• Dark Tower (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: March 2nd, 2021.
    Director: Freddie Francis, Ken Wiederhorn
    Cast: Jenny Agutter, Michael Moriarty, Carol Linley, Theodore Bikel
    Year: 1988
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    Dark Tower – Movie Review:

    Directed under the alias of Ken Barnett by famed British cinematographer Freddie Francis (who worked on many Hammer and Amicus pictures during his heyday) and reportedly completed by cult filmmaker Ken Wiederhorn (of Shock Waves fame), Dark Tower opens with some establishing shots that place the story in Barcelona, Spain, specifically recently constructed high tech office building. As he goes about his business he winds up peeping in on pretty Carolyn Page (Jenny Agutter), the architect who designed the building who for reasons never properly explained is strutting about her office in an unfinished building wearing some fancy lingerie. Before you know it, something whisks him off his perch and he falls to his death below, landing on and killing an office worker who just so happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Unico, the corporation that owns the building, brings in a former cop named Dennis Randall (Michael Moriarty) to investigate, and he comes to the conclusion that the man fell because he had a seizure. After he meets Carolyn, who doesn’t buy his explanation, he starts to have strange visions, which makes him decide to visit a parapsychologist named Max Gold (Theodore Bikel) who, along with a psychic named Sergie (Kevin McCarthy), decides to investigate the goings on at the building. With Randall in tow, they begin their investigation proper by poking about and talking to things, all while something inside the building seems to be plotting against poor Carolyn, while yet more strange deaths occur on the premises.

    Dark Tower isn’t very good. It has a few things going for it that make it watchable, but keep your expectations lowered for this one. Any movie with Jenny Agutter strutting about in lingerie does, by default, have something going for it, so there’s that, but the script is a mess and leaves all manner of sloppy lose ends unresolved. There are logic gaps aplenty. Why does Carolyn strut about in slinky duds in her office? Granted, she puts on a business suit afterwards but it still seems impractical. Why, if the elevator fails and kills someone don’t they either shut it down or get a repairman in to look at it. The effects are rather lackluster when they actually do appear on screen (which isn’t until the final stretch of the film). The supernatural angle that the story hinges on, which we don’t spoil here as a courtesy to those who haven’t watched this yet, feels tacked on and forced.

    For a movie directed by a cinematographer, Dark Tower is also surprisingly bland looking. Yeah, fine, it’s all in focus and competently shot, no question about that, but there’s nothing particularly fancy looking about the picture. Granted, Francis didn’t shoot the movie, the credited cinematographer on the project is Gordon Hayman, but his name being attached to the project raises expectations and leads viewers to at least presume the picture will be visually strong. Nope! There’s really nothing all that remarkable about this picture. Moriarty and McCarthy are amusing in certain segments but it isn’t enough to save this stinker. It’s no wonder neither Francis nor Wiederhorn bothered taking credit for it.

    Dark Tower – Blu-ray Review:

    Dark Tower comes to Region A Blu-ray “newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive” framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 25GB disc, with the feature taking up 24GBs of space. If the movie isn’t very good, the transfer at least is. It looks really nice here, with good color reproduction and strong depth and detail. Compression artifacts aren’t a problem and there are no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Natural film grain is noticeable throughout but there’s very little actual print damage here at all, the picture is nice and clean in that regard. It looks really good.

    The only audio option is handled by a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track. Optional subtitles are offered in English only. Audio quality is fine, with the dialogue always easy to follow and understand and the levels properly balanced throughout. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. It all sounds just fine.

    The main extra on the disc is Dark Inspirations, an interview with special effects artist Steve Neill that clocks in at eleven-minutes in length. He speaks here about what inspired him to get into filmmaking and FX work, his love of sci-fi and horror movies, the influence of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, his own work trying to get kids interested in rocketry, setting up his own effects studio that does everything from CGI to practical effects work, being inspired by John Chambers' work on Planet Of the Apes, American Zoetrope's assistance in getting his Super 8mm and 16mm movies scene by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, taking an internship at American Zoetrope and then moving on to do feature film work himself. As the piece moves to its finish he talks about taking the job on Dark Tower, what he was responsible for doing on the film and his thoughts on the picture overall.

    Aside from that, the disc also contains a promotional still gallery, menus and chapter selection options. It also comes packaged with some nice reversible cover artwork.

    Dark Tower - The Final Word:

    Dark Tower isn’t a particularly good film, or even a particularly interesting one, but those who do enjoy it – and they’re probably out there – will at least appreciate Vinegar Syndrome’s very nice Blu-ray release. It isn’t stacked with extras but the interview is interesting and the presentation of the feature is very nice.

    Click on the images below for full sized Dark Tower Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Killer Meteor's Avatar
      Killer Meteor -
      The 3rd picture...thank you!