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!

One Tough Cop Taking on Evil Cyborgs! “Nemesis” review!


In the year 2027, enhanced humanistic cyborgs virtually run the planet with the renowned L.A.P.D. being no exception. Alex Rain, one of L.A.’s finest brute cops, is partially cyborg himself, but the essence of his soul remains human intact while his synthetic flesh cloaks the icy machine beneath. After tracking down suspected cyborg terrorists and almost losing his life in the struggle to stop them, Alex questions his dwindling humanity, leading him down a path of unfulfilling revenge and botched smuggling before his former employer, the L.A.P.D. commissioner named Farnsworth, tracks him down and uses deadly coercion to force Alex as a pawn in dangerous covert mission. The burnt out cop is thrusted back into the fray of his former life when Farnsworth orders him to retrieve data from the treacherous female cyborg, Jared, who was once Alex’s partner and lover, before she hands over the sensitive information to a group of cyborg terrorists who call themselves The Red Army Hammerheads. With a micro bomb implanted near his heart as insurance, Alex has no choice but to accept the assignment before detonation in 3 days and with his time running out, finding Jared isn’t the problem as Alex comes to realize that deception has convoluted the stakes and nothing is who or what they seem.

Albert Pyun’s 1992 cyberpunk action-thriller “Nemesis” is an explosive-heavy, science fiction existentialism film never before seen, or even aware of, by this reviewer, but the ground-worked narrative has remained a constant piece of foundation in being the byproduct of inspiration extracted from other cyberpunk films of its kind, such as “Robocop,” “Blade Runner,” and “The Terminator.” “Nemesis” has a presence much to the tune of another film, “Cyborg,” starring John-Claude Van Damme and that inclination would inevitably make a world of sense when the awe-striking epiphany lands that Pyun also directed that film, also utilizing some of the same actors for his early 90’s cybernetic dystopian feature. In reviewing Pyun’s credits, the assumption can be made that the filmmaker has a sturdy hard-on for the intertwining of mankind and machine as not only did the director write and direct “Cyborg” and helmed “Nemesis,” but went on to be a part of, whether director, writer, or producer, of four more “Nemesis” sequels with a fifth being produced and shot, but scrapped in post-production due to Pyun’s flailing mental health. Rebecca Charles fed the scribal beast as “Nemesis’” screenwriter, along with penning “Nemesis 2: Nebula” and “Nemesis 3: Time Lapse.”

Alex Rain is a cold cut character, sliced thick like a cool cucumber on top of a hard to wedge salad. Rain’s iciness symbolizes his downtrodden humanity status and with each part of his body shattered from destruction, he becomes one step closer to being an automaton with eye brows. B-movie action star Olivier Guner essentially make a big career breakthrough with “Nemesis” as his sophomore feature. Guner’s military background suitably solidifies his physique as a workaholic cyborg cop while also presenting a rough cut speech impediment that’s very straight forward and without emotion. Some would say that Gruner’s approach fits his half-human, half-toaster oven character and I would say that would be correct. The 80’s and 90’s saw a crowded entry list of action stars, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many others in various degrees of success – and Olivier Gruner became one of those faces that had since then been lost over the years; Gruner’s performance in “Nemesis” lacked pizazz which could have been the contributing factor to his success, but the monotonic, unflattering one-liners and blank face stare didn’t spark any fires on top of his average muscular frame. His performance, to keep with the fire motif, didn’t provide the oxygen, a combustible, or a flammable source to quickly set ablaze a trail for semi-popularity amongst his peers and that’s where “Nemesis” falters in entertainment value. Comparatively, “Trancers” franchise actor, Tim Thomerson, is full of range and vigor as an concealing Commissioner Farnsworth. Thomerson, in his early 40’s at the time of filming, displayed an impressive physicality to his role, keeping up nicely with his onscreen rival. Farnsworth, from the get-go, reeks of desperation when pressuring Alex to do his bidding and Thomerson really nails the part and can switch on the proverbial dime as an egocentric field operative when chasing Alex through the jungles on the Hawaii set. The night and day performance is a stark contrast between the two actors. What’s mostly disappointing about “Nemesis’” cast that favorable characters come and go; some the characters a pinned with terrific actors such as Shang Tsung himself, “Mortal Kombat’s” Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, as the leader of The Red Army Hammerheads and the late, great Brion James (“Red Heat”) chirping a lousy German accent of the Commissioner’s right hand man. The cast has many other recognizable names that, again, come and go, including a strung out looking Merle Kennedy (“Night of the Demons 2”) as Max Impact, Marjorie Monaghan as the algorithmic beauty Jared, Vincent Klyn (“Cyborg”) as a disposable bodyguard, an extremely fit and nude Deborah Shelton (“Body Double”), voice actor Nicholas Guest (“Dollman”), brief cameo by Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”), a fresh faced version of “The Predator’s” Thomas Jane, and Thomas Jane’s bare ass.

The financial backing was obviously designated for a particular department in the “Nemesis” workshop and that department was special effects. Explosions, rotoscoping, stop-motion, sculpture, implosions, practical effects and makeup are just the tip of the iceberg. Frayed wires and eye ball cannons are the elegant touch that makes “Nemesis” a cult favorite and bring substance to a clunky storyline and divisively dynamic acting. However, not all the specials are pinpoint precision and grounded by reality. The one scene that stands above the rest when Farnsworth is hot in pursuit of Alex and Max and he’s shelling off rounds of a shotgun, standing relatively still, blasting away without moving the barrel around to compensate for his prey’s length of distance gained or even when they decided to make quick pivots in direction. Somehow, the rounds hit very close to Alex and Max and that’s not all, they even explode like a single stick of TNT. ACME must have had a hand in the special effects department because the scene sure was loony. Yet, the implosion of a monolithic silo was uber-impressive, well-executed, and really ritzy for the silver screen.

Imperial Entertainment’s “Nemesis” infiltrates onto another home video release, a region free, dual DVD and Hi-Def 1080p Blu-ray format release, from MVDVisual under their MVD Rewind Collection series. Sheathed by a slick, retro-grade slipcover with familiar art, reminiscent of the now decade old Sterling DVD release, the special collector’s edition provides two aspect ratios, an anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 and a widescreen 1.78:1. This MVDVisual Release has stellar detail in the texture and in framing that are exhibited in various tint shades, such as yellow and blue, and eventually cough up toward a more natural look into the second act when Alex reaches the rough neighborhood of Shang Loo, Java. Even though the visual compositions and mold work doesn’t pop with color and are a bit fuzzy, “Nemesis” is a product of it’s time, the early 1990’s and you can’t fault Pyun’s film for that. The English 5.1 surround sound is beautiful. So beautiful and potent, in fact, that you can actually understand Olivier Gruner’s mumbling, putting dialogue for all characters right into the front row while offering a stimulating range and depth of ambience sound, an unlimited variety of explosions, and plenty of miscellany cyborg hubbub. Other language are available, including French, German, as well as English in 2.0 stereo and there are English and German SDH subtitles available The Blu-ray bonus features include new interviews with producer Eric Karson and director Albert Pyun, “Nemesis 2.0” the director’s cut with Albert Pyun audio commentary, and original theatrical trailer. The DVD is the director’s cut and also includes the Japanese cut with Japanese subtitles burnt-in. Bonus features for the DVD include introductions by the director Albert Pyun and star Olivier Gruner, an afterword by Albert Pyun, a behind-the-scenes featurette, an interview with star Olivier Gruner, the making of segment involving the hefty special effects, stunt work, and visual effects, a featurette entitled “Killcount,” a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, TV spots, Key Art Photo gallery, and, top it all off, a mini-poster inside the casing. Inside a killer definitive, two-format and disc set from MVDvisual, “Nemesis” hones in on the existentialism notion of what being human actually means to each and every one of us through the bombardment of gun fights and jumbo explosions on top of a conglomerate cyborg coup that peaks with hard bodies and even harder viewer contemplation.

Planning a Jailbreak off an Evil Corporation’s Island Prison! “Escape from Absolom” review!


In the year 2022, Special Forces solider, Captain Robbins, is court martialed for putting a bullet in the head of his commanding officer. After escaping two maximum security prisons and a record of rebellious activity, a corrupt and power hungry warden of the Lactivus prison ships Robbins off to an off shore island called Absolom, where prisoners can roam free with no chance of escape due to 24/7 surveillance by Satellite and rocket launcher armed helicopter gunships surrounding the island perimeter. Island prisoners separate into two factions: the Outsiders and the Insiders. Each with the respective camps, the lawless Outsiders overwhelm the Insider’s numbers by 6 to 1, leaving the small manned community in constant fear of attack and pillage by the Outsider’s merciless leader, Walter Marek. When the insiders learn than Robbins has faced Marek and lived, they take the former solider into their community, but Robbins sole desire is to escape off the condemning rock and with the help of a few good men from the Insiders’ camp, the chances of escape and survival are greater together as long as Marek and his band of starving cutthroats don’t seize the endangered community first.

“Escape from Absolom,” also known as simply “No Escape” in the U.S., is a Martin Campbell directed action film from 1994 that’s futuristic and violent, fun and thrilling, and kitschy without being too cheesy. Campbell, who went on to direct not one, but two, James Bond films, begins a base of epic action that’s toweringly ambitious and pulled off nicely with the stunts and the editing. Based off the Richard Herley novel “The Penal Coloney,” the script is penned by Michael Gaylin who puts pen to paper to scribe a playful, passively aggressive dialogue, but fun and energetic on a the same coy lines of other high visibility action films. Gaylin was able to conform to a story that has no dynamic with the opposite sex in one of the few films that exhibits a rare all male cast.

“Goodfella’s” star Ray Liotta finally got his time to shine as the butch and badass action hero that is Captain Robbins, a highly skilled special forces solider and killing machine whose pragmatic intentions, at first, are hard to read. The cockiness overtop a well-cloaked deadly skill set works to the advantage of the blue-eyed actor for New Jersey. Opposite Liotta is Stuart Wilson (“Hot Fuzz”) as Walter Marek, a 7-year island lifer with dreadlocks and nose bridge piercings to match his psychotic leadership. Wilson does psychotic just fine, but the look resembles John Travolta’s atrocious attire from Battlefield Earth. Lance Henriksen, One of the most recognizable legendary genre actors, has a more serene approach in being a mentor and the leadership figurehead of the Insiders camp when compared to conventionally eccentric, sometimes maniacal performances, but Henriksen has a mellow side to him that conveys are very affectionate kumbaya approach, but any personality compared to Stuart Wilson’s internal rampage would be a stark contrast. “Ghostbusters'” Ernie Hudson has his role as security office in the Insiders camp and the sole black man of the film, for obvious reasons, stands out, but Hudson just adapts to anything you put him in though the Michigan born tended to sway toward the thrilling fantasy/sci-fi genre in the height of his career. Rounding out the cast is Kevin Dillon (“The Blob” remake), Kevin J. O’Conner (“Lord of Illusions”), Don Henderson (“The Ghoul”), Ian McNeice (“Dune”), and Michael Lerner (“Maniac Cop 2”).

All things considered, “Escape from Absolom” is a torrent men-in-prison extravaganza that’s one part Sylvester Stallone “Judge Dredd,” one part Chuck Norris “Missing in Action,” and, as a whole, an endangered brand of droll entertainment. Speaking of Stallone, Ray Liotta did it first as a character who is an expert at escaping the inescapable maximum security penitentiaries and instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dave Bautista as contentious, yet supportive allies, the friendly, yet solidly statured Ernie Hudson and Lance Henriksen share Liotta’s Captain Robbin’s unquenchable lust for freedom, even if it to provide unsheathe exposition of the unethical corporate penal system practices. Far from being a perfect film and extremely blantant on a no underlying message, Martin Campbell undoubtedly has a fine tuned niche of capturing the casual eye with large scale action sequences and an affable character allure.

Umbrella Entertainment releases “Escape from Absolom” on a region-all Blu-ray, presented in 1080p, widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. The coloring is phenomenally remastered and stable compared to previous transfers. There are times when depth becomes two-dimensional or flat, skewing the picture noticeably, but the overall picture quality is spectacular in the vast amount of Australian landscapes and even in the night scenes that show hardly any enhancing, such as sharpening or contrast. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is laid out nicely with audible poise and precision balance. Dialogue is prominent while explosions have just the right amount of oomph under an exact LFE recipe. The release sports other language Dolby Digital audio tracks such as a German 2.0, Spanish 2.0, Italian 2.0, and a French 2.0. Optional English SDH subtitles are available. Bonus material includes a two part making of featurette from around the production of the film with interviews with cast and crew, four TV spots, trailer, and a reversible cover. Runtime is 118 minutes. Martin Campbell’s “Escape from Absolom” is dystopian dynamite, explosive and aggressive with a flare for enjoyable banter amongst defined and diversified characters inhabiting an utopian island of mostly societal scum.