Thursday, July 24, 2014

REVIEW: Remo Williams - The Adventure Begins (ARROW Blu-ray)

It is my understanding that some folks truly identify as fans of Remo Williams and the literature that spawned the films' existence. When I initially started mentioning the Arrow Video disc to friends they seemed awe struck, hearts heavy with anticipation that this movie was hitting Blu-ray. It's not a horror picture mind you, but a Science Fiction-lite movie that is heavy on the action and the comedy, but light on intellectual stimulus or innovation. It's exactly what it was geared to be by a director who created some of the greatest Bond pictures ever made (including my favorite, Goldfinger). What amazed me is that a film I had never had heard of could have such a "hidden in plain sight" fanbase surrounding me and that they were impassioned and excited for this release once they heard about it. They piqued me interest, and I have got to say that Remo is infectious. Remo fever!

Synopsis from Arrow: 

First they faked his death and gave him a new identity. Now a top secret organisation is training a former New York cop to combat corrupt forces operating outside of the law. His mentor, Chiun, is an ageing Korean master of the martial arts who can run on water and dodge speeding bullets.

Born on the pages of Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s The Destroyer series of men’s adventure novels, Remo Williams was placed in the capable hands of Bond director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger, The Man with the Golden Gun) for his big-screen outing. Fred Ward (Tremors) plays the trainee assassin, with Academy Award-winner Joel Grey (Cabaret) occupying the role of Chiun.
With its classic set-piece atop the Statue of Liberty, much-loved score by Craig Safan and a healthy sense of its own silliness, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins… offers up a cracking slice of mid-eighties action.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins fits in perfectly with the overwhelming 80's nostalgia excavation we've been experiencing as of late. It's a feel good picture; a film of challenge as we watch Fred Ward overcome a very obvious fear of heights and a film that develops a hero rather than simply throwing a ready-made good guy on the screen. After watching Fred Ward in Southern Comfort earlier in the week I was amazed by his versatility. He goes from scared out of his wits reservist, awaiting his backwoods murder to wise ass New York cop with a bad case of vertigo in only a few years. As a fan of Tremors growing up, I expected more shitkicker in his Remo Williams than reluctant superhero, but that's what makes him... well... lovable. It's easy to commiserate and sympathize with him even though he's a "tough guy". 

While most of the movie is entertaining the Statue of Liberty scene is very powerful. Confession: I have a fear of heights. Ever since I was a kid. I had this crazy, ultra-realistic nightmare that I was falling off Cinderella's castle in Disney World. It stuck. I even thought it was real for a short period of time until I told my second grade class, and my teacher had to set me straight.  It's not so tragic as to paralyze me on a staircase or even on the second story of a building, but beyond that I freeze up, sweat and shutdown. This transfer of Remo is so perfectly beautiful that while watching this thing on a 60 inch TV I got my own case of vertigo. I kid you not. I was literally jumping at Fred Ward dancing around the Statue of Liberty, fighting the bad guys. I won't let on how it all turns out, but it was a rough ten minutes. 

As with all Arrow Video discs you have to check out the extra package. The full length documentary is the perfect way to put this release in perspective and build up your 80's action movie knowledge. We're all a little rusty these days. 

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the film from a digital transfer prepared by MGM
Original uncompressed Stereo 2.0 PCM audio
Isolated Music and Effects soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary with producers Larry Spiegel and Judy Goldstein
Remo, Rambo, Reagan and Reds: The Eighties Action Movie Explosion – all-new feature-length documentary from High Rising Productions focusing on a decade of cinematic destruction and Remo Williams’s place among the carnage. Includes new interviews with genre expert Bey Logan, Remo producers Larry Spiegel and Judy Goldstein, celebrated directors Sam Firstenberg (American Ninja) and Mark L. Lester (Commando), producers Don Borchers (Angel) and Garrick Dion (Drive), filmmaker and scholar Howard S. Berger and Professor Susan Jeffords (author of Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era)
When East Met West – Joel Grey reflects on his turn as Chiun
Changing Faces – make-up expert Carl Fullerton discusses his Oscar-nominated work on Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins…
Notes for a Nobleman – composer Craig Safan talks about his classic score
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Red Dress
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the origins of Remo Williams by Barry Forshaw and an on-set report from American Cinematographer magazine

Region: B
Rating: 15
Cat No: FCD965
Duration: 121 mins
Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: 2.0 Stereo
Colour: Colour

If you're looking from an escape from movies that take themselves too seriously or simply an escape from this millennium, I urge you to take a chance on Remo Williams. It's lighthearted fun that will make you feel like it's the mid-80's again, before Fred Ward fought the grabboids. I cannot vouch for true fans of the written series or folks who grew up with this movie, but my understanding is that it holds up well to your memory and won't let your retro-appetite down. 

You can order Remo Williams - The Adventure Begins now from Arrow Video

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