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Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh


A victim of unspeakable evil while he lived, the ‘Candyman’ (Tony Todd) has become evil incarnate in his afterlife. This time, he haunts the city of New Orleans, where a young schoolteacher named Annie Tarrant (Kelly Rowan) is struggling to solve the brutal murder of her father. The locals insist that he was slain by the Candyman, but Annie is not convinced... until she unwittingly summons the monster forth, learns the secret of his power, and discovers the link that connects her to him. But can she stop him before he kills again? (From Scream Factory’s official synopsis)

Bernard Rose’s Candyman, based on a story by Clive Barker, was one of the ‘90s best horror films. It is a moving, genuinely frightening, and brilliantly acted movie that Rose beautifully constructed to stand on its own. But, coming out of the ‘80s, studio executives were determined to make every successful horror film into a franchise, so sequels were inevitable. The first sequel, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, benefits from a continuation of the title character’s mythology, supplied by Barker himself, who acted as co-screenwriter alongside Rand Ravich and Mark Kruger. The legend is moved from Chicago area project housing to New Orleans, allowing director Bill Condon to soak the frame in baroque, Southern Gothic terror. Barker also uses the location to delve deeper into the Candyman’s post-Civil War Southern roots. In the film’s best sequence, we witness the creation of the supernatural killer – a lynch mob captures him, beats him, saws off his arm, coats him in honey, and leaves him to be stung to death by a swarm of angry bees. Condon, who would go on to write and direct Oscar winning/nominated films Gods and Monsters (1998), Kinsey (2004), and Dreamgirls (2006), doesn’t achieve a solid scare throughout the entire film (I guess horror just isn’t his genre), but he shoots these flashbacks with much pomp and authority. They’re so well-executed that it’s often easy to forget that they don’t appear in Rose’s original film.

Unfortunately, the rest of Farewell to the Flesh feels like a retread of the stuff Rose already gracefully covered in the first movie and is adorned with dull made-for-TV melodrama fixings. The original film’s female lead, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), who was immortalized as a sort of Candywoman after her climatic death, is replaced by Annie Tarrant, who is revealed to be a descendent of the Candyman. This revelation is an interesting twist that leads into the fantastic flashback footage, but it also forces Condon and Barker to pull back on the seductive nature of the character, dulling the forbidden romance that helped set Candyman apart from the more pulpy, exploitative movies that helped to inspire it. The familial themes still give Tony Todd something dramatic to work into his performance – it’s just not as intriguing. The rest of the cast isn’t particularly engaging, either, though I suppose that Virginia Madsen did set a pretty high bar.

Like many of Scream Factory’s MGM-owned catalogue titles, Farewell to the Flesh made an HD appearance on Netflix and showed up occasionally on HD television. This Blu-ray’s 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer appears to have been taken from the same source, without any additional cleansing or digital touchup. The print isn’t in spectacular condition. The minor scratches and pops of white aren’t particularly problematic (even if the biggest white spots have a habit of forming over the character’s faces), but the scan looks worn-out. Grain is spread into lumps, transitions are rough, and edges are either overly soft or lined with haloes. Condon and cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler use the Mardi Gras celebration and French Quarter locations as an excuse for bright colours, most of which are evenly separated and help define shapes outside of the relatively disappointing detail levels. The film’s grimy look (apparently inspired by both Rose’s original film and other New Orleans gothic horrors, like Alan Parker’s Angel Heart) doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the sharpest lines, but the multitudes of decorative elements in frame probably should’ve made for livelier textures. There are no notable compression issues, however.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack fits the expectations of a modestly-priced, early 5.1 digital mix. The sound effects and dialogue are largely confined to the center channel with only a collection of noises finding their way into the stereo channels and even fewer finding their way into the surround speakers. Directional effects and environmental ambience are minimal, but relatively natural when they do crop up. For the most part, these are either jump scare sounds, the buzz of the Candyman’s bees, or the rhythms and screams of people celebrating Mardi Gras. Returning composer Philip Glass’ music sits mostly in the stereo channels and echoes back into the rears. The score, which mostly recycles the original film’s brilliantly evocative themes, is mixed pretty low during dialogue sequences (low enough that I’m unsure why it was included at all), but the more bombastic organ and vocal motifs are rich and smooth.

Extras include:
  • Commentary with director Bill Condon
  • The Candyman Legacy (26:00, HD) – An intimate, extended interview with Tony Todd about his career with a special emphasis on the Candyman series.
  • Down Memory Lane (10:40, HD) – Another career-spanning interview, this time with actress Veronica Cartwright, who plays Annie’s mother in the film.
  • Trailer and trailers for other Scream Factory releases


 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy


Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

Supernova


In the farthest reaches of deep space, the medical vessel Nightingale keeps a lonely vigil for those in trouble. When a frantic cry for help pierces the void, the crew responds with a near-fatal (spoiler: one of them does die), hyperspace dimension jump into the gravitational pull of a dying star. The disabled ship rescues a shuttlecraft containing a mysterious survivor and a strange alien artifact. Now, the crew must unravel a chilling secret and escape the nearby imploding star before the rapidly forming supernova blasts them and the entire galaxy into oblivion! (From Scream Factory’s official synopsis)

Supernova will forever be remembered as one of the more spectacular Hollywood studio debacles of the last couple decades. Yet the blow of its multiple production problems and ultimate failure as a coherent movie is somewhat softened by its charming refusal to just freakin’ die. Supernova began life in 1998 under director William Malone, whose first two movies, Scared to Death (1981) and Creature (1985), were low-budget, Alien-inspired sci-fi/horror hybrids. Described as both Hellraiser and Dead Calm in space, Malone was beaten to the punch by Paul W. S. Anderson’s Event Horizon (1997) and Kevin Yagher’s Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) – another troubled production that could literally be described as ‘ Hellraiser in space.’ An unsatisfied MGM replaced Malone with Romper Stomper (1992) director Geoffrey Wright, then briefly replaced him with Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 (1985) and The Hidden (1987) director Jack Sholder, before finally settling on Walter Hill, who, besides directing tough-guy classics, like The Long Riders (1980) and 48 Hours (1982), had acted as re-writer/co-producer of the Alien films. As the once modestly production costs ballooned to somewhere between $60 and $90 million, MGM began cutting costs and Hill left during editing. The film probably should’ve been written off at this point, but, undeterred, the producers brought Sholder and Francis Ford Coppola (of all people) in to re-edit and trim the violence down to a PG-13 rating. Following two years of production, MGM finally released a ‘finished’ product into theaters – just in time for the January dump season.

Supernova must have been offered to Scream Factory by MGM as a gift for buying Blu-ray release rights to some of their other titles, because I can’t think of a single person in the world that was clamouring for an HD re-release. The best I can assume is that a few of the people that saw it 15 years ago are curious to revisit the car crash. Assuming that’s your angle, I can assure you that Supernova is just as big of a mess as you remember. The editors and directors bumble through clichés and familiar tropes that don’t connect at a breakneck pace (the movie kicks off so fast that it feels like we’re expected to remember these characters from a prequel or previous act) that somehow manages to still feel endless. The plot (what little remains) is rattled to a headache inducing montage editing and so much story was trimmed during the movie’s time in production hell that characters skip from hating each other to having sex within a single scene. The action sequences are incoherent and the exploitation appeal is dampened by censored violence and chaste nudity. Cinematographer Lloyd Ahern II’s neon colour schemes successfully evoke a comic book atmosphere, which helps keep the visual tone lighter than the average Alien rip-off, but he (and whoever was directing him at the time) insists on shooting almost the entire film handheld and rocks the camera like a boat. It’s a nauseating process. Despite a soft spot for scary space adventures, I struggle to find anything good to say about this Frankensteined, feature-length music video. You’d be better off re-watching Danny Boyle’s Sunshine through a pink lava lamp than revisiting this movie.

Supernova also made the rounds on HD television over the years, following its original anamorphic DVD release. The PG-13 theatrical cut has been effectively eradicated, for all I can tell, so Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray features the unrated cut (not a whole lot of violence or language, but some bare breasts have been reinstated) and presents it in 2.35:1, 1080p video. The film’s vibrant, space-age colour scheme certainly makes for an upgrade over the DVD (the blues and pinks are especially gorgeous), but grain and overall print damage is pretty excessive for a relatively recent film. There are flecks of dirt over almost every shot and the grain levels fluctuate considerably from shot to shot (sometimes, this is obviously brought on by bad focus pulling and inconsistent lighting between edits). The high contrast imagery helps separate elements in the consistently soft focus backgrounds, but over-sharpening creates hotspots in highlights, as well as edge haloes, and darkens up the already thick grain in some scenes.

The chaotic editing and pace ensure that the uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is lively and aggressive, but the directional movement isn’t particularly effective, outside of the special effects shots of the spaceships. Scream Factory hasn’t done anything wrong here, the film is just sort of randomly mixed at points, creating some abstract stereo and surround enhancements. Dialogue is clear throughout with warm reverb effects that blend well with the random ambient hum of the spaceship interior. David C. Williams’ symphonic score sounds particularly rich and detailed as it settles beneath the louder sound effects. Note that a very different, techno-infused score can be heard over the deleted scenes on this disc.

Extras include:
  • The Making of Supernova[/I] (25:00, HD) – This series of cast and crew interviews is a bit scattershot, but paints an interesting picture of the troubled production. The only thing missing is Walter Hill’s side of the story.
  • Deleted scenes (14:40, HD version of non-anamophic SD)
  • Alternate ending (5:30, HD)
  • Trailer and trailers for other Scream Factory releases


 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy


Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

Fitzcarraldo


Iquitos is a town isolated in the middle of the jungle in Peru. At the turn of the century, one resident of the small town, Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, or ‘Fitzcarraldo’ as the natives call him (Klaus Kinski), has his dream of bringing together Enrico Caruso and Sarah Bernhardt for one great celebration of Grand Opera. To finance this fantastic dream, Fitzcarraldo decides to exploit a vast area of rubber trees growing beyond the impassable Ucayala Falls. To circumvent this barrier, he literally has his huge steamboat lifted over a mountain from one branch of the river to the other. With the aid of a tribe of Indians bewitched by the voice of the greatest singer of all time, Enrico Caruso, Fitzcarraldo fights fever, mosquitoes, and suffocating heat to achieve the impossible... (From Shout Factory’s official synopsis)

In recent years, Werner Herzog’s work as a documentarian has significantly overshadowed his work as a dramatic/fictional filmmaker and his performances as his own interviewer has solidified him (specifically his voice) an unlikely place in American pop culture (in the past five years, he has done voices for The Simpsons, American Dad, The Boondocks, the English dub of Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, and Penguins of Madagascar). But even the art house darling’s surprise second career can’t overshadow the impact of Herzog’s most celebrated and popular fictional work – Fitzcarraldo. Fitzcarraldo has a pop culture life all its own, including parodies and conceptual re-interpretations, though much of the lasting interest is due to the fascinating behind-the-scenes story depicted in Les Blank's making-of documentary Burden of Dreams, which was released the same year (1982). In it, Blank documents unintended parallels between the fictionalized story of an obsessive Irishman dragging a steamship across the Amazon basin with the true story of an obsessive German filmmaker doing the exact same thing. The troubled production is so entangled with the themes of the film that I now find it impossible to separate the making of the movie from the movie itself. It’s all very meta.

Fitzcarraldo is also one of Herzog’s most accessible fictional features. It is coiled in the same strange storytelling rhythms of his other films, but operates on a straightforward narrative and obvious themes, like the awkward, enduring struggle between art and commerce (among others). Some viewers will find their patience tested by the director’s affection for the technical intricacies of the journey (how funds are raised, how the boat is reconstructed, how the pulley system moved the boat, et cetera), which stretch the runtime to a protracted 157 minutes. Surely another filmmaker would trim the scenes that don’t directly serve the plot (as is, the dialogue is already largely made up of exposition), but these complications and psychological explorations are the essence of the total package Herzog is delivering. The length, tone, and cadence are all crucial parts of the title character’s personal journey down the river and over the mountain. Klaus Kinski, who replaced Jason Robards (Jack Nicholson was almost hired, instead and at one point Herzog was going to play the part himself), is so completely miscast in the lead that the mistake goes full-circle and he becomes the perfect choice. The wide-eyed, shaggy-haired, constantly white-clad actor stands out like an alien against the organic purity of his environment and his intensity never falters, even when he’s being innocently menaced by natives with pan flutes.

Last year, Shout Factory secured sixteen of Herzog’s most popular films from Anchor Bay, whose anamorphic DVD releases had been out of print for quite some time, and released them all as part of an epic thirteen-disc collection. Fitzcarraldo is the second movie in that set to get a solo release, following Scream Factory’s Nosferatu the Vampyre disc. Based on the colour timing of this 1080p, 1:85:1 transfer, it doesn’t appear that Shout is reusing Anchor Bay’s transfers, which are noticeably warmer. It’s more likely that they are recycling the transfer that appeared on BFI’s UK Blu-ray release, though I don’t have any screen caps at my disposal to compare. The cooler colour temperature leads to more natural skin tones and jungle greens, but also burdens the white levels a bit, which flattens some of the finer details during day-lit scenes. Otherwise, detail levels are limited only by the basic condition of the footage. Wear and tear is minimal and, though grain levels are strong, they appear steady and accurate. A handful of shots appear effected by CRT noise, but it’s probably just a slight change in grain structure. Overall, it’s a pretty gorgeous transfer that captures the grandeur of cinematographer Thomas Mauch’s photography.

Shout Factory has recycled the Anchor Bay disc’s 5.1 remix of the English dub and included the original 2.0 mono versions of both the English and German dub (they have skipped the 5.1 German mix). All tracks are presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio. Fitzcarraldo was shot with most of the lead actors speaking English, Spanish, or Asháninka (a Peruvian river tribe dialect) and was then partially re-dubbed, so I spent the majority of my viewing on the ‘English’ dub tracks. The 5.1 remix is reasonably subtle and tasteful. The murmur of the environment and the slosh of the river are spread into the stereo and surround channels, creating a more immersive experience that doesn’t hamper the clarity of the dialogue. Some effects seem to have been added and attempts at directional movement are awkward (occasionally, the entire underlying soundtrack is shifted along with a single effect), but the lack of tinny and flat effects makes the remix slightly preferable. Composer Popol Vuh’s music is reserved for only a handful of sequences. It has never really fit the film, as far as I’m concerned, but sounds very nice on this uncompressed track. I recall it completely disappearing into VHS soundtracks.

Extras include:
  • Commentary with Werner Herzog and producer Lucki Stipetic, moderated by writer Norman Hill (from the Anchor Bay DVD)
  • Commentary with Herzog, moderated by writer/director Laurens Straub (in German with English subtitles, from Kinowelt’s German DVD release)
  • Theatrical Trailer


 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

 Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

Shout/Scream Factory Trilogy

Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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