Release Date(s)1993 (January 16, 2018)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Shout! Factory/Shout Select)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
It’s been 25 years since Joe Dante released, what is arguably, his final heyday film Matinee. An examination of the world of 1960s America during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as a loving tribute to monster movies and William Castle, it unfortunately wasn’t a hit at the box office, but has gone on to become one of Dante’s most beloved works. A straightforward story about a young monster movie fan and a young idealistic girl finding each other at their loneliest leads to the pièce de résistance: MANT!, a monster movie that master of ceremonies Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman) presents to a small Florida coastal community, complete with a guy dressed up as a monster prowling the audience, electric buzzers installed in the seats, and rumbling speakers. But is it the movie that’s making the ground shake or have the bombs finally been dropped?
In many ways, Matinee is Joe Dante’s most playful film outside of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. It’s also his most personal. While the events in the story are fictitious, the characters and the world that make up the film were a part of his childhood. Even the leading kid’s bedroom is literally covered in Dante’s own personal collection of monster movie memorabilia, which he often joked saved his set decorator time and money. Then there’s John Goodman, who is wonderful in his role as William Castle-esque movie maker and promoter Lawrence Woolsey: one part slimy businessman, and one part hero with a heart of gold to the people who associate closely with him. The Cuban Missile Crisis itself is treated as dangerous but greeted with farce. Dante even mocks the “duck and cover” method, as well as the sustainability of fallout shelters. But at its heart, Matinee is really about the childhood glee of going to the movies, being scared by them, and coming out of them just fine. It’s such a fun and heart-warming film that manages to avoid overt schmaltz, holding up well on repeated viewings.
Shout Select’s Collector’s Edition U.S. Blu-ray debut of Matinee comes with a dated but pleasant transfer. It’s a bit soft with prominent grain that’s fairly stable with occasional signs of edge enhancement, although not to an egregious degree. It’s a mostly film-like presentation with plenty of fine detail on display, particularly in close-ups. Color reproduction is quite good as well. It doesn’t always pop, but it’s varied and rich during the MANT! screening. Blacks are fairly solid while contrast and brightness levels leave certain outdoor sections looking a tad overcast, which I mostly chalk up to the original scan. It’s also stable with no major film damage leftover other than occasional speckling. The audio for it is presented in two options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional English subtitles. While both tracks feature dialogue that’s clean and clear, the 5.1 presentation has an edge with definite surround movement during big sequences, as well as minor ones. Atmospherics and low end activity are frequent while also giving the score more room to breathe. The 2.0 track is of the same caliber, but with obviously less space to move around in. As to how this transfer compares to Arrow Video’s, I can’t say for certain because I don’t actually own that release, but despite not being a fresh scan, it’s still a pleasant viewing experience.
This release also features quite an extensive amount of extras as well – all of them educational and entertaining, which is the best combination. The new material consists of roughly 2 hours worth of interviews with many members of the cast and crew, including Master of the Matinee with director Joe Dante; The Leading Lady with actress Cathy Moriarty; MANTastic: The Making of a MANT with Mant/ant designer Jim McPherson and actor Mark McCracken; Out of the Bunker with former actress Lisa Jakub; Making a Monster Theatre with production designer Steve Legler; The Monster Mix with editor Marshall Harvey; and Lights! Camera! Reunion! with director of photography John Hora. All of this material is excellent, especially the Joe Dante and Cathy Moriarty interviews. Dante discusses much of the film’s development and casting process while Moriarty shares lots of tidbits about her experiences making the film. It’s also great that they managed to get Lisa Jakub, who was in a few hit movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Independence Day before retiring from the business to pursue other things. The rest of the extras are carried over from previous releases, including the 33-minute French featurette Paranoia in Ant Vision, or the Pleasure of Being Afraid with Joe Dante, which covers much of the same ground as the new interview; MANT!, the full 23-minute version of the film within the film with a semi-introduction by Joe Dante; a 5-minute vintage making of featurette; 8 minutes worth of on-set behind the scenes footage; 5 deleted and extended scenes; an animated still gallery; and the original theatrical trailer, presented in SD. Only a few minor things couldn’t be included, including the full trailer for MANT! and the Atomo Vision interview with director Joe Dante from the Universal laserdisc release; an introduction by Dante, trailers from various horror and science fiction films, and the Duck and Cover short film and President Kennedy’s address on Cuba Easter eggs from the Koch Media Region B Blu-ray release; and the Big Parts! The Joe Dante Players featurette from the Arrow Video Region B Blu-ray and DVD releases. Obviously, that isn’t very much, and the new material more than makes up for it.
Long overdue for a Blu-ray release in the states, Matinee makes its debut with a wildly entertaining extras package and a transfer that, while not perfect, but has plenty of value. It’s one of Dante’s most fun movies and clearly a release that fans of his, as well as monster movie fans of all ages, will want to pick up. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons