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- Published on Amazon.com
I'm not going to discuss all the movies in this box in detail, this review is mainly about this DVD box set (Roger Corman's Best of the B's Collection). When I heard a few months back that this set was coming out I got pretty excited. Finally, I thought, decent transfers of T-Bird Gang, The Wild Ride, The Fast and the Furious, and Angels Hard As They Come, a new release of the out-of-print The Winner (Pit Stop), and DVD debuts for Naked Angels and Bury Me an Angel. Cool! I had actually imagined that Corman himself might somehow be involved here, and that we might finally be getting some good-looking, licensed prints of these movies. What was I thinking?!
The back of the box claims the movies have been "digitally remastered." "From what?" is the question; these are the same old fuzzy, low-contrast, worn-out public domain prints that you've seen before! The transfers of T-Bird Gang, Wild Ride, and Angels Hard As They Come aren't any better than the cheapie no-name DVDs I already had, and GoodTimes' edition of The Fast and the Furious even looks better than the version presented here. Even more disappointing is that Naked Angels and Bury Me an Angel were both obviously mastered from VHS tapes rather than actual film prints or negatives (the soft picture, periodic horizontal noise lines, and rolling tape wrinkles give it away). OK, I could almost live with that--at least I finally get to see these two movies without investing in obsolete VHS tapes, right? Well, sort of. Unfortunately, Infinity Entertainment has placed a stupid translucent watermark in the lower right-hand corner of the frame throughout the entire running time of every movie, basically nullifying this entire release! It's usually not terribly distracting, but it's there. What, did they think someone was going to pirate these crappy transfers? It's bad enough we have to have all our TV-watching marred by these stupid logos--but to pay good money for DVDs and still have to put up with this? Pathetic, and an insult to the consumer.
The "extras" are pretty lacklustre as well. You do get a handful of trailers, though several appear to have been "borrowed" from other, legitimate Corman DVD releases (Masque of the Red Death, Tomb of Ligeia) that you probably already own if you're looking at this set. Only the trailers for Pit Stop and three 1970s New World ". . . Nurses" movies were new to me. You also get several drive-in intermission countdowns, though only one is of decent quality; the other two are so pixelated that they're virtually unwatchable.
The print of The Winner (the best of the lot) actually looks quite good, very sharp and clean (probably pirated from the OOP Anchor Bay DVD), other than the fact that the transfer is anamorphic but not widescreen, so it has that "squeezed" look. If you have a widescreen TV and can "stretch" it to correct aspect ratio, great, otherwise everybody looks like a Giacometti sculpture. Too bad, too, cause it's a great movie, and the Anchor DVD is hard to find and expensive if you do.
As to Naked Angels, I've seen over 25 biker movies at this point, and this has to be one of the worst in terms of entertainment value. It's not that bad on a technical level (the soundtrack and cinematography are actually pretty good), but I was over an hour into it and still waiting for anything interesting to happen. Lots of riding around in the desert, ugly misogyny, and bickering amongst the biker gang, but precious little action or plot. Even some sporadic nudity can't save this thing. (Keep your eyes peeled for Penelope Spheeris as one of the biker mamas.) By the time the poorly staged "action packed" finale rolled around I really didn't care anymore. The only good news is that the print, transferred from a damaged videotape, is open matte, so if you have a widescreen TV you can enlarge it to fill the screen and lose the crummy watermark in the process.
Bury Me an Angel is marginally better, although definitely in the lower tier of biker movies. At least things happen in this movie, including an amusing encounter with an Ernest T. Bass sound-alike sheriff, a badly choreographed bar fight, some brief skinny-dipping by heroine Dixie Peabody, and my favorite, a scene toward the end when Dag/Dixie casually strolls past a couple of kids into their elementary school toting a loaded shotgun and takes a meeting with the principal. Wooden and/or over-the-top acting, ridiculous situations, dumb dialogue, and bad line readings abound. But at least I got a goodly share of laughs out of this one, unlike Naked Angels. The transfer is full frame, with fairly frequent digital artifacting, and the disc stopped playing once and returned to the menu by itself. I restarted it, went back the the place where it stopped, and then it played through fine.
So, in the final analysis this set gets one star: one star each for bringing Naked Angels and Bury Me an Angel to the digital format, minus one star for all the mediocre transfers and irritating logos. If the price is worth it to you to get the two biker movies in used VHS quality, and The Winner in bastardized form, go for it. There's really nothing else to make this box worth recommending. I suppose if you don't own any of the other movies, this set is probably cheaper than buying them all on separate discs; but then you still have the watermark issue. My advice is to avoid this set like the plague unless you absolutely have to see Naked Angels, Bury Me an Angel, or The Winner and this is your only viable option. The whole package just reeks of ripoff. A really big disappointment!