Movies Till Dawn: Beyond Belief Part 3

Police Story 3: Supercop” (1992, 88 Films) Third entry in Jackie Chan’s long-running action-crime film series (which includes one spinoff and two reboots) is also one of its most entertaining thanks to the proliferation of eye-popping stunts and the addition of Michelle Yeoh as Chan’s on-screen partner and, in many ways, equal. Plotting is negligible – Chan’s indestructible lawman and steely Interpol inspector Yeoh (billed as Michelle Khan) crisscross Asia to stop a drug lord (Kenneth Tsang) and his lieutenant (Yuen Wah, Yeoh’s co-star in “Shang Chi”) – and matters only as framing for Chan’s extraordinary stunt choreography; fighting is lightning-fast and expertly executed, but it’s the stunts that remain the top ticket here, and include Chan hanging from a helicopter as it buzzes high over Kuala Lumpur and Yeoh’s jaw-dropping motorcycle leap onto a moving train (that Yeoh is not a trained martial artist but instead relied on her ballet talents makes these scenes even more impressive), as well as the traditional outtake reel over the end credits which show just how close the stars came to killing themselves while carrying out these setpieces. Superior Hong Kong action/Chan/Yeoh material, and required viewing for their respective/collective fans; 88 Film’s Limited Edition set includes 4K UHD and Blu-ray discs which feature both the Hong Kong version and the shorter U.S. take (titled “Supercop”), commentary by historian Frank Djeng, and interviews with Yeoh, director Stanley Tong, numerous outtakes and BTS footage, as well as international trailers and even a 1984 TV commercial with Chan and Yeoh. The set is well appointed with original cover art (by Sean Longmore), a miniposter and lobby card reproductions, and 80 pages of liner notes that include an interview with co-star John Wakefield.

Calamity of Snakes” (1983, Unearthed Films) Way back in 2016, I first covered this Taiwanese exploitation title, which pits greedy developers against an avalanche of (very real) snakes and their (fake) king-sized demon boa leader. Unearthed Films’ Blu-ray is a vast improvement over the Desert Island disc in terms of image quality and extras: three different versions of the film are bundled on the disc, including the theatrical cut, a longer alternate cut, and a “cruelty-free” cut, which eliminates the more grotesque examples of the film’s extensive footage of real snakes being crushed, devoured, skinned alive, and worse. That alone may (understandably) prevent you from experiencing this uniquely weird film, though you will miss some extraordinarily broad (and occasionally mean-spirited) performances, scene after scene of actors covered with (again, real) snakes, a disco sequence, and a jaw-dropping fight between the boa (which roars) and a martial arts master who somehow finds a pile of cardboard boxes to fall upon every time he’s hit. The disc also includes very amusing commentary by Nathan Hamilton and Brad Slaton, a video conferencing interview with actor/stuntman Chui-Yi Chung, alternate opening credits, and a very lengthy featurette that addresses not only the making of the film but also Taiwanese history, politics, and filmmaking. Oh, and Unearthed is donating a portion of proceeds from the film to the Save the Snakes international charity.

Drowning By Numbers” (1988, Severin Films) Counting game by Peter Greenaway (“The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover”), which means that your patience for elaborate and obscure structure and symbolism will determine how much you enjoy the picture. Here, Greenaway challenges you to make note of a series of numbers (1 to 100) laced throughout his film while the plot – about three generations of women (Joan Plowright, Juliet Stevenson, and Joely Richardson), all with the same name, who drown their husbands, and the local coroner (Bernard Hill, “The Lord of the Rings”) whom they rope in to clear their names – unspools on its own unique course. Hill’s ineffably weird son (Jason Edwards) drives home the preoccupation with numbered sequences and rules (the more complex, the better) between bouts of nude photography and self-mutilation. The axis of the sacred (hard numbers and those that follow them) and the profane (those that don’t) is explored with Greenaway’s traditional visual sumptuousness, which go far in holding interest (for some) while the numbers games wear on. Severin Films offers both a standard Blu-ray (pictured) and two-disc set (Blu-ray and 4K UHD) presentation of “Numbers,” which feature Greenaway on an anecdote-filled commentary track and in a shorter interview; Hill is also interviewed, and two featurettes – one vintage and the other focusing on visual concepts created by the director- are accompanied by the theatrical trailer.

Dear Mr. Brody” (2021, Greenwich Entertainment) Quietly compelling doc from director Keith Maitland (the excellent “Tower“) about Michael James Brody, Jr., a margarine company heir who decided to solve the world’s problems by giving away his substantial fortune to anyone who asked for it. The chaos that ensued, and which eventually engulfed Brody, is less of the focus of Maitland’s documentary than the thousands of letters sent to him, and which are read by actors or, in some cases, by the actual writers themselves more than a half-century after sending them. The letters, all largely unopened and never seen by Brody, present not only a cultural snapshot of the early 1970s – there are Vietnam vets asking for a leg up, individuals on hard times due to drugs, poverty, or ill fortune, as well as a few merry pranksters drawn in by Brody’s Aquarian largesse – but also an examination of what compels someone to make an outlandish (if well-intentioned) gesture, and what spurs total strangers to take them up on it.

The Big Bus” (1976, Kino Lorber) What could go wrong with the maiden cross-country voyage of the world’s first nuclear-powered passenger bus? Everything imaginable, from a bomb hidden aboard the bus, a driver (Joseph Bologna) with a checkered past, and problems with various passengers, including a disgraced veterinarian (Bob Dishy), a terminally ill man (Richard B. Shull), and a couple in the throes of divorce (Richard Mulligan and Sally Kellerman). Parody of disaster films from journeyman James Frawley (“The Muppet Movie”) delivers a torrent of gags and knowing spoofs of thriller tropes in the same manner as “Airplane!” would four years after its release; the humor hits with significantly less impact than the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker film, but the cast is exceptionally game, especially Bologna and Stockard Channing as former SOs thrown together to save the bus. Ned Beatty, Howard Hesseman, Larry Hagman, Vic Tayback and Ruth Gordon also factor into the mix; Kino’s remastered Blu-ray features new commentary by Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, the theatrical trailer, and TV spots.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and George Newall, who created both "Schoolhouse Rock" and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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