Digi-Schlock: ASHANTI (Severin Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack)

Sometimes it is amazing what kinds of films fall into home video limbo.  Consider the case of Ashanti: it may be a programmer but it is a very well-heeled one with a stellar case of classic Hollywood names (Michael Caine, Rex Harrison, William Holden, Peter Ustinov and Omar Sharif).  However, it only got released as a grey-market bootleg DVD in the U.S.  Severin has rectified this situation with an unexpected but welcome blu-ray/DVD combo pack that will make connoisseurs of big-budget trash happy.

The set gets going with a nice-looking anamorphic transfer that presents the film in all its Cinemascope glory for the first time on U.S. home video.  Aldo Tonti’s lensing is one of the film’s biggest strengths and it looks nice here, with all of the exotic locales looking appropriately colorful and the precise scope-format framing maintained.  The soundtrack is presented in the original mono (standard, not lossless) and it sounds clean, with the dialogue nice and crisp and Michael Melvoin’s orchestral-tribal-funk score coming through clearly.

Extras are limited but potent.  The first is the original theatrical trailer, which sells both the sleaze and the star-power nicely in an appropriately pulpy fashion.  The second and more substantial feature is a sitdown chat with star Beverley Johnson.  This generous (27-minute) supplement gives the still-lovely ex-model plenty of room to offer her memories of the production, her fellow cast members and the dangers of shooting certain stunt-oriented sequences.

She’s refreshingly candid about the experience, including her troubled relationship with a svengali-like husband during that time and how the film was a pivotal moment in her career.  She even tells a truly wild story about having to square off with an overly amorous masseur in Israel, an incident that almost shut down the production.  It’s surprisingly compulsive viewing and anyone interested in what it was like to work on one of these big-budget exploitation flicks from the late 1970’s will find it engrossing.

All in all, this is a nice package and the added value of the blu-ray/DVD combo further boosts its value.  If you’re curious about this film, this is by default the best way to see it on home video in the U.S.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Ashanti, click here.

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