• Transformations

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: March 1st, 2016.
    Director: Jay Kamen
    Cast: Rex Smith, Lisa Langlois, Patrick Macnee, Christopher Neame
    Year: 1988
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    The Movie:

    In between jobs as a sound editor on numerous eighties and nineties Hollywood blockbusters like The Hunt For Red October, Jay Kamen took a job directing this low budget late eighties sci-fi/horror hybrid for Charles Band’s Empire Pictures.

    The story follows Wolfgang "Wolf" Shadduck (Rex Smith), a Han Solo-esque smuggler who travels the space-ways in his spaceship in search of a quick buck. On a night that just so happens to be his birthday, he’s surprised to find a beautiful woman (Pamela Prati) stowed away onboard – his lucky day? Maybe, maybe not because as things got hot and heavy between them she just might have turned into a succubus.

    He wakes up on a prison planet where Miranda (Lisa Langlois), a beautiful young woman who was raised on the planet by the recently deceased medical officer tending to him. She learned quickly and at a young age from her adopted father and explains to him while he rests that his ship crashed. She also explains that he’ll get help repairing it so that he can be on his way again soon, once the mining operation that seems to fund the prison shuts down for a bit. When wolf feels better, he starts exploring the planet and as he does he experiences strange visions. Being a rather virile type, he has no trouble finding prostitutes aplenty to spend time with but in doing so unwittingly spreads whatever it is that he’s become infected with. Miranda tries to help him but she can’t figure out what it is that’s ailing him. Local padre, Father Christopher (Patrick MacNee), however? He believes that it’s something far more sinister than just an intergalactic STD eating away at Wolf from the inside… and soon enough the mutations that start to afflict Wolf have widespread effects putting everyone’s lives in danger.

    On of a few Empire Pictures productions shot in a studio in Italy in an effort to keep production costs down, this low budget picture is pretty wonky stuff. The script works as a treatise to the AIDS epidemic that was making headlines around the world in the eighties, but it doesn’t really seem to know what to say if it’s trying to make a point there. The effects are cheap and garish, but then, that’s half the fun of a picture like this and some may even see that as a plus, rather than a negative. Don’t got into this one looking for smart, cerebral, atmospheric science fiction, no, rather go in expecting some welcome but entirely gratuitous nudity, wonky gore and bad acting. If those things appeal to you, Transformations will scratch that itch and then some.

    As far as the cast goes, Rex Smith isn’t bad in the lead. He’s cocky enough, at least at the beginning before he starts to ‘change’ to be amusing to watch and if he’s not delivering an Oscar worthy performance here, he does alright with the material he’s given. Lisa Langlois is as pretty as ever here and quite likeable in her part, while Patrick McNee overdoes it in that special way that he sometimes tended to overdo things in. Throw in small but welcome appearance from the beautiful Pamela Prati as the catalyst for all of this, and things shape up in interesting ways in front of the camera. A great movie this is not, but undiscerning fans of trashy B-movies should find enough to appreciate about this one to have a good time with it.


    Transformations arrives on BLu-ray from Kino in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in the film’s proper theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85.1 and it’s quite an improvement over anything you might have seen on home video in the past for this title (it doesn’t appear to have received a DVD release but it did hit VHS years ago). Detail is nice and strong and color reproduction is excellent. Skin tones look great and there’s nice texture and depth throughout the film. Some minor print damage pops up here and there but it’s definitely minor, just small specks never big gouges or scratches.

    The only audio option available is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in English, there are no subtitles or dubbed options present. The dialogue is clean and easy to follow and the levels are nicely balanced meaning that you’ll have no trouble understanding the performers underneath the score and sound effects. You’ll notice better depth and stronger clarity here compared to the previous release.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring director Jay Kamen moderated by Bill Olsen. Here Kamen talks about how he met Charles Band and got involved in this particular film. He talks about his thoughts on the script, the effects work featured in the picture, shooting the movie in Italy and how he did and sometimes did not get along with local crew, the various cast members that were involved in the shoot and how bankruptcy proceedings wreaked havoc with the production after principal photography had wrapped.

    Kamen pops up again in a ten minute video interview that retells some of the same anecdotes and stories covered in his commentary, albeit in a much more concise form. The still beautiful Lisa Langlois also shows up on camera for an interview that runs just over ten minutes. She shares her thoughts on the feature, her co-stars and what it was like for her being in Italy for the shoot. Static menus and chapter selection round out the extras, and we get some nice reversible cover art included here as well.

    The Final Word:

    Transformations was an unlikely candidate for a Blu-ray release, let alone one with a decent selection of extras, but here it is in all its high definition glory. It’s an imperfect film that wears its low budget on its sleeve, but it’s sleazy and weird enough to work in its own goofy way. This was a pretty entertaining time killer and the Blu-ray offers it up in very nice quality.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      I hated Rex Smith is this film. He comes off as a real dick. The interview with Jay Kamen made this disc for me. He had some good stories about the horrors of no budget film-making. And he wasn't shy about talking about what a primadonna Rex Smith was. Lisa was interesting as well.

      The sex is so good in this film that the participants are blind to puss oozing out of their partner. Funny stuff.