The Wraith | The 1980s stunt-filled supernatural revenger joins the Vestron Video Blu-ray collection
A fresh-faced Charlie Sheen and Nick Cassavetes face off in director Mike Marvin’s 1986 turbocharged actioner, The Wraith, which is now available on Blu-ray as part of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series.
After four glowing spheres collide over a highway near the desert town of Brooks, Arizona, they leave in their wake a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor and an armoured-up helmeted driver.
The next day, a young man called Jake (Sheen) arrives in town and, catching the eye of pretty teen Keri (Sherilyn Fenn), incurs the jealous wrath of Packard Walsh (Cassavetes), the vicious leader of a gang of car thieves who coerce drivers with fancy sports cars into racing for pink slips.
When the gang members start losing races, and their lives, to the Interceptor and its vigilante driver, the recent murder of Keri’s boyfriend suddenly seems connected with Jake and the seemingly invulnerable supercar…
If you love muscle cars and power rock, then this naff slice of 1980s action fantasy will certainly be your thang. As classic hits by the likes of Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant and Bonnie Tyler play out against the film’s desert landscapes, Packard’s gang (dressed like something out of a bad fashion show and have ridiculous names like Shank, Rughead and Gutterboy) come a cropper in a series of explosive crashes as Randy Quaid’s Sheriff Loomis and his clueless lawman try to stop the carnage. It’s all great fun, but in the end, it’s all about seeing that Dodge Turbo Interceptor in action.
I do remember seeing this on its original release – only because it made the news (and not in a good way). The film is dedicated to Bruce Ingram, a camera operator who died during the filming of one of the car chases, and his death almost ended Mike Marvin’s film career. He goes into detail about this in the extras, of which there are some doozies.
– Audio Commentary with writer/director Mike Marvin
– Audio Commentary with actors Dave Sherrill and Jamie Bozian
– Isolated Score Selections featuring an audio interview with co-composer J. Peter Robinson
– Tales From The Desert – An interview with writer/director Mike Marvin
– Rughead Speaks! – An interview with Actor Clint Howard
– Ride of the Future – Interviews with stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker and transportation coordinator Gary Hellerstein
– The Ghost Car – Interviews with visual effects producer Peter Kuran and effects animator Kevin Kutchaver
– The Wraith Filming Locations: Then and Now
– Theatrical Trailer
– TV Spots
– Alternate Title Sequence
– Still Gallery
I have been a huge fan of Dementia 13 ever since I bought it on VHS back in the 1980s. I’ve returned to it time and again because it just ticks so many boxes: the moody monochrome cinematography, the atmospheric harpsichord-heavy Ronald Stein score, the great use of the Sir Edwin Lutyens-styled 14th-century Howth Castle in Dublin, and another eccentric turn from one of my all-time favourite character actors, Patrick Magee. But the print I’ve been watching all these years has been quite poor.
So it was with much glee that I see Lionsgate Home Entertainment has released Francis Ford Coppola’s 1963 feature debut in a high-definition director’s cut (which was done back in 2017 by Coppola’s American Zoetrope) on Blu-ray as part of their Vestron Collector’s Series.
Luana Anders (who had just finished Roger Corman’s The Young Racers, and previously co-starred with Vincent Price in 1961’s The Pit and the Pendulum) plays recently widowed Louise Haloran, who keeps her husband’s death a secret in a bid to secure his inheritance.
But as she plots to exploit her ailing mother in law (Eithne Dunne) who continues to grieve over the tragic drowning of her daughter Kathleen, Louise’s plans are put in jeopardy by a maniac stalking the family estate. But who could it be? Brothers Richard (William Campbell) or Billy (Bart Patton), family physician Dr Justin Caleb (Magee), or someone else entirely?
Having seen the film countless times, I went straight to Coppola’s audio commentary – which was a blast. I’ve now gained a new appreciation of just how much the film is very much Coppola’s own. He not only directed but wrote the screenplay (which he readily admits was a cash-in on William Castle’s Homicidal, which was itself a rip on Hitchcock’s Psycho), and was very much involved in the film’s visual imagery. He was also the body double for the heart attack victim in the chilling opening scenes, the hand model for the film’s protagonist, Louise; and best of all, the 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulietta that features heavily was Coppola’s own pride and joy. One he wishes he still had – so do I! Oh, and I love the story he tells of how he became a hero after managing to keep a local pub open after closing time.
Made on just $40,000 (half of which was money left over from Corman’s The Young Races production) at Ardmore Studios in Bray, Ireland, Coppola’s psychological axe-murder horror is a masterclass in effective economical film-making – but also one with great style, and some very haunting imagery (such as the transistor radio burbling distorted pop music as it sinks into the lake, and [spoiler] Louise’s tragic early demise a la Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane).
To preserve his vision, Coppola excised the additional scenes (filmed by Jack Hill) that producer Roger Corman had added. While it’s a shame they weren’t included as an extra, the film finally looks and sounds its best!
• Introduction by Francis Ford Coppola
• Audio Commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola
• Prologue (Dementia 13 Test): In a nod to William Castle’s gimmicks, and to extend the film’s running time, this features a ‘shrink’ inviting the audience to take part in a survey that tests their mental state.
Amazon Blu-ray: https://bit.ly/Dementia13Vestron