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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Car Racing > Drama > Camp > Horror > Murder > Comedy > Cult > Monster > Crime > Terrorism > Pit Stop (1969/MVD Visual/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/Spider-Baby (1967/MVD Visual/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/Wolfen (1981/Orion/Warner Archive Blu-ray)

Pit Stop (1969/MVD Visual/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/Spider-Baby (1967/MVD Visual/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)/Wolfen (1981/Orion/Warner Archive Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Wolfen Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Here are three films with their own cult status and reputation that not enough people have seen, but are finally being issued in top rate Blu-ray editions...

First we have two films by legendary B-movie director Jack Hill. We start with his smash-up derby auto race film Pit Stop (1969) shot on a real figure-8 track (which increases the danger, something in inept Rollerball remake also missed among its seemingly endless list of mega-mistakes) has Richard Davalos as a troubled youth in jail who knows how to drive and is recruited by a moneyman (Quatermass & The Pit's Brian Donlevy) to race one of his cars. His biggest competition is a tough racer (Sid Haig playing it up well) and we also get women including Beverly Washburn (Haig's Spider-Baby co-star) and a very young Ellen Burstyn (credited as Ellen McRae) who can handle garage tools very well... as well as she handles men!

The race footage was at night and since (hard to believe) most color film stock could not handle such shooting at the time, or high speed of the time might not cut it (an essay for another time), that is why this was shot black and white and it gives it an edge and realism it might not have otherwise. Especially as compared to all of the 'sunny car' movies and even musicals (Elvis, beach movies) being made at the time mostly in color, so that works in its favor.

No, the writing is nothing special, but the cast is interesting and as a bonus, real car people and legends play themselves in the film including Batmobile, Black Beauty, Thrushbuster and Monkeymobile designer, the legendary vehicle customizer George Barris. The visit to his shop is great.

Extras include a reversible cover with nice alternate artwork, an illustrated booklet on the film including informative text & two essays, while the Blu-ray adds a brand new feature length audio commentary track with Hill & film scholar Calum Waddell, an Original Theatrical Trailer and three new Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes: Crash & Burn! with Hill interviewed on camera, Life In The Fast Lane with semi-secret co-producer Roger Corman's on camera interview on the film and James White discussing in excellent detail the Restoration Of Pit Stop.

Then we have Spider-Baby (1967, released four years after legalities shelved it) also issued in a new Blu-ray/DVD set by MVD & Arrow. This official release replaces the Dark Sky DVD-only version we covered a few year ago at this link:


As wacky as ever, it continues to be a curio and some are talking about its braver content, though it is not as if it deals with any taboos in any important or innovative way. Still, its cult keeps growing and the 'can it be that bad?' crowd keeps looking into it. If you need to see it, see it on this Blu-ray.

Extras carried over from the previous DVD include an interesting feature length audio commentary with Hill & Haig, Hatching Of Spider Baby making of featurette, Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds Of Ronald Stein about the groovy music he has created for films like this & other notable B-films of the time,The Merrye House Revisited featurette, stills, amusing alternate opening title sequence with the Cannibal Orgy name and even an extended scene. Arrow goes further and adds a new September 2012 program about the film's presentation by the Oscar people (!), Hill's half-hour short film The Host (1960) with Haig's film debut, a thick new booklet with great illustrations and two essays on the film and a reversible cover with alternate artwork. That makes this THE definitive version of the film to own.

Last but not least is Michael Wadleigh's Wolfen (1981), one of three werewolf thrillers in its time that included An American Werewolf In London and The Howling (both reviewed elsewhere on this site), but something different is going on here starting with the gruesome murder of a wealthy man, his gal and his tough body guard. It is gruesome and even expert science investigators (including a pre CSI-era Gregory Hines) can't figure it out, as he explains it to his friend and main police investigator now on the case (Albert Finney). From there, we try to figure out the mystery of who... or what is doing the killing and why.

Easily the most ambitious of the three 'wolf' films of the time, it has its moments and has aged in interesting ways, but it was never a total success. I still to this day think it takes more than a few awkward cues from several episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (see elsewhere on this site) and one too many unnecessary moments of political incorrectness seem to be artificially stretching out the plot when it needed new ideas. Yet, the great shots of New York City and a solid supporting cast that also includes Edward James Olmos, Diane Verona, Tom Noonan, Dick O'Neill, Ralph Bell, Reginald VelJohnson, James Tolkan and an uncredited Tom Waits make this one worth visiting and revisiting.

Sadly, the only extra is an Original Theatrical Trailer, but this one deserves more at some point.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image on Pit looks amazing for its age and budget with solid nighttime shooting and a painstakingly restored HD master, but from the way the 35mm monochrome film stocks look, you would think this was from the early 1960s. However, it is a resurrection of the film that will surprise many including those who have seen the film, even if it was decades ago. With a few spots where the stock looks older or second-generation, they do not last long. Car fans will love it too. The anamorphically enhanced DVD version is passable, but not match for the Blu-ray.

The 1080p 1.66 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image on Baby is also an amazing revelation, looking a bit better though the film actually is 5+ years older than Pit, has undergone the same thorough restoration without making it look odd or dishonestly fresh and is superior to both the Dark Sky DVD and the also anamorphically enhanced DVD included in this set. Hill said he bought any prints of the film, any he could find and the best was a Geavert 35mm monochrome print (misspelled in the booklet, sorry guys...) in one of their last years alone before the belgian company merged with Agfa in Germany in 1964. As reliable as a DuPont b/w print, no wonder this looks so rich and clear with real film black that does not look grey and no print shrinkage.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Wolfen includes the 'Wolfen-vision' shots where night looks like odd semi-daylight and gets weird highlights. Shot in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision by Director of Photography Gerry Fisher (who just recently passed on; he lensed All The Right Noises, The Go-Between, A Doll's House, the original Highlander, the Mick Jagger Ned Kelly and Lumet's The Offence with Sean Connery) uses the scope frame to suspenseful effect and is why the film can still thrill in part. But the print has some minor detail and color flaws, so expect that too.

All prints used here can show the age of the materials used, but these copies is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on video and can challenge most film prints out there.

The PCM 2.0 Mono on Pit and Baby were obviously recorded low budget and weer theatrical mono releases, but they sound the best they ever have or will on these Blu-rays, also both superior to the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono versions on their respective DVDs, even narrowly so at times.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Wolfen is well mixed and presented in this upgraded mix from the 6-track 4.1 Dolby magnetic soundtrack and Megasound for 70mm blow-up print presentations. Warner added the bass-enhancement Megasound to four of their films officially, including this one and three already in regular Blu-ray release: Superman II (recently restored), Altered States (sounding great on Blu-ray as well) and Outland (which sounds good on Blu-ray, but could use a bit of a sonic upgrade) to increase fidelity and impact (The Exorcist's 1979 70mm reissue might have had some test screenings as well as a few of Blade Runner when it opened, but we could not confirm as of this posting). DBX sound technology was also involved in Megasound, which is always a plus.

Some screening even had the 70mm interlocked with a 35mm print. Either way, because of the way this film was recorded, there is no more room for upgrading, so this is the best it will likely ever sound and that’s not a bad thing. Like a musical, the regular dialogue recording sounds like it is of its time, but when the super-hearing that goes with the 'Wolfen-vision' kicks in sounding younger than its actual age. This is well done and fans of the film and sound format will be impressed.

To order the Wolfen Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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