• The Vineyard (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: September 24th, 2019.
    Director: James Hong, William Rice
    Cast: James Hong, Karen Lorre, Harry Mok, Michael Wong
    Year: 1989
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    The Vineyard – Movie Review:

    Co-director James Hong stars as Dr. Elson Po, the owner of a winery located on a private island whose product has gone on to become world renowned. In fact, in an early scene, we see a bottle of one of his wines go for a cool fifty grand! What the rest of the world doesn’t know is that Po has been using his skills not just to craft fine wine, but also to keep himself young – but there’s a catch. In order to do this, he needs the blood of the young to create a potion that gives him eternal youth and, as we witness first hand, plenty of sexual energy as well.

    When Po’s latest batch seems to be waning and he needs to restock, he decides to pose as a would-be film producer in order to lure a cadre of young men and beautiful models to his island under the false pretense of holding auditions for his film project. Of course, the reality of the situation is that he fully intends to harvest their blood to further prolong his life. Upon the arrival of this group, Po quite quickly becomes fixated on curvy blonde bombshell Jezebel Fairchild (Playboy’s Miss March, 1982 Karen Lorre, credited as Karen Witter). Figuring her to be the one from which his elixir can be mined, he woos her as best he can while having his cronies kill off the rest of the crew. What Po doesn’t count on is Michael Wong (Jeremy Young), a nosy reporter hoping to write an article on Po. When Wong starts snooping around Po’s library, he uncovers a trove of articles detailing his past (why do bad guys always have scrapbooks detailing their past?) and he starts to put together the pieces of this puzzle. When he figures out what Po is really up to, he rushes to save Jezebel – but will he be in time?

    Co-directed by Hong and William Rice, The Vineyard is a genuinely bizarre mix of Shaw Brothers horror pictures like Black Magic and Hex and wonky late eighties American horror delivered with a low budget and an eye towards exploitation. There’s a surprising amount of sex and nudity in this one (James Hong… master of the erotic arts!) and that, coupled with some moderate violence and decent gore effects and, of course, the films bizarre finale all come together and make this delightful little slice of horror junk a whole lot of fun to watch.

    As to the production values? There are some! The movie was clearly made on a modest budget but to be fair to Hong, Rice and upstart cinematographer John Dirlam, The Vineyard is a decent looking movie. The optical effects are painfully obviously just that, but they do not lack in late eighties charm. The camerawork is solid, there’s good use of color here and some gore effects work pretty well. We even get some decent zombie makeup!

    Performance wise, this is pretty much Hong’s show completely. The rest of the cast don’t really stand out much at all, they’re pretty disposable, but Hong is Hong and he’s got that fantastic charisma that has landed him over four hundred credits at this point in his career, and the movie is all the better for having him in it. He makes a fine villain here and seems to be having a blast playing the part.

    The Vineyard – Blu-ray Review:

    The Vineyard arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome in a 1.85.1 widescreen transfer in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taken from a new 4k scan of the film’s original 35mm negative and it looks excellent. If you’re looking for them for the purpose of writing an anal-retentive Blu-ray review you will notice a few small white specks here and there but otherwise the image is pretty damn spotless. Color reproduction is excellent, the greens and reds really pop nicely here, while black levels are nice and solid. Detail is great, texture is strong and the image is filmic throughout, showing no evidence of noise reduction or edge enhancement at all.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is clean and nicely balanced. There are no problems with any hiss or any distortion, the score and effects sound fine. No issues at all, it’s a fine mix.

    Extras consist primarily of three interviews, the first of which his Welcome To The Vineyard which gets co-director/leading man James Hong and producer/actor Harry Mok in front of the camera for just over nineteen-minutes to talk about the making of the film. This piece is, in a word, great. It’s done with an awesome sense of humor but it also covers a lot of ground, including Hong’s acting style, getting the film financed, it’s distribution history, the copious amount of sex in the film and more. Make sure you watch it all the way through the end credits for proof that James Hong is a bad motherfucker if ever there was one.

    Zombies From San Jose is a new interview with co-director William Rice that clocks in at twelve-minutes and sees the filmmaker speaking about collaborating with Hong, what he did on the shoot versus what Hong did, how he came to work on the picture in the first place and more. Sacred Earth And Restless Souls is a new interview seventeen-minute talk with cinematographer John Dirlam wherein he talks about landing the job, what he tried to bring to the film in terms of its visual style, working with Hong and Dirlam and more.

    Aside from that we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie. Vinegar Syndrome has also provided some reversible cover art for this release.

    The Vineyard – The Final Word:

    The Vineyard is goofy, trashy and weird, a prime slice of B-trash/horror filmmaking highlighted by the inimitable presence of the great James Hong. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release gives the film a beautiful presentation and throws in some fun extra features as well, leaving past DVD editions of this one in the dust.

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