Digi-Schlock: COHEN & TATE (Shout! Factory Blu-Ray)

When DVD-on-demand became a home video trend a few years back, cult movie fans were of two minds.  On one hand, many were happy to see films that had been languishing in studio vaults for years finally get a release.  On the other hand, just as many fans fretted that a release of a film on a disposable DVD-R ensured it would never get a proper pressed release.

Thankfully, the latter is not true all the time: Shout! Factory is content to buck this trend by issuing films that MGM already did through their on-demand service.  Rolling Thunder was a recent example and the latest is Cohen & Tate.  Like Rolling Thunder, it’s a cult item that gets a surprising but welcome special editiontreatment from Shout! Factory.

The bullet-riddled fun begins with a strong new high-definition transfer.  The stark imagery of Victor J. Kemper’s cinematography, which is dominated by nocturnal exteriors with a minimum of lighting, registers nicely here.  The black levels are nice and rich during the night photography, with the colored lighting and detail levels coming through strongly whenever they pop up.

As for audio, both 5.1 and 2.0 stereo mixes are provided in lossless form.  The 5.1 was listened to for this review and it does a good job of opening the o

riginal stereo mix up, particularly during the film’s brutal and explosive action setpieces (look out for those booming gunshots).

There is also a surprising amount of extras for such a lesser-known cult title.  A commentary track from writer/director Eric Red starts things off.  He takes a very analytical tone, going deep into character motivations, the many influences on his work here, what it was like to work with the actors and how several setpieces were edited down to deal with the MPAA.  He only takes the occasional pause, taking the commentary task very seriously.  The results are very much geared towards budding filmmakers and succeed nicely on those terms.

In the main extras package, there is also a nice retrospective interview featurette that features Red as well as Kemper, editor Edward Abroms and actor Harley Cross.  Red expands on material from his commentary while the rest offer input from their perspectives as well as their thoughts on the story and performances.  They all offer fond memories of the sadly departed Roy Scheider, each participant showing a great appreciation for his thorough professionalism.

Fans will be particularly excited by the inclusion of nearly twenty minutes’ worth of deleted scenes, alternate edits and extracts from existing scenes.  The big highlights are the alternate versions of the key action/suspense scenes that occur at the beginning, middle and end of the film: they’re all bloodier and much more brutal in these alternative cuts, including a pretty shocking version of a moment where Tate shoots an agent out of a window with multiple blasts from a shotgun.  The package is rounded out by a theatrical trailer and a pretty extensive image gallery that includes stills, behind the scenes photos and several of Red’s own hand-drawn storyboards.

In short, this is a really nice package for a film that most fans assumed was confined to DVD-R oblivion.  It’s well worth the investment for veteran fans and adventurous newbies alike.

Film Review Notes: Schlockmania provided a DVD-R review of Cohen & Tate for AV Maniacs a few years ago that included an in-depth appraisal of the film.  If you wish to read the Schlockmania take on the film itself, just click here to access that review.

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