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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Noir > Child Murder > Argentina > Thriller > Virus > No Escape (1993/Pathe/Unearthed*)/Two Witches (2021/Arrow w/CD/*all MVD Blu-rays)

El Vampiro Negro (1953/aka The Black Vampire/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)/Emergency Declaration (2022/Well Go Blu-ray)/HALO: Season One (2022/Showtime/Paramount Blu-ray Set)/Moonchild (1994/Visual Vengeance/Wild Eye*)/No Escape (1993/Pathe/Unearthed*)/Two Witches (2021/Arrow w/CD/*all MVD Blu-rays)

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

Here's another wild group of genre releases to look into...

Roman Vinoly Baretto's El Vampiro Negro (1953/aka The Black Vampire) is a film from Argentina that sounds like it might be a great supernatural vampire thriller, but in fact, it is a little-seen, little-known remake of Fritz Lang's 1931 classic 'M' with Peter Lorre (reviewed elsewhere on this site) that wants to try the story from a few different angles, but lands up being as much a revisiting of Sir Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) as any Lang film.

Still offering some sense of Noir and being graphic and chilling in its own way, it cannot totally escape the shadow of the original, but its use of local locales and footage of Chicago from another film produced by the same studio, has it moments. Just not enough of them are silent and the visuals range from impressive to standard. Nathan Pinzon takes on Lorre's role as the killer and I give him credit for allowing himself to be sick and sickening, no matter how humiliating or bizarre the results are. Roberto Escalada is the prosecutor who has his own issues and the cast includes major actors of Argentine Cinema of the time.

Running a tight 90 minutes, it can be very effective and it is yet another great save by Flicker Alley and their partners of a key film that was in serious jeopardy of being lost forever. They also saved Baretto's equally impressive The Beast Must Die (1952, reviewed elsewhere on this site and also not a horror genre film) so I definitely recommend it and hope we see more gems from Baretto and Argentina get saved.

Extras include a high quality Souvenir Booklet featuring an essay by Imogen Sara Smith, with rare original photographs, posters, and ephemera, while the discs add (per the press release):

Introduction to El vampiro negro (The Black Vampire) by author, film historian, and ''noirchaeologist'' Eddie Muller.

The 3 Faces of 'M': a critical comparison of the three versions of M, produced by Steven C. Smith and writer/film historian Alan K. Rode, and featuring interviews with writer/film historian Imogen Sara Smith, biographer Patrick McGilligan, biographer Stephen Youngkin, film critic Beth Accomando, Eddie Muller, and Alan K. Rode.

Art in the Blood: an interview with visual artist Daniel Vinoly, son of visionary director Roman Vinoly Barreto.

and a Feature-Length Audio Commentary by Argentina's leading film archivist and cinema historian Fernando Martín Pena.

Han Jae-rim's Emergency Declaration (2022) is a South Korean thriller where passengers on a commercial airplane flight are apparently infected or about to be infected with a deadly virus, courtesy of a terrorist suspect on a plane heading for the Unites States. When someone dies, madness kicks in, the plane has to be stopped and it can only stay in the sky so long. Remarkably, it has enough fuel for this film to run two hours, twenty minutes!

A someone melodramatic action thriller of sorts, we have seen much of this before and it oddly has the style of a 1990s Hollywood action film with its post-MTV editing style and sometimes, look, but it is also an uneven film throughout with acting that fits the genre. Outside of that, it never totally feels real or palpable, yet it is interesting to watch in more spots than not, accompanied by a decent budget and ambitious sound design. Not awful, it is only for the most interested.

Extras include four behind the scenes clips, an Original Theatrical Trailer and more trailers for more Well Go releases.

Based on the extremely popular video game, HALO: Season One (2022) finally got made by Showtime after many stops and starts, including Peter Jackson almost making a feature film of it with a huge budget before Microsoft and participating studio could not see eye to eye on who would cover the budget. Natascha McElhone, Charlie Murphy and Bokeem Woodbine are among the more familiar actors in a cast that includes some new or recent names and faces you might recognize and Amblin Television (Spielberg's production company) is a co-producer.

Though some ideas and items are familiar and we have seen some of this before and not just in past HALO-related releases, I was surprised how much the teleplays were able to stick to the massive amount of material the hit game and the world its grown into (for what I have seen of it over the years) that exists. Still, its ironic now that we get a live action version of the game, it can still look more like CGI-only releases tied to it we covered in the past.

Thus, this is still a for-fans-only affair, but the makers are going all out in Star Wars TV series fashion to make this work and that makes it unexpectedly interesting in a way you might be surprised by. The acting fits the scenarios, but nothing stands out. It still has issues simply being based on a videogame, even one of the most successful and beloved to date, but it remains its own thing and that is not easy. Now it gets a high quality in this release, plus a 4K version that is also supposed to launch the same day. Now you can judge for yourself.

Extras are thorough and include (per the press release) 75 minutes of behind the scenes footage included in:

Dissecting the Battle of Madrigal: The HALO crew takes you behind the scenes to dissect one of the most important moments of the show, the Battle of Madrigal.

Becoming Spartans: Our larger-than-life heroes introduce one another and share their thoughts on the process of becoming Spartans. Master Chief, Kai, Riz, Vannak and Soren recollect their memories from training and early bootcamp to the epic result we see on screen. Showrunner Steven Kane and director Otto Bathurst join the Spartan team to reveal the challenges and joy of creating near-perfect superhumans encountering imperfectly human emotions for the very first time.

Creating the Costumes of HALO: Costume designer Giovanni Lipari brings insight into the creation of the 5 different worlds shown in HALO: SEASON ONE. Giovanni shares not only the process of creating the costumes and styles for each of the planets, but provides background and history for the different groups and their connection to one another.

Weapons and Vehicles of HALO: Master Chief's assault rifle or the sound of a warthog? Two emblematic tools of the HALO universe. Property Master Andrew Orlando leads us through the steps of the realization of Covenant and Spartan weapons from initial design to final construction. Sophie Becher, Production Designer, joins in to share details about the newly invented spaceships of this one-of-a-kind universe. There is no HALO without the sound and look of warthogs, and Picture Vehicle Coordinator Paradi Sandor Jr. joins to tell us how it and other HALO vehicles were conceived.

The World of HALO: Join us for an inside conversation with Executive Producer Kiki Wolfkill, Director Otto Bathurst, Showrunner Steven Kane, Pablo Schreiber and other cast members as they break down how the story and characters of this sci-fi epic game were brought to the screen.

Adapting HALO: The HALO production teams give viewers an inside look at how visual effects, artful direction, and purposeful set design were used to create the show's otherworldly look and feel. They share how each setting is unique and immersive, and built on a massive scale.

The Culture of The Covenant: Take an exclusive tour alongside remarkable talent, visual effects artists and production teams who show us how they brought to life the setting and aliens that make up The Covenant.

The Lake of Eternal Life: A Song from HALO's Score: A behind-the-scenes look at thestudio recording of the funeral song, ''The Lake of Eternal Life'' sung by Jaram Lee.

The Making of Cortana: Actress Jen Taylor discusses her character's emotional journey throughout the series and reveals how the filmmakers brought Cortana to life on screen.

HALO: The Series: Declassified 101 - 109:

101: In this premiere episode of HALO: The Series: Declassified, Sydnee is joined by the Master Chief himself, Pablo Schreiber, Master Chief's highly advanced A.I., Cortana, and AEW professional wrestler Adam Cole.

102: Host Sydnee Goodman takes viewers behind the scenes of Episode 2 ("Unbound") with actor Bokeem Woodbine, Director Otto Bathurst, as well as some lucky fans who got to attend the red-carpet premiere of HALO: The Series.

103: We dive into Episode 3, "Emergence." Here, host Sydnee Goodman talks with star Charlie Murphy (Makee). Plus, see how the show built one of its most impressive sets and meet some of the most passionate HALO fans in the world.

104: Host Sydnee Goodman welcomes Cortana herself, Jen Taylor! They discuss Jen's longtime role as Master Chief's fan-favorite A.I and how bringing the character to life on TV brought new challenges. Plus, get a lesson in the Covenant language of Sangheili from the linguists who created it. Then, passionate HALO fans explain what Master Chief means to them. Finally, get a special look behind the scenes of the incredible visual effects of HALO: The Series, including how the talented artists brought Cortana to live action.

105: In this installment of HALO: The Series: Declassified, host Sydnee Goodman talks with Kate Kennedy (Kai-125). Plus, behind the scenes of the stunts and weapons of HALO: The Series and a look at the world's largest HALO collection.

106: Host Sydnee Goodman is joined by Natascha McElhone (Dr. Halsey) to explore the complicated nature of Halsey's work with the Spartans. Plus, we visit Spartan bootcamp, talk with composer Sean Callery, and more.

107: Host Sydnee Goodman chats with actress Yerin Ha (Kwan Ha) about her character's journey from average kid to freedom fighter. Plus, enjoy a visit from actor Wil Wheaton, a closer look at iconic Halo vehicles, and plenty of Easter Eggs.

108: In this installment of HALO: The Series: Declassified, host Sydnee Goodman welcomes star Olive Gray (Dr. Miranda Keyes) to discuss their approach to a character that has complicated relationships with everyone around her. Plus, behind the scenes with Director Jonathan Liebesman, a cosplay tutorial, and more.

109: On the finale installment of HALO: The Series: Declassified, host SydneeGoodman welcomes Executive Producer Kiki Wolfkill and ExecutiveProducer/Showrunner Steven Kane to dive deep into all the big events, so far. Plus, enjoy a thank you from the cast and crew and an enlightening discussion about reflecting the real world in sci-fi.

And we had the bonus of seven collectible art cards included with our edition, so expect that is a limited edition goodie that will not last forever.

Todd Sheets' shot-on-analog-video horror/ sci-fi/ action/ martial arts epic Moonchild (1994) is a werewolf action movie that has a high budget concept but amateur execution. In a dark future, a super soldier is fused with DNA with a wolf, becoming a Wolfman Warrior of sorts. The film has a Troma-style charm and was made with a lot of heart and so it's an honest effort. If you like shoestring budget campy films.

The film stars Auggi Alvarez, Kathleen McSweeny, and Julie King.

Special Features are plentiful in this release, which I have to applaud:

Limited Edition Slipcase by The DudE: FIRST PRESSING ONLY

BONUS Audio CD of the movie soundtrack

New audio commentary with Director Todd Sheets and star Auggi Alvarez

Second New audio commentary with Director Todd Sheets and Visual Vengeance

Alternate VHS cut of Moonchild as originally released

Wolf Moon Rising: The Making of Moonchild documentary

Archival behind the scenes cast interviews

Original VHS trailer

Deleted Ending

Music Video by Descension

Short film: Sanguinary Desires

Visual Vengeance Trailers

Four Page Liner notes by Matt Desiderio of Horror Boobs

Folded mini-poster

'Stick your own' VHS sticker sheet

and a Reversible Sleeve featuring original VHS art.

Martin Campbell's No Escape (1993) was made in Australia, but produced by the French studio Pathe with some Hollywood backing (Columbia Pictures and now defunct Savoy Pictures) in a dystopian tale set in 2022. In this future with awful environmental issues (worse than the actual 2022) give us a prison system that is now totally owned by private corporations and not run by any government entity. So much for civil rights.

When a group of prisoners is brought to a maximum security facility with the 'latest technology' they are told it is a modern Alcatraz and hear the title describe how air tight it is, run by a slightly mad warden (Michael Lerner in odd casting) while the prison has two tribes (run by Stuart Wilson and Lance Henriksen, respectively) with new prisoners in between. Ray Liotta, proving he could always do more than gangster films, the screenplay skips political commentary and some realism for an all-out action film that plays like The Most Dangerous Game (1932) meets most genre films Producer Gale Ann Hurd made in the genre.

At least it achieves its own look, feel and density throughout, but never totally capitalizes on it, though I know there was some editing here and there, we only know of some censorship and no major content cuts that might have changed the film i.e., missing scenes. Still, it holds up better for its age than you might expect with Liotta as the hero and Wilson ultimately the real bad guy. The additional cast that also helps includes Ernie Hudson, Kevin Dillon, Don Henderson, Jack Shepherd, Ian McNeice and Kevin J. O'Connor, the latter of which you may have seen in several other films to even TV shows, but did not know who they were by name.

All in all, its a film I always wished had worked better than it did, maybe stopped short by just wanting to be upscale Oz-ploitation (?) and is now more of a curio than ever, especially with its future year here and the too-soon loss of Liotta. For all of its issues, it is still worth a look.

As a side note, privately-owned prisons became a highly debated item very recently and in the State of Pennsylvania, a scheme involving actual judges and juvenile court turned out to be unbelievable as they were being secretly paid to send minors to actual prison for doing almost nothing just to collect the cash as the situation was semi-privatized. Sad.

Extras include (per the press release):

  • 'SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST: DIRECTING NO ESCAPE': A new interview with filmmaker Martin Campbell

  • 'WELCOME TO THE FUTURE: THE SCI-FI WORLDS OF GALE ANNE HURD': A new interview with producer Gale Anne Hurd

  • 'PENAL COLONY: WRITING NO ESCAPE': A new interview with co-writer Joel Gross

  • Vintage Making of Featurettes

  • Alternate Intro

  • Original Theatrical Trailer

  • TV Spots

  • and a Photo Gallery

The award winning film Two Witches (2021) gets a new Blu-ray edition from Arrow Video that is well deserved as it is an effective supernatural thriller. A modern day and unsettling watch, this nail biting film focuses on two powerful witches, each who latch onto a host and squeeze their lives into horrific endings. Directed by first time director Pierre Tsigardis, the film looks great on Blu-ray disc and is recommended viewing for genre fans. Divided into chapters, the film stars with a creepy witch who stalks a young pregnant woman and her husband and the second section focuses on a troubled young woman who idolizes her roommate to an unsettling degree. The film features great performances, inspired photography and directing, and a solid ending.

The film stars Rebekah Kennedy, Kristina Klebe (Rob Zombie's Halloween), Tim Fox, Belle Adams, Dina Silva, and Danielle Kennedy.

Special Features include:

Brand new audio commentary by director, cinematographer and editor Pierre Tsigaridis

Brand new audio commentary by producer Maxime Rancon

Behind the Movie, a two-part behind-the-scenes featurette

Interview with actor and associate producer Dina Silva

The Boogeywoman, an interview with actor Marina Parodi

The Original Score, an interview with composer Gioacchino Marincola

The Piano Score, director Pierre Tsigaridis talks about the inspiration behind the piano score for Two Witches

Test footage

Grimmfest 2021 Q&A with Pierre Tsigaridis and Maxime Rancon

Trailer Gallery

Image Gallery accompanied by the film's original score

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ilan Sheady

and First Pressing Only: Illustrated collectors' booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel, plus double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ilan Sheady.

Two Witches is a solid watch and this Blu-ray edition is packed with informative extras.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Vampiro can show the age of the materials used, but this is a miraculous restoration from 35mm materials that somehow survived despite Argentina having an extremely horrid, non-existent film restoration or preservation policy from the government or any of its studios or independent producers. Totally unacceptable, this image has a few flaws, but it nice and clear throughout, though I wondered what 35mm film negative (Kodak, Agfa, Ansco, Gevaert, Ferrania, DuPont?) they used. The DVD 1.33 X 1 is much softer and passable at best. The PCM 2.0 Mono is also as good as it is going to get for this film, with the Dvd stuck with a softer and less warm or full, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Declaration has all kinds of on-purpose flaws and some softness that also seems a little intended, so it can be an odd, trying viewing, though I bet a 4K version would work better. The sound is no less than Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) which is used to fine effect and makes it the best film sonically of hundreds we have ever reviewed from Well Go, though they have not sent us the few 4K releases they have issued to date. The combination is a little odd, but the sound makes it more tolerable.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the HALO episodes tries to have a consistent look like a videogame to some extent, so there is some softness and that is often because of the CGI visual effects, but color and look are otherwise consistent and the look intended. I bet this plays better in the 4K edition. Originally announced as a DTS-HD MA sound set, Paramount instead has all nine episodes here in lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with superior sonics and use of sound effects and sound editing that is as good as any TV show being made today. Whether the 4K editions (regular and steelbook) will include Dolby Atmos 11.1 or not is uncertain, but if so, it would join only two TV shows to ever offer such sound: Games Of Thrones and Westworld. We'll see, but even this mixdown is impressive.

Moonchild is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a fullscreen aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and a PCM 2.0 Stereo mix. The film was remastered from the original SD master (likely low def NTSC video) from the original tapes and signed off by on the director and so considering the elements at hand, the film looks and sounds good.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on No Escape can show the age of the HD master because it is obviously older, but the great Director of Photography Phil Meheux, B.S.C., skillfully used a combination of two brands of 35mm color movie negative: The Kodak EXR series and Agfa XT series, the latter of which would be soon discontinued as Agfa got out of the motion picture business (including being used on the megahit TV sitcom Seinfeld, which started out filming exclusively on their film stock, giving it a distinct look like no other show of the time) and additionally, used the incredibly underrated anamorphic scope lenses Arriscope and J-D-C Scope, the latter of which which he and Campbell used on several scope feature films.

J-D-C scope first was seen wide as used on the original Poltergeist, then on films like Return Of The Jedi, Year Of the Dragon, the original Firestarter, Blue Velvet, Silverado and several low budget B-movies. Meheux used them several times with Campbell, plus with Russell Mulcahy on Highlander 2, while Arriscope also was used on Radioland Murders, The Adventures Of Pricilla Queen Of the Desert and the underrated 1992 remake, Body Snatchers. That all adds up to make this a visually unique, even complex production with a combination of models and early digital to deliver a film with a one-of-a-kind look we'll never see again.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is also a generation down sonically, but it is still better than the PCM 2.0 Stereo counterpart here and has its moments. Since Campbell is so successful, wonder if they could upgrade this to DTS: X or Dolby Atmos at some point.

Finally, Two Witches is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a lossless, English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) mix both of which are of a high standard for the format. There is also a lossless English LPCM 2.0 Stereo mix on the disc as well. The film is very nicely photographed and has an effective score and sound design.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Moonchild, Witches)



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