Shady Organizations Flush Out EVIL in “The Witch: Subversion” reviewed! (Well Go USA Entertainment / Blu-ray)


High school teenager Ko Ja-yoon lives with her adopted parents on a struggling cow farm. Ja-yoon‘s amnesia struggles with recollecting her past, she’s plagued with severe headaches, and suffers to retain any strength in her body. When her best friend persuades her to enter a popular singing contest, Ja-yoon’s nationally televisions performance triggers a covert agency to seek her out, dispatching Korean-American hitmen with supernatural abilities and local hit squad agents to track her down to either capture her alive or kill her. As the devious factions close in on her, placing her family in great danger, her past begins to unravel, revealing a troubling truth regarding who she really is and what she’s capable of effectuating.

Not to be confused as a sequel to Robert Eggers’ critically acclaimed, Americana gothic folklore tale “The Witch” from 2016, Park Hoon-jung’s “The Witch: Part 1 – The Subversion” diverges itself as the tenebrous action-mystery of a two-part film series from South Korea. Entitled “Manyeo” in the native Korean tongue, “The Witch” refers to a moniker bestowed upon the agency acquired children provided with genetically enhanced brains to open up their full, existential potential of God-like violence shrouded in the murky shadows and cutthroat conspiracies. “I Saw The Devil” writer Park also pens the script for his produced 2018 film that resupplies the darkness of a detective noir into another fantasy thriller furnished with a bloody veneer of a R-rated superhero movie. Gold Moon Film and A Peppermint and Company co-produce the Warner Bros. Pictures distributed picture.

Starring as the titular character, Koo Ja-yoon as The Witch, is South Korean actress Kim Da-mi making her introductory debut that’s considerably demanding for the early 20’s actress to tackle with little-to-none prior experience in “Avengers” level action, but that’s where the subversion sets in when Kim undermines with a body frail tool performance, throwing pity bait to sucker in the bigger fish, and then opening her ranges to play on the opposite side of the spectrum in a slim, but killer, authoritative absolute suit. Ja-yoon’s American counterparts are equally as intriguing with Korean-Canadian actor, Choi Woo-shik (“Train to Busan”) leading the pack of vicious and powerful mercenaries. Choi’s monstrous 2019 lineup of award-winning (“Parasite”) and action-packed (“The Divine Fury“) films set “The Witch” up for inherent success in a now powerful and versatile recognized Korean film market. Upstaging has a strong aurora inside Korean filmmaking as every scene invokes an intense stare, an action of grandeur, and dialogue – every actor has lots and lots of dialogue – and so, bold performances stand out from the remaining cast list who includes Jo Min-soo (“The Cursed“) as the prideful genetics doctor, K-pop’s 2Eyes band member Daeun as the cut from the same cloth American-Korean super villain, Go Min-se as Ja-yoon’s bestie, and Park Hee-soon as the curious Mr. Choi with a vendetta against all who are enhanced.

“The Witch: Part 1 – Subversion” is over two hours of grand chess and superhuman stratagem culminating at a writ large do-or-die finale. Even with a 125 minute runtime, Park Hoon-jung has to inertly cram a whole lot of story into a seemingly abundance and bountiful timeframe. As the staggering conspicuous tension builds and characters evolve into an elucidated light, scenes start stepping into confounding placement that bedevil slightly the storyline. If you’re able to piecemeal together the puzzle and able to follow casually, Park is able to eventually reel captivation back from surmountable follies of structure with flashbacks and, in this case, a generous amount of exposition to get viewers on track once again. The prodigious action rivals the Marvel movies of today with complimenting cannonade and psychokinesis while ushering in a heroine tapped from same vein as “Hannah” or “Lucy” into the Korean moving pictures.

Warner Bros Pictures and Well Go USA Entertainment entertain us with GMO action in “The Witch: Part 1 – Subversion” on a single format Blu-ray home video release presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, on a region A, BD25 disc. What I really like about Well Go USA releases are the consistencies of arrangements. The brightly lit, natural landscapes are vivid, floaty, and serene as if all of life is an idyllic safe haven for visual leisure. The black, almost gun metal black, of the nighttime segments render a more sinister and unfavorable approach to arms and danger likely ahead. Some posterization occurs during these moments, but little-to-no ill effect to the scenes themselves. Some of the chunkiness to the visual effects stem from combative action of the genetically altered, fighting against the slower normals with their high caliber, fully-automatic rifles and, also, against themselves, but these battles are interspersed to not violate audiences corneas to beyond the max extent of the natural law. The Korean language DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers a wide range of varied leveled action, from the mundane ambience of rural and urban life to the precision of activity during the more upbeat commotion of fight sequences and gunplay in tighter quarters. Dialogue placement renders nicely and is prominent while the option English subtitles captures beautifully with well synced and timed captioning. Bonus features three trailers which are two international trailers and one U.S. trailer. If Part 2 is anything like “Subversion,” the game of deceit will continue to unfold surprises one after another and beguile with the mysteries surrounding “The Witch’s” genetically invasive backstory that’s inherently pervading throughout, leaving an agape of wonderment, intrigue, and thrills.

Currently on Sale! Buy “The Witch: Part 1 – Subversion” on Blu-ray!

Evil Aliens, Zombies, Vampires, Cannibals, and a Nun with Guns! “Savage Creatures” reviewed! (ITN Distribution / DVD)


On God-fearing land, two young women drifters are shown compassion and hospitality by a religiously devout mother and son offering hot food, a shower, and a bed for the night. Their seemingly infallible generosity turns to violent deviancy as concealed motives of their cannibalism catches the women off guard that inevitably places the unsuspecting women literally on the chopping block, but the drifters are no ordinary, helpless prey but rather ancient vampires, wandering from one small town to the next, struggling to exist. Just when the bloodsuckers think the ordeal is over, a worldwide invasion of soul-sucking aliens aim to cleanse Earth of all inhabitants, turning those attacked by the beings into flesh-hungry crazies. Trapped inside the cannibals’ house, the vampires must save their human food source from completely being eradicated by an aggressive alien race with a conduit to possibly the Holy Father himself.

Talk about a full monty horror movie that has nearly everything but the kitchen sink! “Savage Creatures” is the 2020 released ambitious action-horror written and directed by Richard Lowry (“President Evil”) that serves up a platter of creativity ingenuity on a micro-budget while still outputting savagery, creatures, and an entertaining good time from start to finish. Lowry embodies inspired resourcefulness that reminisces the economically efficient horror credits of long time indie filmmaking entrepreneur Brett Piper (“Queen Crab”) and though serving as the filmmaker with many hats, composer, editor, director of photography, and visual effects, he also incorporates his own pleasurable schlocky devices as he shoots in the rocky rural regions of Pine Valley, Utah complete with isolated roads and mountainous views. The epically scaled “Savage Creatures” is a creature feature accomplished feat, try saying that ten times fast!

The two vampiric drifters, Rose and Ursula, serve as the story’s centralized characters played by Kelly Brook and Victoria Steadman respectively. Both actresses have worked with Lowry previously on his 2018 Armageddon-esque action-comedy, “Apocalypse Rising,” and familiar with his budgetary style, able to alleviate the pangs of severe funding limitations with some fundamentally respectable performances. Rose and Ursula are not only lovers, but lovers with a cavalier premise on life stemmed from the centuries of human evolving groundwork, shedding a light on questions that should be asked and pondered on in every day modern vampire story. The dynamic between Brook and Steadman strike the nerve sincerely with causal conversation, pressing upon their inevitable doom in between blowing off zombies heads and fragging flying aliens with crossbows as if they’re exacting some self-decompression through violence. Though Brook and Steadman are good and stable throughout, vet actor Greg Travis lands a the lauded performance of Father Cooper, a fanatical Irish priest on the run from the zombie horde. The “Humanoids from the Deep” and “Mortuary” actor goes full blown dogmatic with his theory of God being fed up with humanity and pulls off the extremely righteous and holy neurotic priest as an overboard affable character whose has to trust a couple of godless feminist vampires during apocalyptic mayhem. Rounding out the cast is Ryan Quinn Adams (“Before the Dark”), Cean Okada (“Bubba Ho-Tep”), and Kannon Smith as Sister Gigi, a mute nun with guns.

From the very beginning, “Savage Creatures” maintains a fiendish tempo of anti-heros and butchery. Even the soundtrack, though a relentless boor of stock action selection, plainly works to “Savage Creatures'” advantage one scene after another inside the scope of the sharp, periphery sublet moments to keep up with the breakneck pace. Lowdry’s sees little-to-no expositional sagging in the middle or on the bookends and diverts away from any hankering for a character story or background to fluff up worth-wild characters. With the exception of Rose and Ursula, who complain like boomers conversing upon reminiscing about the past on how easy times once were centuries ago to get away with murder before technology became an inconvenience, much of the cannibals, the priests and nun, and even the flying devil ay like aliens backstories don’t bubble to the surface. While typically these off the cuff details usually roll my eyes back into my skull to scour my brain for the minor moments in which I might have mistakenly missed something about a character backstory or just produce a hefty sigh of longing for more personal information on why this character does what they do, I found “Savage Creatures” uniquely isn’t symptomizing a distress of forgoing persona tell-all; instead, plays uncharacteristically to the obverse tune of an entertaining racket of head splitting, limb chopping, and with a hint of rampant gun akimbo.

Buyer beware! Don’t trust the cretinous DVD cover from ITN Distribution of appears to be Julian Sands from “Warlock” raging angrily with milky white eyes and standing over Cthulhu tentacles surrounding him in the foreground and silhouettes of bats are hovering over in front of a savior-esque crown moon in the background. Instead, trust your gut (or this review!) and see “Savage Creatures” on DVD home video presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Pine Valley, Utah never looked so picturesque in a clean transfer. The natural colors feel a bit faded and not as sharp that perhaps assists in blended Lowdry’s composited effects and practical creature design. The cabin night sequence has some noticeable banding, but isn’t a game changer. The English language Dolby Digital audio track is par for the course, running clean and clear dialogue, and satisfying a range of sounds. Depth’s tricky with Lowdry’s compositions that don’t hem neatly, especially when Rose and Ursula crossbow down aliens from a distance, the same cry of pain is utilized for each darted creatures, and the running stock soundtrack flutters in front and behind the gun play at times. DVD bonus material include a director commentary, behind-the-scenes with the actresses and crew, and a VFX breakdown, which I thought was neat to see how Lowdry layered his effects on a budget. Not listed as a bonus feature is the gag reel during the end credits. “Savage Creatures” enters 2020 as an all out brawl designed as a battle royal but with little bankroll; yet, director Richard Lowdry beats the odds, pinning out a win as the scathed champion of his latest apocalyptic caper!

“Savage Creatures” battle it out on DVD!

A Double Dose of Revenge Against EVIL in “Psycho Kickboxer” and “Canvas of Blood” reviewed!


Alex Hunter had all he could ever want. A blooming career as an up-and-coming kick boxer, a successful police chief father on the verge of finally nailing a crime lord, and becoming recently engaged to marry to his long time girlfriend. Yes, Alex’s life fortune was very valuable indeed until it suddenly came crashing down to a fateful end when the ruthless crime lord his father was pursuing, known as Hawthorne, kidnaps and brutally murders his father and finance right in front of him and leaves him to die. Found and rescued by a well-bound special forces veteran, a recovering Alex lives to fight another day, a day for retribution against the a city of evil and crime. The one time kick boxer turns to a life of vigilantism under the guise of the public designated The Dark Angel who cleans up thugs, thieves, and low-lifes with martial art combinations that put Hawthorne in a supply chain bind when drug deals fall through at the result of The Dark Angel’s meddling. Nobody knows the identity of the masked hero, but one Cassie Wells, a journalist, aims to unmask the citizenry protector with the help of a bumbling private detective, but when they become too close to Alex, Hawthorne sets his target on them as bait.

The American 5-time world kickboxing champion, Curtis “The Explosive Thin Man” Bush, stars in his debut leading role performance in the martial arts, action-melee, “Psycho Kickboxer.” Also known as “Psycho Kickboxer: The Dark Angel,” the film had exclusive rights to being born and bred in Southeast Virginia, more specifically in the Hampton Roads area, with a local cast and crew and the opportunity to utilize region locales and business, such as his own, the Curtis Bush Karate Club, and those he was acquainted with at free of charge. Bush, born in Virginia Beach, puts up the cash, along with a slew of family and friends as investors as well, to finally produce his own work without having to be another masked Foot Solider in a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” sequel or just be another bad guy who can kick real good for the camera. Bush hires TV series and documentary director David Haycox and freshman filmmaker Mardy South to work from a Kathy Varner script. Bush’s career didn’t quite take off to be the next Chuck Norris or Jean-Claude Van Damme of Virginia Beach despite having athletic talent and good lucks, but he lives comfortably now in Hawaii with his family. Instead, the legendary fighter, who retired at the age of 37 in 1999, can look back at 1997’s “Psycho Kickboxer,” a five year project that began filming in 1992, as a crowning cinema achievement outside the square ring and without the confinement of 20.1 x 20.1 ft ropes alongside a heap of localized co-stars Kim Reynolds, Rick Clark, Tom Story (“Metamorphosis”), Rodney Suitor (“Traxx”), Jeffrey Kotvas, and George James.

Personally, “Psycho Kickboxing” round kicks close to my heart, targeting the marshmallow center, and landing a Curtis Bush southpaw punch right (or should I say left) into one of my favorite home town films of all time. You see, this reviewer is a native of the Hampton Roads area and raised in the area for 28 years until becoming a Northerner. Honestly, I’ve never heard of “Psycho Kickboxer” or even Curtis Bush for that matter, not even the mayor honored Curtis Bush Day that’s April 27th, and once I looked past the slew of mullets and mustaches and saw the name of a local bar, Hot Tuna Bar and Grill, briefly observable in a scene, the regional newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, and a resident country station, 97.3 The Eagle, with a pair of DJs as themselves. Championing “Psycho Kickboxer” as a good film is an enormously uphill one and even being a cult classic wobbles on the bunny hill as filler scenes, specifically the film’s ninja-cladded Curtis Bush tearing through bad guys is more than half the movie as montage segments, run rampant over what should be character exploration of redefining and rediscovering character arc qualities. However, the Haycox and South directorial has some blood red and amorous highlights with a pair of exceptional head rupturing scenes I’ve ever bared witnessed from the special effects of the Creations Unlimited team, Steve Stephens and Clay Sayre, and some tasteful T and A from Kim Reynolds in her bathtub that’s shouldn’t dare be missed.

The accompanying feature on this pyscho-revenger set tells the story of Julia, a young violin prodigy, who feels the extreme pressure weighing her down with an abrasive and abusive boyfriend and the intense passion she has for music that’s literally destroying her gifted hands from within. Her father, an art professor who has a disabled hand himself, quickly rushes her to a doctor for examination and concludes surgery is the only course of action to right the damage, but the coked up, alcoholic of a surgeon botches the job, leaving poor Julia unable to use her hand and diminishing any hope of playing her violin again. A long line of deep engrained corruption integrated inside the justice system is uncovered by her father after a sabotaged lawsuit exonerates the doctor from any wrongdoing. Pissed off with rage, the art professor decides to take justice in his own hands or, rather, his own hand as he fabricates instruments of death to paint his own retribution for physically and mentally injuring his daughter who is now in a semi-catatonic state. Police are baffled by each death that leaves little clues to the man who perpetrated them as one detective continues the investigation of grisly murders.

“Canvas of Blood” is the rightful backseat second feature being inferior of the two films on the double bill release. Set on location in and around the Baltimore, Maryland region, the anomalously rare 1997 revenge flick, that was only released on VHS, was at one time the debut disaster-piece from writer-director Joel Denning, produced by the Post Productions Film Company in association with Bad Credit OK and presented by Michael Mann – no, not the same Michael Mann who helmed Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in “Heat.” Instead of intense gun-blazing battles and gritty dialogue exchanges, Denning’s carnivalized approach to vindictive measures is met with an unscrupulous amount of aberrant sound effects such with a fart track, overweight male strippers with mullets in thongs doing abhorrent dance moves, and exaggerated character travesties in a mishmash plot involving a decorated war vet now art professor painting a trail of blood with his interchangeable cyborg mitt arsenal that includes a flame thrower, bone saw, and a T-800 “Terminator” style hand for massive nutsack squeezing. The most difficult to comprehend about a tale that warrants no deep thought is whether Denning’s intentions are sincere or to make a mockery of the revenge genre with a blatant boorish attempt. As far as actors go, the now radio personality, Jennifer Hutt, does what she can with cheap cinematic artwork and the same thing can be said about Jack Mclernan, who portrays no Paul Kersey, a role tailored by Charles Bronson in “Death Wish”, and while McLernan might strike a resemblance to the “Once Upon A Time in the West” actor, McClernan can only muster about half the set of stoic acting chops to save any kind of face. Lance Irwin, Andy Colvin, Marian Koubek, Mark Frear, Jamie Bell, Michael Mann Reennie McManus, Irena Beytler, and Svetlana Milikouris co-star.

POP Cinema’s Shock-O-Rama banner presents a Psycho Horror Double Feature with “Psycho Kickboxer” and “Canvas of Blood” on a single disc DVD and both films are presented from in a VHS-rip, 4:3 aspect ratio, format that gives no indication of an enhanced or upscale treatment to the transfers. “Psycho Kickboxer,” which was actually shot in 16mm and transferred to Betacam VHS, fairs better with a unscathed negative obtained cleanly without the annoyance of compression artifacts, due to the lower bitrate from the more than likely clean 16mm source. However, don’t expect colors to pop and details to be fine from a VHS transfer that’s has a slightly fuzzy and gray washed tone. Canvas sports much of the same with a more warmer tone and some over-saturation of blue tint, but tracking distortions and analog graded noise are more evident flaws in this presentation. The English Language mono tracks on both features are a composited nightmare of little range and depth. Fight ambience could have been pulled right from the Double Dragon Nintendo game and the subjective overlay of obscurely crude ambient tracks, even an overly synthesized enhanced screaming I would consider as well, dilutes “Canvas of Blood’s” objective plotline. The DVD extras include Shock-O-Rama vault trailers and a 3-page booklet insert containing a 1998 Alternative Cinema Magazine article written by Curtis Bush who provides a humbling anecdote about film’s origin story and the process of making his independent movie dream come reality. There’s no contest. “Psycho Kickboxer” TKO’s “Canvas of Blood” in every round of the Psycho Horror Double Feature, despite the horde of mustaches and mullets and despite both films not really being a horror. Shame that world class kickboxer Curtis Bush’s career didn’t skyrocket afterwards, but thats what makes “Psycho Kickboxer” inherently special and exceptional to behold, just like the fighter himself.

“Psycho Kickboxer” available on DVD! Click the Cover to buy!

EVIL Must Be Broken In Before Being Used. “The Wheel” reviewed!


In the near future, paraplegic inmate Matthew Mills volunteers under pressure to join a Satoshi-Telefair Industries experimental treatment program that not only promises to reduce his sentence, but to also to regain mobility in his legs. With nothing more than the hope to return to his daughter, Mills is enticed by the agreement and gives himself to a shadow company who regularly contracts with the military, facilitating deep underground at an isolated site. Shortly after signing the release form, he awakes in a dark, steel cell known as The Wheel and is able to move his legs again, but the jubilation quickly subsides as armored men with batons visit his cell to beat and break his body in order for the nano technology, injected amongst his anatomy, to rebuild damaged tissue and make him stronger. The ordeal torments him, but to the researchers observing every detail of his recovery and behavior, Mills is just subject 2-1, another potential subject destined for the Future Soldier Initiative where the unethical testing must continue.

Shady shadow corporations, experimental nano-material rehabilitation and enhancement, and high level science fiction noir from writer James S. Abrams and director Dee McLachlan with 2019’s “The Wheel.” As if not already obvious from filmmaker’s nationalities, “The Wheel” is produced by and shot by Australian production companies SunJive Studios and Film Victoria, a state government agency that advocates funding and other filming assistances for shooting films in sectors of Victoria, Australia. “The Wheel’s” steely posture mirrors the frigid winter snow of Melbourne, Victoria’s covered forests that’s beautiful, yet deadly in the conventional beauty of nature. Yet, “The Wheel” delves into the meddling of what makes man and what also drives man as the story persists on the subject of redesigning the human body, but what that notion doesn’t take into account is what if the human body’s reactions doesn’t go as planed and a clapback ensues with all the synthetic re-wiring behind it? This is what Abrams and McLachlan intended to explore.

Australian actor Jackson Gallagher stars as Matthew Mills, a cripple with a purpose. The “Patrick” actor has been adrift from the darker roles since 2013 until up now with his main role in “The Wheel” that demanded a certain physicality that involved fight sequences with one, or two, or even three opponents and some ariel ropes work. The physically fit Gallagher not only survives the daunting workload, but hastily pulls Mills through his character’s tough transition from hopeful paraplegic to overly confident ultimate fighting weapon without an earnest core of struggle. The same can be said with Dr. Allison Turner played by Kendal Rae (“Out of the Shadows”). Turner’s a rogue researcher who had her practicing credentials revoked after the mistreatment of lab monkeys and was sought after by the Satoshi-Telefair for her detachment qualities, but her Turner’s character also didn’t quite arc properly and resembled a midway plateau from the moment Mills became her research subject. The only character that stayed the course was Dr. Emmett Snyder, a loyal Sataoshi-Telefair researcher to the bone. When he’s not suplexing or drop kicking in a championship wrestling match, David Arquette does dabble in acting. The “Scream” veteran actor fills in a rather unlikely antagonistic role, but the wild eye Arquette remains taut in his performance. “The Wheel” also costars Belinda McClory (“Matrix”). Christopher Kirby (“Daybreakers”), Victoria Liu, and Ben Still.

The spoke of the “The Wheel” rotates on a monotonic and frosty shoulder axle colored in gun metal and iced with dystopian immoralities. Every breathing element and inanimate objects is in a state of distant identity being bestowed labels in a combination of letters and numbers. The utilitarian wheel, an underground experiment facility that shifts rooms up and down and can be rotated to the other side, has no windows or any kind of necessary function other than to test subjects. Where “The Wheel” goes full “Equilibrium” by lacking emotional depth and substance without a coup d’état of the bleak authority, “The Wheel” also lacks vigor to break the blank uniformity and tries to speed through Mills patriarchal fluff to provide reason for his endurance and to provide reason for audiences to care. The epicenter theme to Mills motivation and escape is the thought of getting back to his daughter by any means necessary and was deemed fit to lay by the waist side to rely more on the hand-to-hand fighting like an overly glorified 70’s martial arts film.

Umbrella Entertainment distributes the sci-fi, action film, “The Wheel,” produced by SunJive Studios and Film Victoria onto a region free DVD home video. The clean digital picture in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, has a crisp demeanor that exact a bunch of natural lighting outside with a bit of a lower contrast inside dark “The Wheel” itself. What I found more appealing the anti-aliasing of the drone footage over the snowy covered Victoria forest, suggesting a higher bitrate compression that offers a seamless and smooth recording. The 5.1 English language Dolby audio is offered up with no whiff of an Australian accent in a lossless track that sounds good on the surround channels during action scenes. Dialogue is clear amongst the ample range and depth of ambient layers of researches watching and speaking through comms from inside a box watching another guy inside a box. Like other Umbrella releases, “The Wheel” has no special features nor a static menu. “The Wheel” has ice in the veins, but no warmth in it’s heart that seems vertically challenged on a horizontal slope of dystopian disorder.

The Wheel on DVD

A Double Dose of Jason Blade Breaking Bad Guys’ EVIL Jaws in “Day of the Panther” and “Strike of the Panther” reviewed!


A secret strike force known as the Panthers enlist the best of the best when considering agents and those who pass the Panther’s rigorous training will become part of the fight for good organization. The Hong Kong Panther branch graduates two Westerners, Jason Blade and Linda Anderson, who become a perfect undercover team. When the pair uncover a Triad drug ring, the investigation sends Linda ahead to Perth in West Australia to initially track down Jim Baxter, a lethal enforcer in the drug dealing business. Anticipating losing the tail on Baxter and disregarding Jason’s wishes to wait for his arrival, Linda surveils and sneaks into the Baxter’s hideaway only to be falling into a trap that ends in her demise. Jason vows vengeance and infiltrates Baxter’s organization for leads and information, using his martial arts expertise to gain him complete trust and access to the kingpin.

“Day of the Panther” is part one of this two part film series which has been released onto Blu-ray courteously by Umbrella Entertainment and, perhaps, even showcases Australia’s most famous martial arts superstar! Released in 1988, “Day of the Panther” combines fisticuffs, roundhouse kicks, and an arsenal of quips into a panache of action hailing from the land down under. Hard to phantom that Brian Trenchard-Smith, man behind “Dead End Drive-In” and then later went on to direct demonic anarchy in “Night of the Demons 2” and a couple of those pint sized “Leprechaun” sequels, one including space, was at the helm, steering eight glorified and unstoppable fight sequences complete with “Street Fighter II” punch and kick sound effects. “Dangerous Game” stunt coordinator and writer, Peter West, pens the script that leads Jason Blade down a road of vengeance for a slain colleague in a formulaic and cliché trope driven plot, but this Ozploitation is more entertaining than uninteresting for a younger audience.

In “Strike of the Panther,” the break a politician’s drug addicted daughter out of a brothel and inclusive crime fighting Panther, Jason Blade, returns when Jim Baxter holds hostage’s his girlfriend, Gemma Anderson, after a deadly prison escape. Fortified in a ready to detonate vacant Perth power plant, Blade and his crime task force attempt to beat the information out from Baxter henchmen before sieging a rescue. Baxter declares his own brand of revenge toward Blade that not only includes high yield explosives that could wipe Perth from off the map, but the brute also summons every malign martial arts fighter he can muster to cloak themselves in amongst the power plant rafters, lying in wait for Blade and the police to storm their holdup. Blade must go for Baxter alone to not only save his girlfriend, but save Perth as well.

What is essentially Jason Blade part deux, “Strike of the Panther” retreads over old footsteps in this 1989 release with Brian Trenchard-Smith and Peter West filling in once against as director and writer. The obvious back-to-back shoots suggests that not much has diverted from the original tone of the film and with that truth, Jason Blade continues his trend of human punching bags without so much of breaking a sweat. The sequel, much like the first film, is good, clean action without much blood, without much cursing, and without much perversion. “Strike” might be edgier with a few more side boob scenes. That’s about it.

Martial arts expert Edward John Stazak is quintessentially the Chuck Norris of Australian cinema, but whereas Norris has a prolonged career in the film industry, with credits out the wazoo, Stazak’s success in the biz never took a jump kick flight. Not even with Jason Blade, a character who sounds like a fighter straight out of a Mortal Kombat installment, could boost a lustrous vocation. Stazak’s likeability is only shorn by his lack of expressive versatility as he’s virtually one dimensional, showing no range of emotion when the scene calls for it or even when in the rare instance of being bested at a fight, but the handsome, muscular Aussie can sell a hand-to-hand skirmish with one or ten opponents without wondering too far into cheesy coordinated territory, which Stazak co-assisted in the fight sequences alongside screenwriter and stunt man Peter West. The lack of a good and powerful antagonist also spikes “Day” and “Strike’s” well-rounded action status. Jim Richards as the tough Jim Baxter wasn’t a formidable adversary for Jason Blade. Baxter never challenges Blade’s weaknesses because Blade doesn’t have any weakness so it seems. Even with Gemma Anderson is kidnapped, Baxter never really leverages the opportunity. Jim Richards also looked out of shape in comparison to Stazak, who routinely went sleeves and, more frequently, shirtless to show off his physique, but Richards is also a well-known self-defense instructor who has worked with military personnel. In short, Stazark looked better for the camera. If you’re not an actual fighter, you’re an actual actor, such is the case with John Stanton and Michael Carman who brought a little thespianism to the “Panther” films. Stanton presented a fatherly figure, playing a Panther named Wes Anderson at the tail end of his tenure with the organization, to Stazak’s Blade. Andersen’s barely copes to the loss of his daughter, Linda, but that’ the Panther way or so it’s assumed as he puts it, “life goes on.” That such detached reality can be said about Zukor, the drug kingpin of Perth, played by Michael Carman (“The Devil’s Playground” and “Quigley Down Under”). Carman provides the aggressive affluent with has thugs to do his dirty work. Unfortunately, Carman does not continue with his Zukor role in “Strike of the Panther,” but Zukor and Wes are the fire and ice that motivate the marionettes into action at least in “Day of the Panther” while Wes pivots on a strange character tangent with supernatural abilities that’ll be explored later. As far as Love interests go, Paris Jefferson fills that void as Gemma Anderson. The “Xena: Warrior Princess” star becomes the niece to Wes Andersen, taking care of her uncle while she takes care of Jason Blade’s needs – wink wink. Jefferson’s stout feminine performance perfectly outcasts any kind of frail attributes typical of a damsel in distress that’s is trope-laden in action films; think Mary Elizabeth Winstead in “Live Free, Die Hard.”

Overall, as action films, “Day” and “Strike of the Panther” are fairly conventional martial art films for the 1980’s with a few eye brow raising quirks. For instance, Jason Blade is infallible. Perhaps, too foolproof as he single handily breaks down drug structures with a one-two punch simplicity, as if the level setting was on easy mode. Another what? moment stems from the character Wes Anderson in the sequel film when he suddenly obtains empathic powers after being grazed by a fleeing car and he’s able to reach Jason Blade on a subconscious level as he enters the power plant’s maze and takes on ninja-cladded warriors. Lastly, for back-to-back shot films where the release dates are stack closely upon each other, the need for an in-depth recap was terribly excessive that perhaps only required a tiny bit of exposition to fill in the gaps. “The Evil Dead” series is an ideal candidate for comparison of prologue recaps. Ashley Williams explains, with accompanying depiction variants, in “Evil Dead II” and “Army of Darkness” his misadventure to a cabin in the woods and his poor Linda becomes a Candarian demon plaything, but the Sam Raimi directed cult horrors are also at least five years separated. Brian Trenchard-Smith concentrates his direction of “Strike of the Panther” to detail almost every plot point through a Wes Anderson voiceover and rehashed footage. There are also awkward workout and dance scenes reused for the sequel that are not a nod back to the first film, but are used as current storyline. Talk about your deja vu!

Umbrella Entertainment release “Day of the Panther” and “Strike of the Panther” onto a double bill Blu-ray, a first for the Ozploitation gems. The two-films on a single BD50, region B disc is presented remastered in a high definition 1080p widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, from the original 35mm interpositive negatives, scanned and restored in 4k. Despite some minor strip issues (i.e. some cigarette burns and a few translucent scratches), the picture has tremendous stability in color and in natural grain. However, the framing seems a bit off as if the cropped, but that could also be very much intentional by cinematographer Simon Akkerman. The English language 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track has full-flavor robustness and balanced across the board. Remember those Street Fighter II sound effects? Dialogue has good distinction with solid range and depth with the soundtrack and ambience. No subtitles are available on this release. Unfortunately, there are no bonus features on this release either. The Brian Trenchard-Smith back-to-back films, bustling with endless wrangle, hail from Australia for the first time on Blu-ray and while might seem excessively obsolete in contrast to today’s action film, “Day of the Panther” and “Strike of the Panther” are ravishing relics that are extremely priceless to martial art cinema collectors.

Day and Strike of the Panther on a Blu-ray! WHAT!! Get it now at Amazon!