are a step up thanks to Arrow’s fresh remastering of the film elements.

In addition, the bonus materials from previous releases have all carried over alongside a trove of new ones.

Among the legacy materials are a 32-minute, four-part making-of documentary from the 1999 15th anniversary DVD, a 25-minute retrospective featurette from the 2009 25th anniversary Blu-ray, several photo galleries and the film’s trailers. There’s also the informative 1999 DVD commentary by Castle and designer Ron Cobb, who just died this past September.

Among the new extras are two additional commentary tracks, both of which are worth a listen. One is by Mike White of “The Projection Booth” podcast, which is a bit more of a fan’s perspective on the film and it’s place in the sci-fi genre. The other is star Lance Guest with his 16-year-old son, Jackson, which serves as a nice inter-generational reflection.

The new featurettes are a series of retrospective interviews with people involved with the film: 10 minutes with Stewart, 12 minutes with Safan, 10 minutes with Betuel, and 10 minutes with special effects supervisor Kevin Pike.

There’s also an eight-minute video of sci-fi author Greg Bear discussing Digital Productions, the effects house that used a Cray supercomputer to render the film’s CGI.

Rounding out the package is an eight-minute interview with arcade game collector Estil Vance, the aforementioned fan who took it on himself to re-create the game as depicted in the film.

 

Mallrats (Limited Edition)

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD/Arrow;
Comedy;
$39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong language, including sexual dialogue, and for some scenes of sexuality and drug content.
Stars Shannen Doherty, Jeremy London, Jason Lee, Claire Forlani, Michael Rooker, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Renee Humphrey, Ehtan Suplee, Priscilla Barnes, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Stan Lee.

A box office bomb upon its release, director Kevin Smith’s second feature, 1995’s Mallrats, has since developed a huge cult following for an embrace of a nerd culture that was well ahead of its time.

Smith had already introduced his pop culture proclivities with the previous year’s indie darling Clerks, but Mallrats was his first big-studio effort, though aimed at the same basic target audience. (In fact, Smith recounts in one of the new interviews included with this Blu-ray that he pitched it as “Clerks at a mall”).

Though one of the film’s producers considered it ahead of its time, the financial and critical drubbing endured by Mallrats led Smith back into the realm of indie production, where he’s pretty much spent his entire feature directorial career since (the exceptions being 2010’s Cop Out for Warner, his only film he didn’t also write, and directing for television, mostly episodes of Warner’s Arrowverse here and there).

With Mallrats, Smith began to lay the foundation for his own cinematic universe, long before Marvel Studios came along. In addition to the return of Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith), there are references to other characters and events mentioned in Clerks. And Smith would continue to mine the Mallrats cast for his future projects, reteaming with the core trio of Ben Affleck, Jason Lee and Joey Lauren Adams two years later for Chasing Amy, his heartfelt return to the indie fold.

What Mallrats is perhaps best known for, however, is the lengthy cameo by comic book icon Stan Lee. While the former Marvel Comics publisher had made a handful of movie and TV appearances beforehand, his role in Smith’s film is generally considered the genesis of a cinematic tradition that saw him appear in nearly every Marvel movie since — so much so that in one of his final cameos, for the ’90s set MCU prequel Captain Marvel, Lee is seen rehearsing his lines for Mallrats.

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The new Arrow Video edition of the film is a big step up from the previous Blu-ray released by Universal in 2014, which was basically just a re-creation of the 10th anniversary DVD set from 2005.

Arrow has restored both the 95-minute theatrical cut and the half-hour longer extended edition that first appeared on that earlier DVD. The new Blu-ray also adds a third version: the 85-minute TV-suitable cut featuring some amusing overdubbing of Jay’s dialogue with a noticeably different voice since Mewes didn’t show up to re-record his dialogue.

The always loquacious Smith provides new introductions for the theatrical and TV cuts, while he and producer Scott Mosier’s introduction for the extended cut comes from the old DVD (and Blu-ray).

Other new extras include an informative half-hour reflection from Smith about the making of the film; a 13-minute remembrance by Smith of producer Jim Jacks, who was the one who predicted the film’s audience would eventually grow to find it; a 10-minute retrospective from Mewes, who expected to be fired from the role he originated in Clerks due to his acting inexperience (Smith recounts the studio wanting Seth Green or Breckin Meyer to play Jay); a six-minute interview with cinematographer and frequent Smith collaborator Dave Klein; and Hollywood of the North, a 10-minute animated documentary about the local crew that worked on the film when it was shot in Minnesota.

The two-disc set also includes nearly two hours of footage from the film’s dailies, plus an extensive photo gallery.

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Carryovers from the previous releases include an hour of deleted scenes, eight minutes of outtakes, nine minutes of on-set cast interviews, a 22-minute archive making-of, a 10th anniversary Q&A with Smith running nine minutes, a “Build Me Up Buttercup” music video, and a featurette about the soundtrack.

The disc also comes with an essay booklet and a reversible slipcover containing both new box art and the classic poster art.

Not everything carried over, however. Among the missing extras from previous releases are a 10th anniversary cast reunion Q&A, a 10-year retrospective featurette, and a collection of vignettes offered as Easter eggs. So, collectors may want to hold onto that 2014 Blu-ray, but between that and the new version, Arrow’s edition is the one to get.