• Scanner Cop/Scanner Cop II (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 29th 2021.
    Director: Pierre David/Steven Barnett
    Cast: Daniel Quinn, Darlanne Fluegel, Richard Grove, Richard Lynch, Hilary Shepard, Patrick Kilpatrick, Khrystyne Haje, Robert Forster, Stephen Mendel
    Year: 1994/1995
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Scanner Cop/Scanner Cop II – Movie Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings the two Scanner Cop films, made by Image Productions as sequels to David Cronenberg’s 1981 classic, Scanners, to high definition for the first time. Here’s a look…

    Scanner Cop:

    When Samuel Staziak was kid (Elan Rothschild), he saw his dad freak out after not taking his meds and get shot by the cops. His dad, like young Samuel, was a ‘scanner’ and had telepathic abilities that he wasn’t able to control without his meds. Sam was adopted by a cop named Peter Harrigan (Richard Grove) and, years later as an adult (Daniel Quinn), graduated from the police academy himself, proud to serve the city of Los Angeles alongside his adopted father, now the official Commander of the L.A.P.D.

    Shortly after getting his badge, Sam is tasked with investigating a rash of murders wherein perfectly normal everyday citizens shoot down uniformed police officers for no discernable reason. Sam is brought in to ‘scan’ a suspect and find out what made a normal housewife stab her cop husband to death in their kitchen. When he does, it turns out that these murders are connected to an escaped lunatic named Karl Glock (Richard Lynch) and his goth gal partner in crime, a Tarot card reader named Zena (Hilary Shephard). After scanning a computer and mentally manipulating an amusingly early version of Photoshop, they come up with a perfect composite drawing of Glock that they can use to bring him down.

    Will Sam, with some help from kindly Dr. Joan Alden (Darlanne Fluegel), Harrigan and Lieutenant Harry Brown (Mark Rolston) be able to stop Glock and Zana before they can kill again?

    Scanner Cop may not be deep, but it is fun. It’s actually got some pretty interesting ideas at play, taking the concepts from Cronenberg’s far more cerebral original and applying to the ‘what if he was a cop?’ scenario pretty effectively. There’s some solid effects work here – lots of veins bulge and heads shift around - and director Pierre David paces the movie pretty much perfectly – giving us enough character development but not shorting us on action or suspense.

    The movie also benefits from a great cast. Quinn is a likeable lead and he has a good chemistry with the rest of the cast. Shephard plays the ‘smart lady doctor’ cliché well enough and Grove is well-cast as a father figure type. Richard Lynch and Hilary Shephard are a lot of fun as the villains here, never going for subtlety, and hey, keep your eyes open for a small cameo from none other than Bryan James!

    Scanner Cop II: The Showdown

    Also known as Scanner Cop II: Volkin’s Revenge (which is what the title card used for this release uses), this sequel, made a year after the first film, this picture finds Pierre David out of the director’s chair (though still serving as one of the film’s producers) and Steven Barnett calling the shots.

    The story this time around? Sam Staziak (Daniel Quinn again) has worked his way up from beat cop to detective thanks to his skills as a police officer his telekinetic powers. Captain Jack Bitters (Robert Forster) brings him in to bring down some bad guys who have taken some innocent people hostage. Anyway, Sam has decided that he’s going to try and find his birth mother – the first movie let us in on the deal with his dad, but not his mom, Rachel (Barbara Tarbuck) – and while doing so, comes into conflict with a man who sports a black trench coat named Karl Volkin (Patrick Kilpatrick), a super powerful scanner who wants revenge (hence the subtitle). Why? Because some time ago Sam brought Volkin in for some crimes and in the ensuring struggle, dude’s brother was killed Volkin holds Sam responsible for this and wants to take him out.

    There’s a twist though – Volkin has the uncanny ability to usurp the powers of any other scanners that he happens to kill, and when he does, his own powers increase substantially. This makes Volkin Sam’s biggest challenge yet!

    This isn’t as good as the first film but it works on many of the same levels. Any complexity that exited with Sam’s character due to his hesitancy to use his powers after what his dad went through is out the window this time around. Sam’s more than happy to stare and people and make their veins bulge and all that weird stuff. It leads to a more effects-heavy movie than the first Scanner Cop was, but it’s also a more superficial one.

    Still, the late Daniel Quinn, who passed away all too young in 2015, is once again a likeable lead. He’s more of a standard tough guy cop here than in the original movie but he’s fun to watch. It’s great to see Robert Forster show up, he beings a likeable screen presence to everything he’s involved with, though the movie really should have given him more screen time. Patrick Kilpatrick makes a great heavy here and he plays the role of the villain really well, frequently stealing many of the scenes that he’s involved with.

    Scanner Cop/Scanner Cop II – UHD Review:

    Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop II arrive on separate UHD discs from Vinegar Syndrome on two 66GB platters in new 4k transfers of the original 35mm negatives framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p with HDR. The picture quality here is excellent. Colors really pop, detail is consistently strong and frequently very impressive and black levels are inky and deep without crushing any detail. Skin tones look perfect, there’s a lot of appreciable depth and texture here and it all shapes up very, very nicely. Compression artifacts are never a problem and both transfers are devoid of any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement. Print damage is pretty much a non-issue here. While a natural amount of film grain is always present, more noticeable in some scenes than others, you’ll be hard pressed to find any scratches or visible dirt. Both movies look excellent in 4k, and the included Blu-ray discs, each presenting the movie on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and taken from the same restorations, also look very good if not quite as detailed or colorful.

    Audio chores are handled just fine by the movies’ DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo mixes, in the films’ native English. Dialogue is easy to follow and properly balanced alongside the film’s score, which demonstrates good depth and range. The tracks are clear, the scores have nice range, the effects sounds really solid. No problems here at all, sound quality is quite strong. The UHD and Blu-ray discs appear to have identical audio tracks on them.

    Extras on the UHD discs include a commentary for each film. For the first film, the crew from the We Hate Movies Podcast that goes over the history of the film and offers up some critical analysis of the movie, typically with a sense of humor that makes this fun to listen to without ever going into MST3K riffing on the movie.

    On the second film, director Steve Barnett gets behind the mic to talk about how he became involved in the film, what it was like on set, working with the film’s producers, the effects, the locations and lots more. Both tracks are pretty interesting and worth listening to if you need to know more about the history of these two oddly compelling films.

    But if commentary tracks aren’t your thing, spread across the discs in this set is a two-part documentary called Outside The Law: The Scanner Cop Revolution that covers a lot of the same ground. The first part runs twenty-two minutes and includes interviews with producer/director Pierre David, actress Hilary Shepard, actor Mark Rolston, actor Richard Grove, special effects artist Ted Haines, special effects artist James Rohland, stunt coordinator Jeff Pruitt, director Steve Barnett and screenwriter Simon Barrett. The second part runs twenty-eight minutes and includes interviews with Barnett, Barrett, David, Rohland, actor Patrick Kilpatrick, actress Khrystyne Haje, actor Stephen Mendel, composer Richard Bowers, special effects artist Jeff Farley and makeup effects artist Tom Irwin. Both parts are great! This is a really interesting look at how these movies came to be, who did what on set, the marketing behind the films, connecting them to the original Scanners, the casting, the effects work and lots more. The interviews are all quite interesting and a lot of fun and the production values on the documentary are top notch.

    Each disc also includes a trailer for its respective feature as well as menus and chapter selection options.

    It’s also worth pointing out the packaging for this release. Each disc fits inside its own black keepcase that features some great reversible cover sleeve art. These two keepcases in turn fit inside a sturdy embossed side-loading cardboard box with art for the first film on one side and art for the second film on the reverse. It’s a very classy presentation!

    Scanner Cop/Scanner Cop II - The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome’s UHD/Blu-ray release of Scanner Cop/Scanner Cop II gives these two super-entertaining slices of B-grade sci-fi/horror a top notch presentation. The transfers are gorgeous and the extras do a great job of documenting the history of these two films. The movies themselves are just a whole lot of fun. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Scanner Cop/Scanner Cop II Blu-ray screen caps!