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Blastfighter (Special Edition)
Jake "Tiger" Sharp (Michael Sopkiw) is a former cop who spent eight years behind bars for murdering the man who killed his wife. When he's released from prison, Jake decides to head back to the town in Georgia where he grew up and hopefully get a chance to start over. Or maybe not. On his way there, he stops to visit a friend and is given an SPAS-12, a shotgun that fires not only buckshot but pretty much anything else: grenades, tear gas and even rockets.
When Jake killed the guy who murdered his wife, he did it right in front of his lawyer, who also happened to be the guy's gay lover. Now that Jake is out, he wants to put a bullet in the lawyer as well, but when it comes time to pull the trigger, Jake has a change of heart. A short time later and he's up in the mountains and the gun is buried, hopefully soon to be forgotten. But after enjoying some peace and quiet and befriending a deer, he gets irked when said deer is captured by some locals, eventually doing a mercy killing on the poor thing. From here, Jake befriends a girl named Connie (Valentina Forte credited as Valerie Blake) who eventually turns out to be his daughter! She moves in but unfortunately for them both, the locals that kidnapped the deer are none too happy with Jake. Their leader, Tom (George Eastman), grew up with Jake but that won't be enough to stop them from going to war against each other, and you just know that gun is getting dug up and used to set things right!
Blastfighter is a bit of a First Blood clone but it also adds elements of hicksploitation pictures like Deliverance into the mix (the banjo kid from that movie even shows up here!). It's a pretty fun movie, fast-paced and plenty violent, the SPAS-12 getting a lot of creative use in the second half of the movie once the setup is out of the way with. Shot on location in George by an Italian cast and crew, the movie was clearly made on a modest budget but director Lamberto Bava (the son of Mario Bava who would go on to make quite a name for himself in the horror genre with films like Demons) doesn't overreach in that regard. The Georgia locations are well-used and authentic enough to work, even if you're never too far removed from the fact that you're watching an Italian movie made in America rather than an actual American production. And that's not a bad thing, because Italian genre movies were fantastic in the eighties. On top of that, the movie also benefits from a pretty great score courtesy of Fabio Frizzi (credited as Andrew Barrymore) and a theme song called ‘Tommy Baby' written by the Gibb Brothers!
As far as the cast goes, George Eastman, the Anthropophagous himself, steals quite a few scenes as the film's heavy. He's a big guy with a pretty intense screen presence and Bava milks that for all that it is worth in this picture. Be on the lookout for Michel Soavi, director of Cemetery Man and The Church in a supporting role as Connie's boyfriend. It's a small part but he's decent enough in it. Valentina Forte is pretty wooden here and not given much to do except exist as a plot device. As to our leading man? Michael Sopkiw is pretty great in the lead. He's got a killer moustache and a tough guy persona that suits the role nicely. He handles himself well in the action scenes and just exudes machismo in the role. The English dubbing doesn't really do anyone any favors here, but that's part and parcel with Italian genre films of this period, most fans won't be bothered by it.
Code Red presents Blastfighter framed at 1.66.1 widescreen in a transfer taken from an HD Master With Extensive And Painstaking Color Correction Exclusive To This Release‘ and it generally looks quite nice. Colors look strong here, bold without being oversaturated, and black levels are pretty decent as well. Detail is generally quite good, though softer in some scenes than in others, and there's only ever minor print damage to note, the vast majority of the time the transfer looks pretty clean. The expected amount of natural film grain is there, and there are no noticeable issues with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.
The only audio option for this release is a 24-bit English language DTS-HD Mono track. Again, no problems here. The dialogue is perfectly audible and the levels are properly balanced. The film's score sounds nice too, with just the right amount of ‘oomph' behind it when the movie needs it.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary with Michael Sopkiw moderated by Nathanial Thompson. It's a fun talk, covering what it was like to work with Lamberto Bava, how he got along with his co-stars, what it was like on set, and lots more. He tells some great stories here about what it was like to work in the Italian film industry during this period, it's pretty interesting stuff.
The disc also contains a new interview with Sopkiw that lasts for eight-minutes. It covers some of the same ground as the commentary track but also goes over some of the other films that he made during this period. Additionally, George Eastman appears in a separate interview that runs ten-minutes. Here he speaks very candidly about his thoughts on Bava's abilities as a director (he's not kind) and various other topics, some of them quite random. Director Lamberto Bava also appears in an interview where, over the course of twenty-minutes, he talks about what inspired the film, the differences between directing an action picture like this and the horror films he's better known for, locations, casting and more. Director Of Photography Gianlorenzo Battaglia is also interviewed. He spends twelve-minutes talking about his experiences working on the film.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options.
Blastfighter isn't the most original action/revenge film ever made but it's a very entertaining one. It builds nicely and features an explosive climax and some fun performances. Code Red's Blu-ray release looks and sounds quite good and features some decent extra features as well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.