Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Lionsgate/Vestron Video - CHOPPING MALL and BLOOD DINER on Blu-ray ""

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lionsgate/Vestron Video - CHOPPING MALL and BLOOD DINER on Blu-ray

CHOPPING MALL (1986; Jim Wynorksi)
The old Vestron Video logo (which has been re-animated in a cool new way for these releases) brings to mind a lot of fun memories for genre fans of the VHS generation like myself. Just hearing that musical sting that went along with it conjures up images of gore, nudity and lots of other things I probably shouldn't have been watching at the age I was when I was renting those movies from my local video store. Sure, you had your major studio horror stuff like the FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series, but what was a kid to watch when you had plowed through all of that and were looking for more horror entertainment? Never fear, Vestron Video was there to rescue you with "classics" like CHOPPING MALL, THEY CAME FROM WITHIN, BLOOD DINER and THE MONSTER SQUAD. I saw so many Vestron movies in my youth that I would get giddy just hearing that music after I popped a tape into the VCR. Vestron wasn't just about horror though. They also put out a lot of Cannon Films and even some classier stuff on VHS. I remember seeing Peter Bogdanovich's films THEY ALL LAUGHED and SAINT JACK for the first time thanks to Vestron VHS tapes. So needless to say, I rejoiced when I first heard the announcement that Lionsgate would be starting up this new Vestron line and their first two Blu-rays do not disappoint. 
CHOPPING MALL was a movie that I had basically given up on getting the nice deluxe Blu-ray treatment. I saw a revival screening of it many years ago at Los Angeles' New Beverly theater and it played great with a crowd. This only mad me sadder that all I had in my collection was a pretty crappy looking old DVD version of the movie. It wasn't widescreen and it looked like a glorified VHS transfer. 
So CHOPPING MALL has two great 80s elements to it that really make it stick - the mall and robots. I know that kids still go to malls these days, but in a time before the internet, the mall was a truly magical place. Imagine as a real place that you could walk through and find pretty much anything you ever wanted to buy. Malls now are much like they were then, but with no online way to get stuff we wanted, the mall was this amazing kingdom that we all wanted to go to. One problem with the malls then was that they were super crowded. I'm sure I'm not the only kid who thought about being alone in a mall at night and having free reign to do whatever I wanted. The other thing that malls had a lot of was girls. Lots and lots of cute girls. And wouldn't it be great to be alone in the mall with some of those cute girls? Yes, it certainly would be. CHOPPING MALL captures that part of the fantasy and even adds some sex stuff to sweeten the deal and make it irresistible to your average teenage boy. It takes it one further thing and through a in robots. Movies like SHORT CIRCUIT were popular and America was fascinated with both computers and robots. CHOPPING MALL actually came out before SHORT CIRCUIT, but it had no aspirations to be that movie anyway. These weren't nice robots like Johnny Five, not at all - they were killers that were out to dispatch any intruders by any lethal means necessary. An early alternate title for the film was KILLBOTS and I still prefer that poster to the final CHOPPING MALL artwork. So you've got the empty mall, sexy ladies and killer robots and all of that is a nice setup for a fun film. CHOPPING MALL is made more fun by a sort of DAWN OF THE DEAD type looting the mall approach that helps our teenagers stand a better chance against the bots. Another thing I was fascinated by as a kid was guns and this mall had a sporting goods store (humorously called "Peckinpah's") that had lots assault rifles, shotguns and more that our heroes could use to combat the evil metal dudes. For those of us that were big into slasher movies from around this time, we had gotten used to seeing teenagers get picked off with little or no defensive attempts so seeing them kick a little butt with some heavy artillery was a pleasant turnabout. 

Special Features:
If this CHOPPING MALL Blu-ray is any indication of what's to come from this new Vestron line, there is much reason to rejoice. This disc is stacked with supplements in a way that pretty much nobody would have ever expected for a a Blu-ray of CHOPPING MALL. Among 
the many things included are:
-Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski, Actress Kelli Maroney, and Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell 

-Audio Commentary with Historians/Authors Nathaniel Thompson (Mondo Video) and Ryan Turek (Blumhouse/Shock Till You Drop)
-Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski and Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell
-Featurettes - "Back to the Mall", "Chopping CHOPPING MALL","The Killbots", "Scoring CHOPPING MALL", "The Robot Speaks!", "The Lost Scene", "Army of One", "Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots" 
-Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino

You can purchase CHOPPING MALL on Blu-ray here:

BLOOD DINER (1987; Jackie Kong)
Now I don't have quite the same fondness for BLOOD DINER as I do for CHOPPING MALL and a lot of that has to do with the fact that I didn't see it for the first time until much more recently. It opens with a lovely disclaimer warning that is meant to harken back to the old ones they used to throw in front of films in the 1960s ("If you heave a heart problem, leave the theater at once" etc). Director Jackie Kong (NIGHT PATROL, THE BEING) takes it up a notch with an over the top version of said warning - which actually sets the tone for the movie pretty well right out of the gate. If you were to try to explain the plot of the movie to someone who hasn't seen it, you might sound a little crazy. It is the horror/comic tale of two brothers who resurrect the brain of their insane dead uncle - whilst keeping it in a jar. The uncle's brain (with eyeballs still attached) then instructs the brothers on how they will help him raise the ancient Lumerian goddess Sheetar by getting body parts from sinful women and sewing them together so that Sheetar may inhabit the new body - basically a female Frankenstein kinda thing. Once Sheetar is in the body, they need to have a virgin sacrifice ready for her to eat. The brothers run a vegetarian restaurant (called "Tutman Cafe" - which would have very high Yelp scores if it was around today) and they use it as a way to get girls for their super-corpse. As you might be able to guess, the brothers don't necessarily serve strictly vegetarian cuisine at their place. It's all very reminiscent of Herschell Gordon Lewis' BLOOD FEAST in a lot of ways (deliberately so), but Jackie Kong really amps up the absurdity and that makes for a lot more potential comedy mixed with the horror of death and dismemberment. I really have to give her credit for taking the ludicrousness to the next level with the creative and goofy death sequences and body parts/entrails often falling and flying everywhere. There are actually a lot of gags and bits that ended up being kind of ahead of their time. Some may find this film a tough one to stick with tonally, but I can certainly appreciate it as a curio from a time when gore and horror and comedy were much more en vogue. Not like anything you're likely to see these days on Netflix.
Special Features:
-NEWLY remastered in high-definition from the original film elements.
-Audio Commentary with Director Jackie Kong
-Featurettes "Queen Kong", "The Cook, The Uncle, and The Detective", "Open for Business", "Scoring for Sheetar!", "You Are What They Eat"
-Archival Interview with Project Consultant Eric Caidin
-Theatrical Trailer
-TV Spots
-Still Gallery

You can purchase BLOOD DINER on Blu-ray here:


C Chaka said...

KILLBOTS was a more accurate title, since there is not actual chopping going on, but if you have a title as good as CHOPPING MALL, you have to go with it.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Agreed on both counts!