A North American’s Introduction to Umbrella Entertainment
By Brian M. Sammons
I would like to take a moment to introduce you to Umbrella Entertainment, and you’re going to be thankful for this intro. That is because this Australian company is sadly little known over here and that is a crime. Not only do they have an impressive back catalog on titles, they’re bringing out more every day, and they are not region locked. That means you don’t have to have a snazzy (and expensive) region-free BD and that is wonderful. But if that’s not enough to get out to look into Umbrella, let me highlight a select few of their September releases that made me happy.
First there is The Entity, the 1982 ghost movie reportedly based off a real-life account of a woman who was repeatedly raped and assaulted by an unknown phantom. The movie takes a serious look at the supernatural and while sexual assault is the core of the movies, things don’t get too gratuitous here, but it could still be upsetting to some. If you want gratuitous we’ll get to that with the next Blu-ray. Anyway, as for this release the story is as creepy as it is upsetting, even though it does have a “happy?” ending. Barbara Hershey is really good as the terrified woman who has to find a reserve of inner strength just to survive, and Ron Silver is at his bearded best as the sympathetic and concerned doctor and possible love interest.
As for this Blu-ray, the video transfer looks crisp and bright and the image is sharp and well-defined. This might be the best HD transfer of this film I have ever seen. As for the extras, there is an interview with composer Charles Berstein that runs just over 33 minutes long. There is a three-minute interview with Robert McNaughton who auditioned for The Entity, didn’t get it, but through that and a connection with Barbara Hershey went on to get a role in E.T. The Extraterrestrial. Weird. Then of course there is the theatrical trailer, and a poster and still gallery. So not a ton of extras, but more than enough for a little movie that is sadly overlooked by many today. If you are a fan of The Entity then this is the version to get.
Moving on to something that is not horror (don’t worry, we’ll get back to that soon) but nonetheless is a release I’m very excited for. On Blu-ray, calling itself a “Cannon Classics Double Feature” (something as a Cannon fan I desperately hope Umbrella does more of) is the two-pack of Death Wish II and Death Wish 3. What has me really excited about this is that Umbrella offers the very rare unrated cut of Death Wish II. Now the reason this is unrated is the extended, and very gratuitous, rape of two female characters. Both scenes carry on way too long and seem to relish in how “hardcore” and nasty they can be (one wonders if the director, Michael Winner, was working through some personal issues) but I hate, hate, HATE censorship of any kind. I can decide for myself if I don’t want to watch, listen, or read something; I don’t need others, especially not the MPAA, making that decision for me. Luckily here Umbrella Entertainment went far beyond the call of duty and offer not only the uncut edit, but the theatrical cut, a Greek VHS edit, and an edited-for-TV version of the movie. So no matter how you want to see this movie, Umbrella has you covered, and that going the extra mile attitude of theirs I find wonderful.
As for the extras in this release, as if four versions of a film is not enough, there are theatrical trailers of both movies, three different TV spots, and a nearly hour-long documentary called Action II: The Making of Death Wish 3, Runaway Train & House. There is also a collection of interviews with various cast and crew of both movies that’s an impressive one hour and forty minutes long. So yeah, just like with The Entity from Umbrella, this is the version to get on Blu-ray for either or both films.
Back to the scary, we now got Dark Age, the 1987 killer crocodile flick set in the Australian outback. If you like animal attack movies, this one is for you. In the wilds of Australia a park ranger and two guides team up to track down and stop a giant crocodile that has been munching on the locals. So it’s like the much-better-known movie Alligator except no alligator, or sewers, or New York City. Okay it’s not a whole lot like that other flick, but it’s got a big, mean reptile, some hot, teeth-gnashing action, and it’s a whole load of fun. Rumor has it that this is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films and it’s easy to see why.
On to the extras. First there is an audio commentary track with actor John Jarratt who stars in the movie, and producer Antony Ginnane. Both men return for an interview that runs 17 minutes. There is a Dark Ages panel discussion with four film critics who love the movie; this runs for over 24 minutes. There is a special on real-life crocodiles in the Australian Outback called Living with Crocodiles and this is 49 minutes long. There is a theatrical trailer, two US home video trailers, and an image gallery.
Lastly I wanted to watch something I have never seen before, and a new Australian movie called Out of the Shadows sounded like it would be right up my alley. Like many little independent films it was only released on DVD, not Blu-ray, but how is the actual film? Pretty darn good. A young couple move into a new house and soon spooky things start happening. The woman is very pregnant and the husband happens to be a cop and that helps the plot move along. The house was once a midwifery (I didn’t know that was a thing) and if you know what a midwife is, then it’s no big surprise when something otherworldly wants the couple’s unborn baby. It’s a pretty standard ghost flick that adds in some real-world occultism, a bit of The Exorcist, and the direction borrows very heavily from James (Insidious, The Conjuring and more) Wan, but that’s not a bad thing in my book. Perhaps my only real complaint is that they made a twist about the effects of banishing a spirit about midway through the film a bit too obvious, and for the climax they made the evil a thing of the flesh and I just think that weakened things overall. Still, is it a bad film? No, I liked it and it’s one a lot of none-Aussies may not have heard about and it should be checked out.
And that’s just a taste of some of the titles Umbrella Entertainment released in September. They have a very respectable back catalog with some genre favorites of mine, some very decent documentaries as well, such as the very fun and informative Electric Boogaloo: The Untold Story of Cannon Films and Machete Maidens Unleashed, classic 80s ninja movies (I love those), cornball comedies, vintage TV, and even music. They are also continuing to bring out the more good stuff, such as these October releases: Red Christmas on Blu-ray, The Devil’s Rejects on Blu-ray, the excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood, Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye on Blu-ray, and more. Oh, and for November I’ve had a peek and we can expect a Blu-ray release of Dario Argento’s magnificent Suspiria. That makes me very happy. I will cover these and more great stuff from Umbrella in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
If you want to get some of this good stuff for yourself, and you would be crazy not to, you can find it on various online Blu-ray/DVD retailers, or direct from the source here: https://www.umbrellaent.com.au/
I am very excited to have learned about Umbrella Entertainment and I am happy to pass on that knowledge to you. They are a wonderful company, doing a great job releasing amazing movies, and can stand shoulder to shoulder with many of my favorite companies such as Scream Factory, Arrow Video, Blue Underground, and Synapse Films. I cannot wait to see what they do in the future.