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.
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.
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.