Digi-Schlock: JOSHUA TREE (Shout! Factory Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack)

The action film has largely become a direct-to-video genre in the United States but it remains as productive as ever.  Though the budgets have become smaller, there are certain stars who continue to enjoy healthy careers making movies tailored to the small-screen market.

Dolph Lundgren is amongst the most prolific stars in the current field.  Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise to discover he’s been doing this for a long time – and one of his earliest films to go to direct-to-video in the U.S. recently made its blu-ray debut via Shout! Factory.  The results are impressive, giving this underrated action opus a bells-and-whistles A/V treatment that makes it look as nice as Lundgren’s current films.

Things start beautifully with a nice-looking anamorphic transfer that captures Joshua Tree in all its ‘scope-format glory.  The film’s varied locations look nice and sharp and the Hollywood-caliber cinematography registers with all the appropriate color and gloss here.  It’s a pretty impressive presentation. Both 2.0 and 5.1 stereo mixes are offered here.  The latter was utlized for this review and it opens up the stereo soundscape in a subtle but effective way, adding a little extra oomph to the action sound effects and the musical score.

Shout! Factory has also assembled a decent complement of extras for this new edition.  A commentary track that pairs director Vic Armstrong with producer/2nd unit director (and brother) Andy Armstrong starts things off.  It’s a relaxed but reasonably informative affair that pays a lot of attention the challenges of achieving an impressive style and scope on a modest budget and their fond memories of the cast.  Other fun tidbits crop up here and there, like how Andy Armstrong performed one of the most dangerous stunts in the film and a humorous anecdote about an unexpected post-film run-in with the young lady who served as Kristian Alfonso’s body double.

There is also a retrospective featurette that features input from the Armstrongs as well as star Dolph Lundgren.  It provides a nice complement to the commentary track, allowing the filmmakers to expand on their thoughts from the track while also exploring other areas like what drew them to the script, how they amped up the production value by calling in favors and what motivated their casting choices.  Even better, Lundgren gets to have his say and adds a lot in his own intelligent, gently humorous manner.  His philosophical musings about the appeal of action films are particularly interesting.

The most interesting inclusion is an alternate ending for the film, with optional commentary from the Armstrongs.  It’s a full 14 minutes and offers a substantially different variation on the finale, featuring a longer and more elaborate standoff with lots of hand-to-hand combat.  The optional commentary explores the reasons behind this alternate ending, including some stuntman shop-talk about the staging of the fights.

In short, Joshua Tree is an excellent upgrade of an oft-overlooked vintage action flick that is further enhanced by a good set of supplements. If you’re a Lundgren fan, you’ll want to add this to your video collection.

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

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