Coscarelli Fans, Have You Thought About Kenny & Co Lately?

In the early 2000s, DVDs were on fire. Not only were our favorite cult films getting big, fancy special editions, but so were their directors' oddball early films, like Fast Company, There's Always Vanilla and Don Coscarelli's obscure kids' flick, Kenny & Co. Those days are past, and nowadays if you want to get Kenny & Co on DVD, it only costs, let me check Amazon here... oh, only $149.95. And that's with price inflation having been staved off for several years when Amazon was selling this as part of their MOD program, keeping the prices of the original Anchor Bay DVDs gone. Those are off the table now, but current prices would probably be even worse right now if a few fans weren't given the opportunity to get this film cheap in the meantime. But really, it's only the special edition Anchor Bay disc that serious fans should have any interest in anyway.
Calling Kenny & Co a kids' film is a little unfair. It's more of an adult film (in the non-XXX sense) about childhood than a film made for kids. But it also kinda hedges its bets and gears a good chunk of the humor towards actual child audiences, so it feels a bit compromised. But don't confuse this with 1984's Kidco or anything like that. It's a highly watchable look back at a time when kids were less protected. This is honest, not sanitized. There's one scene where they're walking home from school and there's a car accident on the street right next to them, so they rush up to look in the window and see the dead body. But on the other hands, Coscarelli fans should know this is definitely not a horror movie. There isn't really even a focused plot, so much as a slice of life during one particular autumn. There is a Halloween segment which hints at the writer/director's future body of work, but horror fans had better be ready for something closer to Pauline At the Beach than Nightmare On Elm St.

It's genuinely a pretty good little movie, but let's face it, it would never have survived the 1970s if it wasn't for the filmmaker's subsequent legacy. What's on sale here for most of us is a pre-fame film by not only Phantasm's creator, but one which also happens to share two of it's lead actors, A Michael Baldwin and Reggie Bannister, plus a number of additional cast and crew. You don't have to be a Coscarelli fan to enjoy this picture, but you do to be looking for this film in the first place.
And that's why, in 2005, Anchor Bay put together a nice little special edition, including a commentary by Coscarelli and more features involving Bannister, Baldwin and others. Even if they wound up not caring for the film, there was enough here for the die-hard Phantasm fans. Amazon's MOD? Completely barebones. And for a release where, let's face it, many fans would be more interested in the special features than the film itself, that's seriously disappointing. I never picked it up, but Id' consider you lucky if they even used the same, restored transfer and not a VHS rip.
Anchor Bay's 2005 DVD.
Anchor Bay gave us a nice 1.85:1 restoration of the film which looks great. It's very clear, anamorphic and has no interlacing issues, plus a fairly healthy Dolby stereo track. There is a bit of a hazy look to the whole thing, but I assume that's down to how the original film was shot. The IMDB lists this as being shot on 35mm, but I don't believe them. I'm fairly certain this was shot on 16. We even see shots of Coscarelli filming this in the extras on a 16mm camera. That does lead us to one little detail regarding the aspect ratio, though.
The Story of Kenny & Co featurette on top; film presentation on the bottom.
Shooting in 16 gives you a fullscreen format. And the screenshot comparison above, with the first shot coming from the DVD extras, shows us that they definitely cropped the film for this restored presentation, so we lose the matted picture on the top and bottom. But honestly, it looks good in 1.85, and given Coscarelli's involvement with the DVD's production, I assume he was aware and approved of the decision to matte the film. So personally, I'm completely fine with it, but I figured you should know. The film's original television broadcasts and all were probably open matte.
So exactly what are the other treats with the film? Coscarelli gives us a great audio commentary, joined by Baldwin and producer Paul Pepperman. That's one of the two main features, alongside a retrospective documentary featurette called The Story of Kenny & Co, which includes some great behind-the-scenes footage and new interviews with Don, Baldwin, Pepperman, Bannister, and executive producer D.A. Coscarelli. There's some surprising stuff here about how Kenny & Co turned out to be a bit of a break-out hit in Japan despite being barely released here. There are also two vintage TV spots with some cheesy narration, and one which uses the fuller title Kenny & Company. Anchor Bay's DVD also came with an insert showing some alternate poster art I'm sure Amazon's MOD didn't include.
So Anchor Bay's DVD is pretty great, and I don't think you could expect anything better short of an HD release, which I wouldn't hold my breath for. Unless Arrow winds up bundling it in an ultimate limited edition Phantasm boxed set next year or something. Otherwise, I think we were lucky to get this even in the heyday of the DVD format. No, I don't recommend paying $150+ for it. But it is a pretty compelling release, so you might want to keep it in the back of your mind in case you stumble across a reasonably priced copy one day.

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