Blu-ray release of 7 classic SF and Fantasy movies

Warner Home VideoA bunch of SF and Fantasy movie classics are heading for blu-ray for the first time as of July 20. In the pick you’ll find Coma, Outland, Altered States, Brainstorm, The Astronaut’s Wife, Frequency and Spawn: Director’s Cut. It’s a mixed bunch and clearly we’re using the term “movie classics” a little loosely, but there are some absolute gems amongst them and it's likely that there's something for everyone.

1000253502BRDLEFOutland (1980). Directed by Peter Hyams, starring Sean Connery and Frances Sternhagen.

One of Sean Connery’s few science fiction performances, Outland is a British science fiction thriller set on Jupiter’s moon Io. Federal Marshal William O'Niel (Connery) is assigned to a tour of duty in a titanium ore mining outpost. Miners begin to die and he quickly discovers that the cause is a deadly narcotic, designed to make workers more productive (even though it frequently has lethal side effects). Apart from the help of Dr Lazarus (Frances Sternhagen), he is abandoned by the mine owners and workers alike as he tries to stop the drug being used. Can he survive corporate assasians about to arrive on the next shuttle from Earth?

Verdict: A unique and gripping science fiction story, the wild west in outer space, Outland is an unmissable classic.

 

brainBrainstorm (1983). Directed by Douglas Trumbull and starring Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood.

A scientist (Christopher Walken) is developing a revolutionary brain device capable of reading and recording a person's thought processes and translating these thoughts onto a special tape. After his partner Louise Fletcher, the woman who invented the device, dies while recording her thoughts, he struggles against government forces to get access to the recording. He quickly discovers his superiors and powerful government forces have other ideas about how to use this new technology. Directed by special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull, Brainstorm featured the last performance of actress Natalie Wood. She died before shooting was completed and the film had to undergo severe editing and extra filming before it was eventually released.

Verdict: Good, but the loss of Natalie Wood is apparent. The premise and production are sound, but the story loses it halfway.

 

1000253526BRDLEFAltered States (1980). Directed by Ken Russell, starring William Hurt and Blair Brown.

A science fiction/horror that charts the experiments of a Harvard Scientist, Eddie Jessup (William Hurt), who conducts a series of mind-expanding tests on himself with a hallucinatory drug that appears to cause him to regress genetically (although it's never completely clear exactly what it is doing to him). Obsessed with discovering mankind's true role in the universe by expanding his mind, Eddie encloses himself in an isolation chamber and starts to undergo horrific transformations. It’s a creepy, hallucinatory tale of science on the fringes.

Verdict: Adapted from a novel with the same name by Paddy Chayefsky (he also wrote the screenplay), Altered States is an engaging SF exploration into psychology, genetics and altered states of consciousness and reality.

 

The Astronaut's Wife (1999)The Astronaut's Wife (1999). Directed by Rand Ravich, starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron.

They were the perfect all-American couple: a courageous, honored NASA astronaut and his beautiful school-teacher wife. They were passionately in love, so connected they could sense each other even when he was floating in space and she was two hundred thousand miles below. And in two minutes it all turned to inexplicable horror. For two minutes, astronaut Spencer Armacost loses total consciousness while on a routine space shuttle mission, returning home just barely alive and a bewildered hero. The President, the nation, and his friends celebrate his safe return, but to his wife Jillian something seems strangely amiss from the moment he returns to Earth.

Verdict: multi-layered, nicely paced SF thriller.

 

Spawn: Director's Cut (1997)

Spawn: Director's Cut (1997). Directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé, starring Michael Jai White, John Leguizamo, Martin Sheen, Nicol Williamson.

Five years after he was murdered by his own colleagues in a covert government operation, Al Simmons makes a pact with the devil to be resurrected so that he may see his wife Wanda once more. In return for the favour, the devil requires, in typically Faustian fashion, that Simmons lead Hell's Army for the destruction of humankind. Blessed in life with extraordinary killing skills, Simmons is even more deadly with the backing of his new master and the changling powers he has at his disposal. As he begins to discover and exercise his new strengths, he encounters two figures who direct him to use his powers in order to serve two different agendas. Cogliostro encourages Spawn to fight the devil and become a new champion for humankind, while Clown goads Spawn into continuing to serve his new master and lead the Armageddon.

Verdict: Loosely based on the comic book by Todd McFarlane, Spawn was one of the original big budget, special effects laden superhero origin stories, and while it has been outshone in every possible way by more recent excursions into this territory, this R rated Director's Cut is a reminder of days past. Notable also as the final movie for the late, great Nicol Williamson (Merlin in John Boorman's Excalibur), who passed away in 2011.

 

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