The Best Spies Seek Thrills When Taking Down EVIL! “Deathcheaters” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)

If Anyone Can Hide from the Grim Reaper, It’s the “Deathcheaters” on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

Vietnam War brothers-in-arms Steve Hall and Rodney Cann banded together well after the fighting was over and channeled all their pent up energy into being adrenaline junky stuntmen for movies, television series, and commercials as a living and as a lifestyle.  When the two Australians are duped and setup into a high speed chase and a daring rescue mission by one of their country’s own clandestine government agencies in a ploy to test Steve and Rod’s daredevil abilities, they pass the qualifying assessments and are offered an espionage job by agency head under the pseudonym of Mr. Culpepper who has no other incentive to provide other than the job to be the most challenging, death-defying operation to gorge on by two extreme sport enthusiasts.  Unable to resist, the stuntmen embark to a secret base on a remote island of the Philippines where they’ll dodge bullets, explosions, and over 100 guards to fight their way in and out to obtain classified documents for their country.

“Deathcheaters” became the third viewing adventure involving the actor-director combination of stuntman Grant Page and director Brian Trenchard-Smith that falls right in between “The Man from Hong Kong” and “Stunt Rock” and clearly delineates an understanding that Grant Page was a genuine fascination for Trenchard-Smith who sought to take the daring stuntman out of solely stunt role and puree him into a leading man role, showcasing Page’s hang-gliding, dune buggy, and skyscraper falls,  for the director’s second feature film released in 1976.  And, then, there’s John Hargreaves who we will dive into his there-but-not there presence later on. “Deathcheaters” is an ozploitation action-comedy that fulfilled two of Trenchard-Smith’s obsessions – stuntmen and spy films – from a story by the director and penned to script by Michael Cove and is produced by Trenchard productions alongside a conglomerate of production companies, including “Mad Max’s”  Roadshow Entertainment (a subsidiary of Village Roadshow), D.L. Taffner (“Ghost Stories”), Nine Network Australia, and the Australian Film Commission.

Undoubtedly, “Deathcheaters” stars Grant Page as the relationship unattached and cocky Rodney Cann whose only other interest besides bedding the single ladies is his enamored basset hound, Bismark.  Cann’s best friend, Steve Hall, is newly hitched to Julia who more-or-less disapproves of her husband’s risky vocation.  “Long Weekend’s” John Hargreaves plays the cheeky Steve Hall with sarcastic charm, matching his complement stunt partner and while Hargreaves has the chops to pull of the persona, the late Sydney born actor is well behind the curve when matched up with Grant Page.  Page is a stuntman playing a stuntman while Hargreaves is an actor portraying to be a stuntman and, unquestionably, that delta shows pretty radically when Page is driving the dune buggy, is descending rapidly from a tall building, or scaling a rock cliff without a harness and Hargreaves is relatively stationary.  Hargreaves has his moments but is greatly overshadowed by the veteran Page.  Before she was Brian Trenchard-Smith’s wife, “Stunt Rock’s” Margaret Gerard was John Hargreaves on screen romance who is vocal but wishy-washy on her husband’s exploits, even on the highly dangerous, international espionage mission assigned by the enigmatic Mr. Culpepper (Noel Ferrier, “Turkey Shoot”).  “Deathcheaters” round out with Judith Woodroffe, Drew Forsythe, Annie Semler, and Vincent Ball.

“Deathcheasters’ falls on the heels of the martial arts success of “The Man from Hong Kong” and is another stunt celebratory film from the ozploitation director with a penchant for large explosions and need-for-speed car chases.  All the stunts were perfectly poised in design and well executed.  Trenchard-Smith isn’t at all afraid to have the camera right in the middle of the action, strapping the 16mm camera to whatever plausible to place the audience in the action with the heroes.  As much as Trenchard-Smith goes full throttle with a tour de force, the same tricks become a little stale after, unfortunately, having previously watched “Stunt Rock” and “The Man from Hong Kong” that also featured self-set wet-gel fires, hang gliding, free falling, and among others aerobatic and dangerous acts that are seemingly in Page’s limited bag of showstopping routines.  There’s rarely anything new in “Deathcheaters” that warrant an awe response and that can be cliched, tiresome, and overall detrimental to the experience unless you’ve never seen a Trenchard-Smith film. If you’re one of those people never to have popped in one of his films, don’t expect “Deathcheaters” to be gritty, tough-as-nails, spitfire. Many of Trenchard-Smith’s earlier films, including “Deathcheaters,” sells solely on the witty, clean banter and a knack for the implied something really terrible happened to the bad guys with nothing ostentatiously explicit in the demise category. “Deathcheaters” can be wholesome, light, and aromatic of a repartee trashcan, but you get some great stunt work, explosions, and a car chase from this 1970’s Australian picture.

Like “The Man from Hong Kong” and “Stunt Work,” “Deathcheaters” too receives the Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray honor bestowed upon it from Umbrella Entertainment as spine number 10. Newly scanned in high definition 4K for the first time, John Seale’s cinematic vision has never looked better in this region free release, presented in standard widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The original vault materials held up nice enough to warrant a clear picture with only a few, brief blemishes. The super 16mm shot film, blown up to 35mm, often still feels ever so lightly flat in contour definition and in color; yet all the scenes look naturally aboriginal from the masters. The English language DTS-HD master audio 2.0 mono is a naturally lossy single speaker audio mix that doesn’t exact full representation of the action on screen though robust in fidelity. Dialogue perceives feebler during exterior scenes as capturing dialogue competes with the elements due to poor boom placement or just inferior equipment. Like the other releases, bonus features are nicely packed with a newly extended interviews with Brian Trenchard-Smith, Grant Page, and John Seale from the Not Quite Hollywood documentary, a new audio only interview Remembering “Deathcheaters” with executive producer Richard Brennan, new liner notes from Trenchard-Smith, a 2008 commentary with the director, executive producer, and leading lady Margaret Gerard (listed as Margaret Trenchard-Smith), Trenchard-Smith trailer reel, theatrical trailer, and a Trenchard-Smith directed bonus feature in “Dangerfreaks – The Ultimate Documentary.” The clear snapper case is housed inside a cardboard slipcover and inside the snapper’s liner is a 16-page comic book adaptation from Dark Oz, much like Umbrella accompanied with “Stunt Rock.” “Deathcheaters” shows its age but still pulls out all the stops with amazing stunt choreography and gave way to Grant Page being solidified lead man material, even with his corny one-liners, and simultaneously building upon Brian Trenchard-Smith’s early career in a niche field of being obsessed with overachieving, arrogant, and unafraid stuntmen.

If Anyone Can Hide from the Grim Reaper, It’s the “Deathcheaters” on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

One Man Takes on the EVIL Australian Crime Syndicate! “The Man from Hong Kong” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)

“The Man From Hong Kong” on the Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

A newly formed Australian narcotics unit busts up a major drug deal that lands a crime syndicate pusher into the custody of the authorities.  The pusher, low on the totem pole of a larger drug organization, speaks no English and with the inexperience of the Australian unit, Hong Kong special branch inspector, Fang Sing-Leng, is requested for interrogation interpretation and be the escort of extradition back to the pusher’s native Hong Kong residence, but while in custody, the pusher is gunned down by an assassin.  Sing-Leng thrusts himself into Sydney’s criminal underworld the Hong Kong way, leaving a trail of destruction in his solo-takedown of formidable drug kingpin, Jack Wilton.

For film loving youngsters, would they know what cinema was like before green screens, motion capturing technology, and other computer imagery devices to create alien worlds and improbable fight sequences?  Would comprehending the idea that before the pre-implementation of these technological advances in film there was a just-do-it fortitude toward the physical and raw aspects of special effects and stunt work?  Those wee moviegoers’ heads would explode into itty-bitty chunks of brain matter by the very slight thought of a man jump kicking another man off a high-speed dirt bike without even one ounce of a tethered harness or helmet for safety.  Hazard upon dangerous hazard is what writer-director Brian Trenchard-Smith offers on the table from his debut martial arts film “The Man from Hong Kong,” the first martial arts film of its kind hailing out of Australia.  Trenchard-Smith’s working title “Yellow Peril” sought to sprinkle in between the high kicks and hyahs an amusingly intended, but greatly nearsighted, prejudice of the subtle racism in how Australian people viewed East Asia; however, Raymond Chow, the Hong Kong-side producer for this two-country co-production, ozploitation actioner, didn’t quite see the humor in “Yellow Peril” (and we don’t blame him).  Thus, “The Man from Hong Kong” title was born with some minor contentious distaste for its generic branding.  Trenchard-Smith’s The Movie Company Pty. Ltd (“Stunt Rock”) and Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest Company (“Sex and Zen”) served as co-productions, releasing the joint venture in 1975 with variable success across the globe.

The first choice Brian Trenchard-Smith had in mind for the role of Fang Sing-Leng was mega-martial arts superstar Bruce Lee hot off the success of 1972’s “Fist of Fury,” 1972’s “The Way of the Dragon,” and 1973’s “Enter the Dragon.”  “The Man from Hong Kong” seemed to be a perfect segue into Lee’s next martial arts box-office hit that may have also reclaimed cinematic stardom for his soon-to-be co-star George Lazenby who fell into a blacklist slump after declining to reprise his 007 James Bond role from “Of his Majesty’s Secret Service.”  Unfortunately, and tragically, Bruce Lee suddenly died at the age of 32, leaving a void to fill not only Trenchard-Smith’s first film but also in the martial arts entertainment world.  In comes Jimmy Wang Yu, China’s former #1-turned-#2 after the quick rise of Bruce Lee.  The “One Armed Swordsman” series Wang Yu not only entrenches himself into the titular role at the behest of producer Raymond Chow as a suitable replacement, but Wang Yu also became Trenchard-Smith’s directorial counterpart of the Hong Kong shot scenes and the fight sequences, the latter being superbly thrilling by Wang Yu and his stunt team’s dedicated skillset to make the showmanship look authentic and bruising.  The extended chase through the streets of Sydney and into a no holds kitchen brawl with legendary stunt man Grant Page (“Stunt Rock”) is one of the best one-on-one rundown combat arrangements of its era.  Lazenby’s an effective villain with his towering height, broad build, and Tom Sellick mustache and has the ability to choreography not-so-half-assed kung fu, meeting and matching Wang Yu’s on screen moves without looking dopey or forced.   Australia’s film industry was so small at the time, there are number of recognizable actors mostly from the “Mad Max” series with the likes of Hugh Keays-Byrne (“Mad Max,” “Mad Max:  Fury Road”), Frank Thring (“Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”), Roger Ward (“Mad Max”) in key or notable performance roles along with Bill Hunter (“Mad Dog Morgan”) and a pair of titular character love interests in Rebecca Gilling and Rosalind Speirs.

When judging a martial arts film, one critiques the hand-to-hand or melee weapon play contests, scrutinizing every punch thrown and kick taken, for complexity and believability.  If it looks real, it sure as hell feels real when conveyed from off the screen and to the audience.  Though “The Man from Hong Kong’s” scenes feel a little airy, pulling punches slightly too perceptibly, the choreography is quick and exhibits naturally enough through a variety of action and locations, including on top of Australia’s famous tourist attractions Ayers Rock for a wham-bam, drug sting and bust opening with a great-looking and thrilling car explosion shot that nearly takes the camera man’s head off with an unplanned, detonation jettison of a spinning car door toward the camera crew.  Those sorts of risky stunts are prevalent throughout that lends to “The Man from Hong Kong’s” enthralling physicality tone with Trenchard-Smith and his team’s wiliness to learn as they go in their death-defying acts.  The film is a tour de force of stunts, ranging from car chases, glider flights, skyscraper plunges, and an unforgettable kitchen skirmish with real melee weapons kneaded into its very fabric, with a Dirty Harry hero whose more of an anti-hero lawbreaker than the villains he’s up against by specializing in China’s miscreant brand of investigative police work. 

Perfectly suited as number 9 on the spine of the Umbrella Entertainment’s Ozploitation Classics banner is Brian Trenchard-Smith’s “The Man from Hong Kong,” now released on a region free, 2-disc AVC encoded Blu-ray.  Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with full 1080p, high-definition resolution, Umbrella has pulled out all the stops to release the best transfer to drool over.  Subtle vertical scratches here and there have no standing impact on viewing and the distinguished color palette is quite good and natural-looking for a film from nearly five decades ago.  There is a healthy amount of positive grain from the 35mm film stock, but the compression never comes into an issuance of sacrificing the quality, leaving darker scenes appearing bright and visible without the effect of enhancement or zealous contrasting.  My only substantiated gripe is with the subtitle cards that, in a way to not have to redo the English subtitles for the Mandarin dialect, the original frames were seemingly kept in and the image reverts back to a lesser quality degree.  Two audio options are available, an English-Mandarin language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and a lossy DTS-HD dual channel.  Umbrella’s kbps output erratically fluctuations between 2400-3400 but even with the rollercoaster ups-and-downs, “The Man from Hong Kong” still had a robust action track and the dialogue came through discernibly clear.  Only goofy aspect about the audio is “Game of Death” and “Bloodsport’s” Roy Chiao’s English dubbing of Jimmy Yang Yu who obviously knew English or knew how to act like he knew English by watching his mouth articulate the native vernacular.  Umbrella also pulls out all the stops for the special features department in this limited to 3000 copies 2-disc set with the second disc a CD soundtrack arranged with Noel Quinlan funk-rock score and the main Billboard topping opening theme “Sky High” by the band Jigsaw.  Also included is a 2001 audio commentary from director Brain Trenchard-Smith, actor Hugh Keays-Byrne, and stunt director Grant Page, an all-new(ish) interview with Grant Page from 2008 entitled Real!Quick! pulled from Mark Hartley’s ozploitation documentary “Not Quite Hollywood,” extended interviews with the director, executive producer David Hannay, cast members George Lazenby, Roger Ward, and Rebecca Gilling, cinematographer Russell Boyd, 2nd unit cameraman John Seal, and first assistant director Hal McElroy from the same Hartley documentary, Trenchard-Smith’s 50-minute documentary “The Stuntmen,” a 75-minute “Kung Fu Killers” TV special directed by Trenchard-Smith and featuring Grant Page and George Lazenby, behind the scenes footage, opening night press conference footage, various and alternate  trailers and promos including a HD theatrical trailer, a cardboard slipcover with new illustrated design, and a reversible Blu-ray case cover art that also lists all 23-tracks on the CD.  The special features runtime outshines the 106-minute feature with a slew of interviews; however, much of the interviews really harp over-and-over upon George Lazenby’s set-on-fire coat mishap scene and Jimmy Wang Yu before the camera rolls catching and eating dragon flies ahead of a kissing scene with Rebecca Gilling.  “The Man from Hong Kong” isn’t notable because it’s Australia’s first martial arts film.  It isn’t notable for the attempt of resurgence of a former James Bond actor or because of its robbed promise of the late Bruce Lee.  What makes “The Man from Hong Kong” important to the film industry as a whole is its precursor value for being the example of a cast and crew to put life and limb on the line for the sake of motion picture art and be damn good at it.

“The Man From Hong Kong” on the Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

A Stuntman and Rock-n-Roll Magicians Have EVIL Under Control! “Stuck Rock” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)

The MUST OWN version of “Stunt Rock” Now on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

Grant Page is a world-famous veteran stunt man from Australia and his new big project, a high octane, thrilling action move feature packed with car chases, fire sequences, and death-defying falls set in Hollywood, California.   When he arrives, his cousin Curtis picks up from the airport and shows him around, ending up at the recording studio where Curtis’s band Sorcery is lays down tracks for their upcoming album.  Between Grant’s thrilling high flying, quick burning stuntman work and the band’s theatrical heavy rock and magic trick performances, a showcase of entertainment energizes the soul as well as entertains it.  Before long, a column journalist Lois Willis aims to get Grant’s story on occupational health and lifestyles.  They’re joined by Grant’s costar of the film, leading lady Monique van de Ven, and together they rock out and enjoy the daredevil antics like one big life party. 

Unique in format and content, “Stunt Rock” reflects upon the ostentatious career of director Brian Trenchard-Smith. Before immersing himself in straight-to-video sequels of “The Omega Code,” “Night of the Demons,” and “Leprechaun,” Trenchard-Smith had a talent for being unabashed and taking risks in making something different. Thus, an 86-minute one-part showcasing demo reel, one-part fictional story, and one-part heavy rock music video was born from a slew of Trenchard-Smith shot achieve footage highlighting the impressive physicality resume of the one and only Grant Page. In 1978, “Stunt Rock’s” short theatrical run assumed the picture too radical for the general public with a motley crew of characters and a get-to-know Grant Page storyline that interjected the heavy rock, or borderline glam rock, of Sorcery, a five-piece band accompanied by two magicians whose illusions and pyrotechnics were performed live on stage as the musicians rocked out. Only recently has “Stunt Rock” re-emerged onto home video due in part to the advocating acolytes of the now defunct by not forgotten band and has become a wonderous and enriching blast from the past of reliving decades old history, contrasting artistry cooperating under one umbrella, and a deluge of rock and master class stunts. Also known as “Crash” or “Sorcery,” Martin Fink produces the quasi-action docu-musical with Trenchard filming under his own banner, Trenchard Films.

Grant Page, a man you may never recognize in name or face but probably have seen his broad list of service work at least a dozen times or more. “Mad Dog Morgan.” Yup, Page did the stunts. “No Escape.” Yup, that too. “Mad Max.” That as well! Between performing the stunts and a stunt coordinator, Grant Page has achieved over 100 credits to his name, but not until receiving the lead role in “Stunt Rock” is where he actually got to be himself…literally. Trenchard-Smith’s goal was to put Grant Page on a platform having worked with the stuntman on previous films, such as “Deathcheaters” and “The Man from Hong Kong,” putting his career, and life, on the line numerous times. Page is charming and collected under his rugged facial hair and glasses atop a muscular physique as he’s paired to cohabitate with the latter half of two-word title. Grant Page is stunt whereas Sorcery is rock. Consisting of, at the time, members of the Americna rock group were front man Greg Magie, bass Ritchie King, guitarist Smokey Huff, drummer Perry Morris, and Keyboardist Doug Loch who always wore a glitzy or colorful stocking mask with had his vocals adjusted to a higher pitch. There were also two highly skillful stage performing magicians in Paul Haynes as the bearded King of all Wizards, Merlin, and Curtis James Hyde as Haynes on stage villainous counterpart, the Prince of Darkness aka Satan. In between the two rip-and-roaring personas is a reporter working on a column piece and Grant becomes her angled subject. Brian Trenchard-Smith’s wife of 40+ years is Margaret Gerard in the role of Lois Wills, a love interest who doesn’t quite understand Grant’s obsession with intentional self-destruction as a profession but quickly falls for the big hunk despite any real tangible flirtation. Across the aisle at the other end of female perspective is Monique van de Ven playing as herself. The Netherlands actress, who mastered the art being in a catch-22 love triangle between her longtime husband and her adventurous and new female lover in “A Woman Like Eve,” is positioned in “Stunt Rock” as certifier of the fake movie Grant is there to stunt for being the leading actress eager to do what Grant does, the stunt work, at the chagrin of her asset protecting agent.

“Stunt Rock” may not be our bread-and-butter material for review, containing a severe lack of ghastly horror, creature horror, sleazy exploitation, gore and shock, phantasmagoria schlock, etc.  Instead, what “Stunt Rock” is is a pure, 100%, grade A cult classic title that goes beyond the baseline criteria for critique, as if the film even needed our insignificant stamp of world cinema approval.  Absolutely not, as “Stunt Rock” speaks for itself, literally so in the very title, delivering essentially what the film is selling, documenting, exhibiting, and entertaining along with the caveat to be a career booster and an endearing tribute for director Trenchard-Smith’s much adored and highly respected Grant Page. The way Trenchard-Smith fashions his own shot stock footage of Page’s exhilarating and adrenaline junky spectacles into flashbacks, split screens, and just a reel of collected examples whenever Page goes into specific memories of stunts, a montage of similar acts, or even how he feels before or during the performance never bogs down into arrogant gray area on the part of feature’s star. Only the director behind the one-two punch “Day of the Panther” and “Strike of the Panther” could pull of “Stunt Rock’s” insanity on celluloid, rock on reel, and a cloud nine high on a combination of both.

“Stunt Rock” is more than just assemblage of electrifying stunts as it also brings down, as well as breaks down, stunt work as not this grandiloquent behavior but more about precision, planning, and self-care with some mild levels of egomania to do things bigger, better, and more dangerous. All of this great content is now on coming at you on a Blu-ray home video from Umbrella Entertainment as the 8th spine on their Ozploitation Classics label. Presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 in full high definition, 1080p, the region free Australian release is a fury of packed goodness, in all sense of the term. Rated PG, “Stunt Rock” is about as wholesome as a PG film came come that even comes with an opening disclaimer about not trying these stunts at home, so parents open your children’s eyes to “Stunt Rock!” As far as image quality is concerned, Umbrella’s release perfects the natural-looking colorization by adding a pop of robust color, unintrusive grain, and baring miniscule blemishes. Most of the film is shot in 35mm, but some of the older footage Trenchard-Smith shot on Grant Page is in 16mm and the varying levels of difference in the details can play tricks on the mind with the stark contrast. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is a solid track. Dubbing can tilt an audio imbalance in the depth around certain dialogued moments, but for the most part, no compression issues leave a clean and clear outcome with even an array of well-recording Sorcery tracks and capturing all the fine details in their pyrotechnic and smoke and mirror shows in front of a live high school audience. This Blu-ray is packed with special features beginning with an exclusive virtual interview with Brian Trenchard-Smith and his wife/leading lady Margaret Gerard at their home in Oregon going over every facet in the genesis and aftermath of “Stunt Rock,” plus 2008 interviews with Grant Page and the director from Not Quite Hollywood segment, 2008 audio commentary from Page and Trenchard-Smith, 2009 audio commentary from the director, producer Marty Fink, and actor Richard Blackburn, a 2009 introduction to the film, extended interviews with Sorcery guitarist Smokey Huff and Marty Fink, 2009 audio interview with the band’s drummer Perry Morris, Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Alamo Drafthouse Appearance, Cannes Promo Reel, a HD theatrical trailer, an exclusive new Trenchard-Smith approved trailer reel, and more audio commentary from the director in Trailers from Hell. And that’s not all! Beyond the colorfully retro-esque slipcover and snapper cast with reversible cover art with the film’s posters on the inside is a 14-page collectible comic book with the abridged illustrated version of the film. “Stunt Rock” is an amazing, one-of-a-kind film with now a one-of-a-kind Blu-ray release from Umbrella Entertainment sure to be a must-own for any fans of Brian Trenchard-Smith, Grant Page, or Sorcery!

The MUST OWN version of “Stunt Rock” Now on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

Contamination Coverup by an Evil Corporation! “The Chain Reaction” review!


Former war veteran and hot rod enthusiast Larry and his wife, Carmel, take a weekend off from the children to vacation in Paradise, a retreat on the outskirt, rural area of Australia that includes pleasurable amenities such as fishing, swimming, and being an ideal location for a dirty weekend between two lovers, but an Earthquake triggers a major nuclear leak at Waldo, an international nuclear waste storage facility who aims to coverup to radioactive contamination. Heinrich Schmidt, an engineer who was deeply exposed to the waste flees from Waldo’s goons to reveal to anti-nuclear agencies the corporation’s dastardly concealments and warn locals of the tainted public water supply. With not much time to live and suffering from a serious head injury, Schmidt, with partial amnesia, is sheltered by an unsuspecting Larry and Carmel as they help him piece together his life while Waldo sends recovery and murderous thugs to quiet those who wish to leak information. Paradise is anything but as trouble brews between the vacationing Larry and Carmel, the witless locals, and Waldo in disclosing radioactive waste streaming through the water passage ways.

“The Chain Reaction” is the freshman film of writer-director Ian Barry released in 1980. Produced by “Mad Max’s” George Miller, “The Chain Reaction” was considered an unrelated companion piece that also starred a number of the same actors, but the action-thriller aligned more with the populistic nuclear disaster genre of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Whereas George Romero focused on accidental biological effects in his 1973 science fiction horror, “The Crazies,” Barry honed in on nuclear waste disaster and the reaction of those responsible, to what length of measures would be necessary and taken to keep exposure from happening. Caught in the middle are locals and unfortunate vacations, who actually take more a stand against tyrannical, above the law organizations. “The Chain Reaction” is packed with exciting car chases and glazed with testosterone enriched standoffs on a nuclear level.

Steve Bisley steps into the lead role of hot shot Larry Stilson working his solid strong physique with a general moral, but still bad boy composure when unravelling and thwarting the Waldo conspiracy. Bisley costars alongside the late Arna-Maria Winchester. Winchester screams screen time sauciness, but as a mother of two, Winchester’s Carmel Stilson comes off as promiscuously uncharacteristic as a mother but, to be fair, Larry doesn’t necessarily yell conventional father either. However, I’m impressed by the turncoat engineer Heinrich Schmidt played by Ross Thompson, an Australia actor who can really accent well the German language and puts into his role a languishing, broken man trying to do the right thing. Together, the Stilson’s and Heinrich are tracked down by Waldo henchman Gray, portrayed by English actor Ralph Cotterill (“Howling III”). Cotterill’s menacing, stodgy dagger eyes make him a suitable villain, but falters in the screen time department, seeing not much action as needed to take care of monumental business against possible exposure. Huge Keays-Byrne (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), Richard Moir (“The Odd Angry Shot”), Laurie Moran, Lorna Lesley (“The Survivor”), and a cameo of Mel Gibson round out of the cast.

The overall problematic crux with “The Chain Reaction” stems from that director Ian Barry is no George Miller when presenting his own version of pacing a film. The narrative is casually abrupt and edited shoddily with very rough and hard to follow sequential events that are supposed to be a fiery ball of nuclear mishandling and underhandedness fury. Though highly doubtful Umbrella Entertainment took the censorship scissors to this Ozploitation flick, there are moments of bizarre, if not expurgated, cuts that debase the illustrative graphic violence. One particular moment in the climatic third act, a shotgun was only aimed to intimidate would be attackers, but never discharged. However, a character is seemingly gunned down with a blood splattered mid-section being the only clue of his demise, but like aforementioned, the shotgun was never fired. Barry’s riveting action story plays out mostly like this, reducing the action to a meager narrative withstanding only a few good car chase sequences, some character intimacy, and laced with some shrouded mystery.

Umbrella Entertainment presents under their Ozploitation Classics’ sublabel, Ian Barry’s “The Chain Reaction” onto a full High definition, 1080, region free Blu-ray with a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Honestly, a slightly cleaner and re-refined release was expected. Natural grain is expected, but the lossy definition and blurriness could have been tweaked for optimal results on the print. No edging enhancements nor print damage detected surrounding the fair natural coloring, skin tones, and, sometimes, vivid photography from Russell Boyd (“Picnic at Hanging Rock”), which is surprisingly rather bland overall. The DTS-HD Master Audio dual channel track is excellent with upfront and clear dialogue, ample ambient range, and a clean harrowing and resonating classic disaster scenario score composed by Andrew Thomas Wilson in his sole composure credit. Bonus features are aplenty with extended Not Quite Hollywood interviews with stars Steve Bisley and Arna-Maria Wichester, director Ian Barry, and producer Ross Matthews, a couple of featurettes entitled Thrills & Nuclear Spills and The Spark Obituary, deleted and extended scenes, an early cut with alternate title of “The Man at the Edge of the Freeway,” and media spots from theatrical release, TV, VHS trailer, and image gallery. “The Chain Reaction” is far from noxious, but the nuclear disaster piece could have been more radiant, a quality very difficult to achieve deep in the midst of so many great titles similar in the genre category; yet, the Ian Barry action thriller is an entertaining adversity excursion nonetheless.

Did Evil Put You On It’s Will? “Next of Kin” review!


After the untimely death of her mother, Linda returns from her university studies to reacquaint herself with the inherited Montclare, a home for the elderly her mother owned and operated through the decades as a family business. As she internally debates about whether to sell the grand, yet antiquated estate, 24-year-old Linda shuffles through her mother’s left behind things that rekindle Linda’s faded memories of her youth and add a sense of melancholy about her mother’s mental condition. A seemingly quiet, if not quirky, home for the elderly quickly becomes shrouded with mystery after the discovery of one of the residents found dead in a bathtub. Soon after, Linda feels as if she’s being watched and toyed with inside the corridors of Montclare: candles found lit, bathroom fixtures overflowing and cascading with water, mysterious figures looming from inside her room’s window, and her mother’s belongings sprawled out about the room. Paranoia sets into Linda as she suspects the resident caretaker and doctor of a lethal plot against her inside an old, foreboding manor that troubled her mother into deathly consequences and she searches for answers inside her mother’s extensive diaries that reveal the ominous dread that overwhelmed her inside an evil house.

“Next of Kin” is Australian’s answer to Dario Argento’s hauntingly apprehensive and vividly hued classic, “Suspiria.” Directed by Tony Williams and co-written with Michael Heath (“Death Warmed Over”), “Next of Kin” embodies monolithic brooding merits of a gracefully shaped horror and palpitating anxiety unlike any other Australian horror film we’ve ever seen before. In fact, Williams 1982 film doesn’t feel very Australian at all that’s set chiefly in and around Montclar, a lavishly gothic estate with expensive fountains and floral garnishes. Aside from native accent and barely a dusty road to drive down, the country of origin could be anywhere, punching home the aspect that the incident at Montclar is universal. Looking into a couple of their techniques, Williams and cinematographer Gary Hansen (“Image of Death”) utilize slow motion and interlaced scenes to convey a surreal dread that transcends from film to senses, also involving disruptive audio cues and visual jump scares, to culminate every scene, ever moment, into a well thought out result on how to effectively reach out and affect that scared little boy or girl in all of us.

Primarily a television and mini-series actress, Jacki Kerin sets foot into the main actress Linda. Kerin’s able to flip emotions from emitting a passive quality while she seemingly annoyed by her mother’s death while switching gears into a hyper-tensive defender. The small screen actress translate well onto the big screen, accompanying well versed thespians in “Picnic at Hanging Rock’s” John Jarratt, who went onto to more notably the “Wolf Creek” franchise. There’s also Alex Scott (“The Abominable Dr. Phibes”) and Tasmanian-born actress Gerda Nicholson. Scott and Nicholson do a fine job of portraying un-trust worthy snoops with underlining knowledge yet to be exposed and with Kerin, the fear goes unopposed and spreads like wild fire. the remaining cast includes Charles McCallum, Bernadette Gibson, Robert Ratti, Vince Deltito, and Debra Lawrence.

Practical effects are minimal in “Next of Kin,” but are well integrated with a meticulous purpose. Williams maintains the gore to an infancy amount, but the New Zealand born director doesn’t nickel-and-dime the macabre. Much of the death displayed comes in at post-humorous, visually positioning the cold and blue hued, more at times ripped life from, bodies to vessel the story forward toward a shocking, what-the-hell, and oh glorious climax. Then, when all the proverbial cards on the table, Linda finds herself ensnared in a cat-and-mouse game where Chris Murray’s practical effects come to the forefront. Special effects maestro, Chris Murray, had the George Miller experience while working on “Max Max” in 1979, prepping him to be the adequate effects artist to create surreal and, also, brutal Giallo-like murder.

Umbrella Entertainment presents Tony Williams’ “Next of Kin” onto a region free, full HD 1080p Blu-ray home video. An Ozploitation classic in itself, Umbrella Entertainment puts the film on a home media pedestal with a remastered 4k transfer from the original 35mm interpostive and presented in a widescreen, 1.77:1 aspect ratio. Beyond gorgeous with lush grim colors and able to keep the natural grain of the 35mm nitrate, “Next of Kin” sees one hell of an upgrade that shows no wear in the transfer and no compression issues or edging enhancements. Even with the heavy blue tint at time, the amount and the use is appropriate alongside Gary Hansen’s vision. The new English DTS-HD master audio emphasizes the heavy synthesized score by German electronic music composer Klaus Schulze that meshes fine with the creepy house ambiance. Dialogue is properly forefront and crystal clear. Special features run amok with audio commentaries with director Tony Williams, producer Tom White, and with cast members John Jarrett, Jackie Kerin, Robert Rattie. Also on the release is a “Return to Montclar – Next of Kin” shooting locations revisited, extended interviews from “Not Quite Hollywood” director Mark Hartley, deleted scenes, original and VHS trailer, German opening credits and trailer, an image gallery, and a couple of Tony Williams’ short films: “The Day We Landed on the Most Perfect Planet in the Universe” and “Getting Together.” “Next of Kin” has a brawny Italian Giallo flavor with a gritty, distinctive core of Australian horror filmmaking; sheerly beautiful and indisputably morbid, director Tony Williams has garnished a choice horror favorite that’s been sorely passed over through the years.