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The Poison Ivy Collection (Blu-ray Review)

I’m sure there are people out there that were hoping to one day land Katt Shea’s 1992 thriller Poison Ivy on Blu-ray. I’m not so sure there were those out there clamoring for an entire set of the Poison Ivy quadrilogy on Blu-ray in order to get that film. But, hey, if you’re doing one of them, lets nab all four while we are at it. Shout! Factory’s new relationship with Warner Bros has led them to snagging this series from the library and putting three of them out on the format for the first time ever. Previously, just the fourth one had received a Blu-ray release (Back in 2009). They come in a nice little set together, in Unrated and Theatrical editions and will be able to be had by Valentine’s day as they release on February 12th.

Poison Ivy 

Dejected about her relationship with her father, Darryl (Tom Skerritt), a teen girl, Sylvie Cooper (Sara Gilbert), grows closer to a fiery fellow student named Ivy (Drew Barrymore). But as much as Sylvie craves Ivy’s wildness, Ivy, in turn, is attracted to Sylvie’s comfortable home life. Ivy seduces Darryl in an attempt to have that life for herself, and also takes steps to kill Sylvie’s mother, Georgie (Cheryl Ladd), who is seriously ill, making it look like Sylvie is the guilty one.

The original Poison Ivy is clearly one of those film series that aren’t defined by the first movie. Its the second one that really sets the tone and all the rest copy from. Katt Shea’s original erotic thriller is pretty tasteful and competent piece of work and doesn’t even venture anywhere into the smut or late night Cinemax softcore porn that one would assume the series is from the get go. In fact, there are only a couple sex scenes in the film and they are done with a talented hand at shooting and cutting them, looking more artful than lustful.

Katt Shea’s film is much more engaging and enjoyable than one might expect. It fills its roster with very credible performers and has a terrific chemistry and displays from both Drew Barrymore and Sara Gilbert who really drive the movie. Yes, the film is very much a feature film soap opera story arc, but that’s the pulpy, addictive fun that comes with it. If we give credence to horror, superhero and sci-fi movies for being “pure genre” films, than Poison Ivy deserves the same sort of respect in the “romantic thriller” category. Or, we can call it “erotic thriller” if that pleases you more, but I didn’t feel the film’s prerogative was to arouse.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-2 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: No details provided on this jump to Blu-ray but I’d assume its a 2K transfer. The Unrated Version features SD inserts where applicable. They are noticeable as the film transfer looks as good as it does, but the color timing stays pretty close to accurate. Overall, Poison Ivy’s Blu-ray debut has a nice filmic look to it and is more impressive than I was expecting. The image features some really solid color saturation and decent depth work to see that some did care about the film getting put on the format.

Depth:  Depth of field is pretty decent here with some solid distancing between the foreground and background. Movements are cinematic and smooth with no motion distortions occurring.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and feature a nice, complimentary tone to the overall look of the film with no crushing issues evident. Some grain shows slightly heavier in the darker scenes.

Color Reproduction: Colors are surprisingly strong and well saturated here in the image. Most notably reds, blues, greens and whites showcase a good range of shades.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are pretty clear and discernible from most reasonable given distances.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Poison Ivy’s stereo track is a nice compliment to the quality video transfer. Its loud and really has a nice mix on the score that weaves in and out of prominence throughout the feature. It has some good low end sound production and features a healthy balance of effects, vocals and score.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Gilbert’s narration features an expected prominence to it, but is so good you kinda feel she could be sitting near you speaking into a microphone.

Poison Ivy 2: Lily 

Lily (Alyssa Milano), a sheltered Midwesterner, arrives in Los Angeles to attend art school. In the large apartment she shares with several others, she discovers a diary detailing the sexual misadventures of a girl named Ivy, and decides to transform herself into the girl’s image. First, she seduces her housemate Gredin (Johnathon Schaech), and then her married professor, Donald (Xander Berkeley). Lust turns to obsession, which soon gives rise to violence.

Surprisingly, while the sequel to Posion Ivy does raise the bar a bit in terms of its sexual content, its only a bit of detail to how this thriller is being told as opposed to being a prime tool of exploitation. Marketing-wise for the film back in the 1990s, yes, they did focus on the sexual nature of the film as that was the buzz of the original. It was also during the time Alyssa Milano was trying to shed her child star image taking roles in erotic movies like Embrace The Vampire (C’mon guys of my generation, you know you convinced your parents to rent “That horror movie about vampires starring Alyssa Milano!”).  The same director from that even returns to team with her here.

Once again, Poison Ivy is more a pulpy genre entry in romantic thrillers than it is softcore porn. It did play on Cinemax a lot, but its more a soap opera that can show boobs and be a little more steamy with its sex. Its not badly cast either, as you get Xander Berkeley in a nice spin on the skeezy roles he tended to play in the 1990s. The final act all kind of ups the crazy, but it helps to make the film more watchable if anything.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Poison Ivy 2: Lily’s debut on Blu-ray likely is culled from a 2K scan. The original was shot on film so it comes over pretty nicely with solid attentions to detail and sharpness in the image with a complimentary layer of grain. This is one of those films that looks a lot better than it probably deserves, but it does look pretty nice. SD inserts are present for the Unrated and are noticeable to the trained eye, but not too distracting overall. They’ve done as good as they can to match them up with the HD transfer.

Depth:  The depth is about on par with the first film. Actors move around freely and cinematically in the image.

Black Levels: Blacks are very deep and consuming in the film. Some intention, but other moments look like details are masked a little bit. No crushing issues witnessed in this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors hit a more natural look, but do carry a solid, bolder look to them with pretty good saturation throughout.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural in appearance and consistent throughout the film. Facial features are decent and visible in any reasonable distance in frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Poison Ivy 2: Lily features a really good stereo track that is again loud and has good low end bumps on music and other deep sound effects. Its a balanced mix and the dialogue and “uhs” and “ahs” sound quite nice.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Poison Ivy: The New Seduction 

A vengeful seductress (Jaime Pressly) returns to the family and former best friend (Megan Edwards) she believes betrayed her years ago.

The third in the Poison Ivy franchise also happens to be the first one to be directed by a man. Watching them in this order really stood out in how much more raunchy and explicit the sex is presented in the film. Before it felt like it was more a product of the scene and characters, in The New Seduction its all focused on the sex at hand. This is the first time I really felt like I was watching something more akin to a Cinemax softcore original than I was an actual thriller. Oddly enough, it took three entries in this before it really became, “sex first, movie later”.

I’m not going to banish this one quite all the way into that corner though. It does have some vicious fun in it odd revenge(?) style plot. Jaime Pressly really helps to bolster this one up there a bit as her devious and seductive nature can carry the film. They also tie the film directly into the first movie by giving us more background on the original Ivy character and expanding her family tree a little bit (The second film focused on a diary she left behind). Its not a good film and unfortunately this is the first time I felt this was complete sleeze.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Broken record here, but this looks pretty solid in its (assumed) 2K transfer. This was a complete through and through straight to video effort, so it naturally looks a little cheaper. Details are pretty strong here and its a more vivid looking picture than the first 2 films. Once again, the SD inserts are there and best they can be and none too distracting. Probably matches best with this film than the others.

Depth: Some decent spacing involved with smooth, natural movements through each environment and no motion distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and not problematic at all, with good saturation. No crushing witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty bold and strong. Natural stuff having a more tropical look to them with the better lighting featured in the source.

Flesh Tones: Once again, this carries a natural look from beginning to end. Facial features and textures are clear and discernible within understandable reason.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Once again, the humping comes at a good volume with a nice stereo mix accompaniment. There is a good balance to this mix and it is plenty impactful, mostly on par with the other films in this set.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are loud and plenty audible throughout.

Poison Ivy: The Secret Society 

A young woman (Miriam McDonald) from a small town transfers to an elite private college and becomes involved with a secret society of seductive coeds who manipulate men.

Happy 10 year anniversary to this…film. We actually share the same birthday. After dormant for 12 years, the Poison Ivy series came back, totally detached from anything that came before. This fourth film feels like one of those scripts that wasn’t written to be a Poison Ivy film but it featured seduction and adultery so they found a way to slap a franchise label on a straight to video release.

Basically, this sorority is called “The Ivies” and that’s your real connection. There are many attractive young people in the film, many of who get naked and hump, but still this movie is about as garbage as you’d expect this and the series to be. Its kinda sad how far things had fallen from the first film (And honestly, even the second) to get to this. This film is merely a cash in, tells a predictable, tired story and whose only value is to a 12 year old boy without the internet who snuck this home from the video store (Something that doesn’t really exist anymore). Just go watch porn on your phone. Honestly.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: This is the only film in the series that was already on Blu-ray already. Obviously, I’ve not any comparison to that previous version that had rated poorly. I thought this one looks plenty serviceable, obviously being a digitally shot movie. Details are solid. Its nothing to write home about, but this is Poison Ivy 4: Barely Part Of The Series. I think we are fine.

Depth:  Depth is average, with smooth, fluid, natural motion. No real problematic motion distortions abound.

Black Levels: Things get pretty deep here and data is surely a little lost, but overall, solid blacks and good shading.

Color Reproduction: Colors are solid. More vivid than the other movies as the digital filming is much brighter.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent start to finish. Facial features like make-up, wrinkles and more come through decently.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The bedroom behavior bumps pretty rock solid here with a decent stereo track. There’s a decent balance in the mixture with a good attention to the score in the mix. Effects have solid layering in the track.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Clear and plenty audible in any given scene. The pleasure sounds are crisp.

Extras 

The Poison Ivy Collection is a 4-Disc set with each film getting its own disc. The first 3 films come with the Theatrical Version and Unrated Version of each film.

Disc 1 – Poison Ivy

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Katt Shea (Theatrical Version Only)

Trailers (SD, 4:39)

Disc 2 – Poison Ivy 2: Lily

Trailer (SD, 2:01)

Disc 3 – Poison Ivy: The New Seduction

Trailer (SD, 1:39)

Disc 4 – Poison Ivy: The Secret Society

Trailer (SD, :53)

Summary 

Poison Ivy, the film, not so bad. It’s actually pretty well done and a tasty little pulpy thriller. The series, well, it gets increasingly close to the softcore Skinemax movies you assume they all are as it wears onward. Shout! Factory debuts 3 of these on Blu-ray with some respectable transfers and stereo tracks to boot. The Katt Shea commentary track for the original film and unrated cuts is a nice touch, but this thing is void of any interviews or vintage featurettes or the like. For the right price, I’m sure some curious collectors would pick this up, but the asking price is currently pretty steep. I don’t know the contract arrangement with putting the film out or the attempts at better bonus material, but I feel like a Collector’s Edition for the first film at a $25 price point probably would have worked. But then again, maybe they couldn’t land anyone and the sequels have served as the bonus? Either way, The Poison Ivy Collection is sitting just under $50 if you want to pick it up right away.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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