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Category:    Home > Reviews > War > China > Epic > Horror > Vampire > Murder > Thriller > Giallo > Italy > Action > Gangster > Crime > Great War Of Archimedes (2019*)/Jakob's Wife (2021/RLJ Blu-ray)/Puzzle (1974/VCI**)/Strike Commando (1986) + 2 (1988/Severin**)/Ten Minutes To Midnight (2020**)/Undercover Punch & Gun (2019/*both Well

Great War Of Archimedes (2019*)/Jakob's Wife (2021/RLJ Blu-ray)/Puzzle (1974/VCI**)/Strike Commando (1986) + 2 (1988/Severin**)/Ten Minutes To Midnight (2020**)/Undercover Punch & Gun (2019/*both Well Go Blu-ray)/Years Of Lead (1973 - 1977/Arrow/**all MVD Blu-rays)

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

Here's a group of genre films from all over the place for your consideration...

After WWI, Japan's admirals were thinking of upgrading their navy, but they fought over should their new flagship be a destroyer or a carrier class ship. Kai, a young mathematician gets recruited by an admiral to prove and discredit his rival admiral's ship designs and the truth about funding their new 'battleship' in Takashi Yamazaki's The Great War Of Archimedes (2019).

Kai is a genius mathematician and wants nothing to do with the military or navy after being discredit by them, but then the Admiral needs Kai's ability to calculate how much would it really cost to build the world's largest battleship and they need the calculations in two weeks. The Admiral convinces Kai to join when he tells him that war is inevitable between Japan and America. However, Kai is given the short end of the stick when the other side go out of their way to prevent Kai from getting any 'classified' information. After much hardship, everyone saying it can't be done, he discovers a fatal flaw in the ships design that could cause the ship to sink before it even reaches battle, then the rival Admiral reveals the battleship is not there to protect or win the next war, but a sacrifice, Japan's pride must suffer a blow or lose the country itself in the next war.

This was a historical fiction of how Japan greatest battleship the Yamato was created and then sunk during the war. The story was about the history of battleships, how carriers became the next ships to become the turn in the tide of wars.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is of a nice HD shoot with some money in it and consistency, a decent use of scope framing, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is up to matching the action sonically. Extras includes trailers.

One of the better vampire films in a while, Jakob's Wife (2021) brings back '80s scream queen Barbara Crampton (Re-animator) as the wife to a small town pastor whose life at the beginning of the film is pretty boring and mundane. Married for decades and the married life tired, she decides to meet up with an old fling from out of town for dinner. They go to an old make-out spot, but unbeknownst to them is now home to a vicious female Vampire that has targeted her for a vicious immortal plot. Soon after she is bitten and starts to develop a thirst for blood and other vampiric qualities, what will her devout Pastor husband think once he catches her in the act of murder in an attempt to satisfy her new thirst for blood?

The film also stars Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Sarah Lind, and Mark Kelly.

Jakob's Wife is a fun horror film with a subtle nod to other vampire films especially Salem's Lot in the way that the vampires look, the small town vampiric feel of Fright Night, and the appearance of rats which is a famous trait in Nosferatu and Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula. Crampton's performance is sexy and fun and she shows that she still has great range after all of these years, and isn't afraid to take some risks with the role. The direction by Travis Stevens (Girl on the Third Floor) is fine in many interestingly shot sequences in this film will was favorably reviewed and received.

Jakob's Wife is presented in 1080p high definition with an MPEG-4 AVC codec and a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and a lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mix, both of which are of the norm for the format. The film is shot and produced very high end for an indie film project and will be a fine addition to the Shudder / RLJE library!

Special Features:

Deleted Scenes

and a Making of Featurette

If you're a fan of vampire movies then I would definitely suggest Jakob's Wife, as it's a fun and solid reimagining that has several nods to classics, and a great performance by Barbara Crampton.

Duccio Tessari's Italian giallo, Puzzle (1974) is now available on Blu-ray from VCI in a collectible new edition. The film centers on a man who wakes up with amnesia after a car accident who forgets months of his life and the fact that he has a wife in Italy. As he travels to Italy to met her, he finds out that the events he's forgetting involves crime and murder.

The film stars Luc Merenda, Senta Berger, Umberto Orsini, Anita Strindberg, and Bruno Corazzari.

Puzzle is presented in 1080p high definition with an MPEG-4 AVC codec and a widescreen aspect ratio 2.35 X 1 with a lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (320 kbps) mix. The image is a new 4K master but the colors still feel a bit off as maybe the source material wasn't in the best of shape. All things considered, I'm sure this is the best the film can look and has looked in a while. There's an anamorphically enhanced DVD version also included with similar audio and a more compressed widescreen image.

Special Features:

Feature Length Audio Commentary by critic Kat Ellinger

Giallo Poster Gallery

Liner Notes by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of The Giallo Canvas: Art, Excess and Horror Cinema

and Italian and English Theatrical Trailers of Blood and Black Lace and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

Next up are two Rambo-knock-offs by Director Vincent Dawn: Strike Commando (1986) and its 2 sequel (1988) telling us the tales of soldier of fortune Sgt. Mike Ransom. The first film features one-time Captain America (in the late 1970s telefilms from Universal) and Uncommon Valor star Reb Brown in the role, playing it for humor and being more amusing than anything we got in 90% of the usually really bad films in this cycle. Another action actor Hollywood gave up on way too soon, he is able to carry the film well enough and does his best, but the script is flat and formulaic. If you did not like the humor there, the sequel repeats much of it minus intended laughs.

This time though, Brown was not able to do the film, so the makers hired Brent Huff from Perils Of Gwendoline (1984, with the recently deceased Tawny Kitaen, also issued on Blu-ray by Severin) to play the role. This stopped it from being any kind of viable series and some of the Brown art is actually used on the disc. Its just more of the same, but some might like it not so humorous. The big curio in the sequel is that the great Richard Harris shows up.

If nothing else, they are curios and have likable actors. Otherwise, they are time capsules and not much worse than later, actual Rambo sequels.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition images on both discs are 2K scans from the original 35mm original camera negatives, shot cheaply, color and detail are not going to get much better, nor is depth, but each has some good shots. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes are also new and a bit rough, showing their age in dubbing, mixing and the films' budget limits. This is as good as they will ever get, but you can hear them well enough.

Extras include Original Theatrical Trailers on each respective disc, with the first film adding an In-Production Promo and two on-camera interviews (War Machine with Screenwriter Claudio Fragasso, All Quiet On The Philippine Front with Co-Writer Rossella Drudi) and the second film also adds a pair of interviews (Guerrilla Zone with Fragasso, Michael Ransom Strikes Back with Actor Brett Huff).

Caroline Williams (star of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) finds herself back in a DJ booth as the leading lady in this bizarre vampire movie, Ten Minutes To Midnight (2020). The first act of the film is interesting and has the potential to set up an interesting movie until it suddenly takes a left turn into an absolutely bonkers second act, and then a third act that falls flatter than flat. Despite Miss Williams giving her all, the movie becomes too convoluted and shifts tones completely from horror movie to utter nonsense by the time it's done. It is almost as if the writers started running out of ideas halfway through and decided to make it a nightmare sort of scenario as an easy escape. The final sequence when (spoliers) - characters change bodies in a sort of bizarre and comical grab (or maybe David Lynch inspired? I'm not sure what they were going for here), turned out to be quite annoying by the film's final frames.

The film also stars Nicole Kang, Nicholas Tucci, William Yourmans, Adam Weppler, and Alice Kremelberg. The film is directed by Eric C. Bloomquist, who did alright on that Project Greenlight show a few years back.

Williams plays a late night talk show host who goes into the radio station one night during a storm having been bit on the neck by a bat. As she settles into her station she encounters various co-workers who all contribute to her bizarre evening full of tension and madness. When she bites a young co-worker (Kang), dodges her scummy boss (Yournans), and attracts a young DJ (Weppler), it doesn't take long before she's in the bathroom so desperate for blood that she tries to extract it from a used tampon. It just gets weirder and weirder from there.

Ten Minutes To Midnight is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec and a 1.78 X 1 widescreen aspect ratio and audio mixes in lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 and 5.1, all of which are the norm for the format and come across fine. The photography of the film is solid and it has a lot of interesting lighting that's captured fine here.

Special Features:

Teaser / BTS Featurette / Commentary / Interviews / Intros

I was enjoying Ten Minutes To Midnight at first, but started to lose interest once it became too convoluted and silly for its own good by the finale sadly. Caroline Williams does her best with the material however. It might have been a better short film in all honesty.

Officer Wu is an undercover cop in the mob, but his drug bust goes south and his cover gets blown when from another separate undercover law enforcement suddenly gets involved. Now both sides must set aside their differences to stop an international drug kingpin who rules the high seas and has an army of soldiers behind him in Koon-Nam Lui and Frankie Tam's Undercover Punch & Gun (2019).

Wu is an undercover agent in the mob and the right-hand man of the 'boss', but in a trade with a rival gang, goes south when another secret agency blows up the drugs and steals the cash and his 'boss' ends up dead. Wu suddenly finds himself as the new 'boss', but now he and the other agency must catch the Kingpin behind his former-boss. Things get even more complicated when he learns the Kingpin was also a former undercover agent gone rogue and turn his entire unit into his private army and on top of that he has absolute control of a supertanker for smuggling drugs, human trafficking and stolen goods. The Kingpin is untouchable on international waters for regular law enforcement, he knows all their tactics and has an army of elite mercenaries guarding the tanker.

This was an action filled movie with a lot of action, shoot outs and martial arts. The all the actors did their best and own stunts, then during the credits they showed their bloopers. It definitely feels like they were trying to become the next 'Jackie Chan', but there were plenty of side characters and drama and at times it was almost cliche or funny.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is another consistent HD shoot that has its moments without going bonkers, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is well thought out and adds tot he suspense and action. Extras only include trailers.

Finally, Arrow Video presents a new box set of 1970s Italian crime thrillers in, Years of Lead: 1973-1977, the films include Vittorio Salerno's Savage Three (1975), Mario Imperoli's Like Rabid Dogs (1976), Massimo Dallamano's Colt 38 Special Squad (1976). Stelvio Massi's Highway Racer (1977), and Salerno's No, the Case is Happily Resolved (1973). The films pair well together though my personal favorite was Savage Three as it features Warhol alum Joe Dallesandro and is a bit more entertaining than the rest of the bunch.

The films feature stars Enrico Maria Salerno, Martine Brochard, Nestore Cavaricci, Salvatore Borghese, Enzo Cerusico and Maurizio Merli to name a few.

Years of Lead features all five films in 1080p Blu-ray and have been restored from the original camera negatives, including a brand new 2K restoration of Colt 38 Special Squad exclusive to this release fans won't want to miss. Widescreen aspect ratios vary by film from 2.35 X 1, 1.85 X 1. As for the audio, there are original lossless mono Italian audio mixes for each release with English subtitles - lossless Italian DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Mono. There's also original lossless mono English audio exclusive to Colt 38 Special Squad.

Special Features:

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack on Colt 38 Special Squad

New visual essay by critic Will Webb

Interview with director Vittorio Salerno and actress Martine Brochard on Savage Three

Interview with actor Joe Dallesandro on Savage Three

Interview with cinematographer Romano Albani and historian Fabio Melelli on Like Rabid Dogs

Interview with assistant director Claudio Bernabei on Like Rabid Dogs

Like Rabid Dogs music sampler

Interview and introduction by composer Stelvio Cipriani on Colt 38 Special Squad

Interview with editor Antonio Siciliano on Colt 38 Special Squad

Interview with historian Roberto Curti on Highway Racer

Interview with director Vittorio Salerno on No, the Case is Happily Resolved

No, the Case is Happily Resolved alternate ending


Poster galleries

Reversible sleeves featuring original artwork for all five films

and a high quality Booklet featuring new writing by Troy Howarth, Michael Mackenzie, Rachael Nisbet, Kat Ellinger and James Oliver.

- Nicholas Sheffo (Strike), Ricky Chiang (Well Go) and James Lockhart



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