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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Supernatural > Reincarnation > Murder > Voodoo > Cult > Kidnapping > Heist > Robbery > Crime > Gang > Audrey Rose (1977/United Artists/MGM)/The Believers (1987/Orion/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/Drive Hard (2014/Image Blu-ray w/DVD)/Eurocrime!: The Italian Cop & Gangster Films That Rule

Audrey Rose (1977/United Artists/MGM)/The Believers (1987/Orion/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/Drive Hard (2014/Image Blu-ray w/DVD)/Eurocrime!: The Italian Cop & Gangster Films That Ruled The '70s (2014/Cinema Epoch DVD)/The Vanishing (1993 remake/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Zig Zag (1970/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Audrey Rose, Believers and Vanishing Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, are limited to only 3,000 copies each and can be ordered while supplies last, while Zig Zag DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Here's a list of mixed thrillers you may or may not have heard of, plus a documentary about a crime film cycle in Italy whose films you may or may not have seen...

Robert Wise's Audrey Rose (1977) was a well-promoted attempt by United Artists to capitalize on the big Hollywood A-level Horror genre films that were making big money like Rosemary's Baby, The Omen and especially The Exorcist, but this time, it would involve a dead girl, reincarnation and different form of faith. Marsha Mason and John Beck (Rollerball) are a happily married couple whose daughter (Susan Swift, looking a bit like Linda Blair) seems well and all are happy. That is until the young lady starts having nightmares.

Around this time, a strange man (Anthony Hopkins) is sighted following them and watching them more than he should, though we soon learn he has a good reason for his unreasonable behavior: he suspects (after much research and thought) that their daughter is really the reincarnation of his young daughter who died in a car accident where the car crashed, caught fire and killed her!

The father is furious and mother unbelieving until more events at least convince her maybe something is wrong. From there, the film swings between some interesting moments, preposterous ones and a few that don't work, but at least this is somewhat ambitious, if not ultimately successful. In the end though, I doubt this would have been made without the money those other films had pulled in. Norman Lloyd also shows up towards the end in an interesting turn, but that does not save things. However, this one is worth a look for all the things they actually try out. I wish supernatural films today were always this smart and ambitious.

Extras include an illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and a Julie Kirgo essay on the film, while the Blu-ray adds an Original Theatrical Trailer and Isolated Music Score track by Michael Small.

John Schlesinger's The Believers (1987) was Orion Pictures attempt to have a wild voodoo thriller with Martin Sheen when he was still considered box office (and was not overtaken by his son Charlie), but the screenplay I so increasingly wacky and contrived that it plays more like a bad action film than anything with the supernatural, with suspense or in the ned, any logic that adds up including a very desperate ending taken a little from Damien: Omen II. Jimmy Smits, Robert Loggia and Richard Masur show up giving it their best, but I was nor impressed then and remain disappointed now.

Schlesinger recovered the next year artistically with his highly underrated Madame Sousatzka with Shirley MacLaine, but only Loggia continued to have more regular feature film roles. The genre was a bit played out at this time and but was also well-promoted in its time, yet interesting moments are limited and is a curio at best. Having the son of Sheen's character in jeopardy also wears thin quickly.

Extras include another illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and a Julie Kirgo essay on the film, while the Blu-ray adds an Original Theatrical Trailer and Isolated Music Score track.

Brian Trenchard-Smith's Drive Hard (2014) brings the great Oz-ploitation director back with a pairing that has possibilities as John Cusack plays a gun-toting crook/thief who kidnaps expert car driver Thomas Jane to help him rob a bank. Made in Australia, this had possibilities and the leads have some chemistry, but it is held back by a derivative script and a need to be like an expensive, overproduced Hollywood action film when it should have been much more like a gritty Australian thriller like they are not making much anymore.

The car chases, something Trenchard-Smith excels at, are not bad, but even they feel restrained, while the fights are not bad. Most of the 96 minutes is everything we have seen before, though fans of the leads or actor might want to give this a look for the few sequences that work.

There are no extras.

Mike Malloy's Eurocrime!: The Italian Cop & Gangster Films That Ruled The '70s (2014) is an excellent documentary with a ton of interviews that does its best to explain, define and cover the 1970s hardcore violent crime films coming out of Italy in the wake of the Hollywood crime cycle and gangster genre revival. With their extreme violence, blood, torture, sex, sexism, sex crime, robbery and murder plots throwing good taste out the window, they were bold if not always original. They also produced stars and continued others careers.

Franco Nero, John Saxon, Antonio Sabato, Fred Williamson, Henry Silva, Joe Dallesandro, Chris Mitchum, Luc Merenda and many more insiders are interviewed, joined by many insiders, directors, writers, production people, vintage film clips and fun animation in an uncut 127 minutes documentary all serious film fans and filmmakers will want to see. As fans, the makers might be giving this cycle a little more credit than it should, but otherwise, it is nice to see these raw films get the serious, smart treatment they are getting here. We've even covered many of these films (especially from Raro Video) and this is a great place to being to learn about them, even if you have only seen a few, if that. Well done!

Extras include bonus interview clips, including some that should have stayed in the main program.

The original version of George Sluizer's The Vanishing was just issued on Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection, so Fox & Twilight Time have decided to issue the 1993 remake as a Limited Edition Blu-ray. It is not a great film, good remake and was not a hit, but it has become an odd curio. A pre-24 Kiefer Sutherland and then-unknown Sandra Bullock are a couple taking a trip when she goes to buy something at a gas station and disappears. We soon discover that she has been abducted by a strange man (Jeff Bridges truing something different) for reasons we are not clear on at first.

Unfortunately, this remake gets as contrived as The Believers very quickly more interested in plot twists that strain credibility more and more than actually telling a story with suspense, going for the Fatal Attraction formula instead. Nancy Travis shows up as Sutherland's new love interest, but the Bullock character is insufficiently dealt with and the result is a package deal mess that should have never been made. There are still enough wacky moments not to totally write it off, but far from enough to recommend it.

Extras include yet another illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and a Julie Kirgo essay on the film, while the Blu-ray adds an Original Theatrical Trailer and Isolated Music Score track.

Richard A. Colla's Zig Zag (1970) has George Kennedy as a man arrested for a crime that gets him sent to jail, which is how we meet him, but it turns out it is part of a con by the man who is up to something bigger than is first apparent in this challenging mystery crime thriller trying to take its cues from John Boorman's classic Point Blank (1967, finally on Blu-ray form Warner) to some success, if not as much a Stephen Soderbergh's The Limey (1999).

Eli Wallach is his attorney who may not know everything that is really happening, Anne Jackson is his wife and the rest of the cast is really good. Even when this did not always work, I liked the intelligence, look and feel of the film and it is a must-see for all serious film fans or mature adult viewers who like something challenging. Kennedy does some of his boldest work here too.

A trailer is the only extra.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Drive and 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition images on the three Twilight Time Blu-rays all have their issues and limits, evening out as the best performers on the list. Drive is an HD shoot that has its moments, but also its share of detail limits, Believers and Vanishing look a little aged and slightly strained and Audrey Rose may be grainy and not perfect, but color comes through in many nice shots. It may show its age at times and try to have the look of the original Exorcist, but is my favorite transfer on the list.

Eurocrime is a compilation of new HD and old film clips in an anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image that is just fine, while the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Zig Zag was shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision and processed in MetroColor with more than its share of nice shots throughout, tying with Eurocrime for second place in playback. Both would look better in HD, but the Drive DVD is especially weak, soft and the worst performer on the list.

All four Blu-rays offer lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) sound, with Drive and Vanishing offering DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes; the former has some flaws and limits, while the latter is not a bad upgrade after a long road to get where it is. For the record, its trailer announced it would be simple Dolby A-type analog surround stereo, then the print offers it as more advanced Dolby SR (Spectral Recording) analog sound, but here it is up to 5.1 that is a little harsh and overly sweetened, but is not bad for its age. A DTS-MA 2.0 Stereo version is here too, but it is weaker than expected and for purists only who should be careful of volume switching.

Believers only has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix with Pro Logic-like surrounds and more overly sweetened sounds, but that is enough to tie it with its 5.1 counterparts for first place on the list. Ariadne has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix that is more aged, but not bad despite its age and good enough to compete with the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the Drive DVD. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Eurocrime has some good sound, but there are many patches where the interview sound is rougher or lower and sometimes, music overrides talking. Nothing some remixed, reediting and rebalancing could not fix, though, but the sound is flawed, so expect that.

To order the Audrey Rose, Believers and Vanishing limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at this link:


...and to order the Zig Zag Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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