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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Psychological > Monster > Exploitation > Martial Arts > Crime > Gangster > Agonie (2016/IndiePix DVD*)/Basket Case 4K (1982/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray*)/Bounty Hunter Trilogy (1969, 1972/Radiance Blu-ray set*)/Flying Swordsman: Out For Revenge (2023/DVD**)/Hard Boiled 2: The

Agonie (2016/IndiePix DVD*)/Basket Case 4K (1982/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray*)/Bounty Hunter Trilogy (1969, 1972/Radiance Blu-ray set*)/Flying Swordsman: Out For Revenge (2023/DVD**)/Hard Boiled 2: The Last Blood (1991/88 Films Blu-ray*)/Mean Guns (1997/Blu-ray*)/Scarface Mob (1959/Paramount/Desilu/Arrow Blu-ray/*all MVD)/Your Lucky Day (2023/Blu-ray/**both Well Go)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B- Picture: C/X/B-/B-/B+/B-/B-/B+ Sound: C+/C+/B-/B-/B+/C+/B-/B+ Extras: C-/B-/B-/D/B/C/C+/D Films: B-/C+/C+/B-/C+/C/B-/C+

Crime and horror figure in the following new releases...

David Clay Diaz's Agonie (2016) has the premise that a young, pretty woman has been decapitated, her body spread around a few different locations in Vienna and that the mystery is, why did it happen and why would someone do this. Well, even in eight years, though many had the usual ideas before hand, this is far from a character study, even as we focus on the life of two young men, a streetwise blonde (Alexander Srtschin) and bookworm brunette (Samuel Schneider) existing in parallel. Sadly, you can see most of what is coming.

The things that do make this different and have its moments are the way the film is shot, edited, directed and how good and well cast the actors are. The locations are interesting and the peak moment (the murder out of nowhere) is so graphic, bloody and shocking, I was even shocked and that is very, very rare for me anymore. Additionally, it is so graphic, this film would be issued as unrated in limited U.S. theatrical run (this copy is not rated) or get an NC-17 rating for sure.

So with all that, the ending disappoints, there are more missed opportunities even as the film keeps offering something different here and there and the conclusion disappoints, et al. Cheers to the cast for pulling off what they did. I will quit there and recommend any interested give this one a good look, limits and all.

The anamorphically enhanced 2 X 1 image has some good color and good shots, but is much softer than I would have liked, getting into the way of the narrative and good compositions, but the lossy German/Austrian Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is not bad and would probably sound better lossless.

Extras are only trailers.

Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case 4K (1982) becomes the next and one of the few 16mm-shot feature films to get an Ultra HD upgrade. We have reviewed the several times, including my coverage of an out of print Blu-ray...


Then we covered Arrow's older Blu-ray-only set here...


Even if you are not a fan of the film or think the dark, odd humor is one-note as I do, the film has remained popular since its original release, was a big home video hit (well promoted as well) and remains a cult curio. It is also the kind of film you rarely see getting made, an independent release of any kind that is ambitious, no-holds-barred and took risks. This is the best way to see it now.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.33 X 1, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Basket Case 4K has some impressive color and is the same Ultra HD master used for the regular Arrow Blu-ray release, thanks to the Museum of Modern Art, but the elements are not in as good a shape as the 1974 16mm-shot Texas Chain Saw Massacre with more grain, flaws and slightly off moments. Fortunately, color is a strong point and the film has never looked better save the most pristine 16mm or 35mm blow-up prints, the few that have survived.

The PCM 1.0 Mono sound definitely shows its age, magnetic tape with no major noise reduction, sounding as good as it ever will, limits and all.

Extras are the same as the previous Blu-ray set that sold out and you should get this one while supplies last.

The Bounty Hunter Trilogy (1969, 1972) is a choppy one where the first two films come out the same year, then the last film arrives a few years later. The films are Shigehiro Ozawa's Killer's Mission, Eiichi Kudo's The Fort of Death and Ozawa's Eight Men to Kill. In all three, the protagonist comes out of their normal life to deal with armed political uprisings, a sieged village and stopping a gold shipment before an eclipse. Despite its earlier settings, the spy genre plays as much a role as the martial arts cycle revving up at this time and Ozawa went on to create the Street Fighter films, while trilogy lead star Tomisaburo Wakayama became the first Zatoichi, so these are curios for sure.

However, I found them to be a mix of too much formula, hard work by the actors and very uneven results. Thus, it is for fans only and the missions play like big MacGuffins that motivate the characters, but only do so much for the audience and were not very memorable for this viewer, especially since we have seen so much of this before. For the curious, these restorations are decent and add the ambitious set of extras and it is worth a look for those really interested. They are historical enough, but for myself, once was enough.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on all three films look good as shot in Toeiscope, but also show their age and have some flaws here and there throughout, with Mission narrowly looking a little less stressed. All three apparently were shot on Eastman 35mm color negative and have held up decently enough,. All three films are here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes, save for Mission in Japanese PCM 2.0 Mono, all sounding a little better than expected and as good as they will likely ever sound.

Extras in this Limited Edition include:

  • Feature Length Audio Commentary track on Killer's Mission by Tom Mes

  • Interview with film historian and Shigehiro Ozawa expert Akihito Ito about the filmmaker

  • Visual essay on Eiichi Kudo by Japanese cinema expert Robin Gatto

  • Series poster and press image gallery

  • Trailers

  • Optional English subtitles

  • Six postcards of artwork from the films

  • Reversible sleeves featuring artwork based on original posters

  • Limited Edition booklet featuring new writing by samurai film expert Alain Silver, an obituary of Eiichi Kudo by Kinji Fukasaku and an interview piece on Shigehiro Ozawa after his retirement from filmmaking

  • and Limited Edition of 3000 copies, presented in a rigid box with full-height Scanavo cases and removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings

Lei Qiao's The Flying Swordsman: Out For Revenge (2023, aka The Hidden Fox) is action packed and totally worth checking out if you are a fan of marital arts fantasy epics!

Obviously inspired by anime and classic Japanese cinema in its creation, this period film has sharply directed action sequences and eye popping moments that reminded me a little of Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Even if you aren't big on foreign language films, there is enough visual eye candy here to keep just about anyone interested in the genre glued to the screen. The story itself is a basic revenge plot, and so the main draw to this film is definitely the stylized action and swordplay.

The film stars Ray Lui, Yusi Chen, Huawei Zhao and Shanshan Chunyu.

After a twisted attempt to steal a hidden fortune results in the death of two legendary swordsmen, the map to the treasure that took their lives disappears. Ten years later, the map resurfaces and eight assassins from the original plot seek out to find it, but are challenged by a mysterious new swordsman who is motivated only by revenge. Who will be left standing?

The Flying Swordsman is presented in anamorphically enhanced, standard definition on DVD with a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy 5.1 Mandarin Dolby Digital audio mix with English subtitles. Some compression is evident in the aging DVD format, but the film looks and sounds as good as it can here.

No extras sadly, except for Trailers.

From filmmaker Wong Jing (City Hunter, God of Gamblers), comes Hard Boiled 2: The Last Blood (1991), which sees a new release on Blu-ray from 88 Films. The John Wick series was definitely inspired by this gun heavy action flick, which features some impressive stunt choreography and plenty of wild camera work and explosions that would make Keanu Reeves himself applaud!

The Chinese action film stars Alan Tarm, Andy Lau, Eric Tsang, Bryan Leung, May Lo, and Natalis Chan. The film goes by many titles, one of which is Hard Boiled 2 (a follow-up to the renowned John Woo classic), Police Protectors, and Twelve Hours of Terror. The film centers on The Red Army who seek to assassinate the Daka Lama in Singapore, leaving a woman with a rare blood type on the run from an army of terrorists!

Hard Boiled 2: The Last Blood is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a full frame aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and an original English and Cantonese LPCM 2.0 Mono mixes with English subtitles. The HD restoration is a large improvement over previous releases and so if you are a fan then you will definitely want to upgrade.

Special Features:

Audio Commentary with Hong Kong Film Expert Frank Djeng

English and Hong Kong Trailer

Stills Gallery

Reversible Cover

and a Double Sided Poster.

Albert Pyun's Mean Guns (1997) is another odd relic from the 1990s, made odder by its infamous genre director and rapper Ice-T in an early acting role, trying to convince us that he is the head of the top mob organization in the world and only Christopher Lambert can stop him!

Well, the bad screenplay could stop no one and though having Streets Of Fire and Walter Hill's The Warriors alumni Deborah Van Valkenburgh (was Pyun thinking some kind of trilogy of her work in gritty thrillers? She was also on the hit TV show Too Close For Comfort, made between those two films.) here is a plus among the mostly unknown cast, this is just yet another Pyun dud and Lambert is once again wasted and hardly here. The result is a run on that you hope might pick up at some point, but never adds up into anything much.

Like other Pyun films, the missed opportunities pile up as fast as the cliches and mistakes throughout the long 104 minutes, but mistakes never stopped him before, so only see this one if you are really, really, really curious.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is a little slightly dark and the full color leans towards an odd sense of green, but it is one of the few, rare feature films entirely shot on 35mm Fuji color movie negative film. In that, it should look a little better, but style choices are also mixed. To its advantage, it is shot in Clairmont-Scope and not plain Super 35 or Techniscope with less picture definition, so that helps. The original Scream, and a good portion of Body Snatchers (1993) and the original Blade with Wesley Snipes used these lenses as well and I like them. Wish they were used more often. The PCM 2.0 Stereo mix is off of the Dolby SR (Spectral Recording) analog noise reduction surviving sound elements, but the low budget makes them sound a little aged, rough and dated despite how much more advanced that noise reduction system was than Ultra Stereo or Dolby's A-type Dolby System format. No doubt the budget did not help, but neither did the director. The combination is passable, the the picture might look better in 4K, maybe.

Extras include:

  • Audio Commentary from Director Albert Pyun

  • Introduction by Director Albert Pyun

  • NEW! Interview with Producer Gary Schmoeller

  • NEW! Interview with Executive Producer Paul Rosenblum

  • NEW! Interview with Composer Anthony Riparetti

  • an Original Theatrical Trailer

  • Reversible artwork

  • and a Collectible Mini-Poster

Phil Karlson's The Scarface Mob (1959) is the two-part pilot for the original Untouchables hit TV series that was cut together as a successful theatrical film and made Robert Stack a big star. We previous discussed the show when we covered the first half of the debut season on DVD at this link:


Though there were limits to violence the show could show and in effect, the series was very well-written and developed by Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz's Desilu Studios and became their second-biggest success next to monster megahit I Love Lucy, though it would be a while before the legendary production company had more hits besides ones with Lucy as the lead. However, note that Star Trek was not originally a hit and Lucy got NBC to stick with the show for three seasons just the same. The couple, then the two separately when the divorced, worked to produce some of the highest quality programs on early TV.

The movies, TV and the world have all become more violent since this was made and since the last time I saw it, but with that said, this still holds up pretty well considering the genre would go into decline after the series was cancelled and would not return until Coppola's Godfather in 1972. In that, it is a solid piece of work thanks to the actors, producers, director, screenplay and energy that kept the show so popular for so long. Even in the face of Brian De Palma's 1987 Oscar-nominated remake, it is definitely worth revisiting. Gangster genre fans who have never seen this one will be pleasantly surprised. Neville Brand plays Al Capone.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the materials used in spots, but this better than the copy on the old DVD set and the PCM 2.0 Mono sounds as good as it ever will and better than any episode on DVD of the series itself. The image on the more-studio-based I Love Lucy was less rough for late 1950s episodes, but you can see some similar roughness in the first two Blu-ray season sets of the show, so that is the condition of the archive. Still, it is well shot enough and you can see why they were rightly confident to do a theatrical release at a time when people were just starting to buy TVs.

Extras in this Limited Edition release are decent, especially versus none on the DVD TV series set and include:

  • Gang Busters, a brand new video essay on the film and the career of director Phil Karlson by film critic David Cairns

  • Philip Kemp on The Scarface Mob, a brand new video essay on the career of Eliot Ness and his depictions on film, including The Scarface Mob, by film critic Philip Kemp

  • an Original Theatrical Trailer

  • Gallery of original posters, lobby cards and publicity photos provided by The Scarface Mob and The Untouchables archivist Kelly Lynch

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio

  • Six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions

  • Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio

  • and an Illustrated Collector's Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and liner notes on The Untouchables by Dan Lynch and Kelly Lynch.

Lastly, Dan Brown's Your Lucky Day (2023) asks how far you would go to win the lottery to the tune of $156 Million. What if you were in a store and someone announced they won? What if a robbery of that winning ticket ensued and you were one of the hostages? This interestingly written film focuses on the power that money can have over people.

The high stakes thriller stars (the late) Angus Cloud (Euphoria), Elliot Knight, Jessica Garza, Sterling Beaumon, Mousa Hussein Kraish, Jason Wiles, Sebastian Sozzi, Spencer Garrett, and Jason O'Mara.

The film is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and a lossless, English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) and lesser, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The film is nicely shot and is very cinematic considering its lower budget.

The only extras are trailers.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Well Go, Boiled 2)



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