New on Blu-ray this week from MVD Rewind Collection
Almost exactly five years ago, I was an aspiring writer corresponding with Cinapse Editor-in-Chief Ed Travis about my appreciation for the site and interest in joining the team. The first writing sample I provided was my review of — you guessed it — Double Dragon, an unbelievable oddity that we’d both recently watched for the first time.
In the mid-90s, there was a miniature rush to adapt several video properties games to theaters, led by Super Mario Bros in 1993. Double Dragon beat Street Fighter to theaters by a mere few weeks, and Mortal Kombat would follow that just three months later. The least popular and timely among those franchises (being relatively 80’s rooted while the others were contemporary 90s hits), Double Dragon was a huge commercial dud, taking in only $2M domestically, about a quarter of its budget.
Unsurprisingly, pretty much no one had any interest in a goofy Double Dragon buddy comedy. The 80s-rooted franchise should have appealed to older youth and teen audiences but came off as far too childish; meanwhile a PG-13 rating also put it out of reach of some younger kids. Somewhat forgotten, but really mostly just set aside, Double Dragon never roared into the cult film consciousness, much less mainstream appreciation.
And that’s a shame, but this movie is absolutely insane. In that sense, it’s a bit similar to that better known but weird-as-hell flop Super Mario Brothers movie (which managed to make back almost half its budget): some Hollywood types read a dubious synopsis of the games and, without playing a minute of them, cooked up a movie adaptation while snorting mountains of cocaine (the preceding statement is fictional, don’t sue me).
Set in the dark future of 2007, the film pits fraternal warriors Billy and Jimmy (Mark Dacascos and Scott Wolf, but don’t ask me which is which) in a martial arts battle for control of a mystical amulet sought by a Japanese-appropriating gangster/sorcerer/businessman/mutant-creator Koga Shuko (a flaxen-coiffed, shades-donning Robert Patrick).
I’m sure that the folks who adapted Double Dragon could simply have come up with a simple contemporary story about two brothers saving a kidnapped lady friend from a gang of street-thugs (that’s the plot of the game, right?), but instead this thing goes goes full-tilt crazy into a destroyed Los Angeles, razed by earthquakes and crime. A haven for roving gangs of mohawked punks and mutants who rule the night driving futuristic death machines (and opposing them, a “good” gang of righteous kids, the Power Corps).
It’s honestly kind of fascinating when you consider the throughline of art following life: this probably didn’t seem too crazy when 1992’s L.A. riots had just transformed the city into a nightmarish war zone.
It’s an oddly realized world that’s clearly modeled after, and taking liberal cues from, post-apocalyptic/urban decay movies like Escape From New York and Robocop. I’m not sure where they came up with all this unexpected world-building, but the movie plays far more like Double Dragon’s 16-bit punk-thrashing descendant Streets of Rage than the game it’s actually named after.
Side note: Double Dragon preceded the 2013-set, similarly cameo-packed Escape From LA, which also features a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles destroyed by earthquakes and controlled by roving gangs, by two years.
This diverse cast is something to be seen. Besides the lead group of Scott Wolf, Mark Dacascos, Alyssa Milano, and Rambo II’s Julia Nickson, we’ve got a crazy collection of lovable character actors playing some of the wackiest roles of their careers. Robert Patrick in crazy hair as the shapeshifting big boss! World’s greatest henchman Al Leong as… a henchman! Paired with Jeff Imada (who, by the way, is also in Escape From L.A.) as baddies Huey and Lewis, and yes, there’s an awful pun that references “the news”. You can’t make this up.
Unless you’re the writers of Double Dragon.
Just look at these cameos. Michael Berryman as an easily dispatched gang boss! Vanna White, George Hamilton, and Andy Dick as your Hollywood news team delivering nutty broadcasts clearly modeled after the satirical bumpers of yet another inspiration, Verhoeven’s Robocop!
The point is, this movie is supremely weird. Despite its title and purported source material, it really doesn’t matter if you care about the Double Dragon video games one way or another.
When Ed and I both watched this five years ago, he ranked it a 1/2 star and I gave it a full five. Proving that ratings are just numbers, we had nearly identical feelings about Double Dragon — an absolutely batshit crazy movie that needs to be seen to be believed.
MVD’s Blu-ray package is beautifully done. It features a slipcase, reversible art with two designs, and a folded poster.
The reverse art preserves an egregious typo from the original poster — I could have done without that.
Picture quality looks decent, at times exhibiting the appearance of a theatrical 35mm print (a good thing, in my opinion).
Here’s a few close-ups to get an idea of the max detail:
Audio was a different of a story for me. I found the 5.1 mix to have unusually muted dialogue and ended up switching to the stereo track which offered a much more pleasing and even mix. While it’s possible this is an oversight in my audio setup, I haven’t encountered this problem with other Blu-rays.
Special Features and Extras
Typical of MVD Rewind releases, it’s packed!
- The Making of Double Dragon (1:07:35) — with producer Don Murphy, stars Scott Wolf & Mark Dacascos, and (most interestingly, in my opinion) hilarious writers Peter Gould & Michael Davis
- Don Murphy: Portrait of a Producer (24:01)
- Archival ‘Making of’’ Featurette (4:44) and Archival Behind The Scenes (4:21) — lightweight but interesting promotional materials, likely sourced from an original EPK
- Storyboards Featurette (5:51)
- Still Galleries — Press Photos (1:28, 4:56), Behind the Scenes (1:55), Marketing/Media (3:15)
- Trailers & TV Spots — Original Trailer (1:51), Home Video Trailer (2:01), VHS Ad (:31), 30-Second Spot (:30), 60-Second Spot (1:00)
- Double Dragon: The Animated Series Pilot Episode: “The Shadow Falls” (22:20) — a rough watch, especially with the aspect ratio blown out to 16:9.
- Promotional trailers — Additionally, the disc includes trailers for several MVD releases: Angel Town (2:06), Black Eagle (2:13), The Man From Earth (1:29), Out of Time (2:06), Raven (2:06), and The Return of Swamp Thing (1:27).
Get it at Amazon:
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.