DEAD CERT Blu-ray Review
Distributor : Shout Factory (US)
What do you get when you cross a family of East End gangsters with a pack of deadly Russian vampires? Well in this case it would appear to be a pretty entertaining (if perhaps a little silly) movie.
Take one bunch of Cockney wide boys, a seedy strip club complete with underground fighting circuit, mix in a hostile take over by a group of invading Russian Mafia and you ultimately have the basic ingredients for a pretty violent showdown. This showdown however, is set to be a little different as it soon becomes clear that the Russian immigrants are none other than a pack of bloodthirsty vampires who are determined to make the territory their own.
Starring a few of the usual Brit flick faces, the film goes from regular gangster drama to full blown horror survival movie and with bad boys versus vampires you just know the blood is going to flow in rivers.
Released practically unnoticed on Blu-ray by the distributor, the film is presented in a 1080p 2.35:1 16x9 transfer which is visually striking in detail. Skin tones appear natural, colours are warm and well defined and black levels also show a decent amount of depth. All in all this is a strong transfer which really shouldn't generate any complaints from collectors.
Audio is represented with a DTS HD 7.1 track which provides crisp and well defined dialogue. Background music and effects however do appear a little subdued at times although this is more than likely due to the way the movie was actually filmed rather than any actual audio defects.
Extras for this release comprise of an audio commentary with cast and producer, a pretty intensive making of documentary featuring interviews and on set footage and also a theatrical trailer. What is here is largely very good and it's nice to be able to gain a reasonable insight into the making of the film.
All things considered, the movie is pretty entertaining if not taken too seriously. The characters are fairly well written, enough at least to enable you to root for your favourites (however your allegiance may well change a few times as the film plays out) and special effects remain pretty decent throughout. Admittedly the film is no Goodfellas or even From Dusk Till Dawn, but for a mindless vampire action flick mixed with a twist of East End villainy you could certainly do a lot worse.
Released region free by Shout Factory, this Blu-ray makes a reasonable addition to the growing number of Brit Flicks currently hitting the market and for a film which may otherwise have quietly slipped by many collectors, this one isn't half bad.
Transformers The Movie
Distributor: Madman Entertainment (Australia)
Over 30 years after first being shown across various television networks, it is hard to imagine just how huge Transformers was in the 80's unless you were actually there at the time. Playgrounds and toy shops everywhere were swarming with the new “robots in disguise” and on television, the animated series soon gained a worldwide cult following like nothing else before it.
The next logical step from this point would be to take the Transformers to the big screen and in 1986 cinema goers everywhere flocked to finally see a big budget version of their favourite TV show. The event however proved to be an altogether shocking experience as under instructions from the toy line to make new characters the prime focus of the movie, all but a few favourite characters which fans had grown to love were unceremoniously slaughtered in front of their eyes. After watching two full television series where the worst thing to usually happen to a character is the odd minor injury (which was generally resolved by the end of the episode) the scale of death and destruction presented in the movie would leave a wake of devastation and anguish the likes of which would not be seen again in what had essentially started life as children's entertainment. Thankfully with hindsight all these years later, it is easy to see that this was actually a very brave move by the writers of the movie which in essence provided an efficient storyline dealing with the genocide of many long standing heroes and effectively creating a re-birth of many others.
Presented in an anamorphic 16x9 wide-screen transfer this Australian region free Blu-ray release uses the same master as the near impossible to find (and very expensive) UK release. For an animation dating back to 1986 the transfer here looks to be in good shape. Colours are bright and well defined and apart from the odd spec or film scratch, print damage is minimal throughout. This is easily the best that this movie has or probably ever will look.
Audio is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 options which come across as reasonably prominent with the classic 80's soundtrack powerfully taking centre stage. Dialogue and effects sound clear throughout the film and although your rear speakers will be left seeming a little redundant there are no real complaints over the audio presentation.
Extra features are actually a vast improvement over the bare bones UK release. Firstly there is an informative audio commentary with Chris Mcfeely covering all aspects of the Transformers phenomenon from their initial creation to more recent times which provides a wealth of information making it an essential bonus feature for fans of the movie and series. Following the chat track are interviews, biographies, storyboards, deleted scenes, a Q&A session with Peter Cullen (voice of Optimus Prime) and even bonus episodes from “Scramble City” and “Beast Wars”. Other extras include a music video for “The Touch” which soon became the movies most remembered musical highlight and a few original toy commercials from back in the day. The extras package here makes a fantastic addition to this release and probably alone make this Blu-ray an essential purchase.
All things considered, this Blu-ray release will not disappoint fans of the classic Transformers series and it also provides an excellent time piece showing just how different film and television was back in the 1980's. With two further series following the movie which following the public outcry would eventually see the resurrection of some long standing favourite characters, Transformers seemed destined to live forever. Sadly however this was not to be the case. With interest seemingly passing and time eventually catching up with our favourite shape shifting robots, another classic animation series was consigned to history.
Thankfully however this Blu-ray release at least provides a glimpse of just how good it once was when the robots from Cybertron ruled the air waves.
Distributor: Arrow Video (UK)
This is one Italian horror classic that really has it all...
Following the success of his earlier zombie releases, Lucio Fulci's next journey into horror would take shape in the form of The Beyond. Part ghost story mixed with witchcraft, with a few zombies thrown in for good measure and the ever present gloomy atmosphere usually found in these movies makes for another classic bloodbath by Italy’s most famous zombie horror director.
The film opens in the 1920's in a run down hotel with one of the most genuinely disturbing murders ever put to film, showing an unfortunate victim suspected of witchcraft having a very close encounter with the usual bunch of locals complete with flaming torches and pitchforks. This however is a Lucio Fulci movie so simply stringing this guy up was never an option. The subsequent killing which involves chain whipping, a gory crucifixion and eventual face melting sets up the rest of the movie which then skips forward some 50 years with a new owner taking over the hotel and you just know this isn't going to be 5 star accommodation. Unfortunately for the new owner, the warlock from the prologue has returned which can only mean worse news for the hotel staff who are all dispatched in scenes of ever increasing nastiness. Be it eye skewering by rusty nail or the truly unnerving sequence involving a paralysed victim being literally torn piece by piece by a pack of hungry tarantulas, the violence here never lets up and it is going to take a hell of a lot more than The Hotel Inspector to sort this place out. The film gradually builds to a full onslaught of zombies in the final chapter which makes for a climactic showdown and the eventual twisted ending which was present in so many of these early classics.
So the film is a horror masterpiece, now how about the Blu-ray?
Released by Arrow Video the first thing to mention here is that all early releases had major issues with print quality as the opening prologue was released in black and white instead of sepia as was originally intended. Responding well to buyers complaints, Arrow quickly set up a replacement program where they would issue a corrected disc to anyone who provided them with proof of purchase. This replacement program proved relatively hassle free and Arrow should be highly commended for their efforts.
On reviewing the corrected discs transfer, the 1080p 2.35:1 print is visually quite impressive. Detail can be striking at times with colours and black levels being pretty strong throughout. Although the odd speck of print damage tends to surface from time to time, overall this is a strong transfer and certainly the best the film has looked to date.
Audio is presented with English 5.1 DTS HD and mono options as well as an Italian mono track. Dialogue is clear however can come across as a little distant from time to time which is probably down to original filming elements, however the background effects are mainly well defined with the odd thunderclap really catching you off guard. The now classic score thunders through your home cinema system grabbing your attention and adding to the already intense atmosphere generated by the movie.
Extras are impressive for this release, beginning with 2 commentaries one being with Catriona McColl and David Warbeck which is recycled from an earlier DVD release but the other being a brand new chat track with Callum Waddell and Lucio Fulci's Daughter Antonella. The new track containing a rare glimpse into Antonella's thoughts and memories of her fathers legacy. Following the commentaries there is also a Q&A session with Catriona McColl and a fairly lengthy interview with actress Cinzia Monreale who discusses her carer in many of these horror classics. Rounding things off there is also a 30 page booklet and a full double sided poster making an altogether impressive extras package.
All things considered, the film is an outright horror classic which ultimately belongs in the collection of any Italian horror collector. The print and audio quality here present the film in a far higher quality than any preceding release, making this an easy purchase for zombie/Fulci lovers everywhere. Admittedly the transfer and audio was never going to hold up compared to the modern day blockbusters however the film itself holds its own in that regard and easily out shines most recent modern day horror efforts. As this Blu-ray release is not region locked, there really is no excuse not to own a copy if you are a fan.
So sit back, soak up the atmosphere and once again check into the Seven Doors Hotel, built over one of the gateways to Hell itself. Like the song says, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!
Distributor: Blue Underground (US)
It actually doesn't matter which title you know this movie by, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie, Zombi 2, Island of the Living Dead, Woodoo, the list is probably endless. The film however is instantly recognisable as the greatest Italian zombie classic ever put to celluloid and is widely regarded by many fans as Lucio Fulci's finest hour.
So, what exactly is it that makes this film stand out from countless other releases which all flooded the market when Italian zombie movies were cool?
Filmed on location in the late seventies and starring then popular British actor Ian McCulloch of Terry Nation's post apocalyptic series Survivors, the film has a great deal to like. Scripting is tight and suspenseful providing a genuinely disturbing atmospheric setting which is further enhanced by the now classic soundtrack. What really sets this film apart however are the make up and special effects which have yet to be bettered in the zombie genre over 30 years later. Whether it's the army of decaying zombies slowly rising from the ancient cemetery, or the numerous sequences of outrageous violence and gore, the special effects have ultimately helped to keep this film at the top of most zombie collectors wants lists for over 3 decades.
Presented region free by Blue Underground, this new Blu-ray release is advertised as having undergone extensive remastering from the original negatives in a brand new 2K HD scan and the end result is certain be pleasing to fans of the film. Presented in a 1080p 2.35:1 transfer, detail is sharp with strong colour representation. Background images are especially enhanced particularly towards the final act of the movie and undoubtedly the more familiar you are with the film, the more detail you will suddenly notice popping up on-screen like never before. With a decent amount of depth also present in black levels, it goes without saying that this movie has never looked as good as it does in its current presentation.
Audio is presented with English DTS-HD 7.1 and Italian DTS-HD 7.1 options. Dialogue appears fresh and clear and the now famous score powers through your speakers providing an enriched atmosphere which will really draw you into the movie. Whether it is the sound of the ever nearing voodoo drums or the final shoot-out in the run down hospital, the audio track here provides a level of depth previously unheard.
Extras begin with a recycled DVD commentary with star Ian McCulloch who actually has some interesting things to say about his experience in making the film, however it is a shame that Blue Underground didn't invest in a new commentary track as McCulloch has attended a number of film conventions since the original was recorded and would probably have much new information and anecdotes to offer. Following the commentary there are a number of different interview segments all running at between ten and twenty two minutes which feature many members of both cast and crew.
Some of the interviews are inter-cut with convention footage of the actors signing posters and artwork for the many waiting fans whilst attending a Q&A session and there are also interviews with the composer who discusses his now legendary score and Lucio Fulci's daughter Antonella. Rounding off the extras package are the usual trailers and TV spots and an extensive picture gallery featuring some classic bloody artwork from around the globe and a handful of rare behind the scenes stills.
All things considered the film is a must own title for zombie collectors everywhere and the improvements in transfer and audio alone instantly justifies a purchase of this Blu-ray release. The film itself has quite simply never looked or sounded better and for a movie which oozes atmosphere, this new presentation will put you right back into the advancing zombie infestation like never before.
This really is one horror classic that richly deserves to be seen in all it's outrageous bloodthirsty crumbling zombie nastiness... oh and if you think you seen the film before...
You ain’t seen nothing yet!
The Poseidon Adventure
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE
Distributor : 20th Century Fox Germany
Well it's finally arrived...the ultimate disaster movie which spawned a host of imitations, an official sequel and at least two recent remakes.
The Poseidon Adventure takes the premise of a band of passengers whose world is literally turned upside down when their cruise liner flips over 180 degrees thanks to a freak tidal wave. The small group of survivors band together forcing their way through the maze of corridors and obstacles in the up turned ship to attempt to make their way to the hull which is now positioned above them on the water line.
With various dangers to bypass including water, fire, steam and even the threat from mounting tensions within the group, the drama is played out over the films near two hour running time and unlike the modern day remakes really takes its time in fleshing out the characters allowing the viewer to actually care about their fates therefore making the movie all the more enjoyable.
Released in Germany about a month before the American Blu-ray release, it would appear that Fox have used the same master across both territories. The region free German Blu-ray is at least English friendly with no forced subtitles and English audio pre-selected when you hit play from the main menu. Another consideration worth noting is that although the US release has already been announced, it will begin its life as a Walmart Exclusive which can sometimes make for an expensive import for UK collectors.
Ultimately the biggest surprise on the German Blu-ray would prove to be the quality of the transfer. Having seen countless different incarnations of the movie over the years, the 16x9 2.35:1 1080p transfer presented on this release is nothing short of a revelation. Detail literally pours from the screen like never before showing every bead of sweat on the characters faces and greatly enhanced background scenery. Colours are also particularly strong with black levels showing a substantial depth. Being a recent 20th Century Fox title, there was more than a little concern that this transfer may receive the “Predator” Blu-ray treatment in which the actors appeared to have been replaced with waxwork dummies through excessive use of DNR filtering, thankfully however this is not the case here as we are treated to a solid visually stunning transfer which will no doubt please collectors everywhere.
Audio is presented with English DTS-HD 4.0 which is clean, crisp and a vast improvement over previous releases. From dialogue heavy moments to scenes of mass destruction, the struggle for survival has never sounded so vibrant although it is actually your front three speakers which gain the biggest work out here.
Extra features are also well represented beginning with two commentary tracks, one being with director Robert Neame and the other with cast members Pamela Sue Martin, Stella Stevens and Carol Lynley. Following the chat tracks are various mini documentaries which delve into many aspects on the making of the film plus interviews with cast and crew, a featurette on the R.M.S. Queen Mary which doubled for the Poseidon in the film, plus the usual trailers, stills galleries and even storyboard comparisons,
All things considered if you are a fan of the film, then the Blu-ray is an essential purchase and with an import price of around £13, this German release is certainly a worthy contender. The improvement in picture quality alone easily justifies the purchase price and with the addition of a well defined audio track and a decent amount of extras, the distributor has delivered an incredibly strong package. Proof if ever required that these vintage movies can really be given a new lease of life on Blu-ray if treated with the care they so deserve.
Whether or not the official sequel Beyond the Poseidon Adventure will ever see the light of day on Blu-ray remains to be seen, as although vastly inferior to its predecessor, it does have its moments and would make for a nice companion piece to the original movie.
So if you like classic movies of the disaster variety, grab yourself the best ever presentation, sit back and experience The Poseidon Adventure like you've never seen before, after all they don't come much more classic than this.
Distributor: Aventi (France)
What happens when you cross an old fashioned western movie with a slice of The Terminator?
Well in this case you have a highly entertaining and rather suspenseful film which involves a bunch of rich holiday makers attending the futuristic resort of Delos, whose feature attraction comprises of various period settings where for the cost of $1000 per day guests can live out their fantasies in different ages in history. Everything in the park is monitored, guests are served by humanoid looking robots which cater to their every desire, however what begins as the ultimate act of escapism soon turns into the ultimate fight for survival as the robots begin to malfunction and start eliminating the guests.
Originally released in the early 70's the film does appear a little dated by modern day standards, however Yul Brynners performance as the unstoppable, unemotional, gun slinging killing machine is still as good today as it ever was, providing a tense and unnerving atmosphere to the proceedings.
Making its high definition debut on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributor Aventi, Westworld is presented with a 16x9 1080p transfer which looks altogether excellent. Colours are rich and vibrant, black levels highly defined and apart from the odd minor scratch or blemish here and there, the print appears to be in great shape. There does however appear to be some confusion over the details of the transfer as various sources have listed this as being presented in1080i. On testing, our disc definitely registered a 1080p source so make of this what you will. One thing which is certain though, Westworld never has and probably never will look any better than it does here.
Audio is presented with French and English DTS-HD 5.1 options. Both tracks are clean and free from any distortion. Dialogue is clear and well defined, action scenes although spread out thinly throughout the film sound reasonably strong however the biggest noticeable upgrade over any previous releases is the films score which now powers through your speakers especially towards the final act of the movie. Admittedly it is only the front channel speakers which have much to do here, but there should be no real complaints over the audio track especially considering the age of the material.
Extras unfortunately present the only let down on this release as there are quite simply none. Not unless you count chapter stops as an extra. It's a real shame that some documentary footage or the long rumoured deleted scenes couldn't have been included here, but I suppose you can't have everything you want all of the time.
All things considered, if you are a fan of the film then this release makes for an excellent (if a little expensive) import. The Blu-ray is thankfully English friendly as subtitles can be turned off when viewing the English audio track, although US collectors should bear in mind that the disc is locked to Region B. If you can handle the heightened import price and you don't want to wait for an eventual domestic release, then the transfer quality alone should more than justify a purchase and it is great to see another classic movie given a worthy presentation on Blu-ray.
So the Blu-ray is expensive, however as all Delos holiday goers know, sometimes the things you desire most in life cost a little extra...and at least it is perfectly safe for humans.
Westworld ...where robot men and women are programmed to serve you for ...Romance ...Violence ...Anything!
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