There’s an obvious fondness for the work of Stuart Gordon at Scream Factory, with their loaded special editions for From Beyond and Dolls offering a convincing testimony for this fact. They’ve added another notch to their belt in the Stuart Gordon category with a new blu-ray edition of his sci-fi/action item Robot Jox. Though this is different from his more horror-oriented vintage fare, Scream Factory applies the same passion to their work here.
Things start well with a quality transfer. The film’s stop/start production process – a few years passed between the live action shoot and the completion of the effects – is apparent but this transfer does well by the variances in image quality caused by optical effects, offering an image with impressive colors and nice overall detail. The audio portion of the transfer sticks to the original 2.0 stereo mix, which offers a smooth blend of sounds and gives a nice presence to Frederic Talgorn’s rich orchestral score.
Scream Factory has also loaded up the disc with plenty of extras both new and vintage. Two commentary tracks kick it all off. The first pairs Gordon with moderator Michael Felsher and it’s an engaging, discussion-style track that covers the film’s inspirations, the production difficulties and the difference in vision between Gordon and screenwriter Joe Haldeman. Plenty of anecdotes and side-topics are also woven in, including a tale of meeting a young Jean Claude Van Damme and a nice tribute to cinematographer Mac Ahlberg.
The second track features FX men Paul Gentry, Mark Rappaport and Paul Jessel. It’s a low-key but very informative track that sticks to technical details of the visual effects, including how different styles of effects were combined in particular scenes. Along the way, the three men also offer up a nice portrait of what it was like to work for stop-motion effects supervisor David Allen.
Next up is a new interview with Paul Koslo. It runs just over 10 minutes and covers his thoughts on his fellow cast members, the rigors of shooting the final fight scene and his appreciation for the film’s cult following. There’s also a fun anecdote on what he considered the scariest part of shooting in Italy.
Next up are a series of older interviews from the vault, all in the seven to ten minute range. Gordon reappears here but so do Gentry and Jessel as well as pyrotechnician Jim Viskocil and stop motion effects assistants Chris Endicott and Mark McGee. Gordon covers some material touched on in his commentary while the effects artists go deep into the challenges of shooting stop motion effects outdoors in the Mojave Desert. Viskocil is particularly interesting as he talks about the challenge of doing small-scale pyrotechnic effects that had to be integrated with the stop motion effects. All participants make a point of paying tribute to Allen, who passed away in 1999, with great affection and admiration.
There is also a nearly 12 minute chunk of behind the scenes footage. It’s all devoted to the stop motion effects unit, including glimpses of the model making and footage of the crew working in the Mojave. Fans of the film will be interested to see how this footage reveals the humor and cameraderie of the FX crew. A trailer and T.V. spot sell the film like the crowd-pleaser that it is. The final inclusions are a pair of animated galleries: the first is a set of behind-the-scenes images that focus on the FX crew and the other has detailed conceptual art, including a lot of cool sketches by the legendary Ron Cobb.
In short, this is a quality upgrade for the film’s fans and another solid addition to Scream Factory’s Stuart Gordon repertoire.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Robot Jox, click here.