The American Way (1986/aka Riders Of The Storm)
+ Mad Dog Morgan (1976/Umbrella
Entertainment PAL DVD/Region Zero/0)
C-/C Sound: C+/C Extras: D/C+ Films: C-/C+
PLEASE NOTE: This DVD can only be operated on
machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Zero/0 PAL format
software and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the
website address provided at the end of the review.
Dennis Hopper often traveled outside of the U.S. to make
films as his personal problems and personal politics did not always keep him in the
best regards at the major Hollywood studios.
Of course, he made his comeback and has been a great survivor, but he
did what he could to find material that would work and has now been an actor
and filmmaker for over half a century.
Some of these works included films in Australia and Umbrella
Entertainment has issued two of the lesser scene films on DVD: The American Way (1986/aka Riders Of The Storm) and Mad Dog Morgan (1976).
The American Way is yet another attempt to be a
political/military satire ala Dr.
Strangelove as a giant B-29 bomber carries an illegal pirate radio station
that is a microcosm of the last of the 1960s anti-Vietnam conflict
counterculture in Director Maurice Phillips has Hopper lead this band of
criminals in an uneven attempt to criticize the early Regan era,
Neo-Conservatism and may have the ideas, but Scott Roberts’ screenplay cannot
seem to organize them in any way that will work, making them lose their power
and edge. Add that great films on
Vietnam (The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket) were being made, the lack of edge causes all to
implode. Bob Rafelson was more effective
in his 1968 feature film debut Head covering the same territory and that film
starred The Monkees.
Mad Dog Morgan on the other hand has a fine
performance by Hopper as the title character, a real life criminal the
authorities could not track down fast enough circa 1865. Co-Writer/Director Philippe Mora does a good,
if not great job with the historical material, including David Gulpilil’s
performance as Billy, who helps Morgan survive the wild to evade justice. This can get brutal and violent, sometimes at
the expense of story, but the fine casting and their acting has enough edge and
chemistry to make this always credible on that level and is a good film worth
Way is offered in a soft and
aliasing-loaded 1.33 X 1 transfer, while Morgan
fares a little better in an anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 transfer, but both
are obviously from older analog sources and can be challenging to sit
through. Mike Malloy (The Human Factor, Supershow) lensed Morgan
nicely and has a good look about it.
John Metcalfe (The Great Rock ‘n’
Roll Swindle, Inseminoid, Xtro) gives Way a less distinctive
look, though the misé-en-scene can be noisy.
I would like to see a better print down the line. The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound on both show
their age, with Morgan being monophonic and Way being stereo with Dolby analog
A-type encoding, but there are no palpable monophonic Pro Logic surrounds here.
Way has no extras, but extras Morgan include film excerpts, radio
interview, audio commentary by Mora, radio interview with Mora, PDF DVD-ROM
Accessible screenplay, stills, half-hour Hopper/Mora on camera interview, 23
minutes making of featurette and PDF Mad Dog Morgan program that shows
you how the film was promoted with vintage press materials.
As noted above, you can order these PAL DVD imports
exclusively from Umbrella at:
- Nicholas Sheffo