Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scorpion Releasing - SPACE RAIDERS and SHORT EYES on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Scorpion Releasing - SPACE RAIDERS and SHORT EYES on Blu-ray

SPACE RAIDERS (1983; Howard R. Cohen)
In either an act of strategic genius or pure serendipitous councidence, Scorpion Releasing/Kino are bringing out this SPACE RAIDERS Blu-ray right on the heels of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. What do the two films have in common you ask? Very little actually other than the fact that they both involve a young boy being kidnapped by space traveling humanoids. SPACE RAIDERS has much more in common with BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. As both are Roger Corman productions, it only makes sense that SPACE RAIDERS would share the sets, spaceships and music (a lovely early James Horner score) of it's predecessor. I remember seeing SPACE RAIDERS in one of those beautiful old Warner Brothers clamshell cases sitting atop the video store shelves. It always seemed like a movie that some kids in the 1980s cane across by accident and exhaled as their own private personal STAR WARS sequel (or knockoff or reboot..). Because it shares so much with BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, it's fun to think of them as sister films to each other. In a time filled with Marvel world-building and character crossover, this isn't a tough thing to imagine (though I'm sure the the two aren't intended to be sister films). SPACE RAIDERS certainly shows the earmarks if being the lower low-budget movie of the two. It is evident from the cast on down. Leading the charger here in a very Han Solo-ish role is a scruffy, slightly bloated Vince Edwards. Edwards character probably matches well with his attitude about this film. There's a shaggy indifference and grumpiness to him that shines through a little. Long gone are the days of his sexy noir film roles (like in Kubrick's the KILLING or MURDER BY CONTRACT). He was better known as BEN CASEY, the doctor from TV of course. But not here. Here actually kinda looks like they yanked him off of a barstool and dropped him in the cockpit set. Kinda fits the role and he ultimate plays a kindly paternal figure to the kid (David Mendenhall from OVER THE TOP) who accidentally stumbles onto his ship.
BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS has seemingly found an audience over the years and has something of a sizeable cult behind it at this point. SPACE RAIDERS never quite found a fanbase with that kind of longevity. I an sure this has to do with its scarce availability for many many years. Few films can ward off the effects of not being out there for people to even accidentally run across, especially in this day and age of thousands and thousands of streaming movies at our fingertips. This media surplus has thankfully driven labels like Scorpion Releasing, Kino Lorber, Shout Factory and others to dig deeper into the studio catalogs and pull out some films that have less mass appeal and more collector appeal. SPACE RAIDERS emerges as I mentioned at an appropriate time though. With GUARDIANS already a hit and new STAR WARS films just around the corner, one could hope there might be some sort of sci-fi movie nostalgia that could potentially kick in. Perhaps (and this is a tad optimistic) it could lead some adventurous young people to seek out some older, even lower budgeted films that showed up in the wake of the original STAR WARS trilogy.

Special Features:
--"SPACE RAIDERS: The Captain of the Ship - an Interview with Roger Corman" (7 mins) Corman explains how they used and re-used the BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS sets and ships and how he wanted a new space adventure project. He also talks about how he had wanted the story to have a young boy in it and they later they discovered that that was a wise decision and certainly contributed to the film's success. 
--"The Littlest SPACE RAIDER - an interview with David Mendenhall" (30 mins) Actor Mendenhall talks about the whole process of being cast in SPACE RAIDERS and his experiences on the production as a 12 year old boy.
--the final interview is with Clark Henderson, the former head of post production for Roger Corman (8 mins). He recalls his experiences on SPACE RAIDERS and how this one in particular was very much like the classic film THE CHAMP in space. Henderson also touches on the recycling of special effects and sci-fi stock footage that they had built up over the course of several space-related movies. Overall he has a lot to say about the process of working for Corman during that time and what the process was like, where they went to get different post-related things done and so forth.

SHORT EYES (1977; Robert M. Young)
Playing a hero or your average good guy in a movie is one thing, but playing a villain (which many actors enjoy) is a different animal. One can see why playing a scenery-chewing heavy that's a bit over the top might be kind of fun, but even more challenging is playing a reprehensible character that needs some kind of humanity. Bruce Davison is one of those actors with a long and varied career that not enough people know too well. He's done a lot of great films throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s and on up to the present day. From his early films like LAST SUMMER and THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT to MOTHER, JUGS AND SPEED on up to his work in Altman's SHORT CUTS, he's always been a remarkably talented guy. Many of those films are wonderful showcases for Davison's abilities, but SHORT EYES is something else. Davison is stunning in the film. That bring said, it's not an easy film to watch. The story focuses on a child molester. ( Davison) and his struggles with the other inmates who are universally disgusted and out and out hate him. It really puts things in perspective when you see how all these other criminals, who don't necessarily like each other all that much, can unite behind the idea that this child molester is the absolute scum of the earth. Again, the movie is tough to sit through, it's tough to watch this struggle play out, but it is ultimately a very powerful film. Part of that power comes from the rest of the cast. A lot if them are real junkies, and other non-actors of that type. That, along with the way that movie was filmed give it a very deep grittiness and almost a documentary feel that is immersive and emotionally raw. Part of that reality and rawness certainly comes from actor writer Miguel Pinero who had spent a lot of time in prison himself and actually conceived of the material (the play) whilst serving time in Sing-Sing. Because of all those elements, SHORT EYES has authenticity to spare and is pretty unforgettable.

Special Features:
Hats off to Scorpion and Kino for putting together a high quality disc with a several great supplements:
-- A new interview with Bruce Davison (40 mins). Davison talks about seeing the play first and being floored by it and how it led to him seeking out the role. He has a pretty great memory and has lots of stories and recollections from the set. The interview goes into further depth about a bunch of Davison's roles and his memories of experiences with many larger than life actors that he worked with over the years.
-- A new interview with director Robert Young (22 mins). Young recounts the troubled circumstances that the production of SHORT EYES was going through at the time he stepped in and took over. He discusses working with Miguel Pinero to adjust the script to work better by restructuring some scenes and so forth. Young goes through the cast and what it was like working with all the major players. 
-- Also included is a commentary track with Robert Young. It's a good track and though it covers much of the same ground as the interview, but goes into greater detail and covers some more scene specific observations as well. As you might expect from a solid film like SHORT EYES, it's a fascinating story about how it came to be made. He has lots of great insights as to the adjustments he made in the script and casting to try to help make the story stronger, while not changing the voice of the script. It's a high-quality commentary and after hearing it, I do hope to hear other commentaries from him on some of his other interesting films like RICH KIDS, ONE TRICK PONY, ALAMBRISTA! and DOMINICK AND EUGENE.

Both SPACE RAIDERS and SHORT EYES can be purchased via Kino Lorber's site (and FYI - both are limited edition runs - SPACE RAIDERS is limited to 2000 copies while SHORT EYES is limited to 1500):

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