ARROW 4K UHD RELEASE: Waterworld (1995)

The most expensive film ever made at the time, Waterworld lives in the same rarified air as Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate, except that it was one of the highest grossing films of 1995.

The thing is, while it cost $175 million, it made back $264.2 million worldwide, as well as having a profitable video and cable release. It’s still making money, because the stunt show based on the movie, Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular, is still running at Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Singapore, Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Beijing 27 years after the movie was released.

Writer Peter Rader came up with the idea for Waterworld during a conversation with producer Brad Krevoy literally as a Mad Max rip-off. He probably also read the comic Freakwave by Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy*, which had been nearly optioned as a movie. Co-writer David Twohy even outright said that he was inspired by The Road Warrior and the filmmakers hired that movie’s director of photography, Dean Semler, for this film.

Before filming began, Steven Spielberg warned star Kevin Costner and director Kevin Reynolds not to film on open water, a lesson he learned from Jaws. They didn’t listen and watched the set sink. And hey, Reynolds quit before the movie was done because he and Costner fought so much.

So what did this all lead to?

Waterworld is way better than it’s been said to be. It is, quite literally, Mad Maxon jet skis. Costner is the web-footed Mariner, a man who recycles his own urine as drinking water because since the polar ice caps melted, the drinking water is quite limited and the Earth is just plain filled with water. He saves Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and a kid named Enola (Tina Majorino), protecting them from The Deacon, a one-eyed Dennis Hopper, and then uses the map on Enola’s back to find the only dry land on Earth, which is the top of Mount Everest.

It just takes two hours and fifteen minutes** to get there.

*Ironically, McCarthy would later co-write Mad Max: Fury Road.

**The Costner cut is three hours long.

The three disc limited edition Arrow 4K UHD release of Waterworld has everything you ever wanted about this film.

There are three cuts of the film newly restored from original film elements by Arrow Films, six collector’s postcards, a double-sided fold-out poster and a limited edition 60-page perfect bound book featuring writing on the film by David J. Moore and Daniel Griffith, and archival articles, as well as a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper.

The theatrical cut disc comes with the following extras: Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld, a feature-length making-of documentary including extensive cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage; Dances With Waves, an original archival featurette capturing the film’s production; Global Warnings, in which film critic Glenn Kenny explores the subgenre of ecologically themed end-of-the-world films; a production and promotional still gallery; a visual effects still gallery; original trailers and TV spots.

You also get the TV cut and the extended European Ulysses cut, which includes previously censored shots and dialogue.

If you love Waterworld, you need this. Get it now from MVD.

ARROW 4K UHD RELEASE: Mallrats (1995)

Let’s be straight: I could type out the entire script of this movie by memory. That’s how important this movie was to a 23-year-old me. I even worked in an ad agency inside a mall and often felt like the characters in this, walking the shops and stores of Station Square with no shopping agenda. Even now, 28 years later, I can quote from this movie at any time and so much of it is part of my vocabulary.

I was probably one of the few people back then who loved it, because it bombed and writer and director Kevin Smith apologized for the movie at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Today, as Smith says on the intro to the Arrow blu ray, this movie has aged into being seen as a success.

This movie is all about the adventures of T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) and Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee) as they navigate the Eden Prairie Center Mall — actually in Minnesota*, but supposedly New Jersey — and attempt to get over the loss of their respective girlfriends, Brandi Svenning (Claire Forlani) and Rene Mosier (Shannen Doherty). Along the way, they interact with Jay and Silent Bob, meet Stan Lee and even go to the dirt mall.

That’s an oversimplification of a movie that once — and yes, still — meant so much to me. What comic book geek doesn’t see themselves as Brodie, a man who can somehow win over Doherty despite only caring about Superman being able to shoot semen like a shotgun and playing as Hartford on his Genesis? Even all these years later, I see him as one of the coolest characters in the movies of my youth and have followed Jason Lee through so many characters as a result.

From Michael Rooker trying to hunt down Brodie — and having to eat a curious pretzel — to the gameshow Truth or Date being made at “their mall” and Priscilla Barnes as a multi-nipple having fortune teller, there are so many moments in this movie that I remember and instantly laugh about. It also sets up Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back back as Suzanne the orangutan makes her first appearance.

While Jay and Silent Bob Reboot felt like a massive misfire, I’m happy to see that this movie has lost none of its fun and good feelings. Sometimes, as Smith says, things just age well.

Sadly, the malls we once haunted are all gone. Even the one I worked at is now all office spaces and tourist restaurants. We go there every once in a while for fondue. But all I can see is when it was once filled with people like me, those with no set shopping agenda.

*Fargo was being filmed in the same town at the same time.

The Arrow re-release of this movie comes with so much, starting with a 4K restoration by Arrow Films of both the Theatrical and Extended cuts of the film, approved by director Kevin Smith and cinematographer David Klein. There’s also audio commentary with Smith, producer Scott Mosier, archivist Vincent Pereira and actors Jason Lee, Ben Affleck and Jason Mewes.

Plus, you get an introduction to the film by Smith, an interview with the director, a tribute to producer Him jacks, interviews with Mewes and cinematographer David Klein, an animated making-of documentary featuring Minnesota crew members who worked on the film, deleted scenes, outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews on set, an archival making of featurette, a Q&A with Smith, the music video for “Build Me Up Buttercup,” a still gallery, dailies, a theatrical trailer, Easter eggs and a press kit for the soundtrack.

It all comes in an amazing package that has an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Philip Kemp, a fold-out poster featuring replica blueprints for Operation Drive-by and Operation Dark Knight, and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Robert Sammelin.

Darkman II: The Return of Durant (1995)

Ah, the 90s. A time when Blockbuster Video had enough power that it could ask Universal for a sequel to Darkman, which did well at theaters. But not well enough for a theatrical sequel. Renaissance Pictures was trying to sell Fox on a series, bringing back Larry Drake as bad guy Robert G. Durant. They passed and what was filmed ended up the first of two direct-to-video sequels.

Half of the budget for the Darkman sequels came from Universal’s television division, while the rest came from its home video division. This is also how The Birds II and Psycho IV were made.

In 1998, Sam Raimi’s Renaissance Pictures — now Raimi Pictures — was producing tons of stuff, like M.A.N.T.I.S. (the series Fox did buy), American Gothic, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. They also made Hard Target, which is where Arnold Vosloo was found to take over the lead. Another of their regulars, Renee O’Connor — who played Deianeira on Hercules and Gabrielle on Xena — also is in this.

Peyton Westlake is still Darkman, stealing from the criminals he fights and using the money to pay for his synthetic skin experiments while Durant awakens from a coma and goes right back into crime, breaking Dr. Alfred Hathaway (Lawrence Dane) out of prison. Now he’s selling particle beam weapons on the black market. His need for more energy to make these weapons causes him to kill Westlake’s new skin creation partner, Dr. David Brinkman (Jesse Collins), and Darkman instantly knows his enemy has come back when he notices that the dead scientist is missing a finger. Durant follows that evil up by killing off a reporter, Jill Randall (Kim Delaney) that Darkman had grown to respect.

Now, our hero must save the sister of Hathaway (O’Connor) from Durant and get his revenge.

Bradford May was the director of photography of The Monster Squad and spent a lot of his directing career in TV. His work here is good, but he’s also following Sam Raimi. The script was written by Robert Eisele, Lawrence Hertzog (who wrote a few of the Hart to Hart TV movies) and Steven McKay (Assault On Devil’s Island, Hard to Kill). Again, it’s fine, but following the original is a hard act.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: The O. J. Simpson Story (1995)

April 28: Alan Smithee — IMDB has 115 movies credited to the Alan Smithee pseudonym, which was created by the Directors Guild of America for use when a director doesn’t want their name on a movie.

The Alan Smithee here is Jerrold Freedman, a director who also made a lot of TV before ending his career with this, including episodes of The X-FilesNight Gallery and movies and TV movies like Kansas City BomberA Cold Night’s DeathUnholy MatrimonyThe Boy Who Drank Too Much and The Comeback.

Written by Stephen Harrigan, who also write a John Denver TV movie, this movie has to decide when OJ is a good guy and when he’s, well, a monster who beat and killed his second wife.

Bobby Hosea is Simpson and he was a former football player, which helped. Jessica Tuck is the doomed Nicole Brown Simpson. If you’re looking for famous people, well, there’s Terence Howard as young AC and Bruce Weitz as Robert Shapiro. But otherwise, one imagines that actors really avoided being in thsi cash-in movie, which was filmed in 1994 and not aired until after there was a jury for the trial.

The one thing I learned is that the biggest fight that OJ had with his wife, the one that led to the 911 call when he attacked her, was over her saying that he’d never win an Oscar being in a movie called The Naked Gun. Now, I’m not saying OJ was right, but I love The Naked Gun and Nicole nearly kept the world from seeing Nordberg going down the steps in a wheelchair. He’s still wrong and a murderer, but for that moment, for the first time ever, I understood a bit of how he felt. That’s filmmaking.

APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Jade (1995)

April 26: American Giallo — Make the case for a movie that you believe is an American giallo.

Jade was not destined to succeed.

David Caruso had left NYPD Blue after the second season of the show because he wanted a film career. Critics and the media were ready to attack him for that hubris, especially after his first post-TV film, Kiss of Death, also bombed.

Linda Fiorentino had a huge success in The Last Seduction and didn’t want to play a similar role, but ended up making the film.

After making $3 million for Basic Instinct, Joe Eszterhas was due for a fall, which was either going to be this movie, SliverShowgirls or all three. He got $1.5 million for this (and a total of $4 million for his next movie One Night Stand). The script changed so much that he threatened to take his name off the film.

William Friedkin was struggling as well with his last two movies being the tree demoness movie The Guardian and Blue Chips. He would say of this movie, in his book The Friedkin Connection, that it had “a terrific cast. A wonderful script. Great locations. How could it miss?” He’d add that Jade “contained some of my best work. I felt I had let down the actors, the studio, and most of all, Sherry. I went into a deep funk. Was it the Exorcist curse, as many have suggested, a poor choice of material, or simply that whatever talent I had was ephemeral? Maybe all of the above.”

Caruso is Assistant District Attorney David Corelli visits the murder scene of Kyle Medford, a wealthy businessman who set up several wealthy and powerful men like Governor Lew Edwards (Richard Crenna) with gorgeous women, including Patrice Jacinto (Angie Everhart). Corelli is told by Edwards and his henchman Bill Barret (Holt McCallany, who most people know from being on Mindhunter, but come on, he got laid and paid as Sam Whitemoon in Creepshow 2) to never let this info out; seeing as how his brakes are soon cut, that’s to be considered a warning.

The seductress who gets the most requests goes by the name of Jade. Seeing as how Anna Katrina Maxwell-Gavin’s (Fiorentino) prints show up on the ancient hatchet — yes, that kind of murder weapon points to this being a giallo — that killed Medford, so it seems like perhaps she could be Jade. She once dated Corelli before marrying his fellow DA Matt Gavin (Chazz Palminteri). Medford’s safe is filled with sex toys, drugs and video tapes and, oh yeah, bags filled with pubes. But back to those video tapes. Anna Katrina is on one of them.

It also seems like she may have killed Patrice, but her husband cuts the interrogation short. Why would she be on those tapes? Well, didn’t he have his own affairs? Of course, the governor sends his men, which also includes bad cops Bob Hargrove (Michael Biehn) and Pat Callendar (David Hunt), to kill Allison, who gets saved by Corelli — who was nearly seduced by her — and Gavin — who wanted to kill Corelli for perhaps sleeping with his wife. But all along, it had been Gavin who killed Medford to keep the secrets he and his wife keep, telling her to introduce him to Jade the next time they make love.

Biehn would say of the film. “”Well, on Jade, I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t think anybody had any idea what they were doing. It was a Joe Eszterhas script. To me, none of it ever really made any sense. I didn’t realize until the read-through that I was the bad guy in it. It was like a jumbled mess. And the movie came out a mess, too. It had great people on it, though. So a great cast, great director… everything but a script.”

Then again, how many giallo make no sense at all?

But this has an incredible car chase, murder set pieces straight out of Italy, lush production values, a gorgeous heroine/antagonist/who knows in Fiorentino and they threw a lot of money at this movie to make something that Sergio Martino did for about a tenth of the cost. I love it!

In his book Hollywood Animal, Eszterhas said, “”In the week after he was found not guilty and got out of jail, O.J. Simpson went to see two movies. Showgirls and Jade.”

That says something, right?

Kobblestone, the Journey Begins (1995)

Erica Benedikty also made Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments, the Canadian science fiction SOV movie and she kept on in that format when she made this one, a dungeonsynth on video epic in which six friends — Candace, Ray, Mark, Craig, Liz and Norm — sit around a campfire and play Dungeons and Dragons, which brings them into another world in which they actually have to be wizards, clerics, barbarians and thieves.

It’s also very Narnia in that in order to get back to our world, they have to rescue a princess or get stuck forever.

It’s wild that the SOV genre can encompass not just slashers, which are easier to make on a low budget, but several sword and sorcery movies like The Song of the SwordWay Bad Stone, Masters of Magic and this film.

You can make fun of nerdy RPG players all you want but these guys got it togther and made something with enough story for more than one movie.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Red Lips (1995)

Donald Farmer has been making movies since 1973 and through movies like Scream DreamDemon Queen and Cannibal Hookers, as well as his three hour interview with Jess Franco and Lina Romay The Bizarre World of Jess Franco, he’s really made quite an impression.

Ghetty Chasun (GoroticaDamselvis, Daughter of ElvisVicious Kisses) is Caroline, a woman just trying to survive who sells her blood and meets The Doctor (Mandy Leigh) who starts to experiment with her for reasons unknown, transforming her into a vampire ravenous for human blood, including that of George Stover.

Then she meets Lisa (Michelle Bauer) — who has just broken up with a bathing Kitten Natividad — and they travel the darkest side of New York City, whether that means coming into the orbit of a sinister pimp or making out amongst a punk rock show.

Yet through all the gore and exploitation, this is a film that finds a real relationship between its leads who are both incredible in this. Imagine finding the love of your life at the same time that your life becomes living for destroying other human beings.

It’s like Franco shot on the cheapest of cameras in cities that may not be New York City but as its edited, you’ll never notice. Chasun and Bauer are incandescent, doomed souls who struggle to hold onto one another despite all of the horror and violence that this world has to send their way.

Is it weird that a lesbian shot on video vampire movie features a central relationship that in no way feels like exploitation?

You can get this on blu ray from Saturn’s Core, a partner label of Vinegar Syndrome.

Death Metal Zombies (1995)

How true is Death Metal Zombies? Not only does a girl wear a Relapse shirt, but it also has a ton of that label’s artists on the soundtrack such as Amorphis, Brutality, Deceased, Disembowelment, Dismember, Hypocrisy, Incantation, Mortician, Pungent Stench and Winter.

It also has Brad Masters and his crew of metal dudes like to go to shows and fight other metal dudes in the woods, I guess to prove how kvlt they are. Brad wins, because he is the lucky caller who gets a Living Corpse tape — yes, this movie is so metal it has cassettes — from a radio show and it has a song called “Zombified” that turns everyone into — did you guess? — Death Metal Zombies.

Yes, the lead singer of Living Corpse, Shengar, is the lord of the dead world and man, that’s awesome. He decides to go after Brad’s girl, Angel, who skipped the party because she had to work and now she’s with a dude named Tommy and supposedly they know how to stop the headbanging dead.

Also: There’s a slasher on the loose wearing a Nixon mask.

Everyone in this movie is a master of air guitar, most essentially the girl in the Relapse shirt that is wearing the mommest of all mom jeans.

Todd Jason Cook also made Evil NightDemon DollsHorrorscopeLisa’s NightmaresFrightmares and Zombified, which has zombie attack a nightclub, a serial killer attacking people and only two people who can save everyone. So, you know, Death Metal Zombies.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Savage Vows (1995)

Shot in a house — the home of director Bob Dennis and writer Carol Dennis — and a cemetery in Wilkes-Barre, PA, Savage Vows confirms my theory that shot on video is a relative of the regional films that we all know and love. Much in the same way that so many regional films were made for the owner’s theater or drive-in chain, this was made to be rented at Bob’s video store, Full Moon Video, which he owned with his brother Mike, who also appears in this movie. Oh yeah — that video store definitely shows up in this and the quick moments we are inside it give the kind of feels that are at once warm and bittersweet.

Armand Sposto plays Mark, the hero of this story, who has just lost his wife to a car accident. As his friends both try to console and — some — take advantage of him, he watches horror movies, devours fast food, deals with loss and totally misses out on the fact that a killer is wiping out his buddies. One of those friends, Adam, is played by Mark Polonia, creator of so many SOV films (and streaming these days).

Bob Dennis is still acting today, appearing in Jurassic PreyAlien Surveillance and Outpost Earth. He’s also in the Polonia Brothers’ Night CrawlersTerror House (which they made with Jon McBride), Bad Magic, the two The House That Screamed movies and Among Us, in which he plays director Billy D’Amato.

Will Mark get to watch The Lion King? Will he have any friends left? Who is that lurking outside like a giallo gloved killing machine? You can answer all of these questions and come up with more of your own when you sit down for Savage Vows.

You can watch this on Tubi.

I’ll Kill You… I’ll Bury You… I’ll Spit on Your Grave Too! (1995)

First off, major points for the title, which you can guess has nothing to do with Meir Zarchi’s movie.

Twenty five years ago, a chainsaw killer was wiping out young lovers and you know what would be a bad idea? To open a research station on the grounds, right in the upper peninsula of Michigan, top of the mitten. The grounds were supposed to be sold to a man who was just back from Vietnam, but his father sold it from under him to his brother who soon died. None of this sounds safe. Nor does leaving your van miles from the cabin because of mud. Just turn around.

There’s a jerk local cop — I should have just said local cop and you’d have added that adjective in your head — as well as scientists doing what they do, which in this is having lots of sex. There’s also a protective butch character named Terry who deals out Tarot cards and is good with a shotgun and if you think I was sad that she got killed you have been reading my words.

You can also tell that Alex Black, who played Shelly, is the actress most comfortable with nudity, as she’s naked more often than not. I guess she’s a naturalism expert. If a scene had her playing volleyball like a 60s nudie cutie I would not be surprised.

The box art has nothing to do with this movie, promising so much more than is delivered, which I respect, but then again, the end of this movie makes up for everything as it has an appearance by Chekov’s woodchipper.

You can watch this on Daily Motion.