“Dreamscape” (1984, Shout Factory) Crowd-pleasing science fiction adventure with Dennis Quaid as a hustler whose psychic abilities cause him to run afoul of unsavory racetrack types; he flees to his old mentor, Max von Sydow, who has developed a technology called “dreamlinking,” in which psychics are projected into the subconscious of psychiatric patients in order to determine the root of their problems. Among von Sydow’s clients is the U.S. President (Eddie Albert as a sort of benevolent Reagan), who is troubled by visions of nuclear war; once inside the President’s head, Quaid uncovers a conspiracy led by government agent Christopher Plummer, who has dispatched another, more dangerous psychic (David Patrick Kelly from “The Warriors”) to kill Albert in his dreams, thereby ensuring his demise in the waking world. Though there’s an interesting premise at the core of director Joseph Ruben’s script with Chuck Russell (“The Blob”) and David Loughery, “Dreamscape” is mostly concerned with delivering a thrill ride of impressive (for the period) visual effects – a tour through a post-apocalyptic cityscape filled with radioactive zombies and mutated dogs is the highlight – and action setpieces (Quaid’s faceoff with Kelly, who totes razor-tipped nunchuks), all of which remain popcorn-grade satisfying. And having a top-shelf cast – which includes Kate Capshaw as a scientist/love interest for Quaid and character actors George Wendt, Peter Jason and Chris Mulkey – certainly helps sell the picture and smooth over a few silly/odd moments and the occasionally dated technology. The Collector’s Edition Blu-ray from Shout Factory is a solid mix of new supplemental material and extras ported over from previous releases; in the former category are interviews with Ruben, Loughery, producer Bruce Cohn Curtis and reminiscences about the picture’s key make-up effect – a huge man-snake hybrid – with effects designer Craig Reardon. Ruben, Curtis and Reardon are all featured on a vintage commentary track, and there’s the usual barrage of promotional photos and trailers.
“Man Facing Southeast” (Kino Lorber, 1986) Disillusioned psychiatrist Lorenzo Quinteros is both fascinated and baffled by a patient (Hugo Soto), who claims to be an extraterrestrial, a notion supported by his array of unusual, even miraculous abilities. Your appreciation of this cult favorite from Argentine director Eliseo Subiela – the alleged and uncredited source material for the dreary 2001 American film “K-PAX” – depends largely on your appreciation of (or allergy to) cinematic allegory and metaphor, specifically the notion of Soto as a Jesus figure and the poetic notion of insanity as some form of extreme rationality. Subiela leans heavily on both fronts (though remains oblique about stating whether either is correct), but Soto’s performance, which manages to be both blank and beatific, certainly makes the effort palatable, as does Ricardo de Angelis’ photography, which is built around shafts of light and Renaissance-style compositions. Kino’s Blu-ray includes an informative and appreciative essay by author and film professor Nancy J. Membrez, with a nostalgic introduction by Subiela; the director, as well as Soto and de Angelis, are also featured in interviews on the disc.
“The Neptune Factor” (1973, Kino) An undersea volcano eruption sends an oceanographic laboratory and its research team to the bottom of the sea, prompting the lab’s founder (Walter Pidgeon) to send an experimental sub and its crew – captain Ben Gazzara, scientist Yvette Mimieux and divers Ernest Borgnine and Donnelly Rhodes – into an unexplored ocean trench to rescue the stranded researchers. Little good can be said about this Canadian production by Sandy Howard (“A Man Called Horse,” “Meteor”), which begins as an Irwin Allen-style disaster epic and devolves into monster movie territory when the crew encounters sea creatures made giant (read: rear-projection images of common fish tank dwellers) by the volcano’s extreme heat. Though inept, “The Neptune Factor” is never dull, thanks to a combination of purple dialogue, eccentric performances (Gazzara, saddled with a strange Southern gentleman accent) and the woeful special effects – which evoke the 1965 rarity “Space Monster” and its underwater scenes shot in an actual fish tank – which should please junkfilm devotees. Kino’s Blu-ray offers an array of extras, from bemused commentary by Canuxploitation.com’s Paul Corupe and historian Jason Pichonsky to a 20th Century Fox promotional short that rivals the feature for overblown hype; two isolated scores – one by Lalo Schifrin and an unused alternate track by William McCauley – are also featured, along with multiple trailer and TV spots and coming attractions for the Howard-produced “Island of Dr. Moreau” and AIP’s “War-Gods of the Deep,” both of which are available from Kino.
“Doomwatch” (1972, Kino) While investigating the environmental impact of an oil tanker spill off the coast of a remote English island, researcher Ian Bannen discovers that something altogether more dangerous has affected the bodies and minds of the locals, whose natural distrust towards outsiders has taken a homicidal turn. Though marketed as a horror film by its producer/distributor, Tigon Films – which released lower-budgeted and more grisly alternatives to Hammer and Amicus – “Doomwatch” hews closer to the tone of the 1970-1972 TV series of the same name on which it’s based; save for some lumpy mutation make up for the villagers and an en masse attack set piece, the film, directed by TV and horror/sci-fi film vet Peter Sasdy (“Countess Dracula”), is a straightforward procedural-type thriller with a political/ecological bent. Nothing wrong with that, but if you’re looking for straightahead horror/sci-fi, “Doomwatch” isn’t quite there. Character actor spotters will appreciate the presence of George Sanders in his final film role as a Navy admiral and familiar UK TV/film faces like Norman Bird, Shelagh Fraser, Geoffrey Keen and Norman Bird, as well as John Paul, Simon Oates and Jean Trend, all reprising their roles from the series. Kino’s Blu-ray offers commentary by Sasdy, as well as an interview with co-star Judy Geeson, who plays the island’s schoolteacher and primary screamer.
“Slugs” (1986, Arrow Video) More pollution, more problems: toxic waste creates a horde of carnivorous slugs, which eat their way through the population of a small town (played by Lyons, New York). Supremely icky nature-gone-amuck thriller from Spanish director J. Piquer Simon (“Pieces”) provides an array of creative (if totally absurd) answers to the question, “How exactly could slugs kill human beings?” with the disgusting ne plus ultra being the death of industrialist Emilio Linder, whose head erupts in a boiling mass of juvenile slugs. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray includes interviews with Linder, art director Gonzalo Gonzalo, production manager Larry Ann Evans and Goya-winning special effects designer Carlos De Marchis, all of whom appear to express amusement mixed with disbelief regarding the final product, and affectionate regard for Simon’s affinity for special effects; there’s also commentary by Shaun Huston, who wrote the (much grosser) novel on which the movie is based, and ex-“Fangoria” editor Chris Alexander.