Rupert Pupkin Speaks: CODE RED - HIGHPOINT, THE LAST PLANE OUT and THE FUNNY FARM on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, June 3, 2017

CODE RED - HIGHPOINT, THE LAST PLANE OUT and THE FUNNY FARM on Blu-ray

I've been a Code Red fan for quite a while now. At last count, I had something like 80 of the Blu-rays they've put out over the years (plus a bunch of DVDs as well) and I'm fully addicted to buying their stuff. I check both the Code Red Big Cartel site as well as the Ronin Flix site at least once a week to scan them for new titles. I'm at a point in my life where I feel like I've seen a fair amount of movies, but Bill Olsen (who runs Code Red) always seems to unearth older films that have never been on my radar at all. Code Red puts out an interesting variety of titles too - while there is a good deal of horror movies, there are also a lot of action and some comedies as well. These three new releases from them run the gamut and are all interesting in their own ways.
First up, we have HIGHPOINT from 1982. This one comes from director who also did the excellent thriller RITUALS (which Code Red put out on DVD a while back), which is a bit like DELIVERANCE, but has its own distinct vibe to it that pushes it more into horror territory almost. HIGHPOINT is a big tonal shift from RITUALS and is more of an action/comedy/thriller. The cast is an interesting mix, including Richard Harris, Christopher Plummer and Beverly D'Angelo with nice supporting work from Maury Chaykin and Saul Rubinek. Harris plays an accountant who gets swept up into an adventure via his becoming involved with a man named James Hatcher who has embezzled $10 million from a joint CIA/Mob sting operation and has gone on the run. In the process, the accountant falls for Lewis' sister Lise (played by Beverly D'Angelo). I have been kind of obsessed with Beverly D'Angelo ever since seeing VACATION at a very young age and she is near the peak of her cuteness in this film and is quite adorable as usual. Overall, I enjoyed the film's combination of thrilling elements combined with some screwball comedic elements (usually having to do with the goofball duo of hitmen played by Chaykin and Rubinek).
I always enjoy a little California location flavor in movies and HIGHPOINT has that in several spots. One of them is a wacky car chase that features the cards bouncing and slamming their way around through the Canal District of Venice (California):

Another highlight is a pretty incredible stunt by high-flying stuntman extraordinaire Dar Robinson. In the climactic scene of the film, a character falls from the top of the CN Tower in Toronto and Robinson doubles for that. He actually performed the 1200 foot jump using a small parachute pulled at the last minute to stop him from splattering on the pavement below. Robinson was a high-fall specialist and performed some pretty spectacular drops in his time. He was supposedly the highest paid stuntman, receiving something like $150,000 for his work on HIGHPOINT. I found this video that details the jump here:
In addition to a nice-looking transfer, this disc also includes a couple supplements as well. First is an on camera interview with the film's producer William J. Immerman which runs about 33 minutes.  He has some fun and interesting stories about the production, working with the various cast members and the differences between the international version of the film they made and the cut that New World went with after the movie was sold to them for the U.S. He also talks about the big stunt at the end of the movie and what was involved with that (and how he himself was the second unit director on the sequence).
Next is an on camera interview with the film's composer Chris Young (12 minutes). HIGHPOINT was only young's third feature as a composer, but he has since gone on to have much further success in his field - scoring films like THE GRUDGE, DRAG ME TO HELL, GHOST RIDER and more. In the interview, Young talks about how his score for a film called THE POWER got him a shot at first scoring a trailer for another New World picture and then how that led to him scoring HIGHPOINT and how intimidating it was.
Also included is a longer cut of the film (presented in SD) and the original theatrical trailer.
Buy HIGHPOINT on Blu-ray here:
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Next up is a movie called THE LAST PLANE OUT (1983). Let me just say that I am a sucker for almost any Jan-Michael Vincent movie and this was one that I had never seen before. AND it's a New World picture which always (rightly or wrongly) gets my attention. From the trailer, I got the impression that this movie might be like a New World version of something like SALVADOR (although this movie preceded that one by three years) and that's not entirely inaccurate. It's more along the lines of the New World version of UNDER FIRE, which came out the same year. Basically, it's about a journalist - Jack Cox (Jan-Michael Vincent) - covering the the civil uprising in Nicaragua who finds himself initially drawn to and then falling in love with a Sandinista rebel girl (Julie Carmen). This feels a little bit like a paycheck movie for Vincent, but even so he still delivers his usual naturalistic charm and makes the character feel lived in and world weary enough. Julie Carmen looked familiar to me, but I couldn't immediately place her. I think the last time I saw her was in FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2, but she also did a lot of TV in the 1980s. Interestingly, the movie was directed by David Nelson (of OZZIE AND HARRIET) and was written by Ernest Tidyman who did a couple of the SHAFT movies (and the books they were based on) as well as HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. The script was actually based on the experiences of the real Jack Cox, who was an actual journalist in Nicaragua during their revolution in the late 1970s. 
This one was unknown to me prior to this disc and that may be due to the fact that it hasn't had much of a home video presence since its VHS release. Code Red has done a brought it to Blu-ray via a new 2016 HD Master from the only surviving film elements available.
Buy THE LAST PLANE OUT on Blu-ray here:
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Lastly, we have FUNNY FARM - no not the one with Chevy Chase, but rather a different story about a comedy club in the early 1980s and the struggling stand-ups who worked there. One interesting trend in the 1980s was a huge comedy boom that brought about tons and tons of clubs that were always in need of stand-ups to perform in them. Through listening to Mark Maron's podcast and his many interviews with comics who were active during that time, I've gotten some small sense of just how obsessed America was with stand-up comedy at that time. As such, I feel like there were a few films made that centered around comedy clubs, but honestly not all that many considering how huge the boom was at that time. I mean, there's PUNCHLINE with Tom Hanks and Sally Field, but I can't think of too many others, so I was immediately interested to see this film based on the setting alone - as well as the cast! Mile Chapin "headlines" with the lead role and his is an actor that I've that I've enjoyed in such films as FRENCH POSTCARDS, THE FUNHOUSE, GET CRAZY and PANDEMONIUM. He has a real history with movies that have had some kind of cult following over the years and he's very good and very likeable as the young kid who makes his way to Los Angeles from Cleveland to work at a famous nightclub called "The Funny Farm". The movie opens with his character driving to California whilst listening to a mix of Mel Brooks & Carl Reiner, Steve Martin and George Carlin on tape in his car. I like it when a film establishes itself to be in the real world right away in the sense that it acknowledges actual people like these comics doing the work that the main character admires. It's like having real products in a film as opposed to generic looking alternatives. It grounds things for me and helps me relate to the character early - and in this case, demonstrate that he has good taste in comedy. When he finally arrives in town and shows up at The Funny Farm, we get a sampling of the acts of 4 or 5 comedians. We get short bits from Peter Aykroyd (Dan's brother, who sounds a bit like him, but doesn't look much like him) Howie Mandel (who both play a fairly prominent roles in the movie) and others. It's kind of fascinating to hear stand up comedy routines as they were in the early 80s. They aren't as funny as they may have been back then, but they are intriguing and amusing at the very least. Miles Chapin quickly strikes up a relationship with a waitress at the club (Tracy Bregman) have some chemistry together and on top of that, Eileen Brennan has a fun part as the woman in charge of picking the comics. The inner workings and behind the scenes at a comedy club is definitely a story I'm into so I enjoyed this one. 
Special Features include an on camera interview with Tracy Bregman talks about how she became involved with FUNNY FARM and how she had been in the process of being in HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME when she was approached for the role. Bregman talks about all her memories of pretty much the entire cast of the movie and how they had to change the main character's name after John Lennon was shot as that character had had the same name as Lennon's assassin.
Buy THE FUNNY FARM on Blu-ray here:
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In case you've not been keeping track of some the other titles that Code Red has been putting out lately, here are a few interesting films that I have picked up from them in the past several months:

ZEDER (REVENGE OF THE DEAD)

SILENT SCREAM

BEYOND THE DOOR

HANDS OF STEEL

AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK

JULIE DARLING

TWISTED NIGHTMARE

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