Blu-ray Review: 8 Heads In a Duffel Bag - Twilight Time Limited Edition

By , Contributor
In perhaps a nod to the Sam Peckinpah classic Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, the title of Oscar-winning Tom Schulman's 1997 8 Heads In a Duffel Bag could not possibly be more self-explanatory. Like the 1974 Peckinpah classic, the title describes the basic plot of the movie with the shortest stroke possible. The similarities pretty much end there, but still—you have to admire a filmmaker so willing to lay out the purpose of his film in such blunt, stark terms. There is one other similarity, actually. Both of these films are available as Twilight Time limited editions (3,000 totals units issued), with 8 Heads In a Duffel Bag being part of TT's August 2017 offerings.

Schulman won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Dead Poet's Society (1989). He went on to write or co-write screenplays for hits Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and What About Bob?, but 8 Heads is (to date) his only directorial effort. The film flat-lined at the box office, arriving near the end of Joe Pesci's run as a bankable movie star. Pesci had one more hit in him (1998's Lethal Weapon 4) before practically vanishing into abrupt near-retirement. He'd begun the decade with an Oscar win for Goodfellas, then went on to catalog a mix of hits (Home Aone and its sequel, the classic My Cousin Vinny) and misses (The Super, Jimmy Hollywood) with some good character turns along the way (JFK). 
 
rsz_8headsinadufflebag_bd.png I wish to God that Twilight Time had been able to license the underrated 1992 gem The Public Eye if they wanted a Joe Pesci-starrer in their series. But instead we get 8 Heads In a Duffel Bag, which boasts a confident, funny Pesci performance and not much else. Gangster Tommy Spinelli (Pesci) has a seemingly simple task: deliver a duffel bag containing eight human heads to a crime boss. En route to make his gruesome delivery, Tommy is seated next to Charlie Pritchett (Andy Comeau) on the plane. Charlie happens to have an identical duffel bag, except his is filled with clothing and typical travel amenities as he's meeting his girlfriend Laurie (Kristy Swanson) and her parents in Mexico.

Of course, the bags are switched and the bulk of 8 Heads deals with Tommy's attempts to track down Charlie to get his heads back. Once Charlie's soon-to-be mother-in-law (Dyan Cannon) unwittingly discovers one of the severed heads, a broadly farcical series of set pieces follows. Again, Pesci steals the show without breaking a sweat. Straightman Comeau evokes a bland Jon Cusack, while Swanson isn't given much do except look pretty. Most of the humor is painfully forced, particularly Cannon's over the top Annette (whose husband, Dick, is played by George Hamilton—looking like he'd rather be in a tanning bed somewhere).

One other notable element: a fresh-off-SNL David Spade turns up as one of Charlie's college buddies (the other is Todd Louiso, Chad the Nanny in Jerry Maguire). Tommy uses these guys to help locate Charlie. While Spade isn't given any memorable lines, his patented off-the-cuff smartassedness shines through loud and clear. How much funnier might 8 Heads have been if only Spade had been cast as Charlie?

Good news on the presentation front—the 1080p transfer looks awesome. As far as Twilight Time titles go, 1997 is relatively recent and one might assume it should look great. That said, TT is at the mercy of the transfers provided by any given studio they're licensing from. Sometimes, occasionally, even transfers of relatively recent films are a bit uneven. Not so here—this is clean and sharp, with rich colors and perfect contrast. Audio is offered in both DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 (I opted for the 5.1; the film's sound design is nothing to write home about, but the track is technically flawless).

It might've been interesting to hear writer-director Tom Schulman's thoughts on 8 Heads In a Duffel Bag some 20 years after the fact. But alas, no commentary track here. We do get one of Twilight Time's customary isolated score tracks, offering Andrew Gross' score on its own (with some effects). The original theatrical trailer is included, too.

For ordering information, visit Twilight Time distributor Screen Archives or the official Twilight Time website.
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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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