• The Wraith (Vestron Video/Lionsgate) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vestron Video/Lionsgate
    Released on: July 20th, 2021.
    Director: Mike Marvin
    Cast: Charlie Sheen, Nick Cassavetes, Randy Quaid, Sherilyn Fenn, Clint Howard, Matthew Berry
    Year: 1986
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    The Wraith – Movie Review:

    Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) and his gang of custom car enthusiast jerks rule the highways of the desert with an iron fist. They’ll drag race anyone they please and, once they beat you, steal your car! Guys like Skank (David Sherrill) and Gutterboy (Jamie Bozian) answer to him, as does brainy mechanic Rughead (Clint Howard). They are no to be trifled with. Packard is lusting after Keri Johnson (Sherilyn Fenn) but he sees her more as a possession than a person, and he’s only too happy to make life difficult for any guy that might be ballsy enough to make a move on her. Exhibit A? Jamie Hankins. He makes out with Keri and, once Packard finds out, is promptly stabbed to death. The law of the town, Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid), hasn’t been able to really do anything about this, though he knows that Packard and company are consistently up to no good.

    A short time later, a mysterious stranger named Jake Kersey (Charlie Sheen) arrives in town. He’s the coolest of the cool, he’s got a motorcycle and a rad, bad ass car called the Turbo Interceptor. It doesn’t take long for Jake to move in and make an impression on Keri, which of course almost immediately pits him against Walsh and company. Meanwhile, Jake makes fast friends with Billy Hankins (Matthew Berry), the late Jamie’s younger brother all as our mysterious hero sets out to do away with Packard and company.

    The Wraith is goofy but super watchable thanks to some impressive stunts, a massive explosion, goofy eighties dialogue and a seriously great cast. It’s paced quickly, features a great gang of eighties ‘punks’ as the villains (eighties movie punks are the best and also the goofiest kind of punks, we all know this – they have colorful hair and weird make up on their faces), and the car itself is pretty rad. Clint Howard wears a big poofy wig and spouts some inane dialogue and Oh, and despite the film’s PG-13 rating, Ms. Fenn is still kind enough to go topless in a scene, so the movie has that going for it too. The ‘twist’ is easy to see and super predictable but that doesn’t really take anything away from this one, it’s entertaining because of an in spite of its obvious flaws and ridiculous ideas.

    It’s fun to see a young Charlie Sheen show up as the good guy here, long before he became the tabloid headline he morphed into. He’s got charisma here and he handles the material well enough. He made Platoon the same year, Wall Street a year later and Young Guns two years after so his star would shine pretty bright after he made The Wraith. He’s good here, but Nick Cassavetes… not so much. But not in a bad way? He chews the scenery a lot but you kind of what that in a movie like The Wraith so we can let it slide. His villainous Packard Walsh might be a cliché, but he’s an entertaining cliché. Fenn is here as eye candy. No disrespect to her, she’s a good actress, but she doesn’t have that much to do here but to stand around and look good. In her defense, she does that very well. Clint Howard steals most of the scenes that he’s in, his Rughead is just too weird not to love. Howard has always excelled at playing weird guys so this role is right up his alley and he makes the most of it.

    While very much a product of the mid-eighties in terms of the effects and overall look of the film, The Wraith is hokey and goofy but also kind of charming and seriously entertaining.

    The Wraith – Blu-ray Review:

    Wraith arrives on Blu-ray from Vestron Video/Lionsgate in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and taking up 23.5GBs of space on the 50GB disc and overall, it looks decent, if not perfect. There’s a bit of visible damage here and there but overall the image is pretty clean. Colors are handled nicely and look properly defined and we get strong black levels but skin tones look a little ruddy. You’ll notice when the optical effects are used as the picture quality can drop a bit in these scenes, but that’s no fault of the transfer or the disc, that’s just the way it goes. The good outweighs the bad, however. Detail is pretty solid and there’s nice depth and texture to the image. This won’t be your new demo disc but it looks pretty nice.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track. Dialogue is generally always clean and clear and easy to follow and the score sounds quite nice, as do the effects. No problems with any hiss or distortion to note and the levels are properly balanced here. Optional SDH subtitles are provided in English only while regular subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary with writer/director Mike Marvin flying solo. He talks about shooting the movie entirely in Tucson, Arizona, the sequence that opens the film and how it was put together by one of the artists who worked on Predator, details on the cast and crew that he worked with on the film and what they've gone on to do since the movie was made, how cold it was shooting the scene by the lake, working with Randy Quaid and Clint Howard, having to handle all of the effects and editing in a pre-digital era, staging the film's massive explosion scene and whether or not he'd ever make a sequel (he's written two). There’s a bit of dead air here and there but overall it’s a good track.

    A second audio commentary gets actors Dave Sherrill and Jamie Bozian together with Michael Felsher serving as moderator. This track is quite animated as Felsher keeps the two on topic and talking throughout. They talk about how they both wound up in North Carolina after spending a lot of time in L.A., how they wound up getting into acting in the first place, some of the training that they had, early roles and then eventually landing their respective roles in The Wraith. They also cover what some of their co-stars, including Charlie Sheen, were like to work with, Mike Marvin's abilities as a director, thoughts on their characters and a lot more.

    The disc also includes a group of isolated score selections featuring an audio interview with co-composer J. Peter Robinson, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 format. Felsher moderates this as well, and after giving a bit of an intro, we learn how Robinson came to work on The Wraith, where his career was at during this time, Mike Marvin's thoughts on the score and how he more or less let them do what they want (he wound up loving it), the challenges of scoring a film that has a lot of pop songs already in it, and working with co-composter Michael Hoenig. This interview runs about fifteen minutes.

    Tales From The Desert is a sixteen-minute interview with Marvin that notes how the movie was the first of its kind, how it was done using practical effects and no CGI, how impressed he was with the stunt work on the movie, how he got his start making ski movies in Lake Tahoe, moving on to make features, working in elements of western movies like High Plains Drifter into the film, other influences that worked their way into the movie and movies that The Wraith has gone on to influence (he cites The Crow as an example), what it was like on set, getting along with the cast and crew and how a lot of friendships were formed during the making of the movie, how the car used in the film was built and molded out of fiberglass and how when camera operator Bruce Ingram (to whom the film is dedicated) died while working on the film his career took a lot of damage and his own thoughts on this tragedy, continuity problems you can see in the movie, problems that he ran into in post and quite a bit more.

    Rughead Speaks is a twelve minute piece with the always amiable Clint Howard. He talks here about how he remains proud of his work on The Wraith and how he met a lot of great people on the shoot, how he enjoys being gainfully employed and will take roles for the paycheck with no regard to budget or genre with no shame about it, how his career has let him work with all manner of people on all manner of films, auditioning for the film and reading specifically for Rughead, having to wear a hair piece on the movie and not being bothered by this since his hair started falling out at sixteen, thoughts on his character, really bonding with a lot of his fellow cast members including Sheen who he later worked with on two short films that Sheen directed, not being allowed to see the dailies while the movie was still in production and a good bit more. Interesting stuff.

    Ride of the Future is a twelve minute piece that looks at the Turbo Interceptor car featured in the movie by way of interviews with transportation coordinator Gary Hellerstein and stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker. They cover how the car was dangerous and hard to drive, basing the car in the movie off of an Indy Pace Car that was made by Chrysler (who were willing to let them use it in the movie), creating a few different replicas of the real car for different purposes and stunt sequences, what happened when one of the car stunts went bad and how they couldn't get ahold of anyone due to where the movie was being shot, the tragedy of Bruce Ingram's death on the shoot, raising money for the families affected by the tragedy, thoughts on the finished film and more.

    The eleven minute The Ghost Car explores the visual effects used in the film with Peter Kuran, the film's visual effects producer, and effects animator Kevin Kutchaver. This piece goes over the influence of Alan Munro on the film, some of the stranger story elements of the film, how both of these interviewees came to work on the movie and had known each other before their work on the movie, creating the effects for the opening sequence using vacation stills as reference, the effects shots used for showing off the engine in the car, who did what on set, how they were able to make the suit glow in the film and more.

    The Wraith Filming Locations: Then And Now is a twenty-seven minute tour of the locations that were used in the film. A guy named Chris, who doesn't give his last name, serves as a tour guide in this piece, showing off the different stretches of highway that were used, some of the houses that show up in the film, where the river scene was shot, the motel that pops up in the movie, the airplane graveyard from the film and a whole lot of desert!

    Finishing up the extra on the disc are a theatrical trailer, a few TV spots, a two minute alternate title sequence (as Interceptor), a still gallery, menus and chapter selection options.

    As far as the packaging goes, Vestron includes a very cool metallic-looking slipcover and, inside the standard-sized Blu-ray keepcase, an insert card with a code that can be redeemed for a digital copy of the movie.

    The Wraith – The Final Word:

    If you don’t think about it too much, The Wraith is a pretty fun watch, an entertaining B-movie that might not feel like the most original film ever made but which offers some decent action and an interesting cast. The Blu-ray release from Lionsgate/Vestron offers up a decent, if not perfect, transfer with strong audio and a very impressive selection of extras. Fans of this eighties oddity will definitely appreciate it.

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

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Newt Cox's Avatar
      Newt Cox -
      Grabbed this yesterday. Nice to finally replace the Platinum DVD I got decades ago for 5 bucks.

      Also at one of the scenes at the burger joint Fenn works at you will see a young Brooke Burke as one of the waitresses.