‘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.

Total Recall

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 12/8/20;
Lionsgate;
Sci-Fi;
$22.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside, Marshell Bell, Roy Brocksmith.

The latest edition of the 1990 sci-fi classic offers a new Ultra HD transfer and some engaging new retrospective bonus features that should please fans.

Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1966 short story ‘We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” the film that eventually became Total Recall went through dozens of script revisions before ending up in the hands of director Paul Verhoeven, who had just had a massive success in the sci-fi/action genre with RoboCop.

At one point Richard Dreyfuss was attached to star, playing a meek accountant who awakens hidden memories that he is, in fact, a deadly secret agent. When Arnold Schwarzenegger signed on, the character was changed to a construction worker, as the writers felt a character played by the famed muscle-man would not be believable having a number-crunching desk job. (Interestingly, four years later in True Lies Schwarzenegger would play a secret agent pretending to be a boring family man.)

Verhoeven’s version, set in the late 21st century, involves Schwarzenegger’s Doug Quaid attempting to break from the monotony of his life by visiting Rekall, a company that specializes in implanting memories of exotic vacations. However, Quaid’s attempts to implant a trip to Mars seems to trigger a dormant memory that he’s actually a spy named Hauser working with a revolutionary movement at the colony on the red planet. The unsurfacing of these memories prompts the Martian administrator (Ronny Cox) to send a security team to subdue Quaid, who manages to stay one step ahead thanks to clues his alter ego left himself, but who also wonders if this whole adventure might be nothing more than a dream.

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Even after 30 years, the film holds up as a pulse-pounding actioner with sumptuous visuals, snappy quips and a fair share of laughs.

The film is filled with over-the-top violence, a particular trait of Verhoeven’s style. Ronny Cox, who was so effective as the heavy in RoboCop, takes on a similar role here. Legendary tough guy Michael Ironside, who plays the leader of the hit squad after Quaid, had been in line to play RoboCop before dropping out, Verhoeven said, but ended up working with the director here, as well as in 1997’s Starship Troopers. Meanwhile, Sharon Stone, a mainstay of bit parts throughout the 1980s, got a lot of attention playing Quaid’s supposed wife, leading to Verhoeven casting her in his 1992 thriller Basic Instinct, a role that would catapult her to superstardom.

According to Verhoeven on the film’s commentary, a planned sequel to Total Recall would have adapted Dick’s Minority Report and involved Schwarzenegger leading a team of psychics — mutated Martian colonists — to prevent crimes before they happen. Eventually Minority Report ended up a standalone movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise.

The 30th anniversary Blu-ray set of Total Recall features a new 4K transfer by StudioCanal overseen by Verhoeven. The image retains a fair amount of grain to retain that film look, while giving the color palette a bit more pop, particular the extensive use of red on Mars.

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Among the extras carried over from earlier home video presentations are a 23-minute featurette about the film’s innovating visual effects, which won a Special Achievement Academy Award (meaning it received so many more nominations than any other film that there was no point in actually voting for a winner along with the other categories). Also included are a vintage eight-minute making-of featurette that seems to have been produced to promote the film’s original theatrical release, and a 30-minute “Imagining Total Recall” behind-the-scenes featurette that first appeared on the film’s 2001 DVD.

Also carried over from that original DVD is Verhoeven’s commentary, which he shares with Schwarzenegger, making for an accent-heavy affair as they discuss the film’s development, its production tricks, story points, and working together.

Newly added for this Blu-ray release are the new hourlong documentary Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood, about the history of the film’s production company — a fun look back at some of the biggest action blockbusters of the 1980s and ’90s.

Also new is the 21-minute Open Your Mind: Scoring ‘Total Recall,’ a featurette in which several music experts discuss Jerry Goldsmith’s memorable score for the film. Finally, there’s the eight-and-a-half-minute “Dreamers Within the Dream: Designing Total Recall,” a look at the production design of the film from concept sketches to final product.

Not making the cut this time around from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases is a half-hour Verhoeven interview, Rekall vacation vignettes, photo gallerys, storyboard comparisons, and other featurettes, including “Visions of Mars.”

Schwarzenegger’s ‘Total Recall’ on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 8

Lionsgate will release the 1990 sci-fi classic Total Recall on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for the first time Dec. 8 in celebration of the film’s 30th anniversary.

The three-disc combo pack will include the film on both 4K and standard Blu-ray, plus a Blu-ray of additional bonus material.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven and inspired by the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, the film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker on Earth in 2084 whose memory implant of a vacation to Mars awakens the dormant personality of a secret agent involved with revolutionary forces on the red planet. The cast also includes Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside, Sharon Stone and Ronny Cox.

Total Recall

The film has been restored by StudioCanal in 4K from a scan of the original 35mm negative. Supervised by Verhoeven, the restoration crew paid particularly high attention to preserving special-effects continuity. Total Recall was one of the earliest films to use computer-generated images for visual effects, winning a Special Achievement Oscar.

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The 4K Ultra HD disc will include the film in Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos sound, plus commentary with Schwarzenegger and Verhoeven, the film’s trailer, the new documentary Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood, and the new featurettes “Open Your Mind: Scoring Total Recall” and “Dreamers Within the Dream: Developing Total Recall.”

The second disc will contain the film on regular Blu-ray, plus the commentary and the two new featurettes. Disc three will be a regular Blu-ray with the Carolco documentary, the trailer, and previously released extras including the documentary “Imagining Total Recall” and the featurettes “The Making of Total Recall” and “Total Recall: The Special Effects.”

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A version of the combo pack in Steelbook packaging will be available exclusively at Best Buy.

Best Buy’s ‘Total Recall’ Steelbook

You Don’t Nomi

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/21/20;
RLJ;
Documentary:
$27.97 DVD, $28.97 Blu-ray;
Not rated.

In general there are two types of movies that might have documentaries made about them generations after their release — the all-time classics, and the notoriously bad ones that now enjoy a certain cult status.

The subject of You Don’t Nomi falls decidedly in the latter category — director Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 bomb Showgirls. The punny title derives from the name of the main character, Nomi Malone — the amped up stripper with attitude played by Elizabeth Berkley in an attempt to shed her straight-laced reputation playing “Jessie” on “Saved by the Bell.”

The highly absorbing documentary isn’t so much an examination of the making of the film as it is a critical re-evaluation of it after a generation of reflection. To wit, how a pair of the most in-demand filmmakers in Hollywood in the early 1990s — Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, could produce the film the Razzies declared the worst of the decade, and whether it was the critical community that got it wrong.

The documentary seems to come down on the side that the critical drubbing was fair, but misplaced. Any critic can rip apart a bad film; the talented ones can appreciate the art of true dreck.

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Director Jeffrey McHale cleverly juxtaposes some of the more outlandish scenes of Showgirls with similar scenes from other films spanning Verhoeven’s career, painting the portrait of a gifted satirist poking fun at his own audience for their desire for sex and violence. Showgirls, then, fits the Verhoeven milleu to a T — an over-the-top indictment of the culture of fame. After coming over from Europe, Verhoeven made a splash in Hollywood with popular sci-fi actioners such as 1987’s Robocop and 1990’s Total Recall, before veering into the realms of sex and noir with 1992’s Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Judging from the clips, the latter two are more in line with the sensibilities of Verhoeven’s European films.

Another segment hilariously shines the light on Berkley’s performance, tracing its roots back to her “Saved by the Bell” days and the infamous episode in which Jessie gets hooked on “caffeine” pills (since network censors at the time wouldn’t let a Saturday morning kids show depict characters using speed). Jessie, like Nomi, has an interest in dance, and one critic can’t help but see the constantly topless Nomi as something of an inversion of the budding feminist Jessie.

Another critic takes it a step further, and ties Jessie’s pill-popping days directly to the legacy of Nomi, claiming Showgirls is the completion of an all-time camp trilogy that includes 1967’s Valley of the Dolls (the dolls of the title being a euphemism for pills) and 1981’s Mommie Dearest.

Like Mommie Dearest and other cult classics such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Showgirls has become a staple of midnight showings and audience-participation screenings. One critic prominently featured in the movie is David Schmader, who has made such a career out of re-interpreting Showgirls as a camp classic that his recorded commentary appears on the actual Showgirls DVD and Blu-ray.

The film even spawned a parody stage musical, with the actress playing Nomi having cut her teeth as Jessie in an earlier “Saved by the Bell” stage farce.

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To his credit, Verhoeven always seemed to embrace the film’s campy reputation, becoming the first filmmaker to actually show up to accept a Golden Raspberry award (Showgirls won a then-record seven Razzies for the 1995 film year, including Worst Picture and Worst Director).

Showgirls still ranks as the highest-grossing ‘NC-17’-rated film, at just over $20 million, and its cult following has made it a top-seller for MGM on home video. But overt sexual content wasn’t apparently what Hollywood wanted from Verhoeven, who revisited the sci-fi genre with his next two films — 1997’s Starship Troopers and 2000’s Hollow Man — before returning to Europe.

‘RoboCop,’ ‘Flowers in the Attic’ on November 2019 Disc Slate From Arrow and MVD

The 1980s sci-fi actioner RoboCop, Flowers in the Attic and a 1950s James Stewart classic western are among the five titles on the November Blu-ray slate from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

Due Nov. 5 is the horror flick Apprentice to Murder. Chad Lowe, younger brother to Rob, stars as Billy, a young man who falls under the spell of folk magic healer Dr. Reese (Donald Sutherland). As the two begin to investigate a strange sickness infesting their community, the lines between good and evil start to blur. Bonus features include a video interview on religious horror with Kat Ellinger, author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine; new audio commentary by author and critic Bryan Reesman; a new video interview with cinematographer Kelvin Pike; a new video interview with makeup supervisor Robin Grantham; the theatrical trailer; and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Haunt Love.

Nov. 12 comes Flowers in the Attic, based on VC Andrews’ novel, a Gothic tale about four siblings locked away in the attic by their evil grandmother (Louise Fletcher). Originally panned by critics, director Jeffrey Bloom’s adaptation has developed a cult following over the years. The new Arrow release comes loaded with special features including new interviews and the original, studio-vetoed ending.

Also due Nov. 12 is Anthony Mann’s Technicolor western The Far Country, in which James Stewart stars as an adventurer that bumps heads with a corrupt judge (John McIntire). Despite being filmed in Canada, The Far Country is one of the rare westerns to be set in Alaska. The two-disc limited edition release features the film in two aspect ratios with a new 4K restoration.

Irvin Berwick’s Hitchhike to Hell hits Blu-ray for the first time on Nov. 19. Inspired by the brutal crimes of the “Co-ed Killer” Edmund Kemper, Hitchhike to Hell is a classic slice of American exploitation. Extras include a newly filmed appreciation by Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower; “Road to Nowhere: Hitchhiking Culture Goes to Hell,” a new video essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas exploring the dark side of hitchhiking in the real world and on the screen; a reversable sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil; and for the first pressing only, a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Heather Drain.

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Finally, Nov. 26 comes Paul Verhoeven’s action classic RoboCop. Set in the not-too-distant future, RoboCop is the story of officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) who is gunned down in the line of duty before being brought back to life as a half-man/half-machine crime-fighter. This new limited-edition release features the director’s cut and the original theatrical release, both presented with a 4K restoration approved by Verhoeven himself. Among the numerous extras are a limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Omar Ahmed, Christopher Griffiths and Henry Blyth, as well as a 1987 Fangoria interview with Rob Bottin and archive publicity materials (some contents exclusive to the limited edition); archive commentary by Verhoeven, executive producer Jon Davison and co-writer Ed Neumeier (originally recorded for the theatrical cut and re-edited in 2014 for the director’s cut); and new commentary by film historian Paul M. Sammon. RoboCop will be available in standard and steelbook editions.