Matinee (1993) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Joe Dante's Love Letter to B-movies

Dante's Matinee is a sweet tribute to the monster movies of his youth and the men behind them.
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Matinee opens with Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman), a William Castle-type producer in a trailer for Mant, a movie about a man and an ant “exposed to radiation simultaneously” as the title suggests. It's an outstanding homage to films/trailers of the time.

Set in 1962, Woolsey and actress/girlfriend Ruth (Cathy Moriarty) come to Key West, Florida to screen Mant, which is augmented for audiences through Atomovision and Rumblerama, his technical creation that maximize the screening for audiences. Two protesters (Dick Miller and John Sayles) make it known they aren't happy with the movie being shown.

Gene (Simon Fenton) and his younger brother Dennis are looking forward to Mant. They have just moved onto the naval base with their mom while dad is away serving on a special ops assignment. On a TV broadcast, President Kennedy reveals the Cuban Missile Crisis. Panic sets in among the people of Key West, stores run out of food and theater manager Howard (Robert Picardo) prepares his bomb shelter. Woolsey sees it as a great opportunity. The screening is sold out and Mr. Spector (Jesse White) from Maglopolitian Theaters, who Woolsey wants to impress, will be in attendance. But things go awry because of a juvenile delinquent hired to help out.

Director Joe Dante's Matinee is a sweet tribute to the monster movies of his youth and the men behind them. It's a fun walk down memory lane for fans of these type of atomic films from the '50s and '60s, and it has also a couple of subplots focusing on teenagers for the younger set, making Matinee a lighthearted film the whole family can enjoy together. The story has a great twist that taps into the a-bomb panic and the films within the film are wonderful spoofs.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. When the black and white footage appears directly on screen, blacks are inky and whites are bright, creating a good spectrum of gray shades. When seen projected on the theater screen, the image looks faded. Colors appear in natural hues. The reds usually pop and the bright olive greens of foliage and military uniforms are strong. Film grain is apparent, and it increases against the blue sky and during the split-screen with Sherry and Stan on the phone. Skin tones tend to be a bit pinkish at times. Black specks appear on occasion. The first time Gene and Dennis walk home there's a filter or post effect added that makes the sky red.

The audio is available in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Dialogue is always clear. Jerry Goldsmith's evocative score can be heard in the surrounds. Effects move about the channels. Jets fly across and parts of houses blowing up fly from front to back. The bass is quite strong, from explosions to the Rumblerama, which rattles the speakers.

The special features are in HD unless noted:

  • Master Of The Matinee (20 min) - Director Joe Dante talks about the original script and picking the cast.
  • The Leading Lady (12 min) - Cathy Moriarty briefly talks about the movie.
  • MANTastic: The Making of Mant (25 min) - Jim McPherson designed the Mant costume and talks about its creation. Actor Mark McCraken talks playing Mant/Bill in the Mant movie.
  • Out of the Bunker (16 min) - Innerspace fan, actress Lisa Jakub speaks.
  • Making a Monster Theatre (16 min) - An interview with production designer Steven Legler about his work on The Strand interior.
  • The Monster Mix (12 min) - An interview with editor Marshall Harvey.
  • Lights! Camera! Reunion! (21 min) - Director of photography John Hora talks about the struggles to make the movie.
  • Vintage Making of Featurette (SD, 4 min) - A studio EPK.
  • Behind The Scenes Footage (SD, 8 min) - Raw rehearsal video, pretty boring.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (2 min), Still Gallery (4 min) and the Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 min).

The next two are from a 2011 French release going by the credits:

  • Paranoia In Ant Vision (33 min) - A Q&A in English.
  • MANT! (HD, 23 min) - Introduced by Dante, who talks about the making of the film within the film, the segments of Mant! are edited together.

Thanks to Shout Select, Dante's delightful Matinee is available for home viewing at any time one likes.  The high-def presentation is well done and there's plenty of extras to educate fans about the film was made.

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