• Alphabet City (Fun City Editions) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Fun City Editions
    Released on: September 29th, 2020.
    Director: Amos Poe
    Cast: Vincent Spano, Michael Winslow, Jami Gertz, Kate Vernon, Zohra Lampert
    Year: 1984
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    Alphabet City – Movie Review:

    From the man who gave us 1976's The Blank Generation (a fantastic look at New York City's burgeoning punk scene at the time featuring The Ramones, Blondie, Television, The New York Dolls and a bunch more) comes 1984’s Alphabet City, a picture that takes place entirely over one night and which was shot entirely on location in Manhattan.

    Our story revolves around a young man named Johnny (Vincent Spano), a drug dealer working out of the Alphabet City neighborhood of Manhattan, near the Lower East Side. He’s essentially been given control of the area by the mob, so long as he plays by their rules, but this changes when he and his pal Lippy (Michael Winslow) are asked by the higher ups to commit arson and burn down the tenement building that he grew up in as a kid, because his mother (Zohra Lampert) and his sister (Jami Gertz) still live there.

    At this point, Johnny decides he’s done with the mob and he decides to sever ties, but that’ll be easier said than done. As the night progresses, Johnny finds not only his life in danger, but the lives of his mother and sister as well as his girlfriend Angie (Kate Vernon) and child in danger as well.

    Shot by ace cinematographer Oliver Wood, Alphabet City often feels like an exercise in style over substance, loaded with neon and garish colors contrasting wonderfully against the dark backdrop of the inner city at night. It’s true that the screenplay, co-written by Poe and Gregory K. Heller, might be light on story but there’s enough here to keep us engaged and the visuals are strong that, when combined with the film’s excellent synth-heavy soundtrack by Nile Rodgers, it’s an easy movie to enjoy getting lost in. As Johnny cruises Alphabet City in his 1983 Pontiac Trans Am (more specifically, for car junkies, a Twenty-Fifty Anniversary Daytona 500 limited edition), the clock on the dash the only indicator letting us know how much time has passed, we’re along for the ride with him, the movie really pulls the audience in.

    Spano is pretty good in the lead. He’s got charisma enough to work and he really and truly looks the part. He has good chemistry with the rest of the cast, we have no trouble buying his relationship with Vernon as authentic and loving and he works well alongside Lampert and a young Jami Gertz as well. Michael Winslow, who was immortalized as Larvell Jones (the sound effects guy) in no less than five Police Academy movies, is also good in his dramatic supporting role.

    Alphabet City – Blu-ray Review:

    Alphabet City comes to Region A Blu-ray presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition aspect ratio taking up 25.3GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented ‘newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive,’ the picture quality here is rock solid while retaining what we can safely assume is an intentionally gritty look. There’s a lot of nice, natural film grain here to appreciate, and all the detail you could hope for. The film’s quirky, neon color scheme is reproduced really nicely, while black levels stay strong. There are no problems with any noticeable crush and shadow detail is strong throughout. Compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction aren’t ever an issue at all. This looks wonderfully filmic.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono audio track is of very nice quality. No problems here, the audio sounds good. Levels are properly balanced throughout and the dialogue is always easy to understand. Hiss and distortion are non-issues and while range is limited, there’s nothing to really complain about here. Optional English subtitles are provided. A Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track, also in English, is also included.

    Extras start off with a newly recorded audio commentary by director Amos Poe and writer Luc Sante that is almost too laid back for its own good at times, but which definitely offers up some welcome background information on the movie and the whole New York City post-punk art scene that this was more or less birthed from. A moderator might have helped, as the long gaps of silence on the track are definitely noticeable, but when the pair is engaged they cover what it was like shooting on location, the rushed production schedule, working with the cast and crew, the development of the script and more.

    Also included on the disc is a newly filmed interview with actor Vincent Spano, which runs twenty-two-minutes. In this piece he speaks about how he landed the part in the film, what it was like during the shoot, some of the issues (or really the lack thereof) that took place while shooting in a less than perfect area of NYC, running into the cops at one point and doing his own stunts in the film’s key scene. An interesting new video essay by filmmaker Chris O’Neill is also found on the disc, running a quick five-minutes. Here he covers the setting and locations featured in the film, where Poe drew from some of his influences and a bit more.

    A theatrical trailer and still gallery finish off the extras. Menus and chapter selection are also included. We do get some nice reversible cover sleeve art, however, and the first 2,000 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome (who are distributing this release) get a very nice limited edition, slip cover with some cool spot varnish accents on it.

    Alphabet City – The Final Word:

    Alphabet City can sometimes feel like an exercise in style over substance – because in many ways it really is just that – but it’s one of those films that is easy to get lost in, a time capsule of sorts but a seriously impressive and visually immersive work of oddball outsider cinematic art. Fun City Editions has done a very nice job bringing this one to Blu-ray with a very nice presentation and a nice selection of extra features as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Alphabet City Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. funkvader's Avatar
      funkvader -
      Buy this one!! I had never seen it before, but it's an instant rewatch.