by Steve Kirkham
Blu Ray. 88 Films
Was the world crying out for a boxset of Anaconda and it’s three (yes, three!) sequels – probably not but here it is nonetheless on Blu-ray from 88 Films, a snake based somewhat loose franchise.
On Disc One is the original and the best Anaconda (1997) – we are deep in the Amazon jungle in Brazil. A film director (played by Jennifer Lopez in her first lead role, though Selena was released before this) and an anthropologist (Eric Stoltz) are making a documentary about the “People of the Mist” tribe. Inevitably, as this is a movie named after a deadly snake, they soon get more than they bargained for.
During a storm, as they are travelling up river, they rescue snake hunter Jon Voight from his broken down boat. Overacting, with a cod accent to match, it is obvious he is the nasty of the piece. Also along for the ride are Ice Cube and Owen Wilson (plus Danny Trejoin an early scene) – all three before they were familiar faces. That’s some kind of cast about to do stupid things and become snake fodder!
Much of it is convincingly shot on location though some sequences look jarringly studio bound. Played straight by the actors, except for Voight, who sneers his way through the film as he takes them on a merry chase through the jungle, the story takes it time getting the “meat” of the action and the Anaconda attacks.
Helpfully Voight informs J-Lo that “Anaconda’s are perfect killing machines”. You better believe it as it wraps itself around anyone foolish enough to get in its way.
Fun in a hokey way the effects are for the most part pretty good mixing practical alongside early, not so credible, CGI. This is more likely to make you smile (and even laugh out loud) than it is to give you the chills.
Extras: Commentary from genre expert Scott Harrison.
A Blockbuster with Bite – the Legacy of Anaconda (20 minutes) – jolly old Kim Newman chatting about the film, the fun that was to be had at the original press screening, the cast, the qualities of the film itself and the big reptile movies that followed it and the monster movies that may well have inspired it.
Slithery Story – Remembering the Special Effects of Anaconda (23 minutes): Special effects artist Steve Johnson explains about the snake and other fx, and the complications involved with the first movie. A High Rising Production
Squeeze Play: Producing Anaconda (20 minutes). Another mini doc from High Rising has Producer Leonard Rabinowitz conversing on the film being developed and its production.
A Franchise with Fangs: Remembering the Anaconda Movies (20 minutes) – more from Naomi Holwill and Calum Waddell at High Rising as Jonathan Melville (author of Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors) talks about the four films presented here.
To cap it off a trailer that is in good condition.
Disc Two: 7 years later in 2004 we get the sequel Anacondas – The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. We immediately know we are in lower budget land as you won’t recognise any of the cast (of course it is true to say that most of the actors in the first one were little known when it first came out).
A scientific expedition is set-up to go to Borneo to find the titular orchid as apparently it will prolong human life – they better hurry as it only blooms for two weeks. Arriving in rainy season, without transport, they persuade one Capt Johnson to take them where they need to be upriver in his ramshackle boat. Before long they find themselves stranded and under attack by – you guessed it – gigantic scaly skinned killers.
Crisply shot with good locations in Fiji. As deadly snake movies go, this is no less fun, or any less believable than the first entry in the series.
Extras: Another commentary with Scott Harrison
Deleted Scenes (9 minutes) in 4×3 windowboxed and letterboxed from a clearly inferior source. Like most of these things add nothing.
Special Effects Toolbox (10 minutes) also from a lower source and window and letterboxed. As you can guess this is about the visual effects.
Disc 3: presents the two latter day follow ups which were made back-to-back for the Sci Fi Channel.
Not even the presence of David Hasselhoff can save Anaconda 3: Offspring – despite being the headline star he isn’t onscreen as much as you’d expect.
John Rhys Davies (a recognisable face you will know as Sallah from the Indy movies) plays the head honcho billionaire funding research which uses genetically amped up snakes – for no other reason than to give a monster to fight! Sure as eggs is eggs, the CGI critters escape – Crystal Allen (as lead researcher Amanda Hayes) must call Hasselhoff to the rescue with his band of merry gun toting hunters determined to be become the latest victims.
Created on a wing and a prayer the effects are poorly realised computer generated creatures whilst the gore quotient has been upped to at least give some interest in between the low grade acting. The scenes where the 60 foot reptile zips through the forest at enormous speed are ridiculous with the colourful presentation on Blu-ray only highlighting the low grade effects.
And so to Anaconda 4: Trail of Blood. Crystal Allen returns in a sequel to the sequel – if you see what I mean. By this one you will little care what happens – more cheap fx, crappy scripting and weak acting. John Rhys Davies pops up again – hoping that the research will now help to cure his cancer. Utterly redundant in every way.
Both have commentaries – which I rarely listen to – and I certainly would struggle to find a reason to give these a listen however overall this is a well presented nicely packaged release which even has a booklet to go with the initial pressing.