Here’s a look at a couple of latest releases new to the ultra-high definition format and definitely geared for mature audiences.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Steelbook Edition (MPI Media Group, rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 83 minutes, $44.98) — Arguably one of the most horrifying and disturbing movies in the history of cinema debuts on the 4K format for American home theater audiences and now packed in steel and garnished with plenty analysis and history of its production and legacy.
Filmmaker Tobe Hooper delivered back in 1974 a depraved tale of five witless teenagers running out of gas in a Texas town and encountering a crazed cannibalistic family that enabled a monstrous man-child wielding a chainsaw and wearing a flesh mask to slaughter.
The genre-busting, influential movie ushered in the template for slasher films through scenes crafted to shock through gore and the suggestion of gratuitous violence while presenting one of the darkest and most evil sides of humanity.
The 4K enhanced transfer does a great job of ruining the entire smarmy grindhouse visual presentation of the original. This is a film that needs to be as dirty and scratchy as possible, like it was found on a VHS tape in a farmhouse cellar in Wisconsin.
Best extras: The package abundantly delivers bonus content on the included Blu-ray starting with a quartet of previously released optional commentary tracks: the first with Hooper, actor Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface), and cinematographer Daniel Pearl; the second with production designer Robert Burns and actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, and Paul A. Partain; the third with just Hooper; and the fourth with Mr. Pearl, editor J. Larry Carroll, and sound engineer Ted Nicolaou.
Now, that’s overwhelmingly great, but that means going back and watching the film four more times. Keep the vomit bucket handy.
Next, a new feature-length documentary titled “The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” offers 82 minutes with critics and film scholars such as Masters of Horror creator Mick Garris, History of Horror producer Ben Raphael Sher, Fangoria magazine editor-in-chief Phil Nobile Jr., and critics Meagan Navarro and Heather Wixson.
They offer a complete deconstruction of the legacy of the film, analyzed at every level while touching on the emergence of the strong female in horror movies, the lack of a musical score, critics’ initial reactions, and scenes such as the final dinner or Leatherface’s first encounter with the teenagers.
Also, an extra only before available in a limited special edition release from 2014 offers a 40th anniversary, 54-minute, question-and-answer session with filmmaker William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”) interviewing Hooper before a screening of the film. For fans of horror cinema, it’s quite the entertaining and humorous treat to see the pair interacting.
Viewers then get a series of extras culled from previous releases starting with another documentary from 2000 “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth,” and from 2006 “Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw” featuring Mr. Pearl, Edwin Neal (the Hitchhiker), make-up artist W. E. Barnes, fan club president Tim Harden and an amusing and articulate Mr. Hansen.
Now add another hour’s worth of interviews with Teri McMinn (Pam), John Dugan (Grandpa), Production Manager Ron Bozman and Editor J. Larry Carroll to round out the nostalgia.
Hardcore fans will also appreciate a vintage episode of “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” with host Sean Clark as he takes viewers on a tour of the locations seen in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
I’m not sure how much more a fan of this movie could learn after watching this exhaustive look at the film and exploring its place in a pop culture phenomenon.
The metal packaging contains the two discs (4K and Blu-ray) and displays the movie poster on its front cover (with a metallic painted chainsaw) and a plain white back. Open the case to reveal a full spread of the cannibal family at dinner, hidden on the left side by a removable fold-out, double-sided poster (11 inches by 16 inches) offering theatrical and original art.
Training Day (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 122 minutes, $33.99) — Denzel Washington’s Academy Award-winning performance as an LAPD narcotics detective fuels director Antoine Fuqua’s 2001 urban crime drama that deservedly gets visually reborn in the 4K disc format.
Officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) has 24 hours to prove his worth to the highly decorated Alonzo Harris (Mr. Washington) as they maneuver the violent, drug-drenched streets of Los Angeles. A wrinkle adds Harris owing money to a Russian mafia adding to a bounty on his head.
Mr. Washington chews up the dialogue as an unorthodox and corrupt cop striking fear into the criminals and even making Hoyt question his ultimate motivations.
His riveting performance throughout makes for a nail-biting evening of entertainment.
The UHD definition transfer delivers a serviceable upgrade highlighting the grays, blacks and sun-bleached grit of a decaying city environment.
For an over two-decade-old film, Warner delivers a revitalization crisp enough to almost smell the garbage-rotting filled streets of Los Angeles and equally ready to spotlight blue skies, palm trees, and some panoramic hazy views of the city that never sleeps,
Best extras: Bonus content gets culled from the 2006 Blu-ray release and features an optional solo commentary track with the director available on the 4K and included Blu-ray discs.
During the track, Mr. Fuqua offers a subdued but pointed deconstruction of “Training Day” focused on the narrative but with plenty of moments of dead air.
He often remarks of wanting to make the film as realistic as possible as compared to urban gang culture. He embraced the script, believed the audience lived through Jake and found it nearly impossible to work with the weather when trying to shoot a movie that takes place in one day.
Viewers also get a 15-minute featurette on the production and an alternate ending that offers a bit more closure to the Hoyt character.
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