Arrow Heads — UK-based Arrow Films has quickly become one of the most exciting and dependable names in home video curation and distribution, creating gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging, and bursting with supplemental content, often of their own creation. From the cult and genre fare of Arrow Video to the artful cinema of Arrow Academy, this column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.
Welcome to Arrow Heads, looking back on the output of Arrow Video and Arrow Academy. In this edition we look back at Arrow’s Blu-ray releases from July 2019. Why the look back? For our Roundup, we try to cover as many of these as possible, so theses roundups trail the actual releases — in this case I watched and reviewed every title. And a wide variety of titles they are, of different ages and genres — but all presented in pristine Blu-rays from high-quality elements, and most newly restored with a bounty of extras.
Editors Pick: THE LOVELESS (1981)
Directors: Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery
In Kathryn Bigelow’s directorial debut (co-directed with Monty Montgomery), a gang of leather-clad greasers led by Willem Dafoe makes a pit stop in a small town, stirring the proverbial pot with their confrontational behavior and biker looks.
The story doesn’t pull punches in showing how unruly and intimidating Dafoe and his cohorts are, but slyly uses one lesser evil to pry the lid off of a deeper one — a small-town’s prejudices and dirty secrets. At the off-tilt moral center is Dafoe — a bad dude, certainly, but constantly observing and pondering. This will all end in violence, but the nature of that violence defies any single straightforward explanation or motivation.
The young, handsome, and slick Dafoe just has a great screen presence here that rivals the levels of cool you see in classic James Dean pictures. If not for Dafoe’s captivating levels of cool, the film is relatively unimpressive, but has a few standout moments. Thankfully, Dafoe makes every scene he’s in supremely watchable.
— Justin Harlan
The film’s inability to afford popular period songs resulted in its own iconic music. Special credit is due to Eddie Dixon’s moody rockabilly song “Relentless”, which immediately sets the tone by providing an immensely cool backdrop over the opening credits and appearing again elsewhere in the film.
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films, approved by co-writer/co-director Monty Montgomery and director of photography Doyle Smith
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• New audio commentary with co-writer/co-director Monty Montgomery, with Elijah Drenner
• No Man’s Friend Today: Making The Loveless, new video interviews with actors Willem Dafoe, Marin Kanter, Robert Gordon, Phillip Kimbrough and Lawrence Matarese
• U.S. 17: Shooting The Loveless, new video interviews with producers Grafton Nunes and A. Kitman Ho
• Chrome and Hot Leather: The Look of The Loveless, new interviews with production designer Lilly Kilvert and director of photography Doyle Smith
• Reckless, new audio interview with musician Eddy Dixon
• Extensive image gallery, including on-set photographs, storyboards and original production documentation
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and new artwork by Gilles Vranckx
HOLD BACK THE DAWN (1941)
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Romanian conman and implied gigolo Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer) longs to immigrate to the United States, stymied by a waiting list of several years. He hunkers down in Tijuana to sweat it out, settling into a hotel community of other hopefuls waiting to enter the US.
A chance encounter with Emmy Brown, a demure American schoolteacher (Olivia de Havilland) taking her students on a field trip, provides him with an easy target to apply a trick to get across the border: skip the line by marrying an American citizen. But hard-hearted Georges encounters a wrinkle in his cruel plan of seduction: he may be falling in love with his mark.
The surprisingly deep and emotionally complex film employs a clever wraparound, opening with a frantic Georges sneaking into Paramount Studios to meet up with director Mitchell Leisen on the set of I Wanted Wings (even featuring some cameos from that film) to tell his amazing story, leading up to that point.
There’s a great subtleness throughout the evolution of the relationship between Georges and Emmy which never once feels over the top. As a result, the characters’ respective journeys feel all the more authentic and involving rather than conventional products of typical studio writing. Watching how Emmy’s sole presence, as well as the goodness she radiates, begin to imperceptibly take over Georges until he finds himself in love, is the kind of romantic storytelling that’s virtually impossible not to embrace. Meanwhile, seeing Emmy get swept up in love and watching as she becomes a more liberated woman after deciding to let someone else into her life, inspiring her to let her spirit run free, is breathtaking to behold. Because of the softness of the movie’s romance, both characters’ hopes and dreams, the kinds which transcend culture and link people, are allowed to shine through beautifully. The growth shown between the two characters and the way they help each other transform by becoming individuals they never thought of themselves as is one of Hold Back the Dawn’s greatest assets; the kind which draws people to cinema in the first place.
– Frank Calvillo
• New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
• Love Knows No Borders, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew
• The Guardian Lecture: Olivia de Havilland, A career-spanning onstage audio interview with Olivia de Havilland recorded at the National Film Theatre in 1971
• Rare hour-long radio adaptation from 1941 starring Charles Boyer, Paulette Goddard and Susan Haywood
• Gallery of original stills and promotional images
• Original trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio / FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by writer and critic Farran Smith Nehme
WEIRD SCIENCE (1985)
Director: John Hughes
Undoubtedly the most familiar title on this month’s list, John Hughes’ wacky teen comedy Weird Science, about a pair of dorks who create a gorgeous and subservient “perfect woman” with their computer, is a staple of the “Brat Pack” library, and already on Blu-ray several times over, perhaps begging the question — Why?
Arrow pulled out all the stops for this release, including not only tons of new and classic extras, but three versions of the film: 4K-Remastered Theatrical and Extended Cuts, and the Edited for TV version (at 4:3 standard).
Despite featuring Anthony Michael Hall at his most gratingly squeaky and pubescent, the film is deservingly an 80s classic, with a plot that goes way off the rails and a surprising sweet moral center that counters its horny teenage setup as beautiful and superpowered Lisa teaches the boys to find their confidence, stand up for themselves, and engage socially with real people — but not before going on a weird and wacky comedic adventure.
“To the credit of Hughes, and an affable pair of leads in Anthony Michael Hall (Gary) and Ilan Mitchell-Smith (Wyatt), the themes the filmmaker often tries to convey in his works remain intact — outsiders, underdogs, the pressures of high school, and growing up in general. The foil is provided by Lisa (Kelly LeBrock), an artificially created woman who, rather than conforming to their ideals, confounds them with a sharp intelligence and wit, intent on educating these boys, stripping back much of the male objectification that kicks things off.”
— Jon Partridge
• New restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentation of the original Theatrical Version of the film (94 mins), exclusive Extended Version (97 mins), featuring two additional scenes newly remastered in high-definition
• Edited-for-TV version of the film (SD only, 94 mins), plus comparison featurette highlighting the alternate dubs and edits
• Option to watch additional scenes from the Extended Version separately
• Casting ‘Weird Science’, an all-new interview with casting director Jackie Burch
• Dino The Greek, a newly-filmed interview with supporting actor John Kapelos
• Chet Happens, a newly filmed interview with special makeup creator Craig Reardon
• Fantasy and Microchips, a newly filmed interview with editor Chris Lebenzon
• Ira Newborn Makes The Score, a newly filmed interview with the composer
• It’s Alive! Resurrecting Weird Science, an archive documentary featuring interviews with cast, crew and admirers, including star Anthony Michael Hall
• Theatrical trailers, TV spots and radio spots
• Image galleries
• BD-ROM: PDF of the original shooting script
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tracie Ching / FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet written by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Amanda Reyes
Director: John A. Alonzo
LA’s most popular radio station Q-SKY has risen to the top by doing one important thing: keeping it real. Station manager Jeff Dugan maintains a stable of lively jocks and only allows minimal, relevant advertising as a rule. But their meteoric rise incites the greed of their corporate owners, who send in a revenue expert to capitalize on their ratings. For Dugan and his crew, it’s all about the music — leading to increasing confrontation with their overlords.
Whether or not this jives with you probably depends directly on whether you have any affection of nostalgia for the era and its music, and even so it’s a by-the-numbers, slobs-versus-snobs sort of story.
The soundtrack notably features a solid list of 70s pop and rock hits and artist cameos, and a title song by Steely Dan. The music licensing on films like this with a sprawling tracklist can get pretty sticky, so if you’re a fan of the film or its soundtrack, this is an opportunity you might not want to pass up. This is an incredible edition of a film that may never get a physical release again.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
• Mono 1.0 music and effects track
• No Static at All, a newly filmed interview with Michael Brandon, the star of FM
• Radio Chaos, a newly filmed interview with Ezra Sacks, the writer of FM
• The Spirit of Radio, a newly filmed video appreciation of the era of FM radio and the FM soundtrack by the film and music critic Glenn Kenny
• Extensive gallery of original stills, promotional images and soundtrack sleeves
• Original trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options / FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet by writer and critic Paul Corupe
THE CHILL FACTOR (1993) aka DEMON POSSESSED
Director: Christopher Webster
The Chill Factor was the letdown of the bunch for me, a dreary slasher which unfortunately doesn’t quite live up to the promise of a wintry horror film prominently featuring snowmobiles and the occult.
A gang of friends heads out to a remote frozen lake for some snowmobile fun, but a terrible accident puts one of their number into critical condition. With only their snowmobiles for transportation, they’re unable to return him in his injured state, so they seek out shelter in an abandoned lodge for the night.
Turns out it’s an old religious summer camp that shut down many years ago, but not of the Sunday School variety — it becomes clear there was some weird occult stuff going down, and some sinister presence still resides there, because someone or something is violently picking them off, one by one.
The Chill Factor actually has a pretty solid framework, and some creepy production design, but overall the execution feels lifeless. Thinly constructed characters constantly make dumb, avoidable mistakes and practically deserve to bite it when their turn comes around.
I’ll say this for the VHS-era movie, though — probably the best that it’s ever looked. This restoration is incredible. The movie’s from 1993 but looks 10 or 15 years older, and I mean that as a compliment, as the story is narrated as a survivor’s memory. The shot-on-film aesthetic is appreciable for something that could have simply been a video cheapie, and if you’re a fan of the movie from its VHS days (it skipped the DVD format), you absolutely won’t be disappointed.
• New 2K restoration from original film elements
• New audio commentary with SFX artist Hank Carlson and horror writer Josh Hadley
• New on-camera interview with makeup artist Jeffery Lyle Segal
• New on-camera interview with production manager Alexandra Reed
• New on-camera interview with stunt coordinator Gary Paul
• Still Gallery
• Original VHS trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and new art by Marc Schoenbach / FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet written by Mike White
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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.