• The Poison Ivy Collection (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: February 12th, 2019.
    Director: Katt Shea Ruben/Anne Goursaud/Kurt Voss/Jason Hreno
    Cast: Drew Barrymore, Sara Gilbert, Tom Skerritt, Cheryl Ladd, Alyssa Milano, Xander Berkley, Jamie Pressly, Megan Edwards, Miriam McDonald, Shawna Waldron
    Year: 1992/1996/1997/2008
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    The Poison Ivy Collection – Movie Reviews:

    Shout! Factory gathers together the four films in the ‘sexy thriller’ Poison Ivy series, bringing the first three films to Blu-ray for the first time with the, admittedly pretty lousy, fourth film collected here likely for completion’s sake.

    Poison Ivy:

    Sylvie Cooper (Sarah Gilbert) is a troubled rich kid without any friends. Ivy (Drew Barrymore) is a troubled poor kid without any friends. Sylvie is nerdy, but Ivy is hot. They strike up a friendship and, once Ivy gets close enough to Sylvie to get a taste of the rich life she takes for granted, she starts to latch on to her family. Sylvie’s mother, Georgie (Cheryl Ladd), suffers from emphysema – or at least she acts at it well, while her father, TV news host Darryl (Tom Skerritt), keeps a close eye on his daughter’s foxy new friend.

    Before you know it, Sylvie’s dog is coming to Ivy, Ivy’s dressing in Georgie’s clothes and she and Darryl are carrying on behind everyone’s back. When Sylvia starts to suspect something is up, she understandably tries to put a stop to it, but Ivy is wily and manipulative and able to cleverly take advantage of Sylvie’s self-esteem issues and Darryl’s mid-life crisis fueled horniness!

    A reasonably tawdry thriller made entertaining enough thanks to its cast, the original Poison Ivy is no unsung classic but it’s a perfectly fine time waster, particularly if you have a soft spot for goofy nineties fashions. Shea’s direction is solid and the movie is paced well. It’s plenty stylish and has a reasonably effective score. Production values aren’t half bad at all, even if the premise is a bit predictable and you can pretty easily see where it’s all headed well before we get there.

    Tom Skerrit plays horny dad well enough. He gives his character the right amount of arrogance to pull off the role and he’s got the charisma that has made him a movie staple for decades now. Cheryl Ladd does well enough with her underdeveloped character. She’s not given much to do except look sad, but she looks sad so fine. Of course, Gilbert and Barrymore get the most screen time. Gilbert basically plays the same character here that she does in Rosanne, there’s really no stretching as an actress here, but she does smart ass well enough. Barrymore’s got the more interesting role and she’s pretty decent as the jailbait at the center of all of this. The whole thing is goofy but, you know, if you’ve got nothing better to watch this is worth seeing once. Oh, and Leonardo DiCaprio apparently has a very brief ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ appearance in the film, credited as ‘guy.’ Apparently I blinked because I didn’t see him, but he’s listed in the end credits.

    Shout! Factory rightly includes both the R-rated and unrated versions of Poison Ivy in this collection. The unrated version uses standard definition inserts that add a bit more spice to the movie, meaning the love scene between Barrymore and Skerritt is a bit more graphic and we get to see Barrymore and Gilbert kiss!

    Poison Ivy II - Lily:

    Made four years after the success of the first film, this second in the series, which is directed by Anne Goursaud, introduces us to an art student named Lily Leonetti (Alyssa Milano). She’s recently moved from Michigan to sunny California where she lives with a few roommates in a rented apartment. It isn’t long before Lily finds a box with some random items in it, random items that she’s never seen before. When she rummages though the box, she finds some risqué pictures and a diary, which, of course, she starts reading.

    Lily is also intrigued by her professor, an older man named Donald Falk (Xander Berkeley), and by her roommate, Gredin (Johnathon Schaech). As Lily starts to go through the diary, she starts to slowly but surely change her identity from a meek, midwestern girl to a seductive beauty capable of manipulating men to get what she wants. As Falk finds it harder to fight his attraction to her, her relationship with Gredin starts to change and things get complicated.

    Like the first film, here we see a child actress reaching out and trying to take on a more adult role. Milano pulls it off about as well as Barrymore did – which is fine. She looks good here, we can see how and why she’d be able to use her sex appeal the way that she does in this picture. Director Anne Goursaud had previously directed Milano in Embrace Of The Vampire in 1995, a year before this movie was made, so they were clearly on the same page about how she should approach the role and about the more ‘adult’ aspects of the character she’d be playing.

    The story itself, however, is more of the same and just as predictable, if not more so, than the original film. There isn’t really much of a story here at all. The movie is slick and glossy and stylish, it’s nicely shot and makes use of some good photography but the story is hackneyed and the supporting performances mostly goofy (we’re looking at you, Berkeley). Scoring some of the sex scenes with the sounds of odd Gregorian style chanting monks was also a questionable choice.

    Again, unrated and R-rated versions of the movie are included on the disc, with standard definition inserts used in the unrated cut. There’s a fair bit of nudity in the R-cut and even more in the uncut version.

    Poison Ivy – The New Seduction:

    The third film in the series, directed by Kurt Voss (who made a pretty cool documentary on The Gun Club in 2006 called Ghost On The Highway), stars Jamie Pressly as Violet, the younger sister of Ivy (from the first film). Some time in her past, her mother was screwing around her with Ivan Greer (Michael Des Barres), the father of her friend Joy. The affair was uncovered, there was all sorts of family shame, and they split town. Now that Violet is an adult, she’s decided to head back to the town where she lived as a kid and set things right.

    This involves getting revenge against Joy (Megan Edwards) by seducing not only her father, but her fiancé Michael (Greg Vaughn) as well.

    Full points for trying to tie this one into the original film, as the second picture’s connection was pretty tenuous at best, but this third film is pretty much an exercise in style over substance. Like a lot of similar pictures, the story exists not to pull us in but to bridge together the different softcore set pieces that occur throughout. There’s just enough of a story here for it to work, but keep your expectations low in this department. To his credit, Voss paces the film reasonably well and ensures, if nothing else, that this is a good-looking film on a technical level.

    Pressly is the center of attention here. She uses her sex appeal well, even if her acting isn’t particularly strong. She suits the part and makes the most of it. Megan Edwards is fine here as well, and just as attractive, so the movie has that going for it… but really not much else. It’s also worth noting that this third entry also features a supporting role from Susan Tyrrell from Warhold’s Bad, John Waters’ Cry-Baby and, of course, Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker.

    Like the first two movies, Shout! Factory offers up both the rated and unrated versions of the movie with, yep, standard definition inserts for the unrated version.

    Poison Ivy – The Secret Society:

    The earlier Poison Ivy films may not have been masterpieces by any stretch but they were, if nothing else, competently made thrillers even if they dropped in quality after the first film. This latest entry in the series, however, is hands down the worst one yet.

    The movie begins after a college student is killed under some rather unusual circumstances on a fancy, snooty New England college campus. This strange dead doesn’t deter Danielle "Daisy" Brooks (Miriam McDonald) from deciding it would be a good idea to leave the small town that she grew up in to join the ranks of the snobs who attend this elitist hall of higher learning. So off Daisy goes, leaving her friends behind (her parents have been dead for a couple of years now so there’s not much family to worry about), to start a new life of sorts in snobsville.

    Initially, things seem to be going well for Daisy. The Dean’s son seems to dig her and she’s welcomed with unusually open arms into a sorority calling themselves ‘The Ivies’ where she’s sure to make all sorts of cool new friends, despite some ominous warnings from her roommate, Magenta (Andrea Whitburn). Daisy soon finds out that there’s more to this group of stuck up sorority girls than she first suspected…

    Wow, okay, this movie is a mess. Where to start…. The plot. We pretty much know exactly where this is going within the first ten minutes or so. Take into account that it doesn’t deviate much from the formula that the first three films in the series started and add in the whole ‘sorority/secret society’ sub-plot and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to clue in quickly. It’s possible that established fans of this series, and they are out there or New Line wouldn’t have pumped this film out in the first place, crave that sort of predictability but outside of that niche group, I can’t see anyone walking away from this one impressed with the script, story, or plot twists.

    As far as the acting is concerned, while the cast is made up of a number of attractive young ladies, they don’t really rise above the material even if they do occasionally show off the goods for the camera – and here’s the movie’s only real saving grace, the sex scenes are nicely shot and the girls involved in them look good. Fans of DeGrassi: The Next Generation might get a kick out of seeing Miriam McDonald play the lead (and lose her top) in this film and she certainly is all grown up now. Crystal Lowe from Wrong Turn 2: Dead End pops up in the movie, as does Catharine Hicks of all people – that’s right, the lady from 7th Heaven and Ryan’s Hope shows up here and plays the dean of the school.

    Fans of completely overwrought melodrama and ‘so bad it’s good’ sexified thrillers may dig Poison Ivy The Secret Society, but it really doesn’t have much going for it outside of some amusingly horrible moments and a bit of nudity (which is quite plentiful in the unrated version presented here) and there is something to be said for having the entire series in one set.

    The Poison Ivy Collection – Blu-ray Review:

    The first three films are framed at 1.85.1 and the final at 1.78.1, all presented on 50GB discs in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. For the most part, these look really good. Some of the cinematography is soft in the way that ‘sexy thrillers’ tend to be, but there’s definitely a whole lot more detail here than we’ve seen in the past. The discs are authored well, there are no problems with compression artifacts and the transfers are free of noise reduction and edge enhancement. There isn’t much in the way of print damage to discuss outside of the odd white speck now and again. Colors are reproduced really nicely and black levels are solid. No complains about the presentations, they look fine, though those standard definition inserts used in the first three films are pretty noticeable.

    The fourth film is a different story. It was shot on 35mm but edited on video and somewhere in that process a whole lot of filtering was done to the picture. As such, where the earlier movies are clean and crisp and filmic, this one is smeary and soft. The disc is encoded well enough with a good bit-rate but when the master looks like it does here, there’s only so much you can do. That said, colors are fine and the disc is well-authored, but keep your expectations in check for this one.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono tracks provided for each of the four films are solid enough. Balance is fine, the tracks are clean and dialogue is easy to follow. The scores sound pretty decent here and there’s pretty good range as well. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras include a new commentary for the original film from co-writer/director Katt Shea. Moderated by C. Courtney Joyner and playable over the R-rated version of the movie, it’s an interesting talk that focuses quite a bit on the casting and her interactions with Barrymore and the others in the film. She makes some observations about what she likes about the movie, talks about dealing with the studio behind the picture and also talks about how certain events from the real world made their way into the script. Along the way we learn about the cinematography, the locations, studio involvement, the film’s success and her thoughts on the picture overall, many years since it was made.

    Aside from that, we get the aforementioned rated/unrated versions of the first three films, trailers for all four films, menus and chapter selection. It’s a shame that there aren’t any interviews, particularly given how many interesting cast members have been involved with this series over the years.

    The Poison Ivy Collection – The Final Word:

    The Poison Ivy Collection… well, the first movie actually holds up surprisingly well as a nicely made thriller with some pretty decent performances. The sequels? They get worse as they go along, with the second film proving pretty entertaining, the third one stretching things a bit and the fourth one flat out stinking. Shout! Factory’s presentation is solid, despite the limitations of the fourth movie and the standard definition inserts for the first three movies, and the commentary is interesting even if the extras feel more than a little light overall. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll appreciate this set – if you’re not, this won’t change your mind.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Poison Ivy Collection Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Nabonga's Avatar
      Nabonga -
      No fullscreen. No dice. That's the worst offence here. And SD inserts, too. Nope. Cost cutting rip off. I'm sticking with the dvd's.
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      LOL are you serious Nabonga? You want the FS version track down the VHS.

      And the unrated footage only exists in SD form. If you somehow you had a print of those scenes you should've let SF know.