Showing posts with label 1985. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1985. Show all posts

28 January 2015

Blu-ray Review - Shoah (1985)

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Release Date:
26th January 2015
Rating: E
Claude Lanzmann
Buy: Blu-ray - Shoah

Claude Lanzmann started work on what would become Shoah in 1974. He initially had backing from the Israelis but after time went on, they withdrew funds. Six years of the eleven until it’s eventual release in 1985 were simply devoted to getting the interviews. What he finally finished was an extremely long, but fascinating and thoughtful film on the Holocaust, and primarily what happened in Poland.

Shoah runs at a simply exhausting 9 and half hours. Lanzmann takes the brave move of using for the majority of the running time, filmed testimonies with survivors, witnesses and German perpetrators. It also extensively shoots the landscapes of where the camps are, and in a very eerie but effective way, puts you there, even without reconstructions or photographs etc.

The film’s most fascinating elements are stories where you hear about denial. One of the most shocking is when a Jewish woman is trying to warn everyone they are about to be gassed but they tell her to go away, and unfortunately, they get killed as well. It also goes into great detail about the production line aspect of the concentration camps and how a lot of Nazi office workers really didn't know about the final solution until really near the end of the war - if you believe them or not it’s up you to decide. The second part of the film also deals with the heroic attempts by the Jewish to fight back in the Warsaw Ghetto despite knowing it was unwinnable.

Shoah’s biggest flaw is also it’s most controversial one. When it was released in Poland many pundits criticized it as anti-polish propaganda. It does at times show the Polish in not a very good light, for example, a lot of them just stood and watched the atrocities happen, they collaborated with the Nazis, they were already anti-semitic etc. It was criticized for not showing all the great things the Polish did for the Jewish, or the millions of Polish that were exterminated by the Nazis. Lanzmann has admitted part of the film was to show how implicit the Polish were, which was true to an extent, but there was also another side which would have been nice to have it be represented.

It’s quite riveting stuff throughout, there are numerous parts where you zone out for a while, but within 20 minutes you get all wrapped up into the story again. Obviously the film cannot explore the full depths of the Holocaust, because of the scope of the atrocities, it is impossible to make a definitive document, however this is one of the most powerful films made on the subject to date.

Over the years Lanzmann has revisited the subject in another 4 films, mostly made out of outtakes of Shoah with the latest being the recently released The Last of the Unjust. Naturally, they are all included in this Blu-ray set.

Ian Schultz

23 October 2013

Tobe Hooper Double Bill - Lifeforce & Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Blu-Ray Reviews

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Release Date:
14th October 2013
Tobe Hopper
Steve Railsback, Mathilda May, Peter Firth
Buy Lifeforce: Blu-ray

Release Date:
11th November 2013
Tobe Hooper
Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow
Buy Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Blu-ray

The great Arrow Video has re-released two mid 80s Tobe Hopper films, both were part of his 3 picture deal with Cannon films. The films in question are Lifeforce and the unthinkable sequel to his masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He got the deal after the massive success of the overrated Poltergeist, which we all know Steven Spielberg really directed anyway.

Noted British occult, sci-fi and crime writer Colin Wilson novel The Space Vampires is the basis for Lifeforce. When he saw the finished film he famously called up John Fowles who cited his the adaptation of his book The Magus as the worst film adaptation ever, he told him there was a new one Lifeforce. I have never read Wilson’s source novel so I can’t comment if that’s the case.

Anyhow the film is a pretty naff bit of horror sci-fi, it was suppose to be a big budget franchise starter but it bombed quite badly. It’s about a group of astronauts who discover some space vampires in this spaceship hidden in the corona of Hailey’s Comet. Everything goes to shit and a rescue mission is launched and the 3 bodies they found in the spaceship but they look human.

They start to operate on them but they are actually still alive. Despite everything going to shit and the rest of the crew dying, one escape pod gets back to earth (it all seems to be a matter of days) with Colonel Tom Carlson. The Colonel is flown to London (which seems to be only a matter of hours) and warms them of what happened and has a psychic connection to the girl who is one of the bodies. The Space vampire girl breaks free and sucks the souls out of people for energy and England brings in Martial law. It’s called Space Vampires but they more resemble Zombies than vampires.

It’s a passable bit of sci-fi/horror fluff. It has some nice matte paintings and special effects, some terrible acting but it’s about 30 minutes too long for it’s good and is quite a chore at times to get though. The end space vamp zombie apocalypse is gleefully batshit crazy which it gets some props for that. It’s one of many misfires in Tobe Hopper’s career every since his made such a splash with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which brings us too…

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is one of the strangest sequels ever made. It is much in tune with something like Evil Dead 2 than its almost cinema vérité style of the source material. It takes place 13 years after the events of the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It starts with almost parody voice over of the first film which gets increasing fast telling you what has happened in the 13 years. It many ways like Evil Dead 2, it’s a retread of the first film. The family having a chainsaw killing spree across Texas and it even has a redo the famous dinner scene from the original.

The film starts with Leatherface killing a bunch of yuppies on the freeway an obvious political statement. The yuppies are harassing a local female radio dj called Strech (Caroline Williams) who records their death on tape. Dennis Hopper than shows up in probably one of his most unhinged performances ever and this is a guy who made a career out of them. He is Lieutenant Boude "Lefty" Enright who is the uncle of Sally and her brother (the guy in the wheelchair) from the original film. The police have been incompetent in bringing the Sawyer family so he is on a mission to find the killers of his niece and nephew.

Strech plays the tape on air so the police are forced to listen to it but the Sawyers hear it and Leatherface and his acid casualty Nam’ veteran Chop Top comes to kill her at the radio station. The film becomes a total bloodbath from this point onwards. She survives and teams up Lefty to finish the Sawyer family for once and for all. Lefty brings a lot of chainsaws.

The film is fascinating mess of a film in the best possible way. It’s a deliberately surreal film from the get-go, which is as different as you can from the original. This may be one of the many reasons why the film was probably panned when it first came out. It has a great 80s aesthetic, which is partly inspired by his previous film The Funhouse, The Sawyers live a disused theme pack out in the desert. It’s all day-glow and obvious a good chunk of the budget when on the almost German expressionist esq. design of their underground home.

TCM2 is a deciding more political film as well even though the original is very much a post-Nam/Watergate film as much as any other 70s film. It is damning on everything from the treatment of veterans, 80s greed, consumerism and so on. In an interview with Tobe Hooper says he considers it one of the finest political films of the 80s and the guy has a point. Horror a genre not known for being particularly political if not somewhat dodgy politically it’s refreshing for a film of this kind to be so political. The award winning human chilli scene definitely brings back memories of Soylent Green.

Dennis Hopper is so insanely unhinged it’s almost mindblowing he was directed if at all. It’s also worth noting this was after he got “sober” he seems to have had a cocktail of blow and Frank Booth’s helium. It’s kind of a glorious bit of over acting to other side and then some. This was after all the same year as Blue Velvet.

It’s misfires often with it’s zany but extremely black humour. It often does Felliniesq retrends of scenes from the original film but it has a certain bizarre 80s charm that make it worth while and it’s only like 90 minutes. It’s probably his best film since the original film as well.

Both discs include loads of bonus material including feature length docs on Lifeforce and TCM2, numerous interviews, 2 different cuts of Lifeforce (theatrical and director’s), commentaries. TCM2 also includes early films made by Hooper including a rare bland comedic short and feature length film on hippies. I recommend TCM2 but if you’re a fan of Lifeforce you will be overjoyed with it’s blu-ray.

Ian Schultz



Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2


21 July 2013

Runaway Train Blu-Ray Review

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BD Release Date (UK):
22nd July 2013
Andrey Konchalovskiy
Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay
Buy: [Blu-ray]

Arrow Video has given Runaway Train a loving blu-ray release stacked full of extras including interviews with most of the main cast like Jon Voight and Eric Roberts. The film is directed by Andrei Konchalovsky who is a Russian director who has worked both in Hollywood and Russia since the 60s. Runaway Train is probably his most well known film to date, he is also known for the more recent House of Fools and the recent notorious flop The Nutcracker in 3D.

Runaway Train is about Oscar "Manny" Manheim (Jon Voight) who is a notorious convict at a prison in Alaska. Manny has been in cell for 3 years (after the doors have been welded shut) after many escape attempts. A Court order makes his nemesis the associate warden to let him out back into the general population. He naturally starts to plan his next escape.

Buck (Eric Roberts) is another convict of the prison. He is naïve southern boy who has been convicted by statutory rape (sex with a underage person). He is played deliberately naïve by Eric Roberts because he wanted to make the character more sympathetic. He is recruited by Manny to help him escape because he works in the laundry room and has access to places most prisoners don’t.

They eventually escape though a sewer. They fall into a river and eventually get to a train yard and jump onto a train but don’t realise till it’s too late it’s a “runaway train”. The train is speeding along the tracks at a rapid speed and they may have company on the train and also can meet their maker any minute.

The film is not a masterpiece but any stretch of the imagination but it’s a very solid Sunday afternoon boy’s own adventure sort of film. It has a fun scenery chewing performance by Jon Voight, who was even nominated for a oscar for best actor, must have been a slow year. Eric Roberts (a normally very underrated actor) gives a very annoying performance somewhat reminiscent of portrayals of Lenny in adaptations of Of Mice and Men. He was mind boggling nominated for an oscar for his performance. It came out the same year as the greatest film ever made Brazil which boosts some great supporting performances but at last got no nominations for acting.

It’s got a slightly gritty edge, which is probably down to Edward Bunker’s involvement on the screenplay. He was a real-life convict who wrote Animal Factory and the book the great Dustin Hoffman film Straight Time was based on. He is also known as Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs. It was the debut of another convict turned actor Danny Trejo.

Runaway Train has an interesting backstory. It was originally meant to be Akira Kurosawa’s first colour film but due to problems with American backers it was shelved. The interesting thing is you could easy see Toshiro Mifune in the Manny role. It would have been a better film if Kurosawa did but it’s certainly worth checking out sometime.


Ian Schultz

29 June 2013

Runaway This July With Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train On BluRay

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Buy Now

Arrow Video is pleased to announce the worldwide Blu-ray debut of Andrei Konchalovsky’s gripping thrill-ride Runaway Train on Monday July 22nd.

Starring Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Jon Voight (Coming Home, Deliverance, The Rainmaker), Eric Roberts and Rebecca De Morney, this brand new dual format DVD & Blu-ray release of Runaway Train has been re-mastered in High Definition by MGM, following its 2010 premiere at the Cannes Film Festival (Classics Selection).

Finally available on Blu-ray for the very first time anywhere in the world, Arrow Video’s brand new deluxe edition of Runaway Train also includes a host of special features and bonus material, the first time any such items have been sourced to accompany the feature on a home video release.

Following its debut at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival, Runaway Train went on to be nominated for a total of three Academy Awards (Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing) and three Golden Globe Awards (Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor). To this day it remains as one of the all-time classic break-out movies.

Based on a script by the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), Runaway Train begins as two convicts break-out of Stonehaven Prison in the dead of winter, boarding a freight train with the intention of getting as far away as possible before their notoriously sadistic warden finds out.

Oscar "Manny" Manheim is a ruthless bank robber and hero to the convicts of Stonehaven. After two previous escape attempts the doors to Manny's cell have been welded shut for three years. A court order see’s Manny released back into the general prison population, where he immediately sets his next escape plan into action.

Aided by fellow inmate Buck, who joins Manny’s break-out attempt at the last minute, the pair embark on a freezing cross-country hike (involving a 300 ft drop into a river and subsequent swim) until they reach a remote Alaskan rail yard and board a locomotive.

Upon leaving the rail yard, the locomotive’s brakes fail and the driver has a fatal heart attack, sending one hundred tons of metal hurtling through the snowy Alaskan wastes at a terrifying and seemingly unstoppable speed.

With hardboiled prison slang added by real-life ex-con Edward Bunker (Mr Blue in Reservoir Dogs), this riveting thriller combines electrifying action with constant psychological tension. Runaway Train  is one of cinema's great thrill-rides.

A full list of the special features included on the Blu-ray &DVD dual format edition of RUNAWAY TRAIN is as follows:

- High Definition transfer of the film prepared by MGM for the Cannes Film Festival premiere.
- High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the film.
- Optional English SDH Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
- Running on Empty – An Interview with director Andrei Konchalovsky.
- From Thespian to Fugitive – Star Jon Voight shares his memories of his Academy Award-nominated role.
- Sweet and Savage: Eric Roberts recalls his Academy Award-nominated performance.
- The Calm Before the Chaos – Co-star Kyle T. Heffner remembers Runaway Train.
- Trailer with commentary by Rod Lurie.
- Original Trailer.
- Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Brooke, a new interview with Runaway Train’s Production Designer Stephen Marsh conducted by Calum Waddell and the original Life Magazine article that inspired the film, illustrated with rare behind-the-scenes production images.

5 June 2013

Watch 20 Minute Behind The Scenes Documentary On Martin Scorsese's After Hours

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2012 marked the 70th birthday of probably cinemas most intelligent film autuer, the living film encyclopedia Martin Scorsese. Like any landmark birthday the urge to have an nostalgic look back at that particular  persons work is infectiously curious and how could you resist?

When  you dive through the archives you always come across a film you didn't realise they made or just simply forgotten about. Back in 1980's it's common knowledge Scorsese attempted to direct The Last Temptation of Christ but something prevented him for making it but in 1985 instead he made one of his most underrated films After Hours.

Like many little unknown films it's years later before you really appreciate the quality of what you've just watched. After Hours is a kafka-esque surreal black comedy starring Griffin Dunne a young man who crosses paths with a pretty young girl (Rosanna Arquette) at a coffee shop in what turns into a unforgettable night but when you think nothing can go wrong, things go wrong drastically.

The good folks at No Film School have come across this 20 minute documentary which has a brief look at the film talking to the cast especially Dunne and of course Scorsese. You can here some of the reasons why Last Temptation of Christ never materialized but could you say Scorsese has made an movie like this again? Highly unlikely, there's also about 8 or 9 minutes of deleted scenes to be watched here to in a video that's actually quite funny overall too.