DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Can't Stop the Music

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1980 was a special year. It was a time when producers wanted to give the world disco-laden musicals long after disco died, just barely missing the trend while spending an unfortunate amount of money to bring colorful fantasies to life. The year delivered "The Apple" and "Xanadu," but the first one out of the gate was "Can't Stop the Music," which was proudly promoted as the cinematic experience of the 1980s, while featuring talent from the 1970s. It's better known as the origin story for Village People, a singing group famous for hits such as "Macho Man" and "Y.M.C.A." It's their "Bohemian Rhapsody," only slightly more believable, with director Nancy Walker and co-producer Allan Carr using the camp factor of the band to launch their version of 1930s musical, doing whatever they can to maintain the fun factor of a production that's in dire need of a tighter edit and a 1978 release date. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Mountaintop Motel Massacre

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1983's "Mountaintop Motel Massacre" requires a great deal of patience from the viewer. It's not something that leaps off the screen, with director Jim McCullough Sr. (Jim McCullough Jr. takes care of scripting duties) taking his time building mood with the picture. The first act is slow and relatively uneventful, but once the characters all fall into place, "Mountaintop Motel Massacre" reveals itself to be a different kind of slasher film, at least with its unexpected antagonist and strange acts of menace. There's no masked killer here preying on coeds, with McCullough Sr. looking for weirder ways to dispatch personalities who've made the mistake of stopping to rest at a rural Louisiana motel. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Satan's Slave

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For his first horror outing, director Norman J. Warren doesn't quite lunge for a fear factor with 1976's "Satan's Slave." Instead of winding up suspense and unleashing terror, he's made an incredibly talky endeavor that's big on fine performances but low on chills. There's no visceral rush to be found in the endeavor, which strives for more of a psychological freak-out, only turning to random blasts of ultraviolence when Warren realizes that characters conversing for so long doesn't exactly encourage a macabre joyride. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Blackout

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Before "Die Hard," there was "Blackout," with the 1978 release trying to raise some hell with a cop vs. baddies war set inside a high-rise building. It's a scrappy Canadian production trying to play into disaster movie trends, using the real-world nightmare of the 1977 New York City blackout to inspire sleazy violence and lackluster supercop heroism. It's certainly aggressive, but also sloppy, delivering drive-in thrills with limited appreciation for tight editing and multi-character juggling. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Nightbeast

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A B-movie director who never seems to possess a budget that matches his visual ambition, Don Dohler found some success with 1976's "The Alien Factor," which managed to find its audience in the late-'70s cable scramble for everything sci-fi. He went on to make "Fiend," another chiller, but with 1982's "Nightbeast," Dohler returns to his first inspiration, basically remaking "The Alien Factor" with a slightly higher budget and slightly lower standards. Instead of trying to mount a semi-thoughtful understanding of human impatience when dealing with the unknown, Dohler kicks out the jams and launches "Nightbeast" with oodles of gore and nudity, also doing away with the concept of alien complications, making the monster here pure evil and in a mood to eliminate as many earthlings as possible. It's a sleazy, violent adventure, also identifying the helmer's newfound disregard for nuance, going full steam ahead into R-rated waters. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Savage Harbor

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When there's a sleazy, violent human trafficker taking over the streets of San Pedro, California, who are you gonna call to save the day? Well, Frank Stallone, of course! The actor/musician/famous brother returns to screens with 1987's "Savage Harbor" (aka "Death Feud"), which pairs him with another notable last name, Christopher Mitchum, tasked with portraying a couple of sailors just looking for some time away from ships, soon getting caught up in the local area's prostitution scene, challenging a crime boss for the safety of women everywhere. Writer/director Carl Monson ("Please Don't Eat My Mother!") isn't big on production polish, simply trying to deliver a VHS-ready actioner with some skin, horrible human behavior, and close-ups of a snarling Stallone, who takes to the hero role with visible discomfort, perhaps fully aware of what kind of movie he's making. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Lust in the Dust

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1985's "Lust in the Dust" is a great example of a movie with incredible potential that falls just short of satisfaction. It's an eager endeavor from director Paul Bartel, who's trying to pants spaghetti westerns through the power of camp, offering the sight of Lainie Kazan and Divine as siblings in the old west, with Tab Hunter trying to keep up as a gunslinger. The poster, the premise, and the performances are all there, promising a romp, but Bartel struggles to keep "Lust in the Dust" on its feet. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Evil Town

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Crazy doesn't even begin to describe the viewing experience of "Evil Town." The picture began life in the mid-1970s under the creative guidance of Curtis Hanson. The helmer eventually left the project, requiring others to pick up the slack, with the original version of the feature released in 1977. Producer Mardi Rustam wasn't about to let the project die an unprofitable death, returning in the early 1980s to film new footage, editing fresh storylines into the flow of the earlier production, eventually issuing the movie on VHS in 1987. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Seduction

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After going down the slasher route with 1979's "Tourist Trap," writer/director David Schmoeller pulls back on overt chills with 1982's "The Seduction," with the film taking its time developing menace, using stalker formula to carefully increase suspense. The helmer has the right idea but lackluster execution with the endeavor, which, despite clear tech triumphs and a few strong performances, never gets rolling as a thrill machine. It's too static to summon fear, with Schmoeller avoiding direct momentum in an effort to gift the feature a certain level of regality it doesn't earn. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Frankenstein Created Woman

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1967's "Frankenstein Created Woman" is not one of finest productions to emerge from Hammer Films. However, it's representative of their business goals in the 1960s, with director Terence Fisher delivering a modestly frightful tale of murder and resurrection, filling the frame with loathsome characters, weird science, Peter Cushing, and heaving cleavage from a Playboy Playmate. It's an engaging picture but never a remarkable one, with Fisher going a bit too slack with genre elements, never quite tightening the vise as uncomfortably as he could. It's not showy work, but for fans of Hammer Horror, "Frankenstein Created Woman" checks off all the boxes on the company's to-do list, providing a gothic ride of genre oddity and British rigidity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Brief Encounter

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1945's "Brief Encounter" is widely regarded as one of director David Lean's finest films, gracefully bringing to the screen a bittersweet tale of forbidden love as originally conceived by Noel Coward. It was a massively popular picture that's only grown in stature over the years, but after a period of time, another version of the tale was ordered up, this time going to television with the saga. Star power was provided by Sophia Loren and Richard Burton (a last-minute replacement for Robert Shaw, who decided to take another job -- something about a killer shark), with hopes to recreate the chemistry and ache that came before, only here the experience would be modernized some for the 1970s. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Iron Warrior

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After directing two features concerning the exploits of Ator, a barbarian-style warrior in a barren fantasy land, director Joe D'Amato elected to stand down as the guide on this B-movie tour. 1987's "Iron Warrior" returns to the world of Ator and his sluggish instincts, with Alfonso Brescia taking control of the franchise, making his mark by changing almost everything about the saga, with the exception of actor Miles O'Keeffe, who's called in to do the hunky adventurer routine for another round of swordfights and princess rescue. Changing what wasn't really working to begin with isn't a problem, but Brescia goes above and beyond with "Iron Warrior," using this chance to craft a surreal odyssey into pure filmmaking, shedding logic, continuity, and storytelling to mount a semi-psychedelic exploration of witchcraft and Saturday matinee-style peril. There are numerous cinema tributes (or rip-offs) as well, keeping the viewing experience compelling as the helmer liberally takes from others while attempting to generate the most freewheeling Ator extravaganza yet. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - When a Stranger Calls Back

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As with many horror films, 1979's "When a Stranger Calls" was a self-contained story, without major franchise plans to explore in multiple sequels. However, the movie was a hit, and with success comes a demand for more. Interestingly, co-writer/director Fred Walton didn't jump on a continuation right away, moving on to other projects such as "The Rosary Murders" and "April Fool's Day," working on his craft before returning to the source of his first helming achievement. Theatrical dreams dissipate for 1993's "When a Stranger Calls Back," with the feature made for the cable market, ultimately presented on Showtime, which was experimenting with original content at the time. The downgrade in theatrical possibilities is clearly displayed in the follow-up, as "When a Stranger Calls Back" doesn't feel cinematic. It plays smaller and boxier, but Walton still know how to trigger a response from viewers, conjuring a semi-remake that works familiar beats of torment while adding a few new wrinkles to the case, while the production smartly turns to stars Carol Kane and Charles During to add gravitas whenever possible. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Jeffrey

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"Jeffrey" began life as a play, with writer Paul Rudnick searching for a way to express his frustrations with the age of AIDS without losing his sense of humor. The production was praised and popular with audiences, ultimately making a leap to the big screen in 1995, with Rudnick taking command of the screenplay, while original director Christopher Ashley took the opportunity to make his feature-length helming debut. As transitions from the stage to movie theaters go, this wasn't a radically altered endeavor, which is perhaps why "Jeffery" works so well, with Rudnick successfully reworking the sometimes broad material for the intimacy of cinema, dealing with close-ups and deep feelings without sacrificing the bounciness of the original work. Humor hasn't been steamrolled by the production, which tries to stay on its feet while dealing with profound issues of fear and loss. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Boom!

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In 1968, "Boom" was a bomb written by Tennessee Williams and starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. These days, the feature has new life a cult title, with certain audiences embracing the picture's volatile nature and unforgettable decoration. "Boom" isn't an easy movie to admire, but for those who elect to work on it, this adaptation of Williams's play, "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore," provides some funky highlights, offering the rare chance to watch two major stars try to make sense of a languorous art film that has no distinct identity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Street Fighter's Last Revenge

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"The Return of the Street Fighter" pushed the titular character into a super-spy direction, giving him a suave presence to best boost the sequel's appeal to audience and play into the trends of the day, with Roger Moore's take on James Bond reaching audiences around the globe. In 1974's "The Street Fighter's Last Revenge," the producers give star Sonny Chiba a chance to fully graduate to a 007-type, finding a once feral character transformed into man of style and action, with a few tricks up his sleeve. "The Street Fighter's Last Revenge" seems miles away from the original picture, as the final film in the trilogy offers an increase in production polish and fantasy, losing much of the edge that fueled the first two chapters. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Return of the Street Fighter

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Sonny Chiba battles his way into new danger with 1974's "The Return of the Street Fighter." Well, at least semi-new danger, with the production returning a few old enemies to the roster of baddies who want Chiba's seemingly immortal character dead. While brutality remains, this round of martial arts mayhem is noticeably calmer than the previous chapter, with director Shigehiro Ozawa offering more style and 007-esque entanglements, taking the opportunity to refine the "Street Fighter" formula. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Street Fighter

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The man, the myth, the legend, Sonny Chiba, cements his position as a martial arts movie draw with 1974's "The Street Fighter," delivering a full- body performance that single-handedly keeps the sometimes iffy feature together. He's a force of nature here, going nuclear for director Shigehiro Ozawa, who assembles a competent run of combat sequences, making the most of his star, who's always ready to deliver with full power, Kabuki- style reactions, and a deep commitment to a tale that's not as interesting as he is. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dances with Wolves

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For the first time, Shout Factory brings the Theatrical Cut (181:06) of "Dances with Wolves" to Region A Blu-ray, offering admirers a chance to revisit the original edit of the picture, previously available on disc via an Extended Cut (233:49), which is also included in the package. While the Extended Cut provides a special viewing experience more in line with the material's literary origin (developing its darkness and characterization), the Theatrical Cut is best known, representing the version most audiences connected with back in 1990. While there isn't a new scan to savor, Shout Factory steps up to deliver the best possible package with available materials, offering a 3-disc set that collects previous supplements to best archive the history of the picture. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Pledge

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The experience of pledging a fraternity has been used to power many tales of discomfort, horror, and humiliation. It's a setting that permits numerous opportunities for excess and exploitation, encouraging a high level of screen chaos to accurately represent hellacious behavior from problematic personalities. In recent years, dramatic offerings such as "Goat" and "Burning Sands" have dissected the psychological fracture of hazing, examining the blurred lines of brotherhood, but "Pledge" doesn't share the same delicate understanding of need. It's a horror experience from director Daniel Robbins and screenwriter Zack Weiner, and one that delivers all types of torturous actions and survival panic. It's a refreshingly short, straightforward nightmare that benefits from simplicity, generating a visceral viewing event that's periodically interrupted by cartoonish extremes. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com