Posts Tagged ‘Blu-ray review’

Blu-ray O-Ring

Distributor: Mill Creek Entertainment

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Region: Region A

Length: 02:10:52

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English Dolby Digital

Subtitles: None

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 19.53 Mbps

Notes: Mill Creek Entertainment previously released this title without the “Retro VHS” O-Ring.

Teaser Poster.jpg

It is bound to happen in all of our lives. We see an old movie that we once saw as a child being sold at a ridiculously low price. We remember laughing with friends, sipping sugary sodas, and stuffing our faces with pizza and popcorn as we watched the film with the sort of elation only a child can muster. It’s not beyond the realm of reason to expect that revisiting this same film might recreate some of that fun. After all, we tend to carry our affection for the films we loved as children into adulthood (even when they aren’t particularly good). Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

Re-watching Last Action Hero was an embarrassing experience. Did I really enjoy this movie as a child, or does pizza magically make terrible movies watchable? Maybe it lost its magic because it wasn’t a favorite. I merely had a good time when I saw it one night at a sleepover. Those poor little kids. Poor past me. I just didn’t know any better.

A description of the basic concept actually sounds promising: Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) is a boy who escapes the harsh realities of his life by watching movies. His favorites are the three “Jack Slater” films. The series stars his favorite actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the titular role and could easily be compared to the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon films. When young Danny is given an opportunity to see an advanced screening of the upcoming fourth entry (along with a “magical ticket”), he ends up being transported into the movie. He ends up being partnered with Slater because of his knowledge of the film’s villain (he had already seen the film’s first act before being sucked into the film’s universe). The plot eventually thickens when said villain gets his hands on Danny’s magic ticket and escapes out of the movie into the real world. Now Danny and his hero Jack Slater must chase the arch villain in the real world, a world where “the bad guys” can actually win.

At the time, meta-movies were actually quite rare. This send-up could have been great. It had Hollywood’s biggest action star, the director of Die Hard, and a promising premise. What it didn’t have was a good script.

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Mill Creek Entertainment protects the Blu-ray disc in a standard Blu-ray case and protects the case with an O-Ring featuring “Retro VHS” artwork meant to resemble the video rentals of a past generation (the same generation who would remember the theatrical release of Last Action Hero). The Blu-ray’s slip-sleeve features normal artwork that was taken directly from the film’s primary one sheet.

Blu-ray Slipsleeve.jpg

The animated menu uses the same one sheet design and video of explosive flames that play on a loop. Since there are no subtitles, alternative audio options, or supplemental features, “Play Movie” is the only button that appears.

Picture Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

He’s Mean . . . And He’ll Blast through Your Screen! Now In High-Definition! That’s the promise that Mill Creek’s packaging screams at us from the confines of the slip-sleeve. Unfortunately, the high definition transfer isn’t terribly impressive. It isn’t terrible and certainly beats a DVD-quality image, but any objective analysis is bound to result in a bit of disappointment in discerning viewers. The quality of the image varies wildly. There are moments where fine detail is on par with what one expects from Blu-ray and moments where it falls short. The same can be said about depth, black levels, contrast, and just about everything else. The transfer also seems to suffer from excessive DNR and faces can sometimes appear waxy as a result.

Sound Quality:

2 of 5 Stars

Why are we not given a DTS-HD Master Audio mix of this film rather than this 5.1 Dolby Digital track? It seems like this disc could have made up for many of its deficiencies in regard to its image transfer by simply offering up a high definition audio track. This is an action film! One’s inevitable disappointment is exacerbated by the fact that there are no English subtitles available. There were moments of dialogue that were less than coherent (although, this is probably not the fault of the actual mix). Subtitles would have helped to clarify them.

Special Features:

0 of 5 Stars

No supplemental material is included on this disc.

One Sheet

Final Words:

Last Action Hero is one of those movies that should appeal to pre-adolescent viewers, but it is unbelievably clumsy in a great many ways. Meta-movies are a dime a dozen at this point, and there are plenty of better choices if one finds that they are in the mood to see such a film. Mill Creek offers a similarly disappointing audio/visual presentation of the film. It’s probably safe to pass on this title.


Spine #950

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: November 13, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 02:02:18

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 29.83 Mbps

Notes: MGM released a Blu-ray edition that included a 1.66:1 transfer of the film. While the transfer was rendered with a slightly higher Bit-rate (31.99 Mbps), it was made from a 1080P scan. Needless to say, Criterion’s 4K restoration transfer is superior.


“Very early in the structure of that picture my friend Mr. Diamond very rightly said, ‘We have to find the hammerlock. We have to find the ironclad thing so that these guys trapped in women’s clothes cannot just take the wigs off and say, “Look, I’m a guy.”

It has to be a question of life and death.’ And that’s where the idea for the St. Valentine’s Day murder came. If they got out of the women’s clothes they would be killed by the Al Capone gang. That was the important invention. When we started working on the picture I had a discussion with David O. Selznick, who was a very fine producer, and I very briefly told him the plot.

He said, ‘You mean there’s going to be machine guns and shooting and killing and blood?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ He said, ‘It’s not going to be funny. No comedy can survive that kind of brutal reality.’ But that’s what made the picture. The two men were on the spot, and we kept them on the spot until the very end.” –Billy Wilder

Only Billy Wilder would think to blend genres like the gangster film and the burlesque comedy. Some Like It Hot is one of those films that should really date terribly—especially in this era of enlightened social understanding, but Wilder’s deft storytelling prowess and unique comic sensibilities have guaranteed the film’s longevity.

As Criterion’s packaging deftly announces: Some Like It Hot is “one of the most beloved films of all time, this sizzling masterpiece set a new standard for Hollywood comedy. After witnessing a mob hit, Chicago musicians Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) skip town by donning drag and joining an all-female band en route to Miami. The charm of the group’s singer, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) leads them ever further into extravagant lies, as Joe assumes the persona of a millionaire to woo her and Jerry’s female alter ego winds up engaged to a tycoon. With a whip-smart script co-written by I. A. L. Diamond, and sparkling chemistry among its finely tuned cast, Some Like It Hot is as deliriously funny and fresh today as it was when it first knocked audiences out six decades ago.

“The whole trick in the picture is that, while the two were dressed in women’s clothes, their thinking processes were at all times a hundred-percent male. When there was a slight aberration, like Lemmon getting engaged, it became twice as funny. But they were not camping it up. They never thought of themselves as women. Just for one moment Lemmon forgot himself — that was all. The rest of the time, Curtis was out to seduce Monroe, no matter what clothes he was wearing.” –I.A.L. Diamond

Of course, Monroe’s Sugar Cane isn’t the only one being seduced. Most of the film’s viewers also fall under their spell. Lemmon is especially delightful in his portrayal of Jerry/Daphne. In fact, this may very well be Jack Lemmon’s most hilarious performance. He really runs away with the entire film. Of course, he had the guidance of an excellent director. Nobody does it like Wilder.


The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection houses their disc in the same sturdy clear case that has become the standard for their releases (we prefer this to their digipaks). The cover sleeve includes thematically appropriate artwork by F. Ron Miller. It’s a decent design that adequately captures the zany qualities of Wilder’s film. Another very different design was considered that showcased Marilyn Monroe much more prominently. One imagines that it was abandoned so that all three of the primary characters could be featured with equal prominence (but this is merely conjecture).

Unused Blu-ray Cover

Criterion’s abandoned cover artwork.

Also included in the case is a pamphlet that includes an appreciative essay by Sam Wasson entitled, “How to have Fun.” Information about the transfer and technical credits are also included in its pages along with various stills from the film.


Criterion’s menu features film-related art and is in the same style that collectors have come to expect from Criterion’s Blu-ray releases. It is attractive and should be intuitive to navigate.


Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

It won’t come as much of a surprise for our readers to learn that Criterion’s 4K image restoration looks incredible on Blu-ray and easily outclasses the earlier MGM transfer. This restoration was actually a collaboration between Criterion, MGM, and Park Circus. Cinephiles will be pleased to learn that the original 35mm camera negative was used as the primary source for their work, but it became necessary for them to also utilize scans of the 35mm duplicate negative and a 35mm fine-grain positive for footage that was missing from the negative.

The first immediate difference that springs to mind is that Criterion showcases the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio (1.85:1) as opposed to the 1.66:1 ratio employed for the earlier MGM release. This does result in less detail at the top and bottom of the frame, but this is in keeping with how the film would have been projected during its original theatrical release. Criterion’s image is also more stable in terms of density, is much cleaner, looks better in motion, exhibits more a much more impressive level of fine detail, and contrast is more expertly handled. Better yet, there aren’t really any moments where the level of quality drops due to the restoration team’s use of multiple sources. It all flows as organically as if they had used a single source (and this is incredibly rare). There may be a few incredibly brief moments that are less impressive, but they certainly don’t stand out in any obvious way. Finally, we should mention a noticeable improvement in this transfer’s dynamic range and the more naturally resolved grain. This is an upgrade on every level.


Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Those who appreciated the 5.1 audio track that was included on the MGM release may be disappointed with this release, but purists will understand why Criterion has chosen to include a lossless PCM rendering of the film’s original monaural mix. Frankly, we found the forced 5.1 re-mix a bit unnatural without really offering a more dynamic sonic experience. This transfer presents the film’s audio as it was originally intended in a clean restoration that is free of distracting age related anomalies (such as hiss or hum) with impressive fidelity for a film of this vintage. The Wilder/Diamond dialogue is allowed to clearly flourish throughout the duration, and the film’s music has plenty of room to breathe. Of course, things are a bit flat—but what do you expect from a movie released in 1959. Be happy! This is as good as one can reasonably expect.


Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Most of the supplemental material from the 2011 MGM Blu-ray has been carried over to Criterion’s disc, with the Paul Diamond, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel commentary track being the single exception. The stills gallery on that earlier disc was also left off of this release, but this is hardly worth mentioning. Criterion makes up for not including these features by including their own 1989 commentary and several other programs and interviews that weren’t on the earlier release.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Howard Suber and Jack Lemmon

This is an older Criterion commentary from 1989 that features Howard Suber’s scholarly observations in conjunction with some pre-recorded memories from Jack Lemmon. It is on par with the MGM commentary and it touches on many of the same topics. If there is a downside, it is that it is less conversational and therefore feels a bit more like a lecture. The film’s production is discussed as is the film’s overall structure. Suber’s obvious Monroe obsession is both a positive and negative attribute as he has plenty of Monroe trivia and discusses the actress with enthusiasm but sometimes his infatuation disturbs his ability to discuss her contributions to the film in a sober and unbiased manner.

Billy Wilder on ‘The Dick Cavett Show’ (1982) – (55:36)

The crown jewel of Criterion’s supplemental package is undoubtedly this two-part interview with the legendary director (who certainly knows how to tell a story). It was conducted on January 14 and 15, 1982 and finds Wilder in great form as he discusses his personal history (including his early years in Germany) with an earnest openness that endears him to the viewer immediately, and he does so without surrendering his acidic humor. He discusses an encounter with Sigmund Freud, his evacuation to America during the dark years of Nazism, the magnificence of pre-war Berlin, relearning to write in English, and some of the various actors he had worked with throughout his career. We hope that Criterion continues to include these Cavett Show interviews on their future releases. They always add enormous value to their discs.

The Making of ‘Some Like It Hot – (25:45)

This documentary short has been carried over from the earlier MGM Blu-ray and it is nice to see that it has been included. The program includes an array of archival interviews with the likes of Billy Wilder, I.A.L Diamond, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and several others and some extremely precious color footage that gives the viewer behind the scenes of the film’s production. While one wishes that this were more comprehensive, it is great to hear the various participants discussing the film’s script, cast, production, and release. Of course, a great deal of time is devoted to the late Marilyn Monroe (who was not particularly easy to work with and rarely arrived to the set on time). It is an engaging and informative glimpse into the film’s history that fans will be thrilled to have included here.

The Legacy of ‘Some Like It Hot– (20:21)

The Legacy of ‘Some Like It Hot’ makes a great companion to The Making of ‘Some Like It Hot’ as it discusses the film’s lasting legacy. It utilizes footage shot at a screening of the film in 1984. Those who appeared in the previous program are back for this one while new voices are added. (It’s difficult to imagine why we really needed to hear from Hugh Hefner and Curtis Hanson, but they are included here in any case.) It’s not a terribly insightful look at the film’s lasting appeal, but it manages to engage the viewer in any case.

A Nostalgic Look Back (2001) – (31:12)

Fans will be pleased to see that Criterion also carried over Leonard Maltin’s “nostalgic” interview with Tony Curtis from MGM’s earlier Blu-ray (actually, this actually goes back even farther to one of the early DVD editions). Their conversation covers his memories of being cast, the film’s production, his experience working with Monroe, his approach to the role, and some amusing anecdotes—but there is something about Curtis that strikes one as incredibly narcissistic and his navel-gazing does grow a bit tiring after a few minutes. I notice that Jack Lemmon tends to discuss and praise Billy Wilder and his fellow actors, but Curtis is a bit more enamored with his own contributions. It is still worth seeing as it adds another perspective and his stories about Monroe are incredibly interesting.

French Television Interview with actor Jack Lemmon (1988) – (09:49)

While this excerpt from an episode of Cinema cinemas (which originally appeared on French television) is much shorter than Maltin’s interview with Curtis, it is also more amusing. It repeats some of the same information included in some of the other programs included here, but it is certainly worth watching.

Memories from ‘The Sweet Sues’ – (12:02)

Memories from ‘The Sweet Sues’ is another featurette that originally appeared on MGM’s Blu-ray release of the film, and it definitely brings something worthwhile to the table as the actresses remember the various members of the cast and their experiences during the production.

Orry-Kelly’s Costumes – (18:57)

Deborah Nadoolman Landis (Costume Designer) and Larry McQueen (Costume Historian and Archivist) discuss Orry-Kelly’s career and legacy and dissect his costumes in Some Like It Hot. This is more of an “appreciation” than a career history or comprehensive examination of his costume work in this film, but it does offer a few truly interesting nuggets of information while always engaging the viewer. Most importantly, it is bound to enhance the viewer’s appreciation of Kelly’s costumes. It is also very nice to see one of the dresses worn by Monroe in the film (which is now owned by McQueen).

Radio Interview with Marilyn Monroe (1955) – (08:44)

In a radio interview with Dave Garroway that predates the film by a few years (it was recorded on June 12, 1955), Monroe discusses her hopes to become a better actress. She seems incredibly personable here, but there is a perceptible sadness to her voice that is impossible to overlook in retrospect. Other topics are also discussed, but the information relayed is trivial. What lingers after these nine minutes is the aforementioned sadness.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:18)

The original vintage theatrical trailer rounds out this incredible supplemental package rather nicely.


Final Words:

Do you like to laugh (or at least smile)? Well, if the answer to this question is yes, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot earns an easy recommendation (even if it is decidedly old-fashioned in some of its attitudes regarding gender). The Criterion Collection’s new 4K restoration transfer is vastly superior to the earlier MGM disc and might even be worth an upgrade if the film is one of your favorites.


Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: October 30, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 01:40:10

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 French Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Notes: A DVD edition of this title is also available.


“[Les Parents Terribles] is doing less well abroad than my other films. This is because the French language plays the leading part in it. The genius of the actors cannot overcome that difficulty.” -Jean Cocteau

Cocteau fans rejoice! There is a new film (or at least an old rarity) for you to discover. Adapted from Cocteau’s own successful play and starring the same actors featured in the initial stage production, Les Parents Terribles may be best described as a melodramatic farce.

The story is centered on a decidedly dysfunctional family unit: Yvonne (Yvonne de Bray) is a neurotic but doting Mother, who neglects her husband Georges in order to devote herself entirely to her son, Michel (who is portrayed by Cocteau’s muse, Jean Marais). Also on hand is Yvonne’s sister, Léo (Gabrielle Dorziat), who had been engaged to Georges but gave him up for his sake years ago when he fell in love with Yvonne. When Michel meets and falls in love with Madeleine (Josette Day—who had previously worked with Cocteau in Beauty and the Beast) and announces his engagement, Yvonne flies into a rage and refuses to support his decision. But things are only complicated further when his father is informed of the situation—it seems Madeleine has also been his lover and has made plans to end the relationship later that evening. Yvonne and Georges team up to break up young Michel and Madeleine (with the help of Léo).

Those who have seen Orpheus (or Beauty and the Beast for that matter) may be alarmed that Cocteau keeps his story grounded in reality in Les Parents Terribles—but the film’s lack of fantastic mythology cannot hide the story’s Greek origins as there is a fairly large debt owed to “Oedipus Rex.” It received extremely positive notices when it was released at the end of 1948, and Cocteau shared their enthusiasm claiming that it was his greatest success. Whether this is actually true or not is up for debate, but at least it is now available for comparison.

2K Restoration One Sheet

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is protected by the standard Blu-ray case with insert artwork that features the 2018 re-release one sheet framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. It seems poor form to criticize their practice of branding their films by framing their art in this manner, but one does wish that they would make the occasional exception—especially when the artwork is as attractive as what is used here. As a compromise, they could even make their covers reversible (one side without the “C” logo framing, and the other with the “C” logo framing)—although this would’ve made it impossible for them to feature the still that decorates the interior of the case. Cohen also includes a small booklet that features cast and crew credits and film related photography.

The disc’s menu features footage from the film and is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s transfer of a perfectly respectable 2K restoration is decidedly attractive but never achieves the brilliance of some of their other restoration releases (such as their gorgeous transfer for The Two of Us). It is difficult to put one’s finger on the shortcomings in the image, but this reviewer feels obliged to admit a certain amount of disappointment. The black and white image is free from all possible issues and is only limited by: a.) the film’s original production elements, and b.) the nature of a scan rendered in 2K resolution. One can only imagine how glorious a 4K rendering would have been, but these results are more than satisfactory given the fact that this is a 1080P release.  Cocteau and Michel Kelber chose to shoot much of the film in depth and yet this transfer seems to be up to the challenge in terms of clarity and fine detail (especially considering that the scan was only rendered in 2K).

Sound Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s uncompressed dual French mono transfer has all of the vibrancies inherent in the film’s original sound elements and all of the deficiencies as well. In other words, this is a good representation of the original mono mix. Limitations should be expected from a French film that was released in 1948. Obviously, it would be unreasonable to expect the track to exhibit the same dynamic and fidelity one expects from modern mixes. Age related anomalies (such as his, hum, pops, and clicks) were absent enough to go unnoticed by these ears, and it seems as if all of the elements were clearly represented as well (though it is difficult to judge the clarity of dialogue spoken in French when one doesn’t actually understand the language).

Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Introduction by Richard Peña – (04:50)

Richard Peña is a professor of film studies at Columbia University and was once the program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and his introduction to Les Parents Terribles gives a scholarly overview of the film’s production without ever becoming overly analytical. He merely sets the stage with an introduction to Jean Cocteau’s incredible background (he was a respected author and visual artist in addition to his incredible film work), his original stage play from which this film was adapted (the cast of the original stage play was carried over to the film), and some words about his approach to filming his play (he decided not to open it up). This reviewer isn’t usually a huge fan of “introductions” since they tend to bring very little in the way of information to a supplemental package, but Peña’s short discussion adds to one’s overall appreciation of the film. It is really nice to have it included here.

Camera Tests – (16:26)

It is surprising that these old screen tests even exist, and Cohen should be commended for including the footage on the disc. Perhaps even more astonishingly, most (but not all) of the footage is shown here with sound (though slightly out of synch at times).

Unfortunately, there is no contextual information provided to frame the viewer’s understanding of what they are seeing. An optional contextual commentary track, an introductory video, or even a screen including text explaining the footage may have added even more value to this particular addition. A subtitle track would have also been useful.

Interview with Claude Pinoteau (Assistant Director) – (09:14)

Claude Pinoteau was Jean Cocteau’s assistant director during the production of Les Parents Terribles, and his discussion about his experiences are more detailed than one might think (considering the interview’s relatively short duration). The footage mostly consists of Pinoteau sitting in a chair as he remembers working with a man he obviously admired a great deal but footage from the film is also utilized. The visual content may not be particularly extraordinary, and it is more difficult to absorb subtitled interviews given in a foreign language—but it is worth the viewer’s effort to indulge as the information given by Pinoteau is interesting (especially if you enjoyed this film or admire Cocteau).

Original Trailer – (03:06)

It is nice to see that Cohen has decided to include the film’s original trailer here (even if it doesn’t include subtitles). Their usual practice is to include only their re-release trailer…

Re-release Trailer – (01:15)

…which is also included.

French One Sheet.jpg

Final Words:

If the name Jean Cocteau doesn’t make you curious about seeing this rare film, you may not be the right audience for it. However, it must be said that the film isn’t rare because it is inferior to his more popular efforts. Unlike his classic fantasy films, Les Parents Terribles is more grounded and perhaps even more accessible. Luckily, it will be easy for discerning readers to form their own opinions as to where it stands in the director’s filmography now that Cohen Media Group has made their 2K Restoration transfer available on Blu-ray. It is an easy recommendation for anyone fond of Cocteau or classic French cinema in general.

Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Mill Creek Entertainment

Release Date: September 25, 2018

Region: Region A


Strait-Jacket – 01:32:52

Berserk! – 01:36:18

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 1.0 English Mono Uncompressed PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Notes: “Strait-Jacket” was recently given its own individual release from Shout! Factory (which used a slightly different encoding of the same transfer). The biggest difference between the two discs is that Shout! Factory included supplemental features and this disc includes “Berserk!”


Strait-Jacket (1964)

Strait-Jacket proves once again that William Castle has nothing in common with Alfred Hitchcock. Robert Bloch was commissioned to write the screenplay, but it never approaches the brilliance of Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock’s cinematic prowess elevated the material contained within Bloch’s novel, and Castle simply doesn’t have what it takes to elevate the pedestrian nature of Bloch’s screenplay for Strait-Jacket. They are obviously making a terrific effort to capitalize on the enormous success of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?—but Robert Aldrich’s cult classic is also far superior to anything that Castle ever directed. However, Strait-Jacket is much better than most of his other horror endeavors. The viewer is spared the ham-fisted gimmickry that tended to interrupt the flow of his films, and Crawford’s performance is (at the very least) interesting. There is quite a bit of campy fun to be had in these ninety-two minutes.

Berserk - Title
Berserk! (1967)

The same cannot be said for Berserk! This is the sort of easy-to-solve “whodunit” that one might expect to see on episodic television (or in a made-for-television movie), but the real trouble isn’t the paint-by-numbers nature of the mystery formula. It is the filmmaker’s complete disregard for tone and pacing. Jim O’Connolly seems much too enamored with the circus acts as countless routines pad the film’s length to approximately 96 minutes. Sure, it is nice to see the trained poodles, elephants, lions, and other diversions out of context, but this slows the story down to an infuriating crawl. Of course, it is quite possibly just as well that these interruptions were included. Some of these acts were more engaging than the film’s plot.


Berserk! SS01.jpg

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Mill Creek Entertainment houses their Blu-ray disc in a standard Blu-ray case that features a sleeve with reasonably attractive film-related artwork.


The disc’s static menu is also attractive and should be intuitive for the viewer to navigate.

Picture Quality:


Strait-Jacket: 4 of 5 Stars

Two different Blu-ray releases of Strait-Jacket hit shelves within weeks of one another, and the good news is that both of these discs used the same high definition image master (albeit with slightly different disc encoding).

The biggest difference between these two transfers is that Mill Creek has presented the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio while Shout! Factory offered a 1.78:1 transfer. This means that the top and bottom of the image contains a bit more information on the other disc, but this is more in line with what the audiences saw in theaters upon its release. An occasional blemish (usually white speckling) can be found throughout both transfers, but this is never distracting. Grain resolves adequately here on this disc, and the backs seem darker throughout the film. Contrast is reasonably well handled here, and the overall image showcases more detail than could be found on previous DVD releases.

Berserk! SS02.jpg

Berserk: 3.5 of 5 Stars

Mill Creek’s master for Berserk! appears to be less attractive but it is certainly watchable. One does at least feel that they are watching a Blu-ray. There is a decent amount of fine detail, contrast is reasonably well handled, and clarity is okay (though not particularly impressive). Color seems accurate but one wonders if the film wouldn’t have been better in black and white. There is some dirt and white speckling evident, but neither issue is ever distracting.

Sound Quality:


Strait-Jacket: 3.5 of 5 Stars

Mill Creek includes a Linear PCM audio track in the film’s original mono, and the result is a solid rendering of the film’s original mix. It is obviously somewhat flat, but it would really be unreasonable to expect anything better. Those who refrain from comparing it with more recent sound mixes should find no fault here as all of the various elements come across clearly (including the music) as the lossless nature of the transfer gives it plenty of breathing room.

Berserk! SS03.jpg

Berserk: 3 of 5 Stars

Berserk! is also given a Linear PCM audio track in its original mono, but it doesn’t come across as strongly as the one for Strait-Jacket. It sometimes sounds boxed-in and seems to need more breathing room. It is impossible to say whether this is an issue with the transfer or if the original sound elements leave something to be desired. It never really becomes a problem in any case.


Berserk! SS04.jpg

Special Features:

0 of 5 Stars

There are no supplemental features included on the disc.


Berserk! SS05.jpg

Final Words:

Wouldn’t Strait-Jacket and I Saw What You Did make a more appropriate double feature? Both films were directed by William Castle and star Joan Crawford in “over the top” performances, and Mill Creek has released at least two double feature discs devoted to William Castle in the past. This could have fallen in line with those releases. Neither of these films could be called a “masterpiece,” but Strait-Jacket does at least engage the viewer. The same cannot be said for Berserk! This disc is worth the money if you happen to be a fan of either Joan Crawford or William Castle.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Lionsgate Films

Release Date: October 09, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 01:54:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 1.78:1

Notes: This release includes a digital “Ultra-Violet” copy of the film.


“Yeah, it’s a cartoon where three cowboys apparently tracking somebody come across a wheelchair sort of stuck in the sand, and one of them turns the other one and says, don’t worry, he won’t get far on foot.” –Gus Van Sant (NPR, July 15, 2018 — about the film’s lengthy title)

Animated comic scribblings such as this one are integrated throughout the entire duration of Gus Van Sant’s most recent film and become a major part of the film’s language. The storyline concerns an aimless alcoholic named John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) who becomes a paraplegic after an all-night binge leads to an automobile accident. As he battles his addiction and attempts to stop drinking, he finds his voice and becomes a controversial cartoonist. It is a simple but ageless story about internal struggle and redemption. The film was cast with a number of incredible actors—including Joaquin Phoenix (as John Callahan), Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black—who all give remarkable performances. The boundless potential of the material coupled with this A-grade talent boggles the mind, but it never quite lives up to this potential. When the final credits roll, the film is over and all but forgotten. Shouldn’t a drama as heavy as this one stay with the viewer?

One Sheet.jpg

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Lionsgate houses their disc in a standard Blu-ray case featuring a sleeve with artwork different from the film’s original one sheet (although it does utilize 3 of the four stills). It isn’t an improvement over that earlier design, but it isn’t any less attractive either. Interestingly, both designs also feature the cartoon that gave the film its title. One wonders why this cartoon wasn’t used exclusively.  The first pressing also includes an O-sleeve featuring this same artwork.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film and are both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Is it possible for one’s apathy towards a particular movie to leak into their perception of its transfer? This particular transfer certainly never really distinguishes itself as particularly impressive but it isn’t bad either. The film was a digital effort all the way down the pipeline, as it was shot on ARRIRAW at 3.4K resolution and then up-scaled to 4K for its master before being digitally distributed to theaters. On one hand, this seems to be the sort of project that should render a gorgeous transfer. However, it seems reasonable to assume that shooting in 3.4K and mastering in 4K might create a few shortcomings. Can anyone explain why anyone would do this? The result is decent enough. There is a soft overall look throughout the duration, but it still exhibits a reasonable amount of detail. The aesthetic must be what the filmmakers intended. That’s what counts.

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 Master Audio mix won’t put anyone’s speaker system to the test, but this isn’t do to any deficiencies in the transfer. What you hear is a faithful representation of the original sound design. Much of the protagonist’s dialogue is spoken either at a hoarse whisper or mumbled incoherently, and nothing about this mix will aid the listener in deciphering his words. This is why the included subtitle track is such a blessing.

Special Features:

1.5 of 5 Stars

It seems as if the producers of this Blu-ray didn’t put any thought into the disc in terms of actual supplemental content. There are no featurettes or documentaries about John Callahan or his work. There isn’t anything about the film’s creation or production history. There aren’t even any deleted scenes (and we know that such scenes exist). They didn’t even see fit to include the films theatrical trailer. All we have is a pair of bland EPK promos. Why did they even bother to include anything at all? They could’ve used this disc space on the film’s transfer, but then they would have no supplemental features to use in their marketing of the disc.

Inside the Accident – (03:28)

Inside the Accident covers the production of the accident scene and features some brief ‘behind the scenes’ footage, a few storyboards, and a conversation about one of John Callahan’s comic strips depicting the crash that was used for detail, the stunt work involved, and the actual accident. All of this is actually rather interesting but all too brief (and slightly awkward considering the fact that much of the footage discussed here was cut from the film).

Inside the Hospital – (04:26)

Inside the Hospital is a vague discussion that mostly covers their approach to the hospital scenes and the challenges that it posed for the production design due to the period nature of the film. It is interesting enough without actually giving the viewer a lot of insight.

Alternate Poster
Final Words:

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot doesn’t quite live up to its potential and leaves the viewer wanting. It is certainly worth viewing (especially if you happen to be fans of the various actors involved), but it probably doesn’t warrant a blind purchase.

Alternate Poster 2


Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Lionsgate Films

Release Date: September 25, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 01:30:56

Video: 2160P (HEVC, H.265)

Main Audio: 7.1 English Dolby TrueHD (48kHz, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: Mono English Dolby Digital Audio

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes:This title has seen many DVD releases and two Blu-ray releases. This marks the film’s UHD debut. Special features are never consistent when it comes to this particular title, and this creates a problem for anyone who wishes for a clean upgrade. The transfer for the UHD disc was sourced from different elements than the included Blu-ray (see below for a more detailed analysis).


“Well, you call it a slasher film. I guess the original slasher film was Psycho. That was the film that all of these things are kind of based on… Psycho was the big daddy of them all. And it had a literal slashing scene in…

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Olive Films (Signature Series)

Release Date: October 16, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 01:20:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 1854 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 2.00:1

Bitrate: 31.50 Mbps

Notes: This title has been released previously on Blu-ray and DVD by Olive Films, but this “Signature” edition represents a notable upgrade. It contains a better transfer and several worthwhile supplemental features that were not included on that earlier release. However, it should be made clear that this release has been limited to 5,000 units.


The 1950s isn’t a decade that springs to mind when it comes to terrific science fiction or horror films. Such films in this particular decade tended towards ridiculously large bugs, blobs, mutations, the tamest of space creatures, and the ravages of nuclear fallout. It is simply much too difficult to take such films seriously as they weren’t terribly well written, technically proficient, thought provoking, or scary. However, one particular film from this genre does seem to stand above the others and that film is Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It isn’t without its flaws, but it manages to captivate the imagination despite itself.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers was directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry) and stars Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones, Larry Gates, and King Donovan. McCarthy portrays a doctor in a small California town whose patients begin to suspect that their loved ones have been replaced by emotionless imposters. When their concerns eventually prove to have validity, it is too late to save the town—but can he save himself and his small group of friends (not to mention the rest of the world)?

The thematic concerns of the story have divided fans for generations. Some believe the film to be an allegory about McCarthyism while others claim that is was alluding to Communism. The truth of the matter is that if the film was solely about either one of these issues, it would no longer be seen or discussed today. It is more accurately about the dangers of blind conformity in general, and this is a theme that is unlikely to go out of style. There are simply too many people in our society willing to sell their identities to the lowest bidder. Individuality is out! Everyone feels the need to be like everyone else, and those who are unwilling or incapable of falling in line are damned to the margins of society. This is the reason that Invasion of the Body Snatchers has already been remade three times (in 1978, 1997, and 2007)! Seriously, who doesn’t know their fair share of pod people?

There is a line from the end of the film that should sum up this review and answer this question rather admirably: “They’re already here! You’re next!


The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is protected by a clear case that showcases a dual-sided sleeve with film relater artwork on the outside cover and a production still that decorates the inside of the case.

A small booklet featuring a scholarly essay by Kier-La Janisse is also included. The essay is entitled At First Glance Everything Looked the Same: Identity Crisis in Don Siegel’s ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers and it discusses the themes of identity and conformity that are inherent in the film. It also gives contextual information about the sociopolitical environment of the time that it was released. It is a nice and attractive bonus that is illustrated with production stills.


The attractive static menu utilizes the same artwork featured on the cover and is easy to navigate. However, there is a strange misalignment on the words “English Subtitles” (see above).


Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Olive’s “Signature” edition transfer of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is actually sourced from the same elements that were used for their previous release. This does seem to be a slight upgrade, but there really isn’t an overwhelming upgrade in terms of image quality. However, it is a dramatic upgrade from any other release of the film on home video. It isn’t at all a terrible transfer, but it isn’t nearly perfect either. The encode is superior to their 2012 release—at least from a technical standpoint, but this is a film in need of a new scan of the best available film elements (at a resolution of at least 4K). There is obvious crushing of detail in the darker sequences and it is quite a bit softer than it needs to be. Obviously, this softness may very well be the result of the “Superscope” process (they artificially render an image as anamorphic in post-production after shooting in the academy ratio). This lends a softer look to the image. Density and depth are somewhat problematic as well. It is nice to find that Olive hasn’t made any effort to artificially correct these issues, because this would have only made matters worse. Film damage is never really problematic or distracting, but there is the occasional blemish.


Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio transfer is also quite solid as the various sound elements are well prioritized in the mix, and given room to breathe in high definition. It is a technical upgrade from the film’s previous Blu-ray release (the previous transfer was a 16-bit render while this transfer is 24-bit). Age related issues such as distortion or hiss seem to be absent. In short, we are given a very clean representation of the film’s original audio.


Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, and Joe Dante

Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins, The ‘Burbs) moderates a conversation with McCarthy and Wynter that is always engaging, usually charming, and occasionally informative. Dante is an obvious fan of the film and contributes quite a few nuggets of trivia while McCarthy is quick with anecdotal memories. However, Wynter is a bit less vocal—though she does attempt to discuss one of her recollections only to be cut off by Dante and McCarthy. Such interruptions happen all throughout the track, but Wynter never gets back around to whatever she was going to discuss. This seems a shame.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Richard Harland Smith (Film Historian)

Richard Harland Smith’s commentary is less engaging but more informative than the Dante-McCarthy-Wynter track. He covers topics such as the film’s production history, biographical information about the cast and crew, the fifties sociopolitical climate, his personal observations and interpretations, and so much more that it moves rather rapidly. While some commentary tracks suffer from long periods of silence, this one has the opposite problem. Smith covers so much information that his delivery is too fast for the listener to completely digest. The occasional brief pause is essential and would have helped him punctuate the various points that he is trying to make. His commentary about the imagery of the pod-birth scene is especially interesting and might alter the way the viewer experiences the sequence for the rest of their lives.

Sleep No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited – (26:35)

Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers), Stuart Gordon, and Bob Burns (Historian) discuss the production and legacy of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in this short documentary that sits somewhere between a “making of” account of the production and a generic “appreciation” of the film. It’s not a very comprehensive “making of” program, but it certainly beats nothing at all.

[Note: Mick Garris doesn’t seem to have any real understanding of the Hitchcockian “MacGuffin.” He misuses the term in this segment. This was one of this program’s weaker moments.]

The Stranger in Your Lover’s Eyes – (11:54)

This may very well be the disc’s best video-based supplement. The first portion of the two-part essay finds Kristoffer Tabori (Don Siegel’s son) reading from Siegel’s autobiography (A Siegel Film) about the production of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is illustrated with a wealth of stills and footage from the film. The second part can be best described as Tabori’s personal observation of the film’s themes as they apply to his father’s life and personal concerns. It really packs a lot of information in a relatively short span of time. It is essential viewing for fans and a true asset to the disc.

The Fear is Real – (12:26)

Larry Cohen (The It’s Alive Trilogy, The Stuff) and Joe Dante both discuss the film and its significance—though Cohen seems to be the more prominent presence. Frankly, he seems more enamored with his own work than the film that he is supposed to be discussing (which is strange considering his films are so terrible). One assumes that he is featured because he had a hand in the horrible 1993 remake of the film, but this is neither here nor there. Both participants share their memories of seeing the film as children and the impact that it had on them and the genre. Dante has more useful comments (while Cohen has more screen time)—including his memories of meeting author Jack Finney with Kevin McCarthy in the eighties.

I No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger – (21:08)

I No Longer Belong finds Matthew Bernstein discussing the life and career of Walter Wanger. It is an incredibly interesting and informative discussion and well worth twenty minutes of the viewer’s time.

The Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon – (08:19)

The Fear and the Fiction is really a conversation about the themes of the film, and how people are divided as to whether it addresses McCarthyism or Communism. Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynters, Stuart Kaminsky (Don Siegel’s assistant), Stuart Gordon, John Landis, Mick Garris, and others address the issue.

1985 Interview with Kevin McCarthy – (07:25)

Tom Hatten hosts this television interview with Kevin McCarthy, and it is one of the disc’s true treasures. The segment is much too short, but it is certainly nice to hear McCarthy discuss the film and its enduring legacy.

What’s In a Name? – (02:16)

What’s In a Name is an extremely short clip that addresses the various titles considered for the film before they finally landed upon Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Return to Santa Mira

Return to Santa Mira is a collection of clips that detail where the various scenes in the film were shot and (in most cases) what these locations looked like in 2006 (which is when the clips were shot). It’s a nice addition to the disc but isn’t terribly substantial.

There are a total of eight clips:

Intro – (01:48)
Town Square – (01:34)
Homes – (02:07)
Alley – (01:14)
Cave – (01:41)
Staircase – (01:43)
Overpass – (01:03)
Wrecking Ball – (01:42)

Original Theatrical Trailer – (02:18)

It is nice to see that the original theatrical trailer has been included on the disc. It is a nice addition to a supplemental package that was already far above average.

Rare Documents

Thirteen production documents are featured here. There are call sheets, a list of actor’s considered for the leading role, the screenplay’s cover page, memos about censorship (mostly concerning the fact that both of the leading characters are divorced), and an opening narration featuring Orson Welles that would have been completely superfluous and overwhelmingly cheesy had it been shot.

At First Glance Everything Looked the Same: Identity Crisis in Don Siegel’s ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers

This is the same essay by Kier-La Janisse that was included in the booklet. One can also read it on their television screens if the whim strikes them, but it is difficult to imagine that anyone would prefer to read it in this particular manner when the booklet is much more convenient.


Final Words:

This reviewer has never been terribly fond of the horror and sci-fi films of the 1950s but this film is an exception. This is the best that Invasion of the Body Snatchers has looked on any home video format (even if it is only a marginal improvement over the previous Olive Films release). Fans will want to add it to their collections, and curious parties who haven’t already seen the film should check it out. It will make an excellent addition to your Halloween festivities.