Juggernaut

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/13/23;
Kino Lorber;
Thriller;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, Anthony Hopkins, Shirley Knight, Roy Kinnear, David Hemmings, Ian Holm, Clifton James, Freddie Jones.

Juggernaut was the thinking person’s answer to Irwin Allen, a disaster film in name only cooked up by United Artists PR flacks looking to cash in on a rapidly dwindling craze that would soon be bottom-lined to extinction. (The Hindenburg, released in 1975, sounded the official death knell for the sub-genre.) What was the one commonality between Juggernaut and Earthquake, Towering Inferno, Airport, etc.? A line of celebrity headshots strung across the bottom of the poster. What kept 1974’s Juggernaut afloat was the one thing the competition failed to consider. For a change, the disaster was being driven by an artist who cared, Richard Lester.

Lester was not producer David V. Picker’s first choice to direct. Bryan Forbes was announced, but backed out as did his successor Don Taylor. Unable to find a reason why the project wasn’t to their liking, I reached out to “Coffee Coffee and More Coffee’s” Peter Nellhaus who could only “assume Forbes and Taylor wanted more prep time when production logistics demanded a hard start date.” Picker’s third choice proved to be the charm: the two had previously worked together on A Hard Day’s Night. Lester was in Spain finishing work on the Musketeers pictures when he got the call. Three weeks later he was on location in the North Sea. (Much of the picture was shot aboard a real ocean liner.) This wouldn’t be the first time Lester acted as the hired gun needed to turn a mess into a miracle. (Those who have seen the abysmal so-called “Donner cut” of Superman II know what I mean.) Lester hired British playwright and scenarist Alan Plater and together they rewrote the script much to the dismay of the film’s producer and credited screenwriter, Richard Alan Simmons. Dissatisfied with the finished product, Simmons signed the film as Richard DeKoker.

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Much of the story is based on fact. A terrorist’s call to cruise line managing director Porter (Ian Holm) brings news that seven bombs hidden inside the ocean liner SS Britannic are set to explode in 24 hours if his ransom of £500,000 isn’t met. Any attempt to move the canisters will cause them to spontaneously combust. The film alternates between the police tracking down the culprit and munitions experts Fallon (Richard Harris) and Braddock (David Hemmings) working to defuse the bombs. The boys are so good at what they do that they can afford to be cocky. Clichés go unspoken. Rather than a character instructing police to trace a call, Lester simply cuts to a bank of clicking relay switches. Disaster films tended to come with built-in play-by-play narrators whose function it was to keep the audience abreast of every calamitous situation: “Look! There’s a tidal wave coming off the starboard bow!” Lester would have none of that. When Fallon is called upon to describe the action, he does so to bring Braddock up to speed while at the same time insulting a group of bigwigs listening in on the extension. If anything, during times of disaster, very little dialogue was spoken. On Lester’s watch, passengers amounted to more than comic relief and/or designated victims. It’s Clifton James’ small town mayor who was the first to question why the ship is sailing in circles. 

Lester asked himself “What would Irwin Allen do?” and then proceeded to do the exact opposite. There’s no formal introduction of characters, no “Love Boat” boarding list to billboard the stars, several of whom had signed on before Lester took control. Secondary cast members are introduced when Social Director Curtain (Roy Kinnear) greets them, his arms loaded with ritualistic bon voyage streamers. When Curtain assures a rock band that they’ll enjoy throwing them, the quizzical stoners take him at his work and toss them to the side. Credit Lester regular Kinnear with a career best. As the ship’s unnervingly cheery master of ceremonies, Curtain supplies comic relief to passengers and viewers alike. It’s through Curtain that the director’s obsession with silent slapstick comedy shines through. A faulty gyroscope provided Kinnear ample room to rock to and fro when the cruise hits rough waters. He’s also trusted to deliver the film’s most endearing homage. When asked by a worried passenger if everything is all right, Curtain promises, “A night to remember.” And let’s not forget Kinnear’s string of under-his-breath dubbed-in asides worthy of Popeye.

A few clichés proved unavoidable. Captain Omar Sharif’s affair with Shirley Knight goes nowhere, as does a young boy taking leave of his mother for a private tour of the ship. And as subdued as Harris is, his character is allowed one blow-up scene that must have influenced “SCTV” alumni Dave Thomas’ dead-on parody in The Man Who Would Be King of the Popes. The real life bomb threat that formed the basis for the film turned out to be a hoax. That’s more than can be said for the explosion crater Juggernaut left at the box office. Audiences looking for a mindless action film were greeted by a smart film with action.

Special features include a new commentary track by film historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson, as well as a trailer and TV spot.

‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,’ ‘Robocop’ on 4K Among Titles Due in April From Arrow and MVD

Six titles, including two new box sets and three 4K Ultra HD releases, are available in the April lineup from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, from legendary Shaw Brothers’ director Lau Kar-leung, makes its American Blu-ray debut April 5. In the film, General Yeung Yip and his sons are ambushed and brutally attacked, leaving Yip and all but two of his sons killed or captured. One son, Yeung Chiu (Alexander Fu Sheng), returns home to his mother and sisters. The other son, Yeung Dak (Gordon Liu), goes to live in a monastery where he develops the eight diagram pole fighting technique. After one of their sisters is captured, Dak is driven with anger to return home and exact his revenge. The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter was one of the last great martial arts epics to be released by the famous Shaw Brothers studio. However, the film is also remembered for the great tragedy that struck during filming. Star Fu Sheng tragically died in a car accident midway through production. As a result, Kar-leung reworked the final half of the script, turning it into the ultimate action spectacular as a tribute to his young star. This Arrow release features a brand-new 2K restoration from the original camera negative and comes loaded with bonus content.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is available on 4K Ultra HD April 12. Kenneth Branagh directs and stars alongside an all-star cast that includes Robert De Niro, Helena Bonham Carter and Ian Holm in this cinematic telling of the influential gothic tale. At the turn of the 19th century, scientist Victor Frankenstein (Branagh) is determined to conquer human morality. His attempt at playing God results in the creation of a hideous monster (De Niro). The film earned an Oscar nod for Best Makeup and seven nominations at the Saturn Awards. Arrow brings the film to 4K for the first time with a brand new restoration from the original camera negatives. The release includes a slate of new special features, including a documentary on the origins and evolution of the Frankenstein story. 

April 12 also marks the release of Robocop in a limited edition 4K Ultra HD steelbook. This sci-fi classic, about a terminally injured cop (Peter Weller) that returns to the line of duty as a cyborg advertised as the future of law enforcement, introduced Hollywood to the wild world of director Paul Verhoeven. The film is making its global debut in 4K, with a restoration approved by Verhoeven. Included in this limited edition release are both the theatrical and director’s cuts of the film.

On April 19, Arrow will release Rogue Cops & Racketeers: Two Crime Thrillers by Enzo G. Castellari on Blu-ray. One of the most influential Italian genre directors of all time, Castellari made a name for himself helming titles such as Keoma and The Inglorious Bastards. Arrow presents two of Castellari’s action-packed titles in one set. First up, is 1976’s The Big Racket, in which a gang of goons attempts to bring an Italian city to its knees by extorting money from local shops and bar owners. Unfortunately for them, Inspector Palmieri (Fabio Testi) is on the scene. The film is notable for a death-defying stunt that sees Testi trapped in a car that goes tumbling down a ditch. Rounding out the set is Castellar’s The Heroin Busters. Testi returns, this time as an Italian police officer that goes undercover to bring down an international heroin smuggling ring. While on the job, he and a hot-tempered Interpol agent (David Hemmings) working the same case, butt heads. The limited-edition two-disc set includes brand-new 2K restorations for both films, new audio commentary tracks and new interviews.

Arrow will release their second set of Claude Chabrol films on April 26 with Twisting The Knife: Four Films by Claude Chabrol. This four-disc set brings together four films from the later part of Chabrol’s career starting with 1997’s The Swindle. In that film, Victor (Michel Serrault) and Betty (Isabelle Huppert) are a pair of small-time scam artists that travel in their camper van from business convention to business convention robbing unsuspecting businessmen. Betty sets her sights on something more ambitious and convinces Victor to take on a mark with a potential payday of 5 million Swiss francs. The pair soon realize they’re in over-their-head and must fight for their lives. In The Color of Lies, a 10-year-old girl is found murdered in a small town. René (Jacques Gamblin), her art teacher, is the last one to see her alive and instantly becomes a prime suspect. Chabrol partnered with Huppert once more for the 2000 psychological thriller Nightcap. Huppert stars as Mika, owner of a Swiss chocolate company and the first wife of renowned pianist André Polonski (Jacques Dutronc). After André’s second wife dies, he remarries Mika. Soon an unsuspecting visitor arrives, bringing with her revelations of foul play and long-hidden family secrets. The final film on the set is 2003’s The Flower of Evil, in which a wealthy family living in Bordeaux sees their perfect life come crashing down when the wife of the family, Anne (Nathalie Baye), decides to run for mayor. A political smear campaign reveals secrets of an old murder scandal that threatens to bring the family down. The Flower of Evil was nominated for Best European Film at the 18th annual Goya Awards. Bonus content on the set includes new 4K restorations; new audio commentary tracks; new interviews; and an 80-page collector’s booklet of new writing by Sean Hogan, Brad Stevens, Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Pamela Hutchinson.

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The month comes to a close on April 26 with the 4K Ultra HD upgrade of Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi thriller 12 Monkeys. Set in a future world that is ravaged by disease and death, the film stars Bruce Willis as a convict sent back in time to find the original virus and help develop a cure. Brad Pitt earned an Oscar nomination for his turn as Jeffrey Goines, a mental patient with environmentalist and anti-corporatist views. This new release comes with archival bonus content and a limited-edition illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Nathan Rabin and Ian Christie.

40th Anniversary Edition of Sci-Fi Classic ‘Alien’ Coming to 4K UHD Blu-ray April 23 From Fox

The sci-fi classic Alien will come out on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc with a new 4K UHD master April 23 for its 40th anniversary from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

A limited edition 4K UHD Steelbook of the Alien 40th Anniversary Edition will also be available exclusively at Best Buy.

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In the film that birthed the successful franchise, the crew of the deep space tug Nostromo awaken from stasis during a voyage home to Earth when their ship’s computer detects what is believed to be an alien distress signal coming from the desolate nearby moon, LV-426. While investigating, one of the crew, Kane (John Hurt), is attacked by an alien creature that latches to his face and he is rushed back to the Nostromo to receive medical treatment. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the ship’s warrant officer, advises against Kane’s return due to quarantine regulations — but her orders are ignored by Ash (Ian Holm), bringing the Nostromo under threat from a mysterious, extraterrestrial apex predator with violent and lethal survival instincts.

Special features include:

  • the 1979 Theatrical Version;
  • the 2003 Director’s Cut;
  • the 2003 audio commentary by Ridley Scott and the cast and crew;
  • the 1999 audio commentary by Ridley Scott (1979 theatrical version only);
  • the final theatrical isolated score in Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 theatrical version only);
  • the composer’s original isolated score in Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 theatrical version only);
  • and deleted scenes.

 

The film was restored in 4K in 2018 by 20th Century Fox at Company 3/Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, supervised by Ridley Scott and Pam Dery, with the 4K scans done at EFilm.