One of the most interesting developments in recent Synapse Films history is the relationship they developed with James Glickenhaus. This has led to Synapse handling films that Glickenhaus directed, most notably The Exterminator, as well as films he distributed through his Shapiro Glickenhaus company, like Maniac Cop and Frankenhooker. Synapse has done superlative work with those titles and their quality-work streak continues with one of the crown jewels in Shapiro Glickenhaus library, Red Scorpion.
Oft overlooked in its time, this underrated action flick has gotten the special edition it deserves in a new blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The blu-ray is what was viewed for this review and it’s a gem, offering a crisp, high-definition anamorphic transfer that handles the sweeping African vistas and the frequent night photography with equal aplomb. Colors come through beautifully – look at how those frequent explosions pop on the screen – and you’ll have a hard time finding flaws in the elements used here. In terms of audio, you get the original 2.0 stereo mix plus a newly remixed 5.1 stereo option. The latter was used for this review and delivers plenty of punch and surround effects, particularly during the battle scenes, without ever coming off as artificially enhanced.
There are also an array of new supplements for fans to dig into. Red Scorpion had a challenging production history (it was shot in South Africa during the apartheid era) so there is a genuinely interesting backstory for the extras to cover. The bonus package begins with a new commentary track that pairs director Joseph Zito with moderator/Mondo Digital honcho Nathaniel Thompson. Zito discusses all aspects of his work, covering everything from how he ended up doing action films to location challenges to tricking his star into doing dangerous stunts with scorpions. Thompson does good work as moderator, adding questions as needed and keeping Zito primed without becoming obtrusive.
The infotainment continues with a trilogy of featurettes. First up is an interview with Dolph Lundgren. Though it focuses mainly on his Red Scorpion experiences, it also covers the beginning of his career and how he got romantically involved with Grace Jones. The 25-minute running time passes quickly thanks to sharp editing from Daniel Griffith and Lundgren himself, who proves to be a very articulate and charming raconteur as he discusses the film and where it fits in the context of his career. The only misstep in the featurette comes from a handful of surprising typos in the titles used to separate its chapters.
The other two featurettes were helmed by Michael Felsher and offer interviews with producer/co-writer Jack Abramoff and fx wizard Tom Savini. The Abramoff interview allows the producer, who is more famous for his controversial career as a lobbyist, to discuss his fond memories of the film. Abramoff offers a lot of interesting details about how hard it was to find an accepting location for the shoot in Africa and how the ultimate choice of Namibia (in South Africa) derailed its original distribution agreement with Warner Brothers. Savini’s chat focuses mainly on the two big effects that he provided for the film but he also discusses a third effect that was never shot for the film as well as some fun location stories. Savini also provides nine minutes’ worth of location video in a separate supplement, including extensive coverage of his effects.
The package is rounded out by a set of promotional materials. The image gallery incorporates stills and candid on-set shots as well as a variety of promotional art. It’s worth noting that this is a “motion” gallery, with all the images rolling out over a six-minute running time to the stirring strains of Jay Chattaway’s score. The final inclusions are an action-packed theatrical trailer and a variety of t.v. spots. The latter are particularly interesting as they take a variety of tacks to sell the film, including a fun spot with testimonials from eager moviegoers who praise Lundgren (including a couple of teenyboppers who say he’s better than Sly Stallone!).
Simply put, this combo-pack of Red Scorpion offers yet another tip-top catalog title transfer from Synapse as well as a variety of genuinely informative extras that enhance the overall experience. If you dig ’80s action, you’ll want to stack this alongside your Seagal and Norris blu-rays.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Red Scorpion, click here.