Laserblast: August 4 Horror, Fantasy & Sci-Fi DVD & Blu-ray Releases

Race to Witch Mountain, Mutant Chronicles, Big Trouble in Little China, Stargate Atlantis: Fans Choice, Ulysses

Since brevity is the soul of wit, we will overlook this week’s numerous direct-to-video releases and ultra obscure cult items in favor of focusing on a handful of higher profile titles. For fans of science fiction and/or Dwayne Johnson, the big news is the release of RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, which arrives in three versions: a single-disc DVD, a two-disc DVD “extended edition”(with digital copy); and a Blu-ray/DVD combo (with digital copy). Drew Fitzpatrick reviews the latter here, telling us that the 2.40×1 image is very pleasing, although there is a slight loss of detail in some of the darker scenes. Extras on the Blu-Ray disc include deleted and extended scenes and a featurette examining the references to the original ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, plus a gag reel.

The other new title hitting the trifecta this week is MUTANT CHRONICLES, arriving on home video in three versions: single-disc DVD, two-disc “collector’s edition,” and Blu-ray. The film made its debut on Video on Demand back in April while simultaneously receiving a very limited platform release in a few theatres around the country. With some nice CGI to expand the film’s look beyond it’s budget, and with Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Sean Pertwee, and John Malkovich in the cast, MUTANT CHRONICLES is a step above most movies of this calibre, but the screenplay is weak. The BD-Live enabled Blu-ray disc contains several bonus features: a feature-length documentary; six deleted scenes; green screen and storyboard comparisons; interviews with the cast and crew; concept art; visual effects; a theatrical trailer; BD previews; a short promotional film with commentary by the director, and (god help us) a a look at hte making of the short promotional film.

John Carpenter’s BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA was a bit of a disappointment back when it came out in 1986 – it was a failed attempt to recreate the amazing sense of wonder evinced in the Hong Kong Fant-Asia films (e.g. ZU, WARRIORS OF THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN) – but it seems to have developed a cult following. Kurt Russell (doing a John Wayne impersonation) is the hero, James Hong is the evil sorcerer David Lo Pan; and Kim Cattrall and Kate Burton are the leading ladies. Previously released on DVD, the film now comes out on Blu-ray with improved picture quality; 5.1 stereo soundtracks in English, Spanish, and French; Dolby Digital in English and French; and an “extended cut” in addition to the theatrical. Bonus features are mostly ported over from the old special edition DVD: audio commentary; deleted scenes; a behind-the-scenes documentary; an extended ending; an interview with special effects supervisor Richard Edlund; a John Carpenter music video; a stills gallery; and trailers and TV spots.

Coming out this week is a new DVD of the previously released ULYSSES, the 1954 adaptation of Homer’s poem, starring Kirk Douglas. Produced by Carlo Ponti and Dino DeLaurentiis, and directed by Mario Camerini (with an uncredited assist from Mario Bava), this sounds like just another sword-and-sandal gladiator movie, but it is actually a fairly high-class production that strives to do justice to the source material. Unfortunately, Lionsgate’s new disc has no bonus features, and advance word warned that the picture and audio quality reveal that the film negative is badly in need of restoration.

Also out this week is a Blu-ray disc entitled STARGATE ATLANTIS: FANS’ CHOICE, which consists of extended versions of two episodes selected by the fans: the pilot episode “Rising” and the Season 5 episode “Enemy at the Gate.”

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About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

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