• Stand Alone (Scorpion Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: January 7th, 2020.
    Director: Alan Beattie
    Cast: Charles Durning, Pam Grier, James Keach
    Year: 1985
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    Stand Alone - Movie Review:

    That slimmed down Charles Durning you see on the poster for 1985’s STAND ALONE may look good, but it actually fails to capitalize on this film’s most interesting aspect - this is the first DEATH WISH spawn that features a realistically overweight protagonist. As great as Bronson’s vigilante thriller was, let’s face it. Paul Kersey was pretty damn buff for an architect. Charles Durning’s WWII vet Louie Thibadeau here, however, looks about right for a sixty-plus year old guy who switched from lifting combat gear to donuts decades ago.

    The plot of this efficient if unimaginative drama/thriller is boilerplate stuff. Widower Louis (Durning) lives in a small American town with his loving daughter Meg (Barbara Sammeth) and grandson Gordie (Cory Yothers). The movie opens with grandpa and grandson playing outside with a remote controlled tank. Of course, the grandson is peppering gramps with questions about “the war.” Louis is no braggart though. He good-naturedly plays along to please his awestruck grandson but it isn’t until we get some Pacific War flashbacks set in a cave later that we realize just how deadly ol’ Louie was. From here we head into a lean and mean TV movie setup - Louis witnesses a gang related hit (with machine guns!) at the local diner owned by his war buddy Paddie (Bert Remsen). The cops want him to identify the shooter. Louis is game but slightly hesitant. Lead cop Detective Isgrow (James Keach) is leaning on Louis hard. He’s also not exactly being forthright about the dangers witnesses face when fingering gangbangers. Enter vaguely defined “family friend/lawyer/public defender” Cathryn (played by the legendary Pam Grier) who’s just about the only person looking out for the best interest of Louis. She knows all about “cocaine cowboys” and after the Latino (STAND ALONE is no DEATH WISH 3 multiracial gangland wonderland it goes straight for DePalma SCARFACE lite) bad boys shoot up the house and Louis sends the cute kid and daughter packing out of town it’s time for him to... stand alone! Er, or more accurately stand with Pam Grier. Course, one could do far worse for backup than Foxy Brown, right?

    On paper, STAND ALONE looks assembled from a crib sheet. White dude in the WALKING TALL/DEATH WISH mold has HAD ENOUGH and now it’s time to MAKE A STAND. You know the drill. This theme remains popular even today but back in the 70's and 80's it was an absolute stalwart. It’s also interesting to note the racial dynamics. You have the typical Latino/minority gangsters balanced out by the resourceful and charismatic African-American female friend and a sympathetic black cop to counter the irresponsible white one. But where STAND ALONE really succeeds is in the acting department and the film’s well done final home invasion showdown/shootout. Remsen is terrific as the Louis worshiping war buddy - a veteran character actor in the Murray (JAWS) Hamilton vein, he’s instantly believable and has great chemistry with Durning. His scene in the hospital after being beaten for information by thugs is a film highlight. Grier is great too. It’s a fairly ridiculous character but she completely pulls it off. How these two crossed paths and how she obtained this status as “like a second daughter to Louis” is never adequately explained, but her scenes with Durning show genuine warmth and a real connection between the two characters. As for a Durning, while he’s probably best known for the comedy TOOTSIE, he’s quite credible as a PTSD-afflicted war hero despite the hefty gut. Speaking of which, one of the smartest things this movie does is craft a final showdown that requires him to take on three much younger and more agile opponents in a way that is plausible. He has help from Grier, of course, but it is still well done.

    Stand Alone - Blu-ray Review:

    Scorpion’s 1.78:1 framed AVC encoded MPEG-4 HD transfer here won’t win any technical awards but it gets the job done. The film was a VHS staple back in the day and this release is a marked improvement obviously, but film grain gets a bit unwieldy during some of the darker scenes. The transfer seems to be devoid of DNR but the colors here don’t exactly pop, though fine image detail (like facial pores) looks pretty good. The Texas locations look fairly drab so I’m pretty confident the transfer captures that accurately. STAND ALONE always has the look and feel of an upscale TV movie and this transfer accurately represents that, as far as I am concerned.

    Audio is an English 2.0 DTS-HD MA track with no discernible abnormalities or deficiencies. The film has a very modest sound design but this track handles everything perfectly well. Ambient sound and dialogue is all accurately represented. However, be prepared to deal with one of the more annoying aspects of 1980's cinema... the “experimental score”. This chirpy, needling synth heavy soundtrack may get on your nerves. Subtitles are provided in English for those that need them.

    Extras? Zilch save a film trailer.

    Stand Alone - The Final Word:

    STAND ALONE is a solidly entertaining piece of genre film with an action film comfort food set up. Durning and Grier carry the show, and while the direction and plot are unremarkable, this one is never boring and provides solid entertainment. Scorpion have given the film the best home video presentation it has had yet and this one is an easy recommendation for people who keep their expectations in check.

    Click on the images below for full sized Stand Alone Blu-ray screen caps!