• Trapped Alive (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: June 4th, 2019.
    Director: Leszek Burzynski
    Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Sullivan Hester, Laura Kallison, Mark Witsken, Michael Nash, Alex Kubik, Elizabeth Kent, Randy Powell
    Year: 1988
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    Trapped Alive – Movie Review:

    Well-to-do lawyer John Adams (Cameron Mitchell) hugs his daughter, Robin (Sullivan Hester) goodbye and gets back to his Christmas party while she heads out with his assistant, Monica Perry (Laura Kallison) to a party of their unknown. None of them realize that a trio of prisoners - Louis 'Face' Napoleon (Alex Kubik), Mongo (Michael Nash) and Randolph 'Hot Rod' Carter (Mark Witsken) – have killed a guard and made their escape. When one of the prisoners waves the girls down as they drive along a dark remote forest road, the pair finds themselves kidnapped! When Hot Rod drives over an old mineshaft and their Jeep falls in, the convicts head inside with the girls held hostage in hopes that things will blow over and, come morning, they’ll be able to make their escape.

    Elsewhere, Deputy Billy Williams (Randy Powell) drives past the sign for the old closed up Forever Mine and decides to investigate. He stops are a nearby home and meets a woman named Rachel (Elizabeth Kent) who seems unusually horny. He calls in to the main office but doesn’t get anywhere and, after making love to Elizabeth in front of the fireplace, he heads into the mine to find out what’s what. Soon, cops, prisoners and hostages alike learn the truth about what really lurks in the confines of the old mine… and that someone or something isn’t necessarily so happy to see them.

    Shot in 1988 as Forever Mine (complete with a closing credits theme song of the same name) but not released until five years later, Trapped Alive was shot in Wisconsin at the then newly created Windsor Lake Studios. The film was released on VHS by AIP Home Video (featuring some cover art prominently displaying two attractive female models who don’t appear in the film at all!) but never received a DVD release – and that might be because the movie isn’t really all that memorable. Sure, it’s a passably entertaining horror picture, you probably won’t hate yourself for watching it, but pretty much everything about it is predictable. We know the minute he lays eyes on her that Hot Rod and Robin are going to ‘hit it off’ and we know that there’s something connecting Rachel to what lives in the mine – absolutely none of this comes as a surprise to anyone who has seen more than a few horror movies in their lifetime.

    Still, the movie is well-paced and reasonably well-shot. The mine makes for a pretty decent location in which to stage a horror picture and there are a couple of good kills in the film and some solid effects work to go along with them. Performances are a bit all over the place, and Mitchell’s presence in the film amounts to only a few minutes at the beginning and then the end. You could certainly do a lot worse than this… but then so too could you do a lot better.

    Trapped Alive – Blu-ray Review:

    Arrow Video brings Trapped Alive to Blu-ray for the first time on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p presentation framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and taken from a new 2k restoration of the film’s original 35mm negative. Aside from some small white specks here and there, the image is very clean and shows nice detail and color reproduction. There are no noticeable problems with compression artifacts and the image is free of noise reduction or edge enhancement. Detail is pretty solid throughout and we get nice black levels too. No problems here at all, the movie looks very good.

    The LPCM Mono audio, which comes with optional English subtitles, is fine. The audio is a little flat but it sounds clean and clear, properly balanced without any audible instances of noticeable hiss or distortion to complain about. The subtitles do refer to Mongo as ‘Mungo’ though.

    Extras start off with three new audio commentary tracks, the first of which is with director Leszek Burzynski moderated by Joe Rubin. Here the director talks about how he came to work on the film, who came up with the original story, shooting on location in Wisconsin, casting the film and more. The second track features special effects artist Hank Carlson and horror writer Josh Hadley. They cover what was involved in getting Carlson’s work done on a modest budget, some of the people that he collaborated with, how he was pretty green when he started work on this project, how some of the gorier set pieces were put together and more. Last but not least, the hosts of The Hysteria Continues take a shot at the film, seeing it for the first time. Like most of their tracks, it’s a mix of opinion and insight as well as trivia. It isn’t a scene specific talk at all, but it’s amusing and interesting in the way that most of their tracks tend to be.

    From there, jump into the featurettes starting with There’s EVIL Underground, a brand-new thirty-one-minute making-of documentary that is made up of new interviews with Burzynski, cinematographer Nancy Schreiber, production manager Alexandra Reed and actors Alex Kubik and Sullivan Hester. Burzynski covers a lot of the same ground that he goes over on the commentary track but it’s cool to hear from the rest of the interviewees about what it was like on set, the shooting conditions, how various sets were recycled for future productions and quite a bit more.

    Upper Michigan Tonight is a twenty-three-minute vintage 1988 television documentary on Windsor Lake Studios that features footage shot behind the scenes of Trapped Alive as well as interviews with Burzynski, producer Christopher Webster and production designer Brian Savegar.

    Leszek Burzynski: The Early Years is a ten-minute talk in which the director talks about how he got his start in the business and some of the early horror pictures that he was involved with during this period in his career. An interview with Carlson that runs nineteen-minutes features the SFX man talking about the state of the industry in the area around the time that this picture was made, how he got involved with Windsor Lake Studios, working with Fangoria during their association with the studio and then eventually moving to Los Angeles to work out there.

    Rounding out the extras is a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    Trapped Alive – The Final Word:

    Trapped Alive is pretty mediocre but it has its moments. That said, fans of the film – and they’re out there – should be quite thrilled with how Arrow Video has handled the title. The presentation is very strong and the disc is stacked with extras that are often times more interesting than the movie itself!

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