Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scorpion Releasing - SORCERESS (on Blu-ray) plus GRIZZLY and GREEN ICE on DVD ""

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Scorpion Releasing - SORCERESS (on Blu-ray) plus GRIZZLY and GREEN ICE on DVD

SORCERESS (1982: Jack Hill)
Jack Hill is one of those directors that I continue to marvel at more and more all the time. I believe it was Tarantino who compared him to Howard Hawks in that both directors worked in large variety of genres and seemed to do all of them pretty well (or better). Now I've seen Jack Hill do plenty of action (COFFY, FOXY BROWN, SWITCHBLADE SISTERS etc), cult drama (SPIDER BABY, PIT STOP), horror (BLOOD BATH) and even sex comedy (THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS), but I had never ever seen him take on a fantasy/sword and scorcery type thing like this. He was lucky enough to collaborate with the legendary Jim Wynorski on the writing side so that certainly helps give this movie a special flavor as it were. Wynorski himself would of course dive headlong into fantasy filmmaking himself with his feature debut (THE LOST EMPIRE) in 1985 and then again with DEATHSTALKER II in 1987 so he was kind of cutting his teeth here. The resulting film is absolutely memorable and has been a bit of a mythical thing in its own right as it has been properly available on home video for some time (or perhaps ever). This is truly sad in that it seems clear that SORCERESS might have had a similar following to fantasy movies like BEASTMASTER, CLASH OF THE TITANS and CONAN THE BARBARIAN. SORCERESS really feels like CLASH OF THE TITANS meets more sword and sorcery in the style of BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. The Corman-y side of it is that there is a decent amount of nudity (the film has two twin playboy playmates in the central roles) and it's all done on what is obviously a pretty small budget. Apparently this film was something of a struggle between Corman and Hill who had perhaps gone one or two pictures past the point they should have as far as their working relationship. Due to some creative differences, Hill left the project during post-production so the resulting film is not 100% his vision. That being said, it is still a very entertaining fantasy tale that has been unjustly forgotten in the time since it was first released.

This Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray is one of the first in an upcoming group of co-releases with Kino Lorber and it is a very exciting start to this venture indeed. Beyond being a good-looking Blu-ray (considering the source material and the type of film we're talking about), and the cut of the film being presented is a longer version (82 minutes) than was previously available. Additionally, this disc also has a number of supplements to peruse as well.

--"The Magic Behind SORCERESS - an Interview with Roger Corman" (7 mins) - Corman lays out background on the film and illustrates the business side of things as well as the production and post production aspects as he recalls them
-- "The Illusion Behind SORCERESS - an Interview with John Carl Buechler" (16 mins) - Special effects wizard (& director Buechler) discusses his process of developing the effects for SORCERESS and how he came to the project (he had worked on the effects for FORBIDDEN WORLD just previous to this). Buechler goes into detail in regards to all the effects and how he was able to get them done on a shoestring budget.
--"The Incantation Behind SORCERESS - an Interview with Jim Wynorski" (10 mins) - Director Wynorksi talks about being asked by Corman to write the script for SORCERESS in one week (the Monday after CONAN THE BARBARIAN opened). He also briefly discusses Jack Hills original longer cut of the film and what Corman disliked about it and was later cut out. Wynorski is always entertaining in interviews and this is no exception. He's a straight shooter and speaks his mind rather explicitly.
--"an Interview with Post Production Supervisor Clark Henderson" (9 mins)
-Henderson gives another perspective on the film's making via the finishing process. He also has some interesting anecdotes about Corman and Hill and how they clashed a bit on this movie.

GRIZZLY (1976; William Girdler)
I have often said that "knockoffs" are some of my favorite things in cinema. By favorite, I obviously don't mean top-of-the-line-quality movies exactly, but rather movies that set out to do one thing and bring me great comfort when they pull it off properly.
William Girdler is one of those directors that was taken from us far too early and who clearly had a lot more great movies in him when he was killed (in a helicopter crash whilst scouting locations for a movie in the Philippines) at the age of 30 years old. Let's examine the "legacy" that Girdler left behind shall we. He made THE MANITOU (his last film), which was the story of a woman who discovers that a boil growing on her back is in fact the reincarnation of a 400 year-old demonic Native American spirit. That movie is something else and needs to be seen to be believed. Girdler also directed ABBY which is basically just a Black version of THE EXORCIST. He did THREE ON A MEATHOOK, which is his rather memorable attempt at a slasher flick. And then of course he did DAY OF THE ANIMALS and GRIZZLY, two of the greatest "animal attack" movies ever made. DAY OF THE ANIMALS is notorious for an unforgettable scene in which a crazy, topless Leslie Nielsen fights a bear. Good stuff. Then of course we have GRIZZLY, which is also one of the best JAWS knockoffs ever brought to the screen. I consider myself something of a JAWS-knockoff aficionado and I think that this film and THE CAR are two of the best out there as well as being my personal favorites. Girdler made no bones at all about lifting the story structure and basic plot right out of Spielberg's blockbuster classic and inserting it into a National Forest whilst supplanting the killer Great White with an 18-foot tall grizzly bear to terrorize campers. Like JAWS, GRIZZLY was rated PG in 1976 (a time well before the PG-13 rating) but it is what I like to fondly label as the "70s PG". The "70s PG" can and often does include things like nudity and graphic violence that would at least be part of a PG-13 film nowadays and would perhaps even push into R-rated territory. As is often said of the 1970s (and prior), "It was a different time". I distinctly recall showing GRIZZLY to my then 8 or 9 year old son after having not watched it for many years. I relied on its PG rating to be solid and not indicative of anything too harsh in the movie. That was dumb on my part I'll admit. So in an early scene when the grizzly attacks some campers and rips one of their arms off, sending it flying across the screen - I remember saying to myself, "Ok so I've just scarred my child a little bit with that scene" and making a mental note to never trust the "70s PG" ever again. GRIZZLY is not without its many charms though. Not the least of which is a very grumpy Christopher George in the "Chief Brody" role and a nutty Richard Jaeckel as the "Quint" type. I think GRIZZLY is one of those films that I find oddly nostalgic for some reason. Like the disaster-thriller ROLLERCOASTER from the next year, it reminds me of a time when families seemed a little more active than they are now. There was no internet and no movies and video games at home so people were more in the habit of going out to National Parks to camp or going to amusement parks in droves to entertain themselves. It's a silly minor thing that I like about this movie, but overall it's just a fun copy of JAWS and for a huge fan of that film like myself, it's very easy for me to see it as a lively and relatively creative ripoff of that fantastic film. As an addendum reason why I love it, GRIZZLY is also shot in 2.40 to 1 widescreen which is a format I adore.

This GRIZZLY disc has some added special features:

-a New Beverly Screening Q&A with star Andrew Prine and producer David Sheldon (12 mins) - Both Sheldon and Prine give lots of great background and stories about how the film was made and how it initially got off the ground.
-A "JAWS with Claws - a look back at GRIZZLY" (37 mins) - This featurette contains interviews with David Sheldon, Andrew Prine and actress Joan McCall as well as writer Harvey Flaxman.

GREEN ICE (1981; Ernest Day)
In GREEN ICE, Ryan O'Neal plays a kind of everyman unemployed electronics engineer vacationing in Mexico who gets sucked into the world of emerald  smuggling after hooking up with the adorable Anne  Archer, a rich gal whose father works in the diamond trade. Archer enlists O'Neal's help in searching for her missing sister (not surprisingly, her sister's disappearance is connected with emeralds).
Heist movies are almost always a good time. They are kind of like slasher films in that respect. Even the worst ones still have some good moments of tension of one cool scene or another. Heist movies inevitably feature things like the "gathering of the team", and the often very entertaining "planning the job" sequences that often quite entertaining. Then of course there's always a decent (at least) bit of tension on display at some point where the thieves are obligatorily almost caught in the act or make some mistake that may cause the whole job to go south. Even THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER has some of these structural  bits (and even humorously juxtaposes two rather opposite "getting our gear together" scenes). And then there are "Smuggling Movies".  "Smuggling Movies" are a kind of subgenre of heist pictures. They have many similar tropes and suspenseful situations. Instead of avoiding security guards and police, smuggling movies often involve potentially tangling with soldiers with automatic weapons. GREEN ICE presents something a little different and more adventurous than your average caper flick though. I've heard it called ROMANCING THE STONE before ROMANCING THE STONE and that is an interesting comparison.  There definitely seems to be some Hitchcock in mix in this film as well. Watching the opening titles from the film below, you'll see that among other things, it clearly wanted to be a James Bond film as well.

Find out more about these titles and order them here:


Rick said...

My favorite line in GRIZZLY: "It's not a bear! It's a grizzly!"

Ned Merrill said...

Regarding GREEN ICE'S "Bond-like" opening title sequence: they even got Maurice Binder, creator of so many iconic Bond intros, to design them.