Obscure Import No More! Larry Cohen's Full Moon High (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Boy, if you're a serious Larry Cohen fan, you have to work hard for your DVDs. They're out there, but you have to be prepared to track down obscure imports from all sorts of different countries, multiple MOD discs from the various major studios and rare out of print DVDs that have been replaced on the marketplace with inferior counterparts. Today we're gonna go with one of the obscure imports.

Update 1/24/15 - 1/25/19: Obscure import no more!  Full Moon High has since been released by none other than Scream Factory as a mainstream US blu-ray release. Who'da thunk it?
Full Moon High in a way should be a crowd pleaser, as its a genre film (werewolves!), as opposed to some of his artsier dramas and thrillers like Daddy's Gone A-Hunting, The Private Files of J Edgar Hoover or Bone. But on the other hand, it'll probably drive many fans away because it's so goddamn silly. Sure, some of Cohen's most beloved films are pretty damn silly... Q, It's Alive 3, Return To Salem's Lot, The Stuff... But this is more like Zucker Brothers' silly. Except not as undeniably hilarious.

Adam Arkin - yes, Alan Arkin's son, and he pretty much plays the part like "hey, I'm Alan Arkin's son" - stars as Tony, a high school footballer who accompanies his paranoid wacko/ CIA agent father (Ed McMahon, who talks to a framed photo of Sen. Joe McCarthy on his wall) to Romania. There he gets his palm read at a restaurant and is told he carries the curse of the pentagram. "Oh, I always wanted to go to the pentagon," he says. At which point the waiter leans in to say, "pentagram, stupid!" ...That's the tone of this movie, more Young Frankenstein than Teen Wolf. Anyway, Tony naturally gets attacked by a werewolf and returns to his hometown with a taste for dog food and haunted by mysterious gypsy violin music.
Well, decades go by and the town is never able to discover the identity of the mysterious creature by girls on the butt. Tony hasn't age, so just like in the Twilight movies, he re-registers in high school. This time he's determined to win the big game like he never got to do years before. But he also has to avoid the cops, escape his stalker ex-girlfriend, and maybe break his curse.

This movie is definitely not for everyone, but if you're open-minded, this is actually a neat little movie. For every two terrible jokes, there's a smart one; and there's so many jokes, it means we get a lot of smart ones. You just have to not let the fact that the film is full of groaners spoil it for you; if you can take it all in stride, it's a good time. The roles are all (intentionally) broadly played, but there are a lot of enjoyable character parts, including Kenneth Mars, Louis Nye, Sanford & Son's Demond Wilson, center square Jim J Bullock, a young Bob Saget, Cohen favorite Laurene Landon, Alan Arkin himself, and even young Adam is actually quite affable in the lead. Production values are relatively, surprisingly high, and it helps to finally see this film on a good looking DVD to appreciate it. It's also full of Larry Cohen's signature touches including, yes, James Dixon. And I actually wind up enjoying this film more with each rewatch.
2010 Aus Shock DVD top; 2018 US Scream Factory blu bottom.
Here's a nice surprise!  Given that we already had a pretty solid, anamorphic widescreen transfer on the DVD that far exceeded what I'd find on a random import (i.e. something ripped from the VHS), I assumed that's what we'd be getting from SF, too, just in HD on the blu.  In fact, the only real selling point for me to double-dip was the commentary.  But no, they've gone and made a whole new master, which looks even better.  I mean, the first thing you're all probably noticing is how much nicer the colors look.  But there's more to it than that.  While the aspect ratio itself just received a tiny correction from 1.86:1 to 1.85, You can see Scream's new scan pulls in more info on all four sides, particularly the left and right.  How is that possible if the AR stays almost the same?  Well, it also turns out the DVD was slightly horizontally stretched, which Scream fixes, and thus is able to reveal the extra horizontal picture.  And naturally all that ugly SD compression is gone, but not only is SF's blu in clearer HD, but even by blu-ray standards, this has a really natural film grain base.

The audio sounds more robust on the blu, too, not just from the boost to DTS-HD, but it sounds like they genuinely went back and restored the original mono track.  Plus, as Scream routinely does, they've added optional English subs.  Honestly, I'm not so sure it was even a smart business decision for MGM to sink that money into this particular film, but I appreciate it!
Both discs include the theatrical trailer (which you should check out for the nutty narration), but that was it for the DVD.  The blu, however, secures a all new audio commentary by Larry Cohen and moderated by the guy who directed the King Cohen documentary.  If you've heard any Larry Cohen commentary, or watched any of his interviews, you know he's great at these.  He has a lot to say, and as we learn, he takes a little time to bone up with James Dixon before recording, which definitely insures a quality that you can't always rely on from commentaries by other filmmakers.  One downside, though, there are long and distinct pauses throughout.  Considering how energized Cohen is, and the fact that he's got a moderator sitting right with him, I suspect parts of the commentary were edited out, leaving us with disappointing patches of dead air.  But the 85% of the commentary that remains is pretty awesome, so don't let that deter you.  Especially since this is a film we hear so much less about... like, after a while, anecdotes about It's Alive or Maniac Cop start to double up and repeat; but Full Moon High is an untapped well!

No comments:

Post a Comment