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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Crime > Revenge > Exploitation > Horror > Slasher > Thriller > American Muscle (2013/Well Go USA Blu-ray)/Hero Of The Day (2014/Cinema Libre DVD)/The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary (1974/MPI/Dark Sky Blu-ray Single Edition)

American Muscle (2013/Well Go USA Blu-ray)/Hero Of The Day (2014/Cinema Libre DVD)/The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary (1974/MPI/Dark Sky Blu-ray Single Edition)

Picture: B-/C+/B Sound: B/C-/B- Extras: C-/C-/B- Films: C-/C-/B

So many genre productions try so hard to emulate the 1970s and even 1980s, then fail, that one looses track of how often this happens. The need to have some edge, weight or substance is understandable in an era of generic boredom, but most fail. Here are two new releases that get it very wrong and an enduring classic, further restored, that got it right.

Ravi Dhar's American Muscle (2013) has a great idea in updating the prison/revenge tale by having a man (Nick Principe) finally getting out of jail and going through a mental checklist of everyone who needs to pay for his lost time. The cast and lead make sense, the style is consistent and there are some good ideas here, but anytime the script develops good ideas or exposition, it is ruined by bad moves, over-the-top violence that renders things unrealistic and anything a little new is ruined by several cliches or more. Too bad, because this has potential and some energy, but in the end, it is a wreck.

A trailer and feature length audio commentary track are the only extras.

Eddie Conna's Hero Of The Day (2014) has many of the same ambitions and troubles, with the conceit here being a would-be filmmaker is out to make a documentary on his childhood football hero, who is now on the skids and things get so bad that that the former player's self-destructive behavior starts to endanger the director/fan and crew. Arriving when the actual NFL has racked up the most scandals in the history of the league, this could have really capitalized on that timing-wise if it were playing it wiser, but this gets too silly with its own violence and unreal storyline. Of course, it is in the shadow of superior films like The Wrestler and especially Raging Bull, but nowhere in their league. Sad, because this too could have really worked if they just concentrated more and showed some restraint with more coherence.

Extras include a Slide Show, Trailer and Producer Interview.

We have covered three versions of Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), so the new single 40th Anniversary Blu-ray is the latest upgrade and our fourth look at the still-imitated slasher groundbreaker. For those who have somehow missed the film and have limited knowledge of it, here are our links to previous editions:

Dark Sky Ultimate Edition U.S. Blu-ray


Umbrella Australia version of the same Blu-ray


Older Pioneer Special Edition DVD version


Dark Sky has issued several versions of the new upgrade, including a Blu-ray/DVD set and collector's gift box with two Blu-rays and two DVDs. We have the single Blu-ray and even that offers the real main event this time around in a new 4K restoration from the original 16mm film elements. As noted before, the film was shot on Kodak's special 16mm ECO stock (#7252) that was very hard to expose, but like reversal, the print you get is your master copy except that this cannot be projected or is an actual negative. Yet, you can make prints from it as Michael Wadleigh did when shooting Woodstock (1970), so way back for the Pioneer edition (as noted before), a new 16mm inter-negative was made, but those stocks often have a yellowish cast and this DVD shows that. Easy to scratch, these stocks did produce very good looking duplicate prints, including the kinds that were blown up to 35mm like copies I have seen and that first Blu-ray was a revelation only rivaled by my 35mm theatrical screening.

More on the results of the upgrade in a minute, but know this version's extras only offer four audio commentary tracks, two old (one with Hooper, Gunnar Hansen and DP Daniel Pearl, the other the recently deceased Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain and Production Designer Robert Burns) and two new (a second one by Hooper, plus Pearl back with Editor J. Larry Carroll and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolaou) but no trailers, posters, teasers or the like. Also for big fans and completists, the belated Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 arrived on Blu-ray in the U.S., but also in a more extensive version from Arrow U.K. with extras you will not see anywhere else and you can read more about it at this link:


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the new Chain Saw can still show the age of the materials used, but this time, a new 4K upgrade was made by cleaning and upgrading each frame digitally, one at a time. The result is less noise, less excess grain, better depth, better detail and really good color, yet some detail is not as outstanding as it could be and I wonder if the extras cut down on the bitrate. Still, this is narrowly better than the last Blu-ray and the preferred way to see the film now, but I bet there is more detail here from that new 4K master and this proves yet again how great 16mm can look in high definition on Blu-ray.

So much so that the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Muscle is more generic, an HD shoot with sometimes weak shots, more motion blur than there should be and its otherwise consistent look foiled by too many flaws. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Hero has much the same problem, but is softer and a bit worse.

As for sound, Chain Saw is listed as having Dolby TrueHD 7.1 sound, but there are actually four sound options and none of them are from Dolby. Instead, we get a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix that is pushing things a bit, a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that was my personal choice for the best of the four despite some slight harshness and bests the older standard DTS mix on the older Blu-ray for sonic range and detail, PCM 2.0 Stereo that is not bad if not great and original PCM 2.0 Mono that is too compressed for its own good.

Muscle has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix has the best sound here despite some harshness on the edges and a little overdone sound, but its soundfield is meant to be loud and in that respect, it is consistent. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Hero is odd and tends to be limited to the front and center channels, Pro Logic-like surrounds activated or not. The recording is not great and be careful of volume switching and high levels.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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