Director- Michael Winner
Cast- Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon
Country of Origin - U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
Burt Lancaster, often found in many a Film Noir back in the 1940s and 1950s such as Brute Force, Sorry Wrong Number, The Killers, Criss Cross and many others, returns somewhat, to his roots in the action crime thriller, Scorpio. In this picture, he plays Cross, a veteran CIA agent and assassin to those who stand in the way of US policies. He has a young partner who is his protégé and soon to be replacement, Alain Delon, playing the title character, Scorpio. Both the partnership, and friendship between the two comes to a halt when the CIA tells Scorpio tell kill Cross for treason and collaborating with the Russians. Scorpio spends the majority of the film chasing Cross including a great chase in a construction site. There are plenty of twists and turns, throughout the picture, including the wives of both Cross and Scorpio getting involved. We also get the obligatory betrayal that we usually get in crime thrillers. Seeing Burt Lancaster run around in an overcoat and hat in 1973 was very reminiscent of the Film Noirs from the forties and fifties that he was in. Director Michael Winner succeeds in making this a moody, suspenseful crime thriller. A *winner* indeed !
Scorpio gets a blu ray release courtesy of Twilight Time and the results, while not overwhelming are solid. Overall the picture quality is very good. It is dual layered, widescreen 1:85:1, with a 1080p resolution, and an MPEG-4 AVC video. Good visuals, colors are solid, good contrast, about as good as this film will ever get.
The Audio for this is basically okay, with Twilight Time using a DTS-HD 1.0 mono track. It’s not as robust as 2.0 or 5.1 but it serviceable. There were no audio issues at all.
There are English subtitles and with all Twilight Time releases, it is Region Free.
Twilight Times gives us a few extras for Scorpio as well; it might not be overwhelming but at least there is something for supplement lovers :
An audio Commentary with Film Historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman
Isolated Score Track
Original Theatrical Trailer
Liner notes by the lovely Julie Kirgo
Overall, Scorpio, a film saved by Twilight Time from permanent obscurity is a really good crime, espionage action thriller and worth having on the shelf. This is another excellent release from our friends over at Twilight Time.
The Film (3.5/5)
Sense and Sensibility
Director- Ang Lee
Cast- Emma Thompson, James Fleet
Country of Origin - U.S./U.K.
Reviewer- David Steigman
There are times when one watches a film that sounds interesting and at the conclusion one wishes they could have that ninety to one hundred and twenty minutes back. This unfortunately was the case for me in the film Sense and Sensibility. Which was “Nominated for seven Academy Awards “ I do enjoy a good romance drama which is why I decided to give this movie the go-around not once, but twice, and I just found it to be a tedious experience. It has a great cast, terrific acting and yet the story, mood and films’ pacing made it a challenge for me to sit through. I will still recommend watching it to those interested in this genre of film.
Sense and Sensibility is a period piece which focuses on The Dashwood family. It’s a movie about marriage for social status and not for love. Imagine living in an era like that. James Fleet (John Dashwood) has the task to take care of his father’s second wife and three daughters Emma Thompson (Elinor Dashwood) Kate Winslet (Marianne Dashwood) and Emile Francois(Margaret Dashwood) as they will not be receiving an inheritance when he passes away. The three penniless sisters move in with John and his snotty wife, Harriet Walter( Fanny Dashwood) . Without a family fortune the three daughters are considered unworthy of marriage. The sisters get involved but the relationships have hardships and heartache, which is what the bulk of the film is about. This is director Ang Lee at his lightest, showing he can do more than just slam bang action.
Twilight Time presents Sense and Sensibility on blu ray and the results are great. It is a dual layered 1080p transfer with an MPEG-4 AVC encode, and it simply could not look any better than this. The colors are gorgeous, with great depth and detail. It is widescreen 1:85:1. The audio is also excellent, with DTS –HD Master Audio 5.1 or 2.0 options. There are English subtitles and most importantly, it is Region Free!
For those that keep saying Twilight Time doesn’t do an extras, this is another case of being incredibly wrong. This one gets a Criterion-esque treatment
Two audio commentaries – one with Actress Emma Thompson and Producer Lindsay Doran and another commentary with Director Ang Lee and Co-Producer James Schamus
We get the usual Isolated Score Track and several other features
Elegance & Simplicity: The Wardrobe of Sense and Sensibility
Locating the World of Sense and Sensibility
A Sense of Character
A Very Quiet Man
Emma Thompson’s Golden Globe Acceptance Speech
Original Theatrical Trailer
Liner notes by the lovely Julie Kirgo
Overall this is such a great package, for those who love this movie, this is the holy grail of releases. Very much highly recommended
The Film: (3.5)
At Close Range
Director- James Foley
Cast- Sean Penn, Christopher Walden
Country of Origin - U.S.
Reviewer- Andrew Bemis
At Close Range is an organized crime drama of the kind we don’t see much of; rather than following the mob or an urban gang, the story is focused on a family of thieves in rural Pennsylvania. The boss, Brad (Christopher Walken), steals tractors and pulls off other small time heists and scams with his small group, including his brother (Tracey Walter). When Brad’s long-forgotten son, Brad Jr. (Sean Penn) shows up at his doorstep wanting to learn the tricks of the trade, Brad Sr. is reluctant at first, but ends up taking the kid under his wing. The movie works beautifully because director James Foley and his cast never condescend to their characters or their lower class, middle American milieu; it’s the kind of crime story that could unfold in a rural setting, and the movie finds a tragic dimension in the story’s sad, inevitable outcome. The many amateur local filmmakers I’ve met who try to make their own Goodfellas or Reservoir Dogs in the boonies would do well to look to At Close Range for inspiration instead.
While Nicholas Kazan’s screenplay is inspired by a true story, Foley mentions on the audio commentary that they didn’t feel beholden to its literal details, and more than anything, At Close Range is a showcase for the two leads and the characters they create. Penn does his best work when he lets the vulnerability beneath his macho bluster shine through; as Brad Jr., he does a great, nuanced job of expressing his admiration for the dad he barely knows, which eventually turns to horror as he learns the uglier details of Brad Sr.’s business. Walken is just as strong, creating a very human monster; Brad Sr.’s obvious pride for his son early on makes it even more disturbing later, when the character reveals himself to be a sociopath with a cold-blooded knack for self-preservation. The two actors bring out the best in each other; their climactic confrontation is the movie’s most famous scene, and rightly so, but it’s the journey from the beginning, where father and son are basically strangers, to that moment that makes it so powerful.
The rest of the cast is strong, with Mary Stuart Masterson a standout in a moving early performance as Brad Jr.’s young girlfriend. Then-newcomers Crispin Glover, Kiefer Sutherland, Stephen Geoffreys and Penn’s brother Chris (playing Brad Jr.’s brother) show up in supporting roles as Brad Jr.’s partners in crime; their performances, coupled with the well-chosen locations in rural Tennessee used as a substitute for Pennsylvania, give the movie a great sense of place. These are characters with severely limited options, and Foley smartly never glamorizes Brad Sr.’s line of work - this is a world where an above ground pool is about as luxurious as it gets. Foley alternates gritty realism that takes its cues from the stars’ Method approach with bold, poetic visual flourishes. There are moments that are slick in a recognizably ‘80s way, but they work surprisingly well as a contrast with the downbeat, violent story; they play like illustrations of the younger characters’ romantic illusions about life, which, by the movie’s end, have been brutally cut down to size.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray of At Close Range presents the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is strong overall, though many scenes are shot with anamorphic lenses in low light, so detail often suffers and there’s a natural softness to the image (as well as a pleasantly filmic layer of grain). The movie looks especially good in its more stylized moments, which tend towards harder lighting and sharper visual compositions. The 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is strong, particularly in highlighting Patrick Leonard’s score, which is built around variations of “Live to Tell,” the Madonna song that plays over the end credits (and which, Foley notes on his audio commentary, became much better known at the time than the movie itself). Extras include the aforementioned commmentary with Foley and Twilight Time’s Nick Redman, Foley’s isolated score track and the theatrical trailer. A booklet featuring an essay on the film by Julie Kirgo is also included.
The Film: 4.5/5
The Little House
Director: Yoji Yamada
Cast: Haru Kuroki, Takaku Matsu
Country of Origin: Japan
Reviewer: Andrew Bemis
The Little House, adapted from a novel by Kyoko Nakajima, was directed by Yoji Yamada, whose filmography spans six decades and over 80 films, including the Oscar-nominated Twilight Samurai and the long-running “Tora-San” series. With its story starting in the present day before flashing back to the 1930s and unfolding in the years leading up to and including WWII, the movie benefits from the sort of unhurried, patient touch that some veteran directors develop. While the movie’s central melodrama is somewhat familiar, the film works thanks to Yamada’s subtle touch and the strong work of his cast, particularly lead actress Haru Kuroki.
The movie begins with Takeshi (Satoshi Tsumabuki) at the funeral of his great aunt Taki (Chieko Baisho), before flashing back to Takeshi’s memories of helping Taki writer her memoirs. The movie then cuts to a young Taki (Kuroki), who has just begun working as a housekeeper for a middle-class family. When Tokiko (Takaku Matsu), the woman of the house, begins an affair with a younger man named Masaharu (Hidetaka Yoshioka), she recruits her new housekeeper to help her arrange meetings and keep the affair a secret. Taki does this, even as she develops her own feelings for Masaharu.
The Little House is light on plot, with Yamada favoring an emphasis on character details relayed through performance rather than expository dialogue. This is especially true for Kuroki, as she plays a deliberately passive character who must hide her true feelings. Thankfully, the actress is excellent here, able to communicate volumes with the slightest gesture or change of expression. And while there are moments that The Little House is almost subtle the point of not registering, if one can get into the quieter groove of the film, it’s ultimately very rewarding.
As Twilight Time has done a fine job of releasing strong transfers of classic films, it’s no surprise that a newer film (The Little House was released in 2014 throughout most of the world) from the label would look terrific. Skin tones, detail and contrast are strong throughout, and the movie’s exterior shots, in particular, look terrific. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is also strong – the movie uses the surrounds sparingly but effectively. A theatrical and teaser trailer are included, as well as notes on the film by Julie Kirgo.
The Film: 4/5
Emperor of the North
Director: Robert Aldrich
Cast: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Keith Carradine
Country of Origin: U.S.
Reviewer: Bobby Morgan
The year is 1933. The United States of America has been brought to its knees by economic disaster, resulting in the Great Depression. Across the country, millions of people find themselves out of work and no longer able to keep roofs over their heads. Men become transients who survive by any means necessary and travel the land looking for work by stowing away on trains. One conductor who refuses to let hobos ride his train for free is Shack (Ernest Borgnine), a fearsome brute unafraid to murder any unwanted passenger. He is a despised legend to both the hobos of the country and the railway workers forced to deal upfront with his violent tactics, but the Shack may have just met his match in the most famous tramp of them, A-Number-One (Lee Marvin). A-Number-One is a legend in his own right and he is determined to get to Portland by way of Shack’s train no matter what. The gauntlet has been thrown down, and with his fellow bums cheering him on and the rail men taking bets on his possible fate, A-Number-One accepts the challenge of outwitting the sadistic conductor with the help of the brash younger hobo Cigaret (Keith Carradine) and seeing if he has what it takes to become “Emperor of the North Pole”.
Robert Aldrich’s harrowing, gritty period adventure Emperor of the North didn’t stand a chance at the box office when it first released; its own studio 20th Century Fox was confused as to how it should be effectively marketed to the masses, and films aimed at younger audiences made on modest budgets were finding greater success and profitability. It would take several decades for this criminally underrated masterpiece to find appreciative viewers through home video and cable television, and now it receives its best video release to date thanks to Twilight Time’s stunning new Blu-ray presentation.
Few filmmakers were able to take advantage of the Hollywood studio system to make entertaining features with subversive undertones as effectively and memorably as Robert Aldrich did in the 1950’s and 60’s. After all, this is the man who directed the seminal Atomic Age film noir Kiss Me Deadly, the creepy thriller What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, and the exhilarating WWII action epic The Dirty Dozen. Emperor stands as one of Aldrich’s greatest achievements behind the camera, one that stands the test of time thanks to its unflinching approach to addressing the poverty and unlawful brutality that has been all too present in America since it was founded. Income inequality and unpoliced abuses of the free market by major corporations and their political puppets help to create the situations in which most unemployed Americans find themselves presently, and the excessive force practiced by this country’s law enforcement professionals against its citizenry is worse than it ever was.
Screenwriter Christopher Knopf (20 Million Miles to Earth) drew upon two of Jack London’s autobiographical accounts of his days traveling across the U.S. as the basis for a script that is rich in evocative imagery and hard-boiled dialogue seeped in the sad yet cautiously optimistic poetry of the open road. Under Aldrich’s brutally harsh direction, Emperor of the North comes to embody the ongoing battle between the besieged working class and the authoritarians granted almost unlimited power to bend the proletariat to the will of the oligarchy, only told in the broad strokes of mythology. A-Number-One, portrayed with playful wisdom and true grit by the legendary Lee Marvin, is the classic hero who is beloved and lionized by his fellow man to heights that will ensure his legacy will endure long after he is dead. He is given the perfect villain in the form of the sadistic Shack, brought to sweaty, bug-eyed, yellow-teethed life by the late Ernest Borgnine, a god among character acting who always made the movies he appeared in just a little bit better just from his presence alone.
Borgnine imbues Shack with a fury that borders on demonic and his flaring blue eyes cannot conceal, and his character is granted enough justification for his unforgivably atrocious actions against the men who commit the cardinal sin of simply wanting a free ride they would otherwise pay for if they had the money. To this day, pundits and politicians alike complain that lower and middle class Americans are always wanting a “free ride”, and by that they naturally mean government-funded social programs that are created to assist those who do not have massive bank accounts, golden parachutes, and million dollar book deals to fund their lifestyle. If the character of Shack wasn’t meant to personify the right-wing viewpoint that the poor are only that way because they are lazy and need to be taught to respect authority and the value of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and learning the value of an honest day’s work, he ends up being that personification when you analyze the film from a contemporary social and political perspective. Perhaps that is what Aldrich, who turned an exciting WWII action epic into a subtle yet scathing critique of the Vietnam War, had in mind all along.
Aldrich lets the audience know he doesn’t intend to play around in the opening scene where Shack clubs a hobo over the head and watches as the poor man gets pulled under the train and cut in half, and the camera refuses to turn away from the bloody aftermath. Such shocking imagery was not exactly common in PG-rated studio features, but Emperor of the North manages to skirt the draconian laws of the MPAA by not being a wall-to-wall festival of violence and gore. The film runs nearly a minute of two hours but doesn’t fall victim to slow stretches and scenes that go nowhere thanks to the sharp editing of longtime Aldrich collaborator Michael Luciano (Twilight’s Last Gleaming). The time between action sequences is wisely spent setting up the characters and the times they now live in with art direction by Fox veteran Jack Martin Smith (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, M*A*S*H) and set decoration by Raphael Bretton (The Towering Inferno) that adds immeasurably to its authentic atmosphere of grime and desperation. Another favored member of Aldrich’s behind-the-scenes talent is composer Frank De Vol (who worked on some of the director’s best features, as well as creating the theme music for The Brady Bunch), contributing a jaunty original soundtrack that ideally underscores the quieter moments of Emperor as well as the scenes where the tension is thick enough to cut with a chainsaw.
The climatic set-piece features a thrilling showdown between A-Number-One and Shack atop the moving track where the two combatants duel to the finish with any weapon they can get their hands on. Aldrich shoots the action with a respect for the geography of the final battle and achieves an unforgettable effect through a combination of tight close-ups and professional stunt work that you just don’t see on the big screen anymore. Keith Carradine, in one of his earliest film roles, rips into the character of Cigaret with swaggering confidence and a brash, loud-mouthed personality that could only come about from the need to conceal embarrassing inadequacies. His chemistry with Marvin is convincing enough to power their unlikely mentor-student relationship. Aldrich stocks the supporting cast of Emperor of the North with some of the finest character actors there ever was, including Matt Clark (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) and Vic Tayback (Alice) as railroad yardmen, Elisha Cook Jr. (The Killing) and Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) as a pair of A-Number-One’s fellow bums, and Simon Oakland (Psycho) as an overwhelmed policemen made to look the fool in one of the film’s comedic highlights.
Twilight Time has treated Emperor of the North to an impressive 1080p high-definition transfer that was apparently sourced from a new 4K scan of the film courtesy of 20th Century Fox and is framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. All I can say about this transfer, and this is coming from someone who has never seen Emperor until receiving this Blu-ray for review, is that it is a genuine stunner and one of the best restorations done for home video of the year. The richly textured cinematography of Joseph F. Biroc (who also shot Ulzana’s Raid and The Longest Yard for director Aldrich, among others) has obviously not looked this crisp and lively since it first played theatrically. You can literally count every bead of sweat and make out the cracks in the splintered wooden bridges even from a distance, especially during the abundant close-up shots of the actors’ weary, dirt-caked faces. Colors really pop in this transfer too, from the green pine trees to the crude paint jobs on the trains to Shack’s horrible corn-on-the-cob teeth. Grain content is low and consistent and the source elements must have been in excellent shape because there doesn’t appear to be a single trace of damage in the print.
Emperor was recorded and mixed in mono sound with the Westrex Recording System, and the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track provided for this release does a great job of replicating the original sound mix for optimal home video presentation. The audio is very clean and boasts balanced volume levels and a pleasing lack of distortion and overlap that allows for the dialogue, sound effects mix, and boisterous score to co-exist peacefully without getting into each other’s way. English subtitles have also been included.
Extra features are limited to an informative audio commentary track with film historian Dana Polan, the full De Vol score on an isolated track in 2.0 audio, the original theatrical trailer (4 minutes), two television spots (roughly 90 seconds total), and a catalogue of other Twilight Time releases. You’ll also find yet another booklet of liner notes with a well-researched and opinionated appreciation of the film written by Julie Kirgo.
The Film: 5/5
Director: Michael Laughlin
Cast: Paul Le Mat, Nancy Allen, Louise Fletcher
Country of Origin: U.S.
Reviewer: Bobby Morgan
A good-humored spoof of 1950’s alien invasion B-movies delivered with a side order of Spielbergian whimsy and sweetness, Michael Laughlin’s cult classic Strange Invaders (the second of a planned “Strange” trilogy that never materialized its third and final installment) finally comes to Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat), an entomology professor at New York’s Columbia University, is drawn into an unusual mystery when his ex-wife Margaret (Diana Scarwid) seemingly vanishes after returning to her hometown of Centreville, Illinois for the funeral of her mother. Visiting the town for himself, Bigelow encounters some unexpectedly hostile citizens and hideous beings obviously not of this world since they shoot destructive laser beams from their eyes. The professor flees back to New York and finds no one willing to believe his bizarre story except Betty Walker (Nancy Allen), a tabloid reporter who has written about reports of alien visitors in the past. Despite some initial skepticism, Betty soon begins to trust Charles, and the two fall madly in love while trying to unravel the truth behind the disturbing happenings in Centreville. It seems the town was taken over by aliens twenty-five years earlier in 1958, with most of its citizens becoming extraterrestrials in convincing human disguises while others were imprisoned inside glowing blue orbs. Standing in the way of our heroic couple’s mission to stop the aliens from taking Bigelow’s daughter Elizabeth (Lulu Sylbert) back to their home planet is an obstructing government bureaucrat (Louise Fletcher) who knows more about the invaders than she lets on.
Michael Laughlin’s greatest credit as a filmmaker is possibly producing Monte Hellman’s 1971 masterpiece of cross-country existentialism Two-Lane Blacktop, but as a director in his own right, Laughlin made a modest mark on 80’s sci-fi cinema with the creepy thriller Strange Behavior (a.k.a. Dead Kids) and its spiritual sequel Strange Invaders. The director conceived of the story with television writer Walter Davis and future Oscar-winning writer/director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Kinsey), and both Laughlin and Condon collaborated on the screenplay. Strange Invaders is a witty and loving homage to the glory days of the 50’s and 60’s, when sci-fi classics the likes of The Day the Earth Stood Still (a clip of which is featured in Invaders) and Invaders from Mars brought the delirious pulp thrills of flying saucers and alien monsters from deep space to the big screen with intelligence, suspense, and deadpan humor. Laughlin and Condon infuse their story with a geeky admiration for the best stories of extraterrestrial threats touching down in rural hamlets far removed from the larger bastions of society and transforming Americana into something frightening that takes up permanent residence in your nightmares.
The film runs a tight 93 minutes and manages to keep most of the screen time busy and interesting, despite a second act that flags in the pacing department and is overflowing with repetition. Laughlin worked with Al Adamson’s longtime cinematographer Louis Horvath to give several of Strange Invaders’ crucial scenes a cool, dreamlike appearance that proves effective at inviting the viewer to feel a false sense of security. While most of the action takes place in the bustling metropolis of New York City, the scenes set in Centreville are authentically bucolic and manage to find a proper balance in tone between friendly and quietly menacing.
The underrated Paul Le Mat (American Graffiti) gives his two-dimensional Everyman hero Bigelow some extra depth not present in the script and he has a workable chemistry with the lovely and feisty Nancy Allen (RoboCop) as the cynical tabloid journalist. Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher makes the most of her slightly villainous government agent with robotic, emotionless line readings whose intentionality is debatable, but works well for her character. Diana Scarwid (Rumble Fish) sleepwalks through her few scenes with a look of perpetual fear. Making a third act entrance is the great Michael Lerner (Barton Fink) as a mental patient Charles and Betty turn to for help. Kenneth Tobey of the original The Thing from Another World is excellent as a sinister innkeeper, and the supporting cast is rounded out with brief but winning turns from Fiona Lewis (The Fury) as a murderous Avon lady, Wallace Shawn (My Dinner with Andre) as Betty’s unfortunate super, Lost in Space stars June Lockhart as Bigelow’s mother and Mark Goddard as a detective, veteran character actor Charles Lane (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) as a colleague of the professor, and Jack Kehler (The Big Lebowski) as a gas station attendant who isn’t quite what he seems. Laughlin’s Strange Behavior stars Dan Shor (Tron) and Dey Young (Rock ‘n Roll High School) appear in the 1958 prologue as a Centreville teen couple enjoying some romantic time just as the aliens arrive.
Despite having a budget of only $5.5 million (jointly financed by Orion Pictures and EMI Films), Laughlin was able to give Strange Invaders some memorable alien adversaries who, in the film’s more grotesque moments that gently nudge the PG rating with sadistic glee, strip their human flesh costumes to reveal their true faces. The effects were created by a talented team of artists and technicians headed by James Cummins (John Carpenter’s The Thing) whose ranks included names such as John Muto (Night of the Comet), and Chuck Comisky (Avatar). Dennis and Robert Skotak (Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) served as consultants to the FX crew, lending their expertise in creating convincing creatures and spacecraft with a modicum of money and resources in the service of some truly unnerving otherworldly terrors for our heroes to battle. The titular Invaders boasts insectoid features and drip with goo. Laughlin forgoes overexposing the effects work in favor of a more restrained approach to the material that keeps its focus on building tension and surprise, but this approach would have had greater impact had the script not tipped its hand too early by showing us the aliens arriving on Earth in the opening scene.
Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-ray of Strange Invaders features a fine 1080p high-definition presentation of the film framed in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The transfer is a terrific upgrade from past VHS and DVD incarnations, and though there is some heavy grain present in certain scenes involving visual effects and the intentionally hazy look of the Centreville sections, colors are warm and pleasing to the eye without appearing too bright. Noise reduction is minimal and the HD quality is reflected in close-up shots and scenes set on the streets of New York. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track included with this release ably replicates the original theatrical mono soundtrack with clarity, a lack of distortion, and some decent front channel activity that never succumbs to overlap or unbalanced volume. The elements used for the video and audio remastering appear to have been in good shape. English subtitles have also been included.
Extra features are limited to a commentary with director Laughlin and co-writer Condon from MGM’s 2001 Region 1 DVD release (part of their vaunted “Midnight Movies” line) that contains its share of silent spots but is mostly a noteworthy track for the amount of production stories and thematic background the two filmmakers share. The playfully bombastic original music score composed by John Addison (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) is given its own isolated audio track, and disc-based extras conclude with the original theatrical trailer, a trailer for MGM’s 90th Anniversary, and a catalogue of other releases from Twilight Time. Julie Kirgo contributes yet another informative and respectful set of liner notes.
The Film: 4/5
John Carpenter's Vampires
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: James Woods, Sheryl Lee
Country of Origin: U.S.
Reviewer: Scott MacDonald
From his debut feature Dark Star to this film Vampires in 1995 John Carpenter could almost do no wrong. The only minor film in the bunch could be the late 80's Memoirs of an Invisible Man, outside of that the man seemed to be going full steam in genre filmmaking for over 20 years whether that be action films, horror, science fiction, and even the one-off family film. While the earlier Memoirs of an Invisible Man showed that Carpenter could occasionally falter, Vampires really marked the beginning of the director's decline. The film was a nice mix of action and horror, with a stylish western setting. However, it seemed a bit too much of a case of style over substance at this point, an accusation that had been attributed to the director for some of his earlier work, but had certainly come to pass with this film.
Vampires stars James Woods as Jack Crow the leader of a squad of vampire killers named Team Crow. As the film begins they are leading a raid against a southwestern mansion that host a nest of vampires. They execute a brutal attack, and seemingly kill them all, except for one who buried himself outside the premises in preparation for such an attack. This vampire is Valek an ancient vampire who came over from Europe to search for a cross that would allow him to walk in the sunlight. After night falls Valek massacres Team Crow minus Jack his partner Montoya and a prostitute they picked up for a party (Sheryl Lee) who he began to turn into a vampire. They use this prostitute as a connection with Valek to track him down, and attempt to stop him before he can acquire the cross.
I know I began to sound like Vampires is bad. It's not. It's actually quite a decent film from Carpenter with a nice dry western atmosphere, the action and violence scattered throughout are handled very well, and are a lot of fun to watch. The plotting is quite a tad cliche, and is also a bit scattershot, and the pacing is a bit off. There are periods where it feels nothing is happening and then all of a sudden it picks up again. After this Carpenter would go back to direct the feature film The Ghost of Mars, and much later The Ward both of which make this look like a masterpiece in comparison. He did do some Masters of Horrors episodes in the early 2000's one of which Cigarette Burns might be his truly last great entry into the horror genre.
Twilight Time presents Vampires in a gorgeous 2:40:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer preserving the films original OAR. Colors look natural and are replicated nicely, detail is excellent, and blacks are deep. There is a healthy, but unobtrusive grain field at play here. There are also DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 mixes both sound great and the 5.1 really takes advantage of the format. Extras include a commentary with Carpenter, isolated score, short making of, and trailer.
The Film 2.5/5