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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Psychological > Literature > Sequel > Western > Genocide > Spanish > Canada > Cr > Doctor Sleep 4K (2019/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Hudson River Massacre (1965*)/My Life Is Murder (2019/Acorn Blu-rays)/Mysterious Mr. 'X' (1946*)/Red Rider (1934*)/Roaring West (1935/*all M

Doctor Sleep 4K (2019/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Hudson River Massacre (1965*)/My Life Is Murder (2019/Acorn Blu-rays)/Mysterious Mr. 'X' (1946*)/Red Rider (1934*)/Roaring West (1935/*all MVD/VCI Blu-rays)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A Picture: B+/C+/B/C+/C+/C+ Sound: A/C+/B-/C/C+/C+ Extras: B/C-/C/D/C/C- Main Programs: B+/C+/B-/C+/C+/C+

Up next are a group of new releases, all connected to the past in one way or another....

Michael Flanagan's Doctor Sleep (2019) is the sequel to Stephen King's The Shining and serves as both a big screen adaptation of King's novel of the same name and a sequel to Stanley Kubrick's genre classic The Shining (1970) maintaining much of the imagery of the former. 2019 was a big year for several Stephen King cinematic adaptations including the IT sequel and various television adaptations, and I think this one kind of got lost in the shuffle with its post Halloween release date.

Starring the ever so talented Ewan McGregor as adult Danny Torrence, the film is a fun thrill ride and an entertaining entry to The Shining universe. The film arrives on 4K UHD and Blu-ray combo pack in both its theatrical version and extended Director's Cut (regular Blu-ray only), which alternate, extended, and deleted scenes that help flesh out story points closer to the novel.

The film also stars Rebecca Ferguson (who does a great job here after last year's The Mummy with Tom Cruise - reviewed elsewhere on this site), Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, and Zahn McClarnon.

Danny Torrence, still scared from his frightening childhood experience at the sinister Overlook Hotel, is now a grown man trying to shut out the evil spirits around him. When he meets a young girl (Curran) who also has 'the shining', he discovers a group of drifter vampire-like immortality seekers that are after the girl to suck out her life-force. Feeding on the life forces of people who have this gift of 'the shine', Torrence ends up facing off against Abra (Ferguson) who is the leader of the pack, in a final confrontation at the Overlook.

My only gripe is that the Director's Cut is NOT on the 4K UHD disc and only in the (also included) 1080p Blu-ray only. Likely due to the fact that the Director's Cut is 30 minutes longer... but still disappointing. Not sure what happened there. At any rate, the Blu-ray has the same audio and widescreen specs in a 1080p master as opposed to 2160p.

Special Features include the following featurettes:

Commentary on the Director's Cut

Return to the Overlook

The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision

and From Shining to Sleep

Also included is a digital copy.

Doctor Sleep deserves more attention than it got initially and I hope that it finds that now that it is on 4K UHD and Blu-ray.

Amando de Ossorio's Hudson River Massacre (1965) also takes place in an isolated location, but this Spanish-language Western action drama actually takes place in Canada (!!!) has the famous (an d much imitated) Hudson Bay Company (supported by the British) trying to push out independent trappers, but in the face of death threats, terrorism, kidnapping and murder, fight back resulting in the action seen here. The back of the case says it is a Spaghetti Western and that has some validity, but it also is a precursor to Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate (1980) which pulled out all the stops and literally went for broke.

Save Pamela Tudor, I did not recognize the names or actors by face as I watched, but they give it their best and this is not the longest film, yet despite its budget limits and flaws, they play it well enough that you buy the period it takes place in and costuming and sets are not bad considering. If is is a Western of any kind, it becomes a Revenge Western when the brother of the main character is killed by the British. Only bits and pieces of this stayed with me, but that is still better than most big budget messes we've been getting lately, so if this is your kind of film, you might want to give this one a try.

There are sadly no extras, save trailers for other Spanish releases from VCI on Blu-ray.

Another surprise is Xena actress Lucy Lawless coming back to TV with the Australian production My Life Is Murder (2019) where she convincingly plays a retired detective trying to get on with her life when one of her old friends comes to her for help in a particularly difficult case. The show is smart, has humor, she shows she can act and it has an energy and pace that is better than most of the now-played out police procedurals we have been getting.

Whether this will continue or not, we get 10 episodes, meaning the first case leads to others and we get more about her life throughout, though being set in Australia is a plus and I can see why people would like this one. The only thing that is annoying is her name is Alexa, now the name of a particularly annoying device. Otherwise, those interested in a different variant of such TV fiction should take a look, or just see Lawless at her personal best.

Extras include some animated shorts and a 17-minutes-long Behind The Scenes featurette.

We conclude with three Saturday Morning Movie Serial Chapter Plays originally produced by Universal Pictures decades ago, competing with Republic (its predecessors) and Columbia Pictures in this market that lasted until TV arrived. The Mysterious Mr. 'X' (1946) is a fun action piece made towards the end of the pre-nuclear era as a scientist creates an engine for a submarine so incredible, it can power a submarine for days. Too bad some bad people want to steal it for their own use.

The cliffhangers here are amusing, but we get some visual effects that are a little more sloppy than usual (even for the time) for such a production of the time, but there are laughs (some unintentional) to be had and when this does work, it is fun. The opening credits imitate the opening of Universal's Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes films (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and there is some (simpler) mystery here, of course.

Even a few shots look Noirish or at least like the better detective films of the time, a doctor goes missing the the bad guys are using a mysterious chemical from Africa to hypnotize people and brainwash them into doing things they would not otherwise do. Though not the best ever of its kind, this one has its moments (including some murder attempts that are not bad) and those interested should give it a good look.

There are sadly no extras.

Next up are two serials that are inarguably Westerns, starting with one of the most famous hero characters of the genre you do not hear much about today: Red Rider (1934). Buck Jones plays the title Sheriff 'Red' Davidson of Sun Dog, keeping criminals out of his town single-handedly, running into more trouble than usual when he saves a friend from being falsely hanged. Soon, he runs into a web of criminality he might not have initially expected. However, he's ready for anything.

To tis credit, the 15 chapters have lots of fights, chases, gunfire, gunfights and energy, even more so than later filmed adaptations of the character (eclipsed in part by time and a bit of the Lone Ranger) that are not bad, but never quite as convincing as this version, which might be the best ever for the character. Jones was a big star in his time and he is too forgotten too, yet he plays this well and the camera likes him just enough that we can see why he was a big star in these kinds of productions at the time.

Cliches, formula and some stereotypes aside, it is one of the better Western Serials ever made, albeit a little dated and mixed at times.

Extras include a stills/poster section, featurette on the character by Daniel Griffith and episode of an unreleased TV pilot with Jones for ''The Filming Of The West''.

Finally, we have Jones a year later in another serial, The Roaring West (1935) and though Universal could have produced a sequel serial (they did three Buster Crabbe/Flash Gordon serials), they have him as “Montana' - the moral center of a gold rush story where too many are out for themselves and a few criminal types with even kill for the gold itself. Another 15 chapters in length, this has about as much energy as Red Rider, but a little darker since he is not an established hero off the bat and the stakes are higher.

The result is some overlap with the previous production, sometimes on purpose for the benefit of the fans, but another winner with about as much energy and a little more darkness visually. It is probably best to watch the two back to back in the order of first theatrical release. Fans should be pleased too.

Except for the unaired TV episode, this set repeats the two extras from Red Rider.

Doctor Sleep is presented on 4K UHD disc with a 2160p HEVC/H.265, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image and a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and audio mixed in lossless 11.1 Dolby Atmos (mixdown Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), and English lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps). The film is highly cinematic and definitely looks fresh and inspired, obviously, quite a bit by Kubrick's visual style in segments. The score has a lot of similar motifs from the Kubrick film as well and exploits them every chance given. There's several scenes with a simple heart beat to help elevate the tension, and it works pretty well.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Murder looks good for an HD shoot, taking advantage of the color and locations Down Under throughout, as well as its star and cast, so it is also more pleasant than most police procedurals that try to look dark these days and just seem to try too hard. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix has Pro Logic-like surrounds and is well recorded.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Hudson also has some good color, but the source is not in the best of shape, so you get some good sho0ts and more than a few flawed ones. However, it was shot to look good and you can see that in the shots that have aged best. The sound is a PCM 2.0 English dub that sounds very compressed and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Spanish Mono that sounds more authentic and is recommended as the preferred way to watch the film.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on all three serials are from new 2K scans of their 35mm film masters, but still can show the age of the materials used, yet we get some fine shots and clean ones throughout. By sticking all the chapters on two Blu-rays (save Mysterious all on one), you still get some compression, but the idea is to keep the action going for fans with the least amount of interruptions. That means you can get flatness in many shots, but they all look as good as you are likely to ever see them outside of an actual quality film print. All also feature their original optical monophonic sound presented here in PCM 2.0 Mono that is not bad, but shows the age, technical limits and low budgets of the time.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (4K)



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