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Anchor Bay presents
The Vineyard (1989)

"Where's my amulet?"
- Dr. Elson Po (James Hong)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: July 13, 2001

Stars: James Hong, Karen Witter, Michael Wong
Other Stars: Lars Wangberg, Cheryl Madsen, Cheryl Lawson, Rue Douglas, Karl-Heinz Teuber
Director: James Hong

Manufacturer: Anchor Bay
MPAA Rating: R for (violence and nudity)
Run Time: 01h:33m:18s
Release Date: May 15, 2001
UPC: 013131140194
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+BC- D-

DVD Review

James Hong has had an interesting career in film and television, appearing in cinematic classics like Chinatown and Blade Runner. He is a seasoned character actor, with a resume a mile long. For me, though, he will always be the evil David Lo Pan from John Carpenter's joyride, Big Trouble In Little China. Without having to resort to any type of frontal lobotomy, I will do my best to remove all knowledge of 1989's The Vineyard from my memory bank.

The Vineyard is a James Hong project from top to bottom. He directed, wrote the story, wrote the screenplay and starred in this dreadful tale of mysterious winemaker (ah yes, the ever popular mysterious winemaker) Dr. Elson Po. The character of Po is a variation of Hong's previous incarnation for John Carpenter as Lo Pan, in that he requires some type of infusion of blood periodically to remain (relatively) young and immortal. He has a standard-issue evil laboratory, complete with bubbling beakers of colorful liquids. The movie never exactly makes 100% clear why Po needs blood, or what his jade amulet actually does, or why there are zombies on his island, or why his winemaking process requires the addition of dead bodies. The Vineyard simply moves from one unexplained scene to the next, without the need for logic or clarity.

Po and his sexy, young wife Tina (Lissa Zappardino) live in a palatial mansion on a remote island vineyard, with three or four evil henchmen. We can tell they are evil henchmen because they all wear matching grey shirts and have the identical grim stare. In an early sequence, Po proves he is a major badass by ordering a machete-induced castration of a henchman who has become a little too familiar with Mrs. Po. The fate of Mrs. Po is to be relegated to a dungeon where various nubile young women and hunky guys are chained to the ceiling, apparently as some type of ingredient for Dr. Po's elixir. If Po does not get his potion on a regular basis, he has a tendency to turn into a pulsing-faced, bulging-fleshed monster.

The rest of the movie involves a half dozen aspiring actors and actresses (including 1982 Playboy playmate Karen Witter—wow!) who arrive on the island, under the guidance of a devious Hollywood agent, Paul Edmonds (Karl-Heinz Teuber), who is in cahoots with Dr. Po. For some unexplained reason, winemaker Po is supposed to have great influence in career advancement in the film industry, but in reality, he simply wants their bodies. All of the unsuspecting wannabes, described on the DVD case as "lusty young actresses," are vacant, self-absorbed airheads, so it was extremely difficult to muster any concern for their fates. I actually was cheering for Dr. Po most of the time.

There are a lot of oddball components in The Vineyard. Did I mention the zombies? Looking like extras from Michael Jackson's Thriller video, they comically hobble and shuffle around periodically, for no reason. The Vineyard also features a handful of unintentionally hilarious fight scenes—the kind with stiff, awkward choreography and punches that miss by at least two feet. And the less said about the mysterious creature in the attic with the silver Tina Turner fright wig the better.

Even with the overall mess that is The Vineyard, Hong contributes a "Lo Pan"-quality performance, which is my way of saying he's good. Combined with the fact that the rest of cast is so incredibly lifeless and stiff, Hong comes out looking like an Olivier-class thespian. Nobody does a menacing, ancient, mysterious Asian character better than Hong, and he gets quite a few opportunities to really turn it up in The Vineyard. He screams and cackles his way through the film with unabandonded glee, and isn't shy about chewing up the scenery as the evil Dr. Po. It's just that Hong's presence alone is not enough to rescue The Vineyard from the land of sub-standard B-movie horror.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Kudos to Anchor Bay for another first class image transfer. All things considered, the end product is a beauty! A lower quality transfer would have probably made The Vineyard impossible to sit through. But Anchor Bay has come through again. Colors are bright and realistic, with excellent color balance. Skintones are consistently even throughout, which is nice when a film features a Playboy Playmate. The night scenes have a solid black level, with better than expected depth and detail. An admirable treatment.

It's too bad AB couldn't enhance the plot as well.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: An uneventful English mono mix is the only audio option on The Vineyard. Surprisingly, it is not really all that horrible. The complete absence of any surround effects doesn't detract from the viewing experience. This is a cheapo horror flick with a soundtrack that would fit perfectly in a porn movie (not that I've ever seen a porn movie, mind you). Anchor Bay has not gone out of their way to dress up this release, but I don't think it was absolutely necessary anyhow. One shouldn't put perfume on a pig.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Not much to comment on, considering the only extra is the theatrical trailer. You can save a lot of time by just viewing the trailer, considering it shows practically the entire film.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

The Vineyard is the type of movie that would play well late at night on cable. It contains all the prerequisites for accidental viewing at about 2:00 am—a former Playboy playmate, a little bit of skin, a little bit of violence, and some laughable zombies. But as a rental or purchase, I would have to give this a resounding "not recommended". Please forgive me, Lo Pan.


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