James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay // Film Critic
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN (1980)
The Movie: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN was made in 1980, but it has the tone of a 1950s war movie with a galaxy-brained premise contrived out of a middle schooler’s notebook. Don Taylor’s strange and rather comical movie is a fake trailer turned into a feature-length movie. Taylor and the crew take big swings, with an A-list cast (Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katharine Ross, and Farentino) that is game to deliver cooky dialogue with unflinching commitment.
The U.S.S. Nimitz is a massive nuclear-powered aircraft carrier floating off the Pacific Ocean. Its’ Captain (Douglas) leads his crew of hundreds along with a Defense Department expert (Sheen) and a top gun pilot (Farentino) through an electrical storm that hurtles them back through time to a mere hours before the attacks on Pearl Harbor. With the knowledge from the future, Douglas and the company are faced with the ethical dilemma “just because we could, doesn’t mean we should.” It’s as hilarious as it seems, and the film is wildly entertaining from start to finish, including an ending that abandons ethics entirely in favor of love and money.
Through radio transmissions, they encounter a Senator with ties to Roosevelt (Charles Durning) and his assistant, played by Katherine Ross. THE FINAL COUNTDOWN has a few twists and turns and doesn’t exactly fulfill its promise to weigh too many ethical options. This is one high-concept sci-fi movie that looks, feels, and sounds like a mediocre Sunday matinee. It’s tough to defend many of the directing decisions outright. However, Taylor’s film is unintentionally unique.
Audio/Video Quality: Blue Underground 4K releases come with a heavier price tag, but that’s because the transfers always deliver. Most of the film is shot either on the deck or in the ship’s bowels with few special effects. However, the colors pop due to the natural light, and there is very little interference other than maybe a little film grain. The 4K transfer for this film may not be necessary, but it looks pretty damn sharp.
The audio is crisp and clear utilizing the channels well as the jets take off, or when Douglas and Sheen get into their countless screaming matches.
Special Features: First off, the lenticular slipcase is a bonus that looks very good on the shelf. The 4K does not have any new features from the blu ray release, which is completely fine; there’s no need for any additional material. There are commentaries and interviews on the disc that are there only to prop up the ultra fascinating interview with Troma boss Lloyd Kaufman who was head of the production for this project. He’s a beautiful storyteller and gets incredibly frank on Taylor’s inability to run a tight ship while going over budget.
The Movie: DJANGO is a muddy, sun-drenched Spaghetti Western from the genre’s silver medal winner Sergio Corbucci. While he trails the G.OA.T. of Italian celluloid Sergio Leone by a long shot, it would be criminal to dismiss this 1966 classic starring Franco Nero.
It’s relatively obvious to film lovers that this film inspired Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED. The film opens with the magnificent theme song you know and love belted by Luis Bacalov. The eponymous Django (Franco Nero) is dragging a coffin as he descends upon a decrepit town on the U.S./Mexican border. There’s a stench of death that follows this man dressed in all black. Nero embodies a sweltering yet calm performance as he challenges crooked business people and Mexican revolutionaries. Django is a man of the people, but don’t get too comfortable. You never know what can set off his powder keg.
DJANGO is a film that has inspired the genre and action films as a whole for the past 50 years. Filmmakers have made nods and outright knocked off aspects from Corbucci’s seminal film. Once Django pops the hood on that coffin, and when the contents are revealed, all hell breaks loose, and a little cinematic lightbulb will go off in your head. The film is tension-filled and evocative images set a mood that gives the film a sense of place and world building. DJANGO’S life philosophy may be dangerous, but it sure is fun to watch.
Audio/Video: DJANGO looks sharp, and in my experience viewing and reviewing 4K films, older restorations like this always look the best. You can see every drop of sweat coming off of Franco Nero’s forehead (if that’s your thing) and the massive volumes of mud this cast had to trudge through in nearly every shot. The colors are bright, have loads of texture, and the proper setup can offer a fantastic viewing experience. The audio an uncompressed mono track and does the trick just fine.
Special Features: Again, these 4K releases don’t have any new special features, but for fans of Arrow Video, you know they won’t lead you astray. Highlights include archive interviews with Franco Nero, co-writer Franco Rossetti and Corbucci’s wife, Nori Corbucci. Also included are a limited edition booklet and a poster.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN and DJANGO are available now from Blue Underground/ Arrow Video respectively at all major online retaillers.