Blu-ray Review: Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Twilight Time has added the 1985 comedic action flick Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins to their Limited Edition Series. That means just 3,000 units have been issued of this minor cult favorite. If you, like me, have a nostalgic soft spot for this chuck of pure '80s cheese head over to Screen Archives or the official Twilight Time site for ordering info. Beware: those who haven't seen Remo in years may be shocked by how poorly the movie has aged. That said, Twilight Time has done an excellent job of filling out their release with a bunch of bonus features, including a new commentary track that offers some very honest assessments.

Fred Ward stars as decorated war veteran and New York City beat cop Sam Makin. Following a clumsily-staged prologue in which Sam fights off several assailants, we're plunged into the world of covert government operations. There's a new, super-secret organization called CURE, designed as a way to permanently, quietly eliminate threats to U.S. national security. Sam has been essentially abducted by CURE agent Conn MacCleary (J.A. Preston), given plastic surgery (actually they just shaved off his mustache), and dubbed Remo Williams. He's part of CURE, whether he likes it or not, and soon finds himself training with Chiun (Joel Grey). The elderly, wizened Chiun (an Asian stereotype masquerading as a character) is a master of the martial art Sinanju (a fictitious creation found in the source material). Chiun's so skilled at evasion, he can literally dodge bullets. 
 
rsz_remowilliamstheadventurebegins_bdbookletcover.png In order to enjoy Remo Williams, the viewer must first accept Joel Grey in the role of a Korean man. Objectively speaking, the makeup is quite effective—and was nominated for an Academy Award. And Grey does disappear into the role quite seamlessly. But this type of "yellow face" should've gone out decades ago (actually its regrettable it existed in the first place) and shouldn't have received such a high profile resurrection. Grey even scored a Golden Globe nomination for playing this racial stereotype. Since the most entertaining parts of Remo involve Ward and Grey's interplay during Remo's training, anyone who is understandably adverse to the decidedly un-P.C. casting will likely find the film a slog at best (and offensive at worst).

The story isn't especially well told by four-time James Bond director Guy Hamilton (who passed away at age 93 on April 20, 2016), working from a screenplay by two-time Bond adapter Christopher Wood. The source was a series of novels by authors Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. The popular novels were also adapted by Marvel for a comic book series. There seems to be some fan defense of the Remo Williams film as a low-rent 007 parody, but unlike In Like Flint (also part of Twilight Time's Limited Edition Series, along with it's sequel Our Man Flint—both titles are sold out) or the Austin Powers films Remo feels pretty straight faced. It's comedic in places, but not in a knowing, winking kind of sense. The plot concerns Remo attempting to halt a deal for poorly-made weapons between a shady dealer and the U.S. Army. Future Captain Janeway Kate Mulgrew co-stars as an Army Major who's wise to the bad weapons deal.

For fans of Remo, here's the great news: TT's Blu-ray contains a frank audio commentary by film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo and a series of five featurettes. The featurettes total about 77 minutes and run the gamut from comparing the original Destroyer novels to the finished film, taking us behind the scenes on the film's production (including the Statue of Liberty fight scene), examining the score (by Craig Safan), and a closer look at Grey's transformation. There's also an isolated track of Safan's score and a still photo gallery.

 
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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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