Mill Creek’s Retro VHS-look Blu-rays
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Mill Creek, best known for their multiple-movie collections and complete seasons of televisions series, has entered the Blu-ray nostalgia train that just keeps a-running. To that end they have launched a bunch of Blu-rays of movies from the 80s and 90s under the banner “Retro VHS look.” As that is right in my wheelhouse of movies I love, I decided to look at five titles of various interest to me and let you know if this is something you’ll want to get in on, or let pass you by as you wait for the next nostalgia train to come along. So adjust your tracking, don’t forget to rewind, and let’s dive in.
Just in case you don’t know these movies, here’s a quick recap of each title.
Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane
Happy Birthday to Me is a lesser-known slasher classic that’s not too gory and has a Scooby Doo-like mystery to solve. And if you already know the ending to this movie, you’ll know why I chose to use Doo and the gang as an example. Anyway, here a young girl, Melissa Sue Anderson from the Little House on the Prairie TV show, has a bad accident on her birthday and nearly dies. Later her birthday comes round again and someone is killing off all her college friends in standard stalk-and-slash fashion. Who is the murder and why are they killing?
Silent Rage (1982)
Director: Michael Miller
Stars: Chuck Norris, Ron Silver, Steven Keats
Silent Rage is a silly action flick crossed with a slasher-like horror movie starring the man, the myth, the meme: Chuck Norris. Here Chuck is modern western sheriff, as he often is, who kills a psycho on rampage, as he often does. But this time some doctors think it would be a great idea to test their super-secret formula on the dead guy that not only brings the murderer back to life, but makes him an unkillable killer. Gee, what could go wrong with that? So now Chuck has to use his kung fu skills to stop this undying silent stalker somehow.
Director: Peter Yates
Stars: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones
Krull is a fantasy epic with elements of sci-fi sprinkled in for flavor. In a typical sword-and-sorcery world, an alien nasty called The Beast comes in his flying saucer…er…teleporting castle. With his army of storm trooper-like baddies called Slayers, the Beast ravages the land and steals a young bride from a young prince on their wedding day. Bogus. To get his lady love back the prince must get a magical McGuffin (that is sadly underused) and team up with a band of thieves, a wizard, a cyclops, and Liam Neeson. No, really.
Director: Mark Griffiths
Stars: Grant Cramer, Teal Roberts, Gary Wood
Hardbodies is your typical 80s sex comedy, the kind of risqué movies teens who were lucky enough to have cable TV could turn to for “educational purposes” before the invention of the internet. In fairness, maybe it’s better than typical as it’s actually quite funny at times. Here three guys each having midlife crises get a beach house and enlist the help of a young “stud” to teach them home to pick of chicks in the modern (mid-80s) world. Yeah, this is the movie that has the least amount of reason to be discussed here, but I do enjoy it and hey, one of the youngins helping the horny “old” guys out is Courtney Gains fresh off the set of Children of the Corn, so that’s something, right?
Last Action Hero (1993)
Director: John McTiernan
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Art Carney
Last there is Last Action Hero, a meta look at action films and movies in general that came out three years before Scream invented the whole meta thing…hey wait a minute… Anyway this is the one with the biggest budget and the biggest star by far: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here a kid with a magical movie ticket goes into the latest Arnie shoot ‘em up (as in the kid literally goes through the screen and into the fictional world of the film) and hilarity ensues…some of the time. This might by the most uneven of the five movies, with some great heights of action and comedy, and some low lows of WTF and groan-inducing gags. But it does have Charles Dance who is wonderful as a one eyed movie hitman released upon the real world. He steals every scene he’s in, even when he’s sharing them with the musclebound Austrian.
Now to the extras on these new Blu-ray releases from Mill Creek. Well, they have cool slipcases that look like retro VHS covers. And….well that’s it. Yeah, they’re as barebones as barebones get. So if you’re looking for collector’s editions, these aren’t them. But if you’re missing any of these flicks in your home library, or you want to upgrade your own VHS or DVD copies to the next level, then this is an easy and cheap way to fix that. To that end I can recommend then all.
These are all available now.