Twilight Time Presents: Sense and Sensitivities

Like certain recent events in world history have proved, the elements of both sense and sensitivity are not always in full force: people don’t always make the best decisions. This is particularly true ‒ to say nothing of acceptable ‒ in the less depressing field of fiction. And no matter how realistic of a course this sextet from Twilight Time may have become, these magical realms of fantasy nevertheless provide a great escape to scurry off to, particularly when the gravity of reality becomes almost too improbable to properly process ‒ especially since most of the protagonists of these six movies find themselves in similar scenarios! We begin with a grandiose view at life under the rule of a total tyrant itself. The daily grind. The rat race. You know, workin’ 9 to 5?

In a bold move for an industry that was still trying to wrap its head around the fact a silly space saga featuring that kid from The Texas Wheelers became the biggest thing ever, a small group of immeasurable talent put their brains together to do something only country music writers had dared to do previously: that of telling one to take their job and shove it. Composing the recipe for the many workplace comedies which have followed in its wake ‒ right down to the ending with captions explaining what became of its main characters ‒ Colin Higgins’ 9 to 5 also set the stage for a flatulence-free era of “girl comedy,” giving us a peek into what sort of fresh new hell your average contemporary, freshly-liberated, working woman had to face every day.

And when your boss is an insensitively senseless slimeball like 9 to 5‘s Dabney Coleman, the word “hell” hardly even begins to describe the state of the nation. Jane Fonda, one of the minds involved in this venture, take the lead here as the newbie at a very busy corporate office. After only a few days under the tyrannical thumb of her new superior, Fonda ‒ along with stressed-out workaholic Lily Tomlin and easy-going country girl Dolly Parton (the latter making her feature film debut, contributing a theme song to the story which would become a number one hit) ‒ form a most holy alliance of rebellion against their pathetic, “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” excuse of an employer (the aforementioned Mr. Coleman, in his most career-defining role).

Fresh from the 20th Century Fox vault, 9 to 5 arrives in High-Definition for the first time via Twilight Time, who have rounded up the special features from previous releases (a slew of featurettes, interviews, outtakes, gag reel, trailer, and an audio commentary featuring the film’s starring trio), as well as whipping up a few new bonus goodies of their own. Twilight Time’s exclusive extras include a new commentary with co-screenwriter Patricia Resnick, accompanied by the label’s own Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo (who also provides the liner notes); and an isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 score. 9 to 5 itself boasts two audio options, available in DTS-HD MA 1.0 and 2.0, as well as the nicest-looking print of the movie ever to grace home video.

Another jab at state of the nation ‒ nay, the world ‒ is alive and kickin’ (quite literally at that) in our next outing, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. In what could single-handedly serve as testament to Orion Pictures’ ill-fated legacy, this loose adaptation of The Destroyer pulp paperback series created by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, a tough New York City cop (Fred Ward) is recruited by a shadow organization which exists to bring balance to humanity by eliminating certain elements of corruption (where is CURE now that we need them?). It was supposed to be the first of a film franchise that would give James Bond a run for his money. Alas, the film fared so poorly, the whole proposed series wound up being scrapped.

Perhaps it was the tenacity of the filmmakers to cast a white musical theater actor ‒ Joel Grey of The Fantasticks ‒ as a Korean martial arts instructor, which takes the “Sense and Sensitivities” aspect to a whole new level (although the good Mr. Grey does a mighty fine job). Although, truth be told, it’s Remo Williams‘ awkward premise which does the most harm: it’s supposed to be a grand series opener, but it plays off more like an American 007 spoof cranked out during the midst of a writer’s strike. And I actually liked the film, mind you. This 1985 oddity from Dick Clark Productions co-stars Wilford Brimley, J.A. Preston, Kate Mulgrew, and cult favorite Michael Pataki in a minor role as a major villain (consider that a parable for the film itself).

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins has seen its share of home video releases over the years, ever since the movie with the memorable artwork first hit (and promptly sat on the shelves of) video stores on VHS and Betamax. More than thirty years after the film failed to accomplish what it set out to do, Twilight Time has brought us a beautiful-looking HD release of the film with a new DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack. This fresh new look at a slightly stale cult classic from a politically incorrect era comes complete with a new commentary by film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo, isolated score (in DTS-HD MA 2.0), trailer, several newly-produced extras from Daniel Griffith and Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, and liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

Another adaptation from a book, this time a standalone title, makes its Blu-ray debut here from Twilight Time. Mixing fact with fiction, Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle made for a fine espionage melodrama film from director Richard Marquand, who would later direct the lamentable, last, midgets-in-teddy-bear-costumes-encrusted entry of a certain silly space saga featuring that kid from The Texas Wheelers. The 1981 World War II thriller finds the one and only Donald Sutherland as a cold, calculating German spy on British soil with a passion for the stiletto. In fact, he’s so busy using it, he sometimes forgets to hide his Canadian accent (although he does a much better job here than he did in that god-awful 1999 sci-fi/horror flop, Virus).

Starring opposite Sutherland’s Natzy spy is another Canadian, the beautiful Kate Nelligan, who plays a disgruntled, sensitive housewife on the aptly-named Stormy Island. Just like in her previous hit, 1979’s Dracula, Ms. Nelligan’s character is named Lucy and falls for the film’s mysterious, villainous visitor who crashes on the shore. But in this instance, our heroine is in for much more bloodshed as her doomed romance with the handsome stranger becomes, well, doomed. Stephen MacKenna, Christopher Cazenove, Philip Martin Brown, and Ian Bannen co-star in this thriller, which features early career cameos by Rik Mayall and Bill Nighy. Alan Hume provides the fine cinematography here, and Miklós Rózsa composes the stabbing (heh) score.

While devoid of the alternate ending an earlier LaserDisc release contained (which is said to actually ruin the experience for most due to a painful aeronautical anachronism only touched upon in this, the “preferred” edit of the American-made production from United Artists), Twilight Time’s Eye of the Needle is nevertheless a huge upgrade over previous releases of the film (even if we did get to see more of Kate Nelligan in the open matte VHS). This High-Def look at the film from MGM/UA sports a DTS-HD MA 1.0 soundtrack, isolated score in DTS-HD MA 2.0, and an audio commentary featuring music historian Jon Burlingame and film historians Julie Kirgo (who also pens the liner notes) and Nick Redman. The original theatrical trailer is also included.

Perhaps the most sensitive film out of the lot, Sydney Pollack’s Bobby Deerfield was considered anything but when it was initially released in 1977. Based on the 1961 postwar romantic drama Heaven Has No Favorites by All Quiet on the Western Front author Erich Maria Remarque, this offbeat Columbia Pictures/Warner Bros. collaboration almost threw cold water over the white hot career of young Al Pacino. Interestingly, The Other Woman, a 1947 United Artists vehicle starring Barbara Stanwyck and David Niven, tells pretty much the same story, but from the female character’s point of view. It also credits an earlier, different story by Erich Maria Remarque (Beyond) as its source material. This version, however, features an extended cameo by Mickey Knox, so there.

Laughed at by insensitive audiences in ’77 for being too artsy and lacking any sort of action whatsoever, Bobby Deerfield seems like industrial strength Oscar material compared to the dramas of today, especially with that marvelous cinematography by Henri Decaë. Here, Pacino is a famous, hotshot race car driver who forgets how to live after a racing accident claims the life of one of his colleagues. Whilst searching for an answer for which there is no question, Bobby meets a quirky, mysterious woman (Marthe Keller) with quite the lust for life. Twilight Time’s gorgeous transfer boasts three DTS-HD MA soundtracks (5.1, 2.0, and Mono), an isolated Dave Grusin score in DTS-HD MA 2.0, commentary by Sydney Pollack, trailer, and liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

As a longtime fan of late great action hero Charles Bronson, it’s always a blast to see one of his motion picture endeavors ‒ be it from the era when he still took himself and his work seriously or otherwise. This time ’round, Twilight Time seems determined to appeal to both sides of cinematic taste, bringing us two entirely different movies from his varied career. The earliest work, United Artist’s 1976 western-comedy From Noon Till Three, finds the future Death Wish icon as Graham Dorsey, who is placed in a precarious scenario after his bank robbin’ buddies (led by the one and only Douglas Fowley, who makes the most of his limited screen time) leave him behind with a rich widow Amanda (Jill Ireland) as they set off for a job destined to be their last.

A brief romance between the two ends when angry townspeople come out to lynch our hero and mistakenly murder the wrong party. Living in anonymity is one thing, but when Amanda’s story becomes a best-selling dime novel with many fabrications, poor Graham is determined to reclaim his dead identity. It’s an odd one, to say the least, as its comic motif occasionally shifts into much darker zones. Like Al Pacino in a romantic drama, it’s bizarrely fascinating to see Charles Bronson aim for the funny bone, and From Noon Till Three deserves a look-see for that alone. Twilight Time’s offering for this weird western from Frank D. Gilroy arrives with a DTS-HD MA Mono score, isolated Elmer Bernstein score (in DTS-HD MA 2.0), trailer, and liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

By the time Charles Bronson made Murphy’s Law ten years later for Cannon Films, both he and frequent directorial collaborator J. Lee Thompson had stopped worrying about making sense. Though nowhere near as sleazy as one of their former outings together, 10 to Midnight (one of several Bronson flicks released by Twilight Time), this very Cannon-esque trip into the politically incorrect ’80s is most assuredly a guilty pleasure. Seemingly rushed together after someone said “Hey, I just snagged permission to shoot something at The Bradbury Building, guys!,” Murphy’s Law‘s non-existent story finds Bronson as a hard-boozin’ cop Jack Murphy, who guzzles down Jack Daniel’s like it’s going out of style (something JD drinkers will never possess).

When nutcase Carrie Snodgress gets out of the loony bin and starts gunning down Jack’s acquaintances (including Angel Tompkins as his stripper ex-wife!), Jack gets the blame. Soon, he’s on the run, handcuffed à la The Defiant Ones to a cute young delinquent (singer/songwriter Kathleen Wilhoite, whom you all no doubt saw in Cop Rock, and who also sings the movie’s amazingly ’80s end credits song) with a severe case of Grade School Playground Tourette’s Syndrome. Why, there’s even a character named Tony Vincenzo in the film ‒ something that will garner a giggle from Kolchak: The Night Stalker fans. Robert F. Lyons, Richard Romanus, Bill Henderson, and Lawrence Tierney are among the movie’s body count.

Perhaps best known to audiences as the movie featuring a hilariously senseless debate about mayonnaise (which both Bronson and Wilhoite pronounce differently), Murphy’s Law arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with a lovely new HD transfer from the folks at MGM/UA with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track, isolated score (also in DTS-HD MA 2.0), trailer, and a very interesting audio commentary with actress Kathleen Wilhoite conducted by Nick Redman. Julie Kirgo pens the sensitive liner notes for this release. All six flicks are sensitively limited to 3,000 copies each, and are all available while supplies last.

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Luigi Bastardo

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