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Venom – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

VenomOn May 31st, veteran cult distributor Blue Underground will debut the American Blu-ray release of Piers Haggard’s film Venom (1981), starring Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed, Nicol Williamson, Sarah Miles, Sterling Hayden, and Susan George.  This brand new Blu-ray edition, labeled “Collector’s Edition” will feature a brand new commentary from the director Piers Haggard as well as a bonus Collectible Booklet featuring a new article by Fangoria Editor Michael Gingold.  This release will also feature a new 2K transfer of the film as well as a 7.1 surround lossless audio mix.  You can find more on the Blu-ray as well as pre-order it if you like what you see by clicking or scrolling down.

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Film 

It was supposed to be the perfect crime: the sexy maid, a psychotic chauffer and an international terrorist kidnap a wealthy ten-year-old boy from his elegant London townhouse. but they didn’t count on a murdered cop, a desperate hostage siege and one very unexpected houseguest: a furious Black Mamba, the most lethal and aggressive snake known to nature. It can attack from ten feet away. It’s bite brings excruciating death, and it is on the loose. Now, terror knows no antidote… and the ultimate in slithering mayhem is Venom.

Venom is a thrilling and incredibly fun criss-cross and mish-mash of genres.  There are three different kinds of crime genres on display or at least showing traits of them.  At times this feels like a heist film, but that leads into the film playing out as a kidnap/ransom movie.  But, it keeps playing out into a sort of hostage situation gone wrong scenario akin to that of a Dog Day Afternoon type.  That’s not all, though, as a deadly black mamba roams our sole location in the film making it a nature attacks horror film.  Its all fluid and makes for fun twists, turns and drama throughout its runtime.

Adding to the fun is a pretty awesome cast.  Klaus Kinski is here in one of the more normal, but still creepy as hell roles I’ve seen him in.  Susan George is a delight, though she exits the picture in a very surprise turn early on.  I did not see that coming or expect it.  Sterling Hayden is a classic Hollywood acting legend who really doesn’t get the general admiration many of his contemporaries have over the years.  The man put in great work, worked with top directors, yet still doesn’t get the acclaim of that of someone such as Cary Grant.  Maybe its because he kept going longer.  Rounding out the cast is Oliver Reed who gives a great performance that goes beyond just the words, its very physical as well.

There are some fun bits of trivia with this one.  Tobe Hooper was the original director for it, and this really does fit into his wheelhouse.  It feels like a Tobe Hooper film after learning that fact.  Also, Klaus Kinski chose to do this film over Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Crazy, right?  Well, he apparently thought the script Steven Spielberg sent him was garbage and that the paycheck for Venom was much more appealing than any experience he could have had with that.  Nice move, Kinski.

I wasn’t familiar with Venom before watching it for this review.  Unfairly, I assumed this was just some sort of B-picture in the “nature attacks” sub genre and would be good for some goofy violence and some appealing Susan George.  I’m happy to report I was very wrong on both accounts.  Its a terrific little thriller with some good jolts of funky snake horror, but really has some good drama and characters that keep this train rolling even more than the jumps and violence.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Venom drops on Blu-ray with a brand new 2K transfer that looks very nice on Blu-ray. Details are very good and the picture is pretty nice.  Its a bit of a soft image in its nature but it still manages to be a full and crisp picture.  

Depth:  Depth is average.  Decent spacing between environments and the people and objects that inhabit them.  Movement is cinematic and smooth with minimal blur.

Black Levels:  Blacks are nice and solid. No crushing witnessed.  Good shading and minimal detail hidden on clothing, surfaces and dark hair color.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty solid and keep a more natural and muted appearance.  Some yellows look really good here.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent appearance throughout the film.  Facial details like wrinkles, lip texture and snake bites show up with good detail in close ups, but smooth out as the shots pull back.

Noise/Artifacts:  This is a pretty good print featuring some grain and very minimal specs/dirt.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics:  Venom drops on Blu-ray with a…get this…7.1 mix.  That’s a bit much for this movie, but it does work and sounds very nice through your surround.  They do a good job with balancing vocals, effects and music in this track.  

Low Frequency Extension:  Not a lot of deep things in the mix, or they just are aged and don’t pull the punch something modern would.  Solid overall, but don’t come expecting a whole lot from this aspect.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Blue Underground’s 7.1 mix for this film is, yes, a bit excessive.  They do make use of things though and have fun sounds and the like going through the sides and rear.  

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clear.  Some of the film features ADR dubbing and some doesn’t.  Depends on the actor, environment and scene. 

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Extras 

Venom – Collector’s Edition comes with reversible cover art featuring an alternate poster design and a bonus collectible booklet featuring a new article by Fangoria Editor Michael Gingold.  Also included is a DVD copy.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Piers Haggard

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:23) 

Teaser Trailer (HD, :29)

TV Spots (HD, 1:35) 

Poster & Still Gallery (HD, 1:17) 

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Summary 

Blue Underground’s release of Venom made me a fan.  Its a film I’m looking forward to revisiting again in the near future.  Its a sort of heist gone wrong meets nature attacks with a really terrific cast.  It both looks and sounds pretty darn good too.  For a “Collector’s Edition” the extras are a bit weak, but they’re still something of significance.  Definitely a pick up if you’re into collecting vintage horror films and are in to sort of B-level thrillers like this.

Venom-Blu-ray

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a 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. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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