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.
Peter coerces his begrudging wife, Marcia, to forgo the luxurious hotels and chauffeured holidays for a long weekend of camping on a remote beach in Australia. An enthusiastic Peter packs the jeep with thousands of dollars worth of outdoor gear, including a surf board, a spear gun, and a hunting rifle. Marcia loathes the outdoors, can’t stomach the very thought, and she lets Peter know her distaste of his plan every other second while on holiday. Yet, this trip for them isn’t just a routine getaway, but, instead, a trip to get away from the swinging friction of close and very intimate friends, to rekindle their relationship, and save what little is left at a frayed string. The already awkward and complaint-riddle holiday turns from bad to worse when nature looms a foreboding shadow over the estranged couple, unleashing one ill-fated omen to the next that checks their nonchalant attitude toward nature with eco-radical discipline.
“Long Weekend” is an eco-horror film by “Innocent Prey” director Colin Eggleston. Alfred Hitchcock, perhaps, birthed the horror subgenre with his 1963 film “The Birds” that led to such films as “Day of the Animals” and “Grizzly.” Nearly 15-years later, Eggleston hones in on his inner Hitchcock by expanding the background on why nature turns cold and unsettlingly supernatural like. Working off a powerfully detailed and haunting script by “Razorback’s” Everett De Roche that circles around two characters like a hungry vultures, Eggleston vitalizes De Roche’s script with a paper to screen bleak, unsettling imagery on a monumentally minimalistic scale. “Long Weekend” could be considered a Hitchcockian film, and most likely is, but can stand firmly by itself as an extension on how mother nature can be a bitch when push comes to shove.
Two characters and the wilderness. That’s all “Long Weekend” boils down to on brass tacks, leaving two actors on the line to act off each other and off of the ominous presence that has fully engulfed them on an isolated stretch of beach and shoreside forestry. “The One Angry Shot’s” John Hargreaves tackles the conceited Peter with a full-bodied combination of heedless gusto and desperation that Hargreaves can seamlessly become lost in Peter’s self-worth. The Sydney born actor is paired with an English actress by way of Briony Behets from the 1980 film “Stage Fright,” a film also co-written by Colin Eggleston. Behets’ Marcia epitomizes the stereotypical enigma that men all think is the inner workings of a woman’s brain; Marcia is hot and cold with fleeting moments of passion for Peter, yet ready to kill him in the next scene. Behets converts the baffling intertwinement of Marica’s energy and channels it well into the dynamic that is their failing marriage.
What’s really special about Eggleston and De Roche’s film is the overloading symbolism. From subtle to simple, “Long Weekend” has the money betted on working on an underlying moment-to-moment, scene-to-scene in each act; a method tirelessly schlepped through with many modern features of today. Using non-threatening animals, such as a small possum and a sea cow or dugong, to be part of a menacing force driving the ominous presence across the narrative just sets the feng shui mindset of an unadulterated evil genius. Instead relying heavily on a physical entity, Eggleston heavily coincides creature imagery with the use of audible creature cues, whether a baby-like wail in the distance or the overpowering cacophony of animal growls and sneers, to invoke panic, fear, and paranoia to divide the already fragile pair into an atomic disaster of their undoing. “Long Weekend” will overshoot some viewers as piecing the puzzle together can be a slow and long process, but one aspect is certain, the off-camera animalistic stare has a powerful affect.
Second Sight delivers the ozploitation classic, “Long Weekend,” onto Blu-ray home video for the first time in the UK this November. Unfortunately, a review DVD-R disc was provided for this critique and audio and visuals components will not be covered. Bonus material was included on the review disc with audio commentary with executive product Richard Brennan and Cinematographer Vincent Monton, an Umbrella Entertainment produced panel discussion with film historians Lee Gambin, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Emma Westwood, and Sally Christie, Uncut “Not Quite Hollywood” interviews with Briony Behets, Vincent Monton, and Everett De Rocha, an extensive still gallery with an John Hargreaves audio interview, and original theatrical trailer. “Long weekend” is man versus nature at it’s best with sheer, unrivaled terror in a quaint eco-horror thriller package with a powerful message that nature will seek extreme judgement against Mother Earth criminals.
When a deadly robbery strikes one of Darcy Security Services armored cars, the security company’s chief executives aim to crack down on the already rigorous operational security protocols by implementing vastly unpopular and Union-irritating measures. The hit not only induces change to security procedures, but also opens up a can of worms that forces the hand of the three internal company men, who’ve been planning to steal from inside Darcy Security Services over the last five years, to accelerate their timeline. Their carefully laid out plan quickly becomes complicated when the mob gets wind of their elaborate heist, compelling the small three man crew to work for the crime boss without much of a choice as life and limb come to stake. Now the only thing that can stand between them and millions of dollars are two new Darcy recruits, a highly trained former police officer with a penchant for doing what’s honorable and a gun shy bloke targeted to be a prime suspect in previous armored car robberies.
Based loosely on a pair of actual robbery events authored by novelist Devon Minchin, “Money Makers” bares a ruthless resemblance to hardnose acts of crime as filmmaker Bruce Beresford captivates as the maestro behind the orchestration of Minchin’s book that’s gritty and enthralling on the big screen. The “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Double Jeopardy” director also pens a script full of bloody encounters and unflinching greed that delivers “Money Movers” as the first R-rated feature to stem out of South Australian Film Corporation, a production company that, up until then, co-produced dramas, mysteries, and family films, such as Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “The Last Wave,” with McElroy & McElroy and later co-produced the widely successful Outback horror “Wolf Creek” starring John Jarrett nearly 30 years later.
While numerous characters are subject to suspect and their roles’ intentions are guarded to the very end, the plot, for all intents and purposes, circulates around Eric Jackson, a former champion race car driver who now tenures as a 5-year senior security guard at Darcy’s, played by Terence Donovan. Donovan gives the performance his all with a wide range of subversive behavior. From cool, calm, and collective to feral gumption, Donovan race ends in drenching ferocity that’s fueled by his fellow costars who meet him at his level of performance. The most recognizable face, at least for me, is “F/X’s” Bryan Brown who portray’s Eric’s brother, Brian Jackson. They butt heads with former police officer Dick Martin and his no tomfoolery. The late Ed Devereaux had an old school acting method, very impersonal and straight forward like a John Wayne-type, and that worked perfectly in the role of Martin who befriends the projected patzy Leo Bassett played by “Quigley Down Under’s” Tony Bonner. Bonner’s able to capture Bassett’s unconfident, yet smooth persona that’s complete opposite of his partner Dick Martin, whose confident, but brash. What’s curious about the characters lies under the surface of a domineering male lineup – the women. Not one female character is apparent in a co-lead role and each role has a presumable flaw to them. Candy Raymond is an undercover private eye who uses her body and wits for information, Eric Jackson’s wife, played by Jeanie Drynan, has an absent and naive approach, and a handful of minor roles involving non-verbal girlfriends and late night secretary carnalities. The cast rounds out with Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Alan Cassell, Lucky Grills, Hu Pryce, Terry Camilleri and Frank Wilson.
“Money Movers” doesn’t scream perfection, but plays a major influential part in the infancy stages of violent crime thrillers that paved the way for such films like “Heat” or “Point Blank” and supplies another keystone in constructing the genre a solid foundation. “Money Movers” is bookend with graphic shootouts and peppered with conniving dealings and unsavory characters toward a shoot’em up heist climax that Bruce Beresford was able to depict visually and script confidently. In early scene, the storyboards could have been revised, restructured, or reordered to unearth a clear picture of establishing character backstories and setup that still process a puzzling connection between their nefarious intentions, but the ample storyline corrects course quickly without loosing too much time to ponder about the after effects of the early scenes.
Umbrella Entertainment re-releases “Money Movers” on a PAL DVD home video. The region free DVD is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Definition is key as the colors are, for lack of a better word, washed, but the clear cut outline that produces a sharp finish image grants this release of “Money Movers” a seal of approval that isn’t asterisked with blatant enhancements. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is on point with clarity in the dialogue and properly aligned, volumed, and untarnished ambiance. What’s interesting about “Money Movers” is the lack of a score that forces the viewer, subconsciously, to hone in more acute to the characters and their brazen actions. Bonus material includes “Count Your Toes – a making-of featurette with writer-director Bruce Beresford and cast members Bryan Brown, Terence Donovan, Tony Bonner, and Candy Raymond. There’s also the theatrical trailer and Umbrella Entertainment’s propaganda material. One of the first to be up on a prestigious pedastal of heist films, “Money Movers” is a violent, toe-cutting, experience armored with a great cast of acclaimed actors and filmmakers in this Ozploitation classic.
Yachtman Georgia Perry aims to be a part of the best of the best by joining a handful of women who’ve sailed around the world. The rules are simple: don’t step on land, don’t let anyone step on your boat, and don’t turn on your outboard motor. As Perry heads out into the open ocean, the 25-year-old carries with her a burden of lifetime baggage stemming from her mother’s acute depression and gruesome suicide, her father’s accident and deteriorating health, and the bond between her and her boyfriend Luke coming unraveled. Combine all that weight with complete isolation, loneliness, and no wind to push her sails, Georgia quickly spirals downward into a turbulent state with her only traveling companion being her cat with whom she has conversations on her becalmed sloop. All her fears come to fruition, blurring the line between reality and disturbing fantasy that threatens her voyage and, maybe, even her life.
Bayside Pictures presents “Visitors,” the last helmed feature by the late Richard Franklin of “Psycho II” and “F/X2” fame. “Razorback” writer Everett De Roche penned the 2003 psychological thriller and is able to conjure out some wicked mind buckling material of a woman subjected to cabin fever in the form of a volatile, non-linear story. Franklin adds his two-cent charm with impressive visual sets and effects from the early turn of the century, implementing CGI where appropriate, being practical when deemed, and, by golly, the effects resulted didn’t come out too shabby. The ocean has always been beautiful, yet terrifying mystery that has yet to be fully explored, and Franklin’s able to capture the ominous anomaly that associates with the deep blue sea under an overwhelming guise of mental health and severe isolated confinement.
Before she wandered into “Silent Hill,” but after becoming forsaken in “Pitch Black,” Radha Mitchell showed strength in solitary by playing the headstrong, nautically ambitious sailor, Georgia Perry. Mitchell, who was slightly older than her 25-year-old character, fabricates a troubled young woman willing to risk it all, even her life, even if it meant to leave to escape all her woes and that she holds dear at home. The “Rogue” and “The Crazies” remake actress from Melbourne has a sensationalized and systematic dynamic with her on-screen mother, played by the late Susannah York, in what’s considered to be a disturbing role of manipulative motherhood that forced Georgia to be extremely close and clingy to her endearing father, an underrated role bestowed upon Ray Barrett. A young and upcoming Dominic Purcell (“Blade: Trinity” and “Primeval”) costars as Georgia’s lover and business manager who may or may not have other underlying intentions with Georgia’s sponsors. Appearing never together and putting Mitchell at the epicenter of their lives, the foursome played their roles beautifully by stretching the limits of reality without being overly absurd to the point of being unbecoming of a thriller.
By no means is “Visitors” a woman versus nature premise. Yes, Georgia faces any elements that would plague any sailor who ventured into the ocean alone, but nature was only accessorial. “Visitors,” for the sake of being funny, is more of a film about a young girl embarking on a journey of self discovery. Georgia must get away from negativity that has been eating at her zealous spirit ever since the terrible childhood accident that had crippled her father and destroyed her parents’ marriage. Her embattled mother’s constant belittling, berating, and blaming is the brunt of that that has been burdening. At sea, Georgia battles her onshore demons, which also includes her father’s failing health and her failing relationship with Luke, and coinciding is her ever present looming and underlying fears that lurk out into manifestation, or a visitation if you will, during severe cabin fever. The trip around the world won’t kill her, but her inner demons just might which begs the question if “Visitors” is more of a mental health film and the answer is a firm yes without salty doubt.
Umbrella Entertainment releases “Visitors” onto a region 4 home entertainment DVD. The DVD is beyond an upgrade from it’s region 1 counterpart in the image and audio departments. The anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, renders a cleaner image with slightly more natural color tone as well as offering more film flesh on either side from the 35mm negative. The English Dolby 5.1 audio track offers a range of diversity. The dialogue is clear and fine, the ambient track syncs with ample depth, and the brooding and perilous soundtrack from composer Nerida Tyson-Chew (“Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid”) provides a delectable varied score to Georgia’s though process. The extras are thin, not much different from the Stateside release, including a photo gallery, cast and crew bios, and the Palace Film’s theatrical trailer. Considered widely as an Australian ozploitation film, “Visitors” is deep-seeded, mental trench warfare on the high seas set on a course of psychological doom. A fine film for being Richard Franklin’s last hurrah.
Jessica is a caretaker for a wildlife sanctuary located in the Australian outback. Her day-to-day challenges consist of refilling drinking water trowels in the midst of the heat and herding wandering animals away from a treacherous sinkhole with the help of faithful sheep dog, but Jessica’s way of life, and the lives of the sanctuary animals, becomes threated by three maniacal game poachers. Behind the wheel of a menacing modified truck, the poachers toy with the young woman: slaughtering the protected inhabited animals, destroying structures in her compound, and playing psychological games to mentally and physically break her will. When enough is enough, Jessica, whose nearly lost all that she has, decides to fight back against the well-armed and aggressive hunters that take their dangerous, back-and-forth game to a whole new life and death level.
Mario Andreacchio’s exploitation gem “Fair Game” makes a grand Blu-ray debut onto Umbrella Entertainment’s Ozploitation Classics collection line. Penned by screenwriter Rob George and headlined by the Brisbane beauty Cassandra Delaney, “Fair Game” is a lavishly brutal film about one isolated woman’s plight to righteously defend what’s hers at any cost against a blitzkrieg of assaults from three nasty, but very different, personalities. What’s utterly fantastic about Andreacchio’s film is the cinematography from the late “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” Oscar winner Andrew Lesnie. Lesnie, who worked on “Dark Age” that was also released on Blu-ray by Umbrella Entertainment, had a knack for vast landscapes and the director of photography made the already arid outback seem physically monstrous, especially during long shots of Cassandra Delaney running for her life through rocky, dusty terrain. There’s a stark contrast between his day approach and his night scenes that air a soft blue and white glow on the backdrop horizon, a familiar motif typically showcased in horror films, that immensely deepens the chase and stylizes the visual ambiance.
Cassandra Delaney stars as sanctuary overseer Jessica. The demanding role pits Delaney against the terrain elements as well as the three poachers in David Sanford, Garry Who, and Peter Ford as Sunny the trio’s relentless leader. Whereas Jessica’s as pure as they come, being an animal savior and contributor to the community with Delaney selling that to the fullest extent even when she’s pissed off and being a stoic like Sarah Connor, the antagonist are about as rotten as festering, worm-riddled apple with each actor portraying a very different type of character. David Sanford’s Ringo is an acrobatic young man with a punk rock look and attitude overlaying his athletic tone, marking him the versatile go-getter. Garry Who’s Sparks is a potbelly grease monkey and as the lone designated pit crew of his posse, Who enables the slightest probably of being the most sensible of the three thugs but still meager and mean when pushed by Ringo and Sunny. Sunny denotes himself the pit boss, an elite outback tracker with narcissistic tendencies in believing he’s invincible, and Ford’s hard nose and stern take on Sunny is pinpoint precision at it’s deadliest.
To be all fair about “Fair Game” reasonability, the big question that surfaces after viewing the film is who is the most certifiable between Jessica and Sunny’s gang of hoodlums. The answer to that riddle is ultimately Jessica. Though that might seem like a radical answer, Jessica is, by far, the craziest person with a severe death wish. Whenever Jessica retaliates against the poachers, the three inevitably response with something much worse. Here are some examples: Jessica dumps flour onto Ringo’s face and slaps a vegetarian bumper sticker on their truck that causes the ruffians to quietly invade her compound and take pictures of her while she sleeps naked, Jessica causes a small avalanche to temporarily trap them in a small cave and Sunny’s hoodlums respond by shooting her horse dead, and Jessica welds their assault rifles together in a heap of twisted metal and the poachers tie her half naked body to the hood of their truck and drive around until she passes out. The spat between them overwhelming seemed one sided, as Sunny as his hounds play with their live food before biting down hard to snap it’s neck, but made for kickass exploitation that echos genre classics such as “I Spit On Your Grave.”
Umbrella Entertainment releases 1986’s “Fair Game” onto high definition, 1080p Blu-ray with an all new transfer from a newly restored 2k master. Presented with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the transfer looks impeccable. The palette coloring isn’t vivid, but not surprising since the film is set in the arid outback with nothing but brown on top of brown or yellow on top of brown; however skin tones and the fine details are evidently splendid in Andrew Lesnie’s mise-en-scenes. There’s expected noise through out with some minor vertical scratches, especially earlier in some day time sequences and in the longer shots, but the restored transfer bares a cleaner and fresher take on the 30 year old plus film. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is a lossless transfer that reinvigorates the menacing aspects of the back-and-forth contest, an example would be the monster-like, if not personified, truck that rumbles and roars when trekking and chasing across the outback. Also enhance is the soundtrack that’s a concussed epiphany of acute and rough synthesized and blunt off key tones and melodies meshed together to form a mesmerizing score from composer Ashley Irwin. The release also contains a slew of special features including audio commentary by director Mario Andreacchio and screenwriter Rob George, an extended interview with Cassandra Delaney, a segment about “Fair Game’s” set location, A couple of local TV spots from 1985, a behind the scenes with Dean Bennett, the theatrical trailer, image gallery of still scenes and rare production and promotional materials, an animated storyboard, and five of Mario Andreachio’s short films. Whew. Talk about your full loaded package. “Fair Game” is the epitome of ozploitation with lucrative degenerate characters and a fair amount of gratuitous nudity that goes without being overly sleazy and downright violent like most collaborators in the subgenre. Packed with vicious machinery and a wicked sense of mind games, “Fair Game,” hands down, one of the best in the world of Australian cult cinema.