...and then there were none (1945/Agatha Christie/VCI Blu-ray)/Blood (2012/Image Blu-ray)/Hammer Of The Gods
Scare Jessica To Death (1971/Paramount/Warner Archive DVD)/The Reluctant Fundamentalist
(2013 remake/Gaiam Vivendi Blu-ray)/Targets
(1967/Paramount/Warner Archive DVD)/Wish
You Were Here (2011/E1 DVD)
D/D/C/D/C/D/C+/C Films: B-/C-/C/B-/C+/C-/C/C-
PLEASE NOTE: The Let's Scare Jessica To Death and Targets DVDs are only available from
Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the
Now for a
new group of genre films, including some interesting back catalog releases,
just in time for Halloween 2013…
Christie wrote so many mystery classics, you can loose track of them, but one
of the best non-detective stand-alone tales has been issued under many titles
(including Ten Little Indians, which is has been remade under a few
times and a title before that dropped for highly racist reasons) so in recent
decades, it has simply become known as ...and
then there were none and in 1945, the French director Rene Clair took on
the book as a feature film and the results are one of the best early sound
films of a Christie work.
at the time by Fox, the amazing cast of people stuck on an island they have
been invited too (spoofed in Murder By Death (1976, reviewed elsewhere
on this site) from the Neil Simon play) includes Barry Fitzgerald, Walter
Huston, Louis Hayward, Judith Anderson, C. Aubrey Smith, Roland Young, June
Duprez, Richard Haydn, Harry Thurston and Queenie Leonard as strangers brought
together for what seems like an innocent get-together.
have a common denominator and the person responsible for the event is actually
there to kill them off, one by one, with the killer amongst them. Considering this is going on 70 years old (!!!, it sure does not play that badly at all), this has
suspense, tension and pace the later remakes and endless (and especially of
late, endlessly bad rip-offs) lack. The
cast has chemistry, there is humor, dark humor and real talent that makes each
character more than a tired cardboard cutout (like so many bad “stuck-in-a”
films of late) and that is why it is more than deserving of a Blu-ray than most
films of its kind.
of hit TV shows, this is one of the first Christie feature film adaptations to
make it to Blu-ray and it is a nice enough upgrade for a title that has been an
early favorite from the VCI Entertainment catalog. The film became public domain remarkably
decades ago, but is a fine mystery that has aged well, holds it own against
most in the genre today and is even charming in between the sinister goings-on
really hoping for some extras, but there are 'none' here, which is a mystery to
me because this film is so good and worthy of more discussion.
Murphy's Blood (2012) is a feature
film remake of a 2004 British TV mini-series called Conviction in which a cop
(Paul Bettany) goes too far and his partner and biological brother (Stephen
Graham) covers up for him. At first,
they are investigating a gruesome murder, a woman who is the victim of one of
those unspeakable crimes. They have a
suspect they are certain is guilty, but the investigation starts to go sour and
they start to do their best to make sure the suspect is within their grip until
they figure out if he really did it.
This all changes when things take a dark turn and they have to deal with
some ugliness neither could have expected.
not say much more save that we have seen
this set up before and done more convincingly, though there are some good
actors here (Mark Strong and Brian Cox among them), but this plays like a
police procedural trying to be dirty and that does not always work. In the end, I was very disappointed and
wondered if the original could have been that good to begin with.
either talk about Hammer Of The Gods
(2013) or get asked about it, I have had more than a few cases where people
were wondering if a Led Zeppelin film had finally been made, as a book of the
same title (and even DVD on the band, reviewed elsewhere on this site) that was
a best seller exists. Instead, it is yet
another film set in Medieval times involving the
Vikings, bloody battle scene, slow motion, loose history and massive
conflicts. The result of Director Farren
Blackburn's (Doctor Who) feature debut is more of a weak Braveheart
rehash in a genre that is long played out, down to the cable TV series Spartacus.
it will remind you of the beyond-tired 300, then
more of it looks like a British TV series or Mini-Series on the same subject
(this one set in 871 A.D. Britain). The
cast of unknowns are not bad and clearly getting into what they are doing, but
only the most die hard fans on the subject are going to want to see this and
even if made a few years ago or so, there is not much memorable here.
include Interviews, A Making Of featurette, AXS-TV clip on the film and
featurette Behind The Visual Effects.
Hancock's Let's Scare Jessica To Death
(1971) has been out of print for a while, originally issued on DVD by
Paramount, but Warner Archive is reissuing some of their back catalog including
this one and it is the same exact DVD transfer we reviewed at this link:
sadly includes no extras, not even a trailer, but it is a film worth revisiting
and with the second remake of a similar key film like Carrie on the way,
its timing could not be better as this film asks if Jessica is losing her mind
or if she is being betrayed by those around her.
interesting that two of the more noted films about terrorism are directed by
women, but while Katherine Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty (2011) is a major
success that is still being debated, Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012) also avoids the trappings and
clichés of similar films, yet has many new problems of its own that hold back
the story of a young Pakistani (Riz Ahmed) that the CIA thinks is involved with
a terror plot, but maybe not. An agent
(Liev Schreiber) struggles to give him the benefit of the doubt as they talk in
a Middle Eastern eatery and the tale is told, including with alternate
makes it too much of a flashback film and its look and dealings with the events
of 9/11 do not work. The asides from
this are a plus for the film, but they are undone by wacky twists, a film that
is not sure what it wants to say and good performances (including from Kiefer
Sutherland as the young man's boss in a successful financial business firm)
that is trying to ask new questions about the nature of terrorism.
it seemed too distant to work, a good individual scene
is followed by a few bad ones over and over.
Maybe the novel was good, but the film never adds up, is forgettable and
seems very dated on arrival. At least it
takes the subject seriously.
Hudson also stars.
and Making Of featurette are the only extras.
with Zack Snyder, McG and Brett Ratner, Uwe Boll is one of the worst directors
in the business today, yet despite an endless string of disasters, keeps
getting to make more product,. But that is all it is. For some reason, like boredom, he was
compelled to remake the 1954 Frank Sinatra film Suddenly, but this 2013 version is a very, very pale copy of the
much more interesting original despite Ray Liotta heading a cast that may be
trying to maker this work, but have a horrid director to make the worst
possible decision every time.
concerns men who show up at a residential home as agents protecting the
president, but they are lying and up to no good, having to do with an
assassination plot against the President Of the United States (played by an
actor meant to look like Barack Obama) but this is dull and flat, you never
believe a minute of it and all I could think of was how much better the
original film was and still is.
Canada, it even has a bring look, so skip this time killer unless you MUST see
it for some reason. Michael Pare and
Dominic Purcell also star.
thankfully no extras, but you can read more about the original 1954 film at
Classics/Film Chest Blu-ray w/DVD
Bogdanovich's mixed thriller Targets
(1967) has also been out of print for a while and like Let's Scare Jessica To Death, it was a
Paramount release that Warner Archive is reissuing on DVD. Boris Karloff (in his last major film role)
plays a film executive sick of the business as a very unbalanced young man (Tim
O'Kelly) is secretly gathering firearms and goes on a shooting spree to
terrorize Hollywood and Los Angeles at large.
Karloff's producer has made his share of thrillers and even acted in
them at one time, but real life is about to come calling and it will not be
combines 20 minutes of older Karloff footage from an older Roger Corman film
with 20 minutes of new Karloff footage shot in a few days by Bogdanovich, who
then added about 50 more minutes of dramatic footage resulting in a film that
has gained a cult following, set in place
Bogdanovich's capacity (with his production company Saticoy) to produce
a few hit film classics in a row (see The Last Picture Show and What's
Up Doc? reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and works enough that
people still talk about it.
I am not
as much of a fan and find it uneven, but Karloff is good, the new footage is
well shot by the great Laszlo Kovacs, A.S.C., and it shows a real love of
filmmaking from all involved. It is
worth seeing once just to see a major filmmaker of the American New Wave find
his way and to see Karloff still able to deliver a top performance.
include a feature length audio commentary track by Bogdanovich and an
introduction by Bogdanovich he taped on camera many years ago.
thing I can say about Kieran Darcy-Smith's Wish
You Were Here (2011) is that the actors are doing an exceptional job and
this might include Joel Egerton's best acting performance to date, but this
Australian thriller starts to lose its way after a half-hour and not only never
recovers, but becomes incredibly predictable until its would-be twist
conclusion that wants to have a shocking conclusion only to ring untrue, false
“it could happen” as is shown, that is not enough and the lack of edge and
trying something different like we have seen in so many great Aussie films is
absent here too much. Still, Darcy-Smith
can direct and I want to see all these actors again, so that counts for
include a nice section of smart Cast/Crew interviews and a Making-of
1.33 X 1 digital High Definition black and white image on None is about
as good as the film has ever looked on home video, but is a bit darker than I
might have liked at times, yet it is a serious improvement over VCI's much
older DVD pressing and outside of whatever qualities the public domain Image
Entertainment DVD might have had, this is probably the best the film will look
until someone gets a better print and/.or spends more money to fix it up; a
treatment it deserves. As it stands, you
can see details previously missing.
1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Suddenly remake is
stylized to its disadvantage and has enough flaws and the usual issues with
Boll's films that it not only does not look better than the 1945 Christie film,
it cannot top Image's Blu-ray of the 1954 original, so don’t expect much from
the performance here.
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition
image transfers on Blood, Hammer and Fundamentalist also
have their own styling issues that hold their performance back a bit, with Blood
trying to be darker at times than it should be, Hammer gong for
monochromatic color overdone in its genre and Fundamentalist with its
share of shaky camerawork, lack of detail and downstyling (sandy overexposure
is clichéd indeed) so they may not be as annoying as the Suddenly remake in
their approaches, but they all suffer for their aesthetic choices.
So to my
surprise, the older anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on the Jessica
DVD can pretty much compete with all the Blu-rays here, not because it is so
stunning, but because it is a consistent transfer from a consistent print. Sure, you can see shots where it is obviously
standard definition, yet color, depth and detail have held up between
leave the two poor performers on the list as the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X
1 image on Targets and the
anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Here
are softer than they ought to be and for different reasons. Targets
is simply an older transfer that dulls the detail and Pathé
color, while Here is an HD shoot whose downtraded image is soft and stylized to
be so, adding up to too much softness.
sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix
on Reluctant Fundamentalist is the sonic winner with the best
soundfield, best mix, best recording and best dynamic range, with similar
DTS-MA 5.1 mixes on Blood, Hammer and Suddenly are too
much towards the front channels and Hammer can have some harsh edges it
should not have.
2.0 Mono on None, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Here and lossy Dolby
Digital 2.0 Mono on Jessica are next in line the sonics department, with
the older two films showing their age and newest one (Here) with a
generally weak soundfield. They are fine
for what we get, but could all be better.
leaves the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Targets the disappointment, a
generation or two down like its image and even with its low budget should sound
better and in real life, likely does.
To order Let's Scare Jessica To
Death and Targets, go to this
link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:
- Nicholas Sheffo