Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Caltiki: The Immortal Monster (1959) | A true five-star release of an important film in Italian horror cinema

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)REVIEWED BY ALAN HOARE
The week’s big screen movie was a premier of Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (original Italian title: Caltiki, il Mostro Immortale, British title: The Immortal Monster) a 1959 Italian science fiction-horror film directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava, which neither Chris or I had seen before.

A team of archaeologists investigating Mayan ruins who come across a creature that is a shapeless, amorphous blob. Meanwhile, a comet is due to pass close to the Earth, the very same comet that passed near the Earth at the time the Mayan civilization collapsed, raising the question: “Is there a connection between the creature and the comet”?

* John Merivale as Dr. John Fielding
* Didi Perego as Ellen Fielding
* Gérard Herter as Max Gunther
* Daniela Rocca as Linda
* Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Prof. Rodriguez’s assistant
* Daniele Vargas as Bob (expedition member)
* Vittorio André as Prof. Rodriguez
* Nerio Bernardi as Police inspector
* Arturo Dominici as Nieto (expedition member)

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

[WARNING: The following contains spoilers]

The opening narration tells us about the achievements of the Mayan civilisation and their unknown demise leaving their city empty and abandoned. We then see a delirious, worse for wear, man stumble from the ruins of the Mayan city and into his group’s camp (without his partner, both of whom have been exploring a nearby cave). He quickly babbles away madly, repeatedly muttering the word Caltiki. The group sets out for the cave to investigate what happened.

Upon entering the cave they find a huge chamber containing a deep pool of water, behind which on a stone pedestal is a large statue of Caltiki, the vengeful Mayan goddess who was ceremonially presented with human sacrifices.

Puzzled by the pool, they quickly decide to send a man with “full immersion gear” (in other words a diver) to investigate. Descending to the bottom, he finds the sandy bed scattered with Mayan skeletons clad in gold jewelry. Excitedly he surfaces clutching as much gold as he can carry. Although the group advises that he not go down again, he insists that he has plenty of air and suggests that they could all become millionaires from the wealth below. Relenting, they let him descend once more.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

As he greedily collects more and more treasure he inadvertently disturbs something and his cable to the surface suddenly begins to move erratically. Fearing for his safety, the group pull him back to the surface, only to find, upon removing his face mask, that his face has been reduced to a decayed mass over his skeleton.

Moments later, a shapeless pulsating creature rears up from the pool, attempting to envelop anyone within reach. Max is caught by the arm but is rescued by John who chops off part of the creature with an axe, freeing Max’s arm.

As the team escapes, the shapeless mass begins to crawl out of the cave. Nearby, there is a tanker truck full of gasoline. John drives the truck directly into the creature , causing a violent explosion which sets fire to the blob, destroying it.

The team returns to Mexico City to take Max to a hospital to treat the small piece of the creature on his arm, which is slowly digesting him. The surgeons carefully remove the creature, wrapping it up. They find that Max’s arm is nothing more than a few moist scraps of flesh connected to the underlying bones and that Max’s face is also begging to deteriorate.

Through experimentation the scientists discover that sample of the creature is a unicellular bacterium that appears to be dead, only to revive and quickly grow when bombarded with radiation. Overnight the janitor inadvertently irradiates the creature which quickly grows, but is destroyed when the laboratory accidentally catches fire.

Investigating the origins of the creature they learn of a comet emitting radiation, which crosses Earth’s path only once in every 850 years, was in the earths orbit at the demise of the Mayan civilisation and now is approaching earth again. Unfortunately, the remaining samples of the creature are stored in the home of Dr. John Fielding. At the comet’s closest approach to Earth, the remaining piece of the blob begins expanding to an enormous size and reproducing. At the same time the deranged Max has escaped hospital and is terrorising Ellen Fielding.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

While attempting to convince the Mexican government to send its army to destroy the reproducing blobs, Fielding is arrested for speeding but manages to escape. A colleague finally convinces the authorities to sound an alarm because if the creature multiples it will be beyond even their ability to control.

The government sends a regiment of soldiers equipped with high powered flamethrowers to Dr. Fielding’s home. Upon their arrival, they find that the creatures have multiplied and have overrun the house and grounds. Dr. Fielding’s wife and child have been forced to hide on a second-floor window ledge to escape being devoured. Fielding arrives just in time to save them, just as the soldiers lay waste to the creatures with torrents of fire.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

ALAN’S VERDICT
A very enjoyable Italian take on the monster movie, that takes The Quatermass Xperiment as it’s basis, but goes well beyond this with graphic realistically detailed gore and a simply, but marvellously realised creature deigned by Mario Bava, which looks like old towels were utilised to incredible effect. Indeed there are elements of found footage genre and possibly the genesis of David Cronenberg’s body horror sub genre

Special mention must be made of Mario Bava’s excellent use of glass matte painting for the Mayan village were live action is skilfully mixed to strengthen the illusion of the painting, when the mystery man stumbles from the city and then walks directly in front of the painting. The use of sets combined with models is well handled and as realism to the film.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

Allegedly, director Riccardo Freda was angered by the way the producers had treated his cinematographer, Mario Bava, on their previous film, I Vampiri. So Freda concocted a way to push Bava into the director’s chair of his next film, Caltiki, The Immortal Monster; he left the project early once Bava had been hired again as the film’s cinematographer. Freda felt that this would lead producer Lionello Santi into recognizing Bava’s talents as a film director. Bava described Caltiki, The Immortal Monster as “my very first film” while noting that Freda had fled the set “because everything was falling to pieces. I managed to carry it out, patching it up here and there”.

Arrow’s Blu-ray release of this long unavailable masterpiece is a wonder to behold. The black and white photography is crisp and detailed whilst still retaining a suitable filmic look. There is the option of English or Italian language, two audio commentaries and several documentaries.

A true five-star release of an important film in Italian horror cinema.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• Audio commentary by Mario Bava biographer Tim Lucas
• Audio commentary by Italian Giallo cinema author Troy Howarth
• From Quatermass to Caltiki: a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman
• Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master: an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa
• The Genesis of Caltiki: archival interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi
• Archival introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa
• Alternate opening titles for the US version
• Newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• First pressing only: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti

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Essex Spacebin (2016) | Is this British indie sci-fi inspired lunacy or what?

 

essex_spacebin_poster

Honestly, I really cannot begin the describe how ‘bad’ Essex Spacebin is – and I use those commas because I think that’s the point – or so it seems.

Essex Spacebin

Meet Lorraine Willy (Lorraine Malby), a middle-aged woman with mental health issues who believes she and some intergalactic Rasta dude called Hogan have a psychic link with beings from another dimension. Armed with a PDF of Amen-Ra’s specs for an Essex-built pyramid, Lorraine sets out to locate a star key, which will gain her access to the parallel world…

Essex Spacebin

Written and directed by David Hollinshead and Philip Thompson (who don’t appear to have done anything else according to the IMDB), Essex Spacebin is a low-rent sci-fi take on the Wizard of Oz with production values akin to the VHS shorts that I used to make on a lark with my university friends back in the 1980s. But it’s shot in glimmering 35mm film stock, which leads me to suspect that the whole thing is a joke on us viewers, and that its ‘badness’ is intentional.

Essex Spacebin

So, are the film-makers hoping to pay homage to the likes of John Waters (Multiple Maniacs is back in UK cinemas in a restored version – yeah!!!) and the warped comedy of Troma’s 1980s output (in London, it was paired with Tromeo & Juliet, alongside a personal appearance of Lloyd Kaufman), and that their intentionally ‘bad’ film will take its place in the Midnight Movie pantheon alongside Rocky Horror, Birdemic: Shock and Terror and Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, or is it really just a waste of everyone’s time and effort? I’ve sat through it twice now and I really can’t make up my mind. So, if you have seen it, please do leave a comment below, and let me know if I have missed something?

Kudos, however, do go to crazy collection of characters that populate this mad, bad, non-star trek, and to the evocative techno soundtrack (from Ceephax Acid Crew aka Andy Jenkinson).

Essex Spacebin is available on Amazon Prime Video.

Arrow to release Caltiki: The Immortal Monster in a brand new 2K restoration

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)On Monday 10 April 2017, Arrow Video will release 1959’s Caltiki: The Immortal Monster from two giants of Italian cult cinema – Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

Crawling, Crushing Colossus of Terror!
A team of archaeologists led by Dr John Fielding (John Merivale, Circus of Horrors) descends on the ruins of an ancient Mayan city to investigate the mysterious disappearance of its inhabitants. However, the luckless explorers get more than they bargained for when their investigation of a sacrificial pool awakens the monster that dwells beneath its waters – the fearsome and malevolent god Caltiki.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

Though Riccardo Freda received sole directing credit, a significant portion of the film was in fact the work of Mario Bava, who also served as its cinematographer and was responsible its striking special effects. Drawing on a diverse array of influences, from The Quatermass Experiment to the works of HP Lovecraft, Caltiki the Immortal Monster is a unique and unforgettable sci-fi chiller which showcases these two legendary filmmakers at their most inventive.

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SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• Audio commentary by Mario Bava biographer Tim Lucas
• Audio commentary by Italian Giallo cinema author Troy Howarth
From Quatermass to Caltiki: a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman
Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master: an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa
The Genesis of Caltiki: archival interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi
• Archival introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa
• Alternate opening titles for the US version
• Newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• First pressing only: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti

 

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The Roddenberry Vault reveals never-before-seen Star Trek footage in HD

Star Trek: The Original Series The Roddenberry Vault

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, comes this three-disc Blu-ray release featuring previously unseen footage from the show’s production and 12 classic episodes, which is due to land on Monday 5 December 2016.

During the shooting of Star Trek, reels and reels of episodic footage were left on the cutting room floor and later preserved in film canisters by the Roddenberry Estate.  These alternate takes, deleted scenes, omitted dialogue, out-takes, and original visual FX elements have now been catalogued, transferred and pieced together to be inserted into the two featurettes and a three-part documentary that are at the core of this box-set from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution.

Star Trek: The Original Series The Roddenberry Vault

The 12 episodes (selected for their relevance to the vault materials) are from the 1080p High Definition film scans done in 2006 for the re-mastering project, and are presented here in both DTS 7.1 Master Audio and newly-restored original Mono. There are also isolated music tracks on 11 of the episodes, while three contain newly-recorded audio commentaries.

The three documentaries are:
Inside The Roddenberry Vault: in which Rod Roddenberry introduces viewers to the discovery of his father’s long-lost Star Trek film reels.
Star Trek: Revisiting A Classic: a look back at the origins of the iconic series, including glimpses of life on the set with new interviews featuring guest stars, directors and production personnel.
Strange New Worlds: exploring the creation of the classic Star Trek visuals, featuring newly-found original visual effects elements photography.


WHAT’S IN THE BOX

Disc One:
The Corbomite Maneuver
Arena
Space Seed
This Side of Paradise (plus audio commentary by Dorothy ‘DC’ Fontana and Gabrielle Stanton)
Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 1)
Star Trek: Revisiting a Classic

Disc Two:
The Devil in the Dark
The City on the Edge of Forever (plus audio commentary by Roger Lay Jr, Scott Mantz and Mark A Altman)
Operation – Annihilate!
Metamorphosis
Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 2)
Strange New Worlds: Visualising the Fantastic

Disc Three:
Who Mourns for Adonais?
Mirror, Mirror
The Trouble with Tribbles (plus audio commentary by David Gerrold and David A Goodman)
Return to Tomorrow
Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 3)
Swept Up: Snippets from the Cutting Room Floor

The Roddenberry Vault on Blu-ray is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

The Roddenberry Vault on Blu-ray is now available for pre-order on Amazon.Save

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UFO: The Complete Series on Blu-ray | Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s cult sci-fi returns in a stunning new HD restoration

UFO: The Complete Series Blu-ray

After 10 years development in top secrecy beneath a London film studio, Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation (aka SHADO) goes live on 16 September 1980. Its aim – to combat the threat of an alien invasion from a dying race that abducts humans to repair their own decaying bodies. SHADO’s dedicated operatives, headed up by Commander Ed Straker (Ed Bishop), fight a covert war against Earth’s terrifying new menace: on land, sea, air and in space!

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The first live-action television series from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, UFO remains a benchmark sci-fi production, featuring solid storylines, superior special effects and a blast of a cast. Long-awaited on Blu-ray, it’s presented here in a pristine new HD restoration, with all 26 episodes offering original mono or 5.1 soundtracks, alongside the following special features:

From Earth to the Moon: New feature-length documentary featuring interviews with many of the surviving cast. (Just wait until you hear Wanda Ventham’s views on Star Trek and that famous son of hers, Benedict Cumberbatch – it’s a hoot – as is Ayshea Brough’s memory of the show).
The Women of UFO: New documentary discussing the improving sexual equality depicted in the series.
Identified: SHADO New Recruits Briefing: New SHADO briefing film narrated by Matt Zimmerman.
• 600-page collector’s book edited by archive TV historian Andrew Pixley.
• Dolby 5.1 audio mix, as well as existing as-transmitted mono audio.
• Film material, including textless episode title backgrounds, textless end titles, stock footage, TV spots, extra footage for Identified and Exposed, unused footage from Timelash and The Long Sleep, and Italian trailers.
• Audio commentaries: Identified with Gerry Anderson and Sub-Smash with Ed Bishop.
• S.I.D. Computer Voice Session and audio out-takes for these sessions and Kill Straker!
• Archive Ed Bishop audio interview from 1986.
• Tomorrow Today: Future fashions with Sylvia Anderson (be warned, there’s also a disturbing interview with a burns patient).
• Extensive image galleries.
• Ron Embleton-designed poster (at the time of time of writing, the first pressing was sold out and this was only available if you bought the box-set direct from networkonair.com).

• Also available from Amazon (while stocks last)

 

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Dead-End Drive-In (1986) | Catch the day-glo Ozploitation thrills on Blu-ray

Dead End Drive InIn an apocalyptic Australia, where lawlessness prevails, outcasts and misfits are being secretly herded into concentration camps disguised as drive-in movie theatres. When young petrolhead Crabs (Neil Manning) takes Carmen (Natalie McCurry) to the local drives in his brother’s ’56 Chevy, they soon face the terrible realisation that they have become the latest inmates of this bizarre social experiment. Can they escape before becoming resigned to a hellish existence of all-day parties, round-the-clock movie shows, and all the radioactive junk food they can eat?

Dead End Drive In

Dead-End Drive-In is a prime slice of crazed Ozploitation from Brian Trenchard-Smith (aka Australia’s answer Roger Corman), who was responsible for Australia’s first martial arts thriller The Man From Hong Kong and the cult prison actioner Turkey Shoot. When it was released Down Under in 1986, it was written off as a bargain bin Mad Max rip-off, while its unconvincing cast of day-glo punks, freaks and loons looked like they had stepped out of an issue of the era’s über-trendy i-D magazine.

Dead End Drive In

But it does have its fans, including this (Australian-born) writer, especially as it popularised German Bundeswehr vests and featured some rocking new wave tunes from those legendary Aussie alternative bands, Hunters + Collectors and Kids in the Kitchen. It’s also a great reminder of the now lost Australia tradition of going to the Drives.

dead-end-drive-in_2

Originally put out under the ArrowDrome label on DVD in 2013, Dead-End Drive-In is now out on Blu-ray, featuring a 2k restoration print, and packed with new extras, including an audio commentary from Trenchard-Smith and a documentary by the director on Australian stuntman Grant Page. Which only makes this the perfect excuse to revisit the much-maligned futuristic thriller.

 

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Wizards (1977) | Rediscover Ralph Bakshi’s trailblazing animated fantasy

Wizards (1977)

Praised by Quentin Tarantino and George Lucas, Wizards is an epic sci-fi fantasy adventure created by the legendary animator Ralph Bakshi in 1977, and it’s now available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK featuring a new high definition print.

Wizards (1977)


Millions of years after a nuclear holocaust, the Earth is divided between the Badlands, where goblins and demons dwell, and the Goodlands, which is home to fairies and elves. During a violent storm, the queen of Montagar gives birth to two wizards– Avatar and Blackwolf, who are fated to enter into a deadly battle between magic and technology.


‘A cross between Tolkien’s Hobbit, Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man, and Marvel Comics’ Howard the Duck’ according to Tarantino, Wizards is without doubt a fantastical animated adventure from a master craftsman, but it also works as a none-to-subtle allegory on the creation of the state of Israel in the wake of the Holocaust.

Featuring the vocal talents of Bob Holt (Hong Kong Phooey), Jesse Welles (The Return of Count Yorga), and a pre-Star Wars Mark Hamill, this was the subversive cartoonist’s boldest gamble following his adult-themed flicks Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic. But it is also became a trailblazing calling card for his next foray into animated fantasy, 1978’s The Lord of the Rings.

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The 2016 Fabulous Films region 2 DVD and Blu-ray release includes a new high-definition transfer, audio commentary from Bakshi, isolated music and effect audio track, a featurette on Bakshi, trailers and a gallery including conceptual drawings.

Get the DVD here

Get the Blu-ray here

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David Bowie honoured in London with two 40th-anniversary screenings of The Man Who Fell to Earth

The Man Who Fell to Earth

To mark the 40th anniversary of the UK release of director Nicolas Roeg’s iconic sci-fi, The Man Who Fell to Earth, a new director’s approved 4k restoration is being released into London cinemas on 9 September, with a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray and DVD following on 24 October.

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Featuring a career defining lead performance from David Bowie and based on the cult novel by Walter Tevis, The Man Who Fell to Earth endures as, not only a bitingly caustic indictment of the modern world but, also, a poignant commentary on the loneliness of the outsider.

Friday 9 September has been declared a one-off David Bowie day by Curzon Soho as part of their campaign to save the cinema from demolition. After a special Save Curzon Soho edition of David Bowie Is Walking In Soho tour of the Thin White Duke’s locations, you can enjoy a special screening of The Man Who Fell to Earth introduced by its costume designer May Routh. Book tickets here.

Meanwhile, over in Hackney on the same night, Oscar-winning Director Danny Boyle introduces a special screening at Hackney Picturehouse. This is one of his favourite films and he has often sited Nicolas Roeg as a key influence on his career (he even referred to the film in the London Olympic opening ceremony). Book tickets here.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

For more on the Collector’s Edition release, check out: www.facebook.com/vintageclassicsfilm

And there’s more… The original soundtrack album will be released for first time on CD on 9 September and on vinyl on 28 October; while the musical Lazarus, inspired by Walter Tevis’ novel, debuts at the Kings Cross Theatre, London from 25 October. Check it out here: lazarusmusical.com. Plus, a book on the making of the film, limited to just 1000 copies, is available for pre-order from 27 August: www.themanwhofelltoearth.co.uk

Identicals (2015) | This British indie sci-fi wants to be Blade Runner meets The Man Who Haunted Himself

Identicals (2015)

In a futuristic Britain, a mysterious organisation called Brand New-U offers customers the chance to upgrade themselves by becoming ‘Identicals’ – doppelgängers that may walk and talk like you, but are living much better lives than you. Good-looking lad about town Slater (Lachlan Nieboer) seems to have it all, including the love of his life, Nadia (Nora-Jane Noone).

When she suddenly disappears, Slater is led to Brand New-U, where he makes a deal to take on a new identity in a bid to find Nadia. But as his quest turns into obsession, his identities start to blur, and what he must find in the end is himself…

Identicals (2015)

This Irish-made British sci-fi indie thriller from Bafta-winning short-film director Simon Pummell is a brave attempt at fusing the futuristic worlds of Blade Runner, William Gibson and a Total Recall-styled story with a heavy dose of existential dramatics – the kind that was tackled so brilliantly by Basil Dearden in The Man Who Haunted Himself (check out my review of the Blu-ray release here).

Newcomer Lachlan Neibor (whose appeared in Torchwood and Downton Abbey) is certainly the one to watch, as he dominates nearly every scene as the wideboy Slater and his various doppelgängers, who operates as a conduit for Pummell’s exploration about ‘the strangeness of our contemporary world’.

With his brooding good looks and action man heroics, Neibor could give Jack O’Connell a run for his money (and he could be his double). As for the film itself, well it certainly looks super stylish, but it seems that Pummel (making his feature debut here) and his team have spent so much time on the film’s production design that they’ve forgotten to give the film’s difficult to follow story some heart and soul in which audiences can empathise with. Still, it could be the making of Neibor.

Identicals is out on VOD now and DVD on 22 August 2016 from Arrow Films

Watch the skies! Invasion: UFO gets an exclusive release in HD!

Invasion_UFO_Blu-ray

Ahead of the restored Blu-ray release of Gerry Anderson’s cult 1970s sci-fi series UFO later this year in the UK, the feature-length compilation Invasion: UFO is now available to buy on Blu-ray exclusively through: networkonair.com.

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Earth’s greatest fear becomes a reality when UFOs are finally confirmed – the aliens come from a dying planet millions of light years away, seeking human organs to repair their own decaying bodies. And mankind’s only hope at stopping the alien terror is SHADO, a top secret defence organisation headed up by Edward Straker (Ed Bishop), a former American Air Force Colonel, and his loyal team including first officer (George Sewell) Alex Freeman, computer specialist Virgina Lake (Wanda Ventham) and former test pilot Paul Foster (Michael Billington).


Created on videotape for syndication in Europe and America, Invasion: UFO is an amalgamation of the episodes Identified, Computer Affair and Reflections in the Water. To bridge continuity gaps, segments from ESP and Confetti Check A-OK were also used, while the ending was taken from The Man Who Came Back. If you have never seen the series before, then this makes for fantastic taste of things to come.

Having been resized in full 16:9 widescreen from restored High Definition elements sourced from the original 35mm negatives, Invasion: UFO looks better than it has ever been, and is presented here with both original mono and Dolby 5.1 soundtracks. The special extras include the original 1980 videotape version (which just shows how much work has gone into the restoration), the 1980 trailer, full-frame opening and end titles, and textless end titles.

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