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Paramount Studios presents
"From the heart comes a warning, full of bloody good cheer. Remember what happened as the 14th draws near."
DVD ReviewGeorge Mihalka's My Bloody Valentine appeared on the leading edge of the 1980s masked killer revival, and featured one of the more memorable genre bad guys: the pickaxe-wielding miner, all decked out in black, complete with helmet light and gas mask. Truth be told, he made for a pretty cool looking villain, and his presence still stands as one of the inherent charms of this largely atypical foray into elaborately staged mass murder. The film itself, while not groundbreaking by any means, is certainly not the worst of the genre, and had this disc actually contained the highly coveted unedited version it just may have been a true gem.
In the aptly named mining town of Valentine Bluff there has not been a dance on Valentine's Day for twenty years. The reason for the hiatus is that two decades back, on February 14th, a couple of dim-witted supervisors decided to leave work early to get to the town's big dance, and accidently forgot half-a-dozen miners still deep underground. Tragedy struck when an explosion killed all the miners but one, and to say that the surviving miner was pissed about the obviously poor supervising and subsequent pokey rescue operation would be a huge understatement. The miner, Harry Warden (Peter Cowper), before being ushered off to a distant mental institution, vowed that the town could never have another Valentine's Day dance, or he would return with a bloody vengeance.
You might think that canceling such a trivial event as a Valentine dance might not be the biggest sacrifice in the world, but to the narrowly focused, stock character populace of Valentine Bluff it is apparently a very big deal, because of course twenty years later they just must have one. You can also probably guess what happens, too, and if your guess involves the return of an axe-wielding miner, you are one movie-smart cookie. My Bloody Valentine is brazen enough to take what is essentially a ridiculously preposterous premise (The Town That Cancelled Valentine's Day!), and somehow give it a whiff of actual narrative credence.
As the inevitable Valentine dance draws closer (and the return of the curse of Harry Warden), we are treated to a well-stocked gene pool of potential victims, including sullen T.J. (Paul Kelman), cocky Axel (Neil Affleck), Sarah (Lori Hallier), the blonde torn romantically between the two, and a central casting blend of assorted young miners and their equally bland girlfriends. What makes all of this work to the degree that it does is the creepy visage of the killer, combined with his almost comical need to leave bloody, organ-filled heart-shaped candy boxes all over town.
Don't be mistaken, this isn't Shakespeare we're talking about. What it is, however, is efficiently packaged hack 'em up entertainment, nestled within a satisfying genre story. In the years since its original release in 1981, this has likely become director George Mihalka's best known work. The sad news is that the MPAA required some major edits to reduce the gore and violence (much of it remarkably silly, in hindsight) to get an R-rating, and the grievous fact that after all this time, fans of My Bloody Valentine are still only treated to this harshly edited version from Paramount is kind of a letdown. A number of film fan websites openly display stills from the excised footage (the shower scene and the dryer scene, for example), though there has been a lot of fanboy speculation as to whether an unedited film version actually does exist somewhere.
For the diehard, this stripped down, edited disc will just have to do. For now...
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer provided by Paramount is astonishingly good, especially when you consider the fact that My Bloody Valentine is a largely forgotten hack 'em up from the late 1980s. Colors, for the most part, are bright, with decently reproduced flesh tones. Black levels are much better than I expected, and when Mihalka brings the action underground, into the mine, the image transfer held up nicely. There are some instances of pesky white flecks, which are most noticeable during the darker mine sequences. Edge enhancement rears it's wiggly head from time to time, too.
It's just a darn shame this isn't the unedited version of the film.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The English Dolby Digital mono track sounds a little harsh and tinny at times, but overall it's not too, too terrible. I was actually surprised at the depth of some of the lower frequency sounds, especially those that take place in the mine during the film's second half; it was certainly a step up in that regard from a lot of mono tracks I've heard. Dialogue gets buried a few times by intended background sounds, but the bulk of it is delivered fairly cleanly. It is mono, after all, so don't expect much in the way of dynamic range and you won't be severely disappointed.
A French dub, in mono, is also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Review: Not really much of anything here, not even a piddly ol' trailer. The disc is split into 15 chapters, with optional English subtitles.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsGeorge Mihalka's My Bloody Valentine, in its unedited form, is no doubt a truly great genre film. This edited version, which renders a few key scenes virtually incomprehensible, only hints at how dementedly enjoyable this release SHOULD have been. It's still a fun psycho flick, but the rumored specter of what it COULD have been hangs over this release like the proverbial shroud.
The good news is that Paramount has come through with a very solid image transfer, though the lack of any supplemental material (what an ideal spot to discuss the edits!) is mildly troubling.
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