The Shout! Factory DVD release of "Ernie Kovacs: The Centennial Collection" continues the long Shout! tradition of paying homage to The Golden Age of Television; this proud history includes complete-series releases of "The Goldbergs" who precede Lucy and of the hilarious "Dobie Gillis." That early sitcom about an all-American teen boy launches the careers of Warren Beatty, Tuesday Weld, and Bob Denver.
Kovacs is a true pioneer television pioneer, who can be considered an early version of a late-20th-century public-access star or an early-21st-century YouTube notable who achieves mainstream success. Shout! awesomely goes incredibly above-and-beyond to make rare material from every stage in the career of Kovacs available.
As the back-cover of this nine-disc set states, "Centennial" gathers the previously released Shout! collections of Kovacs material. This synopsis describing this material as "groundbreaking, rule-breaking, surreal and charmingly silly comedy" hits the nail squarely on the head.
The following YouTube video of a Shout! promo. for "Centennial" consists of hilarious clips that demonstrate the humor of Kovacs.
The incredible bonanza of year-end home-video releases is a primary culprit regarding only watching the "The Early Years" disc in "Centennial." The better news is that this leaves the remaining eight discs to savor on a later date.
The best news is that the wonderful bonus features on this disc including Carl Reiner posthumously inducting Kovacs into The Television Academy Hall of Fame provides a cheat-sheet in the form of a solid summary of the roughly 10-year career of a man who is truly is ahead of his time.
The Reiner tribute notes that Kovacs begins his television career at NBC Philadelphia affiliate WPTZ. Learning that writing and appearing in several television programs each day requires a 15-hour daily schedule arguably makes Kovacs the hardest working man in show biz during that era. These programs include "It's Time for Ernie" and "Kovacs on the Corner."
One difference between this work of Kovacs and the mother of all '50s comedy "I Love Lucy" is that reel Kovacs enthusiastically has real-life spouse Edie Adams appear in the act.
"Time" particularly highlights the way-out bizarre humor for which Kovacs is well known. A skit that an episode in "Centennial" includes has this man of numerous faces contort his features during a lesson on adjust the settings on a television. Another episode in either "Time" or a very similar program features Kovacs dragging a facsimile of a dead body down a city street.
"Corner" is more polished than "Time" and is of more a variety format that includes special musical guests. We also get everyday folks in what seems to be a regular segment. This consists of two persons exchanging junk with the hope that they end up ahead of the game.
The included "Corner" episode perfectly illustrates this early-age of television for reasons that extend beyond the general format. We get an epic moment in which Kovacs perfectly ad libs when a piece of scenery collapses during his broadcast.
The treats on the rest of the chronologically organized discs include an episode of the ready-for-prime-time "Kovacs on Music," episodes of his odd game-show "Take a Good Look," and five ABC specials. We further get the unaired pilot of the comedy-western "Medicine Man" in which Kovacs and Buster Keaton co-star.
As alluded to above, Kovacs is special because he is one of the first to take general humor and improv. to the next level. We arguably can thank him for folks such as Jonathan Winters and Winters devotee Robin Williams. Less thanks is due regarding the "Jackasses" who take advantage of the low-cost of public-access cable and later no-cost YouTube to inflict the same buffonery on their communities and the world that previously was limited to their buddies.
All this boils down to "Centennial" allowing modern audiences to revel in the guy who was the first (and the best) regarding not being afraid to go there,
A delay posting this review of the Shout! Factory November 6, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "The Sound of Music Live" (SOM) is collateral damage from circumstances beyond the control of Unreal TV. Your not-so-humble reviewer ached to honor the spirit of NBC airing the Julie Andrews film every Thanksgiving, Speaking of NBC, a nice surprise regarding this production is that it is NOT the Carrie Underwood version that that network aired in 2013. This one far outshines that noble experiment.
The bottom line regarding this SOM is that it provides a good chance to compare it to the Andrews version and to compare the film and stage variations of the story. Of course, the movie having Penny Robinson and Spider-Man in it gives it a big leg up.
The better news regarding timing is that ample opportunity remains to give your favorite theater geek or child the the Shout! release for Christmas or merely to play it on an endless loop to keep the kids out of your hair. The FLAWLESS picture and sound (which look very 3Dish when played on a 4K machine and watched on a 4K set) screams to buy the Blu-ray version.
British television network ITV aired this SOM on December 20, 2015; the twofer aspect is the broadcast being part of both the holiday programming of the network and a desire to air "event" specials. It is reported that the objectives of creative director Corky Giedroyc include this version being closer to the original stage production than to emulate the movie. An aspect of this is maintaining the political aspects that center around the Nazis increasingly taking over Austria.
The following YouTube clip of an ITV promo. for SOM nicely conveys the spirit of both the production and the literally behind-the-scenes feature on the Shout! release.
The newer version is entertaining from stem to stern and maintains a perfect pace. Further, hearing all the classic songs provides a warm and fuzzy sense of nostalgia. "How Can Love Survive" is not in the film, but is in stage productions.
The infamous "you can't face" line in a scene in which Maria receives a reality check continues to amuse those of us who embrace our inner 12-year-old boy. It is a near certainty that EVERY actress who portrays Mother Abess focuses on very carefully enunciating that dialogue,
Two songs stand out in SOM. The "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" duet of eldest Von Trapp daughter Liesl and current delivery boy/future fascist pig Rolf has good charm and humor. It seems that the affection between those all Austrian kids is genuine.
All the kids steal the show in the first presentation of "So Long, Farewell." They are being sent packing during a party at Von Trapp Haus and perform the song as their exit strategy. The choreography and the performances of the Von Trapp Singers this time actually outshines the film version. It is a bit more lively and amusing.
Describing SOM as understated is only intended to put it in context regarding the film. Kara Tointon ("Mr Selfridge" and "EastEnders") projects the same level of "Keep Calm and Carry On" emotion throughout; she also has a wonderful voice and seems to literally hit every note but does not put her heart and soul into the songs ala Andrews.
Similarly, Julian Ovendon (Downton Abbey) plays Captain Von Trapp with far less emotion and passion than Christopher Plummer. This sadly prevents feeling any connection with this central character.
As mentioned above, the bigger picture is the rise of Nazism in Austria. Watching this production as an adult in 2018 puts a whole new perspective on the story.
Being an adult in 2018 also screams for escaping the increasing level of fascism and dystopia in the world by watching a new version of a childhood favorite. Keeping the flame alive by watching it with a keyboard kid provides hope that memories of a kinder and gentler period will persist.
The long history of Shout! Factory rescuing TV Land favorites from oblivion by releasing then on DVD after their primary studios abandon that effort makes Shout! a good home for the October 30, 2018 Collector's Edition Blu-ray of the 1987 comedy film "Dragnet." The love that Shout! Select shows pop culture gems (such as the recently reviewed "City Slickers" and "Get Shorty") provides further proof that this is a match made in Heaven,
Watching the DVD version of "Dragnet" a few weeks before getting the Shout! Blu-ray allows verifying that the L.A. scenery, epic settings, and audio all are tremendously enhanced in this remastered version; it truly is like watching an entirely different film.
The bigger picture this time is that "Dragnet" reflects Hollywood bringing versions of (primarily '60s) television series to the silver screen in the mid-80s to mid-90s and to a lesser extent today. The first "Addams Family" and "Brady Bunch" films are among the greatest commercial and artistic successes. "The Beverly Hillbillies" and the live-action "The Flintstones" are at the other end of the spectrum.
The strong pedigree of "Dragnet" helps earn a slot near the top. "SNL"/"Blues Brothers"/"Ghostbusters" veteran Dan Aykroyd stars as straight-laced Los Angeles police detective Joe Friday, who is the nephew of equally rigid Friday (Jack Webb) of the series, Rising star (including "Splash") Tom Hanks plays laid-back goofball partner Streebek. Harry Morgan ("M*A*S*H) returns to his "Dragnet" role of (now) Captain Gannon.
Director Tom Mankiewicz is the son of famed director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. "SNL" and "Its Garry Shandling's Show" veteran Alan Zweibel and Aykroyd team up to write the script.
In addition to changing the tone of "Dragnet" from stoic drama to broad farce, the film plot that revolves around radical activists who identify themselves as P.A.G.A.N. diverts from the series basing episodes about real cases. All of this males the movie more "Naked Gun" than "Dirty Harry."
Friday gets new partner Streebek to literally and figuratively clean up before they are assigned to investigate the theft of the entire run of an issue of the fictional equivalent of Playboy magazine. However, this does not prevent the impish charm and immature side of Streebek from peeking out on visiting a fictional Playboy mansion where fictional version of Hugh Hefner Jerry Caesar ('80s star Dabney Coleman) resides.
The intrigue continues with a heist at a zoo and other bizarre thefts regarding which P.A.G.A.N openly admits; this coinciding with the '80s stereotype of an outrageous televangelist Rev. Whirley (Christopher Plummer) showing up helps put the pieces together.
The hilarity that ensues throughout includes Friday and Streebek crashing a P.A.G.A.N. ritual that leads to them wrestling a giant snake in an effort to rescue sacrificial virgin Connie Swall (Alexandra Paul of "Baywatch"). We also get the boys in plainclothes dressing up as leather-clad punks and a raid that disproves the theory that there is no reason to cry over spilled milk. This is not to mention Hanks putting his comedic talent to good use in a twofer "Meet the Parents" sequence,
Surprises include Friday, rather than Streebek, being the one to go rogue (and of course being proven right) to the extent of having to turn in his badge and gun. The subsequent unexpected change in Streebek shows the extent to which he wants to vindicate his partner.
Aykroyd and Zweibel particularly shine in writing a climax that nicely ties in every element of the film; centering it around a large event is predictable. Creating somewhat elaborate events that show that there is a reason for every bit of madness goes above and beyond.
The equally inevitable final showdown that pits Friday against the bad guy who evades capture during the big raid likely is sublime to younger visitors and ridiculous from the perspective of everyone of voting age. The absurdity of this is true to the spirit of the television series regarding Friday doing everything necessary to capture criminals..
The special features that make Select releases worthy buying begins with an interview with Paul that is filmed for this release; she is particularly adorable when repeatedly mentioning watching "Dragnet" for the first time in 35 years to prepare for the discussion,
Children of the '70s and '80s can relate to the awe of 23 year-old Paul being cast to star with Hanks and Aykroyd. Learning that Paul first learns of one of the best scenes in "Dragnet" on watching the film at the premiere is another highlight of the interview.
"Just the Facts!" is pure Shout! in that it is a 1987 hour-long infomercial in which Hanks and Aykroyd first show how "Dragnet" comes to be a radio program, a 1950s TV show, and a reboot in 1967. Much of the this focus is on comparing and contrasting star Jack Webb with Friday.
The second-half of "Facts" is on the making-of the film; they save the best for last in showing the stars recording the rap that serves as the theme for the film.
The final fact regarding "Dragnet" is that it perfectly illustrates the value of both '80s film comedies and the reason to add collector's edition of these films to your video library. The movie was a huge hit back in the day and gets better with age. Releases that include insights from folks who were there enhances watching a movie that merely was a diversion (and perhaps a chance to sit in a cool space for a few hours) when it was released.
Shout! Factory releasing "Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection" on October 2, 2018 is the latest example of Shout! awesomely furthering the Unreal TV mission of saving classic and cult-classic sitcoms from obscurity. The scope of this set including EVERYTHING from "Bliss" to "Vegas" allows once-and-future fans and newbies to the halls of Bayside High to fully embrace the Zack Attack spirit of the series, Shout! releasing comparable complete series sets of virtually every program that this post mentions provides a sense that that distributor is the perfect home for "Bell."
Shout! notes that the presentation order of the episodes has the seal of approval of producer Peter Engel. Further, it seems that the episodes are the original broadcast versions.
The main thing that earns "Bell" its place in pop culture history is the perfect blending of elements that begin with arguably a happy accident, The majority of the cast first appear in the 1988-89 Disney Channel series "Good Morning, Miss Bliss." The intended focus of that series is the titular eighth-grade teacher (Hayley Mills of "The Parent Trap") in Indianapolis. In true Disney-style, John F. Kennedy Junior High is clean and lacks any of the ills that plague most junior highs and high schools,
The intended formula is an "A Story" that centers around the personal and/or professional life of Carrie Bliss; the "B Story" revolves around a tween problem of a student, who almost invariably finds equal parts solace and solution in the figurative arms of Bliss.
The pilot illustrates both the aforementioned formula and the reverse lesson of most sitcoms that the adults provide most of the appeal in the series. Bliss starts a romance at the same time that cute and charming scamp Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) faces his summer-camp girlfriend being a JFK student. The "sit" that provides the "com" this time is that eighth-grader Zack told the girl that he was in the ninth grade.
The classmates of Zack include nerdy Samuel "Screech" Powers (Dustin Diamond) and BAP Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies). Richard Belding (Dennis Haskins) is their principal.
The talent of Disney for finding cute young male actors with the exuberance of puppies on caffeine pills pays off large both for Gosselaar and for tweens, teens, and tweens and teens at heart all over the world., This demographic adores Goselaar, who can be considered the older brother of Ross Lynch of the Disneycom "Austin and Ally." Early clips of Lynch show that he has the same charm and enthusiasm as "Bliss" era Gosselaar. The parallels continue with both actors subsequently literally showing in mind and body that they are all grown up.
Disney not renewing "Bliss" sets the mental gears of Engel in motion; he sees perfect symmetry between the "Bliss" kids and the dearth of Saturday-morning fare that targets the aforementioned 12-and-up demographic, This leads to transferring all of the aforementioned characters except Bliss to Bayside High in southern California.
The copious insight in the numerous special features include the intended homage to classic sitcoms in "Bell." Casual observance indicates that this show is a modern-day "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." The central everyteen embroils his oddball outcast best friend in schemes to make high school easier and/or best his rival for the hot girl. We learn that Engel actually has "The Phil Silvers Show" (a.k.a. "Sgt. Bilko) in mind with charming conman Zack lavishing praise on authority figure Belding while running circles around him.
The aforementioned appeal of Gosselaar results in Zack immediately establishing himself as the center of "Bell" and the BMOC at Bayside. Introducing jock/Army brat A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) brings in a Reggie to give "Archie" serious competition before those boys figuratively (if not literally) kiss and make up later in the series, The two other new kids on the block are girl next-door/object of the affection of both Zack and Slater Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) and literal girl next-door/feminist/scholar Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley).
Both the high school and "College Years" of the gang largely focus on comic variations of teen and post-adolescent angst. We have boys making fools out of themselves in elaborate efforts to get girls, boys seeking to take rivals out of the picture, trying to pass driver's ed., facing tough teachers, outlandish schemes to earn money to conceal "sins," rifts between friends, etc.
The broadest insight that Engel provides in special features in "Collection" is that "Bell" relatively accurately depicts the high school experience. A stated objective is to support viewers who either are in high school or are anxious about what they will face on achieving that milestone. The effectiveness of that effort including most of the cast portraying his or her actual age evokes thoughts of Gosselaar once dissing fellow teen series "Beverly Hills 90210" by commenting that he was not 30 when he was in high school.
The comments of Engel triggered the thought that kids often are included in a series to provide a relatable character for their real-life counterparts; this led to memories of being a prep. school boy whose academic career paralleled that of the older "Facts of Life" girls. That particularly enhanced the experience of watching the high-school years of Blar and Jo.
The parallel continues with "Life" undergoing significant S2 changes that set the tone for the rest of the nine-year run of that show.
Like "Life," the high-school years of "Bell" are the best. "Jessie's Song" that has the titular over-achiever develop a hilariously dramatic addiction to caffeine pills is cemented as a top-ever campy TV episode. We also get Zack using his powers (no pun intended) for good rather than evil when he learns that Kelly cannot afford to attend the prom. This arguably is when Kelack becomes destined for the "Wedding in Vegas" around which the 1994 TV movie that wraps up their story is centered, Zack having to become an American gigolo with Gilbert Gottfried playing his pimp is one of several ways that that film supports the policy that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
The comprehensiveness of "Collection" allows the enjoyment of "Bell" to extend beyond seeing Zack proportionately physically and emotionally mature; the detailed episode guide facilitates picking and choosing your favorite episodes and/or eras. The aforementioned bonus features, which include interviews with most cast members, provide additional perspective that evoke happy thoughts in current fans and will encourage new devotees to embrace the spirit of the series.
The Shout Select division of Shout! Factory already makes lovers of mob movies and dark comedy an offer that they cannot refuse regarding the October 23, 2018 Collector's Edition of the 1995 film (not-to-be confused with the current Epix series) "Get Shorty." Folks who order "Shorty" directly from Shout! have a chance of becoming a made man by snagging a free "while they last" poster with new artwork.
Select further sweetens the deal by having this release coincide with Select making the (reviewed) fabulous Blu-ray of fellow '90s phenom comedy "City Slickers" available on real and virtual store shelves everywhere.
Like "Slickers," the scenery and the cinematography of "Shorty" look incredible on the 4K remaster of the Blu-ray. In this case, we start out with the bright hues of Miami and move on to all the many styles that are Los Angeles.
The aspects that make "Shorty" Select worthy include the dream team in front of and behind the camera. This starts with director Barry Sonnenfeld putting the same talent for dark humor that he displays in films that include the "Addams Family" and the "Men in Black" franchises to good use in this film about retired Miami loan shark turned aspiring film producer Chili Palmer (John Travolta). The good source material for Sonnenfeld this time is the comic crime-novel by the Stephen King caliber prolific author Elmore Leonard.
Travolta chooses wisely in making "Shorty" his follow-up to "Pulp Fiction" in this era in which he plays ticking time-bomb tough guys. His equally perfect cast mates include Gene Hackman as horror-film producer Harry Zimm, who has aspirations of making a film with substance, Rene Russo as B-movie actress with a history Karen Flores, and Danny DeVito essentially as Danny DeVito in the guise of actor Marin Weir. Actors who join the fun via cameos in which they play very true to type include Bette Mider, Alex Rocco, James Gandolfini, and Dennis Farina.
The following YouTube clip of the Shout trailer for "Shorty" provides another great endorsement for this must-see over-and-over film. Despite including roughly 15 vines of highlights, these images do not scratch the surface regarding the memorable moments.
The wonderful absurdity of "Shorty" commences with the opening Miami scenes in which antagonism between Palmer and fellow wise-guy Ray "Bones" Barboni (Farina) escalates on Bones hilariously making Palmer his bitch and our protagonist responding in kind. The subsequent events land Palmer in La La Land looking for Weir both to collect a debt and to pitch the story of the events that lead to his relocation.
Further complications arise in the form of the investors in a Weir film learning that their money is not being used in the agreed-to manner. Throwing in a psychotic drug-dealer with a world-class itchy trigger finger largely rounds out the fun.
The real fun (and hilarity) ensues when Palmer must keep several highly volatile spheres in the air while doing his best to avoid having any of them blow up in his face, Of course, the themes of this incredibly meta film include the similarities between how the mob conducts business and how supposedly legitimate Hollywood operates; this also proves the adage "its funny because its true."
The best truly is saved for last; we get both the mother of all cameos in the film and have a wonderful homage to the Mel Brooks comedy "Blazing Saddles," One spoiler is that there is no indication that the craft-services table at the movie-within-a-movie serves baked beans,
A highlight (and apparent Select standard) in the aforementioned bonus features is a roughly 30-minute documentary in which all the principals discuss their literal and figurative roles, DeVito steals the show regarding both his reminiscing about being recruited to play Palmer and the team getting "Fiction" auteur Quentin Tarantino to entice Travolta into playing Palmer. Another of the many features is a home-movie reel of filming scenes.
These bonuses emphasize the sad fact that Hollywood currently seems to lack folks with the talents that make a film like "Shorty" succeed. The simple-but-brilliant concept surpasses the theme of anything in the multiplex and the folks in front of the camera seem either to be stars rather than actors or are well past their prime.
The wrap regarding all this is that Shout! provides a chance to revisit the beginning of the end of art winning out over commerce regarding at least some studio fare.
A combination of laziness and of "I could not have said it better myself" is behind allowing the Shout Select division of good friend of classic and cult fanboys Shout! Factory to speak for itself regarding the October 16, 2018 Collector's Edition release of the Oscar-winning 1991 comedy "City Slickers."
The mission statement on the back-cover of the "Slickers" Blu-ray provides an excellent sense of the raison d'etre of these releases. "Designed with the film lover in mind, SHOUT SELECT shines a light on films that deserve a spot on your shelf. From acknowledged classics to cult favorites to unheralded gems, SHOUT SELECT celebrates the best in filmmaking, giving the love and attention they deserve. Past recipients of that adoration include "The Moderns" and the noir double-feature "Farewell My Lovely" and "The Big Sleep."
One more bit of necessary housekeeping before sharing thoughts on "Slickers" itself is that the film looks mahvelous, simply mahvelous in this 4K restoration. The bright lights far from the big city are indescribably vibrant. This is not mention contrasts such as red-toned rugged terrain and clothing such as a colorful bandana and a New York Yankees cap set against a literally sky-blue sky.
The numerous bonus features, which include audio commentary by stars Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern, are the icing on the cake. A 28-minute documentary "Back in the Saddle: 'City Slickers' Revisited" alone provides incredible background on the film. Crystal himself discusses his being reborn to make this movie.
Veteran comedy writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel show good instincts regarding the challenge of providing exposition and grabbing the attention of the audience. The first scenes are of radio ad salesman Mitch Robbins (Crystal) and his two best friends running with the bulls at Pamplona. It is clear that they are American tourists in over their heads and that sporting-goods salesman/womanizing cradle robber Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) is the instigator. The third stooge is henpecked Phil Berquist (Stern), who is a manager at a grocery store that his father-in-law owns.
A nice ode to comedies of the '60s and early '70s comes when this cold open leads to entertaining animated credits that further help keep eyes glued to the screen. The original "Pink Panther" films are the textbook examples of this technique.
An intertitle roughly 15 minutes into the film tells the audience that it is a year later. This day is notable as the 39th birthday of Mitch; a literal rude awakening is the first in a series of events that are devastating to Mitch and hilarious to the audience. It is apt that Mitch would have been better off staying in bed.
This onset of a mid-life crisis for Mitch coincides with his buddies buying him a two-week trip going on a Colorado cattle drive. His loving wife, whom the special features tell us is based on the real-life Mrs. Billy Crystal, convinces him to get back in the saddle after life has knocked him off the horse.
Ganz and Mandel continue showing why they get the big bucks when we meet the fellow titular urbanites who accompany the three friends on the adventure. Josh Mostel and David Paymer play a paper-thinly disguised Ben and Jerry of ice cream fame, we also get a father and son who practice dentistry together, and original film Supergirl Helen Slater as the odd-woman out.
Anyone with any familiarity with "Slickers" knows that Jack Palance steals the show in his Oscar-winning role as no-nonsense trail boss Curly. The aforementioned bonuses include Crystal entertainingly discuss what happens when Jack meets Billy.
Hilarity fully gets underfoot on the drive when Mitch inadvertently causes a stampede. After the dust literally and figuratively settles, Curly orders this nemesis to accompany him on a mission. This leads to the mutual understanding that countless sitcoms show us result when two foes are trapped together. This segment also introduces the other scene stealer Norman the calf.
Of course, things go from bad to worse until Mitch and his posse essentially must land the pilotless jet. It is equally inevitable that this experience makes men out of these Peter Pans and allows them to achieve inner peace. Suffice it to say that the laughs continue until the cows come home (and even longer).
The depth of "Slickers" is what adequately distinguishes it from hundreds of other summer comedies to warrant Select treatment. As mentioned above, reaching middle-age often triggers a sense that having a beautiful wife and house (not to mention children and job) is not enough. We further are victims of unpleasant body changes and the senioritis in the form of coasting at a job that no longer excites us. We see how throwing in the element of the romance of the Old West provides good fodder for a film.
'Exorcist II: The Heretic' star Linda Blair panning this 1977 sequel to the enduring 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" in a new interview for this fabulous remastered Collector's Edition Blu-ray of "Heretic" from the Scream Factory division of cult film god Shout! Factory justifies following suit. HOWEVER, it is apt that the devil is in the details.. Blair simply neglects to put the John Boorman ("Deliverance") film "Heretic" in proper context.
The Shout! goodness includes separate Blu-ray discs of the original 117-minute film and the 102-minute hone-video version. Watching the longer one is recommended.
Before delving further into giving the devil his due, it is important to alert readers to a limited-time offer. Folks who directly order "Heretic" from Shout! will get a free 18X24 poster that features the Scream artwork for the film. The caveat is that Shout! has a limited number of this posters and cannot guarantee that you will get one.
Returning to our main topic, wisdom of Jon Stewart during his "Daily Show" era includes that film versions of television programs generally fail because the premise of the program is initially deemed to not merit a movie. Similarly, sequels would be the first entry in a franchise if they were as good as the original. Imposing a younger-sibling expectation that the second film will be as outstanding as the older brother or sister further strongly disadvantages a "II" film, "Heretic" is not great but does not warrant the scorn that Blair expresses.
The other bit of context that Blair glosses over is that co-star Richard Burton does his usual spectacular job to an extent that Blair states that she is star-struck in her scenes with him. Having Burton star is "Heretic" is a far cry from Jamie Kennedy taking over for Jim Carrey in "The Son of the Mask" or having William "Herman" Ragsdale step in for Andrew McCarthy in the under-rated "Mannequin" franchise.
The premise of "Heretic" is that Father Philip Lamont (Burton) is on a mission from God to preserve the reputation of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) regarding the classic epic death of Merrin in "Exorcist." This includes determining the circumstances of that demise and proving that Merrin is not one of the titular blasphemers.
Meanwhile apparently dispossessed teen Regan MacNeil (Blair) is living at a center for troubled children that Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher) operates. The primary objective of that therapy is to free Regan of the demons that still plague her.
Blair rightfully criticizes Boorman for adding a tap-dancing Regan into the film mid-production, but she fails to put another silly aspect of "Heretic" in context. Much of the action stems from tech. of Tuskin that combines hypnosis with a mind meld in that a second person can share the experience of the hypnotized person.
This scene (and subsequent use of the device) reflects the emphasis on "sci" in sci-fi during the dawn of the computer era of the mid-70s. The brave new world equally fascinates and scares the American public during this period,
In this case, Lamont (who is not a big dummy) witnesses the titular rite that is a central element of the first film. He further gets images of Africa that include the POV of a alocust. That sends that soldier of Christ to The Dark Continent in search of Kokumo (James Earl Jones), whom Lamont thinks can help.
Meanwhile. Regan regresses to a point that she is a threat to herself but not others; she simply is experiencing hellish PTSD.
The real fun begins when Regan and Lamont reunite in New York; an irresistible force compels a not-so immovable object in the form of Lamont. The power of Satan compels him to return to the scene of the crime with Regan in tow.
The entertaining ensuing scene seems more like something out of the Leslie Nielsen "Exorcist" spoof "Dispossessed" than a horror film. We get a "Patty Duke Show" moment as demon Pazuzu uses a carrot (rather than a stick) to try to lure Lamont over to the dark side, Part of this mission involves making Regan disheartened. The result is good campy fun.
The not-so-fatal flaw throughout "Heretic" is that it tries too hard to distinguish itself from its older brother; the possession element is less strong, and the music is not nearly as haunting as the timeless soundtrack the first time around. Even a scene at the iconic stairs from "Exorcist" lacks the same impact.
At the risk of seeming like a titular non-believer, "Heretic" provides a good second chapter in the "Exorcist" trilogy but would have succeeded even better (and been better received) if it had been produced as an independent homage.
In addition to the Blair interview, Scream gives us audio commentary by Boorman and project consultant Scott Bosco. We also get an interview with editor Tom Priestly.