Comedy ‘Clifford,’ Peckinpah’s ‘Killer Elite’ Among Titles Due on Blu-ray From Ronin Flix and MVD June 7

The comedies Clifford and The Heavenly Kid and the action films The Killer Elite, from director Sam Peckinpah, and The Mechanic, starring Charles Bronson, are being released on Blu-ray June 7 from Ronin Flix and MVD Entertainment Group.

Starring Martin Short (Three Amigos, Innerspace) as a smart, hyperactive and dangerous 10-year-old, Clifford (1994) co-stars Charles Grodin (Midnight Run, The Heartbreak Kid), Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard, Time After Time) and Dabney Coleman (9 to 5, WarGames). In the film, young Clifford has a lifelong dream: to visit the Dinosaur World theme park. Happily, his uncle Martin (Grodin) has agreed to take him. But when Martin suddenly reneges on his promise, Clifford hatches a devious plan to get even and teach his uncle that all work and no play makes Clifford a very bad boy.

In The Heavenly Kid (1985), Lenny Barnes (Jason Gedrick, Iron Eagle, TV’s “Boomtown”) gets divine intervention to educate him in the ways of love from a hip guardian angel, Bobby Fantana (Lewis Smith, Wyatt Earp, Southern Comfort, TV’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth”), a former rebel-without-a-cause. Fantana helps to mold Lenny into the king of cool so Fantana can finally earn his entry into Heaven. After Bobby gives Lenny an extreme makeover, Lenny learns that being popular isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The film also stars Jane Kaczmarek (TV’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” D.O.A., All’s Fair), Richard Mulligan (TV’s “Empty Nest,” Soap, Scavenger Hunt) and Nancy Valen (TV’s “Baywatch,” Final Embrace). Special features include interviews with stars Lewis Smith and Nancy Valen; audio commentary by director Cary Medoway, moderated by Jeff McKay; and the theatrical trailer.

In Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite (1975), elite assassins Mike Locken (James Caan, Rollerball, The Godfather, Misery) and George Hansen (Robert Duvall, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather) take on jobs too risky for even the CIA to handle. They’re best friends, superior marksmen and on the ‘A’-list when it comes to killing. But when one high-powered hitman betrays another, the intrigue, the violence and the thrills become more than just a dangerous game of who-kills-whom first. It becomes a very personal war. Directed by Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, The Getaway, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia), the film also stars Arthur Hill (Future World, The Andromeda Strain, Harper), Bo Hopkins (A Small Town in Texas, Mutant, Midnight Express), Burt Young (Rocky, Amityville II, Convoy), Mako (The Sand Pebbles, An Eye for an Eye, Conan the Barbarian), Helmut Dantine (The Story of Mankind, The Wilby Conspiracy) and Academy Award winning actor Gig Young (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Game of Death, The Tunnel of Love). Special features include interviews with Bo Hopkins and production assistant Katy Haber; audio commentary with film historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and Nick Redman; TV and radio spots; and the original trailer.

In The Mechanic, Arthur Bishop (Charles Bronson) is a mob hit man who operates in an uncompromising world where conventional rules of morality don’t apply and one wrong move could cost him his life. He’s always worked alone; but, as age catches up with him, Bishop takes on a competent and ruthless apprentice and teaches him everything he knows. Together they become an unmatchable team of globetrotting killers until the pupil’s ruthlessness puts him on a collision course with his teacher. Special features include an interview with writer Lewis John Carlino; audio commentary with author Paul Talbot (“Bronson’s Loose” book series); audio commentary with cinematographer Richard H. Kline, moderated By Nick Redman; and the theatrical trailer.

King Kong (1976)


Shout! Factory;
$34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jessica Lange, Rene Auberjonois, John Randolph, Jack O’Halloran, Ed Lauter.

As cinema in the 1970s turned toward gritty realism and bold, thematic filmmaking, producer Dino De Laurentiis decided to stage a remake of the 1933 classic King Kong, updating the story with a contemporary setting and modern visual effects.

The original Kong had famously used stop-motion animation for the giant ape, blended into the live-action sequences to depict an expedition to a mysterious island in the Pacific Ocean, where the crew encounters Kong, who becomes infatuated with the only woman in the group. Kong is captured and brought to America to be put on display, but quickly escapes and rampages through New York, finding the blonde from the island and climbing with her to the top of a skyscraper.

In the 1933 version, it was a film crew seeking exotic locations that discovers Kong, who winds up climbing the just-completed Empire State Building at the end.

For the update, director John Guillermin and screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr., who was best known for developing the 1960s “Batman” TV series, played into current events by making the expedition about an oil company looking for resources to fight the energy crisis. The basic story would play out much the same way, with Kong at the end scaling the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, which had just been built in the 1970s.

A young Jeff Bridges would play a primatologist and photographer interested in investigating rumors about the island. And the blonde love interest would be played by Jessica Lange, who gives an extremely sexy turn in her screen debut.

The visual effects would be a mix of green-screen composites, rear projection and makeup effects whiz Rick Baker in an ape costume, with rather obvious giant mechanical ape hands for close-ups when the ape is holding Lange.

While praised in their day, the effects are rather dodgy by today’s standards, and the problems in scaling are rather obvious.

The visual effects team even constructed a life-size animatronic Kong, but it didn’t work very well and only appears in a handful of shots (it’s most visible in the wide shot of the scene in which Kong is unveiled to the crowd in New York wearing a crown).

Still, the visuals speak to the ambitious nature of the project, which had a lot more luck in the gorgeous cinematography of the island’s beaches and jungles before Kong shows up. This is an unmistakably ’70s picture, and the luscious romantic score by John Barry further cements its identity as a production of its time.

Notably, when Peter Jackson did his own remake for Universal in 2005, he maintained the characters and settings of the original version and made it a period piece set in the 1930s. Interestingly enough, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, which is one of the the precursors to Godzilla vs. Kong and as such is essentially the first half of the traditional Kong story, showcasing his discovery on the island but not his capture or exploitation in America, is also a period piece, set in the 1970s.

Shout! Factory’s new two-disc Blu-ray presents two versions of the 1976 version. First is the theatrical cut that runs about two hours 14 minutes and features a restored stereo audio track in addition to the 5.1 DTS-HD track. The film looks great, though some scenes tend to be grainier than others due to the different types of film stocks used at the time.

The theatrical cut disc also includes an informative commentary from film historian Ray Morton, author of King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon. While he does comment on specific scenes from time to time, his presentation reads more like a prepared essay about the making of the film and its context within the overall legacy of the Kong character.

This disc also contains a number of standalone interviews with some of the filmmakers who worked on the film, including Rick Baker, actor Jack O’Halloran, assistant director David McGiffert, production manager Brian Frankish, sculptor Jack Varner, second unit director William Kronick, photographic effects assistant Barry Nolan, and production assistants Jeffrey Chernov and Scott Thaler.

The disc also includes a gallery of marketing images, and a collection of trailers, TV spots and radio ads.

The second disc contains the three-hour TV broadcast version of the movie, in which 45 minutes of deleted scenes have been added back in. This version has been reassembled using 2K scans from the internegative so it can be shown in high-definition. TV standards from the 1970s and 1980s would have only required a lower-resolution workprint for broadcast. The TV version isn’t presented as a single movie, but rather in the two parts that the network would have shown over a two-night span, with the recap of night one that led off the second part intact. While the option for a single three-hour presentation would have been welcome, it’s still nice to have the extended cut as a viewing option in better quality than from someone’s VHS of taping it when it aired.

This disc also includes a 2016 panel discussion of the film from a 40th anniversary screening conducted at the Aero Theater, featuring some of the same filmmakers who are interviewed on the first disc.

Scream Factory Releasing 1976 ‘King Kong’ Remake on Blu-ray

Indie distributor Shout! Factory’s horror imprint, Scream Factory, is releasing a collector’s edition of the 1976 King Kong remake for the first time in North America May 11.

The updated ’70s version from producer Dino De Laurentiis and director John Guillermin features scheming oil company executive Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin) raiding an exotic island to harvest its resources despite the warnings of Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges), a scientist who sneaks aboard their ship. The expedition also encounters an aspiring actress named Dwan (Jessica Lange in her first film role), who escaped from a wrecked yacht. Upon reaching the island, they discover the giant ape Kong, and use his infatuating with Dwan to capture him with the intent of bringing him to America and cash in by putting him on display. When Kong escapes and rampages throughout New York City, Jack and Dwan devise a plan for the beauty to subdue the beast at the top of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

Scream Factory’s two-disc Blu-ray set will include both the 134-minute theatrical cut with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio and a newly restored DTS-HD 2.0 theatrical stereo track; and the extended 182-minute TV broadcast version with a new 2K scan of the additional TV footage from the internegative.

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King Kong (1976)

The theatrical cut disc will include a new audio commentary with film historian Ray Morton, author of King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon. Other new extras include an audio interview with special makeup effects wizard Rick Baker; “Something’s Haywire,” an interview with actor Jack O’Halloran; “On the Top of the World,” an interview with assistant director David McGiffert and production manager Brian Frankish; “Maybe in their Wildest Dreams,” an interview with sculptor Jack Varner; “There’s a Fog Bank Out There,” an interview with second-unit director William Kronick; “From Space to Apes,” an interview with photographic effects assistant Barry Nolan; and “When the Monkey Dies, Everybody Cries,” an interview with production assistants Jeffrey Chernov and Scott Thaler. The disc also includes the theatrical trailer, TV spots, radio spots, and still galleries featuring posters, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes photos.

The extended-cut disc will include a panel discussion about the film conducted in 2016 at the Aero Theater.

Fans who order the Blu-ray from will also receive an exclusive poster featuring brand-new artwork, while supplies last.

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