Archive for the ‘Arrow Video’ Category

Blu-ray Cover - June 20

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Region: Regions A and B

Length: 01:36:44

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Italian Mono Linear PCM Audio

Alternate Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, English

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.69 Mbps

Note: This package includes a DVD edition of the film.

TITLE

In 1970, young first-time director Dario Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red) made his indelible mark on Italian cinema with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage—a film which redefined the giallo genre of murder-mystery thrillers and catapulted him to international stardom. To be honest, the film’s plot doesn’t really distinguish itself from other giallo films.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American writer living in Rome, inadvertently witnesses a brutal attack on a woman (Eva Renzi) in a modern art gallery. Powerless to help, he grows increasingly obsessed with the incident. Convinced that something he saw that night holds the key to identifying the maniac terrorizing Rome, he launches his own investigation parallel to that of the police, heedless of the danger to both himself and his girlfriend Giulia (Suzy Kendall).

The most fascinating aspect of the film is Argento’s confident direction. It is truly a remarkably assured debut effort that is aided by Vittorio Storaro’s masterful cinematography and an interesting score by Ennio Morricone. It is essential viewing for fans of both the director and stands with the director’s best work.

SS01

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

This is the epitome of wonderful packaging. It is probably impossible to do it justice here, but it should at least be said that this is one of Arrow’s more distinguished packages. Three items are held in a very sturdy box featuring artwork by Candice Tripp with title work completed by Matt Griffin. This is the same artist who graced Arrow with their extraordinary artwork for Donnie Darko earlier this year (among others)—and we wouldn’t complain if they were to work exclusively with this artist.

The three items contained in this box are as follows: The Arrow Blu-ray disc, a collector’s booklet, and a reversible foldout poster featuring both the original American one sheet design and the new Candice Tripp painting.

Limited Edition

The Blu-ray disc is housed in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve that allows fans to showcase either the aforementioned artwork or the film’s original Italian one-sheet. It is nice that Arrow has also offered fans the opportunity to utilize the film’s original one-sheet design, but we feel that most fans will agree that the new art is vastly superior to the original (which rarely happens). However, this is a matter of taste and there is little doubt that some will prefer the alternative. In addition to the Blu-ray disc, the case houses six postcards featuring the artwork for six of the film’s original lobby cards that helped to market the film upon its original release.

The collector’s booklet includes three great essays, including “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage: An Appreciation” by Michael Mackenzie, “Rogues’ Gallery: Portraits of Fear” by Howard Hughes, and “Sacrificial Knives and Cultic Objects: Reflections of the Screaming Mind in Dario Argento’s ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’” by Jack Seabrook. The book is illustrated with new artwork by Matthew Griffin and contains a number of production stills that add significantly to the aesthetic presentation. The essays themselves are quite worthwhile and add to one’s appreciation of the film and its place in film history.

Menu

The disc’s animated menu utilizes footage from the film and is easy to navigate. Everything about this release is remarkable, and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow has graced the disc with a 4K restoration transfer presented in the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This is a film that has seen a number of home video transfers, and none of the previous transfers have come close to the quality of this new restoration. Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography finally comes across with some degree of accuracy in this release as colors seem accurately rendered with attractive saturation levels and natural flesh tones (for the most part). Contrast levels also seems to reflect the original production photography and showcases rich black levels without crushing shadow detail. There is an organic layer of grain that textures the image without sacrificing any of fine detail inherent in the photography.

The disc’s maxed out bitrate ensures that unsightly compression artifacts are never an issue, and the unsightly DNR that graces a number of the other releases does not mar the experience of watching this transfer. Film damage is at times evident, but this is never problematic or distracting for the viewer.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

We are happy to report that the disc includes solid Linear PCM audio transfers of both the original Italian mono mix and the English language mono mix. Some might lament the inclusion of an artificially produced quasi-5.1stream, but these rarely live up to their hype. These faithful mono reproductions are more than acceptable. Any flaws inherent in these tracks are the product of the original production methods and shouldn’t bother viewers who are well versed in the genre.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth

Troy Howarth is the author of a number of books (including So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films – Volumes 1 & 2, The Haunted World of Mario Bava, Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, and Real Depravities: The Films of Klaus Kinski). A mere look at the titles of these books make it clear that he is a devotee of the giallo and horror genres, and his enthusiasm is evident throughout the duration of his commentary track. His general knowledge about this subject serves the track rather well, although it never approaches the quality one gains from an actual filmmaker’s commentary. One laments that Dario Argento himself didn’t participate in this discussion.

However, listeners are given a wealth of pertinent information here as Howarth’s encyclopedic knowledge of interesting trivia elevates the track above the level of most third party commentaries. It really does add an enormous amount of value to the disc.

Crystal Nightmare – (31:24)

Arrow Video wisely includes this interview with Dario Argento himself, and it is one of this disc’s most interesting supplemental features. The director discusses the film in a general way and delves into such topics as the inspiration for the film’s premise, the screenplay, the financing, and information about the film’s production and eventual release. His manner is rather straightforward and relatively unpretentious throughout his discussion, and his anecdotal recollections are especially fascinating. One doesn’t even have to be a fan of the director to find this program fascinating.

An Argento Icon – (22:05)

This better than average interview with Gildo Di Marco covers more territory than its somewhat brief duration might imply. The actor talks about his life as an actor and even delves into more personal territory. Frankly, the events of his life are really more interesting than one might imagine. His work with Argento is also covered in some detail.

Eva’s Talking – (11:19)

Eva Renzi’s interview is a bit older and the video quality isn’t as good as one might hope. However, the actress is frankly honest about her less than positive feelings about the film and the effect that it had on her career and this results in a unique and interesting experience for the viewer.

The Power of Perception – (20:57)

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (author of Devil’s Advocates: Suspiria, Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, and Found Footage Horror Films: Fear and the Appearance of Reality) provides this genuinely instructive visual essay about the film’s themes and the role that art plays in Dario Argento’s cinema. This scholarly examination is insightful and should add to one’s appreciation of this film as well as the director’s other work.

Black Gloves and Screaming Mimis – (34:54)

Kat Ellinger gives another somewhat scholarly examination of the film that fans should enjoy. Ellinger examines the film’s origins and the Frederic Brown novel: ‘The Screaming Mimi’ and in the process manages to reframe the viewer’s contextual perspective. Comparisons to the novel are extremely rare, and this fills an obvious need. It is somewhat dry, but most will agree that it is a worthy addition to an already extraordinary disc.

Italian Theatrical Trailer – (03:11)

International Theatrical Trailer – (02:48)

Arrow’s 2017 Texas Frightmare Promo – (00:56)

It is nice to find that the original Italian and International trailers have been included here as they provide a glimpse at the marketing campaign. The Frightmare Promo is less essential—but probably even more fun than the original trailers.

SS05

Final Words:

Dario Argento’s debut effort is certain to please fans of the giallo genre and the director’s later work, and Arrow Video’s Limited Edition Blu-ray package is gorgeous! The 4K restoration transfer more than makes up for the deficiencies in their earlier release and more than warrants an upgrade. Frankly, this is the only release of the film that is even worth watching.

SS06

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:33:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps / (48 kHz, 1536 kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3151 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.89 Mbps

Notes: This package contains a DVD copy of the film in addition to the Blu-ray.

Title

Helmed by legendary producer/director Ovidio Assonitis (the man behind cult genre entries such as The Visitor and Piranha II: The Spawning), Madhouse is a crimson-soaked tale of sibling rivalry taken to a terrifying and bloody extreme.

Julia has spent her entire adult life trying to forget the torment she suffered at the hands of her twisted twin Mary, but Mary hasn’t forgotten. Escaping the mental hospital that protects the outside world from her unusual brand of psychosis, Julia’s sadistic sister vows to exact a particularly cruel revenge on her sibling this year—promising a birthday surprise that she’ll never forget.

The film is an Italian production shot entirely in Savannah, Georgia and has been released under a plethora of titles (including And When She Was Bad and There Was a Little Girl). It fuses the slasher genre with the over-the-top excess of ‘80s Italian terror—resulting in a cinematic bloodbath that the British authorities outlawed as another in a line of “video nasties.”

Seen today, however, it is difficult to understand why the British censors felt the need to ban the film. It seems quaint by contemporary standards. Audiences can see more horrifying gore in a number of more recent films and the film isn’t particularly suspenseful when one compares it with the likes of better entries into the genre (such as John Carpenter’s Halloween). Those with a fondness for the genre will find it enjoyable enough (if only for the film’s many camp elements), but it probably won’t register with most audiences.

SS01

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach and what is presumably the film’s original one sheet artwork (which is marginally superior to Schoenbach’s artwork for this release. As is their custom, they also include an attractive booklet that features an essay by John Martin entitled “The Occult, Octopi, and Ovidio Nasties – The Amazing Exploitation Career of Ovidio G. Assonitis” (the subject of which is more than a little self-explanatory). It should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film or at least provide the viewer with a contextual background.

[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 reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

According to Arrow’s packaging, this is a “brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative.” We will simply have to take their word for it, because it isn’t a particularly strong image. This might very well be a result of less than stellar production elements instead of any deficiencies in the transfer and restoration. After all, Arrow Video has a solid track record with their restorations, and utilize a maxed out bitrate to make the most of their work. In any case, Madhouse exhibits warm but natural colors and a fair amount of detail and healthy gradation in dark areas of the frame. Depth is also reasonably strong during most of the exterior sequences. It is also pretty clean despite a few anomalies such as specks of dust or the occasional scratch that never become distracting. It is clear that the restoration team has done a decent job keeping such blemishes at bay. The film has a relatively soft aesthetic that isn’t helped by the fine layer of grain. The grain is fairly natural but does occasionally fluctuate and is sometimes heavier than it is throughout the majority of the film. The image sometimes goes out of focus, but this is obviously the result of the original photography. When compared to earlier DVD editions of the film, it becomes clear that this new transfer contains a bit at the top and left side of the frame. This is certainly good news as it seems closer to the original theatrical presentation.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow includes both the film’s original 2.0 mix as a track and a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix for fans who prefer a slightly more dynamic sonic experience. The latter option spreads some of the ambient sounds and some of the music across the channels. It isn’t an overwhelming difference, but some viewers will likely prefer this option. Purists will gravitate towards the 2.0 Linear PCM Audio option, which is every bit as solid and represents the original theatrical experience. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and intelligible and the score is given adequate breathing room.

SS04

Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with ‘The Hysteria Continues’

Some readers are bound to be asking themselves, “Who or what is ‘The Hysteria Continues’?” The Hysteria Continues is a podcast dedicated to slasher movies and the Italian Giallo genres. The four genre fanatics responsible offer a discussion (and sometimes debate) about such subjects as the film’s video nasty status, comparisons to other genre films, production design, and other such pertinent topics. Frankly, I could live without the track. The participants are really just fan boys with no connection to and little knowledge about the film’s production. They can’t even pronounce the director’s name properly.

Alternate Opening Titles – (03:01)

Aternate Title

The only real difference between this alternate title sequence and the one used in the body of this film transfer is that this sequence utilizes one of the film’s alternate titles (There Was a Little Girl).

Running the Madhouse – (12:40)

Edith Ivey’s interview is somewhat short, but the actress does recall some interesting tidbits of information about the production. Ivey portrayed Amantha Beauregard in Madhouse and doesn’t seem to have any real affection for the film. In fact, she seems genuinely shocked that anyone would even be interested in hearing about it. She talks about Ovidio Assonitis and his demand for histrionics (our words not hers).

Framing Fear – (19:32)

Roberto D. Ettorre Piazzoli discusses his working relationship with Ovidio Assonitis and his cinematography in the film. He makes a few comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Many will agree that this is the best of the three included interviews do to its scope. One simply feels that it covers the most territory.

Ovidio Nasty – (07: 44)

Ovidio Assonitis (producer/director) reveals the classic films that influenced Madhouse. It is nice to hear from Ovidio himself, but one feels his interview is slightly anemic compared to the other two interviews (neither of which was particularly comprehensive).

Theatrical Trailer – (03:04)

The theatrical trailer has been rarely seen in recent years before Arrow decided to include it on this disc, and fans should be thrilled to have it here (even if it isn’t particularly unique).

SS05

Final Words:

Madhouse was a made-to-order slasher knock-off with over the top performances and questionable logic that should appeal to viewers looking for a campy romp through typical 1980s slasher schlock. It is one of those “so bad that it is good” movies. Arrow Video has provided genre fans with a decent upgrade to the previous DVD editions and has included some interesting supplemental material to sweeten the deal. However, it certainly isn’t for everyone.

SS06

 

 

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:32:34

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1536 kbps, 16-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 26.86 Mbps

Notes: Arrow Video also includes a DVD copy of the film in this package.

Title

“What pleases is what is terrible, gentle, and poetic.” -Georges Franju

While Spotlight Without a Murder isn’t Georges Franju’s most pleasing film, it is essential viewing for anyone who admires any of the director’s more popular efforts. The story isn’t particularly unique but it captures and holds the viewers interest with confident simplicity. When the terminally ill Count Hervé de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur, Goto, Isle of Love) vanishes without trace, his heirs are told that they have to wait five years before he can be declared legally dead, forcing them to devise ways of paying for the upkeep of the vast family château in the meantime.  While they set about transforming the place into an elaborate son et lumière tourist attraction, they are beset by a series of tragic accidents—if they are really accidents.

This was Franju’s third feature length effort after having already made Head Against the Wall and Eyes Without a Face and is a generally playful romp through Agatha Christie territory. Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac—who had penned the source novels for Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo—returned to pen the screenplay for the director after the success of their previous collaboration on Eyes Without a Face. Boileau and Narcejac were obviously well versed in murder-mystery clichés and they gleefully exploit as many of them as possible while also blending Gothic elements into the film’s expertly woven fabric. To be honest, the Boileau-Narcejac connection should be enough reason for serious film buffs to experience this somewhat obscure film—even if opinion will be divided between those who see it as a hidden gem and those who see it as a hidden curiosity.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. In this instance, it should be said that Strain’s new artwork is gorgeous and certainly superior to the alternative. There is also an attractive booklet that features a few essays that enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

[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 reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The included collector’s booklet contains very little information about the work that went into the film’s transfer, but does claim that “‘Spotlight on a Murderer’ was digitally restored by Gaumont from original film elements.” Happily, this vague information doesn’t seem to reflect any deficiencies in the quality of the film’s image. The image quality is always solid and often beautiful. It exhibits rich blacks and natural gradients between the various shades of grey. Contrast is also well handled and there is a natural and well resolved layer of grain that lends a filmic texture to the proceedings. Clarity isn’t particularly consistent, but this seems to be a direct result of the production elements. There aren’t many age relate artifacts, but the ravages of time does occasionally mar what is an otherwise gorgeous image. However, these rare anomalies never become distracting.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 2.0 Linear PCM mono audio supports the film’s visuals admirably. The various elements are all given enough room to flourish. Fidelity is commendable and there isn’t any noticeable distortion. Some viewers might lament the lack of a more dynamic sound mix, but purists will be thrilled to have the original audio reproduced so faithfully in high definition.

SS04

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Le Courrier du Cinema – (27:14)

This excellent 1960 episode of a French television program documents the film’s production. The show is obviously geared towards promoting the film’s release, but it is rare to see “behind the scenes” documentary footage of films as old as this one. Obviously, this makes the viewing experience a fascinating one (especially if one is a fan of French cinema or Georges Franju). The program includes interviews with Georges Franju, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Pascale Audret, Marianne Koch, Pierre Brasseur, and Dany Saval. It is a shame that the footage isn’t more probing, but it is nonetheless a fascinating and instructive pleasure to watch.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (03:33)

The film’s theatrical trailer is another happy addition to Arrow Academy’s small but satisfying supplemental package.

SS05

Final Words:

This release is essential for admirers of French cinema, Georges Franju, or the old-school mystery genre.

SS06.jpg

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Noroit02:14:40

Duelle 02:00:41

Merry-Go-Round02:40:20

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

NoroitFrench Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Duelle French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Merry-Go-RoundEnglish & French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio:

Noroit1.85:1

Duelle 1.85:1

Merry-Go-Round1.37:1

Bitrate:

Noroit37.31 Mbps

Duelle 37.17 Mbps

Merry-Go-Round 32.98 Mbps

Note: This package includes DVD editions of all three titles.

Jacques Rivette

“[Noroît and Merry-Go-Round] might very well have been released; but it so happened that Gaumont, in its capacity as distribution house, didn’t think they would bring in a large audience. Maybe they’re right, from their point of view… But in a sense—and this is a very selfish point of view—I didn’t really do anything to ensure their release. Because the release for instance of Duelle, which was not an easy film to release, was done so clumsily that I would almost have preferred if the film had stayed in its boxes … I was more handicapped, personally, even purely egoistically, by the failure of Duelle than I was by the non-release of Noroît and Merry-Go-Round. It gives one a stronger sense of rejection, of error of course too. No, what’s really bothersome is that nearly all directors are at the mercy of such things…” –Jacques Rivette (Cahiers du Cinema, May-June, 1981)

When considering the illustrious filmmakers that came out of the French New Wave, it is easy for one to overlook Jacques Rivette’s name on a list that includes François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Éric Rohmer—but the movement might not even exist without Rivette. Production on Paris Belongs to Us began well before Truffaut, Godard and Chabrol began shooting their films (even if it wasn’t released until 1961).

As a matter of fact, Rivette would often have trouble with the release of his films (as is evidenced by the three films included in this set. In 1975, Jacques Rivette reunited with Out 1 producer, Stéphane Tchal Gadjieff, with the idea of a four-film cycle. He would create a quartet of interconnected films, Scènes de la vie parallèle. Each film would be in a different genre and revolve around two different female characters. Unfortunately, Rivette had a nervous breakdown and succumbed to exhaustion after completing only two of the four films. The second and the third entries of the intended tetralogy were the only films completed: Duelle (une quarantine) sees Rivette in fantasy territory, cross-pollinating Val Lewton, Jean Cocteau, and film noir as the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) battle over a magical diamond that will allow them to continue their existence in present-day Paris.. Its parallel film, Noroît (une vengeance) is a pirate tale about revenge—and a loose adaptation of The Revenger’s Tragedy. It stars Geraldine Chaplin and Bernadette Lafont.

Rivette was three days into the filming of Marie et Julien—the first film in the series (they were not produced in order)—when he collapsed and the production was shut down. It took a long time for the director to recover and when he was finally able to return to filmmaking, he was able to secure financing to make one of the two remaining films in his series. He decided that if he couldn’t make both films, he wouldn’t make either one of them. Instead, Rivette borrowed some of the elements of Duelle and Noroît and came up with Merry-Go-Round. Joe Dallesandro (The Climber, Trash, Flesh for Frankenstein) and Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris, The Passenger) are summoned to Paris, which leads to one of the most surreal and mysterious tales in a career that was dominated by surrealism and mystery.

In his essay about Jacques Rivette, Saul Austerlitz speaks despairingly about this period in the director’s career:

“The next period of Rivette’s career, between Celine and Julie and the renewed triumphs of La Bande des quatre and La Belle Noiseuse (1991), is for the most part disappointing. Duelle (1976) was pictorially lovely, and La Pont du nord (1982) and L’Amour par terre (1984) featured continued reflections on the relationship [between] art and reality, but in comparison to the peaks of Rivette’s filmmaking, these films (and also Noroit [1976], Merry Go Round [1980], and Hurlevent [1985]) are mere footnotes.” -Saul Austerlitz (Senses of Cinema)

Considering that Noroit and Merry Go Round never received a proper release and that Duelle’s release was given extremely problematic and limited distribution, one can understand how a surface level analysis might lead Austerlitz to discount these films. However, he never gives any evidence to support his claims that these films are mere footnotes—and it is our privilege to dispute his claims. These films were perhaps financially unsuccessful, but they are rich and rewarding cinematic experiences that experiment with form, content, and improvisation.

SS01

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s packaging for this release is simple but attractive. Four items are held in a very sturdy box featuring attractive cartoon-like drawings by Ignatius Fitzpatrick. Three of these items are clear cases which hold the Blu-ray and DVD discs. Each case features its own reversible decorative sleeve. The first case houses the discs featuring Duelle (une quarantaine), the second features Noroît (une vengeance), and the third features Merry-Go-Round. The fourth item included in the box is a small perfect-bound book featuring three essays: “Moving Backstage” by Mary M. Wiles, “Rivette x 4” by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Gilbert Adair, and Michael Graham, as well as “Vagabond Charm” by Nick Pinkerton. Each of the essays offers instructive information and analysis that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the films in this set.

All of these discs contain menus that are somewhat different than those on most Arrow releases, but they are all attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

All three transfers in this set are the result of digital restoration work which was detailed in liner notes included in the back of the collector’s booklet:

“The original camera negatives were scanned, graded, and restored at 2K resolution. The majority of the picture restoration work was conducted on Diamant Film Restoration systems, with Phoenix and Flame software used on selected sequences.

Picture issues such as dirt, debris, and scratches, torn frames, damaged splices, instability, and mold were all corrected or minimized.

Color grading was carried out using a P3 DCI color space. 35mm original prints were used as a visual reference throughout by the colorist.” –Collector’s Booklet

The result is an extremely strong image that reflects the filmmaker’s intention admirably. Colors are beautifully rendered and almost always impressive while black levels are deep and attractive. There might be some very slight crushing, but it is impossible to determine whether this is the result of the original photography or if this is a minor flaw in the restoration. Either way, this is never distracting to the viewer. Fine detail often impressive and the picture is incredibly crisp. One feels that any softness is a result of the filmmaker’s original footage and this usually suits the aesthetic needs of the film. The high bitrate ensures that each film is presented in the best possible manner and fans of the director will be very appreciative.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The mono sound mixes are perhaps less impressive than the image transfers, but they were given the same loving treatment.

“The original magnetic reels were too damaged for use, so the soundtracks were sourced from the original optical sound negatives and, in some cases, digital Betacam tapes produced in the 1990s. The majority of this work was carried out by L.E. Diapason in Paris.” –Collector’s Booklet

Duelle and Noroit are French language tracks and Merry Go Round was made with a mixture of English and French. It is difficult to determine the clarity of the French language elements because English speaking ears are likely to miss nuances in the language. However, it certainly seems like the dialogue is clearly represented in these three audio tracks. The jazz-style music in the three films also sounds fantastic, although Merry Go Round is marred somewhat by anomalies such as the occasional dropout and hiss. The track seems to be slightly muffled at times making this the least impressive of the three tracks. Having said this, these issues never distract the viewer or inhibit their enjoyment of the film.

SS04

Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers – (51:43)  

Scenes from a Parallel Life is without question the most significant supplement included in this package. The first segment was completed on May 4th, 1990 in Paris by Karlheinz Oplustil while the second segment was completed in 2004 by Wilfried Reichart. These two archival interviews with Jacques Rivette find the director discussing his unfinished Scènes de la vie parallèle tetralogy (including the completed Duelle and Noroît) and Merry-Go-Round. It is essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in the director’s work.

Remembering Duelle – (11:00)

Bulle Ogier and Hermine Karagheuz talk about the production of Duelle (1976) and their work on the project. Of the two participants, Bulle Ogier takes the prize for providing the most information. Hermine Karagheuz seems to have fewer memories but discusses Rivette’s vague approach to directing her in the role. It is a relatively short piece, but it does provide some interesting information that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

Interview with Jonathan Rosenbaum – (22:25)

Rosenbaum reported from the sets of both Duelle (une quarantaine) and Noroît (une vengeance) and his recollections provide the viewer with some incredible information about the production and some general analysis. This is well worth the viewer’s time.

SS05

Final Words:

This is an important release that showcases three underappreciated film’s by a too-often overlooked voice in the French New Wave. Arrow Academy should be commended for their efforts.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 100 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 Japanese Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.36:1

Notes: Arrow Video also includes a DVD copy of the film in this package.

Title

Cops Vs. Thugs is considered by many critics to be Kinji Fukasaku’s greatest single-film achievement in the yakuza genre. The film was made at the height of popularity of Toei Studios’ jitsuroku boom: realistic and modern crime films that were based on true stories from contemporary headlines. Returning to the screen after completing their Battles without Honor and Humanity series, Fukasaku once again joined forces with Kazuo Kasahara (screenwriter), Toshiaki Tsushima (composer), Bunta Sugawara, and Hiroki Matsukata to create one of the crowning achievements of his career. The hard-boiled classic is still ranked as one of the best Japanese films of the 1970’s. The film is set in the southern Japanese city of Kurashima as a tough-as-nails detective named Kuno (Sugawara) enforces a detente between the warring Kawade and Ohara gangs. Kuno is best friends with the Ohara gang’s lieutenant, Hirotani (Matsukata), and understands that there are no clear lines in the underworld. Everything is colored a different shade of gray. However, when a by-the-books police lieutenant (Tatsuo Umemiya) comes to town, Kuno’s fragile alliance begins to crumble. Greedy bosses and politicians seize the opportunity to wipe out their enemies, and Kuno faces the painful choice of pledging allegiance to his badge or keeping a promise to his brother. Like the great crime films of Sidney Lumet and Jean-Pierre Melville, there is no honor among thieves or lawmen alike in Kinji Fukasaku’s world. The only thing that matters is personal honor and duty between friends. This is a decidedly different take on the standard yakuza film and is essential viewing for anyone with a fondness for the genre.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. In this instance, it should be said that MacEwan’s new artwork is vastly superior to the alternative. There is also an attractive booklet that features a dedication to actor Hiroki Matsukata and a new essay entitled “True Crimes: Behind the Scenes of Cops vs Thugs by Patrick Macias. The booklet’s text is enhanced with a number of production stills and other artwork. The usual cast and crew credits and transfer information is also included.

 [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 of 5 Stars

A pattern becomes evident when one compares Arrow Video’s many transfers of Japanese films. Their often specific and reasonably lengthy liner notes concerning their film transfers suddenly become short and generalized. For example, their informative paragraph about Wolf Guy’s transfer is only two sentences in length. Most of the important information can be found in the second sentence: “The film was re-mastered in high definition and supplied for this release by Toei Company, Ltd.

Like many of their other Japanese titles, Arrow is at the mercy of the studio that supplied them with the transfer. They certainly did the best that they could with it and have given it a technically robust bitrate but the results are merely adequate (especially when comparing this transfer to some of their better efforts). In any case, it is evident that the source elements provided by Toei weren’t what anyone might consider “top of the line” and they didn’t bother with a restoration. The print shows signs of fading (as do many of the Japanese releases by Arrow) and there is a heavy layer of grain which becomes a bit unwieldy during darker sequences in the film. One also wonders if there hasn’t been some slight image distortion here resulting in an aspect ratio that is slightly askew and visuals that aren’t quite representative. Those who abhor television sets that aren’t on their proper pixel settings will no doubt be slightly miffed about this as well. Colors are also rather problematic at times. The image is inherently soft. We are giving the transfer the benefit of the doubt and reasoning that this might be the result of the film’s original production, but it is difficult not to do this without any cynicism considering some of the other issues with this particular transfer. Artifacts are also very much on display throughout the length of the film. Even with these fundamental problems, Arrow’s disc is a significant improvement over the previous hove video releases (especially in regard to saturation and clarity).

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The included mono mix of the film’s sound elements is a faithful representation of the film’s original audial presentation, and the Linear PCM transfer ensures that it is a lossless representation as well. It is difficult for my native English ears to adequately judge as to the clarity of the Japanese dialogue, but there doesn’t seem to be any issues along these lines. Some of the film’s louder moments can occasionally sound boxy, but this is a common issue with older foreign films, and one wouldn’t wish to imply that it is necessarily a result of the transfer when it might very well be the result of the original production methods. All film elements are still delivered with a reasonable amount of clarity. It is really a very solid audio transfer.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Beyond the Film: Cops vs. Thugs – (09:13)

Kinji Fukasaku’s biographer, Sadao Yamane, provides this video appreciation of the film that covers a variety of relevant topics: the project’s conception (it evolved from research that was accumulated from Battles without Honor and Humanity), Kazuo Kasahara’s script, Fukasaku’s filmmaking process, theoretical comments about some of the film’s important scenes, and even a few anecdotal revelations about the film’s production. It will fascinate fans of the film.

All Under the Gun (13:38)

Those who enjoy Yamane’s Beyond the Film will also enjoy this piece by Tom Mes. It is an insightful essay about the relationship between cops and criminals in Fukasaku’s work and examines the blurred lines between these two factions of society.

Archive ‘Behind the Scenes’ Footage – (04:59)

While much too brief, this wonderful glimpse behind the scenes of the film features Kinji Fukasaku discussing his use of violence. It was recorded on the set and also features some great rehearsal footage.

Theatrical Trailer – (03:16)

The theatrical trailer is not unlike those for similar films in the yakuza genre but it is nice to have it included here.

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Final Words:

Kinji Fukasaku’s yakuza tale is certain to interest fans of the genre and Arrow’s Blu-ray is currently the best way to experience the film in one’s home environment.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover (2)

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: May 09, 2017

Region: Region Free (A & B)

Length: 86 mins

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Notes: Arrow Video also includes a DVD copy of the film in this package.

Title

The name, Frank Henenlotter, carries a bit of weight in certain circles. He is the man behind such cult horror favorites as Basket Case, Frankenhooker, and Brain Damage, which is making its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Arrow Video. Elmer is your friendly neighborhood parasite that has the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in his hosts. But these LSD-like trips come with a hefty price tag. When young Brian comes under Elmer’s addictive spell, it’s not long before he finds himself scouring the city streets in search of his parasite’s preferred food source—brains! Brain Damage boasts some of the most astonishing bad taste gore-gags ever realized, including the notorious ‘brain-pulling’ sequence and a blowjob that ends with a distinctly unconventional climax.

In case the above description doesn’t make it abundantly clear, it should be said that this darkly comic horror confection will divide audiences. It certainly makes a distinct impression on the viewer, but whether this impression is positive or negative will depend on the viewers personal viewing tastes. Just don’t try watching this one with dear old grandma. That would just be awkward.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray and DVD discs in their usual sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck and the original Manson International 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.

Blu-ray Cover

Arrow’s Limited Edition Slip Cover

There is also an attractively illustrated booklet that includes an essay entitled A Mind and a Terrible Thing: The Story of Brain Damage” by Michael Gingold. The essay gives the reader a glimpse into the film’s production as well as an affectionate appreciation of the film that should add to the viewer’s experience (though we suggest watching the film before reading this essay or watching any of Arrow’s supplemental material). Transfer information and production credits are also included amongst a generous helping of production photographs and marketing artwork.

 [Note: The aforementioned booklet 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:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s included transfer and restoration information is less detailed than is usual, but it is suggested that some effort was put into this new presentation:

Brain Damage is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with mono sound. The High Definition master was supplied for this release by Mark Holdom/Mackinac. Additional picture restoration was completed by Deluxe, London.” –Collector’s Booklet

The resulting image is an undeniable improvement over previous releases with the film’s vivid colors well realized and a layer of grain that is reasonably well resolved most of the time but can occasionally look a bit awkward. There is a reasonable level of fine detail on display throughout the duration of the film. If there is a deficiency in the level of detail in some of the scenes, this is the result of the lighting design and doesn’t seem to be an issue with the transfer. Unfortunately, clarity isn’t always one of the transfer’s stronger attributes. The darkness inherent in many of the film’s scenes is served well by attractive and inky black levels. The overall result is probably the best that one can reasonably expect from the source material—even if it isn’t as solid as viewers might expect from the Blu-ray format.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow includes two different audio mixes: the original mono mix is presented as a Linear PCM Audio track and a new 5.1 stereo mix is available in the DTS-HD Master Audio format. The independent nature of the film’s production makes for a sometimes flawed audio presentation, but these tracks certainly aren’t responsible for these deficiencies. Both tracks are reasonably solid, though it is unreasonable to expect the 5.1 mix to be as dynamic as one expects from more recent films. The score does seem to benefit from the subtle separations on display in this mix and effects are sometimes well served by this mix as well. However, purists will probably opt for the Mono track.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Frank Henenlotter (Writer and Director)

While the commentary originally available on the previous Synapse release of the film hasn’t been carried over to Arrow’s superior new Blu-ray release, they have made up for this fact by providing this brand new commentary track by Frank Henenlotter that is moderated by Mike Hunchback. The result is a humorously engaging conversation that covers a variety of pertinent topics without ever becoming too dry and pretentious. The track is informative about the production without ever becoming too precious about the film itself.

Isolated Score

Arrow gives fans the opportunity to watch the film with the score highlighted without distraction from the other sound elements. The track is presented in a 2.0 Linear PCM audio transfer.

Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage – (1080P) – (54:13)

The disc’s greatest supplemental attribute is this excellent retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Rick Herbst (actor), Edgar Ievins (producer), Al Magliochetti (visual effects supervisor), James Kwei (editor), Dan Frye (makeup supervisor), and Gregory Lamberson (assistant director). The unfortunate absence of Frank Henenlotter is undeniably awkward, but those who participated in this program do a good job of providing the viewer with an abundance of interesting background information on the film’s production. The interviews are illustrated with footage from the film, video footage from ‘behind the scenes’ of the production, and production stills. Fans will be very pleased!

Q&A with Frank Henenlotter – (1080P) – (20:36)

Arrow makes up for Frank Henenlotter’s absence in Listen to the Light with the inclusion of this informative question-and-answer session recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival. It covers some of the same information included in his commentary track, but there is plenty of new information revealed here to make it well worth the viewer’s time (especially if they are a fan of the film).

The Effects of Brain Damage – (1080P) – (10:00)

Gabe Bartalos—the man responsible for bringing “Elmer” to life—discusses his excellent effects work on the film in a reasonably in-depth fashion. His interview reveals some interesting revelations about how various Elmers were employed to perform different specific functions throughout the film. The discussion is illustrated with some interesting “behind the scenes” footage.

Animating Elmer – (1080P) (06:40)

Al Magliochetti discusses his contributions to Brain Damage as the film’s visual effects supervisor. His memories of working on the film’s stop motion effects for a few of the shots are especially interesting as is the revelation that he included some subliminal messages throughout the film.

Karen Ogle: A Look Back – (1080P) (04:29)

Slightly less essential is this short interview with Karen Ogle—the film’s stills photographer, script supervisor, and assistant editor. Ogle’s memories of the production were obviously happy ones—even if her multiple jobs created a challenge. She also seems to have a particular fondness for Frank Henenlotter.

Elmer’s Turf: The NYC Locations of “Brain Damage – (1080P) (08:48)

This featurette features Michael Gingold and Frank Henenlotter as they revisit some of the film’s shooting locations. Fans will be grateful to have this included here (even if it isn’t particularly revelatory).

Tasty Memories: A “Brain Damage” Obsession – (1080P) (10:00)

One wonders why Arrow even bothered with this somewhat unusual interview with Adam Skinner—a Brain Damage “superfan” that doesn’t have any real connection with the film’s production. It is somewhat interesting to see his collection of posters, videos, and other oddities—and the interview does reinforce the film’s undeniable cult status. We simply grow weary as he shamelessly hypes his band (The Statutory Apes)—and while we understand its inclusion here, their music video is just too much.

Bygone Behemoth(1080P) (05:08)

Harry Chaskin’s animated short features an appearance by John Zacherle that ended up being his final onscreen credit. Fans of stop-motion will enjoy this short tale about an old dinosaur living in a contemporary urban setting.

Aylmer: The Brain, The Voice, The Worm – (03:40)

This is a silly puppet show performed on a trash can that features Aylmer jamming out to music. Fans will find it entertaining, but it won’t quench one’s thirst for production information or analysis.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (1080P) (01:15)

The very eighties theatrical trailer doesn’t really do proper justice to the film. It focuses more on the silly tonal qualities of the film without hinting at its darker thematic elements that elevate the material and make it interesting.

Image Galleries:

This collection of photographs and marketing art is divided into three separate categories:

Stills – (1080P) (04:18)

Behind the Scenes – (1080P) (01:35)

Ephemera – (1080P) (00:52)

The photographs are a nice way to round out the disc, but one wonders if they wouldn’t have been more enjoyable if they had been included as part of the included collector’s booklet.

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Final Words

Arrows Blu-ray upgrade earns an easy recommendation for the film’s many fans. However, those who haven’t seen the film might want to do some preliminary research before making a blind purchase.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Region: Region Free (A & B)

Length: 01:25:57

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Japanese Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 768 kbps, 16-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 30.00 Mbps

Notes: Arrow Video also includes a DVD copy of the film in this package.

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This is a film that throws out logic, good taste, and rationality in favor of an absolutely insane cinematic experience. Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba portrays a martial arts “manimal” in this bizarre mixture of horror, action, and sci-fi. Don’t even try to wrap your brain around the insanity. It just wouldn’t be healthy. Apparently, Wolf Guy is one of the rarest and most sought-after cult films produced by Japan’s Toei Studio. Based on a manga by Kazumasa Hirai (creator of 8 Man), and never before released outside of Japan, it is a genre film classic waiting to be discovered and a completely unclassifiable trip into phantasmagoria.

Akira Inugami (Chiba) is the only survivor of a clan of ancient werewolves who relies on his supernatural powers to solve mysterious crimes (yes, really). After a series of bloody killings perpetrated by an unseen force, Inugami uncovers a conspiracy involving a murdered cabaret singer, corrupt politicians, and a plot by the J-CIA to harvest his blood in order to steal his lycanthropic powers! At the same time, Inugami also discovers the truth behind his family heritage, and that he may not be the last of his kind.

If this synopsis doesn’t give you some indication of the absolutely insane nature of Wolf Guy, there isn’t any hope for you. Of course, this could also simply be an indication that the film is tailor made for your particular sensibilities. Directed by B-movie genius Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (Sister Streetfighter, Wandering Ginza Butterfly, Karate Bear Fighter), Wolf Guy truly is one-of-a-kind and will fulfill all the expectations of Chiba’s many fans. Violence, action, nudity, real surgical footage, and a psychedelic musical score all work together to create an unforgettable trip to the heights of Japanese cinematic weirdness.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. Benscoter’s new design is less busy and more attractive than the original artwork, and will probably be most people’s preference. There is also an attractive booklet that features two new essays: “Full Moon Chiba: The Resurrection of Wolf Guy” by Patrick Macias and “Monster Mashups, Japanese Style” by Jasper Sharp. The booklet’s text is enhanced with a number of production stills and other artwork. The usual cast and crew credits and transfer information is also included.

 [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 reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

A pattern becomes evident when one considers Arrow Video’s many transfers of Japanese films. Their often specific and reasonably lengthy liner notes concerning their film transfers suddenly become short and generalized. For example, their informative paragraph about Wolf Guy’s transfer is only two sentences in length.

Wolf Guy is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and the original mono sound. The film was remastered in high definition and supplied for this release by Toei Company, Ltd.” –Collector’s Booklet

Like many of their other Japanese titles, Arrow is at the mercy of the studio that supplied them with the transfer. They certainly did the best that they could with it and have given it a technically robust bitrate, but the results are only “okay.” Even if the image isn’t particularly remarkable, it is certainly better any transfer North American audiences have previously seen. It might very well be a relatively faithful representation of the original, but this is impossible to claim without having actually seen any film print of the film. The visuals have s soft quality that will probably irk more modern viewers and there are some unusual hues that cause one to question whether the color timing accurately reflects the filmmaker’s intentions. Depth is also far from impressive. However, there are no noticeable compression artifacts and black levels are relatively solid. In fact, none of the transfer’s weaknesses are distracting and anyone who has seen the film in a previous home video incarnation is likely to be impressed with this new high definition transfer.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The original Japanese mono mix is faithfully presented here in a Linear PCM audio transfer that represents the track nicely. Sound effects, dialogue, and music all sound reasonably good considering the mono origins of the mix and the production methods utilized to create the track. Anomalies such as hiss or hum are never evident and sounds come across clearly and well balanced. This is a very solid sound transfer.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Arrows supplemental package is made up of three interviews that were recorded in Tokyo in 2016:

Interview with actor Sonny Chiba – (14:31)

Sonny gives a short but informative interview that will delight his fans. He discusses his origins an actor and his work in the action genre.

Interview with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi – (10:31)

Kazuhiko Yamaguchi (director) discusses his work at Toei and some of the specific films that he worked on at that time. The trajectory of his career is also revealed (he started as an assistant director) as is his work with Sonny Chiba on Wolf Guy. Inevitably, many aspects of Wolf Guy are discussed in a generally illuminating manner. It is an interview that fans of the film will certainly appreciate.

Interview with producer Tatsu Yoshida – (17:30)

Like the other two interviews on the disc Tatsu Yoshida (producer) briefly discusses his career origins, his work at Toei, some of his other film projects at the studio, and several aspects of the production of Wolf Guy.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:55)

The theatrical trailer is not unlike those for similar films in the yakuza genre but it is nice to have it included here. (It is difficult to understand why all releases can’t at the very least include a film’s trailer.)

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Final Words:

This film was a pleasant surprise. It is an absolutely jacked up, balls-to-the-wall, insane film that delivers exactly what Sonny Chiba fans expect and hope even as it blends elements from other genres. The result is absolutely bonkers.

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Review by: Devon Powell