Digi-Schlock: BMX BANDITS (Severin DVD)

There are some movies that you get to know from their omnipresence in the bargain bins.  In fact, a lot of important cult movies often end up there due to copyright mismanagement issues: Night Of The Living Dead is perhaps the most famous victim of this curse.  However, there are brave DVD labels that will take on the rescue and remastering of these bargain-bin orphans.  Severin recently undertook this task for BMX Bandits and the result is the best version of a title that has often been disrespected on home video.

The key here is the transfer: after years of crummy looking pan-and-scan editions and close-but-not-quite versions that crop the film for 1.78:1, BMX Bandits is finally presented in all its cinemascope glory.  The 2.35:1 transfer here comes from a British print source (it has a Film Censors notice and a Rank Organization title card at the beginning) and it benefits from a handsome remastering job.  The primary color scheme – lots of reds, yellows and blues – pops off the screen and the frequent “big vista” shots come through with a gorgeous amount of detail.  The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo form, which utilizes the synth-heavy musical score to nice effect.

There are also a few worthwhile extras that have been ported over from Umbrella Entertainment’s Australian DVD release.  The first is an unexpectedly substantial featurette entitled BMX Buddies.  It runs 40 minutes and incorporates input from director Brian Trenchard-Smith, producer Tom Broadbridge, writers Russell Hagg and Patrick Edgeworth and star James Lugton.  Their comments are edited together into a seamless overview of the film, covering it from conception through to its post-release cult popularity.

Trenchard-Smith scores the best comments as he describes the methods he used to expand the scope and style of the film beyond its kid-flick origins.  However, other participants occasionally chip in with interesting tidbits: Lugton in particular tells a fun story about how he ended up supplying some in-character greetings in a wedding video for one of the film’s most ardent fans.

There is also a commentary track from Trenchard-Smith.  It’s a very scene-specific track that gets into the particulars of his visual and story choices, plus a lot about the film’s frequent stunts.  He’s good natured, thorough and refreshingly candid about what elements he would change if he had the chance to re-shoot the film.  It’s also worth noting that his son (who makes a cameo in the film) pops in around the one-hour mark to add a few comments of his own.  The extras are rounded out by a brief trailer for the film (taken from a video source), trailers for three other Severin releases and a three-minute clip of teenage Nicole Kidman appearing on an Aussie kids’ show to promote the film.

All in all, this is worthwhile upgrade of a film whose visuals deserve the benefit of an anamorphic transfer.  BMX Bandits is probably the frothiest entry in the Brian Trenchard-Smith filmography but his fans will no doubt welcome the chance to pick up a nice version of this film, especially since he is so prominent in the disc’s extras.

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