88 films

If you're a genre fanatic and you don't have a region-free DVD player you're really missing out on some great stuff!  Europe is always trumping us when it comes to super cool editions of some of our most beloved films.  Most of us have heard of Arrow and Shameless, but they aren't the only company on the block.  Today we're going to be discussing 88 Films.

The company was nice enough to send over a handful of discs to review.  Today we will be discussing the first two Subspecies Films along with the first three Puppet Master flicks.  Yes, five films in one post...Edgy right?  I'll keep it simple though, few sentences on the film itself then the rest of the paragraph will be dedicated to the actual disc, content, and transfer.

The company's motto is "Classic movies treated with respect."  Did they live up to that motto?  Read on to find out.

First up is Subspecies already we're being treated with a pretty neat disc menu, good start guys.
Subspecies is Full Moon's flagship vampire series about Radu and his yearning for the family "Bloodstone."  Radu is a pretty evil guy who returns from being exiled to kill his father and steal the stone.  He ends up getting infatuated with two female tourists and ends up feuding with his brother.  The film's got everything you expect from early Full moon, crazed villains, cool locations, and stop motion.  So let's discuss the film's transfer, with these older low budget films you're never going to get "demo quality," but the PQ is still pretty good here, Extra wise the disc is pretty loaded,  first up we've got an interview segment with the director and a few actors.  Next is a regular for most Full Moon discs, "Videozone."  Videozone was first introduced in 1991 and was a short video magazine detailing the films production with interviews, behind the scenes segments, and merchandise tie-ins.  VZ would go on to be a regular with most Full Moon productions and it's a welcome addition to the disc.  Also in the extras menu is a trailer and the option for Audio Commentary.  I must also mention the film does have a "Full Moon" trailer park which ended up being one of my favorite parts of the disc.

Subspecies 2 is next on the chopping block.  Radu is back in search of the Bloodstone, this time it's in the hand's of a recently turned vampiress.  While a lot of times sequels tend to be a little less favorable than the original, I found myself enjoying this one quite a bit, dare I say possibly even more than the original.  The PQ here is certainly up to par with the first film's, I was very impressed with the overall presentation.  The audio options are just as nice presenting us with a Dolby 5.1 mix.  Much like the prior disc this has a very similar set up.  Interviews, montage, Videozone, trailer, commentary, and lastly the Fullmoon Trailer park.  Like last time I think the Videozone feature is my favorite, call it nostalgia I guess.  I love that they included these.  The VZ intro with Band really shows just how many films FM was churning out during this time period, very cool.  A+ here, I'm starting to sense a trend.

Puppet Master is easily the most popular of the Full Moon films.  As of today this film has spawned 9 sequels along with countless action figures, statues, and comic books.  The movie is about a nice man named Toulon, whom using a secret ancient formula is able to give life to his puppets. Fearing this would get into the hands of the Nazis he hides the trunk of puppets and offs himself.  Years later a group of unwitting psychics make their way to a hotel where it is rumored the secret of life can be found.  I'm sure most of you have seen this film, if not you probably know enough about it to know that what is waiting for them isn't life, but death.  Death at the hands (or hook & blade) of a variety of different puppets.  Full Moon typically isn't known for the superb acting and this one is no different, along with that this movie is a bit slow.  However with the puppets, the music, and the strange POV shots there's enough here to keep one interested. You know, looking back I think it has probably been a good decade since I'd seen this film. I can't recall if it was on TV or on VHS, but I can't remember it ever looking this nice.  I was really surprised with the PQ.  This time around the bonus features seem a bit light, though there's still some good to be found.  Videozone, a Charles Band intro, two audio commentaries, and the Full Moon trailer park all make their presences known.  Still a lot to chew on, but I'd have loved to see a more current interview segment like the Subspecies discs had.

Onto Puppet Master 2!  This one is a lot like the first only with paranormal researchers replacing the no-good psychics.  The surviving psychic apparently came into contact with the group and points them towards the hotel.  I tend to dig this one a little more than the first film.  Love it or not the first Puppet Master tends to move a little slow, that's not to say this one has no faults as it certainly does- but it's a better put together movie.  The puppets also are also fleshed out a bit more thanks to a few flashbacks.  The picture and audio are both top notch.  This one, much like PM is a little dense in the extras department, however it does have something pretty darn killer in the form of two action figure commercials for the Puppet Master toy line.  These two commercials brought back a lot of memories.  I want to say these were on a few of the old VHS tapes I used to rent, so that was a nice trip down memory lane.  Also included is another Videozone, a commentary track, and the Full Moon Trailer Park.

The last film we'll be discussing today is Puppet Master 3.  In the second film the puppet's we're given a little more "life" in the form of a few flashbacks.  The third film is actually a period piece and taking place during WWII.  This time around Toulon is portrayed by Guy Rolfe who would go on to reprise this role a number of times, as far as I'm concerned Rolfe is Toulon.  He really was great in this role.  The story is about Toulon and his magical puppet show which gets noticed by a german officer.  A bad coincidence considering while this is happening the Nazi's are trying to develop a way to create undead soldiers.  You can put two and two together, they attempt to use Toulon's formula for their own good.  That's when the killer puppets come into play.  This is probably my favorite of the series.  It's a very well done sequel/prequel and (while it goes without saying) a must see for fans of this series of films.  As far as the PQ/AQ is concerned it's on par with the last two films.  88 Films worked with what they have and managed to produce a pretty good looking transfer.  In the extras department we're getting the two toy commercials, Videozone, commentary, Charles Band intro, and the Full Moon trailer park.

So what's the final verdict?  Do they live up to their motto?  In short, yes.  I was very please with each disc, especially the effort put into the sequels as some companies do tend to give them a little less attention.  The films all look great and each disc is full of supplemental materials.  I also love the artwork they gave these five releases.  I really like this new trend of original artwork, I say this as someone who's typically a stickler for having the original poster art on a release but when it's done right it's something I love.

Full Moon is a company that is easy to write off, especially with some of the more recent films along with some of the questionable choices Band has made, I myself have criticized Band a few times on this very site.  But one can't take away the accomplishments he's achieved, watching these films and a handful of the Videozone supplements reminded me of how much I loved this company growing up.  They were always churning out something new and Band had his hand in everything from films to comics to toys.

It's worth noting that some of the blu-ray releases for these films do have HD exclusive extras along with reversible sleeves featuring the original poster artwork.  I'd love to get my hands on a few of these sets in the future and do a full overview along with a comparison to the US counterparts.  Definitely something I'll have to do eventually.

I'm going to give this company a solid A+ for their output so far, this is just the tip of the iceberg as they will be giving even more Full Moon films similar treatment.  Be sure to check out their website here and give them your support.

PS. How about a Tourist Trap blu-ray?  Pretty please?

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