Welcome to Fistful of Features, a weekly column that celebrates film preservation through physical media and discusses cinematic treasures from every genre to maintain their relevance in the cultural lexicon. There are many great labels that are doing incredible work to keep all sorts of films significant through luxurious treatment via physical media. Without further ado let’s look at some releases to add to the conversation.
First, from Kino Lorber we have The War from director Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes) who I’ve never been a big fan of his directorial output, but I love his early efforts as a producer of Risky Business and Less Than Zero. Here Kevin Costner is a Vietnam vet who’s released from a mental institution after voluntarily being treated for PTSD and is trying to do right by his family in the backwoods of Mississippi amongst the narrow cultural climate they reside in. It notably features an early strong performance from a young Elijah Wood and though this movie might have good intentions, it always has felt like it seems to get in its own way as far as leaving any kind of lasting impression. If it went the straightforward route of telling a sincere family allegory with a more subtle approach to cultural subtext this could have been a more effective piece of work. Everything kind of becomes muddled with attempts at grand statements about the societal climate and all of the heavy-handed symbolism draws away from the focus of the family we’re meant to care about. There are two audio commentaries included on this disc. One from the director and the other from film historians Emma Westwood and Paul Anthony Nelson.
Next from Scorpion Releasing is The Unseen from director Danny Steinmann (Savage Streets) who used the alias Peter Foleg on this film and when you see the finished product you might understand why. It boggles my mind that this was based on an original story from two special effects legends Stan Winston and Thomas R. Birman and had contributions from Kim Henkel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Barbara Bach (The Spy Who Loved Me) and her two companions are unfortunately stranded in a small town festival without a hotel reservation and are miraculously offered room and board by a, not at all creepy museum owner played by Sydney Lassick (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) who’s keeping the unseen antagonist locked up in his basement. The titled unseen is actually his inbred son played with maniacal dedication by Stephen Furst (Flounder from Animal House) and he attempts to give Gunnar Hansen a run for his money in playing a blood-thirsty psychopath and victim to his own family circumstances. This disc is loaded with features that include a fun horror host wraparound titled Katarina’s Nightmare Theater. There are also numerous on-camera interviews that feature the editor Jon Brown, producer Tony Unger (Don’t Look Now), actors Stephen Furst and Doug Barr, and makeup effects wizard Craig Reardon (Altered States) and Tom Burman (Phantom of the Paradise). Also included is an audio commentary from Tony Unger and Stephen Furst. Not a bad package if you’re seeking some grade C sleaze.
Lastly, there’s a couple of titles from Eureka! We have Pulse, a late eighties V/H/S anomaly from director Paul Golding (Beat Street). Joey Lawrence (yes, that annoying character actor from that forgettable nineties sitcom) in a very early role is visiting his mom and new stepdad for the summer and is surprised with a self-aware electrical poltergeist that is malicious holding his family captive and thirsting for human sacrifice. Sadly this film isn’t half as fun as that premise would lead you to believe but it was enjoyable enough. Faring much better are the packaged extras that include a great video essay on technological horror by the always reliable Lee Gambin and a solid audio commentary from film historian Amanda Reyes.
Also from Eureka! is the 1992 low rent post-apocalyptic horror adventure from Fangoria that featured Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm. The extras here are also the main attraction as there’s two uncut Q&As from 1990 Fangoria Weekend of Horror with Campbell and Scrimm. The visual quality isn’t the best, but the talks are very informative and lots of fun. There’s also awesome audio commentary from Fangoria legend Tony Timpone and film historian Jarret Gahan.