• Def By Temptation (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: October 23rd, 2018.
    Director: James Bond III
    Cast: James Bond III, Kadeem Hardison, Bill Nunn, Cynthia Bond, Melba Moore, Samuel L. Jackson
    Year: 1990
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    Def By Temptation – Movie Review:

    The only directorial credit for actor James Bond III (who got his start as a child actor on TV series like The Red Hand Gang), 1990’s Def By Temptation stars Bond as a young man named Joel. His life has been very different since losing his parents (Samuel L. Jackson and Sundra Jean Williams) in a fatal car crash, leaving his grandmother (Minnie Gentry) to raise him. Her hope was that he’d grow up to be a preacher, just like his father, and bring the Lord’s message to the tough Atlanta neighborhood they call home. Joel, however, is haunted by a strange recurring nightmare wherein he has to confront a demoness he believes to be responsible for his parents’ death.

    When Joel decides he wants a break from seminary, he heads to Brooklyn to hang out with his cousin, K (Kadeem Hardison, best known for playing Dwayne Wayne on A Different World!), who left Atlanta and their grandmother behind in hopes of making it as an actor in New York City. What Joel doesn’t realize is that those dreams of his were a premonition of sorts, and since travelling to New York City, he’s going to be targeted by Temptation (Cynthia Bond), a woman who is much more than she seems… and the kind of girl who just might make him ignore the well-intentioned warnings of bar fly Dougy (Bill Nunn of Spider-Man and Do The Right Thing).

    Beautifully shot by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, this is a gorgeous looking movie that makes excellent use of shadow and color. It benefits from a strong score and is never lacking in style. At the same time, there’s good substance here too. The script is clever and the characters interesting and well-written. Bond shows strong control over the film’s pacing and coaxes good performances out of his cast as well. This was made with a modest budget but it’s a reasonably slick and polished affair, making you wonder why he didn’t direct more than the one picture he’s credited with.

    As to the acting? Those drawn to this for Jackson’s presence, a trait that Troma absolutely tried to cash in on with their DVD release which put his face front and center on the cover, may be disappointed that he’s not in it for very long. Still, it’s fun to see him pop up in the movie. The rest of the characters get quite a bit more screen time. Bond himself is good here, playing his character in an understated style and letting the rest of the cast grab more of the audience’s attention – but his character is fleshed out well and he fits the part nicely. Kadeem Hardison is solid here and he does fine work, as does Bill Nunn. They’re both good in their respective roles. Cynthia Bond steals quite a few scenes as the film’s literal temptress – she’s got great screen presence, plenty of sex appeal and a nice amount of charisma as well.

    This isn’t a horror movie in the traditional sense but it definitely has strong genre trappings. The supernatural elements are definitely there and the last half of the film definitely feels rooted in genre territory. But trying to pigeonhole the film doesn’t really do it any favors. This is smart, creative and unique filmmaking well worth seeking out.

    Def By Temptation – Blu-ray Review:

    Def By Temptation was released on DVD by Troma by way of a washed out, edited master that looked… pretty damn bad. Vinegar Syndrome, in their ongoing mission to do the Lord’s work, have gone back to the 35mm negative and given the film a new 2k scan. Presented here in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, without exaggeration this is really a case of ‘seeing it again for the first time’ as the upgrade in quality over what we’ve had in the past for this title is massive. Colors really pop here, they look gorgeous, while black levels are deep and strong throughout. Detail is very impressive and skin tones looks great. There’s nice depth and texture throughout and very little in the way of print damage, just the occasional small white speck now and again. The image looks like film – there’s natural grain evident throughout the duration of the picture, but it’s never distracting. Really, it’s hard to complain at all, this is a very strong transfer.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono track with optional subtitles provided in English only. Audio quality is fine. The dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow, the levels are well balanced and track is free of any hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with an audio interview conducted by Vinegar Syndrome’s Joe Rubin with James Bond III that plays out over the feature the same way that a commentary track would. Bond is chiming in on his cell phone and so the audio quality is less than perfect but this is an interesting look at his career and at the making of this particular film. He talks about getting his start as a child actor and discusses some of the roles he played in that part of his career and also shares some thoughts on what inspired him to make Def By Temptation. It’s a good talk, quite detailed.

    From there we get a twenty-minute feature called Ernest & Lloyd that is a recording of a conversation between cinematographer Ernest Dickerson and Troma’s own Lloyd Kaufman that has been carried over from the old Troma DVD. Dickerson talks about how he first met Bond on the set of School Daze, some of the films and filmmakers that influenced the look of the film and a fair bit more. Also on hand, and carried over from the aforementioned DVD, is a quick two-minute interview with Michael Gingold that runs down what makes the movie unique and details some of the locations used and its quirky production history.

    Outside of that is a theatrical trailer, a still gallery of newspaper ads and articles, menus and chapter selection.

    Def By Temptation – The Final Word:

    Def By Temptation is good stuff. It’s clever, sometimes funny, occasionally intense and always entertaining. Vinegar Syndrome has done a very nice job bringing this one to Blu-ray, presenting it in a high definition upgrade that leaves the old DVD release in the dust. Highly recommended!

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