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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Action > Martial Arts > Cable TV > Comedy > Superhero > Horror > Mystery > British TV > Monster > Ital > Cobra Kai: Seasons 1 & 2 (2018, 2019 DVD Set*)/Cross: Rise Of The Villains (2019/DVD/*both Sony)/Prey (2018/Cinedigm DVD)/Queens Of Mystery (2019/Acorn DVD Set)/Werewolf In A Girls' Dormitory (1961/Se

Cobra Kai: Seasons 1 & 2 (2018, 2019 DVD Set*)/Cross: Rise Of The Villains (2019/DVD/*both Sony)/Prey (2018/Cinedigm DVD)/Queens Of Mystery (2019/Acorn DVD Set)/Werewolf In A Girls' Dormitory (1961/Severin Blu-ray)

Picture: C+/C+/C/C+/B Sound: C+/C+/C/C+/C+ Extras: B-/D/D/C+/B Main Programs: C+/C/C/C+/C+

Here's a wide variety of action and mystery releases, including an unexpected sequel and other interesting throwbacks...

After a trilogy of films and a recent revival, Cobra Kai: Seasons 1 & 2 (2018, 2019) pick up the original theatrical Karate Kid films (the first two, though it is not necessarily ignoring the later two) picking up (not unlike Creed II, if you think about it) with the loser of the big battle from the original films (johnny, played by William Zabka, the underrated actor who can do more than play bullies) barely getting by on fix-it-jobs, still driving around in his late-generation Firebird and not happy with his life.

As he suffers through several events, he discovers Daniel (Ralph Macchio) is expanding his already successful car dealership which makes reference to their surprise encounter all those decades ago. After an encounter where Johnny (in the right) gets in trouble with the cops, he has to take action to not sink lower. This eventually leads to him reopening the karate school he is from and Daniel may not be far behind for the most unexpected reasons.

I have to say I was surprised how well this flowed, working better as a series than expected, albeit semi-predictable. Everyone involved seems to be very serious about making this as honest and smart as possible and that shows in the time and care in the performances and exposition. Still, it becomes a fans-only series, but that is not a bad thing considering the various revivals of older film and TV shows we've seen of late. Most have been unnecessary to be honest, but Cobra Kai has some unfinished business and deals with that the best it can.

Extras include a two-sided headband in our DVD set, while the discs (per the press release) add:

  • Bonus Scenes Saved from the Cutting Room Floor

  • Gag Reels

  • Easter Eggs: The cast and crew take you through their favorite 'Cobra Kai' callbacks to the original THE KARATE KID franchise

  • Fists & Fury: Fight Choreography: Learn about the training and rehearsal process for the biggest action scenes in 'Cobra Kai'

  • Into the Dojo: The Characters: Discover more about your favorite characters from the first two seasons

  • Cast Chemistry Reads

  • Exploring the Musical Identities of Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do with Composers

  • Musical Performances at the Whiskey a Go-Go with Guest William Zabka

Patrick Durham & Paul G. Volk's Cross: Rise Of The Villains (2019) is a sequel to a film few people saw, trying to cash in on the current comic book and superhero trends, casting names that make sense (Vinnie Jones, Danny Trejo and most inarguably, Lou Ferrigno) plus a few overdue to be there (the underrated D.B. Sweeney and Tom Sizemore) and unexpectedly, Brian Austin Greene, who is here because... hey, why not?

Greene (surprise?) is the lead hero, he has to get a villain to join him to fight other villains and unless you saw the last film, have to wing it to keep up with the semi-developed characters who are all made to shamelessly be comic book heroes (versus blockbuster superhero icons for better and worse) and the results are very, very mixed, no matter what preceded before. I never bought Greene in the led, though I have zero against him.

Thus, this is for fans only and if you must see it, you had better see the first one just in case.

There are no extras.

Franck Khalfoun's Prey (2018) is trying to be an old-fashioned thriller like you might have seen from the early 1970s to early 1980s when independent horror movies were being made all the time (miss that) and even tries to have a little bit of that look as Toby (Logan Miller, trying for some kind of star status) joins a strange program that leaves him on an island for a few day s in an attempt to deal with the loss of his father after not being very connected to his family to begin with. No 'bad boy' cliches here.

Unfortunately, like so many groups of teens going to other countries only to be killed in the last slasher cycle that went on way too long, one or more unknown creatures are hunting down any visiting humans and he is among those there who are about to be targeted.

I wished the script was as imaginative and suspenseful as the situation set-up was, but it is squandered on very uneven ideas and pacing. At only 85 minutes, they had something here, but even with Blumhouse co-producing, this was just not well thought out enough and the result are some of the most missed opportunities of anything I have seen this year. Too bad, because they were potentially onto something.

There are no extras.

Queens Of Mystery (2019) is also a throwback to the idea of old mom and pop detective agencies that have also led to key hit shows of the past (Honey West, Moonlighting, even Remington Steele) as Olivia Vinall plays a young 'newly promoted' police detective who happens to have three aunts who run a mystery book store and start to help her out with crime solving. With various publishing jokes around, the aunts keep poking into her affairs for better and worse, though as a side, she is still trying to solve how her mom disappeared two decades earlier/

That just made me wonder if the aunts are so smart, why can't they answer that latter question? The show has issues like that here and there that hold it back from being the next British TV classic, but it still has some good moments and a decent supporting cast including Siobhan Redmond, Julie Graham, Sarah Woodward and Juliet Stevenson doing the show's voice-over narration. The makers clearly love the genre however, so it is worth checking out if you are interested.

Extras include Easter Eggs (10 minutes) and a Behind The Scenes featurette running just over an hour.

Finally we have Richard Benson/Paolo Heusch's Werewolf In A Girls' Dormitory (1961) which is more eerie, yet more amusing than the title would suggest. This Italian/Austrian co-production with plenty of Italian input, has a dorm overseas suddenly plagued with mysterious murders that just might be of a supernatural nature, yet it is only the beginning of the many issues there that are hidden and it will all unravel before all is said and done.

We get some suspense and moments you would not get out of the film were it a U.S. or even U.K. production in a good way, but now this uncut version has been discovered in a vault and that is why we have this new Blu-ray from the Severin label. Carl Schell and Barbara Lass lead the decent cast, Ernesto Gastaldi (All The Colors Of The Dark, reviewed elsewhere on this site) penned another smart screenplay here and Armando Trovajoli created the fitting music, save the song meant for the U.S. release you can hear a snippet of in the extras: ''The Ghoul In School''. Apparently, that was another alternate title and the pre-Beatles Rock N Roll tune might have had aspirations to be a hit, but it did not become ''The Monster Mash'' or the like.

Extras are many and include may not have included ''The Ghoul In School'' in its entirety, but has a reproduction booklet of the ''Directions To Becoming A Werewolf'' promo piece, then the disc adds Bad Moon Rising - Interview with Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, Italian Trailer, US Trailer, an Alternate Opening and a feature length audio commentary track by with actor Curt Lowens and film scholar David Del Valle. Also, our edition included a CD of the original soundtrack, so collector's should try to get that one before it is too late.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Werewolf can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film, scanned in 2K from archival elements found overseas. The film was shot on DuPont 35mm black and white film and that gives it a look different from Kodak, Agfa, Ansco or Gevaert films that help it have a feel we rarely see.

All the DVDs are here in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image presentations, save 2.35 X 1 on Prey, are decent, though Prey tends to be a little softer throughout. Otherwise, all are what we would expect from the older format.

As for sound, Werewolf is here in Italian and English PCM 2.0 Mono versions that sound as good as they can for their age, while the DVDs all have lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, save Queens in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and they are all about on par with each other, save Prey, which for a 5.1 film, sounds a bit low and a little off. The low budget caught up with it.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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