Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Def-Con 4 | This 1980s post-apocalyptic sci-fi hasn’t aged well

Two months after the planet is ravaged by nuclear war, three astronauts stationed aboard a defence satellite – Howe (Babylon 5‘s Tim Choate), Jordan (Meatball‘s Kate Lynch) and Walker (John Walsch) – are forced to return to Earth when a hostile computer programme takes over their system.

On the ground, they encounter a lawless world where cannibalistic marauders roam and a young military despot (Kevin King) wants control of the last remaining fallout shelters. The gang’s only hope in survival lies in making an unlikely alliance with an eccentric survivalist (Nero Wolfe‘s Maury Chaykin)…

This 1985 Canadian sci-fi adventure from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures joined the wave of low-budget post-apocalyptic Mad Max 2 copycats that came out during the decade.

It’s a right bargain bin affair, with cheap production design, poor performances, a ham-fisted script and little in the way of action, excitement or anything else for that matter. And there’s nothing in the movie that suggests the atmospheric film poster bearing the skeletal remains of an astronaut in a desolate landscape ( a la Planet of the Apes).

The only redeeming feature is that the sci-fi romp features an early score from Christopher Young (who has composed of host of film genre titles from Hellraiser to the Pet Sematary reboot). Director Paul Donovan, meanwhile, went on to produce, write and direct a much more superior sci-fi, the TV series Lexx.

I’m sure it has its fans, but Def-Con 4 gets a big no from me and doesn’t really deserve a restoration. Nice packaging and artwork though.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• New 2K restoration from the original 35mm interpositive
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original lossless mono soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles
Brave New World: interview with editor Michael Spence
Nemesis Descending: interview with composer Christopher Young
• Interview with author Chris Poggiali on New World Pictures
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Gary Pullin
• Illustrated collector’s booklet

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The Witch | The last 30-minutes of this South Korean sci-fi blockbuster is a blood-drenched assault on the senses

10 years ago, Koo Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi) escaped from a medical facility during an incident and her memory. Now an unusually bright high school student, the farmer’s daughter enters a TV talent show which makes her a target to those who want her back. But she responds with a terrifying transformation from innocent girl into cold-blooded super killer!

Like Stranger Things, Orphan Black and its like, this South Korean sci-fi (aka Manyeo) deals with an amnesiac with latent genetically-engineered/mutant powers. Yep, we’ve seen it all before, and this one – from writer/director Park Hoon-jung – is a bit of a mixed bag. It starts off pretty slow, with some family domestics, but then comes the jaw-dropping finale – a blood-drenched assault on your senses that’s best experienced on the biggest screen possible and with a really good sound system (just to hear those bones cracking).

Kim Da-mi shines in the title role, but my favourite was Jo Min-soo as Ja-yoon’s ‘creator/mother’, Dr Baek. Channelling Joan Crawford’s mothering skills, her Dr Frankenstein-like brain surgeon is one crazy bitch indeed! One mystery I’d like solved, however, is why her superhuman children are referred to as ‘witches’. There’s no obvious explanation. Or did I miss it?

The Witch did soaring business in its native South Korea, while its full title (Part 1 – The Subversion) hints at more adventures to come. I’d be up for that – if only to get an answer to my question!

The Witch is out now on Digital HD from Signature Entertainment

 

The original Twilight Zone gets a 60th anniversary UK Blu-ray release

2019 marks the 60th anniversary celebration of Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone TV series and on 15 April, Mediumrare Entertainment is releasing an exclusive limited edition Blu-ray box set in the UK, which will include all 156 episodes of the original classic cult TV series, which was first broadcast on 2 October 1959 and ran for five seasons.

Included in the box set are a host of goodies, including an 80-page companion book written by Marc Scott Zicree, a 60-page episode guide, two reproduction Gold Key Comics, two post cards.

There’s also a host of extras (including audio commentaries, interviews, vintage radio dramas and the unaired pilots), plus a bonus disc which includes a new biography of the show’s creator, American Masters Presents: Rod Serling Submitted for Your Approval, and a new documentary, Timeless As Infinity: Entering the Twilight Zone, featuring interviews from Serling’s family, as well as interviews from the likes of Wes Craven and Joe Dante.

The fifth dimension has never been better than with this bumper box set on one of the most unique and inventive television shows ever created.

To pre-order the exclusive limited edition 60th Anniversary Blu-ray box set, which is priced at £149.99, and is not available from any other stockists, head over to: www.thetwilightzone.co.uk

Twilight Zone 60th Anniversary Box Set

Terra Formars (2016) | Takashi Miike’s mutant killer cockroach sci-fi adventure

TERRA FORMARS

The ever-prolific Japanese film-maker Takashi Miike (Audition, Blade of the Immortal) returns with this intergalactic epic in which a team of space explorers find themselves pitched against a horde of oversized anthropomorphic cockroaches.

In the mid-21st century, humankind has been forced to look to colonising other planets as a means of combating overcrowding on Earth – their first stop, Mars. With a population of cockroaches having been introduced on Mars some 500 years prior to help prepare the way for human colonization, a manned mission sets out to the red planet with the aim of clearing away the bugs. Upon arrival, however, they discover that the roaches have evolved to huge, vicious creatures capable of wielding weapons…

TERRA FORMARS

Based on the popular Manga series of the same name, Terra Formars is an action-packed space adventure brought to life by one of Japan’s most celebrated contemporary filmmakers.

The Arrow Video Blu-ray release is out now with the following special features…

• High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA options
• Newly-translated English subtitles
The Making of Terra Formars: feature-length documentary
• Extended cast interviews
• Footage from the 2016 Japanese premiere
• Outtakes
• Image Gallery
• Theatrical and teaser trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
• Illustrated collector’s booklet (first pressing only)

 

World on a Wire (1973) | Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s virtual reality sci-fi epic is a retro noir wet dream

world on a wire (1973)

Originally made for German TV in 1973, Rainer Werner Fassbinder‘s science-fiction thriller World on a Wire (Welt am Draht) is a frightening look into the world of virtual reality and a masterful adaptation of Daniel F Galouye’s 1964 novel Simulacron-3 (aka The Counterfeit World).

world on a wire (1973)

It centres around a highly-advanced project designed to elevate conventional computer technology to a new level by creating a virtual reality inhabited by computer-generated people or ‘identity units’.

When the head of the project dies mysteriously, Dr Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch) becomes his successor and sets out to probe deeper. Making contact with an identity unit called Einstein (Gottfried John), Stiller faces a terrible truth: that his world is actually a simulation of another world one level above…

world on a wire (1973)

Forget The Matrix and its ilk, Fassbinder’s two-part TV adaptation was way ahead of its time and has been praised as a science fiction masterpiece. Featuring some familiar faces from the director’s company of actors (Berlin Alexanderplatz‘ Brigette Mira, Tenderness of the Wolves‘ Kurt Raab, Effi Briest‘s Ulli Lommel and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul’s El Hedi ben Salem), the dystopian thriller also sports superlative production design (that probably influenced Blade Runner, and certainly has an Alphaville feel about it). So, for anyone into 1970s fashion, architecture and design, the sets, costumes, lighting and location shots are a retro noir wet dream (I know I could quite happily live in this simulated world). It might be dense in parts, made more so by the heavy German accents, but taken as instalments, World on a Wire is a revelation.

world on a wire (1973)

This new restoration, supervised by The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas, The Departed), comes 46 years after its initial release and still pushes audiences to question the world around them.

It is now being released by Second Sight in a Limited Edition Blu-ray which includes a 50-page collectors booklet and a host of outstanding new special features.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• No Strings Attached: interview with assistant director Renate Leiffer
• Observing Fassbinder: tribute to photographer Peter Gauhe
• Looking Ahead to Today documentary
• On-set featurette
• Original Broadcast Recap
• The Simulation Argument: interview with Professor Nick Bostrom
• 50-page collectors booklet featuring new essays by Anton Bitel and Daniel Bird, archival 
writing by Daniel Oberhaus and Christian Braad Thomsen, stills and rare on-set photos by Peter Gauhe

The Doctors: Villains! | DVD review

If you’re a classic Doctor Who fan, then Koch Media’s series of Myth Makers compilations are a must-see, offering candid memories from the actors and crew members who worked on the cult BBC sci-fi series. The latest release, The Doctors: Villains!, is a two-disc DVD collection of interviews with five fan-favourite actors whose screen villain performances have become as iconic as the show itself, plus there’s poignant tribute to one of my childhood heroes, Roger Delgado.

Recorded between 2006 and 2018, these interviews are vital historical record about what went on behind-the-scenes, and feature personal testimonies and life stories that will be of huge interest to fans of the show.

Roger Delgado as The Master

Following a new from Nicholas Briggs and Keith Barnfather, the first feature on the disc one is a 1997 tribute to Roger Delgado (1 March 1918-18 June 1973), who was the original Master (and, in my view, the definitive one). Between 1971 and 1973, the East London-born character actor featured as the primary nemesis to Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor, a fellow renegade Time Lord whose nefarious schemes spanned eight adventures and 37 episodes.

However, his untimely death – in a terrible car accident in Turkey, while filming the fourth episode of a Franco/German TV series (La Cloche tibétaine) – meant his character’s final story (which was planned to end with a big bang) had to be scrapped and resulted in Jon Pertwee’s decision to bow out of the series.

This affectionate feature includes archive interviews from fellow actors Nicholas Courtney (aka Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), John Levene (aka Sgt John Benton) and Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), producer Barry Letts, director Paul Bernard, head of serials Shaun Sutton, and writer Terrance Dicks, and well as two interviews with Pertwee. There’s also some behind-the-scenes footage from the location shoot in Aldbourne, Wiltshire from The Daemons which I’ve never seen before (very exciting).

Ian Collier as Omega

Next up is with Ian Collier (25 January 1943-1 October 2008), who played Omega (MK2) in the 1983 Peter Davison serial Arc of Infinity, and later in the Big Finish Productions audio drama Omega. Recorded in 2006, Collier, who also appeared in the 1972 Jon Pertwee adventure The Time Monster, looks back over his life and career and talks candidly about his HIV diagnosis and its negative effect on his career (and thanks Big Finish for saving it). Collier, who ends the interview with a lovely message: ‘being content and at peace with who you are is close to the secret of happiness’, passed away two years after this interview was recorded, aged 65.

Disc one concludes with an interview – recorded at an Ipswich Who convention in 2006 – with Bernard Archard (20 August 1916-1 May 2008), who had two notable roles in Doctor Who: the now missing Patrick Troughton serial The Power of the Daleks, and (one of my all-time fave episodes) as the possessed Marcus Scarman in the Tom Baker story Pyramids of Mars. This wonderful character actor, who appeared in lots of other classic British TV series and features (like 1961’s Village of the Damned), died in 2008 at the ripe age of 91.

Terry Molly and David Gooderson

Disc two’s first feature is on David Gooderson (b. 24 February 1941), who was the second actor to play Davros in the 1979 Tom Baker adventure Destiny of the Daleks. Beginning with a quick visit to Winspit Quarry (one of the locations used in Destiny of the Daleks, Gooderson who chats with interviewer Richard Dick about growing up in India, his memories of becoming an actor and writer (and working with the future Monty Python team), and his time on Doctor Who. Check out David’s website here: http://david-gooderson.co.uk/

David Gooderson as Davros

Up next is an interview from 2005 with actor Peter Miles (29 August 1928-26 February 2018), who appeared in three serials, The Silurians (1970), Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974) and Genesis of the Daleks (1975), in which he famlusly played Davros’ henchman, Nyder. He has a neat story about working with Brian Blessed, but did you know he was also an accomplished jazz and soul singer, and a childhood friend of Dusty Springfield?

Finally we have the esteemed Julian Glover (b 27 March 1935), who played Richard the Lionheart in the 1965 William Hartnell serial The Crusade and ended up in the City of Death in the 1979 Tom Baker adventure. He’s been in everything from The Avengers to Game of Thrones, and a luminary of the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, James Bond and Harry Potter franchises.

If, like me, you enjoy listening to the personal memories of actors who have given us so such enjoyment playing some our favourite villainous roles, then this latest release from Koch Media is a must-have.

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Iwrin Allen’s 1960s sci-fi show The Time Tunnel on HD Blu-ray in the UK

The Time Tunnel

From the golden age of TV sci-fi comes Irwin Allen’s The Time Tunnel, starring James Darren and Robert Colbert in sparkling HD

Two American scientists are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments on America’s greatest and most secret project, the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time…

The control of time is potentially the most valuable treasure that man will ever find. Or so believe the scientists of Project Tic-Toc. Located deep beneath the Arizona desert, the 10-year project’s focus is the feasibility of time travel.

But when the government reconsiders the project, the scientists, led by Lt General Heywood Kirk (Whit Bissell), have only 24 hours to prove their untested Time Tunnel will actually work. Determined to save the project, Dr Tony Newman (James Darren) and Dr Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert) go through the tunnel – and quickly find themselves catapulted from one historical event to another (from the sinking of the Titantic to the attack on Pearl Habor), barely escaping with their lives as their colleagues race to figure out a way to bring them back home in one piece…

The Time Tunnel

The BBC only showed 13 episodes of Irwin Allen’s third sci-fi series in 1968 as broadcasts were stopped to make way of the Olympics (held between 12-27 October 1968), and the show never returned to the BBC. Some ITV regions picked up the series in subsequent years, but other areas only got to see the full series when it was broadcast in the early 1990’s on ITV.

This new release, which features all 30 episodes presented in the original broadcast order, is produced from HD digital restoration masters created from the original negatives to ensure the best visual experience available. The seven-disc collector’s Blu-ray edition comes packed with special features and a brand new 5.1 surround sound mix, alongside the original mono audio.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Original Unaired Pilot Episode (HD Version)
• 2002 Unaired TV Pilot
• Time Travelers TV Movie
• Cast Interviews
• Irwin Allen’s Behind-The-Scenes Home Movies – UK Edit (No Audio)
• Promotional TV & Radio Spots
• Visual Effects
• Camera Test (No Audio)
• Stills Galleries
• New 5.1 surround sound mix and original mono audio

Koch Media/Revelation Films presents The Time Tunnel on seven-disc Blu-ray from 5 November
ORDER HERE: https://amzn.to/2vv8CoV

2001: A Space Odyssey | Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece gets a first-time 4K Ultra High Definition UK release

2001 Space Odyssey_4K-UHD_BD

With 2001: A Space Odyssey, director Stanley Kubrick redefined the limits of film-making and cemented his legacy as one of the most revolutionary and influential film directors of all time.

This groundbreaking sci-fi from 1968 (co-written by Kubrick and sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke) first visits mankind’s prehistoric ape-ancestry past, then leaps millennia (via one of the most mind-blowing jump cuts ever) into colonised space, and ultimately whisks astronaut Bowman (Keir Dullea) into uncharted space, perhaps even into immortality. “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

Following this summer’s theatrical run of the unrestored 70mm print of the film, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has now released Kubrick’s masterpiece on 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) Blu-ray. For the first time since the original release, new 70mm prints were struck from pristine printing elements made from the original camera negative, with award-winning director, writer and producer Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy) working closely with the team at Warner Bros.

Building on the work done for the new 70mm prints, the 4K UHD with High Dynamic Range (HDR) presentation was mastered from the 65mm original camera negative, with the 4K UHD also including both a remixed and restored 5.1 DTS-HD master audio track, as well as the original 1968 6-track theatrical audio mix (formatted for 5.1 DTS-HD master audio).

“2001 to me is the most cinematic film that has ever been made and it has been an honour and a privilege to be able to share the film with a new generation,” say Nolan. “4K UHD allows the closest recreation of viewing the original film print in your own home. Kubrick’s masterpiece was originally presented on large format film and the deeper colour palette and superior resolution comes closest to matching the original analogue presentation.”

The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment UHD presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey includes the feature film in 4K with (HDR), a remastered Blu-ray disc with the feature film in hi-definition, a Blu-ray disc with the special features in hi-definition, and a Digital version of the feature film. The premium packaging also includes a collectible booklet and art cards featuring iconic images from the film. Sci-fi fans can also own 2001: A Space Odyssey in 4K UHD via purchase from select digital retailers including iTunes, and Rakuten TV.

4K UHD BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
• 4K UHD Blu-ray™ with Commentary from Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
• Remastered Blu-ray™ with Commentary from Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood
• The Making of a Myth
• Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001
• Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001
• 2001: A Space Odyssey – A Look Behind the Future
• What Is Out There?
• 2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork
• Look: Stanley Kubrick!
• 11/27/66 Interview with Stanley Kubrick [Audio Only]
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Premium Booklet
• Art Cards

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Night of the Creeps (1986) | The cult sci-fi zom-com gets a dual format release

Night of the Creeps

From Eureka Entertainment comes director Fred Dekker’s jokey 1980s sci-fi comedy Night of the Creeps, in a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition as part of the Eureka Classics range.

When an alien experiment goes awry, it crashes to Earth in 1959 and infects a college student. 27 years later, his freeze-dried body is unwittingly revived by nerds Chris (Jason Lively) and JC (Steve Marshall), which releases alien slugs that turn their fellow campus students into brain-hungry zombies. Chris, CJ and Chris’ new girlfriend Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) must then team up with a troubled detective (Tom Atkins) to find a way to defeat the zombie horde…

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Presented for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK, this deluxe edition of Night of the Creeps features the original director’s cut and the following special features…

DUAL FORMAT SPECIAL FEATURES
• High-definition remaster of the director’s cut
• Original stereo soundtrack and 5.1 surround audio options, presented in PCM and DTS-HD MA respectively on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary by writer/director Fred Dekker
• Audio commentary by actors Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow
Thrill Me: Making Night of the Creeps: an hour-long series of video pieces on the making of the film featuring new interviews with cast and crew
Tom Atkins: Man of Action featurette
• Video Interview with Fred Dekker
• Deleted Scenes
• Original theatrical ending (which I rather prefer)
• Trivia track subtitles
• Theatrical trailer
• Limited-edition booklet featuring a new essay by critic Craig Ian Mann
• Limited Edition O-Card slipcase

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Blake’s Seven: 7 Stars Liberated from the Classic TV Series! | Be prepared for six hours of Maximum Power!

Blake’s Seven – 7 Stars Liberated From The Classic TV Series!

It was 40 years ago this year that Terry Nation’s ‘Robin Hood meets The Dirty Dozen‘ sci-fi series Blake’s 7 blasted onto our telly screens and went on to achieve cult status after four series and 52 episodes.

Two years ago, the show’s star Gareth Thomas, who played the titular commander of the rag-tag group of rebels battling the totalitarian Terran Federation, headed off into the cosmos aged 71, and, this week, tributes are pouring in for Jacqueline Pearce (aka the glamorous evil Supreme Commander Servalan), who has also left us, aged 74, after a long battle with cancer.

So it’s weirdly timely that Koch Media have released this 2-disc DVD set compilation from the Doctor Who-centric Myth Makers series of cult TV interviews featuring six cast members, alongside visual effects consultant Mat Irvine.

GARETH THOMAS WITH DALEK

Recorded over several years, these interviews were conducted by Nicholas Briggs (best known for voicing the Daleks in Doctor Who and heading up Big Finish Productions) and shot in some of the locations used in the series.

Talking about their acting careers, their time on the show and what happened after the series ended are the late Gareth Thomas (shot at Gatton Park and Betchworth Quarry, Surrey in 2003), Jan ‘Cally’ Chappell (filmed at Quex Park, Kent in 2005, which appeared in Bounty), Michael ‘Vila’ Keating (recorded this year at Windspit Quarry in Dorset, which appeared in Games, and was also used in the Doctor Who episode Destiny of the Daleks), Stephen ‘Travis No1’ Greif (shot at the location for Jewel in the New Forest in 2000) and Peter Tuddenham (who voiced Zen, ORAC and Slave), which was recorded in 2003 in Brighton, four years before Peter’s passing in 2007 aged 88.

PETER TUDDENHAM

Although they all are hugely enjoyable (particularly so Pete Tuddenham’s piece, in which he’s interviewed by ORAC, and Mat Irvine’s interview, whose outhouse contains loads of boxes filled with his handmade props from Doctor Who and Blake’s 7), the most entralling offering must be the interview with Jacqueline Pearce.

She holds nothing back as she discusses her highs (sex and drugs) and lows (mental illness), reflects on her time at RADA and in the US, her admiration for Rudolph Nureyev, and reveals what she really felt about Blake’s 7 and sci-fi in general.

JACQUELINE PEARCE

Filmed in 2000, this interview captures Jacqueline at her best – exuding the glamour, warmth and vivid charm that made her such a colourful character and won her legions of fans (including myself). Her fascinating recollections would later be included in her unflinching 2012 autobiography From Byfleet to the Bush (which I highly recommend).

Are you ready for six hours of ‘Maximum Power!’?

Blake’s Seven: 7 Stars Liberated from the Classic TV Series! Out of 2-disc DVD now! Available from Amazon

 

Peter Fuller with Jacqueline Pearce

RIP Jacs!

 

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