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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Mystery > Thriller > Killer Virus > Horror > Dark Comedy > Mexico > Literature > Drama > P > Andromeda Strain (1971*/**)/Skeleton Of Mrs. Morales (1960/VCI**)/Slaughterhouse-Five (1975/*both Universal/Arrow/**all MVD Blu-ray)/Snatchers (2019/Blu-ray w/DVD***)/Swamp Thing: The Complete Series

Andromeda Strain (1971*/**)/Skeleton Of Mrs. Morales (1960/VCI**)/Slaughterhouse-Five (1975/*both Universal/Arrow/**all MVD Blu-ray)/Snatchers (2019/Blu-ray w/DVD***)/Swamp Thing: The Complete Series (2019/DC Comics Blu-ray/***both Warner)

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

Now for a variety of interesting, unusual genre entries, including some near classics for you to know about...

First, from the mind of Michael Crichton comes the Sci-Fi classic The Andromeda Strain (1971) in a great new 4K restoration on Blu-ray disc from Arrow Video. Directed by Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music), it's interesting to watch this film now in a post-Star Wars world and it holds up surprisingly well in a similar way that 2001 does. While it's not quite as groundbreaking as either of those films mentioned, there's a lot to love about this genre classic and this is certainly the best way to experience it on disc so far.

The film stars Arthur Hill, David Wayne, James Olson, Benjamin Bratt, and Christa Miller.

A satellite causing an alien virus known as 'Andromeda' crashes and infects a New Mexico town. After only a few survivors, government scientists attempt to solve the case of what exactly happened whilst attempting to control it before it spreads.

The Andromeda Strain is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and an original uncompressed PCM Mono audio mix in English LPCM Mono (48kHz, 24-bit). This is a new 4K transfer from the original camera negative and certainly looks much improved over the previous 2015 release of the film on Blu-ray disc and import DVD we covered years ago.

Special Features include:

Audio commentary by critic Bryan Reesman

A New Strain of Science Fiction, a newly-filmed appreciation by critic Kim Newman

The Andromeda Strain: Making The Film, an archive featurette from 2001 directed by Laurent Bouzereau and featuring interviews with director Robert Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding

A Portrait of Michael Crichton, an archive featurette from 2001 directed by Laurent Bouzereau and featuring an interview with author Michael Crichton

Cinescript Gallery, highlights from the annotated and illustrated shooting script by Nelson Gidding

Theatrical trailer, TV spots and radio spots

Image gallery

BD-ROM: PDF of the 192-page 'cinescript' with diagrams and production designs

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley

and FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Peter Tonguette and archive publicity materials.

Rogelio A. Gonzales' The Skeleton Of Mrs. Morales (1960) is a dark, somewhat comic tale of a taxidermist (Arturo de Cordova) who has been in an unhappy marriage for a few decades and his wife (Amparo Rivelles) has been slowly suffocating him in all that time, so he decides the he will just kill her. No divorce, just do it quickly and try to move on, but it will not be that easy as his successful shop exists in harmony with the rest of the local town, its other businesses and residences.

Based on the 1927 book The Islington Mysteries by Arthur Machen, it is another film considered key in Mexican Cinema and is a good film, but not all of it holds up or is as effective as I had hoped, so it is more of a time capsule than a suspense thriller and since it is being darkly comic, has other ideas of where it is going. Acting is good, the editing is not bad and I like the look of the film, but it is just a little uneven throughout, though I could imagine this being more effective back in the day. However, I think fans of Horror and dark comedy, especially with the two combined, will want to give this one and look and it has something else going for it I'll get into in a moment.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer is from a new 4K restoration of the film, but it can show the age of the materials used in the oddest places as this was a film not in the best of shape, so cheers to all those who painstakingly fixed and repaired it to the best of their ability. When it looks good, it looks really good and we even get a few demo shots despite the flaws and has a unique monochrome look to it. Why?

Well, there is a scene early on where one of the main characters goes to a camera shop to buy a still camera (it is made by Kodak) that was common at the time and popular, then he shoots plenty of still pictures later. However, the one thing that is unusual about the shop is that despite the variety and different brands of cameras for sale, ads in Spanish and English are all over the place for film and it is only one brand: Ansco.

A major competitor in the business until owner GAF folded them in 1977, Ansco was an innovative company that broke new ground in light sensibility of their film stocks, had color that was good and different from 3M/Ferrania, Agfa, Kodak, Fuji and other brands of the time and was MGM's first choice of color film for their legendary MetroColor labs before that contract ended. The U.S. Government owned them when they seized them during WWII (the company had merged with Agfa in Germany before WWII and you can figure out the rest) so they used their innovations to film all kinds of vital and important events and the like. Anscochrome had fading issues in the 1940s, but they were eventually resolved by the 1950s and the results were not bad.

I suspect much (if not all) of this film was shot in 35mm negative film form the company in their highly popular and respected Super Hypan film stock and it has a nice look that is not too glossy, yet not too gritty or cheap-looking, so it helps the narrative and atmosphere here well. That is reason alone to see the film besides what else works in it.

The old monophonic sound is presented here in PCM 2.0 Mono sound and though the best efforts have been made to make this sound as clean and clear as possible, the age of the recording, budget limits and any deterioration the soundmaster and surviving sound might have suffered, this has some compression and clarity issues here and there. So be careful of sound switching and high playback levels, but it is fine otherwise.

Extras only include previews for other Mexican films VCI is issuing on Blu-ray, but I would have liked to see more.

The 1975 George Roy Hill genre classic, Slaughterhouse-Five, gets a startling new 4K restoration on Blu-ray disc courtesy of Arrow Video. While it may be hard for some to follow, the film is interestingly put together and quite artfully done. The film centers around a WWII solider named Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) unstuck in time both facing a 1945 attack on Dresden and an unusual trip to a distant planet.

The film stars Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman, Valerie Perrine, Eugene Roche, and Sharon Gans.

Slaughterhouse-Five is presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and original uncompressed mono audio mix in English LPCM Mono (48kHz, 24-bit). This is a brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative, produced by Arrow Video for this release and outshines previous versions of the film on disc. The score by the infamous concert pianist Glenn Gould is key in the mix.

Special Features include:

New feature length audio commentary by author and critic Troy Howarth

New video appreciation with author and critic Kim Newman

Pilgrim's Progress: Playing Slaughterhouse-Five, a new video interview with actor Perry King

Only on Earth: Presenting Slaughterhouse-Five, a new video interview with Rocky Lang, son of executive producer Jennings Lang, about the film's distribution

Unstuck in Time: Documenting Slaughterhouse-Five, a new video interview with behind-the-scenes filmmaker/producer Robert Crawford, Jr.

Eternally Connected: Composing Slaughterhouse-Five, a new video interview with film music historian Daniel Schweiger

Theatrical trailer

and a Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote the book and liked this adaptation, one fans of his and the book consider one of the best adaptations of his work ever and it will probably remain so since his books are not be adapted much and few have the talent and power to do well, so this is a must-see gem indeed.

Snatchers (2019) is a Sci-Fi/Horror comedy centers around a troubled teen who gets pregnant... with an alien. One day after losing her virginity, Sara ends up nine months pregnant miraculously. As she and her best friend start to freak out, Sara ends up delivering the baby creature, however the madness only begins there. Sara and her best friend end up solving the mystery of the weird creature, (which almost resemble face huggers from the Alien films only these ones latch onto the back of the head and control the human body like a remote) as the entire small town gets attacked/possessed by the fast moving monster. Tracing back to a weird curse in Mexico where the guy to whom she initially slept with contracted his curse, they slowly start to figure out how to defeat the beast as an even bigger one hatches!

The film stars Mary Nepi, Austin Fryberger, Nick Gomez, Rich Fulcher, and Amy Landecker and is directed by Stephen Cedars and Benji Kleiman.

Snatchers is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and a lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mix, both of which are up to standards with the format. Also included is an anamorphically enhanced, standard definition DVD with similar specs (the audio is a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital mix) and a digital HD copy. Despite its low budget, the film has some nice production value.

Special Features include:

The Birth of Snatchers: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

Unexpected: The Snatchers Blooper Reel

and a Feature length Audio Commentary featuring Directors and Writers Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman, and Writer Scott Yacyshyn.

Snatchers has a fun 1980s vibe horror-comedy in the vein of something like Shaun of the Dead. The film has a lot of gore and decent special effects in it that should satisfy horror fans as well as well as a pair of charming leading young ladies.

Last but not least, Swamp Thing has always been one of DC Comics' most interesting characters albeit criminally underused. Originally the title character of a classic Alan Moore graphic novel, he later became a leading member of the Justice League Dark in the pages of the comics (and the feature animated series reviewed elsewhere on this site). As far as live action iterations go, Swamp Thing had two cinematic appearances in the 1980s and a different television series in the 1990s, and here finally gets a modern reemergence in live action with this new DC Universe streaming series that is a welcome R-rated adaptation.

Now we have a Swamp Thing: The Complete Series for 2019, and while the show won't be getting renewed for another season reportedly due to reasons that the studio has not been too clear about, the show itself isn't half bad and is welcomely quite dark with impressive special effects. The character of Swamp Thing is very well done and is definitely the best looking iteration of him on screen as of this writing and very faithful to the original source material. Why DC would cancel its best show is beyond me, but here we are. Swamp Thing is great and miles better than the CW Superhero programs which, at this point, have become convoluted.

Swamp Thing stars Crystal Reed, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Virginia Madsen, Jennifer Beals, and Will Patton to name a few. The series is produced by Aquaman director James Wan and directed by the creator of the Underworld franchise (and a lackluster Die Hard sequel), Len Wiseman.

10 Episodes include Pilot, Worlds Apart, He Speaks, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Drive All Night, The Price you Pay, Brilliant Disguise, Long Walk Home, The Anatomy Lesson, and Loose Ends. Reports say that the show was initially 13 episodes, but got reduced to ten after behind the scenes issues. Here, they span two Blu-ray discs and are presented uncut and commercial (and watermark) free for easy binging.

Swamp Thing is presented in 1080p high definition with a 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a 5.1 DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless mix, both of which look fine in an HD upscale. The show is very cinematic looking and feels like a big budget movie with high production value. The film looks and sounds fine with no complaints.

No extras, sadly.

- Nicholas Sheffo (Skeleton) and James Lockhart



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