Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things: 4K UHD
(Alan Ormsby, Jane Daly, Jeffrey Gillen, Roy Engleman, et al / 4K UHD Blu-ray / R / (1972) 2022 / VCI Entertainment - MVD Visual)
Overview: The set up: Five young kinky actors and their artistic director come to a desolate and nearly forgotten burial island, complete with a morbid history of MURDER, RAPE, CURSES and DEMONS.
Alan (Alan Ormsby), the brilliant but bizarre Director of the company, has brought them to this foreboding place to dabble in witchcraft; specifically to dig up a fresh corpse and use it in a ritual ceremony which is supposed to raise the dead from their graves.
The pay off: It seems as though Alan has really gathered his children here, only to play a practical joke on them and then to party the rest of the night away. However, the joke’s on Alan. His bizarre ritual ceremony really does raise the dead from their graves ... only they’re in no mood to party!
4K UHD Blu-ray Verdict: In 1973, a relative unknown director,named Bob Clark (who would go on to direct such toothsome fare as A Christmas Story, the original Black Christmas, and to a lesser extent, the Porky’s films) directed (and co-wrote the screenplay) a shoe string budget horror/comedy film, which was eventually released as Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (although it did go by other titles in various other places), that for it’s time was an obvious homage (of sorts) to George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead.
The plot concerns a group of young people, out for a night of debauched merriment. They take a boat to an island and arrive at a creepy old deserted house (is there any other kind?) which is located close to a cemetery. They decide to have a bit of macabre fun and cast some spells to re-animate the dead. Just to up the ante, they unearth one of the corpses (!) and have some deranged fun with it (much to the chagrin of some of the others, I might add).
After a while, the fun of the first half of the film turns to a night of horror as the dead do actually start to rise from the grave! The film then turns to a fully-fledged horror film. If the plot sounds familiar, you’re right. It’s kind of a precursor to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series (with some of the dark humor that Raimi infused into Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, which is my personal favorite of those films).
The film is cast with an ensemble of relative unknowns (but does feature low budget schlock horror-meister, Alan Ormsby, who co wrote the screenplay with Bob Clark, as the male lead). This is the kind of film that was obviously targeted for drive-in viewings, for that scenario mostly catered to an audience that worshiped cheap, low (or barely any) budget, cheese ball horror films (with plenty of blood and gore on tap, of course) and generalized exploitation fare.
As for the film itself, it was shot in 14 days on a low, low budget of $70,000. Clark employed some of his college friends on it, but here now on a wondrously crisp 4K transfer, well, all that was once cinematically shady and dark, unclear and fuzzy has now been gifted new life, if you’ll pardon the pun!
In closing, this is truly a great film within the genre. Had I seen this as a kid, I would have had nightmares for years. It’s not so much that the special effects are good, or that the zombies look like real walking dead, nor that the plot is especially believable. It’s just that the entire movie is so damned creepy!
The way it unfolds makes your flesh crawl. The zombies are really disturbing. And there is something about how aggressive they are that will stick with you long after the movie is over. A few years ago there was an announcement that Gravesend was going to re-make the film, but sadly Clark died in an automobile accident before production plans could get underway.
This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
New 2022 Video Introduction and Q&A with Alan Ormsby
New 2022 – 90-minute Video Documentary DREAMING OF DEATH: Bob Clark’s Horror Films, with many new interviews with cast and crew
Full Commentary Track with Alan Ormsby, Jane Daly and Anya Cronin
Memories of Bob Clark: A video tribute to the late Director
The Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival, May 22, 2007 Q&A. A Video filmed in between a double feature showing of CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY… and DEATHDREAM at the Beverly Cinema
Confessions of a Grave Digger: Video Interview with Ken Goch
Extensive Photo & Poster Gallery
“Dead Girls Don’t Say No” Music video by The Deadthings
“Cemetery Mary” Music video by The Deadthings
Original Theatrical Trailer and Radio Spots
New Special Liner-Notes Booklet written by Patrick McCabe
Madame Claude (2-Disc Limited Edition)
(Françoise Fabian, Klaus Kinski, Dayle Haddon, et al / Blu-ray+CD / R / (1977) 2022 / Cult Epics)
Overview: Following the worldwide smashes Emmanuelle (1974) and The Story of O (1975), influential French filmmaker Just Jaeckin returned in 1977 with the sensual real-life drama Madame Claude.
Starring French New Wave icon Françoise Fabian in the title role along with a sinister Klaus Kinski and lovely Dayle Haddon, Madame Claude is an incredibly timeless look at one of the most controversial figures in recent French history.
Blu-ray Verdict: Originally released as The French Woman in the United States, Madame Claude is a mesmerizing mixture of elegant eroticism and potent political thriller powered by Jaeckin’s inventive direction and an unforgettable score by legendary French composer Serge Gainsbourg.
And just-released, Cult Epics presents Madame Claude in a stunning brand new 4K transfer, supervised by Oscar nominated cinematographer Robert Fraisse, fully loaded with a plethora of new bonus features along with limited editions now coming complete with a bonus CD soundtrack by Serge Gainsbourg featuring Jane Birkin.
Profoundly a thriller, Madame Claude is much more than just a French soft porn flick, take my word for it. Based on an infamous moment in the life of high-end brothel keeper and police informant Fernande Grudet, aka Madame Claude, the film is part ripped-from-the-headlines thriller, part character study, and yes, part soft core erotica.
The President of the United States (Robert Webber) is having difficulty with international relations when it transpires that a Japanese order for Lockheed missiles from his country has been cancelled, leaving the China Seas open to domination by the Communists.
So, he does what anyone in his position would obviously, he takes a break from the heated debate and retires to his office, where there is a surprise waiting for him: a call girl who he is so delighted to see that he immediately seduces her!
What he does not know is that there has been someone snooping around outside, following the prostitute and taking photographs: he is David Evans (Murray Head), and he is involved with a blackmail ring, of course.
We also get an appearance from the great Klaus Kinski as a dodgy and wealthy businessman who always has attractive women hanging off his arms, but it’s the turn of classy French actress Françoise Fabian as the titular role that makes this film what it truly is.
Best known for his Emmanuelle work, the recently-passed director Just Jaeckin was always about foisting his glossy, but vacuous sexual fantasies upon the world, but here in Madame Claude he obviously had ambitions to say something about the double dealings of the men in power in this world. So although we never see the President after the first ten minutes, we do see the effects of his influence.
Thus, for fans of 1970s thrillers with a strong dose of the sexual, this classy release from Cult Epic is a must-have and another tremendously strong aspect of Madame Claude is its original score by the legendary Serge Gainsbourg.
In truth, Gainsbourg’s libidinous music for this film can function as a work unto itself, for it integrates perfectly into the film, functioning to pull together the otherwise disparate elements of the political thriller and the numerous gauzy, very 1970s erotic interludes.
• New 4K HD Transfer (from original 35mm negative) supervised by cinematographer Robert Fraisse
• Original LPCM 2.0 Mono French track
• New DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono French track
• Original Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English track
•Audio Commentary by Jeremy Richey (Author of the upcoming book “Sylvia Kristel: From Emmanuelle to Chabrol”
• Interview with Just Jaeckin (2020, HD)
• Vintage French Theatrical Trailer
• Promotional Gallery
• Cult Epics Trailers
• Dual-layered Disc
• Madame Claude Original Soundtrack CD by Serge Gainsbourg
Marineland Carnival with The Munsters TV Cast
(Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, Butch Patrick, et al / DVD / NR / 2022 / MPI Home Video)
Overview: The Munsters of Mockingbird Lane thrilled audiences of all ages with the weekly spooky comedy series when it originally aired in the 1960s and then through decades of reruns.
Now, for the first time, long-lost television appearances of the cast—Fred Gwynne (Herman), Yvonne De Carlo (Lily), Al Lewis (Grandpa), Pat Priest (Marilyn) and Butch Patrick (Eddie) are available to be enjoyed again in this historical—and hysterical—collection.
DVD Verdict: Marineland Carnival & More Lost Treasures with The Munsters TV Show Cast Members includes the hour-long Marineland Carnival 1965 special, starring the Munsters, a 1966 full-color Munsters-themed “episode” with Fred Gwynne as Herman on The Danny Kaye Show, additional rare skits and vintage talk show interviews with The Munsters TV stars, an all-new featurette (Munster Memories) with Butch Patrick, hit music from the New Christy Minstrels, guest appearances by Edie Adams, Joey Bishop and more delights!
Prior to this DVD release, shot on videotape, the Marineland Carnival: The Munsters Visit Marineland 1965 special was believed to be lost for many years, with only a commercial for the broadcast surviving.
Subsequently, a weathered kinescope print was unearthed, made available for viewing at the Paley Center in New York, and surreptitiously made its way online!
But now, and with the aid of the lovely people over there at MPI Home Video, this delightfully kooky, 52 minute, black and white flashback is here on DVD and is as wondrously brilliant as you could have ever hoped it to be.
Starring Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster), Yvonne De Carlo (Lily Munster), Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster), Pat Priest (Marilyn Munster), Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster), Sid Gould (Tour Guide) and directed by Bob Lehman, The Munsters took in the sights at Marineland ... as only they themselves could do!
That said, you really have to be a devoted Munsters fan, as all they really do is wander around and watch sea life acts do their thing, but nonetheless, the nostalgic aspects of this unearthed gem are ten-fold.
As for the other lost treasures, my personal favorite is the 1966 full-color Munsters-themed “episode” with Fred Gwynne as Herman on The Danny Kaye Show. This is the one where Kaye is at his funniest, in my humble opinion, playing a humorous Dracula news reporter!
The other additional rare skits and vintage talk show interviews with The Munsters TV stars is a joy to behold also, as is Fred playing Herman Munster on the Red Skelton Show, and he and Red cracking each other up without even trying to!
There’s a really fascinating new interview with Butch Patrick, where he reveals how he got to audition for The Munsters. Fascinatingly, he had just finished filming The Real McCoys and had moved back to Illinois with his grandmother, right when The Munsters was being cast.
He had actually already just turned down a role before it due to a make-up issue and the mother and son actors in the pilot were told to be removed by the network if the show was to go forward. He was flown out for a screen test to California and the rest is history!
Oh, and there are some fun commercials included here, as well as some rather lovely guest appearances by Edie Adams, Joey Bishop and one or two more delights too!
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters
(Robyn Lively, Carrie Wampler, Bart Johnson, Brandon Prado, et al / DVD / TV-PG / 2022 / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Overview: When a wealthy businessman learns of his daughter’s sudden engagement to a missionary, he embarks on a quest to keep her closer to home. But when his efforts go awry, he must reconsider what it means to be a strong father.
A heartfelt journey of a parent who is desperately trying to hold on to his children learns to trust in God with their future instead of controlling his daughter’s narrative. The movie explores the widely relatable challenges and joys of parenting and faith.
DVD Verdict: Knowing, going in, that both set of couples, respectively playing Steve and Connie (Bart Johnson and Robyn Lively) and Carlos and Bella (David Barrera and Maria Canals-Barrera), are also married in real life, just made all that plays out here even more realistically enjoyable.
For just like their characters, they are raising children of their own, resulting in an on-screen dynamic that feels authentic and meaningful.
As for the film itself, well, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters teaches important lessons about family values. Indeed, this family-friendly movie doesn’t only benefit children, it also teaches fathers about letting go of their daughters, and to know when to step in to ensure a positive future.
Actors Robyn Lively and Bart Johnson play Connie and Steve, the parents to Zoey, Abby, and Bridget in the movie. The movie starts with Abby, the oldest daughter, coming home from a business trip and surprising the family with the fact that she’s engaged.
Oh, and not only is she giving up her career path at her dad’s office, but she is also running away to Africa with her future husband to care for the poor as missionaries with the church!
Of course, Steve instantly struggles with finding a way to let Abby accomplish her own dreams and start a new path, instead of continuing the dream they have always had together, even the dreams of what her future wedding would look like.
Robyn and Bart who play the husband and wife roles to perfection, as aforementioned, and Abby and her fiance Oz are played by Carrie Wampler and Brandon Prado.
While these are the main characters, other actors that are important to the movie include Kayla DiVenere (as Zoey), Arden Myrin (as Crystal), David Barrera (as Carlos), and Maria Canals-Barrera (as Bella).
Funny to watch, along with heartwarming throughout, the set design is exciting and colorful also and you get the added bonus of learning about Mexican culture through the bright colors and fun decorations on display.
In conclusion, and based on the bestselling book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by author Dr. Meg Meeker, the movie shares heartwarming values that make the whole family comfortable watching it together.
The Dunwich Horror (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
(Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley, Talia Shire, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1970) 2022 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: Riding high on their successful adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe, Roger Corman and American International Pictures took on that other titan of literary terror, H.P Lovecraft, in The Dunwich Horror!
Dean Stockwell stars as Wilbur Whateley, a mysterious young man who travels from the small town of Dunwich to the library of the Miskatonic University which holds one of the only copies of the Necronomicon, a legendary book of occult lore that Wilbur hopes to borrow.
Graduate student Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) falls under his malign influence and travels with him back to his home where Wilbur has plans to use her in a ritual to raise ‘The Old Ones’, cosmic beings from another dimension. But who, or what, is in the locked room at the top of the stairs? And what will happen if they get out?
Blu-ray Verdict: Directed by Daniel Haller, genius art director of numerous Corman classics, this was also the first screenwriting credit for Curtis Hanson, who would later direct the multi award-winning L.A. Confidential.
Newly restored by Arrow Films from the original 35mm camera negative, The Dunwich Horror is among the most successful Lovecraft adaptations ever committed to film, and it has never looked better.
I am not student of Lovecraft, so I cannot comment on the film’s faithfulness to the source material, though I can say that The Dunwich Horror is very evidently an acid-tripping interpretation of it!
The plot structure is rather bizarre, and leaves many questions throughout. For example, what draws Nancy to be so willing to accompany Wilbur in the first place? Regardless, as Nancy withdraws with Wilbur, spending time with him at his family home, a subplot involving her friend and a detective’s pursuit of her is built into the proceedings.
While the plot is full of idiosyncrasies, in some ways they work in favor of the film’s visual tone, which is bizarre and quite atmospheric. There are a handful of nightmarish sequences involving Nancy, one of which has her being caressed by various demonic-looking figures as she sleeps on a bed in a field!
The stylistic imagery that director Daniel Haller utilizes in his approach to the film’s horror elements is psychedelic to the core - given that the film was made in 1969, at the apex of the love generation, this is not surprising. Some who are ardent fans of Lovecraft may find this unfitting, but I thought it was an interesting approach.
A fresh-faced Sandra Dee is likable here, although her character is not well drawn, neither is Stockwell’s, for that matter, but he has enough offbeat charm to draw the audience in.
The film’s finale is rather ridiculous, and at times recalls the gaudiness of an early-1960s Hammer film, but it’s not entirely out of pitch with the rest of the film.
In the end, The Dunwich Horror is a mildly effective film that is largely worth seeing for its imagery and atmospheric nature. It is not particularly thrilling, but it is certainly bizarre enough to keep your attention, that’s for damn sure!
New 2K restoration by Arrow Films from the original camera negative
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original lossless mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by Guy Adams and Alexandra Benedict, creators of the audio drama Arkham County
The Door into Dunwich, a new conversation between film historian Stephen R. Bissette and horror author Stephen Laws in which they discuss The Dunwich Horror, Lovecraft, and their memories of seeing the film on release
After Summer After Winter, a new interview with science fiction and fantasy writer Ruthanna Emrys, author of The Innsmouth Legacy series
The Sound of Cosmic Terror, new interview with music historian David Huckvale in which he takes a closer look at Les Baxter’s score for The Dunwich Horror
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Luke Preece + FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by film critics Johnny Mains and Jack Sargeant
The Executioner Collection [Special Edition]
(Sonny Chiba, Makoto Sato, Eiji Gō, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2022 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: Fists flurry and blood flows as legendary cult director Teruo Ishii (Shogun’s Joy of Torture, Horrors of Malformed Men) joins forces with martial arts legend Shin’ichi ‘Sonny’ Chiba in this bone-crunching double whammy of classic karate exploitation from Toei.
Ryuichi Koga (Chiba) is a descendant of the Koga Ninja school, now earning his living through more nefarious means as a gun for hire. When he is enlisted to take down a drug cartel alongside Hayabusa (Makoto Sato), a disgraced former narcotics detective now operating within the criminal underworld, and renegade Aikido master Sakura (Eiji Gō), tensions grow among this three-man team of ne’er-do-wells as each come to question each other’s motives.
Koga returns in the even more gung-ho follow up, Karate Inferno, as the ringmaster of a gang of thieves plotting to steal a priceless jewel from a master criminal.
Blu-ray Verdict: Making its High Definition home-video debut, The Executioner is presented in both its original Japanese-language version and with the English dub track from the 1970s North American release.
Fans of the Street Fighter star will delight as Chiba pitches himself into a succession of freewheeling action and feisty fight scenes in this double dish of martial arts mayhem, all served up in director Ishii’s characteristically lurid style!
First up is The Executioner (1974), three men, the skilled ninja Ryuchi Koga (Sonny Chiba), the deadly assassin and former drug detective Takeshi Hayato (Makoto Satô), and the criminal and death-row escapee Ichiro Sakura (Eiji Go), are assigned to crush a drug ring which, due to diplomatic connections, is unaccessible to the law.
All three leading men fit their roles very well, Chiba, of course, being the main attraction. The film obviously took a lot of inspiration from Spaghetti Westerns, most obviously from Sergio Leone’s 1966 masterpiece The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (the best Western ever made, and probably my personal choice for the best film ever!).
The introduction of Satô, for example, was almost taken over exactly from Lee Van Cleef’s introduction in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - only this one features explicit gore and loads of sleaze! The character relations also show a resemblance to those in GBU, although the distinction between good and bad is even more vague.
Eiji Tokyo Drifter Go is the one responsible for most of the funny bits. Sonny Chiba’s martial arts are, as always, absolutely amazing, and they come along with loads of brutality. Chiba plays a more likable character here than in the Street Fighter films, but he’s kicking ass the violent way all the same. Beautiful Yutaka Nakajima, who also played the female lead in The Street Fighter, is once again a welcome addition in her role here.
Then we get The Executioner II: Karate Inferno (1974), where a former police captain recruits a group of deadly murderers to remove the corrupt and mafia Yakuza . Their first task is to intercept a briefcase from a band that trafficked drugs.
The opening credits for the film seem like they know what we’re here for, teasing us with a montage of violence and nudity ... and which the film completely fails to deliver on!
In fact, much of it was taken from the first film, and almost all the good bits of the second get shown right there and then, but I digress.
This time solely taken as a slapstick comedy, Karate Inferno is pretty decent, as a stand-alone, sure, and although the humor can be a bit hit and miss, and some of the production looks frighteningly cheap - almost as if the intention was to spoof bad ’70s films, the film manages to keep you watching from start to finish.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio for both films
Original uncompressed English mono audio track for The Executioner
Optional English subtitles
Brand new audio commentary by Chris Poggiali and Marc Walkow
Sonny Chiba, Karate King, a 30-minute featurette on the legendary Sonny Chiba, featuring Grady Hendrix, Tom Mes, Chris Poggiali, Marco Joachim and Seiji Anno, from the band Guitar Wolf
Image galleries for The Executioner and The Executioner II: Karate Inferno
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Lucas Peverill
Lady Whirlwind & Hapkido (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Sammo Hung, Angela Mao, Yi Chang, Carter Wong, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2022 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: When director Huang Feng (The Shaolin Plot) jumped ship from Shaw Brothers to their upstart rivals Golden Harvest, he swiftly launched the career of a Taiwanese ingenue barely out of Beijing opera school named Angela Mao, who despite her fresh-faced femininity became one of Hong Kong’s toughest action icons of the 1970s.
Lady Whirlwind, directed by Huang in 1972, sees Mao dead set on avenging the death of her sister, only to find herself fighting a common enemy alongside the man she wants revenge on.
Hapkido, made the same year, sees her once more pitted against a gang of Japanese thugs, alongside fellow soon-to-be kung fu legends Sammo Hung (Knockabout) and Carter Wong (Big Trouble in Little China) as disciples of the titular Korean fighting style, studying under real-life hapkido grandmasters Ji Han-jae (Game of Death) and Hwang In-shik (The Way of the Dragon).
Blu-ray Verdict: Originally released in the US as Deep Thrust and Lady Kung Fu respectively, these two restored martial arts classics show Mao at her mightiest – every bit as formidable as the great Bruce Lee, whose sister she played in Enter the Dragon the following year.
Released in the United States as Deep Thrust, Raymond Chow’s upstart company sure played it smart with this movie, using Chang Yi as the male lead. Chang Yi was an established Shaw Brothers actor doing martial arts films since about King Cat in 1967, but was shelved due to new talent such as David Chiang and Ti Lung.
Next add Pai Ying for the bad guy. He’s another Shaw Brothers actor who did a fine job as an evil eunuch in the 1971 The Eunuch. Sammo Hung was the martial arts choreographer and with some side burns (quite stylish in 1972, but ridiculous otherwise) he got good screen time as a co-villain.
Bruce Lee had just done Fist of Fury so add the theme of evil Japanese to the mix. Actually the movie still works fine without the subplot, but why not? With all that foundation, the only risky element was casting Angela Mao as the hot kung fu chick female lead.
But, that was really no risk at all. Angela was fabulous despite the otherwise impression that the entire movie was done in one take. Yes, the whole movie seems to have been made with a budget for the price of the rolls of film, with just a few dollars left over to pay the crew, but nevertheless, here I am 40 years later and watching it for the second time on crystal clear Blu-ray from Arrow Films and enjoying every minute of it!
Then we get Hapkido where it’s Korea, 1934. During the Japanese occupation, there is open warfare between rival martial arts schools. There is a fight in the marketplace, and three Chinese students cannot stand the unfair way of students that side up with the invaders, when they gang assault one of the fighting men. Between the three, they send the aggressors away. Retaliation is heavy: their school is destroyed, and they are banished.
This film may be best known for an uncredited cameo from Jackie Chan before he became an international star, but it is a decent film in its own right. While not quite as action-packed as Lady Whirlwind (which came out the same year from the same director), there is a better plot here, and the production value from Golden Harvest is noticeably higher.
Brand new 2K restorations by Fortune Star
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of both films
Original lossless Mandarin mono audio for both films, plus lossless English dubbed mono audio
Optional newly translated English subtitles for both films
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ilan Sheady
DISC ONE – LADY WHIRLWIND:
Commentary by Frank Djeng & Robert “Bobby” Samuels
Commentary by Frank Djeng & Michael Worth
Commentary by Samm Deighan
Lady Whirlwind Speaks, the first part of a newly filmed interview with Angela Mao
Kung Fu Cooking, a newly filmed conversation with Mao’s son Thomas King
Alternate English credits
Hong Kong theatrical trailer, plus US theatrical trailer and radio spot
DISC TWO – HAPKIDO:
Three options of English dub: vintage “kung fu” and “hapkido” dubs in lossless mono, plus 2006 DVD dub in 5.1 surround
Commentary by Frank Djeng & Robert “Bobby” Samuels
Commentary by Frank Djeng & Michael Worth
Lady Kung Fu Speaks, the second part of a newly filmed interview with Angela Mao
Archive interviews with Angela Mao, Carter Wong and Sammo Hung & Yuen Biao
Original vintage featurette showing Ji Han-jae teaching the lead actors hapkido, newly restored in 2K by Fortune Star
Three alternate opening credits sequences (textless, English and US)
Hong Kong theatrical trailers plus US theatrical trailer and TV spot
The Lukas Moodysson Collection [6-Disc]
(Gael García Bernal, Jena Malone, Alexandra Dahlström, Lisa Lindgren, Oksana Akinshina, et al / 6-Disc Blu-ray / NR / 2022 / Arrow Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: Ever since his debut was heralded as “a young master’s first masterpiece” by none other than Ingmar Bergman, director Lukas Moodysson has been hailed internationally as one of Sweden’s greatest filmmaking talents, delighting and confounding audiences in equal measure.
Available together for the first time, Moodysson’s eclectic filmography can now be appreciated as the work of a singular filmmaking voice, as avowedly uncompromising and unabashedly political as it is keenly observed, deeply felt and frequently hilarious.
Blu-ray Verdict: Moodysson’s first film, Fucking Åmål (released overseas as Show Me Love), was quickly heralded as a new queer cinema touchstone and one of the most authentic portrayals of youthful relationships on film.
Åmål is a small insignificant town where nothing ever happens, where the latest trends are out of date when they get there. Young Elin has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to guys, but the fact is that she is inexperienced in that matter.
Another girl in her school, Agnes, is in love with her but is too shy to do anything about it. For a number of reasons, Elin ends up at Agnes’ birthday party as the only guest. They have a girl’s night out together but after that Elin desperately avoids Agnes, refusing to even consider her own feelings toward Agnes.
To my mind what makes this movie touching and pure are the realistic performances and dialogs. Finally some teenagers really played by teenagers! I hate it in a movie when a 16 year old is played by an 25 year old, like very often is the case in Hollywood movies.
Alexandra Dahlström and Rebecka Liljeberg portray their characters in a very pure way and make the emotions and the movie in general realistic. I also love the way Agnes her family is portrayed in the movie.
He swiftly followed this with the bittersweet, satirical 1970s-set Together, in which the inhabitants of a commune try to reconcile their ideals with their hearts’ desires.
It is the 1970s and a group of very different individuals live together as a community. One of the members’ sister, Elisabeth, needs a new place to stay with her children after having had enough of her alcoholic and abusive husband.
Elisabeth is neither a socialist nor a feminist nor into the green movement but ends up loving living in the community where they all learn from each other. The film pokes a little fun of people with strong ideals and square minds whether they be vegans, communists or people who absolutely disgust vegans or socialists.
Anyone who shared a house with many roommates in the 1970’s will particularly relate. Looking as if it’s at least partly improvised or a Real World documentation, each character’s motivations and actions are completely and hysterically believable; from the little kids taking turns playing Pinochet torture to the political uproar caused when the brother brings first an old TV set then meat into the house for the kids, to the various bed-hopping and nosy neighbors!
Indeed, the reactions and actions by the husband are a poignant counterpoint to the goings-on at the commune and really grounds the movie.
Having made a name for himself as the new master of tragicomic, feelgood humanism, Moodysson suddenly frustrated expectations with a trio of startlingly confrontational works; starting with the hauntingly bleak Lilya 4-ever.
While waiting for her mothers reply to take her to the USA, Lilya idles the time away smoking, drinking and having fun with her, too, outcast friend Volodya. In time, the chance of a new life becomes non-existent; her life is going nowhere.
Meeting a young man, she then finds a plane ticket in her hand and a new life in Sweden: a job, an apartment and prospects. All is not what it seems. There shall be work, there shall be housing and there shall be no escape.
Films like this reinforce my awareness of how much crap is spewed out of Hollywood. It makes me feel good that Europeans produce perhaps the best intellectualized and socially relevant cinema in the world, and of course Sweden has this reputation because of the master, so it is fitting that the mantle is perhaps being passed to a worthy successor.
The Acting? First rate, no criticisms here, it does not get in the way of the message, I guess in many ways that is what is important here. It looks, feels real. Perhaps, too real.
The closing sequence with the transition from life to death (with the throwing of the ball) is utterly moving, the eloquence, beauty and incredible cinematography, words cannot describe this. We, at this moment, are almost one with the film, a truly frightening experience conjured by a master of his craft.
Next up is the abrasive, and semi-improvised A Hole in My Heart. Eric is a teenager who lives in a shabby flat with his father, Rickard. Eric spends most of his time holed up in his room, blaring industrial music in order to drown out what’s going on around him.
He has just cause to be a bit disturbed by his surroundings - Rickard is an amateur filmmaker specializing in extreme sex videos, and he’s taken over the living room, where his emotionally disturbed friend Geko and a blank young woman, Tess are starring in his latest project.
As shooting progresses over the course of several days, Rickard and his cast lose track of the outside world and become increasingly desensitized to their own decadence. As the sexual play becomes more and more extreme, edging into violence, Eric feels no choice but to intervene.
Due to the relentless heaviness of the film, it unfortunately begins to have a somewhat numbing effect, losing it’s emotional engagement and verges on a becoming a endless stream of ever-more revolting images, as if challenging the audience with it’s shockingness.
Fortunately some humor does creep into the film at odd moments and ultimately keeps the film grounded. Another plus is that the film manages to avoid being overtly preachy for the most part. Moodysson doesn’t seem all that interested in pointing fingers, but rather seems to declare the entire world as being hopelessly dysfunctional and leaving it at that.
Then we get the avant-garde Container, narrated in its English version by Jena Malone (Donnie Darko). Poetic, experimental and different, Container is described by Lukas Moodysson as a black and white silent movie with sound and with the following words, A woman in a man’s body. A man in a woman’s body. Jesus in Mary’s stomach. The water breaks. It floods into me. I can’t close the lid. My heart is full.
Simply put, Container is a letter to God, a collection of thoughts and feelings, of gestures and memories, of beautiful moments, an exploration of life, love and death, a question, a tear, a naked soul turned inside out, all spikes outward, all pain real and raw and honest, nothing and everything, love and hate, hate and love, black and white, a diary, a manifest, an exploration of fame, and of justice, of real and unreal, and what’s real? And God, and Jesus, and Mary, and Joseph. And loneliness. And being together. Alone together. Together alone. Beauty and ugliness. Pure poetry.
Then he made his mainstream English-language debut with the expansive Mammoth, starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams. In New York, the immature family man Leo Vidales is a successful businessman, owner of the Underlandish, a successful website of digital games and married to Dr. Ellen Vidales, a dedicated surgeon of the emergency room of a hospital.
They have a daughter, Jackie, who is an intelligent girl that is raised by her nanny, the Filipino Gloria, who spends more time with her than Ellen. Gloria has two sons in the Philippines that miss her. When Leo need to travel to Singapore with his partner, Bob (Tom McCarthy), to sign a multi-million dollar contract with investors, Ellen operates on a boy stabbed in the stomach by his own mother and she feels connected to the boy and rethinks her relationship with Jackie.
Meanwhile Leo is bored waiting for the negotiation of Bob with the investors and he decides to travel to Bangkok and lodges in a rustic cottage on the seashore. Leo meets the young prostitute and mother, Cookie, and he has a one night stand with her. Meanwhile, Gloria’s ten year-old boy, Salvador, misses his mother and decides to find a job. His innocence leads him to a tragedy.
The ending left me a little dissatisfied, but it did tie all of the peripheral stories together as well as it could. I would definitely recommend this movie for its view on morality and the empathy to poverty.
Lastly, Moodysson returned to his roots with We Are The Best! (based on a graphic novel by his wife and ‘consigliere’ Coco), the charming and funny tale of three schoolgirls starting a punk band in early-1980s Stockholm.
This is absolutely one of the freshest of the recent crop of movies. Simple and disarming, the gentle narrative takes you in and brings alive the stories of young people growing up in Stockholm in the ’80s. We begin with two girls, Klara and Bobo, both of whom are somewhat invisible to the adults in their lives as well as to their peers.
They are creative enough to explore and experiment with the freedom that their marginal status paradoxically accords them. We see Klara, the dominant personality, challenged in subtle and direct ways by Bobo, who, though more reticent, is actually an equally strong character.
One of the most touching aspects of the film is the girls’ decision to take in Hedvig, a talented classical guitarist who is more socially disconnected than they, as their close friend. Hedvig proves also to be their equal.
Together, the three girls literally ignite as they discover their ability to collaborate in forming a punk band and writing their own music, taking on largely innocent modes of rebellion to create their own niche in a world that mostly leaves them free to find their own way.
The girls are up to the challenge, with the result that the viewer’s time spent with them on-screen is richly rewarded. A highlight is the girls’ theme song, Hata Sport (Hate the Sport) in which they argue that there are more important things in the world than the next sports competition and throwing your ball.
Actually, the real delight of the film is watching all three girls’ personalities develop. A breath of fresh Scandinavian air.
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of all seven films
Original DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio for all films
Optional English subtitles for all films, plus English hard-of-hearing subtitles on Container and Mammoth
200-page hardback book featuring new writing by Peter Walsh, excerpts from the original press kits for each film, including interviews with and directors’ statements from Moodysson, and essays on his films from a 2014 special issue of the Nordic culture journal Scandinavica by C. Claire Thomson, Helga H. Lúthersdóttir, Elina Nilsson, Scott MacKenzie & Anna Westerståhl Stenport and Kjerstin Moody
2K restoration by the Swedish Film Institute, approved by director Lukas Moodysson and cinematographer Ulf Brantås
New interview with Lukas Moodysson
New interview with star Alexandra Dahlström
Did You Know She’s A Lesbian?, an appreciation by Dr. Clara Bradbury Rance, author of Lesbian Cinema After Queer Theory
Talk (Bara prata lite), a short film directed by Moodysson in 1997
4K restoration by the Swedish Film Institute from the original camera negative, approved by director Lukas Moodysson and cinematographer Ulf Brantås
New interview with Lukas Moodysson
New interview with script supervisor Malin Fornander
New interview with editor Michal Leszczylowski
New interview with Lukas Moodysson
New interview with costume designer Denise Östholm
Guardian Interview with Lukas Moodysson, a Q&A with the director filmed at the London Film Festival in 2002
New interviews with Lukas Moodysson on both films
Lukas Moodysson Masterclass, an interview with the director filmed at London’s National Film & Television School in 2004
A Hole in My Second Heart, a behindthescenes featurette from 2004
Swedish and English narration options for Container
Inside the Container Crypt, a 2007 featurette on the themes of Container
Theatrical trailers and image galleries for both films
New interview with Lukas Moodysson
New interview with line producer Malte Forssell
Promotional interviews with Moodysson and Gael Garcia Bernal from 2009
New interview with Lukas Moodysson
New interview with cinematographer Ulf Brantås
A New Expression, a look at the background to the film by Swedish punk historian David Andersson
Q&A from the 2013 London Film Festival screening, featuring Moodysson and stars Liv LeMoyne and Mira Barkhammar
Ticket to Paradise: Collector’s Edition
(George Clooney, Julia Roberts, et al / Blu-ray+DVD+Digital / NR / 2022 / Studio Distribution Services)
Overview: Academy Award® winners George Clooney and Julia Roberts team up as exes who find themselves on a shared mission: to stop their lovestruck daughter from making the same mistake they once made. Ticket to Paradise is a romantic comedy about the sweet surprise of second chances.
DVD Verdict: In truth, rom-com’s and me can be a dance of dual emotions, often boring when you don’t have the relevance. However, Ticket to Paradise is one of those that kept the pace at least engaging and fun as they moved through the quick time frame of the story.
In doing so, it kind of felt like a vacation to me and it made it very entertaining compared to films that are all about the romance drama that stations like Hallmark make it about.
Another win for Ticket to Paradise is that the movie does feel lone part romance and the other part vacation, leading to a more inviting atmosphere that makes the movie curtailed to a broader audience. Clooney and Roberts engage in a lot of activities that one would love to do at tropical paradises, and I enjoyed sort of living through them on the silver screen.
Snorkeling, dancing, and sightseeing are just some of the things that you’ll get and the writers did a nice job of integrating the activities to the story and making them mostly necessary. In doing so, it’s one part fun and one part pertinent and that’s a nice sign of movie script writing, in my book.
One of the biggest things this movie wins for me Is the setting. Paradise really is present in this movie, with beautiful views of the island life that everyone talks about on their trips. Wide, luscious ocean shots with beautiful sunsets, pristine coasts and beaches that make you want to lounge for hours and do nothing, and several jungle sites that show a thriving ecology worth spending time in. [FYI: Despite being set in Bali, Indonesia, the movie was actually filmed in Queensland, Australia].
Ticket to Paradise is a very bright movie, and that engaging energy made the movie fun for me and again helped establish the mood of the movie. Even the cultural premises that come with the story, with the customs, beliefs, and traditions of the island people are tastefully integrated to help broaden the scope of the world we live in. I absolutely loved the film’s approach and felt this was a nice background element that made the movie come to life.
Another thing I liked about this movie, is that it met two worlds very well that sometimes rom-com’s don’t do for viewers like me. Like most of the stories, the tale is cute, with so much sentiment that various audience members in my showing were oohing and ahhing throughout the film. That sweet side has a bit more realism and regulation in it, not being the Nicholas Sparks ballads, but more a regulated version that works for me that shows true love and not fantasy love.
And all the while, it remains fun and balanced so that I could enjoy the other aspects that come with the theme of this movie. By helping balance that moment, again it makes the movie more fun groups to come together and view it and that for me is a real reason why this is a fun movie to see as a group.
In conclusion, for a romantic comedy, Ticket to Paradise is a very fun outing that should hold well for a date night at home. Despite the predictable story and antics, the movie utilizes the tropes of the genre well and brings with it a lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed much of the movie, and found it realistic in the portrayal to an extent, while also balancing cute with the fun elements.
The acting and writing work very well together, and the delivery is just funny without trying too hard to be funny. And the audio/visual work helps add many elements to get you to the island where they shot the film to make it feel like you are there.
However, and as aforementioned, the movie is a rom-com, and therefore formulaic that fans of the series will enjoy, but does not reach the heights of the best movie of the year. There were some more fun and storytelling to be had that time got in the way of, and I feel the cut might have shorted us on. Still, the movie overall is very fun and highly recommended.
BONUS FEATURES ON DVD, BLU-RAYTM & DIGITAL:
• Return of the Dynamic Duo – Back together at last! In this fun-loving featurette, celebrate the big screen return of two of the world’s most beloved stars, Julia Roberts and George Clooney.
• Destination Wedding – It’s a beautiful day for a wedding in paradise- and you’re invited! Take a deep dive into all the details of Lily’s magical day.
• Production in Paradise – From Balinese marriage customs, to filming in the Whitsundays, discover how filmmakers were able to bring a slice of paradise to audiences around the world in this making-of.
• Keep a Straight Face – It’s hard to keep a straight face with a best friend by your side. Spend a day on set with real life pals Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd as they try not to distract each other too much.
The Roundup [DVD]
(Don Lee, Sukku Son, Gwi-hwa Choi, et al / DVD / NR / 2022 / MPI Home Video)
Overview: South Korea: Geumcheon Police’s Major Crimes Unit is given a mission to repatriate a fugitive who fled to Vietnam. Beast cop Ma Seok-do (Don LEE) and Capt. Jeon Il-man (CHOI Guy-hwa) intuitively realize that there’s something wrong with the suspect’s willingness to turn himself in and uncover a series of crimes committed by a terrifying killer named Kang Hae-sang (SON Sukku).
Detective Ma and his unit begin their investigation across two countries and follow the bloody breadcrumbs left behind by Kang.
DVD Verdict: Marvel can never be forgiven for reducing one of the most electrifying action heroes on the face of the planet in Don Lee to a bit-part role in Eternals, failing to leverage his spontaneous, irreverent humor or hulking screen presence to any effect.
Thankfully, Korean cinema continues to generate the best out of this iconic superstar, this time with the phenomenally enjoyable The Roundup, a sequel to the iconic The Outlaws (2017) which in turn was remade into the bungling mess that was the Salman Khan-starrer Radhe (2021).
We rejoin audience favorite Ma Dong-seok (or Don Lee, as he is more affectionately known among his fans), back in his now legendary role as Inspector Ma Seok-do, a rambunctious, irascible but duty-bound Korean cop with a devil-may-care attitude to protocol and procedure when it stands in the way of him and the criminals he tries to bring to heel. This time, he is tasked with executing a tricky extradition of a notorious kidnapper and extortionist in Vietnam.
Thrown into unfamiliar territory in a region where he has no jurisdiction, the story follows our steadfast cop as he overcomes bureaucratic red tape, a country with little to no laws and a fugitive who has nothing to lose, to ensure justice is served. Don Lee as usual delivers with his trademark hard-hitting punches, sensational action sequences and rib-tickling humor that director Lee Sang-yong manages to throw in at the most unexpected of junctures.
Son Seok-koo proves to be an able counterweight to Don Lee’s machismo, as the more surgical but equally brutal antagonist, who revels in the sheer violence of it all. At the end of the day, The Roundup delivers on expectations - of a brutal, no-holds-barred slug fest with classic Don Lee mass elevation sequences.
The man’s aura is so unmatched that when superstar Sylvester Stallone acquired the English rights to remake his iconic The Gangster, The Cop and The Devil (2019), they decided to cast Don Lee himself rather than trying, and failing to find somebody with the same screen presence in Hollywood. Therefore, The Roundup is highly recommended. [NH]
Old Friends: A Dogumentary (Blu-ray+DVD)
(Gorman Bechard, Zina Gooden, Michael Goodener, et al / Blu-ray+DVD / NR / 2022 / What Were We Thinkin - MVD Visual)
Overview: This is the paw-inspiring story of the most beloved animal sanctuary in the world, the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Mount Juliet, Tennessee.
From their humble beginnings as a small backyard sanctuary, we follow founders Zina & Michael Gooden, their amazing staff, and the gang of one hundred plus senior pooches, as they grow and settle into a brand new 20,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility.
You’ll meet the dogs, and the people who saved them, fostered, and gave them back a reason to wag their tails. It’s a tale of compassion and commitment, where love knows no bounds and as Zina like to say, the sky is the limit.
Blu-ray Verdict: Simply put, Old Friends, A Dogumentary is a film about a place where love never grows old.
From acclaimed filmmaker Gorman Bechard (“Piza A Love Story,” “A Dog Named Guci,” “Color Me Obsesed, A film about The Replacements,” et al.), Old Friends: A Dogumentary is a really beautiful story reminding us that we all face beginning, middles and ends and so just to let your heart be open and appreciate that four legs have the best hearts.
A heartwarming, and at times, heart-wrenching telling about a wonderful sanctuary that helps the old, forgotten, and discarded dogs, no matter what, we see that they are doing the work like no one else.
And for those of us who have lost older dogs to this mortal coil, well, watching these elders, getting a glimpse into their everyday doggy lives, not only makes it clear how much the staff all love the dogs, but should have you, a dog owner, in tears throughout (but in a good way, I would like to think/hope).
Personally, I have followed the Old Friends pretty much since the beginning, watching as the sanctuary has grown in the physical building aspects along with the staff, and it is nothing short of awe inspiring, let me tell you.
In summary, please watch Old Friends: A Dogumentary and become familiar with such a worthy cause for you will laugh, gasp, awww, and most definitely cry, as aforementioned, but your heart will be changed forever, trust me on this.
The Ribbon Cutting
The Geezer Parade
Friend Like That MUSIC VIDEO
Friend Like That ORIGINAL DEMO
Gorman gets an Old Friends tattoo
Q&A at the Old Friends A Dogumentary WORLD PREMIERE
Q&A with Zina & Michael Goodin after streaming premiere
Devi Sanford interview
IndieGoGo promo video with Gorman and Sophia
Original IndieGoGo Promo Clip for when film was called Seniors-2
Creature From Black Lake [Blu-ray]
(Jack Elam, Dennis Fimple, John David Carson, Dub Taylor, et al / Blu-ray / PG / (1976) 2022 / Synapse Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: There’s a hairy humanoid beast lurking in the Louisiana swamps, but only trapper Joe Canton (Jack Elam, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST) has seen it and lived to tell the tale, and the other residents of Oil City, Louisiana don’t talk about it.
But that’s not about to stop intrepid grad students Pahoo (Dennis Fimple, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES) and Rives (John David Carson, EMPIRE OF THE ANTS), who are determined to track down the Bigfoot-like creature.
Defying local sheriff Billy Carter (Bill Thurman, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW), the duo trek deep into the wilds of Black Lake, and a series of frightening encounters make it clear the monster is no mere legend.
Following in the (big) footsteps of THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK and similar docudramas, 1976’s CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE is a fictional Sasquatch saga, albeit one inspired by real reports.
With a colorful cast, also including Dub Taylor (THE WILD BUNCH), and plenty of rural atmosphere courtesy of cinematographer Dean Cundey (HALLOWEEN, JURASSIC PARK), scripter Jim McCullough Jr. - who also co-stars - and director Joy Houck Jr. Bring touches of humor and humanity that complement the mystery of the monster, and the terror of it’s attacks.
Blu-ray Verdict: A longtime late-night TV favorite, CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE now roars onto it’s Blu-ray debut with a new 4K restoration and a boatload of special features!
Personally, I was expecting, for some reason, a dreary, tame Bigfoot film in the vein of Legend of Boggy Creek 2, and while Creature from Black Lake is similar to that film (students heading into the wilds to research the Big fella), this film is infinitely more enjoyable, thanks to some tense scenes, great acting, goofy seventies charm, and some full on Bigfoot action. Bigfoot ain’t hiding here - he’s full on mental and all up in people’s faces!
Rive and Pahoo head to Oil City to find a trapper by the name of Joe (Jack Elam) who claims Bigfoot killed his mate. After being warned off by the local sheriff, our students track down various locals who relate anecdotes about the Bigfoot. Soon, they have their own encounter with the creature (it’s got quite a scream on it) and before you know it, Bigfoot everywhere they want to be.
The acting in this film is way above par, with loads of likable characters (you care about these two guys), some Deep South charm and a nice dose of humor thrown in. When Bigfoot goes completely mental at the end, there’s a good battle between our students and the creature, and kind of an upbeat ending which isn’t the usual for a seventies film.
They would never make a film like this these days. No way. Highly recommended, although I’d like to point out that Night of the Demon is still the craziest, most outrageous and daft Bigfoot film out there!
Exclusive slipcover design from Justin Coffee (Limited to only 2500 slipcovers)
Brand-new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
Audio commentary with author/filmmaker Michael Gingold and film historian Chris Poggiali
SWAMP STORIES – All-new featurette with Director of Photography Dean Cundey
Original theatrical trailer and radio spot
Newly translated optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
BLU-RAY SPECIFICATIONS: VIDEO: High-Definition 1080p Widescreen (2.35:1) Presentation / AVC Codec; AUDIO: DTS-HD MA English 2.0 Original Mono; and SUBTITLES: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
Big Time Gambling Boss: Special Edition
(Nobuo Kaneko, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Koji Tsuruta, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1968) 2022 / Radiance Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: Tokyo, 1934. Gang boss Arakawa is too ill and a successor must be named. The choice falls on Nakai, but being an outsider he refuses and suggests senior clansman Matsuda instead. But Matsuda is in jail and the elders won’t wait for his release, so they appoint the younger and more malleable Ishido to take the reins.
Clan honor and loyalties are severely tested when Matsuda is released, resulting in an increasingly violent internal strife. An atmospheric tale of gangland intrigue written by Kazuo Kasahara (Battles Without Honour and Humanity) and starring Tomisaburo Wakayama, (Lone Wolf and Cub, The Bounty Hunter Trilogy) and genre legend Koji Tsuruta, Big Time Gambling Boss is one of the all-time classics of the yakuza genre.
Paul Schrader called it the richest and most complex film of it’s type, while novelist Yukio Mishima hailed it as a masterpiece. Radiance Films is proud to present this crucial re-discovery for the first time ever on Blu-ray.
Blu-ray Verdict: On paper, Big Time Gambling Boss sounds every bit like typical Ninkyo fare, a succession battle of stoic Yakuza torn between the code, obligations and personal relationships. And it’s certainly that, but it’s also so much more.
Kazuo Kasuhara’s writing, perhaps some of his best, under Yamashita’s direction and keen eye for not only detail, but protocol and etiquette, elevates this rich tale far above its simple premise. Surprisingly too, the film defies genre conventions in many ways, with a story told quite differently to what is expected from the genre, even if it still has a familiar feeling as it leads to its terrific, bloody denouement that is both shocking and again eschews the usual trappings of the genre.
Interestingly too, there is no real villain here, so to speak. Sure, Nobuo Kaneko’s backdoor politicking and scheming has ramifications for all involved, but usually with the genre it can be boiled down to Good vs Bad, for lack of a better phrase.
But not so here, as each potential candidate for the role of Oyabun is a man stuck in an impossible position, with each set of personal circumstances and indeed, interpretation of a Yakuza’s honor code ultimately being the central theme, leading to the code itself being the real villain contained within.
Perhaps this is no better summed up than by a line Koji Tsuruta himself growls towards the end of the film when asked what his idea of loyalty is, he declares, Loyalty? To hell with it, I’m just a mean murderer. Nothing more.
The cast is nothing short of spectacular, with the legendary Koji Tsuruta delivering one of his absolute best performances as a man feeling the constant push/pull of duty and obligation, crushing him in the process as he tries to mediate between the crumbling families of the Tenryu group.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s few who could convey emotion quite like him, his facial features and eyes being some of the most expressive ever to grace a screen. There’s a stunning scene about halfway through when he tries to settle a dispute and shares a table with Tomisaburo Wakayama, the two men facing each other and debating how to proceed, Tsuruta gently places his brotherhood cup on the table, eyes welling up as he does so, and Wakayama, a wave of regret washing over his face instantly backs down in the face of such a gesture.
It’s a subtle, but thoughtful moment that packs one hell of a punch emotionally. Wakayama too, is at his peak, he commands the screen with a great power and sense of presence, delivering one of his finest hours as Matsuda.
He exudes an authoritative air that has to be seen to be believed and gets to show off almost his entire range with his characters superb arc, the scene where he walks into a ceremonial meeting and tells Ishido that he’s sitting in the wrong position, throwing a copy of the gamblers code in front of him, is absolutely masterful and further proof of his immense ability to effortlessly command a screen.
It should be said too, that Hiroshi Nawa, an oft overlooked member of the Toei roster is absolutely brilliant here. While he doesn’t get quite as much screen time as Tsuruta or Wakayama, he makes the most of every single second as Ishido, a good man put into conflict with his friend for a job he didn’t really want, but has to accept, while trying to uphold his dignity at the same time.
He gets one of the films very best scenes where he accepts the position formally at the succession ceremony, I won’t spoil it, but it’s probably the best evidence there is of what a talent he was as an actor. Backing up the three leads is a solid showing of Toei regulars, Nobuo Kaneko does his thing, stirring the pot to his own benefit. The magnificent Junko Fuji is excellent as Matsuda’s wife and she is joined by the lovely (and also overlooked) Hiroko Sakuramachi, as Nakai’s wife, delivering a superb performance along the way and getting one of the films most tragically poignant scenes while she’s at it.
I really wish I had the words to do this film proper justice for it’s a hidden masterpiece that deserves to be much better known than it is. It’s a stunning yakuza drama, packed to the gills with characterization and context that tells a complete self contained story in the very best of ways, one that will feel familiar to fans, but consistently surprise them too with its defying of genre conventions and truly memorable scenes.
Not just essential viewing for genre fans, but one that should be seen by any and all that like Japanese film. Simply put, it is a stunning work of visual art.
High Definition digital transfer of the film
Uncompressed mono PCM audio
Visual essay by genre expert Chris D on the film and its place within the period and genre
Ninkyo 101: A masterclass with Mark Schilling, author of The Yakuza Movie Book
Gallery of promotional images
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm
The Banshees of Inishirin [Blu-ray]
(Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, et al / Blu-ray+Digital / R / 2022 / Searchlight Pictures)
Overview: From director-writer Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) comes a unique film starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.
Although Pádraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson) have been lifelong friends, they find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, bringing alarming consequences for both of them.
DVD Verdict: The latest film from Martin McDonagh, and given how good his track record has been, I was really looking forward to this one. And thus, after now seeing it, I think I’d put it a little behind In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (not by much) and ahead of Seven Psychopaths.
Like most of his films, it blends very dark comedy with very heavy subject matter, and here, the two are balanced exceptionally well. The premise is also an intriguing one that despite its simplicity, hasn’t been attempted by many other films (to my knowledge).
Essentially, there are two close friends, and one of them decides he doesn’t want to be friends with the other. The other naturally protests, with the first friend then threatening severe consequences if he continues to try and rekindle the friendship (or even talk to him).
There are hilarious scenes, really emotionally devastating scenes, and some scenes that do both at once. I think that overall, the best part of the film is its screenplay, as it balances the comedy and drama brilliantly, features exceptionally well written dialogue, and creates solid characters who you get to know well throughout the film. It helps that the acting is also great, especially Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in the lead roles, of course.
There are a couple of minor side characters whose inclusion I didn’t think added much, and the final act is a bit oddly structured. The ending is also one I’ll need to sit with a bit, because it did leave me with an unusual feeling.
Returning to this film again may well improve it, as despite the simple premise, there’s a ton going on here, and a great deal to think about it. Indeed, the themes surrounding hate, fear of loneliness, a societal divisions, and the difficulty of forgiveness all feel very relevant to the 2020s, even while this film is set in the 1920s.
• Creating The Banshees of Inisherin - Go into the inimitable mind of director-writer Martin McDonagh as he delves into The Banshees of Inisherin, from story inception and reunion of its gifted actors, to searching the islands of Ireland for the perfect, evocative locations
The film is Certified-Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes™ and arrives on Digital December 13 and Blu-ray and DVD on December 20th, 2022, with never-before-seen bonus content featuring actors Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and director-writer Martin McDonagh.
Dragons Forever (2-Disc Special Edition) [4K UHD]
(Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, et al / 2-Disc / PG-13 / (1988) 2023 / 88 Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: Hotshot lawyer Jackie Lung (Jackie Chan, Rush Hour, Police Story) is hired to defend the owner of a
factory which, unbeknownst to him, is the center of a clandestine narcotics syndicate. He enlists
resourceful acquaintances Wong Fei-Hung (Sammo Hung, Enter The Dragon) and Dung Dak-Biu (Yuen Biao,
Once Upon a Time in China) to assist in the case, but loyalties begin to falter when romance blossoms
between both sides.
Blu-ray Verdict: This was the next step up for Jackie Chan movies from the Police Story saga where
his actions and comedic touch goes up a notch.
Criminal factory owner is polluting the water and fish farm downstream is getting affected. The fish
farm owner (Diannie Yip) decides to sue the factory. Jackie (Jackie Chan) who’s the lawyer for the
factory hires Luke (Sammo Hung) to seduce the owner of the fish farm so he could convince her to
sell the farm.
The fish farm owner has a cousin Jenny (Pauline Yueng) who Jackie is wooing. The problem is Jenny is
the chief witness for the fish farm owner. Jackie decides to go under the wire and hires Biao
(Yuen Biao) to put hidden microphone in Jenny and her cousin’s house.
Luke rents the house next to the fish farm owner’s house, and listens in on the conversation next
door. He hears that the owner is looking for love, so he decides to make the move. All of these smoke
and mirror moves by Jackie ends up in real love for him, and Luke. He decides to get off the case,
and side with the fish farm owner.
Reuniting the Peking Opera Brothers Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, in the same movie since Wheels on Meals,
trust me when I say that all of them are incredible performers. The film also has a young Fruit Chan (Made In Hong Kong,
Three Extremes) co-directing some scenes.
The joy for me is watching each actor trying to outdo each. There’s some incredibly hard falls taken
as well as stuntmen being thrown through sugar glass windows. The fights with all three leads show
how good their timing and athleticism is. Credit also goes to hard kicking Benny Urquidez and
excellent stuntman Yuen Wah who uses a cigar as a prop!
Indeed, the timing of action combined with comedy is a notch or two higher in this movie compared to
all of Jackie’s previous movies, and sets a new standard that continues on to future Jackie Chan
In short, Dragons Forever features unbelievable action by the trio is guaranteed to entertain the
viewer and thus is, in my humble opinion, one of the best Jackie Chan movie from the ’80s. And given that it is
now presented on a glorious 4K remastered presentation, well, it’s never looked better!
4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the Hong Kong Version [94 mins] in original 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Cantonese-language options in Dolby Atmos and mono with newly translated subtitles and SDH
English Mono Hybrid Dub
2002 Remixed English 5.1
4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the CYCLONE Z Version [98 mins] [Produced exclusively for the Japanese market, this Cantonese-language version includes two extra scenes and an ending with outtakes]
Cantonese language options in Dolby Atmos and mono with newly translated subtitles and SDH
English Mono Hybrid Dub
4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the International Version [94 mins] [Commissioned by Golden Harvest for international audiences outside Asia] with the English Dub and optional English SDH
[New] Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng and FJ DeSanto [Japanese Cut]
Audio Commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema [Hong Kong Cut]
[New] Elite Stuntman: Interview with Chin Kar-Lok
[New] Writing for the Dragons: Interview with Szeto Cheuk-Hon
Benny Forever: Interview with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez
Discussing Dragons Forever: Interview with David Desser
Hong Kong Cinema Forever: Interview with Mike Leeder
Working with the Dragons: Interview with Jude Poyer
The Legacy of Dragons Forever Featurette with today’s actors & martial artists including Troy Sandford, Chris Jones, Ross Boyask, Maria Tran, Mike Leeder, Jean-Paul Ly, Mark Strange, Mike Moeller, George Clarke, Jude Poyer & Steve Lawson
Double Jeopardy: An Interview with Brad Allen
Beyond Gravity: An Interview with Joe Eigo
Thai Breaker: An Interview with Billy Chow
Kick Fighter: An Interview with Andy Cheng
Out-takes & Behind the Scenes [HD]
English Trailer (HD)
Hong Kong Trailer (HD)
Music Video (English) & (Cantonese)
[NEW] Additional Cantonese Dialogue
Double-sided artwork featuring new art by Sean Longmore & original Hong Kong poster
18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium Story [BR]
(Various / Blu-ray / NR / 2022 / Gen Pop)
Overview: The Olympic Auditorium opened in 1925 as Los Angeles was exploding, a state-of-the
art fight palace to entertain the masses. But the arena, built to rival Madison Square Garden, was a
money pit from the start.
Shady promoters came and went until the building owner took a chance on a single mother who had
never seen a pro fight. Taking over in the midst of World War II, Aileen Eaton built a sports empire
that lasted nearly four decades, launching stars and becoming the most powerful boxing promoter
As the years passed, Eaton’s Olympic promotion mirrored the changing tastes and demographics of the
city, thriving in large part due to the loyalty of Mexican-American fans. When the building sold
and Aileen was pushed out in 1980, the Olympic struggled again, briefly becoming the concrete
cathedral of hardcore punk until it sputtered to an inglorious death.
In 2005 the building was sold again, becoming the Glory Church of Jesus Christ, a Korean
Blu-ray Verdict: For my money, Director Stephen DeBro’s 18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium Story is a very
interseting, informative and entertaining exploration of the Olympic Auditorium and wrestling pioneer
Aileen Eaton, therein.
Sure it twists and turns, and might well have been even more captivating (from the standpoint of a
viewer knowing nothing of this highly captivating story from the off), along with leaning a little
more into the informative side of things, but as much as it walks that tightrope between info and
pure entertainment, maybe it could have narrowed in on one over the other overall.
That all said, and given that both subject matters are more than storied enough to headline their own
documentary, I loved how this film manages to snuggly fit all the aforementioned info and entertainment
into a perfectly-timed eighty-minute run time.
With the documentary conveying its subjects in most warm, and wholly deserving manner, your attention is
drawn to each chapter as if you were reading a book. Indeed, you might just be surprised by how quickly
you yourself are drawn to the venue, and Eaton especially.
As aforementioned, in its early years incarnation, the Olympic was a glamorous boxing venue frequented
by Hollywood heavyweights like Rudolph Valentino and George Raft and among the champions who stepped into its ring
were notables such as the great Muhammad Ali, Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya.
Furthermore, wrestlers like Gorgeous George, Andre the Giant and Roddy Piper also made names for
themselves there, which leads me seamlessly to note that in what was one, if not the very last,
interviews put down on film, the late Roddy Piper gives us his own personal insights (sadly, he
died just months later).
In his interview, Piper describes the overall aura of the building, how wrestlers walked out from the
concrete bowels of the structure, emerging from behind and walking though the crowd: “I know what
a gladiator in Rome must’ve felt like,” he wryly smiles.
“You come out, and you’re behind them, which is good,” he continues, adding that he always liked
to keep his eyes on the fans, because he played the villain and the crowd hated him!
Piper concludes this segment by adding, “the people who sat there they had boxes of popcorn, and
they’d stick the knife up in the box of popcorn. It was the first time I got sliced, you know.
When I’d go by, they’d go “schft” [makes slicing motion] and they’d be gone…The crowd would close.”
And what is has, that a lot of documentaries of its ilk for sure don’t, is the cinematic ability
to convince you that its subject matter - and even if you’re entering as a complete, unknowing outsider - is
as interesting, as compelling, and as important to hear today as it was throughout this time period.
Of course, those already familiar with Eaton or the Olympic Auditorium may find more satisfaction,
as pre-existing knowledge will likely help fill the gaps left by what the film doesn’t impart upon
its viewers. But, have no fear, for casuals will likely find themselves satisfied until the story
inevitable gets the TV treatment.
Extended Interviews with Gene LeBell, Honey Sanchez and the Lennon Family.
Father of the Bride (DVD)
(Andy Garcia, Gloria Estefan, Adria Arjona, Isabela Merced, Diego Boneta, et al / DVD / PG-13 / 2023 / Warner Bros. Pictures and HBO Max)
Overview: A father’s coming to grips with his daughter’s upcoming wedding through the prism of multiple relationships within a big, sprawling Cuban-American clan.
DVD Verdict: For me, the casting was probably the best part, Andy Garcia was amazing in his role as Father of the family, Adria Arjona was a welcome surprise with the only other film of hers I’ve seen being Morbius.
Isabela Merced, as usual, was amazing in her role as the younger sister, though I wish she’D had more screen time / story line to her character. I could definitely see her character
being the leading lady in a Father of the Bride 2 movie with Isabela reprising her role in it.
The story was good, with laughs and humor and kept the viewer invested in it. Did I know what was
coming and what would end up happening, well yeah pretty much from the start of the film. But that
doesn’t make it bad, it did well to make itself unique and different from other films that share the
Though I have to admit I supported most of the father’s decisions throughout the film, there were most definitely times
he went a bit overboard, but I did agree with him about preserving tradition, etc.
Though maybe he and
his daughter should have made concessions and come to a compromise that incorporated both what she
wanted as well as some of the more traditional stuff as well. By the end they kinda got there at least,
so that is something.
One of the best parts of the film was the scene when Isabela Merced uncovers a bowl of popcorn and
starts eating it while watching her family drama going on. It brought a smile to my face as I’ve
done the same many a time watching my own family fight.
All in all, a fun enjoyable movie with its own unique twist. A solid film, with solid performances along with the personal wish that we get to see a second one with Isabela Merced and her character as our leading lady.
The Last American Virgin (Collector’s Edition)
(Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Steve Antin, Kimmy Robertson, Joe Rubbo, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1982) 2023 / MVD Rewind)
Overview: The comedy that puts the zip into being a teen, The Last American Virgin is the cult-classic 1980’s teen comedy about close-knit group of high school friends, Gary (Lawrence Monoson, Mask), the shy guy; his friend Rick (Steve Antin, The Goonies), the ladies man; and David (Joe Rubbo, Hot Chili), the comic foil, and their exploits in pursuit of love ... or at the very least, their first time!
Also starring Diane Franklin (Better Off Dead), Louisa Moritz (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and Kimmy Robertson (Twin Peaks), this funny, dramatic and nostalgic time capsule chronicles the ups and downs of friendship, romance, and the bittersweet memories of youth, set to a classic 80’s soundtrack.
Blu-ray Verdict: I remember first seeing the film 20 years ago in the Summer of 1991, a month before I entered High School for the first time. I knew this would be a film with lots of tits and ass, and the first half of the movie, it was just that!
A typical teenage comedy with three best pals trying desperately to get laid (Which all but one of them succeeded, the film’s main character, Gary) The scenes with two of the guys having sex with the Latina woman, with Gary not getting his opportunity as her lover comes home sooner than expected, was funny.
The scene where they all catch crabs from a prostitute is hilarious and classic, but that was just the first half of the film. However, the story line in the second half of the film, changes, and goes from very funny to very dark.
In the second part of the movie, Gary falls for pretty popular girl, Karen, who has eyes for Gary’s best pal, Rick. Rick is a popular, charismatic jock who happens to have a way with the ladies, while Gary is just a typical, shy, gawky teen.
Rick and Karen become a couple, and after having sex, Karen becomes pregnant with Rick’s child. Rick dumps her, and Gary comes to her defense. This love triangle puts a huge strain between the best friends, eventually ending the friendship.
While Rick starts dating another girl, and heads off on a ski trip with her and several friends, Gary pawns off most of his things, borrows money from his boss at the Pizza Parlor where he works, and comes up with the money needed for Karen to have an abortion.
Gary and Karen spend the weekend at his grandmother’s house while she is out of town, helping her to recuperate. While there, Gary finally professes his love to Karen, who seems to share the the attraction as the two share a passionate kiss together, and she invites him to her birthday party.
Gary uses the cash he has left to buy Karen a locket as a birthday present. However, at the party, Gary receives a huge surprise as Karen and Rick reconcile, and he catches the two making out. Crushed, Gary abruptly leaves her party, and drives home in tears, as the credits play to a song by James Ingram.
I have to admit, although the ending was sad, it was real. How many of us had that popular girl in high school we all coveted, only to have our hearts broken? I’ve been there so I’m sure many, many others have also.
Towards the end, it looked like that, as many viewers expected and wanted, myself included, that Gary would finally win the affections of his dream girl. But the way the movie ended, the makers of the film were very effective at fooling the audience when Karen tragically breaks Gary’s heart.
Of course, most, if not all, thought of Gary as the hero of the film, with Rick being the villain, and Karen as the damsel in distress whom the hero comes to her rescue. But in that scene where Gary catches Rick and Karen making out, Rick, although happy to get Karen back, has a look of regret on his face, as he knows his former best friend also loved her.
A look of, Hey man, I know you love her, but I also love her. Rick is also just a typical high school jock that panicked when he made a mistake that he knew would change his life forever.
Karen, however, had a smirk on her face, as she never intended to be with Gary, but was using him. She knew how Gary felt about her, and when he offered to help her, she was only too happy to take advantage of the situation. That moment, she, in my eyes, goes from being the damsel in distress to the real villain in the film.
Although the film provided lots of T&A, along with a LOT of laughs as advertised, it also provided a look at what many people in high school go through. The emotional roller coaster.
In closing, The Last American Virgin is a film that is a classic, and deserving of being called just that, for it is not only a comedy, but a thoughtfully crafted reveal of life in high school and how things don’t always pan out for the good guys.
High Definition (1080p) presentation of the main feature in 1.85:1 aspect ratio
Audio: 2.0 LPCM Stereo
Optional English Subtitles
The First American Remake - Interview with Boaz Davidson (37 min, 1080p)
Memories of a Pizza Boy - Interview with Lawrence Monoson (27 min, 1080p)
Babe of the Eighties - Interview with Diane Franklin (21 min, 1080p)
In Praise of Smaller Movies - Interview with cinematographer Adam Greenberg (22 min, 1080p)
Original Theatrical Trailer
Men At Work: Special Edition [Blu-ray]
(Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Leslie Hope, Keith David, Dean Cameron, et al / Blu-ray / PG-13 / (1990) 2023 / MVD Rewind)
Overview: With little respect for their superiors, and even less for the law, garbage collectors Charlie Sheen (Wall Street, Platoon) and Emilio Estevez (Young Guns, The Breakfast Club) have made trouble a way of life.
Practical jokers with a gift for the truly twisted gag, the two pranksters glide through work with one eye on the ladies and the other on the surf shop they dream of owning.
But their fun-loving life is turned upside down when they discover the corpse of a local politician - and realize they will be prime suspects. Pursued by both the police and the real killers, Sheen and Estevez know that to save their hides, they’ll have to solve the case!
Hilarious supporting performances from Leslie Hope (Talk Radio), Keith David (They Live), Dean Cameron (Summer School) and Cameron Dye (Valley Girl) and an all-star soundtrack keeps things hot as they careen through kidnappings, car chases, and an unlikely romance, all in the name of justice.
Hey, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it!
Blu-ray Verdict: Two garbage men with dreams of opening a surf shop (Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez) stumble upon the dead body of a local politician in a drum - a man who Sheen coincidentally shot the night before with a pellet gun. Not wanting to get blamed for the murder, the two men (along with another co-worker, played by Keith David) kidnap a pizza man, capture a girlfriend’s heart and unravel corruption.
When you watch this movie, it screams that it’s from the cusp of the 80’s and 90’s, which to me is no bad thing! The poofy hair, the jeans and, well, everything, but especially the women’s outfits. That’s a look that was hard to pull off much beyond the 1980s (and thankfully so). So if you like 80’s films, especially ones with Charlie Sheen, this is one you’ll really love!
As for the outlined plot, well, it’s not too deep a plot, but it contains huge jokes and some really intense action sequences, but wholly relies on Sheen and Estevez (with Estevez’s writing and directing) to keep you interested.
For some, like myself, that works, but if not, you’re going to think this is just another stupid movie that you see on a Saturday afternoon flipping through channels (but I hope not).
But hey, you have Keith David (They Live), one of the weirdest looking tough guys in Hollywood, you have two white Rastafarians who have a running theme of encountering fecal matter in their locker, and you have the mysterious love affair between Sheen and the politician’s girlfriend.
As for that last notation, the girl’s boyfriend is murdered, although she doesn’t know he’s dead yet, just thinks he’s not home, but begins to be romantic with Sheen any way (who she’s just met under false pretenses).
Now, I understand the powers of The Sheen, but this chick really has loyalty issues! Kissing some dude you don’t know when you’re currently dating a powerful politician? Not much later, when she finds out who Sheen really is and finds out her boyfriend is a corpse, she has only minor issues with this (overcome in 30 seconds). I know it’s a movie, but my goodness!
So in conclusion, what we get here is Sheen, Estevez and Keith David in an early 1990s movie that totally rocks from start to finish. Oh, and there is also a really good message in there about fighting corruption and pollution (but Estevez never wrote that deep of a script, so it’s really only a marginal issue).
High Definition (1080p) presentation of the main feature in 1.85:1 aspect ratio
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo
Optional English, French and Spanish Subtitles
Original Theatrical Trailer