Vestron Video was one of the seminal video distribution labels for horror, cult, and "B" movie content on VHS throughout the 80's and into the early 90's during the earliest part of the VHS boom. They were started in 1981 by a former Time Life executive who found himself in ownership of a large library of titles from the Cannon Films library amongst other things. In 1992 after 11 years of making waves in cinema circles Vestron Video closed up shop leaving their distinct Red "V" burned into the brains of the many cult and horror aficionados who frequently rented their tapes.
In 2016 Lionsgate Films decided to go through their library of cult horror cinema, and give them long overdue releases on the Blu-ray format. They have decided to do this under the guise of the defunct, but well remembered and well loved Vestron name. Lionsgate’s new horror line has been branded the Vestron Video Collector's Series, and though not every titles that has been announced, or will be announced will have been a prior Vestron release (though some will), they will certainly fit the mold of what the company was releasing at the height of their popularity in the 1980's. For their 2 January 2018 releases they have dug into their vaults and unleashed 2 unreleased to Blu-ray films Ken Russell's GOTHIC and Mark L. Lester's Cyborgs in the classroom sci-fi/horror flick CLASS OF 1999.
Director– Ken Russell
Starring – Natasha Richardson, Gabriel Byrne
Country of Origin- U.K.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
Ken Russell was never one to allow the historically presented facts to get in the way of telling a story the way he wanted to, and so we get stories like Gothic which present the story of the night Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at Lord Byron's mansion in Lake Geneva during a thunderstorm that kept her and a group of writers including her husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and others trapped inside. However, Russell embellishes the goings on in the mansion that night with a story of lust, drugs, and depravity that only he could have come up with.
Gothic is top-tier Russell, and he truly unleashes his unfettered and bizarre vision on screen with only momentary lapses where he feels compelled to delve into the history of the night, and thus keep himself restrained. The cast for this film is impeccable, and do their best with the bizarre material they are handed, the late Natasha Richardson, who plays Mary Shelley seemingly has the most chance to flex her acting muscles, as her performance gets to be a bit more straight forward, then the rest of the cast, and gets to react to the weird goings on. The film, though marketed toward a horror audience (and it is certainly horror), is not likely to scare many, but it's twisted, strange, and occasionally beautiful imagery is not something a viewer will not certainly forget.
Vestron presents Gothic in a 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the OAR of the film. The Blu-ray looks and sound quite nice, and aside from some occasional speckling quite excellent. Detail is excellent, blacks are nice and deep, and color is well reproduced. Audio chores are handled by a DTS-HD MA track in English. Extras include a commentary, isolated score with screen specific commentary by composer Thomas Dolby. There are also interviews, trailers, and more.
The Film (4.5/5)
Class of 1999
Director– Mark L. Lester
Starring – Bradley Gregg, Traci Lind
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
In the future U.S.A. of 1999 the country has gone to Hell, and gangs have taken over, schools have become "Free-fire" zones and no one wants to go to them. One such district is about to reopen their school and let the young prison population attend, with one stipulation, there will be 3 cyborg teachers there to help enact discipline on the student body. Unfortunately, for the students the cyborg’s version of discipline usually ends up in death. So it becomes a battle to the death with the cyborgs against the students and some post-apocalyptic gangs thrown in for good measure.
I had no idea what I was getting into with Class of 1999. I saw it has made in 1990, and wondered if it was related to Class of 1984 (it was not). As it turns out, it's this really fun, sort of film that feels post-apocalyptic, but I think society just collapsed here. There are gangs, killer robots, and unruly students. It has a nice social satire element, some decent splatter, but even in the unrated cut presented on this disc, nothing too over the top. Over all it's just a bit of of fun presented in that 80's stylized punk/new wave package that was apparently still popular by 1990.
Vestron Video presents Class of 1999 in a 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the film's OAR. Everything looks solid here, but a little unremarkable, detail is fine, and the muted color scheme of the film is well represented. Audio is handled with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track in English and that sounds just fine with no issues. Extras include a commentary track, interviews, featurettes, trailers, TV spots, and more.
The Film (3.5/5)