Archive for the ‘Arrow Video’ Category

Blu-ray Cover Art

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Region: Region A & B

Length: 86 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 English Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 37.57 Mbps

Title

The ridiculous plot (if you can call it that) of Killer Klowns from Outer Space involves a pair of teenagers who look like they are in their twenties named Mike and Debbie. The couple warns the local police that a gang of homicidal alien-clowns have landed in the nearby area (in a spaceship shaped like a circus tent), but the cops are naturally skeptical and borderline retarded. Reports begin coming in from other anxious residents detailing similar run-ins with the large-shoed assailants. There can no longer be any doubt—the “Klowns” have indeed invaded earth and are terrorizing earthlings in increasingly ridiculous and not even remotely scary ways. They’re out to turn the Earth’s population into candy floss, and that might not be such a tragedy if all earthlings have minds similar to the ones behind this movie. Written and produced by the Chiodo brothers—known for their work on a host of special-effects laden hits such as Team America: World Police and the Critters movies—this is a cinematic experience unparalleled in this galaxy as it will eradicate the viewer’s remaining brain cells. Frankly, it does nothing to arouse this reviewer’s involvement or interest. It has every ingredient that shouldn’t be included in a horror film if one wishes to experience an eerie and frightening film. The tonally-confused conglomeration of nonsensical situations might work as a comedy if the filmmakers understood comic timing. There are many people in the universe who adore the film, but one suspects that this is due to some sort of nostalgic memory of seeing it as a small child or while high.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray disc in their usual sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck and artwork based on the original one-sheet design. This case and its artwork are further protected by an O-Card (or slipcover) featuring the new Sara Deck design sweetens a reasonably attractive presentation—but the new design is incredibly busy and doesn’t really suit this reviewer’s aesthetic tastes. The one sheet isn’t particularly great either, but it is marginally superior to the new Arrow art.

One Sheet

There is also an attractively illustrated booklet that includes an essay about the film by James Oliver entitled Circus Bizarro: Killer Klowns, Then and Now along with the usual transfer and production credits. Usually, the perks would stop here, but Arrow also included a reversible poster with the choice of new artwork that bests the Blu-ray’s cover art and the film’s original one sheet. Fans should be thrilled.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet, poster, and O-Card are only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s brand new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative has resulted in excellent image quality that bests earlier transfers of the film. (I borrowed a friend’s Blu-ray of the earlier Blu-ray release for comparison and this one is a significant step up.) For one thing, there is more information in the frame (and this includes all four size of the image). In addition, the compression of the transfer is much better on this disc. Colors are similarly rendered here but seem marginally warmer. Meanwhile, the film’s organic layer of grain looks natural and never inhibits fine detail, which is where this transfer really bests earlier releases. The increase in fine detail is extremely significant as we are able to see textures that weren’t nearly as noticeable on earlier discs. The print has been cleaned of “dirt, debris, scratches, and other examples of film wear” and the image benefits from these efforts. There is also a logo at the beginning of this transfer that was not seen on the previous edition. Killer Klowns fans should be “happy-dancing” to that atrocious theme song right about now.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Both the 2.0 Linear PCM Audio and the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio are fairly solid and well-balanced. There may be some synch issues here, but I would imagine that this is the result of less-than-perfect production methods. The 5.1 track isn’t nearly as dynamic as one might wish, but what can one expect when the original audio was never intended to have a 5.1 mix? Purists may well prefer the 2.0 Linear PCM Audio and shouldn’t find much reason for complaint.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

It is difficult to objectively judge a disc’s supporting supplemental package when the film these features support means less than nothing to you, but it is probably best to give each of them the benefit of the doubt and this was rather easy for us to do for this release, because Arrow has loaded their disc with an extremely generous helping of features that are—at the least—somewhat instructive.

Feature Length Audio Commentary with ‘The Chiodo Brothers’

The included commentary track with the Chiodo Brothers has apparently been carried over from an earlier release and is a loose and casual conversation that does give fans of the film quite a few details about its creation.

Deleted Scenes

Deleted scenes are always a welcome addition to a Blu-ray’s release and these should be no different to those who appreciate the film. Better yet, optional commentary tracks are available for both of these scenes.

Bad Experience – (1080p) – (02:14)

Tight Rope – (1080p) – (02:22)

The Chiodos Walk Among Us – (1080p) – (23:41)

The Chiodos Walk Among Us give the viewer a retrospective examination of the Chiodos early 8mm films that find the brothers learning their filmmaking craft by putting together amateur films with special effects (some paying homage to Ray Harryhausen). It must be said that this feature would be amazingly satisfying if this reviewer had any admiration at all for the filmmakers in question, and one wishes that more Blu-ray titles could include programs about that particular filmmaker’s early amateur work and short student films.

The Early Films

Arrow goes a step farther and actually includes a few of their shorts in their entirety. Why can’t more discs contain a filmmaker’s early shorts? One imagines that those who admire Killer Klowns will be thrilled to see these amateur films made in the Chiodo basement along with their student efforts.

The following shorts are included:

Land of Terror (1967) – (1080p) – (07:38)

This one should recall Ray Harryhausen’s work.

Beast from the Egg (1968) – (1080p) – (07:26)

Beast is a monster piece that also includes an optional commentary track.

Africa Danny (1970) – (1080p) – (16:58)

Eskimo (1971) – (1080p) – (07:03)

Sludge Grubs (1972) – (1080p) – (06:54)

Free Inside (1974) – (1080p) – (12:20)

The Making of Killer Klowns – (1080i) – (21:40)

The Chiodo Brothers head this archival program about the creation of Klowns. It is a little better than a lot of similar featurettes but is probably a far cry from the comprehensive “making of” documentary examination that fans will be hoping for when they see this supplement listed on the disc’s menu. Fortunately, there are quite a few other programs and interviews included on the disc, and the entire package is worth more than the sum of its parts. (Although, a single documentary that examines a film’s production comprehensively and in its entirety is always superior to a huge array of small featurettes that merely skim the surface of a single area of production.)

Behind the Screams with the Chiodos – (1080p) – (29:54)

Fans will certainly enjoy the ‘behind the scenes’ VHS footage glimpsed in this archival piece. It makes a nice companion to the “making of” featurette.

Bringing Life to These Things – (1080p) – (07:58)

Stephen Chiodo gives viewers a guided tour of the Chiodo production house. It will interest die-hard fans, but it is far from being one of the disc’s best supplements.

Visual Effects with Gene Warren, Jr. – (1080i) – (14:52)

Charles Chiodo and Gene Warren, Jr feature in this piece about the visual effects included in the film.

Kreating Klowns – (1080i) – (12:50)

Charles Chiodo and Dwight Roberts discuss creating the “Klowns” seen in the film. It will interest viewers with a fondness for practical special effects.

Tales of Tobacco – (1080p) – (18:01)

This 2014 interview finds Grant Cramer bringing an actor’s perspective to the disc as he reminisces about the film’s production.

Debbie’s Big Night – (1080p) – (10:39)

Debbie’s Big Night is a 2014 interview with Suzanne Snyder that acts as a decent companion to Tales of Tobacco with Grant Cramer.

Let the Show Begin – (1080p) – (10:38)

Let the Show Begin is more interesting than it has any right to be considering that the theme song being discussed is nearly as annoying as the one used for  and just as hokey. It is essentially an interview with the American punk band, The Dickies—including Leonard Graves Phillips and Stan Lee. They discuss the bands origins, the theme’s influences, and its release on an EP that seemed to confuse fans of the band.

Komposing Klowns – (1080i) – (13:15)

Those who have a special interest in film scores will welcome this interview with John Massari as he discusses his score for the film.

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Final Words:

Those who love this film (for whatever reason) will rejoice at the fabulous transfer and the jam-packed supplemental package that has been provided by Arrow. The rest of the world will light a candle for the loss of 86 minutes that they will never have back.

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Basket Case

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: February 27, 2018

Region: Region A & B

Length: 91 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Title

Basket Case (1982) was the feature film debut of Frank Henenlotter—the mastermind behind a number of schlocky genre titles including Brain Damage (1988), Frankenhooker (1990), and the two completely unnecessary sequels to Basket Case. The most infamous of these is undoubtedly this debut effort. Many will be surprised to learn that the film has earned the privilege of a 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Wonders never cease…

The story is as simple as it is ridiculous as it follows the adventures of an oddball named Duane Bradley (when you see the word “oddball,” read “bat-shit crazy guy”). The back of the Blu-ray case claims that he is a “pretty ordinary guy,” but this is only true if you happen to live in an insane asylum. He carries his formerly conjoined and grossly deformed twin around in a padlocked basket. He and his twin travel around and exact revenge on those responsible for separating them, but the freak in the basket sometimes becomes jealous when Duane’s focus isn’t entirely on him and this causes him to murder anyone that he believes may come between them.

The Twin in the Basket

Belial in his basket.

The film was filmed on 16mm film in 1980s New York with a shoestring budget and became a staple of the 42nd Street grindhouse circuit, and its reputation grew with time (with some help from the home video market). The film’s cult status is especially significant because these films tend to split audiences. Either you love a certain cult film or you hate it… This particular reviewer must confess that he isn’t loving this one. It is simply too campy and outlandish, but these qualities are exactly what endears the film to those who enjoy it.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray disc in their usual sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck and artwork based on the original one-sheet design. This case and its artwork are further protected by an O-Card (or slipcover) with additional artwork that sweetens an already attractive presentation.

One Sheet

The film’s original one-sheet.

There is also an attractively illustrated booklet that includes an essay entitled “Case History” by Michael Gingold and a comic strip by Martin Trafford entitled “Cham-pain in the Park!” Transfer information and production credits are also included.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet and O-Card are only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Limited Edition Display

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate. Supplemental materials are generously described within the menu so that the viewer knows exactly what they are about to watch. This is helpful because some of these features have vague titles.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

By some phenomenon that calls all reason and logic into question, Basket Case has been given an outstanding 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art from the film’s original 16mm negative (with a 35mm interpositive utilized as a secondary source for certain moments in the film). The restoration was approved by Frank Henenlotter and the results are much better than this film deserves. Obviously, the film suffers from its own production methods, but this transfer certainly represents the film in the best possible light. The transfer’s grain structure is kept in check throughout most of the film but can occasionally shift and become more prominent during those moments when the original negative couldn’t be used. Fortunately, this never really becomes problematic or distracting. As a matter of fact, it is preferable to see the format’s heavy grain than to have it scrubbed clean. It adds a filmic texture to the proceedings that actually adds to the film’s gritty atmosphere. This is an extremely clean image for the most part with only occasional instances of dirt and debris. Fine detail, depth, and clarity are about as good as anyone could possibly expect from a low budget 16mm production. The film also looks quite good in motion when compared to other transfers of the film.

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Sound Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s English Mono Linear PCM audio transfer of the restored audio track features clean and clear dialogue and featured reasonably well-rendered effects and music. It suffers from the low rent production methods but these issues aren’t terribly distracting and it is unreasonable to expect anything better than what we are given here.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Frank Henenlotter and Kevin Van Hentenryck

Arrow has seen fit to produce this brand new commentary track that brings the director and primary actor responsible for the film together. This is a light and enjoyable track that fans are sure to enjoy and the duo actually gives the listener some interesting information about the production along the way.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Frank Henenlotter, Edgar Ievins, Beverly Bonner, and Scooter McRae

This archival track has been carried over from one of the film’s other releases and actually covers similar territory as the first. Luckily, this older track is unique enough to offer the listener enough substantial information to make it worth the avid fan’s time.

Basket Case Outtakes – (06:13)

This is a short reel of outtakes from the production.

Slash of the Knife (1976) — with optional Commentary Track – (30:13)

It’s too bad that more supplemental packages don’t include short films by the filmmaker responsible for the main feature. It seems like such additions should be standard by now. This rarely seen black and white short was made by Henenlotter years before Basket Case became a reality. It is mentioned a number of times in some of the other features on this disc, so including it here is more than appropriate. As a matter of fact, many cast members from Basket Case are featured in the short. It is a mock public service announcement of sorts about “America’s Uncircumcised” (no really). The optional commentary track by Frank Henenlotter and Mike Bencivenga offers the viewer a certain amount of background information and sweetens the deal considerably.

Slash of the Knife Outtakes – (05:30)

Surprisingly, Arrow also includes an outtake reel from Slash of the Knife as an adjunct to the short.

Slash of the Knife Image Gallery

As if the commentary track and outtake weren’t enough, fans are also given a still gallery from the Slash of the Knife short.

Belial’s Dream (2017) — with optional Commentary Track – (04:49)

Belial’s Dream is an unusual stop-motion short directed by Robert Morgan. It covers a dream in the mind of the famous deformed twin known as Belial.

Making Belial’s Dream – (02:06)

This extremely short “making of” featurette about the production of Belial’s Dream isn’t particularly comprehensive, but who really expects a two-minute featurette about the making of a five-minute film to be brimming with information?

What’s in the Basket? – (01:18:41)

This feature-length examination of all three of Henenlotter’s Basket Case films is certain to thrill those who admire the series. It is also a good way for those who have not yet seen the sequels to learn a bit about them. Most will agree that this is one of the most substantial supplements on the entire disc.

The Latvian Connection: The Making of Basket Case – (27:33)

The Latvian Connection is presented in sepia and covers the making of Basket Case through interviews with Edgar Ievins (producer), Ilze Balodis (actress and casting), Ugis Nigals (special effects artist and associate producer), and Kika Nigals (Belial handler). The half-hour program covers a lot of territory and is certainly worth seeing if you happen to be a fan of the film.

Basket Case at MoMA – (37:12)

The Museum of Modern Art held a special restoration screening of the film and this feature presents the special Q&A panel that was held at that event. Frank Henenlotter, Kevin Van Hentenryck, Beverly Bonner, Maryellen Schultz, Florence Schultz, and Ugis Nigals were all participants and are featured throughout this footage. The audio quality isn’t always top-notch, but the material discussed is consistently interesting—and will be twice as engaging if one actually enjoys the movie. There is a lot of information here.

The Frisson of Fission: Basket Case, Conjoined Twins, and ‘Freaks’ in Cinema – (23:03)

The Frission of Fission is an instructive visual essay by Travis Crawford that contextualizes Basket Case as one in a line of films about “freaks” and “outcasts.” It adds to one’s appreciation of the film and is an extremely engaging experience.

Me and the Bradley Boys – (16:24)

Kevin Van Hentenryck discusses a number of pertinent areas of interest in regards to Basket Case—including production memories, his approach to portraying the role of Duane, his acting experiences, and secrets about how certain scenes were pulled off by the production team.

Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins – (08:55)

Those who were paying close attention to the film might remember seeing a pair of twin nurses. This short piece focuses in on the actresses who portrayed these nurses (Florence and Maryellen Schultz). The Schultz sisters were Frank Henenlotter’s cousins and have therefore known the director all their lives. They discuss him and their roles in the film. Fans should find it pretty interesting.

Blood, Basket and Beyond – (06:04)

Beverly Bonner discusses her memories of the low budget production and a comedy piece that she wrote about her character for the theatre (Casey: 30 Years Later). It is short and engaging.

Belial Goes to the Drive-In – (06:55)

This featurette consists of an interview with Joe Bob Briggs who discusses his role in building the film’s “cult film” status. Edgar Ievins also chimes in on occasion. He discusses his discovery of the film at Cannes and taking it to Texas for a premiere. It is an interesting glimpse into the history of the film’s reputation.

In Search of the Hotel Broslin – (16:08)

Frank Henenlotter and R.A. “The Rugged Man” Thorburn trace the film’s locations (or they trace those that still exist). The footage was shot in 2001 and offers a chance for comparison.

A Brief Interview with Director Frank Henenlotter – (03:50)

This isn’t really an interview with Frank Henenlotter. It is an interview with a younger nude actor who spouts nothing but nonsense. It is meant to be humorous and it may be mildly amusing. However, it really serves no practical purpose.

Basket Case 3 1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley – (08:30)

This is another tongue-in-cheek featurette that serves as a mockumentary about the fictional Duane Bradley. Again, it may be mildly amusing but doesn’t really earn its place on the disc.

Promo Gallery

The promo gallery contains theatrical trailers, television spots, and radio spots and offers a real look at how the film was marketed upon its release.

Theatrical Trailers – (04:54)

Television Spot – (00:55)

Radio Spot – (01:51)

Image Galleries

The image galleries aren’t unlike those on other releases and offers promotional stills, behind the scenes photos, and ephemera from the release of the film.

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Final Words:

Those who enjoy Basket Case should know that this is the ultimate version of the film on home video. The 4K restoration transfer is masterful and the supplemental package is overwhelming. However, the film isn’t for everyone. Even those who enjoy slasher and splatter films might be less than impressed with this one.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: March 20, 2018

Region: Region A & B

Length: 01:41:12

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 37.84 Mbps

Title

The early seventies were a period of remarkable activity for Robert Altman, producing masterpiece after masterpiece. At the time he came to make Images, MASH and McCabe & Mrs. Miller were behind him, with The Long Goodbye, Nashville, and 3 Women still to come. Originally conceived in the mid-sixties, Images concerns a pregnant children’s author (Susannah York—who would win the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance) whose husband may or may not be having an affair. Actually, there are several “may or may not” situations in this film, because the protagonist’s mental state becomes increasingly unstable throughout the duration. One can see it as a homage to Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is nearly as brilliant.

The film certainly has a lot going for it. John Williams scored the film (although his score is almost secondary to the sound designs by Stomu Yamashta (The Man Who Fell to Earth), and Vilmos Zsigmond’s brilliant cinematography is always compelling. It is a truly interesting effort—so interesting that one hates to say anything negative about the film. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. Surprisingly, the new artwork is more impressive. There is also an attractively illustrated collector’s booklet featuring an essay on the film by Carmen Gray and a pertinent extract from Altman on Altman that is well worth reading. The booklet adds quite a bit of value to the package.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are enticing, attractive, and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

It was impossible to find the old MGM DVD of Images to compare this disc against as it has been out of print for quite some time, but there is absolutely no way that it looked nearly as remarkable as this new 4K restoration transfer. The image is incredibly filmic and looks terrific in motion. What’s more, it showcases an impressive level of fine detail and superb clarity for a film that was intentionally shot with a soft image. Contrast is also well rendered with blacks that are deep without significant crushing. Meanwhile, there is a level of organic grain that never becomes unwieldy. Fans should be pleased.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s English mono Linear PCM audio transfer opts for authenticity over a more dynamic remix (which should satisfy purists). The film’s score and atmospheric sound design is capably handled by the track as is the dialogue which is consistently clear throughout the duration. The flat nature of the track might disappoint those wanting to make adequate use of their high-end systems, but it is more important to represent Altman’s original intentions. In any case, it is a rich track that supports the visuals quite admirably.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger

Readers might recall that this reviewer has a slight prejudice against third party commentary tracks. They sometimes seem to be compiled of nothing more than information gathered from the commentator’s Google or Imdb search. Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger manage to offer a bit more substantial analysis in this particular track. They offer their analysis with a nice helping of trivial information about the film and its place in Altman’s career. It earns its place on the disc and fans of the director should find it more than worthwhile.

Scene-Select Commentary by Robert Altman

Apparently, this scene-select commentary by writer-director Robert Altman was carried over from the original MGM DVD. It is nice to have it here, because hearing a director discuss their film is always instructive. One only wishes that Altman could have given the film a proper feature length track.

Imagining Images – (24:31)

Another carry-over is this nice archival featurette that centers on Robert Altman and Vilmos Zsigmond. One wishes that it could’ve been more comprehensive, but it’s nice to have what’s here.

Interview with actor Cathryn Harrison – (06:04)

Arrow’s brief interview with Cathryn Harrison is a pretty standard reminiscence about her experiences shooting Images when she was only 13 years old. Her memories are happy ones and it is nice to have her perspective on the production.

An Appreciation by Stephen Thrower – (32:26)

Stephen Thrower’s “appreciation” is probably every bit as instructive as the Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger commentary track. It tracks the gestation of the film in Altman’s head, the film’s various influences, the reception of the film upon its release, and much more.

Theatrical Trailer – (03:13)

It is nice to find that the theatrical trailer has been included on the disc as well. It’s always a disappointment when they are overlooked.

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Final Words:

This film has been very difficult to find on home video for quite some time, so the Robert Altman completest is sure to be thrilled with this release. It comes highly recommended to Altman fans and to anyone who finds the premise at all interesting.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: February 06, 2018

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:39:48

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 French Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 27.99 Mbps

Title.png

First of all, a few readers that aren’t well-versed in their French-cinema history should be told up front that this is not a fictional narrative film classic that has somehow escaped your radar. It is a documentary about a notoriously troubled film production that ended in near tragedy. In 1964, Henri-Georges Clouzot, the acclaimed director of thriller masterpieces Les Diaboliques and Wages of Fear, began work on his most ambitious film yet. It was to be titled L’Enfer (Inferno) and was to star Serge Reggiani as a controlling hotel manager who begins to suspect that his beautiful wife (Romy Schneider) is fooling around on him. There is little indication that his suspicions have merit, but even meritless jealousy can soon turn into obsession. If Clouzot’s project sounds familiar, this might very well be because Claude Chabrol turned the script into his own film entitled L’Enfer in 1994.

Clouzot

Henri-Georges Clouzot

The Chabrol film would have never been made had Clouzot’s vision reached the screen. Unfortunately, this was never to be the case. Despite huge expectations, major studio backing, and an unlimited budget, the production collapsed under the weight of arguments, technical complications, and illness after only three weeks. The details of these three weeks—particularly the trouble that plagued the filmmakers during the shoot—is what this film is really about.

Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea utilize Clouzot’s incredible expressionistic original rushes, screen tests, and on-location footage whilst also attempting to reconstruct his original vision. Interviews, dramatizations of un-filmed scenes, and Clouzot’s own notes are also used in order to create an incredibly informative document. The parallel between Henri-Georges Clouzot’s behavior on the set and the hotel manager’s obsession with his wife is driven home throughout the duration. The result is not only a document of one of cinema’s lost treasures but an examination of a master director’s creative drive that may have crossed the line into obsession.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. Surprisingly, the new artwork is more impressive. There is also an attractive 22-page booklet that features a 5 page essay (6 if you count the footnotes) written by Ginette Vincendeau entitled “Welcome to Hell” which is illustrated with several stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are enticing attractive and easy to navigate.

SS03

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s high bitrate encode offers a better image than the previous Flicker Alley release—but the improvements are decidedly marginal. Since M2K Films was responsible for delivering the master, one wonders if this isn’t simply a superior disc encode of the same master utilized on the earlier release. The quality of the footage is entirely dependent upon the source, although it must be said that Clouzot’s footage is in surprisingly good condition here. There are flaws throughout the transfer but nothing that should distract anyone. Actually, one imagines that few will even notice them.

hgcinfernoaabr-05

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy has happily upgraded the sound options available on this release as the Flicker Alley version only offered a lossy Dolby Digital option on their release of the film. This particular disc contains two high definition tracks: a 5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio option and a 2.0 French Linear PCM Audio mix. Both of these choices are clearly superior even if neither track is likely to impress those looking for a truly dynamic sonic experience. It would be ridiculous to expect such a mix considering the documentary nature of the film. Dialogue and music drive the film and this results in a track that highlights Bruno Alexiu’s score with clearly rendered dialogue. Both tracks are perfectly acceptable options.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

They Saw Inferno – (59:43)

This hour long examination of the production is the disc’s strongest supplement and (as the case boldly announces) “provides further insight into the production of Inferno.” The program features a wealth of unseen material from Clouzot’s failed production that is unique to this piece and unused interview footage from Bromberg’s documentary production of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno is utilized in this hour long companion piece to the feature. Many will find it just as fascinating as the main documentary as it delves a bit deeper into the film’s production—or it at east gives a more straightforward account. It is almost like an alternative documentary about the exact same subject but with a radically different approach.

Lucy Mazdon on Henri-Georges Clouzot – (21:48)

Lucy Mazdon is the disc’s resident scholar and expert on the subject of the French cinema. She discusses the career and filmography of Henri-Georges Clouzot and where he fit in the cinematic landscape at the time of the infamously famous troubled production of L’Enfer. She diplomatically questions Bromberg’s documentary and claims that it might be a little “one-sided” in its depiction of the director and that he was perhaps not quite as obsessive as he comes across in the film. However, her admiration for the documentary seems authentic and this is presented more as an unanswerable question about the true nature of that production than an actual criticism.

Interview with Serge Bromberg – (18:09)

More substantial is this English language interview with Bromberg about Henri-Georges Clouzot’s production of L’Enfer, his approach to his documentary about the production, the magnificence of Clouzot’s original footage, and more. It adds a good deal of information to the disc and is well worth watching if you are a fan of Clouzot, French cinema, or Bromberg’s excellent documentary.

Filmed Introduction by Serge Bromberg – (08:57)

Bromberg’s introduction is delivered in French and seems to be carried over from some other home video release of the film. Introductions such as these usually offer the viewer very little and seem to be included simply so that they can list yet another supplement on the back of a film’s Blu-ray (or DVD) case. However, this particular introduction does offer a bit of background information about the genesis of the project and the challenge of convincing Henri-Georges Clouzot to allow him access to the footage and is well worth watching for this reason.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:44)
The film’s original trailer is included and does an admirable job at capturing the interest of anyone who even remotely loves world cinema.

Stills Gallery

Arrow’s stills gallery holds 42 production stills from Clouzot’s failed production. Many (if not most) can be seen within the film itself and the various video based supplements, but it is nice to have them here in order to give the images a more focused contemplation.

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Final Words:

It is impossible to say whether or not L’Enfer might have been Henri-Georges Clouzot’s masterpiece—especially in a filmography that includes Le Corbeau, Wages of Fear, and Les Diabolique—but it would’ve been absolutely fascinating as is this excellent documentary. Arrow Academy has given fans of French cinema an incredible gift with this release.

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Blu-ry Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: December 26, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 02:05:00

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

English Mono Linear PCM Audio

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.79 Mbps

Title

“The genesis of The Apartment I remember very, very vividly. I saw David Lean’s Brief Encounter, which was based on a one-act play by Noel Coward—and in the play Trevor Howard was the leading man. A married man has an affair with a married woman, and he uses the apartment of a chum of his for sexual purposes. I always had it in the back of my mind that the friend of Trevor Howard’s, who only appears in one or two tiny scenes, who comes back home and climbs into the warm bed the lovers have just left, would make a very interesting character. I made some notes, and years later, after we had finished Some Like It Hot, we wanted to make another picture with Jack Lemmon. I dug out this notion, and we just sat down and started to talk about the character, started the structure, started the three acts, started the other characters, started to elaborate on the theme, and when we had enough we just suggested it to Mr. Lemmon and to Walter Mirisch and United Artists… In those days it was a very, very risqué project. Today, of course, it would be considered a Disney picture.” –Billy Wilder

In 1960, following the success of their collaboration on Some Like it Hot, director Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina) reteamed with actor Jack Lemmon (The Fortune Cookie, The Odd Couple, Grumpy Old Men) for what many consider the pinnacle of their respective careers: The Apartment. Winner of five Academy Awards—including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Art Direction (Black and White), and Best EditingThe Apartment features a wealth of Hollywood’s finest talent on both sides of the camera working at the top of their game. By turns cynical, heart-warming and hilarious, the story follows C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) who works as a lowly drone in an insurance firm who allows the company bosses to walk on him and use his apartment for their extramarital affairs in hopes that it might help him rise through the ranks of the company. When Bud enters into a similar arrangement with the firm’s head-honcho, J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity), his career prospects begin to look up. Unfortunately, he discovers that one of Sheldrake’s mistresses is none other than Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine, Irma la Douce), who happens to be the girl of his dreams. The story soon ventures into dark territory as Bud must choose between his career and the woman he loves… and between being a “mensch” and a jerk. Both Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine give performances that were more than worthy of their respective Oscar nominations (the film earned ten nominations), and Wilder perfectly balances the film’s dark themes with human comedy for a completely satisfying cinematic journey.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy really knocked this release out of the park in just about every way and their glorious packaging is certainly no exception. It’s always great to see that it has been shown the proper respect by the good folks at Arrow, and Billy Wilder’s many admirers will want to act fast so that they might reap the benefits. Two items are house in a very sturdy box with excellent artwork by Ignatius Fitzpatrick that manages to best the film’s original one-sheet artwork. It represents the film perfectly!

One Sheet

The Original One Sheet Artwork

The first item in the box is Arrow’s standard clear case with reversible artwork which gives one the choice of showcasing the same newly commissioned artwork utilized on the box and the film’s original one-sheet artwork. This reviewer chose to feature the one-sheet art on the case since the box already features Fitzpatrick’s superior artwork. Either way, it’s great having the choice. The second item in the box is a 150 page book that features three essays, including Sweet and Sour: The Greatness of Billy Wilder’s ‘The Apartment’ by Neil Sinyard, Broken Mirrors: Illusion and Disillusion in Billy Wilder’s ‘Diamond’ Comedies by Kat Ellinger, Shut Up and Deal: The Changing Candor of 1960s Hollywood Cinema… Morality-wise, by Travis Crawford and Heather Hyche. All three of these essays are interesting and offer both analytical musings and concrete information about The Apartment and some of the other films in Billy Wilder’s distinguished filmography. The production stills and artwork included throughout the pages only sweeten the already worthwhile reading experience.

Limited Edition

The disc’s animated menu features footage and music from the film and is easy to navigate.

Menu

Everything about this release is remarkable and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s 1080p transfer of their 4K restoration of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment is a thrill to behold. The aforementioned hardbound book includes a brief but detailed paragraph about the work that went into the release:

“…The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director Scanner at EFilm, Burbank. Upon inspection it was discovered that several sections in the original negative had been removed and replaced with a duplicate negative element, resulting in a noticeable shift in quality. These substitutions were not limited to the optical sections, which would have been standard lab practice at the time. Although lab documentation could not be found, these substitutions were likely performed before the film’s original release, as all subsequent intermediary film element also exhibit these changes. The trims from the original negative could not be found as these were likely discarded long ago, but a separate 35mm fine grain positive was sourced and compared against the duplicate negative element for these sections. In each of these instances, the best source element was selected to ensure the highest quality presentation possible.

The film was graded on the Nucoda grading system at R3store Studios, London. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, [and] scratches were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. Instances of picture instability, warped sections, and damaged frames were also improved.” –Limited Edition Hardbound Book

Despite the obstacles created by the production’s original source elements, Joseph LaShelle’s cinematography hasn’t looked this good on home video—and we include the excellent 2012 Fox/MGM Blu-ray in this statement. It is a pristine transfer of a beautifully shot film that has benefited from the 4K scan as well as the hours of restoration work. Detail is impressive with beautifully deep blacks and a greyscale that runs the gamut. Gradations are smooth and naturally rendered with natural looking contrast. The source itself sometimes lends itself to a softer overall look to certain scenes, but one cannot expect improvement on the original photography (which is always attractive in any case). Clarity is also brilliant for a 60 year old film, and purists will be happy to see that grain reproduction looks natural and organic. There may be a few fleeting imperfections that couldn’t be resolved here (such as the occasional minor scratch), but these are never distracting. The work that has gone into this demo quality transfer will be evident to everyone lucky enough to behold it.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s Linear PCM mono option will impress purists as it is the option most faithful to the film’s original sound design. However, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a more than adequate alternative for those seeking a slightly more dynamic option. Either choice should please the listener. Elements are all well prioritized with frontal dialogue on both options. The 5.1 offers some separation as the surrounds kick in (especially when the score takes over). Atmospherics also give the track a bit of depth. Personally, this reviewer prefers the more faithful mono option—but one shouldn’t fault Arrow for giving fans a choice.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Bruce Bloch

Bruce Bloch’s commentary was featured on MGM’s original Blu-ray release and has been carried over to this much better disc. Film historians often give rather dry but informative tracks and their theoretical analysis isn’t always very astute. While Bloch’s commentary cannot rival the sort of personal commentary that Wilder, Lemmon, or MacLaine might have offered, it is well worth listening to if you admire the film or Billy Wilder’s work. Having said this, there are times throughout the track when he describes the onscreen action rather than offering an analysis of that action or relaying pertinent information about the production or the action onscreen.

Select Scene Commentary by Philip Kemp – (08:37)

Kemp’s track offers commentary from two different scenes from the film. The first sequence finds a woman name Marge MacDougall (Hope Holiday) picking up Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) in a bar. The sequence also features the scene in which Ms. Kubelik is offered $100 in lieu of a Christmas gift. The second scene focuses on Baxter as he waits for his date outside the theatre (which houses the stage production of The Music Man). While Kemp’s comments aren’t particularly probing, the commentary offers just enough to be worthwhile. It simply isn’t brimming with actual information or heavy analysis.

The Key to The Apartment – (10:12)

This short featurette is a kind of companion piece to Philip Kemp’s select scene commentary track offers a few interesting words about the film—including a few quotes from archival reviews of the film. He has an unfortunate tendency to read from cards but they do seem to keep his comments on track.

The Flawed Couple – (20:24)

Better is this “video essay” by David Cairns that examines Jack Lemmon’s special place in Billy Wilder’s filmography. The actor made no fewer than seven films together and Wilder was responsible for the first onscreen pairing of Lemmon and Walter Matthau who would go on to become a popular comedic acting duo throughout the rest of their careers. In fact, three of the seven Wilder/Lemmon films were also Lemmon/Matthau movies. In any case, the essay features voiceover audio from Cairns coupled with clips from The Apartment and stills and artwork from some of their other collaborations.

Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon – (12:47)

It is nice to see that Arrow has carried this short appreciation of Jack Lemmon’s unique screen presence over from Fox/MGM’s earlier Blu-ray of The Apartment. It is worth watching as it might give the viewer added appreciation for Jack Lemmon’s unique talents and some very general biographical information. The actor’s son is the primary contributor here and this gives the piece a personal flavor that makes up for a decided lack in actual depth.

A Letter to Castro – (13:23)

Arrow’s new interview with Hope Holiday finds the 87 year old actress looking back on her experiences being cast in and working on The Apartment. She seems to have a special fondness for both Wilder’s direction and Lemmon’s unique acting talents. It is a nice addition to the disc as it expands on the interviews in Inside ‘The Apartment.

Inside The Apartment – (29:36)

Fans should be thrilled to discover that Arrow has carried this wonderful half hour documentary from the earlier Fox/MGM Bu-ray of The Apartment. This disc would’ve been naked without it as it contains a good deal of pertinent information that isn’t included in the disc’s other material—and the information that can be found elsewhere (like Bruce Bloch’s commentary track) is easier to digest here. This is one of the disc’s better supplements.

An Informal Conversation with Billy Wilder – (23:17)

This 1995 interview with Billy Wilder is introduced with a voiceover introduction by an extremely brief introduction by Jack Lemmon. The lo-fi video interview is a part of a series of interviews made for the Writers Guild Foundations’ Oral Histories Series, and it might very well be the crown jewel of the disc’s supplemental package. The program concentrates on Wilder’s writing process (especially his collaboration with IAL Diamond) with a good portion of the conversation focusing in on The Apartment. Any interview with Wilder is worthwhile and this one is no exception! He’s a very straightforward and unpretentious gentleman.

Restoration Show Reel – (02:20)

This is a document of the work that went into the excellent 4K restoration from the film’s 35mm camera negative. The usual before and after comparisons are featured here.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:19)

The film’s theatrical trailer is a nice way to round out the disc’s video supplements—and a happy addition to the package.

Original Screenplay

Those who have a BD-ROM drive on their computers will be able to take advantage of the included original screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. Future filmmakers could find a lot of worse ways to learn the craft of screenwriting than reading this excellent script.

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Final Words:

Why haven’t any of Billy Wilder’s other classic film’s received a Blu-ray release as good as this one? The only other release that approaches this one is Criterion’s edition of Ace in the Hole—and if this release is any indication, Criterion may need to watch their backs. Arrow Academy is formidable competition. The film has never looked or sounded this fabulous on home video and the packaging is absolutely gorgeous. It’s the perfect release, Blu-ray wise.

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This is an edition that has been limited to 3,000 units, so those interested in adding this brilliant release to their collections will want to act quickly!

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: November 28, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:34:31

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1:85:1

Bitrate: 28.81 Mbps

Title

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Eddie Bunker (Reservoir Dogs), Animal Factory was Steve Buscemi’s second stint in the director’s chair and sees him marshaling a formidable ensemble cast, including Bunker, Danny Trejo (Machete) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler). The story follows a troubled youth named Ron Decker (Edward Furlong, American History X) who is sentenced to a ten-year stint in the notorious San Quentin State Prison for a drug-dealing conviction. Inexperienced in the ways of prison life, he’s taken under the wing of Earl Copen (Willem Dafoe, To Live and Die in LA), an experienced con with the entire prison in the palm of his hand—inmates and guards alike. But as Ron grows increasingly cocky in his privileged role as Earl’s confidant, he might be biting off more than he can chew with some of the jail’s more volatile inhabitants.

As someone who doesn’t typically enjoy movies set in penitentiaries, the film was unable to rise above my particular prejudices against the genre. It seemed somewhat oddly plotted and the characters didn’t really interest me. It does at the very least make an honest effort towards developing the film’s two primary characters, but (for whatever reason) these efforts were in vain. Frankly, it would be impossible to give the film an unbiased review. Those who admire prison movies might very well have a very different experience.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Jacob Phillips and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay written by Glenn Kenny entitled Too Real: Steve Buscemi and Edward Bunker’s ‘Animal Factory’ which is illustrated with several stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

There are two kinds of Arrow Video releases. There are those with restorations overseen by Arrow, and those with older transfers acquired from outside sources. Unfortunately, this particular release belongs to the latter category, and the result is a typically lackluster transfer that manages to best standard definition releases of the film but certainly doesn’t impress the discerning videophile. The information about the transfer included in the book is rather vague, and this is always a red flag. We merely learn that the master was produced and delivered by Ambie Distribution.

It isn’t really a bad transfer, but it could really be much better. It simply doesn’t distinguish itself and can be a bit uneven in every respect. It does exhibit a decidedly filmic texture throughout with distinguishable grain, and detail is improved over earlier standard definition releases. However, this improvement should be much more substantial than it actually is here. The Razor-sharp images that people expect from Arrow simply aren’t forthcoming. Other elements (clarity, color, compression, etc.) can be described as adequate.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 2.0 Linear PCM track provided by Ambie Distribution seems to be a fair representation of the original audio elements with only source-related weaknesses evident. Some might lament the lack of a more dynamic mix, but it is unreasonable to expect a better track than what audiences experienced upon the film’s theatrical release.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Eddie Bunker Danny Trejo

Arrow includes this archival commentary with Bunker and Trejo, and it is probably the disc’s most significant supplement despite the fact that it wasn’t produced specifically for this new Blu-ray release. There is too much dead space throughout the duration of the track, but their conversation is more than worth checking out. A variety of topics are covered in a somewhat generalized manner, including Buscemi’s directorial work on the film, Bunker’s prison experiences that influenced certain elements of the story, Trejo and Bunker’s personal prison experiences (they met in prison), prison culture, and other pertinent subjects.

Eddie Bunker: Life of Crime – (20:50) – (1080P)

Forshaw (author of American Noir: The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction) discusses the life and work of Eddie Bunker while putting a personal spin on the topic when he discusses his encounters with Bunker. It is worth viewing if one is a fan.

Trailer – (01:15) – (1080P)
There is a reason that this isn’t listed as the film’s “theatrical trailer.” It looks more like a video trailer for the film, and one actually wonders why Arrow even bothered including it here.

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Final Words:

There is much to admire in Animal Factory, and those who appreciate these films should pick up this new Arrow Blu-ray. Having said this, the film isn’t for everyone and the transfer isn’t up to Arrow’s usual high standards.

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