Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins... (UK - BD RB)
Chris takes a look at one of the lesser-known eighties action movies on Blu-ray
First they faked his death and gave him a new identity. Now a top secret organisation is training a former New York cop to combat corrupt forces operating outside of the law. His mentor, Chiun, is an ageing Korean master of the martial arts who can run on water and dodge speeding bullets.
Born on the pages of Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s The Destroyer series of men’s adventure novels, Remo Williams was placed in the capable hands of Bond director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, The Man with the Golden Gun) for his big-screen outing. Fred Ward (Tremors) plays the trainee assassin, with Academy Award-winner Joel Grey (Cabaret) occupying the role of Chiun.
With its classic set-piece atop the Statue of Liberty, much-loved score by Craig Safan and a healthy sense of its own silliness, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins… offers up a cracking slice of mid-eighties action. (Taken from the official synopsis.)
This is another Arrow release to utilise a third-party master rather than one produced in-house. Here's what the accompanying booklet has to say about the technicalities of the audio-visual presentation:
Quote: Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with original stereo 2.0 audio.
The HD master for Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins was created by MGM and delivered by Hollywood Classics. Additional picture cleanup was performed at Deluxe Digital - EMEA, London under the supervision of James White/Arrow Films. Some minor picture and audio issues remain, in keeping with the condition of the materials used for this transfer.
This is yet another in the long line of MGM-licensed masters that Arrow has used for their BDs, and like the others it's a very solid effort. Never having seen the film before I can't speak to whether it is representative of the original look of the picture, but I can say that it's a pleasing image overall. In this age of 'orange and teal' the palette is refreshingly natural, and while blacks verge on crushing in one or two scenes shadow detail is generally fine. There's a reassuringly eighties amount of grain on show for the majority of the runtime, only occasionally spiking to levels that some might label 'heavy', while film artefacts are few and far between. Remo Williams isn't the best looking catalogue title in Arrow's library (for my money that honour belongs to one of their in-house efforts), but it's still a considerable upgrade over the creaky old DVD versions (at least if the stills I've seen are to be believed). Fan's should be pretty happy with this presentation. I know I was, and only the infrequent specks and slightly murky blacks prevented it from achieving a higher score (and even then I went back and forth).
I wasn't expecting too much from the film's sound mix, so the LPCM 2.0 Stereo track came as a bit of a surprise. Granted, it's not going to provide much of a workout for the average multi-channel surround system, but it delivers strong, centred dialogue and convincing effects across the frontal array, which is all you can really ask of a stereo track. There's some decent low end on offer as well, with the various punches, kicks and explosions packing a fair bit of wallop. Craig Safan's (he who was responsible for the score to one my favourite Elm Street films) score also provides a rousing accompaniment to the action. All things considered this is a good effort given the relative limitations of the source mix.
Arrow has assembled an extremely impressive collection of bonus material for this release, a list of which can be found below:
- Audio commentary with producers Larry Spiegel and Judy Goldstein
- Isolated Music and Effects soundtrack
- Remo, Rambo, Reagan and Reds: The Eighties Action Movie Explosion
- When East Met West
- Changing Faces
- Notes for a Nobleman
- Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Red Dress
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the origins of Remo Williams by Barry Forshaw and an on-set report from American Cinematographer magazine
Aside from the informative commentary track and isolated score, the crowning jewel of the supplements is the hour-long-plus documentary 'Remo, Rambo, Reagan and Reds', which takes a very interesting look at the phenomenon of the eighties action movie. Participants such as Bey Logan, Larry Spiegel, Judy Goldstein, Mark L. Lester, Howard S. Berger and Susan Jeffords discuss Remo's cinematic place in a decade dominated by the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, touching on the politics of the era and how the genre has since evolved. It's a genuinely interesting piece that's sure to delight fans of eighties action cinema.
A trio of featurettes follow, each running for around ten minutes. 'When East Met West' features actor Joel Grey reflecting on his turn as Chiun, particularly on the sensitivity of a white actor playing a Korean character. In 'Changing Faces' make-up expert Carl Fullerton is on-hand to discuss his Oscar-nominated work on the film, while Craig Saffan talks about his score in 'Notes for a Nobleman'. The final on-disc extra is the film's original theatrical trailer, but of course Arrow also includes the usual detailed booklet and reversible artwork.
I wanted to love Remo Williams, but I'm afraid it just wasn't to be. I'm a big fan of eighties action movies, but Fred Ward's Remo just isn't larger than life enough for my tastes, especially when compared to the likes of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Lundgen and, yes, even Norris. I'll say one thing for it though, it's better acted than most of the films starring the aforementioned muscle-men, not to mention more accessible for younger or family audiences. If I were to say that some of my eighties favourites include The Terminator, The Running Man, Predator and First Blood you'll perhaps see why Remo didn't quite resonate with me.
At this point in time I feel as though I could almost copy and paste my technical synopses from one Arrow review to the next, such is the consistency of their releases. As with the other Arrow titles that have come my way recently, Remo Williams looks and sounds much better than it really has any right to, with an extras package that puts most blockbuster releases to shame. In fact, I think this is probably the most enjoyable collection of bonus material I've personally seen on an Arrow release since Lifeforce, and I can certainly imagine the film's fans being over the moon with what's on offer here.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 7th July 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Audio Commentary, Isolated Score, Documentary, Featurettes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Guy Hamilton
Cast: Fred Ward, Joel Grey, Wilford Brimley, J.A. Preston, Kate Mulgrew
Length: 121 minutes
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