Lionsgate Home Entertainment continues to impress with their discerning taste for premium releases of nostalgic retro horror and sci-fi titles through their Vestron Video Collector’s Series. If you’re not familiar, the Vestron Video series is like a Criterion Collection for movies that you begged your parents to let you rent as you browsed the video store horror aisles, but they were either too violent, gory, or weird. With the release of both Gothic and Class of 1999 on Blu-ray, Lionsgate brings the total collection of Vestron Video’s lovable schlock to fourteen titles with no end in sight. We’ve reviewed other Vestron Blu-rays before, so let’s take a look at what makes these two stand out.
Gothic on Blu-ray
Even if you never saw this movie on its original release back in 1986, you can’t tell me that you don’t have the image of the creepy little dude on the cover burned into your retinas to return and visit you in your dreams after spotting this title at the video store. As with most releases, you’ll find that Gothic supports some big names stars before they hit it big. In this case, Gabriel Byrne and Natasha Richardson join a cast where “five famous friends spend a hallucinogenic evening confronting their fears in a frenzy of shocking lunacy and horrifying visions in this fictional tale, which tells the story of Mary Shelley’s conception of Frankenstein on one debauched night in Lord Byron’s home.”
The story still holds up all these years later, but if your last exposure to this was a worn VHS copy, you’ll be really pleased with the high definition 1080p and 16×9 widescreen presentation. Like many other DVD releases, you’ll still get the theatrical trailer, TV spot, and audio commentary tracks, but this Blu-ray release also adds plenty of other ways to learn how the sausage got made:
- Isolated score selections and audio interview with composer Thomas Dolby (!)
- “The Sould of Shelley” Featurette with actor Julian Sands
- “Fear Itself” Featurette with screenwriter Stephen Volk
- “One Rainy Night” Featurette with DP Mike Southan
Class of 1999 on Blu-ray
While I certainly enjoyed revisiting Gothic, I absolutely loved rewatching a high-def version of Class of 1999! I mean, it’s loaded with cyborg gore, incredible practical effects, and Pam Grier! Okay. Okay. I guess Malcolm McDowell and Stacy Keach are good too, but what more do you need? Oh, a story about youth gangs versus high school teachers who are really androids programmed to teach… and kill? Well, Class of 1999 has you covered.
Just like Gothic above, Class of 1999 is chock-full of special features and interviews, which is really the added value for these types of releases. I imagine if you’re spending over $30 for a Blu-ray, you: 1) really love the movie; and 2) want a lot of value added. Lionsgate has you covered:
- Audio commentary with producer-director Mark L. Lester
- “School Safety” interviews with producer-director Mark L. Lester and co-producer Eugene Mazzola
- “New Rules’ interview with screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner
- “Cyber-Teachers from Hell” interviews with special effects creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton
- “Future of Discipline” interview with DP Mark Irwin
- Plus all the regular stuff you’d expect like the theatrical trailer, TV spots, and more
For me, I particularly enjoyed the interviews with the special effect guys and marveled at their mechanical masterpieces. It was really interesting seeing how they combined some of the simplest camera tricks with some of the best technology of the time to pull off something as gonzo as (spoiler alert!) Pam Grier ripping open her cyborg chest. The movie itself is only 97 minutes, but with all the bonus features, you can really dive deep!
Available January 30, 2018, the suggested MSRP is $39.97 and it, like most Vestron titles, is rated R.
If you were a kid like me who ran straight to the Fangoria or Starlog magazines as a kid, the Vestron Video Collector’s Series is for you. If you can swing it, I’d recommend picking up both. However, if you can only get one, I’d have to go with Class of 1999. But, don’t stop there. You can pickup any one of the previous Blu-ray releases as well:
- Chopping Mall
- Blood Diner
- Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost in Time
- Return of the Living Dead 3
- C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud
- The Lair of the White Worm
- The Gate
- Wishmaster Collection
- The Unholy
- Warlock Collection
- Slaughter High
Disclosure: I received copies of Gothic and Class of 1999 for review purposes. All opinions are my own.