Body Bags & Night of the Comet (US - BD RA)
Matt takes the recent Scream Factory Blu-ray releases out for a spin and likes what he sees.
Body Bags (1993)
Running Time: 95 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper
Starring: John Carpenter, Stacy Keach, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine
Release Date: 12 November, 2013
Two "Masters of Horror"--John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) and Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Lifeforce)--come together to create a chilling anthology of terror. Alex Datcher (Passenger 57) stars as a woman working the late shift at "The Gas Station" while a killer is on the loose. Then, Stacy Keach (Road Games) can’t stand the thought of losing his "Hair" and he’ll do anything to keep it. And finally, Mark Hamill (Star Wars) portrays a baseball player that submits to an "Eye" transplant after he loses one in a car accident. Featuring guest appearances by Deborah Harry, Sheena Easton, Twiggy, David Naughton (An American Werewolf In London), John Agar (Tarantula), David Warner (Time After Time) and cameos by Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper and Roger Corman, Body Bags delivers a fright-filled night of horror.
Shout Factory's 1080p, AVC encoded, 1.78:1 video transfer for Body Bags is pretty damn great and far better than what I was expecting from what was essentially a lower budget, made-for-cable backdoor pilot for Showtime back in the early '90s. It's mentioned on the commentary track, but supposedly the new 1.78:1 aspect ratio offers up more than the originally broadcast and previously released om DVD 1.33:1 versions of the film, but unfortunately I no longer own the original and long out-of-print Artisan DVD and won't claim to remember if this is actually the case or not. What I can tell you is that the film has never looked better than it does here. Contrast and black levels are strong, small detail is very high, and the color really pops off the screen. I didn't notice much if anything in the way of macroblocking or banding, and the source print used is very clean and largely free of anomalies.
8 out of 10
Like most of Shout!'s Scream Factory releases, Body Bags comes with both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 tracks, and while both are good enough that you won't have any issues your own personal preference in listening to something closer to the original audio or a new mix will play a part in deciding which one to choose. While the 5.1 is front heavy, there are still plenty of surround effects throughout of the film and plenty of ambient sounds for just the right touch of atmosphere. I didn't notice any glaring issues with the 5.1 track or what I sampled of the 2.0 track, so no need to worry about anything that might detract from your enjoyment of the film itself. Overall this isn't am audio track that's going to blow your socks off or anything, but it gets its job done and does it well.
7 out of 10
At first I was kind of disappointed with the amount of extras included, but then started to think how lucky it is that were getting any for this largely forgotten film at all and getting a new commentary track with John Carpenter is actually a pretty big deal as far as I'm concerned, so while the quantity isn't up to a lot of Shout!'s Scream Factory releases the quality is certainly there. Having said that the largely entertaining and informative commentary track features John Carpenter and special guests Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach during their respective segments and producer Sandy King on the Tobe Hooper directed segment "Eye". It's a shame that Hooper didn't contribute to the track, but King fills in nicely for the director with plenty of information on not just the film's last segment but the production as a whole as well. As far as Carpenter's contribution goes, well, I've long thought that most of his commentary tracks are some of the best that have ever been recorded for the medium and this one is really no different. Totally relaxed, he and his guests offer up plenty of production details and anecdotes from the set. Any fan of the director should definitely give it a whirl. Also included in an excellent, high definition look at the making of the film which runs just over 20-minutes, featuring Carpenter, Sandy King and members of their cast each giving their own take on the production from its genesis to release. The extras are rounded off with a trailer for the film in high definition and a standard definition copy of the film on DVD is also included on the second disc of the set.
6 out of 10
John Carpenter and Tober Hooper fans that missed out on Artisan's long out-of-print DVD of Body Bags finally have reason to celebrate as Shout! Factory has released a far superior presentation at a much lower price point than what you are accustomed to seeing the older disc going for on sites such as eBay. I've never been a huge fan of the picture myself--I enjoy Carpenter's Crypt Keeper type performance and the first two stories definitely have their moments, but the sheer nastiness of the last segment directed by Hooper has never set well with me and doesn't gel with the rest of the movie. Shout!'s Blu-ray presentation is very good with strong audio and video and a couple of extras that fans will get a lot of mileage out of. Overall this is a must buy for fans of director John Carpenter, but recommended with caution for everyone else.
7 out of 10
Night of the Comet (1984)
Running Time: 95 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Thom Eberhardt
Starring: Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran
Release Date: 19 November, 2013
It's the first comet to buzz the planet in 65 million years, and everyone seems to be celebrating its imminent arrival. Everyone, that is, except Regina Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her younger sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney), two Valley Girls who care more about fashion trends than celestial phenomenon. But upon daybreak, when the girls discover that they're the only residents of Los Angeles whom the comet hasn't vaporized or turned into a zombie, they do what all good Valley Girls do...they go shopping! But when their day of malling threatens to become a day of mauling, the gals flee with killer zombies and blood-seeking scientists in hot pursuit.
Shout Factory's 1080p, AVC encoded transfer at the films 1.85:1 OAR is very good overall with fine detail with a nice layer of grain. Black levels are as dark and deep as you'd like them to be with sharp contrast and good color representation. The picture does tend to be a bit soft at times, but other issues such as edge enhancement, macroblocking and aliasing aren't a problem. The source print used is in decent condition, though there are instances of dirt or debris popping up every now and again. Overall this is a pretty decent transfer for this lower budget, 30-year old film on Blu-ray and a nice upgrade over the now out-of-print DVD from MGM.
7 out of 10
The main audio option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in English, though a 2.0 option is also available. Even in the newly created 5.1 mix there aren't many sound effects that take advantage of the surround channels and for the most part everything stays fairly close to the front, but every now and again there will be an effect over the sound field that'll add a few bumps to jolt you at the right moment. Dialogue is always clear as well, and I couldn't detect any anomalies in the track that would cause an issue. Like the video transfer, this is a well done audio option that's been presented on the Blu-ray release.
7 out of 10
Shout! Factory's assembled together quite a nice assortment of extras for Night of the Comet, highlighted by three commentary tracks that are all well worth a listen. On track one director Thom Eberhardt discusses all sorts of production information, and there's rarely a dull moment or lull in the conversation as he covers pretty much everything you might possibly want to know about the film. The second track with stars Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney is a delightful mix of production info and anecdotes, and the third track with production designer John Muto--though more technical--is a pleasant trip down memory lane as well as he covers topics relating to the film and his own career. Also included on the disc is just over a half an hour of high definition interviews--"Valley Girls at the End of the World" features Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney in separate interviews, "The Last Man On Earth?" is an entertaining look at the film and the career of co-star and Star Trek: Voyager alum Robert Beltran, and finally "Curse of the Comet" is look at the special makeup effects with creator David B. Miller. The special features are rounded out with a still gallery and the film's theatrical trailer, both in high definition. A standard definition copy of the film on DVD is also included.
8 out of 10
I've always been a fan of Night of the Comet, and if any of my feelings concerning it have changed over the years since my first viewing it's only been for the better. The simple, apocalyptic story of two California sisters at the end of the world still works, and a large debt to that fact is owed to its likeable and charming cast. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release of the film is pretty great with good video and audio and some really nice extras that are a treat. Overall this is a definite must buy for fans of the film, and a recommended diversion for anyone else.
8 out of 10
* - The screen captures throughout this review were taken from the standard definition, DVD copy included with each film and are not an indication of the high definition quality of each Blu-ray release.
Review by Matt Joseph
Release Date: 12th November 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Easter Egg: No
Length: 190 minutes
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