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Just the Features: The Hills Have Eyes (1977): Limited Edition (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots

The Hills Have Eyes is an underrated gem that gets the blu-ray release that it deserves.

Released by: Arrow Films

Release Date: Jul. 22nd, 1977 (Theatrical)
                        Oct. 11th, 2016 (Blu-ray)

Region Code: REGION FREE

Run Time: 1h 29m

Audio: English: LPCM Mono

Video: 1080p (1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, not 1.85:1 as listed on the case and booklet) 

There are two versions of the film:


-With Alternate Ending

THE FEATURES: [4 out of 4]

Looking Back on ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ (54m 35s, Upscaled HD)

This is the main featurette that first appeared on the Anchor Bay release of ‘Hills’, released back in 2003. With 13 years between then and now, you would think that this featurette would have aged, but it hasn’t. Everyone looks a little bit younger, but the information told and the method of getting that information to us hasn’t aged one bit. We still get all of the stories and the whatnot.

I think that this is the going to be the best there is for Hills. Craven is no longer with us and the rest of the cast and crew aren’t getting any younger. That being said, I really enjoyed this featurette. There were a few things in the film that I have always wondered about (the effects, etc.) and my answers are found here. This is a really good making of.

Family Business (16m 8, HD)

This is an interview with actor Martin Speer. He talks about his experience working on the film. He speaks of the subzero nights in the desert and the explosion at the end of the film. He wanted to do all of his stunts because it would lend credibility to the film. He is also very critical of his own work.

This is a great interview. Speer was not in the making of doc for some reason so it is nice to get his view on the making of the film. Also, I swear that, in the film, he looks like Tom Savini. I am sure I am not the only person to say that, but it had to be said.

The Desert Sessions (11m, HD)

This is an interview with composer Don Peake. He talks about the films he did before ‘Hills’ and what he brought to the film. He didn’t want the film to have an operatic sound and used a lot of unusual instruments to get the sounds that he was looking for. He accomplished the entire score with no help from a synthesizer, which weren’t around then.

Interviews with composers can be hit and miss. Sometimes you will get a composer who thinks that his music is the best there is and sometimes you get a composer who is very humble. This time around we got the later. Peake comes across as a man who loves what he does and wants to share it with everyone. I can get behind that. Very good interview.

Alternate Ending (11m 34s, HD)  

This is the alternate ending that is part of the second version of the film. This is also the first time this ending has been available in HD.

This ending switches around the two main parts of the climax and gives the audience a sense of hope. The original ending was brutal and quick. I like the theatrical ending better, but this is not a bad alterative.

Outtakes (18m 57s, HD 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio)

These are not the funny outtakes so many dvds and blu-rays come with. These are the outtakes that an editor sees. There is not really much to see here unless you like this stuff. I found it boring. To each their own.

Trailers and TV Spots:

-U.S. Trailer (2m 43s, HD)

This is the type of trailer that horror film got back in the 70’s and 80’s.   A few scene would be shown and then a narrator would say the title of the film as a graphic of the title was shown. Then a few more scenes and the title again. If you have ever seen Grindhouse, the fake trailers done by Eli Roth and Edgar Wright spoof these types of trailers.

-German Trailer (2m 46s, HD)

Same as the U.S. trailer except it is dubbed into German. That is it.

-TV Spots (1m 54s, HD)

4 TV Spots. Always nice to see how films were advertised on tv and the radio before the internet became the mainstay of advertising.

Image Gallery (40 Images)

I don’t like image galleries, but they are there for those who do.

Audio Commentaries:

-Commentary with the Cast

Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures moderates this cast commentary. On hand from the cast are Martin Speer, Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Janus Blythe, and Michael Berryman.

This is a very lively commentary track with everyone having a lot of fun watching the film. The cast members give a little bit of background of themselves, where they came from, and how they got involved in the film.

Felsher is a great moderator and asks a lot of questions about the film. He is there to keep the commentary from growing stale, but I think even he just enjoys watching the film with some of the people who were there and getting to hear about the making of first hand.

This is a wonderful commentary.

-Commentary with Writer/Director Wes Craven and Producer Peter Locke

This commentary is from the Anchor Bay release and it is a good one. Craven has always been a great commentator and this is no different. Stories are told from the inception of the project down to the release and the legacy. Locke is a good bounce board, giving his two cents on a topic and adding to Craven’s story.

This is a great commentary.

-Commentary with Mikel J. Koven

I have never heard of Koven before, but after listening to this commentary track, I am going to find some of the books he has written. Koven says at the beginning of the track that he doesn’t want to talk about the gossip and trivial items pertaining to the film. He wants to focus on horror films and the legends that they produce, as well as the legends from which horror films are birthed.

This is the best commentary track on the disc. The others are great in their own right, but this is the one to listen to if you only have time for one. Koven is very well spoken without coming off pompous. He talks about the look of the film, the themes, and the cannibal legend on which the story is based.

I loved this commentary track.

THE PACKAGING [4 out of 4]

Arrow has gone above and beyond for their release of Hills. The outer packaging is a thick card
stock slipbox that holds all the goodies found inside. Inside the box is a regular “Arrow” case that holds the blu-ray and six postcards that feature different posters from around the world. The cover for the case is reversible: one side is the newly commissioned artwork that is also found on the slipbox, and the other side is the original theatrical poster.

We are given a folded poster of the film with the same two sides from the case. A 40 page booklet is included with two essays: one from author Brad Stevens, the other from Senior Producer for Arrow 
Ewan Cant.

THE FILM [4 out of 4]

I had never seen The Hills Have Eyes until I watched it for this review. It is one of the few Wes Craven films that hadn’t seen (still have Deadly Blessing and The Hills Have Eyes Part II.) and the original blu-ray from Image was said to be terrible. I hoped that a company would come along and save the film and Arrow did just that .

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I really liked Hills. The film just plops us down into a place we have never been before, a small ghost town in the middle of the desert. We are introduced to two characters:  Fred and Ruby. Fred is leaving town as he is tired of helping the hill people get food and supplies. Ruby wants to go with, but Fred doesn’t think that she will survive in the outside world.

This introduction will be a bore for modern audiences. We are given an entire scene with two characters we don’t know, talking about other characters we don’t know, in a place we don’t know. 
Most people watching this for the first time will be lost. I was, but I knew that Craven was giving us this scene in order to introduce us to the rest of the cast. Through Fred we are introduced to the ‘human’ family. They are driving cross country and want to see the silver mines that are supposed to be around the ghost town. Fred warns them to stay on the main road as the silver has been depleted from the mines years ago.

Fred’s warning has become a staple of horror films. If characters are coming into a town or place where strange things, including murder, have happened, there is always a person, usually an older man, who tells said characters to stay away from where those characters want to go. Think of Crazy Ralph from the Friday the 13th franchise.

The family, of course, blow off his warning and soon enough they are stranded when they think that they are being shot at. Their car crashes, breaking the axle. Luckily, they have been towing a trailer so they can live in that until help can be found.

There are a couple of things that I noticed watching the film. The first would be that there are not really any jump scares in the film. Some will say that there is one when the father is talking to Fred and one of the cannibals breaks through a window and grabs Fred. I argue that we hear the cannibal yelling before the window is broken, but I can see how it can be seen as a jump scare. Outside of that one scene I don’t remember any jump scares. Craven uses atmosphere, camera placement, and lighting to give us this eerie and uncomfortable feeling throughout the film.

The second is that we don’t see the cannibals until Fred is taken through the window. I know that Ruby is part of the cannibal family, but she doesn’t look like the rest. Her teeth a little black, but that is it. She could pass for normal in the world this film is building.

The third is the violence. While there is a double rape scene as well as many people on both sides being murdered, the violence is pretty unbloody. There is blood in the film, but not as much as one would figure, especially because Craven’s previous film was Last House on the Left, which had its fair share of graphic violence. Craven keeps a lot of the violence just below the camera’s view, giving us a sense of the brutality without grossing us out.

After the family gets stuck, they have to defend themselves from the cannibal family. The scene where Michael Berrymore’s character breaks into the trailer while the rest of the family is away from it, except for the daughter, is incredibly intense. We know that something is going to happen to the girl, but Craven keeps the tension at a high level, making us feel very uncomfortable. If I remember any scene from this film it will be this scene. (and how Craven makes it seem, unintentional I am sure, that it wasn’t the planes that made the family crash, but a cute little bunny.)

I want to talk about the acting, but there really is nothing to say. Most of the acting is ok except for the son. His line delivery is flat and obnoxious. I was hoping that the cannibal family was going to take him, but they didn’t.

As I said before, this was Craven’s second film and it is a brutal one. The way that he shows how the two families are kind of the same is pretty freaky as well as the way that he shoots the violence. Craven has been called “The Master of Suspense” and here he earns that title. Craven has us sitting at the edge of our seats for a majority of the film and that is a hard thing to do. This is a film that gets overlooked when talking about Craven’s films. Sure, most people will know the name, but not a lot of people, outside of the horror community have seen it. That is a shame because this is a great horror film and one of Craven’s best.

One more thing before I sign off: This is something that I don't think is brought up outside of a mention, but this film has a totally separate story involving the two dogs in the film. One of the dogs is killed and the other seeks revenge. I am sure that this has been talked about to death, but I though that it was clever. It is not something that a first time viewer would pick up on. Nicely done Craven.  

Overall: [4 out of 4]

Arrow has impressed me again with this release. The picture, while still not the greatest, is definitely the best the film has looked since its release in 1977. The special features are excellent, especially in the audio commentary department, and the packaging makes the release standout amongst the crowd. This is a release that fans will love and may convert naysayers.  

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