Blu Review 19 Day of the Triffids
The Day of the Triffids Blu-ray Review
Distributor : Showbox Media Group Ltd. (UK)
A couple of years ago there was much talk of the BBC remaking their classic 1981 television series Day of the Triffids. The remake was filmed, then seemed to take an eternity to actually become broadcast. Eventually shown over the 2009 Christmas period, on watching the remake during it's initial broadcast, I was left feeling that it was a reasonable production, but not in the same league as the original.
Having later noticed a Blu-ray release, I decided that it would certainly be worth viewing again and I'm very pleased to report, that although I will always prefer the original series, I have come to realise that this remake, although rather different, is actually very good on it's own merit.
The Blu-ray release from Showbox Media which is not region locked, presents the 2 feature length episodes on one disc, with the option from the main menu to play either the Night One episode or to select Night Two.
On selecting play, the first thing you notice is that the 1080p transfer presented here, is shockingly good. Crisp sharp detail is present throughout, with some of the exterior shots simply looking incredible. Colours are extremely well defined and even dark levels are impressive. For a television series release and considering that the BBC's own Blu-ray releases are usually presented in 1080i, this really looks a lot better than should have been expected.
The audio is no slouch either. The DTS HD 5.1 track sounds powerful and clear throughout. Dialogue is strong and bassy and during the many action scenes which involve Triffid attacks, parts of the audio will have you almost jumping from your seat if you are watching for the first time.
As far as extras are concerned, there are some deleted scenes, a making of feature and many cast and crew interviews. This selection is more than reasonable when you consider that this is ultimately a television series release.
All things considered this is actually a high quality package. Of course given the choice, I would rather have the original series released on Blu-ray, but seeing as how that version was filmed back in 1981 and with the BBC's current lack of enthusiasm at this time, for releasing their older catalogue titles onto Blu-ray, this remake makes an excellent variant to the original story. Definitely one that improves with repeated viewings and recommended for Triffid fans or end of the world enthusiasts everywhere.
The Human Race Has Had It's Day.
Blu Review 20 - Shogun Assassin
Shogun Assassin Blu-ray Review
Distributor: AnimEigo US
Never mind The Bride from Kill Bill, if you should find yourself embarking on a war against an army of crazed samurai killers, then Lone Wolf is the one warrior that you need on your side.
Originally taken from the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Shogun Assassin has built up a real cult following among various movie enthusiasts around the globe. From grind house theatres in the US, to one time video nasty status in the UK, the film has seen it's fair share of controversy over the years. At least two alternate edits of the film exist, including the original six part Lone Wolf / Baby Cart series and the Americanised movie version which splices together footage from two episodes and adds a brand new linking narration taken from the perspective of Lone Wolf's son Daigoro.
Previously released in the UK on video cassette and DVD, the film has always suffered from transfer problems including cropping and visible print damage. Released in 2006 in the US on DVD by the same distributor as this new Blu-ray release, the transfer was far superior to all other releases and was widely thought to be the best the film would ever look. Rather surprisingly then, this Blu-ray release has had even more time and attention spent on it, easily making it the ultimate release of the film to date.
Shogun Assassin in it's 30th Anniversary Collectors Edition, marks the début Blu-ray release for the AnimEigo studio and to get the ultimate print of the film, they took original masters from the two Lone Wolf Episodes and re-edited them together to exactly match the movie as previously released. This process enabled the distributor to release a pristine wide-screen 1080p print of the film which is huge improvement over all previous releases. Although the distributor had also performed the same trick with their US DVD release, this is the first time that they were able to produce an HD master and the difference is easily noticeable. The new HD transfer is excellent throughout with background elements showing far more detail than ever before. Skin tones and colours are also strong with black levels also being impressive. Never before has the extreme bloodshed looked so gloriously over the top, with reds gushing all over the screen in every angle conceivable.
As far as the audio is concerned, this movie was never going to present a sound effects fuelled extravaganza, however the dialogue is clean, crisp and free from distortion making Daigoro's narration seem all the more prominent and engrossing.
Extras here are also impressive. Exclusive to the Blu-ray release, there are a total of two audio commentaries. The first of which is with the films producer, the graphic designer and the voice actor for Daigoro himself. The second commentary track presents the thoughts of film scholar Ric Meyers and martial arts expert Steve Watson. Obviously there is a wealth of information available here, which should present even the greatest fans of the film with something new. Moving on from the commentaries, we are presented with a video interview with none other than Samuel L. Jackson who talks about his love for the film. Dating from his first initial viewing, to now modern day screenings, his genuine enthusiasm for movies of this kind is widely evident here.
All things considered, the Blu-ray release is definitely set to become the ultimate must own edition of the film. Whether or not the distributor will release the rest of the series on Blu-ray remains to be seen, however if their first step into the Blu market is anything to go by, they appear to be a company that puts a great deal of effort into their releases, so it will be interesting to see what follows. The only negative aspect concerning this Blu release is that it happens to be locked to Region A, further proof if ever needed, that multi-region Blu-ray is the only way to go.
In summing up, the ultimate tag line for the movie is best left to Daigoro's own narration.
“MY FATHER WASN'T SCARED OF THE SHOGUN...THE SHOGUN WAS SCARED OF HIM”
The Return of the Living Dead Blu-ray Review
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD Blu-ray Review
Distributor: MGM Video (US)
“How do you kill something that's already dead?”
For some time now, The Return of the Living Dead has been on Obscura's most wanted Blu-ray list. On first hearing of this release some months ago, we were very keen to see if the wait would ultimately prove worth while. Thankfully and just for the print quality alone, it was.
Having seen the film across countless video releases and DVD releases over the years, finally seeing the HD print proved to be a real treat. The film is presented with a strong 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which looks excellent considering the original low budgets of the movie itself. Colours are a real eye opener and look vibrant throughout, black levels appear strong and there is a definite increase on the available detail here. The transfer quality, really is a lot better than expected.
Audio is presented in DTS HD and dialogue is both clear and effective. Running through the whole film, the classic punk rock anthems are given a real boost. One point worth noting however is that the soundtrack on this Blu-ray is the same as the previous DVD release which has received some audio substitutions. These include a change to the pitch on Tarman's famous “brains” quotes and some lessening of the background music during certain scenes. Apparently these changes were director approved and although the Tarman of the 80's sounded funnier and yet more creepy than his new deeper voice suggests, this isn't enough to ruin an otherwise excellent presentation.
The extras offered on this release are ported over from the recent special edition DVD including a cast commentary track, a director commentary, a modern day making of documentary and a reasonably in depth feature about 1980's horror movies.
The only real negative in this release, is that yet again, the many deleted scenes and extensive workprint footage is nowhere to be seen. Any long term fan of the film will be aware that much alternate footage exists, including a very different ending. Instead of including a pretty much otherwise useless DVD disc with this package, it would have been preferable to have included a workprint version or at the very least, some deleted scenes on the second disc.
Still, all things considered, The Return of the Living Dead makes an impressive début on Blu-ray, the print quality here really makes a big difference over previous releases and it's safe to say that this is probably the best this film will ever look. For fans of classic 1980's zombie/horror movies, this is a must have title, and for everyone else, you could actually do a lot worse than adding this one to your collection. Be advised though, if the curse of region coding still affects your purchasing decisions, this release is locked to A.
The original fast running, brain munching, paramedic and cop calling living dead, have never appeared as intense.
Oh and “watch your tongue, boy, if you like this job!”
Like this job?
Another nice review sam.
"Give me grain or give me death!"
MAD MAX / MAD MAX 2 Blu-ray Reviews
MAD MAX / MAD MAX 2 Blu-ray reviews
Distributors: MGM Video (US) / Warner Home Video (US)
Originally set to be two individual reviews, it seemed an interesting notion to link the two together as presumably most buyers interested in one of these movies, may well be interested in the other.
Mad Max is released on Blu-ray in a US region A locked disc courtesy of MGM Video.
Rather annoyingly it has been released in one of those Blu-ray/DVD sets which has most of the extras on the DVD, however as far as the overall quality of the release goes, Mad Max on Blu-ray is impressive.
The 1080p 2.35:1 wide-screen transfer is reasonably strong, although due to original filming elements, it will not compete against modern day movie transfers. An amount of film grain is clearly evident in certain outdoor scenes and it was nice to see that this release has not suffered with issues of DNR. Colours and black levels are particularly impressive throughout, with much improved detail over the DVD releases.
Audio tracks for this release were always going to be of great concern. Thankfully MGM have made the right decision in releasing this Blu-ray with the original Australian soundtrack intact, which is presented in both 5.1 DTS or the the added option of the original Australian mono. In addition, there are also other audio options available, including Spanish and French stereo tracks and the cringe worthy original American dubbed mono for completists. Ultimately it is the original Australian audio track which is the ultimate find here, presented clearly in DTS-HD which is clean and free from distortion.
Extra features are also impressive, including a group commentary track with the films cinematographer, special effects technician, art director and Mad Max “super fan” and a lengthy movie featurette all present on the Blu-ray disc. There is also a Mel Gibson documentary, trivia facts track, trailers, TV spots and photo gallery which are all to be found on the DVD disc.
All things considered, MGM have produced a very neat package here which fans of the film will no doubt appreciate.
The original 1980's classic which spawned a trend of post apocalyptic sci-fi /action movies.
Max Max 2 or The Road Warrior depending on your preferred title, is released on Blu-ray by Warner Home Video on a region free disc.
Having seen the film across many different video and DVD releases over the years, the Blu-ray transfer can only be described as stunning. It is no exaggeration to say that the print looks almost brand new and will simply blow away your expectations, especially if you are accustomed to seeing regular standard definition prints of the movie.
The colours and detail in this 1080p 16x9 wide-screen transfer are excellent, showing no print damage to speak of and a very sharp clean image throughout. It is also worth noting for purists of the film that this release contains an uncut print of the movie, restoring a couple of extra gore shots including arrow and boomerang sequences which were cut from all previous R rated prints. The only other release to feature this footage was the original Japanese DVD release which has been out of print for many years.
The soundtrack on this Blu-ray release is presented in 5.1 audio which sounds clear and free from distortion. Dialogue is strong throughout, with a huge improvement over the DVD audio tracks. The improved audio is especially evident during the many scenes of carnage involving the iconic vehicle chases and subsequent crashes, which made the movie so popular to begin with.
Extra features comprise of an informative commentary track with director George Miller and cinematographer Dean Semler, an introduction to the film by critic Leonard Maltin and the theatrical trailer. Although it would have been a huge boost to see the now infamous deleted scenes or some modern day interviews or documentaries, the upgrade of the HD transfer alone is more than enough to justify a purchase of this release.
Mad Max 2 is one of the all time great 80's classic movies and it is fully deserving of the HD treatment. It is safe to say that this Blu-ray release is easily the best that this movie has or probably ever will look.
So, overall, two impressive Blu-ray releases for two classic iconic movies, but bear in mind that outside of the US, you will need multi region capabilities to enable to playback of both titles.
Hopefully, a Thunderdome Blu-ray release will not be too far away to complete the series.
“In the future, cities will become deserts, roads will become battlefields and the hope of mankind will appear as a stranger.”
DAWN OF THE DEAD 2004 Blu-ray Review
DAWN OF THE DEAD 2004 Blu-ray Review.
How do you remake the best zombie movie ever made?
It was never going to be an easy task, the original Dawn of the Dead is not only widely considered as the best zombie movie ever put to celluloid, it is also widely regarded as one of the best horror movies period. In 2003 Zack Snyder took on the task and one year later released a remake which actually remains faithful to the original source but also enhances the experience to give us something new. Now, admittedly the remake was never going to better the original, that would be like reasonably expecting Starcrash to beat Star Wars to the title of best sci-fi movie of all time, but this remake does actually have a lot going for it. We get an updated story, fast running zombies, original cast from the 1978 version of Dawn in cameo roles, tense action/horror sequences, a fair amount of blood and guts and a quick paced enjoyable interpretation of an all time classic.
Dawn of the Dead comes to Blu-ray from Universal Pictures on a region free disc. Although this release contains the unrated extended directors cut of the movie, it is worth noting that as with the previous US DVD release, it is also very slightly optically censored in a scene which involves a topless female zombie. As the zombie is approaching a victim in a car, a smear of digital blood has been added to the windscreen to protect the zombies modesty. Original US cinema prints and foreign DVD releases had the scene unaltered, however for some strange reason the US DVD and now the Blu-ray contain the digitally censored version. Considering the rest of the movie comprises of scenes which include gory death by chainsaw, biting and devouring of people, numerous bloody shootings and a truly horrific scene involving a baby, it would appear that the moral majority among us decided that a pair of naked zombie breasts was just one step too far. However, the shot lasts all of about 2 seconds in total, so unless you are desperate to see the breasts of an undead, it shouldn't spoil your viewing pleasure too much. As for the transfer itself, the 1080p wide-screen print is presented in a 2.35:1 ratio which displays strong colours and a good level of detail. There was however, some print damage or noise visible in a few indoor scenes, which for a relatively new movie came as rather unexpected.
Audio options for this Blu-ray release include an English 5.1 DTS HD track which is strong and bassy during the action scenes and generally lends a powerful atmosphere to the music throughout. On the downside, the actual dialogue seemed a little low at times compared to the rest of the soundtrack.
Extra features include a fun commentary track with the films director Zack Snyder who shares his respect for the original film with the listener, along with recounting various experiences on making his own version. Also included, is a picture in picture track which once selected allows you to watch various behind the scenes footage at various relevant points in the film. A real shame and in fact a huge flaw in this release, is that some of the extras from the previous DVD release including the full news reports, and the “Andy's last days” feature are unforgivably missing from this Blu-ray. To omit such quality extra features appears to be absolutely senseless and shows a real contempt for the movies many followers.
All things considered, this Blu-ray release is certainly flawed, however that being said, it may still be worth the upgrade for the improved audio and picture quality, that is, if you can live without the missing extras. Ultimately, the actual film itself is a lot better than it's Blu-ray release, which really could have been so much better with just a little more care and attention to detail.
One of the best modern day remakes of our time, for one of the best original horror classics of all time, really should have deserved to see a far better Blu-ray release from Universal.
One consolation is that the Blu-ray is overall still the best way to experience the film itself and it should be found at a fairly reasonable price on-line.
“When the undead rise, civilisation will fall”
Last edited by sam tyler; 10-30-2010 at 10:31 PM.
ROBIN OF SHERWOOD Blu-ray Review
Robin of Sherwood (Michael Praed Years) Blu-ray Review
Distributor: Network Video (UK)
Although over the years there have been many tales of the hooded man, Robin of Sherwood for many, remains the ultimate take on the legend. Robin Hood of the 1980's imposed a twist on the legend by adding mysticism and a Celtic soundtrack which fit the series like a glove. Perfectly written by Richard Carpenter and starring many generation actors of the time including Ray Winstone, Clive Mantle, and Michael Praed as Robin, the series instantly became a cult classic which still holds a strong following 26 years after the first episode aired. Marking the latest release, this Blu-ray disc was certainly an unexpected treat for the series many fans and was always going to make for an interesting review. Thankfully Network Video have released this set as region A, B and C so fans worldwide should have no issues of playback.
Robin of Sherwood has seen a variety of releases, dating back to original video cassettes featuring one or two episodes, to DVD releases of the complete individual series (of which there were 3) to a complete DVD box set. This new Blu-ray release contains all of the Michael Praed episodes which made up the entire first two series of the show, with each episode having been extensively remastered in high definition from the original 16mm prints. Certain collectors these days have stated that releasing a product which was filmed in 16mm onto Blu-ray is not a worthwhile exercise, however having experienced watching this series on DVD, I was actually awestruck in the difference of the 1080p print quality. The episodes are presented as transmitted in their original 4x3 aspect ratio and the enhanced detail available really shines through. A noticeably major improvement with this new transfer are the colours on display which are stunningly rich and vibrant and their quality really draws you into the episode like never before. Black levels are also excellent and the print appears clean and crisp throughout with the slightest amount of grain detail showing in certain scenes and with a very minimal amount of print damage on display. Part of the charm of this series was the fantastic location shooting which is complemented all the more in high definition.
One issue worth noting, is that for some reason, two of the later series 2 episodes, appear out of transmission order and are placed on the second disc after the final episodes of the first series. Quite why they have been arranged in this way is a mystery, however the inside of the Blu-ray cover contains all of the episodes synopsis as well as the original transmission date information, so it is relatively easy to research and view in the original episode order if desired.
Audio quality is also a great improvement over the DVD release. Dialogue is clear and distortion free but the real treat is the music soundtrack by Irish folk group Clannad which sounds better than ever with the now classic tracks filling the room for the ultimate experience. The music sounds bassy and powerful throughout and helps to create the ultimate viewing atmosphere.
Extra features in this set are numerous, beginning with an extended Electric Theatre Show documentary presented in in high definition, which was filmed for television at the time of the original series and features interviews and footage on the making of the first two episodes of the series. This was previously released on the DVD sets, although the version here has been specially extended to produce a longer version. The previous DVD episode commentary tracks are also included in this set and are a real treat for fans of the series and there is also a music only option on the soundtrack. There is also a stills gallery of over 500 images presented in HD. Also included in this set is a DVD disc which contains even more extras including two exclusive documentaries on the making of Robin of Sherwood (the Michael Praed years), series one and two out takes, featurettes on three episodes, and PDF materials including the original story treatment and some scripts. Rounding this set of, there is also an extensive booklet covering the story of Robin of Sherwood which covers pre-production, the making of the series and post production issues including Mary Whitehouses' public dislike for the series.
There is also information available relating to original filming locations used for the series.
All things considered this set is an essential purchase for fans of the original series and should be considered as the last word on a classic piece of 1980's television. Hopefully the care and attention placed in this release will be appreciated and sales figures will warrant a Blu-ray release of the final series with Jason Connery taking over as Robin. This Blu-ray is advertised as a limited edition and although not a numbered edition, is well worth investing in as the ultimate release.
A very worthy Blu-ray release for a TV classic.... Robin of Sherwood is still as popular as ever...
NOTHINGS FORGOTTEN... NOTHINGS EVER FORGOTTEN.
STARCRASH Blu-ray Review
Starcrash Blu-ray Review
Distributor: Shout Factory, US
What is the most cheesy flick you remember from your childhood?
If you were a fan of Italian sci-fi rip off movies during the late 70's or early 80's then the answer to the above question could well be Starcrash. Once Star Wars hit theatres in the late 1970's, it was such box office gold worldwide, that in Italy science fiction movies were perceived as the next big thing. Starcrash was their answer to the George Lucas smash hit, and like its predecessor, over the years the film has since gained a wide cult following and probably not without good reason. Admittedly the acting in Starcrash will never be considered as Oscar worthy and a couple of the effects now look as though they were put together by Blue Peter presenters using sticky-backed plastic, however beneath the cheese factor, there is actually a worthwhile story here. The movie packs into its running time, many different aspects including: space adventure, Amazon tribes (on horseback), a giant warrior Titan, frozen planets, stone age tribes, light sabre battles, a pair of mean looking sword wielding Gollums, a wise cracking robot and a wannabe Jedi as loyal companions, outer space battles and even David Hasslehoff sporting extreme eye liner, that it is at the very least, entertaining for some, and an outright classic for many.
Starcrash is released on Blu-ray as part of Shout Factories Roger Corman's cult classics series with the disc labelled as region A but thankfully not being locked. The film has a troubled history with print quality on previous releases, but the new 1080p anamorphic wide-screen transfer on this Blu-ray, is easily the best that the film has ever looked. The transfer however is not without some small issues. Some minor print damage is evident during a small number of scenes and although colours and black levels are generally good, there are some instances where the picture looks a little faded at times. That being said, this is probably due to the original low budget filming elements rather than any mastering issues and there are no real problems of any major concern with this transfer. Comparing this Blu-ray release to the horrible previous DVD transfers is like comparing night and day. Starcrash really never has looked this good before. It is worth noting however, that this release contains the shorter American edit of the film. Certain scene extensions which were present in the original UK and European releases have been trimmed from the US cut, as the film was considered to run smoother this way for American audiences. These trims are nothing of any notable concern and they are all present in the deleted scenes section on disc 2 along with other extra features.
Audio quality on this release is again a vast improvement on the DVD releases, and the now classic music score thunders through the speakers in DTS HD audio, sounding more powerful than ever before. Dialogue and effects are clear, although nothing spectacular, but again bearing in mind the films original low budget roots, it would be wrong to expect knock out sound quality to rival the new movie releases.
Extras are plentiful on this release. On the first disc, there is a very informative extended interview with the films director Luigi Cozzi, which should really be considered as more of a mini making of documentary. Two audio commentaries can also be found here which feature Starcrash expert Stephen Romano and between them cover just about any aspect of the film that you would care to research. Other extras on this disc include a detailed analysis of the films music score, behind the scenes gallery, promotional art and fan art galleries, TV and radio spots and original trailers which also have commentary options with Eli Roth and Joe Dante. On the second disc there is an extended interview with Caroline Munroe who discusses her time as Stella Star and her subsequent career, 17 deleted scenes, original screenplay, a behind the scenes reel complete with commentary track and a feature which looks at the special effects of the film. As if all that wasn't enough, there is even a 10 page booklet containing Stephen Romano's general thoughts on the film and a reversible cover.
Starcrash has certainly been given the royal treatment on Blu-ray. Not only does the picture and sound quality alone justify the purchase, but the extras here really are something special for fans of the film. If you have a fondness for campy science fiction movies, or even for seeing Caroline Munroe in a variety of skimpy outfits, then re-visit this classic trashy piece of Italian cinema, like you have never seen or heard it before.
EPIC ADVENTURE IN OUTER SPACE WHERE THE GOOD GUYS SET OUT TO TRACK THE EVIL COUNTS SECRET WEAPON.
Last edited by sam tyler; 11-19-2010 at 08:27 PM.
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