Midnight Legacy // 1980 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // March 22nd, 2011
The original sequel to the horror classic!
We live in a golden age for collectors of cult movies. The past few years, through labels like Blue Underground and Severin, have brought us beautiful releases of the uncut Emmanuelle movies (gross as that might be sometimes), cannibal films galore, and some of the best of international cult cinema. Now there's a new kid on the block, and they've set the bar very high for themselves for future releases. What once was scarcely available as a Dutch VHS bootleg is now a reference quality Blu-ray. One of the most blatant ripoffs in Italian cinema and a downright bizarre piece of cinema, Alien 2: On Earth, comes to us from Midnight Legacy and they have produced the best cult release of the year thus far.
Psychic spelunker Thelma (Belinda Mayne, Krull) is convinced that she is in grave danger from a threat of unseen monsters. Her boyfriend, Roy (Mark Bodin, Anthopophagus), tries to convince her she's imagining things, but even he has to admit it's weird that, at the same time a space orbiter has splashed down missing its astronauts, these weird blue rocks start showing up all over Los Angeles. When they and their cave exploring friends head underground to check out some caverns, they learn that those blue rocks are actually eggs and what's inside is not pretty.
Some people will say that Alien 2: On Earth is a blatant ripoff and some will say that it's a terrible movie. All of those people are right, but given my track record, nobody should be surprised that I love it. A shameless knockoff of Ridley Scott's classic Alien, director Ciro Ippolito (Strangers), working under the name Sam Cromwell, takes it a step further by bringing the aliens underground, adding a healthy dose of goopy grue, and even throwing some extended bowling sequences in for good measure. In no way does this film even approach its source, but it's far more ridiculous. And, really, isn't that what we're all looking for in cheap Italian cinema?
The story is insane, filled with far too many balls rolling down lanes, in an inexplicable (but, frankly, beautiful) cave setting, and the performances are particularly awful, but none of these are even its best quality. No, this film's bread is buttered by its outstandingly nasty gore effects, which are no technical marvels, but still very impressive for something this cheap. While there's nothing here as awesome as the zombie vs. shark fight in Lucio Fulci's Zombie, you can't compete with the master; Ippolito still had some very good ideas. I guarantee that viewers with a thing about eyes will look away for one especially stomach-churning sequence. Complementing the action is the score by genre workhorses Guido and Mauricio De Angelis (Keoma), writing under the fantastic Oliver Onions moniker, which is one of the best of their career. Unlike some of their work (especially the horrible vocal stuff), they actually add the only tension that exists in the film. If I were able to get a CD of this soundtrack, it would certainly be in my collection. If you're into this kind of thing, you already know it, so recommendations are moot. If it is down your alley, though, know that you're getting the best possible product.
Once upon a time, people only heard about Alien 2: On Earth. If you were lucky enough to see it, it would have been on a garbage dubbed copy that looked worse and worse all the time. Midnight Legacy, however, has pulled this infamous legend out of obscurity to glowing success and, though the film is of dubious quality, I and many like me applaud them for it. Aside from the opening scene of stock footage, which looks understandably bad, their work on the transfer is impeccable, truly brilliant, and better even than many Criterion releases. Blacks and whites are reference quality; they're sharp and clear without a trace of damage. Colors look great, especially compared to the badly washed-out look we had before. In high definition transfers of super cheap horror, the effects often suffer badly, but here they still look pretty good. The blood may be a bit more obviously syrup, but it's still nice and gross. I won't say that the film looks new, but it looks much better than I ever could have hoped. The sound does not perform quite as well, but it's still pretty good. Midnight Legacy is sworn against modern sound remixing, a sentiment I agree with, and the result is a sound mix that's a little flat. The dialog and soundtrack are mostly clear, but there's little separation in separation in the channels. The only detriment, and truly the only one on the entire disc, is the occasional bit of buzzing toward the end of the picture. If that's my only complaint on a production like this, though, we're doing pretty good.
The release does not, however, have slate of extras I had hoped for, but I do like what was included. First and most importantly, we have a very rare reel of outtakes that give a few different perspectives on a few scenes and especially the special effects. Midnight Legacy put the same care into restoring this footage as they did with the film, and it looks great. There is no sound, which is to be expected; that the reel even still existed is extraordinary. It's the kind of look we rarely get at a cult film, and it's a welcome addition. The only other extra is the unrestored trailer from the Dutch VHS. It looks truly terrible; I don't know whether there was nothing they could do or they left it that way for comparison sake, but I suspect the latter.
Kudos to Midnight Legacy on this release. They know that their market is small, but they've given fans their very best effort and it deserves commendation. I've seen new releases that look worse and clearly have less care put into them. Hopefully this is the start of something great for Midnight Legacy; I can't wait to see where they go from here.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Midnight Legacy
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated