During the self-aware slasher craze of the late 1990s that was popularized by films like Scream, Urban Legend, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, a glut of teen-oriented horror films came along, several of them comedies. Idle Hands was released during this timeframe, and while it was essentially a box office flop upon its initial release, fans of horror comedies took a shine to it and it managed to garner a small cult following. Directed by Rodman Flender, this oddball genre entry about the possessed hand of a teenager killing his friends and family features Devon Sawa in the lead with Seth Green, Elden Henson, Vivica A. Fox, and a young and particularly beautiful Jessica Alba as its co-stars.
Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of the film features audio in English 5.1 DTS-HD with English subtitles, as well as an audio commentary with director Rodman Flender and actors Seth Green & Elden Henson; a deleted scene with an introduction from the director; an EPK-type promotional featurette; the film’s theatrical trailer; and a set of video storyboard comparisons.
Released in the wake of the success of Crocodile Dundee two years prior, Dark Age made its way to the U.S. in 1988, but unfortunately was never released theatrically in its native land. The story concerns wildlife ranger Steve Harris (John Jarrat) and his girlfriend (Nikki Coghill), who set out to save a giant crocodile and relocate it to a breeding sanctuary before a tough-as-nails croc hunter (Max Phipps) gets to it first. A favorite of Quentin Tarantino and only screened a handful of times at recent film festivals, it was all but impossible to see in Australia for many years.
Making its debut in high definition, Umbrella’s release of the film features audio in English 2.0 and English 2.0 mono Dolby Digital with English subtitles. As for the extras, you’ll find a set of uncut Not Quite Hollywood interviews with actor John Jarrat and producer Anthony Ginnane; an audio commentary with Jarrat and Ginnane; A Bicentenary with Bite: Revisiting Dark Age, a panel discussion with film critics Emma Westwood, Sally Christie, Lee Gambin, and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; a Living with Crocodiles vintage TV program; the film’s theatrical trailer; 2 U.S. home video trailers; and an image gallery.
THE MAN FROM HONG KONG
When it comes to the cinema of Australia, one filmmaker has continuously pushed the boundaries of action filmmaking: Brian Trenchard-Smith. Of his various films, The Man from Hong Kong was unique in that it managed to bring together Australian and Hong Kong production entities to produce a story about a detective of Asian descent who travels to Sydney in order to clean up a drug ring. Released in the U.S. as Dragon Flies, it is now heralded by many kung fu film aficionados as well-made with great cinematography by Russell Boyd, who would go on to lens films like The Year of Living Dangerously and Master and Commander: Far Side of the World.
If you’re someone who is interested in checking out films made in Australian, in particular, those by Brian Trenchard-Smith, then this Blu-ray release will be a massive primer for you. It features audio in both English 5.1 and mono DTS-HD with English subtitles, as well as a bulk of extras. They include an audio commentary with Trenchard-Smith; The Making of The Man from Hong Kong behind the scenes footage; Australian Movie Magazine newsreel footage; uncut Not Quite Hollywood interviews with Trenchard-Smith, actors George Lazenby, Rebecca Gilling, Roger Ward, executive producer David Hannay, and second unit cameraman John Seale; the Trailers From Hell version of the film’s trailer with commentary by Trenchard-Smith himself; the original trailer, as well as a video trailer; and “The Headsman’s Daughter” book trailer. Also included on the same disc in standard definition are the films Deathcheaters with optional audio commentary by Trenchard-Smith; Stunt Rock, also with optional audio commentary by Trenchard-Smith, a promo reel, and the film’s trailer; Kung Fu Killers; Dangerfreaks with the film’s trailer; and The Stuntmen.
THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE
One of the more unusual films to come out of Australia is the musical superhero comedy The Return of Captain Invincible. Directed by Phillipe Mora, who also directed The Beast Within and both Howling II and Howling III, this low budget spoof features Alan Arkin as a drunken, broken-down, former superhero who must rise to the occasion when his previous nemesis Mr. Midnight (Christopher Lee) steals a super weapon that could potentially destroy the world. Never released theatrically in the U.S., it bombed terribly upon release elsewhere and fell into mass obscurity.
Now resurrected many years later on home video, the film is poised to soar for cult film audiences seeking out the largely unseen. Although the Umbrella Entertainment Region 4 DVD isn’t loaded with bells and whistles, it does feature audio in English 5.1 Dolby Digital and the film’s theatrical trailer, although no subtitle options are available.
THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE
André Øvredal, who previously helmed the minor cult hit Trollhunter, helms The Autopsy of Jane Doe, a hit on the festival circuit with many touting it as a film destined to be a genre classic. It tells the story of a small town, father and son coroner team (Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch) who find themselves with the unidentified body of a young woman. However, what’s bizarre about her is that she has cloudy eyes but a perfectly preserved body. As they continue their examination, peculiar things begin to transpire, eventually building to a fever pitch of supernatural activity that will test the mettle of them both. Although well-received by many critics and genre aficionados, the film has yet to garner a larger following, which may or may not happen during its aftermarket life.
For Umbrella’s Blu-ray release, there are English audio options in 5.1 DTS-HD and 5.1 Dolby Digital with English subtitles. Extras include various cast and crew interviews (director André Øvredal, producer Ben Pugh, actor Brian Cox, actor Emile Hirsch, producers Eric Garcia and Fred Berger, writers Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing, actress Ophelia Lovibond); a set of behind the scenes footage; six promotional clips; and the film’s theatrical trailer. And just for comparison’s sake, it’s worth noting that the Scream Factory Blu-ray release includes audio in English 2.0 DTS-HD with Spanish subtitles, 2 TV spots, and 2 teasers.
KADAICHA/INNOCENT PREY (DOUBLE FEATURE)
Kadaicha, or Stones of Death as it’s called in the U.S., is a part of the Ozploitation explosion of the 1970s and 1980s. Directed by James Bogle, the plot concerns a housing development wherein teenagers are being viciously murdered. Soon it’s discovered that the building rests upon an aboriginal burial ground that carries a death curse. A very obscure horror film, it unfortunately didn’t make it to theaters and only survived on home video. In the same vein is Innocent Prey, which was completed in 1984 but never saw an official home video release until 1991. Directed by Colin Eggleston, who also helmed the shocker Long Weekend and later Cassandra, the film’s story is about a woman who discovers that her husband is a serial killer. Aiding the police in arresting him, he is institutionalized, but later escapes, looking for revenge against his ex-wife for betraying him. Featuring P.J. Soles, Kit Taylor, and Martin Balsam, the film (as well as its predecessor) are both unavailable in any form in the U.S.
Thanks to Umbrella Entertainment, each film can now be a seen via a Region 4 double feature DVD release. Both films feature audio in English 2.0 Dolby Digital, but no subtitle options. The only extras that are available are each film’s trailer and a single interview: Looking Back on Innocent Prey: A Conversation with P.J. Soles.
KING KONG (1976)
The legendary King Kong from 1933 is a film that has been (forgive the expression) “aped” so many times, not to mention the number of sequels and crossover movies that the title character later appeared in. It makes sense that it would eventually be remade for modern audiences, and it was in 1976 by producer Dino De Laurentiis. The plot of the original film about a group of people on a boat discovering Kong on an unknown island and bringing him back to civilization is still intact. However, there are various tweaks to characters, events, and locations, as well as overall tone. Directed by John Guillerman and starring Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, and a then up and coming Jessica Lange, the film originally premiered with a mixed reception from critics, but a positive box office response.
Unfortunately, U.S. native territories haven’t done much with the film on home video. While it’s had a couple of DVD releases, a Blu-ray hasn’t yet been made available. In that regard, Umbrella’s Region 4 DVD release does have some value. It includes audio in English 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital, but unfortunately no subtitle options. Two extended scenes from the TV version of the film are included as extras, as well as the film’s original theatrical trailer.
A memorable supernatural suspense thriller, The Entity was released in 1983, despite being completed two years earlier. Directed by Sidney J. Furie of Lady Sings the Blues and Iron Eagle fame, the film is based upon a novel by Frank de Felitta about an incident involving an invisible force that attacks a young woman, played by Barbara Hershey. After being ignored by her therapist, she seeks out aide from two college students in order to understand and stop whomever or whatever her attacker is.
Umbrella’s Blu-ray release of the film trumps its U.S. counterpart by including some new extras. The audio for the film is presented in both English 5.1 DTS-HD and 5.1 Dolby Digital with English subtitles while the extras include Finding a Voice for the Entity with composer Charles Bernstein; Robert McNaughton Remembers The Entity; the theatrical trailer; and a poster and stills gallery.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990)
George A. Romero’s original classic film was a landmark for its time, but unfortunately for the people involved with it, they never really made much money off of it due to the legality of it being in the public domain for many years. For that reason and to freshen the story up for a new generation, Tom Savini was tapped by George himself to helm the remake of Night of the Living Dead. Released in 1990, it tells the same story, but with a few key differences along the way. The most significant change is to Barbara’s character. A catatonic basket case that ultimately served no purpose in the original film, she is now a much stronger character, and the film now rests upon her shoulders. A grislier film by comparison, it’s a genre classic that stands toe to toe with the black and white original.
Umbrella’s Blu-ray release features a transfer different than the one found on Twilight Time’s release. To say the least, it’s much better. The audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD with English subtitles and extras that include an audio commentary with director Tom Savini; The Dead Walk: Remaking a Classic featurette; Savini’s Night, an interview with Tom Savini; Return to the Living Dead, interviews with the special effects team John Vulich and Everett Burrell; Being Barbara, an interview with actress Patricia Tallman; vintage behind the scenes footage; and the film’s theatrical trailer.
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- Tim Salmons
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