• Spirits Of The Air, Gremlins Of The Clouds (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: September 5thth, 2018.
    Director: Alex Proyas
    Cast: Michael Lake, Melissa Davis, Norman Boyd, Rhys Davis
    Year: 1989
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    Spirits Of The Air, Gremlins Of The Clouds – Movie Review:

    A man we come to learn is named Smith (Norman Boyd, listed in the film’s opening credits as The Norm) wanders through a harsh Australian desert, past a graveyard of upturned cars placed facedown in the sand and past scores of wooden crosses, the sun beating down on him from above. Without any water, his face scorched by the heat, he winds up taking solace in the ramshackle home of a wheelchair-bound eccentric named Felix Crabtree (Michael Lake) and his sister Betty (Melissa Davis), who may or may not be insane.

    After a rest and a bath, they sit him at the table and offer him some baked beans. They get to talking about how and why he’s wandering through the desert alone. He notes that he wants to head south but is told by Felix that he can’t – there are cliffs and mountains hundreds of feet high that no one can pass. Smith isn’t worried, he tells them, because he can fly. This immediately piques Felix’s interest and from here, the two men start their attempt to build a flying machine (not quite an airplane, mind you), using what they have available to them – which isn’t much. While Felix becomes quite enamored with Smith, Betty, right from the first time she sees him in the desert, believes him to be a demon.

    Visually, the film is a sight to behold. Ripe with imagery pulled from centuries of Christian history, the film is covered in crosses, which manages to create some genuinely startling compositions. The desert wasteland where the story unfolds is hot to even look at, colors burning your eyes at times, but it’s gorgeous in its own strange way. Technology has stopped in this film, there are no computers, only primitive manmade contraptions and buildings closer to sheds than homes. There’s a dustiness to the look of the picture that comes partially from its Outback setting and that’s accentuated by the grainy 16mm photography.

    The performances seem to complement this odd visual style, in that they’re very deliberately over the top. Lake, who also had a role in Proyas’ Dark City and who has kept busy as a producer over the years, gives a very physical performance. His character can’t walk so the actor compensates for this with wild hand gestures and a very enthusiastic delivery. This would be scenery chewing in any other cinematic environment but it works here. Melissa Davis (who also appeared in Dead End Drive-In) is also pretty over the top at times, never talking but frequently screaming and stomping about the film almost like a child throwing a temper tantrum. Boyd, on the other hand, tends to stay calm, cool and collected, a yin to their yang in a sense. The acting is unorthodox, but then, the film is as well – somehow this comes together nicely.

    The film is a little on the slow side, preferring to dazzle us with visuals rather than pull us into the plot, but the visuals are dazzling enough that those with an appreciation for composition won’t mind so much. The film requires patience but there’s more than enough of interest to make this worth seeking out and it’s an interesting opportunity to see where Proyas started as a filmmaker.

    Spirits Of The Air, Gremlins Of The Clouds – Blu-ray Review:

    Spirits Of The Air, Gremlins Of The Clouds comes to region free Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.33.1 fullframe and taken from a new 2k scan of the original 16mm negative. This otherwise beautiful transfer does occasionally struggle with compression issues that results in the film’s heavy grain getting a bit clumpy at times. You can see this in the sky in the opening scene. Otherwise, no complains. Detail is very good, particularly considering the source, and the image is nice and film-like. Color reproduction is excellent, at times the picture really pops, and there’s nice depth here as well. The are no noticeable problems with any visible noise reduction or edge enhancement problems and we get solid black levels and nice skin tones.

    DTS-HD tracks are provided in 5.1 Surround Sound and 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles provided in English only. The 5.1 mix does open things up a bit, placing the score and certain effects in the rear channels from time to time while keeping most of the dialogue up front. The stereo track would likely reflect the original mix a little more accurately, but it’s always nice to have options. No issues here. The audio is clean and properly balanced, free of hiss and distortion with good range and depth.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary from writer/director Alex Proyas who talks about making his debut feature in Australia, discussing how he came to make the project in the first place. He covers the casting, the locations, some of the cinematography and quite a bit more. A second commentary brings composer Peter Miller and editor Craig Wood together to share their experiences from the production. They talk about what it was like collaborating with Proyas, what went into creating the music used in the film and the details of cutting the film to get it into the format we see it in as a finished product. Both add quite a bit of value to the disc as they cover a lot of ground.

    From there, we get some featurettes, the first of which is a thirty-seven-minute interview with cast member Michael Lake who speaks at length about what it took to play Felix Crabtree in the film. Additionally, he talks about how he got into acting, what it was like growing up with his family, his thought on the picture and his co-stars and quite a bit more. Rhys Davis is interviewed next in an eight-minute segment where she talks about starring in this film after having a small role in Dead End Drive-In, how she got into acting, her work in other areas of the arts and her life in Europe.

    In the Spirits: Making A Post-Apocalypse Western featurette we get twenty-three-minutes of footage shot on set during the production of the film as well as some effects footage. It’s mostly presented fly on the wall style but there are text pieces here and there that give it some context.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a music video for the track Spirit’s Song featured in the movie, a still gallery, a 2018 re-release trailer, menus and chapter selection. Umbrella packages the disc with some nice reversible cover sleeve art and a slipcover.

    Spirits Of The Air, Gremlins Of The Clouds – The Final Word:

    Spirits Of The Air, Gremlins Of The Clouds is a fairly insane blend of post-apocalyptic science fiction motifs and arthouse style. It’s an absolutely gorgeous film to look at, and if its plot unfolds at a deliberately slow pace, the quirky characters and beautiful compositions still manage to keep our attention. Umbrella has rolled out the red carpet for the film, presenting it in a newly restored transfer and on a disc packed with extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Spirits Of The Air, Gremlins Of The Clouds Blu-ray screen caps!