Friday, July 08, 2011

Interlaced Harvest

So... am I the only one confused about the fact that a film subtitled "Urban Harvest" has, like, one black kid in it? Maybe three, if we use establishing shots? I can only assume the word "Urban" wasn't always a code word for "African American", but it's still just kind of... weird. It's like popping in a movie called 'Rumble in the Bronx' and seeing Jacky Chan kick a bunch of Canadians in the face.

We all have our simple pleasures, and for one friend of mine that simple pleasure is James D. R. Hickox's 1995 first feature Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a vague sorta' sequel to the 1984 vague sorta' adaptation of a Stephen King short about a gang of Amish children who worship a giant possibly-imagined monster that eats all of the grown-ups in rural Nebraska, and are ritualistically sacrificed upon their 19th birthday to He Who Walks Behind The Rows. A young stupid couple are wandering through the midwest, as all young and stupid couples do, until they find themselves trapped in this small farming village with nothing but murderous children and corn as far as the eye can see...

Understand that I watched the original film on a binge of Kinglust in my teens, and thought it was simultaneously boring and hilarious... with more of the "boring", for better or worse. For all the problems it may have, the Spanish film Who Can Kill A Child?/Quién puede matar a un niño? (a film which predates King's own short story) does the concept of children with a hive-mind mentality deciding that adults just kind of suck and need to just get the fuck dead much more credibility.

The Weinsteins bought up the rights to the nearly decade-long dead franchise and managed to pump out a "Part II: The Final Sacrifice" for just under a million dollars in 1993. It did well enough to green light a third film... just not well enough for said film to get into theaters. Just like Pinhead and his stylishly modified friends, the bloodthirsty Amish children wound continue to grow (mutate?) in progressively cheaper and more bizarre DTV sequels, until in 2009 when it was so far gone they just upped and hit the Reboot button.

But anyway, I've not yet watched Urban Harvest myself, but I think I might have to. Y'see, the kid is a corn warlock! Wait, seriously? He infects normal children with murderous intend by using supercorn? Holy shit. That. Is. Awesome.

But enough of that, I'm actually just here to report on the quality of the Blu-ray release. This is one of those new cheap-o editions from Echo Bridge, a company that Miramax basically handed their whole fucking library to and were told to make a release as simplistic and dirt cheap as possible. The discs can regularly be had for about $10-11 a piece which is a decent price for most of the DTV sequels Dimension's slinging through them, but they always have zero special features, some have been presented in the wrong aspect ratio, and the quality of these transfers ranges from "Eh, it's watchable." to "Oh, what the hell..."

Here's the good news. For one thing the film has a lossless DTS Master track in its' original Super Stereo mix, and sounds perfectly fine, based on spot checking at least. It's matted to 1.78:1 and, by and large, the framing looks fine. The aspect ratio oddity makes me think the film was always intended to be shown on the big screen, it just... well, it wasn't.

The master is clearly an older HD transfer, with boosted contrast, weak midtones, clumpy and exaggerated grain on certain frequencies (particularly blue) and a general haziness I can only chalk up to being a less than optimal scan of the print itself - it's not DVNR, at the very least. It's certainly no more heinous than Scream, but that's damn faint praise, let me tell you. I have no doubt that the film was shot for next to nothing and will probably never be much of a looker, but compare this to the reference transfers we have for A Nightmare on Elm Street or My Bloody Valentine - older films made for likely even less money than this - and then try to tell me this is as good as it could look. Yeah I know, nobody gives a fuck about this flick, so if you're a fan this is probably as good as it's going to look for some time.

Well, at least there aren't any major cockups to speak of--

Oh for FUCK'S SAKE!!
You've gotta be kidding me...

That's right folks, it's a 1080i transfer with that sloppy 3:2 pulldown Blu-ray was supposed to fix forever. Depending on your hardware, it'll either convert it back to 1080p by weaving the fields back into their original film frames, or (more likely) it'll blur the living crap out of the video to hide the jaggy moving lines. Honestly, who even does this? How the hell does any post-house find this acceptable? Clearly there's like, zero quality control over at Echo Bridge but this shit is just flat out embarrassing. It's 2011 assholes, make with the "p" in "1080"!

So... yeah. It's a mediocre HDTV master made who-the-fuck-knows how many years ago presented as interlaced content with no bonus features. If you can't live without a living Virgin Mary statue stabbing a not-funny John Cleese look-alike in mediocre HD quality for just $10.49, baby, it's your lucky day. If not, I dunno, just Netflix the DVD, or download a 720p rip, or just watch it on YouTube like all the cool kids do. Or watch something else, even. Or take a dump, they'll never know. Honestly, anything that's not "Give The Weinsteins Even More Money For A DTV Stephen King Sequel That's Encoded In 1080i" would be recommended.

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