June 30, 2019

MOTHRA (Steelbook): Japan's Wackiest Wascal

MOTHRA (1961)
Starring Frankie Sakai, Kyoko Kagawa, Hiroshi Koizumi, Ken Uehara, Jerry Ito, The Peanuts. Directed by Inoshiro Honda. (101 min [Japanese Version] / 90 min [English Version])

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

Everyone’s second-favorite Japanese giant is now on Blu-ray. And a steelbook, no less! That alone is probably enough to open the wallets of those who love Toho’s brand of titanic terror. If nothing else, this is a beautifully packaged release.

I hadn’t seen Mothra since I was a kid, when a local Portland TV station aired all kinds of monster mayhem on summer afternoons. My favorites were those that hailed from Japan because...well, what 10-year-old doesn’t love citywide destruction? Son of Godzilla notwithstanding, Mothra was the most conceptually-bonkers Toho film from the ‘60s. Revisiting it four decades later, my assessment remains unchanged, meaning it's still a gloriously goofy good time.

A common cause of flight delays in some parts of the world.

This edition also includes the original uncut Japanese version, running 11 minutes longer. Other than the original Gojira, this was the first time I’ve ever watched any subsequent Toho film in its original language, which renders it slightly less silly, since it allows the viewer to focus more on the actual story than the distracting and daffy dubbing.

Though the disc is relatively light on bonus features, both versions of the film have been nicely remastered and includes an interesting audio commentary (outlined below). The steelbook case & transparent slipcover creatively incorporate the Mothra’s original promotional artwork. One of Mill Creek Entertainment’s better specialty releases, this is a must-own for fans of Japanese monster movies.

ENGLISH & JAPANESE VERSIONS – Japanese cut runs 11 minutes longer.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Authors Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski
PHOTO GALLERY – Promotional stills and artwork.


June 27, 2019


Starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell. Directed by Neil Burger. (109 min).

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸

A pair of major magician-themed films were released in 2006. Of the two, The Prestige garnered the most attention with some considerable star power. It was more of a thriller and remains pretty highly regarded (likely due to director Christopher Nolan’s growing reputation). While nearly as successful, The Illusionist seems to have been comparatively forgotten over the years.

Too bad, really, because The Illusionist is a compelling film in its own right. Edward Norton is Eisenheim, whose show wows the masses. During one performance, he reunites with Sophie (Jessica Biel), whom he loved as a teenager. However, they were forbidden to see each other because he was the son of a peasant. She’s now engaged to abusive Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), but makes the decision to call-off the marriage in order to be with Eisenheim.

Sophie is murdered before they can escape, leaving the viewer little doubt who the killer is. Eisenheim is very vocal about it, yet Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), who also happens to serve directly under the prince, refuses to investigate the murder any further. Leopold puts together a new show in which he appears to conjure spirits of the dead, including Sophie herself.

Edward picks out grapefruit.
As a mystery, The Illusionist doesn’t try that hard to keep the audience guessing. The way Sophie’s murder is presented, the “surprise” ending probably won’t be much of a revelation, either, and might have the viewer wondering how it would be logistically possible (given the time the story takes place). Fortunately, how the story unfolds is entertaining enough that we don’t bother with such trifles until after it’s over. The film also benefits greatly from great production design and performances. Norton is his usual intense self, while Giamatti is terrific as the increasingly-uncertain inspector and Sewell makes a suitably nasty villain.

Though not as complex, flashy and star-driven as The Prestige, The Illusionist is nevertheless an intriguing film worth revisiting. Despite being conceptually similar, the film has its own story to tell and does it commendably. It’s been released on Blu-ray before, but this version – part of MVD’s Marquee Collection – also includes bonus features carried over from the original DVD.

FEATURETTES - “The Making of The Illusionist”; “Jessica Biel on The Illusionist”.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Writer/Director Neil Burger.

The Horror Art of LUCY ANDERSON

Lucy Anderson is an extremely talented 15-year-old artist and horror fan. She enjoys sketching, painting and has dabbled in computer pop art. Below are some examples of her recent work.

Seok-woo, the main character from TRAIN TO BUSAN (Lucy’s favorite horror film).

Pennywise, from IT.

The xenomorph, from ALIEN.

©Copyright 2019, Luciann Anderson

Rest in Peace, Billy Drago

June 26, 2019

HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI: Silliness from the '60s

Starring Annette Funicello, Dwayne Hickman, Brian Donlevy, Harvey Lembeck, Beverly Adams, Mickey Rooney, Buster Keaton. Directed by William Asher. (93 min).

Review by Mr. Paws😼

Watching How to Stuff a Wild Bikini five decades on is sort-of a surreal experience. In this day and age of social awareness, it’s almost shocking how lovingly the camera leers over every female curve, to say nothing of a title song – belted out by an assembly line of Barbies & Kens - that defines the perfect bikini body. An amusing reminder that the 60s were a different time, when the beach party movie was a genre unto itself, which no studio purveyed as prolifically as American-International Pictures (AIP).

The AIP movies more-or-less adhered to the same formula: Annette Funicello & Frankie Avalon; a batch of lesser-known-but-just-as-photogenic young actors; “guest stars” consisting of familiar faces in supporting roles (most on the downside of their career); bouncy, forgettable songs; cameos by up-and-coming new bands. Additionally, most were outrageously plotted (when they actually chose to have one). William Asher – who directed a lot of ‘em – had no qualms about livening things up with mad scientists, Martians and, in this case, witch doctors.

"Want me to grab you a spoon?"
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini is as representative of the subgenre as any of the others, with a threadbare plot no more ridiculous than modern day tripe like Jason X or Sharknado. The film is also noteworthy for featuring Funicello as the only fully-clothed kid on the beach (she was pregnant at the time), while  Avalon himself only appears in a few token scenes (which look like they were all shot in a day). Ultimately, it’s a haphazardly thrown-together mish-mash of silly songs, eye-rolling gags and hammy performances. Of the cast, Harvey Lembeck has fun as Hollywood’s version of a rebel biker, while Buster Keaton looks thoroughly depressed to appear in yet-another beach party movie. Keep a sharp eye out for an amusing cameo by Elizabeth Montgomery (Asher’s wife at the time).

It was never what anyone ever mistook for a good film and its harmless sexism might seem a bit jawdropping today. But this is what often passed for teen-centric entertainment back then, so from a historical perspective, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini makes interesting viewing.



AVENGERS: ENDGAME on Digital 7/30 and Blu-ray 8/13
Fans who bring home “Avengers: Endgame” will gain hours of additional screen time with their favorite cast members and filmmakers who have shaped the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Bonus features include a tribute to the great Stan Lee; the tale of Robert Downey Jr.’s casting as Iron Man; the evolution of Captain America; Black Widow’s dramatic story arc; directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s experience at the helm of both “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame”; the making of an epic battle scene with the women of the MCU; the creation of Bro Thor; deleted scenes; a gag reel and more. 
The first-ever live-action Pokémon adventure, "POKÉMON Detective Pikachu" stars Ryan Reynolds (the "Deadpool" films, "Buried," "Life") as Detective Pikachu and is based on the beloved Pokémon brand—one of the world's most popular, multi-generation entertainment properties and most successful media franchises of all time. With Detective Mode on Blu-ray, watch "POKÉMON Detective Pikachu" like you've never seen it before and discover a world of hidden clues, behind-the-scenes footage, pop-up trivia, Pokémon facts, fun featurettes, Easter eggs and more!
TOLKIEN on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital 8/6
From legendary halls of Oxford to the grim and bloody trenches of World War I, this enthralling biopic explores the early years of J.R.R Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) and the relationships that defined the legendary author he would become. Chronicling his romance with Edith Brant (Lily Collins), as well as the various members of the Tea Club, Barrovian Society, Tolkien slowly grows from a shy and bookish young man into one of history’s most beloved writers – seasoned by life, and everything that comes with it.

THE HUSTLE on Digital 8/6 & Blu-ray and DVD on 8/20
From director Chris Addison (“Veep”) and producers Roger Birnbaum (The Magnificent Seven) and  Rebel Wilson, THE HUSTLE on Blu-ray and DVD showcases bonus features taking viewers further into the world of scamming with special featurettes including behind-the-scenes footage, commentary from the cast and filmmakers, and more! Josephine Chesterfield (Hathaway) is a glamorous, seductive Brit who defrauds gullible wealthy men. Penny (Wilson) amasses wads of cash by ripping off her marks in neighborhood bars. Despite their different methods, both are masters of the art of the fleece so they con the men that have wronged them. Wilson’s talent for physicality and Hathaway’s withering wit are a combustible combination as the pair of scammers pull out of the stops to swindle a naïve tech billionaire, played by Alex Sharp (How to Talk to Girls at Parties), in this hilarious comedy. 

June 25, 2019

MAZE: An Unexpected Escape

MAZE (2017)
Starring Tom Vaughn-Lawlor, Barry Ward, Martin McCann, Eileen Walsh. Directed by Stephen Burke. (93 min).

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼

In 1983, 38 members of the IRA managed to escape the HMP Maze, a labyrinthine Irish prison that was considered nearly escape proof. While this 2017 film eventually depicts the event, much of the narrative is focused on the relationship between two men.

One of them is Larry Marley (Tom Vaughn-Lawlor), an IRA leader who’s been incarcerated for ten years and masterminds the escape. Most inmates are either members of the Irish Republication Army or British loyalists. Marley’s status is somewhere in between, since some view him as a traitor for not participating in a recent IRA hunger strike. The other is Gordon (Barry Ward), a warden whose stoic dedication to his job not-only alienates his family, it has made him a potential target of the IRA.

Initially, Marley’s intentions are to use his access to Gordon as part of his escape plan. It’s a contentious relationship at first. Gordon doesn’t mask his contempt for Marley, who he considers a terrorist. But as they get to know each other, both men slowly let their guards down in conversations where they discuss their families and the impact their choices had on them. Ironically, Marley’s wife and son remain close to him, while Gordon has pretty much lost everything except his job, essentially making him a prisoner, as well (which he actually declares at one point). It’s an interesting dichotomy that carries the story to its inevitable conclusion.

This year's annual Ugly Sweater contest is officially a tie.
Speaking of which, the escape itself ends up being relatively anti-climactic because it focuses more on characters we’re not nearly as invested in. And unlike, say, The Great Escape or Escape from Alcatraz, the film doesn’t spend much time going into the nuts & bolts of the plan, which is arguably what makes most escape movies so fun. But writer-director Stephen Burke obviously has a different agenda, which is fine as long as the viewer is aware of that going in.

I suppose some might also have issues with a protagonist who’s considered by many to be a terrorist, but they’d be missing the point. Painting both main characters as equally sympathetic is more intriguing than depicting one as a saint, the other a monster. The film may be lacking in traditional “great escape” tropes, but it’s ultimately the relationship between two men on opposite sides of the law that drives Maze and makes it worth checking out.

"81” - A short film by Stephen Burke
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Director Stephen Burke


June 23, 2019

The Sneakiness of GASLIGHT

Starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, Angela Lansbury, Dame May Witty, Barbara Everest. Directed by George Cukor. (114 min).

Review by Mr. Paws😸

Gaslight is one of the great thrillers of the 1940s, though I wasn’t necessarily thinking that while watching. It was nominated for 7 Oscars, but I'm ashamed to say I’ve never seen the film until now. Even worse, this is the first time I’ve ever watched the great Charles Boyer. And I have the gall to call myself a cinephile.

Anyway, Gaslight initially unfolds as a mystery with the murder of famous singer Alice Anton at the hands of a man looking for her precious jewel collection, which he didn’t find because her young niece, Paula, suddenly showed up. Okay, so far so good. I enjoy a good mystery now and then.

Fast forward several years and Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is all grown up. She inherited the old home where Alice died, but remains haunted by memories of the murder, so she has since moved away. However, in a whirlwind romance, she meets and marries pianist Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), who convinces her they should return to London and live in the house. To ensure Paula’s not constantly reminded of her aunt, Gregory stows all of Alice’s belongs in the attic and boards up the door. So I guess the film ain’t a mystery, but still, so far so good. Despite appearing to be simply protective of Paula, there’s something intriguingly 'off' about Gregory that we don’t quite trust. Boyer is also sort-of interesting in the role.

"Hey...it's my turn to be tied up."
As the narrative unfolds, Gregory’s protectiveness takes a dark turn. Not only does he constantly try to keep Paula housebound, he ventures out every single night, supposedly to where he can work without disruption. In the meantime, Paula is unnerved by flickering gaslights and strange noises in the house whenever she’s alone. Not only that, various items go missing and Gregory soon suggests she’s unconsciously stealing them. He becomes increasingly cruel and accusatory, trying to convince her she is losing her mind. By the time Inspector Cameron (Joseph Cotten) suspects a nefarious agenda, it’s obvious Gregory killed Alice and has a cold-blooded plan to get rid of Paula. Gaslight snuck up on me, being a crackling psychological thriller the entire time with one hateful son-of-a-bitch as its antagonist, played to icy perfection by Boyer.

As the film faded out, the first thing that popped into my head was, Wow, that was a damn good movie. It’s one of those sneaky films with no scenes that reach out and grab you, but by the final act, you’re on the edge of your seat anyway. This disc also includes the 1940 British version, but even though it came first, the 1944 MGM film is so suspenseful, well-written and perfectly-performed that it pales in comparison.

Gaslight is a great noir-tinged thriller that ranks among the best of the genre. New to Blu-ray, the transfer is terrific and the inclusion of the British version makes this release a must-own for classic movie lovers. Now that I’ve seen this one, I guess I can hang onto my cinephile card a little longer.

GASLIGHT (1940 BRITISH VERSION) – Starring Anton Walbrook & Diana Wyngard. Directed by Thorold Dickinson (84 min).
"REFLECTIONS ON GASLIGHT” - Featurette hosted by Pia Lindstrom (Ingrid Bergman’s daughter) and features an interview with Angela Lansbury.
1944 OSCAR WINNERS NEWSREEL – The year Bergman won an Oscar for this film, as did Bing Crosby for Going My Way.

June 21, 2019

THE BELIEVERS Might Just Save Your Life

Starring Martin Sheen, Helen Shaver, Robert Loggia, Harley Cross, Malick Bowens, Richard Masur, Harris Yulin, Jimmy Smits, Lee Richardson, Elizabeth Wilson. Directed by John Schlesinger. (114 min).

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😼

If nothing else, The Believers made me mindful of where I step.

In the very first scene, Cal Jamison’s wife is electrocuted in the kitchen, having the misfortune of standing barefoot in spilled milk when their coffee maker suddenly goes on the fritz. Cal (Martin Sheen) and their young son, Chris (Harley Cross), helplessly scream as she quivers and cooks to death. Lesson learned, whenever I shuffle barefoot & blurry-eyed into the kitchen each morning, I still have the foresight to make sure the floor's good 'n' dry when making my own coffee.

That disturbing scene is mostly inconsequential to the actual story, but sets a dark tone for the rest of the film, which has police psychologist Cal Jamison assisting New York detective Sean McTaggert (Robert Loggia) investigate a series of ritualistic child murders. Initially, all fingers point to Lopez (Jimmy Smits), another cop who’s delirious and claims a demon-worshiping cult is behind it all. He’s telling the truth, of course, but this cult also consists of wealthy white folks who commit sacrifices at the behest of its evil-eyed priest (Malick Bowens) in exchange for affluence and power.

Too many Red Bulls.
I seem to recall The Believers being a popular video rental back in the day. It’s since-been mostly forgotten, probably because neither the narrative nor the characters are particularly memorable. But while the film isn’t all that scary either, it does contain some impressively-unnerving scenes that horror fans loved back then, including a gruesome sequence that reveals what’s lurking beneath one victim’s festering facial wound. These scenes alone probably make The Believers worth checking out for thrill-seekers – maybe even more than once – but the interim moments in between are far less interesting.

The Believers is a film where the whole doesn’t equal the sum of its parts. It’s watchable and the performances are decent (especially Smits & Loggia), but beyond its more sensational elements, the film doesn’t resonate too much afterwards. However, it might be of extra nostalgic interest for those whose weekends once consisted of weekend trips to their local video store (the nastier scenes still hold up pretty well). And who knows...perhaps it'll prevent you from being careless in the kitchen.


June 20, 2019

THE POOP SCOOP: Classic Rock & Classic Movies

RUSH: CINEMA STRANGIATO 2019 in Theaters 8/21
Trafalgar Releasing and Anthem Entertainment are delighted to share the just-released trailer for the highly anticipated release of RUSH: Cinema Strangiato 2019coming to select cinemas across the globe, for a special, limited theatrical engagement on Wednesday, August 21. Tickets for the event are now on sale at www.CinemaStrangiato.com

In partnership with
Concord Music GroupRUSH: Cinema Strangiato 2019 will feature a special look inside some of the most powerful performances from R40 LIVE, the band’s 2015 tour and live album of the same name. The theatrical film experience is set to include top RUSH songs, such as “Closer to the Heart", "Subdivisions", "Tom Sawyer" and more, as well as unreleased backstage moments and candid footage previously left on the cutting room floor.  The release also includes unseen soundcheck performances of the fan-favorite "Jacob's Ladder,” and exclusive new interviews with Tom Morello, Billy Corgan, Taylor Hawkins, producer Nick Raskulinecz, violinist Jonathan Dinklage and more. As a special bonus, fans will get a glimpse into the madness and passion that went into the making of Geddy Lee's new book, Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass - featuring a brand-new interview from the RUSH frontman himself.

THE THIN MAN on Blu-ray in July
Nick and Nora Charles cordially invite you to bring your own alibi to The Thin Man, the jaunty whodunit that made William Powell and Myrna Loy the champagne elite of sleuthing. Bantering in the boudoir, enjoying walks with beloved dog Asta or matching each other highball for highball and clue for clue, they combined screwball romance with mystery. The resulting triumph nabbed four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture) and later spawned five sequels. Credit W.S. "Woody" Van Dyke for recognizing that Powell and Loy were ideal together and for getting the studio's okay by promising to shoot this splendid adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's novel in three weeks. He took 12 days. They didn't call him "One-Take Woody" for nothing.

BRONCO BILLY on Blu-ray in July
Ask Clint Eastwood to select personal favorites from amongst his movies and you might be surprised by one choice. "It's an old-fashioned theme," Eastwood says, "but if, as a film director, I ever wanted to say something, you'll find it in Bronco Billy." "One of the funniest and most touching films you'll see this or any year" (ABC-TV) casts Eastwood as the ace sharpshooter and head of a modern Wild West tent show. Life's been hard for Billy and his ragtag troupe. But their luck might change – in the unlikely person of a highfalutin society dame (Sondra Locke). You may already have a favorite Eastwood role. Watch Bronco Billy and, chances are, you'll have another.  
DEAD OF NIGHT on Blu-ray 7/9
A group of strangers, mysteriously gathered at an isolated country estate, recount chilling tales of the supernatural. First, a racer survives a brush with death only to receive terrifying premonitions from beyond the grave. Then a teen’s innocent game of hide-and-seek leads to an encounter with the macabre. Next, a young couple purchases an antique mirror that unleashes a horrific power from its past. In a lighter vein, two competitive golfers play for stakes that may haunt the winner forever. Finally, a renowned ventriloquist descends into an abyss of madness and murder when his dummy develops a mind of its own. But even after these frightening tales are told, does one final nightmare await them all?

June 19, 2019

THE NEW YORK RIPPER and the Big Quack Attack

Starring Jack Hedley, Paolo Malco, Almanta Keller, Howard Ross, Andrew Painter, Alexandra Delli Colli. Directed by Lucio Fulci. (93 min).

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Lucio Fulci’s latter day horror films. Contrary to his rather sizable fanbase, I never felt he was a particularly skilled director and am incredulous at how often he's mentioned in the same breath as Dario Argento and Mario Bava.

On the other hand, despite an imitative career riding the coattails of giants, Fulci excelled at pushing the envelope for onscreen violence. And admittedly, watching just how far the director was willing to go to shock his audience was often entertaining. In the process, Fulci inadvertently managed to create a fair amount of suspense. The suspense didn’t lie in whether-or-not a particular character was going to die. It was in how badly they were going to die, sick thrills not far removed from the fun of watching how spectacularly Wile E. Coyote was gonna fail this time. Maybe that makes Lucio Fulci sort-of a Chuck Jones for gorehounds.

Marley and What's Left of Me.
Fulci briefly set aside his brash brand of zombie mayhem to throw his hat in the slasher ring with 1982’s The New York Ripper, arguably his most notorious film. Along with William Lustig’s Maniac, critics condemned it as the very embodiment of misogyny in modern horror. In this case, the accusations aren’t entirely unwarranted. All of the titular killer’s victims are beautiful, highly-sexualized young women. In addition to such Fulci favorites as disembowelings, severed arteries and another scene of ocular trauma that rivals Zombie in the “eeew” department, the killer often targets his victims’ breasts and nether regions.

The film also wallows in depravity, gratuitous nudity and kinky sex. Fulci never passes-up an opportunity to leer over every female body part before mutilating it. Elsewhere, the dialogue is laughably bad and – with the exception of Alexandra Delli Colli as a horny housewife with unusual sexual appetites - the performances are pedestrian. The piece de resistance is the killer himself, who literally quacks at his victims and makes taunting phone calls to investigating detective Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) with a Donald Duck voice! Fulci films have always been a bit whacked-out and ridiculous, but this takes the cake.

It's all fun 'n' games until someone stubs a toe.
But despite everything working against it, The New York Ripper might actually be Fulci’s best-constructed film. Sure, the viewer will need to shower off the grime afterwards, but buried beneath the butchery is a genuinely well-paced mystery with a surprising conclusion. Fulci also does a fine job capturing the squalid atmosphere of Times Square as it was back then. And believe it or not, there are a few sequences that approach the tension-filled artistry of Dario Argento.

Three decades later, The New York Ripper remains a challenge to endure for all but the most hardened horror fan, even by Fulci's brutal standards. It’s more sensationalistic than Maniac (to which it’s most-often compared), which is maybe the main reason it feels a bit more exploitative and misogynistic. Of course, Fulci fans will have no complaints with this limited edition 3-disc set. Though not quite on-par with their similar releases of Zombie and Maniac, Blue Underground has beautifully restored and repackaged the film in all of its gory glory. It’s also chock-full of entertaining bonus features, both new and carried over from the 2009 edition. Regardless of how one might feel about the film and its sleazy subtext, there's no arguing that a lot of love went into this new Blu-ray release.

NEW & ARCHIVAL INTERVIEWS – Several individual interviews with various cast & crew, including screenwriter Dardano Sachetti (the most interesting of the interviews), poster artist Enzo Sciotti, actors Howard Ross, Cinzia de Ponti & Zora Kerova and Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower. Most interviews also include related movie clips.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By author Troy Howarth
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET – Includes film credits, CD credits & track listing and an interesting retrospective essay, “Fulci Quacks Up: The Unrelenting Grimness of The New York Ripper.”
POSTER & STILL GALLERY – Slideshow containing several dozen of promotional stills, international posters and home video covers.

June 18, 2019

THE RUNNING MAN (1963): A Heaping Helping of Harvey

Starring Laurence Harvey, Lee Remick, Alan Bates. Directed by Carol Reed. (1963/104 min).

Review by Mr. Paws😼

Granted, I haven’t seen a lot of movies featuring Laurence Harvey. The Manchurian Candidate stands-out, of course, as well as a particularly nasty Night Gallery episode that gave me a few sleepless nights as a kid (when I was convinced earwigs were waiting until I was asleep to lay eggs in my brain). But whether he was a double agent, defending the Alamo or walking on the wild side with Jane Fonda, I never had the impression he was all that versatile.

That’s not to say he wasn’t interesting. In every movie I’ve ever seen him in, Harvey had a cold, arrogant demeanor that was quite fascinating (and reminds me a lot of my cats). Maybe that’s why he was so effective at playing unpleasant people, even if they weren’t always the antagonist. He might even be considered the antithesis of Jimmy Stewart.

Harvey is the best part of The Running Man, a 1963 British thriller which makes the most of his uncanny ability to play conniving bastards. He plays Rex Black, a charter pilot who – with wife Stella (Lee Remick) - fakes his own death to cash-in on his insurance policy so the two of them can live abroad. It’s interesting to point out that his character is initially a pretty decent guy. It’s only after being screwed over by his insurance company that he concocts this plan.

After briefly being questioned by insurance investigator Stephen Maddox (Alan Bates), Stella meets-up with Rex in Spain, where he’s changed his appearance and stolen a passport to assume the identity of Jim Jerome, a wealthy sheep farmer. He’s also been partying with new friends under this pseudonym, which concerns Stella, but since they must wait in the country a week for the local bank to process the insurance money, she plays along, pretending to be an old friend. Then Maddox shows up, surprising Stella. He says he’s on vacation, but it seems like too much of a coincidence for Rex’s liking, who insists they befriend Maddox to find out how much he actually knows.

Laurence Harvey finally gets his own Stepford Wife.
Much of the narrative has the Blacks keeping up their ruse while learning more about Maddox, who comes across as introverted and lonely. Rex, however, grows increasingly cocky and impressed with his own cleverness. Stella becomes alarmed at the difference in personality between her husband and “Jerome.” Eventually, Rex thinks they might need to kill Maddox before he exposes them. Or is he just being overly paranoid? Maybe Maddox really is on vacation.

Part of the fun of The Running Man is how this quandary plays out. Though directed by Carol Reed, it often has the look and feel of lower-tier Hitchcock. I think ol’ Hitch would have injected some much-needed black humor into the story, which is somewhat meandering during the middle act. As for the performances, the film really crackles whenever Harvey is on-screen, less interesting when focused on the relationship between Stella and Maddox. Bates is fine, but I’ve never found Remick particularly compelling. However, the film does serve-up a nifty climax and cleverly ironic resolution.

Ultimately, though, this is the Laurence Harvey Show. His performance ain’t exactly a stretch, but it’s fun watching his character evolve into another despicable cad. No one did it better back then. Now on Blu-ray for the first time, Arrow Films has put together another quality release of a relatively obscure film. In addition to a fine transfer, one bonus feature suggests Mr. Harvey's persona may not have always been just an act.

"ON THE TRAIL OF THE RUNNING MAN” - A crew surviving crew members share their memories of the production. It is pretty interesting since the interviews are pretty candid (not everyone was overly impressed with the film). We also get the impression Laurence Harvey was a pill to work with.
"LEE REMICK AT THE NATIONAL FILM THEATRE” - A vintage audio recording from 1970.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Carol Reed biographer William Evans.
IMAGE GALLERY – Production stills and promotional material.
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET – Essays: “Page to Screen: The Screenwriter and Novelist Behind The Running Man” (profiles the careers of John Mortimer & Shelley Smith)’ “Nowhere to Run: The Making of Carol Reed’s Last Thriller”; “Those Were the Days!” (2010 Article from British Cinematographer magazine, written by John Harris, a camera operator who survived a plane crash while shooting The Running Man).