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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Fortress (1992)

The year is 2017. The first child is yours, the second is theirs.
- one of the film's fabulous taglines

Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: April 28, 2000

Stars: Christopher Lambert, Loryn Locklin
Other Stars: Kurtwood Smith
Director: Stuart Gordon

MPAA Rating: R for violence, adult themes, language.
Run Time: 01H:35M:00S
Release Date: June 22, 1999
UPC: 012236073703
Genre: sci-fi

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

DVD Review

Starring Christopher Lambert, who the producers chose "because of his ability to bring more to the action hero and his ability reach the audience," or more likely, "for his international appeal." Listen, Christopher Lambert couldn't act his way into a coma, which, as Richard Harrington wrote in his 1993 Washington Post review of Fortress "...Lambert has little presence, evidenced by the minimal distinctions in his acting style before and after he undergoes a stay in the prison's "mind wipe chamber." I love this guy! Lambert was great in Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan, mostly because he didn't have to speak, and when he did it was excusable because he had been raised by apes, but by the time I sat through Highlander and The Sicilian, Lambert had become an international joke. Just looking at the cover I am reminded of Jack Nicholson post-frontal labotomy in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. There is one good acting performance, that of Kurtwood Smith as Prison Director Poe. Smith, who is probably most famous for his role as the unyielding father in Dead Poet's Society, provides a certain humanity and weakness to the role. It is not however, enough to save this film. For otherwise, the cast is filled with typical b-film jail types of performances; not that any of these people had a great script to work with. Seriously folks, you'll see better acting watching the WWF.

The story revolves around John Brennick's (Lambert) and his wife's attempt to escape the US to Mexico because of an overpopulation rule of one baby per woman, when she becomes pregnant after their first baby has died. My 13-year old asked: If the first baby died, then why can't they have another child? Umm, don't know. This is only one of the many inherent flaws. And believe me, I am fully capable of suspension of disbelief, but could not muster the effort&&8212this movie had me chuckling too much. That aside, Lambert is brought to an inescapable underground prison run by the dictatorial "enhanced" Poe and borg-like soldiers (reconditioned humans). The usual set of suspects appear; the good, the bad, and the ugly inmates with which Brennick either must customarily fight, verbally spar or befriend. And what would a prison movie be without a dangerous and exciting escape? Fortress.

The escape fails however, and Brennick is forced to undergo an electronic labotomy. Does this stop our hero? No, because his wife is able to alter the process weeks or months later after getting the impotent but adoring Director Poe, with whom she has been forced to cohabitate, intoxicated on champagne, which he has never tasted, and knows is bad for him. My question: How did she manage to get her hands on a bottle of champagne in the middle of the desert, when even the warden himself doesn't drink? It is my opinion that she copped off of the writer, who must have been doing some heavy drinking when putting Fortress down to paper, particularly if he thought that the final scene is in any way believable or moving.

Another of the movie's taglines: In the year 2017 one corporation is building a fortress for the ultimate takeover... your mind. Obviously, by numbing.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Fortress is presented in single-sided pan and scan format only. Shot mostly on a dark set, the colors are rich and well rendered and with little bleeding or pluming, but, of course, the transfer would have been better with an anamorphically enhanced widescreen presentation (if this was available). Scan lines are however, evident.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: As with most of Artisan's catalogue releases, this DVD contains only Dolby Surround 2.0 sound. The audio is fairly well distributed however, with a wide variety of rear channel usage, particularly during scenes with gunfire and explosions. The dialogue is easily understood, despite its stagy sound, but this is natural considering the movie was filmed on what was then the largest set in Australian film history.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This one-sided picture disc includes the trailer, production notes and cast & crew bios, and comes in a Amaray keepcase. Isn't it funny that Artisan would include these "extras" with such a poor film, but leave them off of their better films (Tender Mercies, Plenty, Frances)?

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

If you haven't gotten the idea yet, go ahead and buy it!

One of the film's taglines is: A Prison of the Future. A High-Tech Hell. Built to Hold Anything... Except an Innocent Man. But really, the guy broke the law when he impregnated his wife. Is he really innocent?


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