By this point, it seems like Shout Factory has covered most of the key gems in their dvd/blu-ray tour through Roger Corman’s New World Pictures filmography. Key films like Death Race 2000, Piranha and Battle Beyond The Stars have all been treated to deluxe editions that offer newly stellar picture quality and a host of worthwhile supplements new and old.
That said, those who really know their New World history are savvy enough to understand that there’s always a gem waiting to be rediscovered. In the case of Lethal Ladies Collection Vol. 2, it uncovers a much-coveted title in The Arena and gives it an impressive treatment. Better yet, it adds a few more lesser-known titles and maintains the fan-friendly prices that Shout Factory’s New World reissues are known for.
All three films featured on this set — The Arena, Fly Me and Cover Girl Models — all benefit from new anamorphic transfers taken from genuine celluloid source materials. The Arena is restored to its full Techniscope (2.35:1) glory for the first time on American home video: the source used has a few emulsion scratches and two brief snippets that had to be taken from a full-frame master but the majority of it looks quite impressive, boasting rich colors, nice black levels and a solid level of detail. Mono audio is retained for this and it sounds fine, reflecting the above-average dub that was done for this film in Italy.
The element used for Fly Me is a little beat-up in spots, particularly around reel changes, but most of it boasts vivid colors and an a level of detail that is leagues beyond its past VHS incarnations. Cover Girl Models looks pretty great from start to finish, having the least amount of element issues and impressively crisp levels of detail and color throughout. Like The Arena, the mono audio mix is used for both of these titles and each sounds fine.
As is usually the case with Shout! Factory’s multi-title packages, a nice effort has been made to provide some bonus material here. The key beneficiary of the extras-minded attention here is The Arena, which boasts a trailer, a new commentary track and a new featurette. The trailer here comes from what appears to be a latter-day reissue under the title Gladiator Women and functions as a sort-of highlights reel, complete with a red-band intro.
The commentary pairs director Steve Carver with moderator Katarina Leigh Waters, who is better known to cult DVD fans for the recent line of cult/horror DVD’s she has done with Scorpion Releasing. If you’ve ever heard a commentary with Carver, you know he has a good memory and is generous with his behind-the-scenes stories. His track for The Arena is no exception to the rule and he talks at length about the challenges of shooting a film on an “undercover” basis in Italy while dealing with the different customs and superstitions unique to an Italian crew.
Along the way, he reveals a ton of fascinating tidbits, like how Pam Grier’s gladiator getup was modelled after Woody Strode’s in Spartacus and a great story about how Federico Fellini, who was shooting Amarcord nearby, ended up visiting the set and ogling the women. Waters does a solid job moderating, asking the occasional question to keep the track moving but mostly giving Carver room to share his plentiful memories. It’s a strong track and a must for any fans of the film.
The featurette does a nice job of filling in the gaps not covered in the commentary. Carver appears here and his memories are fleshed out by the likes of producers Roger Corman and Mark Damon as well as actor Margaret Markov. A lot of great material is packed into a tight 12-minute running time: Corman reveals he paired Markov with Grier to capitalize on the success of Black Mama, White Mama, Damon offers some tart recollections about Corman’s infamous tightness with a budget and Markov talks about how Carver demanded the actress not get involved in dating off the set to ensure he’d get his film in the can. Markov and Damon ended up marrying after working on this film and that is addressed during the end credits of this segment. All in all, it’s a worthwhile little featurette that will in some gaps for b-movie historians.
There’s only one extra on the disc with Fly Me and Cover Girl Models: it’s a fun 30-second t.v. spot for Fly Me that suggests the heroines “fly out of the screen and onto your lap”(!). That said, given the generosity of a two-films/one-disc setup, there isn’t much room to complain.
All in all, the Lethal Ladies Collection Vol. 2 is another strong addition to Shout! Factory’s slate of Corman releases and a good value for the cost-conscious cult movie buff. If battling babes is your pleasure, you really can’t go wrong here: The Arena alone makes it worth the money and the other films further up the set’s value.
For Schlockmania’s film review of The Arena, click here.
For Schlockmania’s film review of Cover Girl Models, click here.
For Schlockmania’s film review of Fly Me, click here.