Revisiting No Man’s Land (1987)

August 9, 2017 | By

After an extended break, here’s the first of three back-to-back reviews, starting with a swanky new Blu-ray from KINO’s KL Studio Classics of Peter Werner’s No Man’s Land (1987), a title I reviewed in 2014 on Betamax, because that’s the only way I could get my hands on the film.

Yes, it was available full screen on DVD in the U.S. and widescreen in the U.K., but there was the added perverse fun / curiosity / absurdity of watching the film on a wholly obsolete format.

Beta always had great sound, and the tape wasn’t bad, but my copy included some unique ephemera which I discovered packed into the case. Below, I’ve pasted key art from the prior Editor’s Blog (which contains larger scans):

 

Contest insert from the original Betamax release of No man’s Land (1987).

 

Contest insert from the original Betamax release of No man’s Land (1987).

 

In any event, the fact the film took 30 years to enjoy a widescreen home video release in its home country is ridiculous, but not unheard of. NML is essential an ‘upper B film’ – very pulpy, but unusually well made with slick gloss and a fine cast of stars and veteran character actors. Charlie Sheen and D.B. Sweeney are the leads, but they’re surrounded by the type of superb supporting actors Werner laments no one hires anymore because people have to look pretty.

George Dzundza has a tiny role, as does M. Emmet Walsh, but their filmographies stretch out to 89 and 218 credits respectively. Longevity mandates talent and a special quality that has casting directors and film directors re-hiring these men & women over decades.

KL’s Blu is quite nice, and it’s especially rewarding to see the label going back to its roots, creating special editions for select contemporary classics.

NML isn’t Oscar bait, but it’s quite fun, and features a superb (if not a little dated) Basil Poledouris score. Before his orchestral hits Conan the Barbarian (1982), Robocop (1987), and The Hunt for Red October (1990), Poledouris had played classical & rock music, and his use of electronics was often subtle in films, but NML is heavy drums, wailing guitar, and heavy bass-friendly synths, but done very well. The late great composer was profiled in a highly affectionate 1997 documentary Basil Poledouris: His Life and Music.

NML was also one of many, MANY films that flooded Pay TV stations as well as home video, and as discussed in the BR’s commentary track, there was no shortage of finding action genre films on TV and tape, because they were the bread & butter of studios and labels who planned releases with tape and cable ancillary releases after their theatrical runs were done.

It’s unsurprising to hear the commentators lament their dearth of action-thrillers, action-suspensers, etc., but these films were highly formulaic, and it wasn’t easy to find a rare gem. I’m sure if you took a tally of what aired on Pay TV during the 1990s, there’s still a chunk of titles unavailable on home video. I’ll apply my two cents to Carl Colpaert’s Delusion (1987), which needs to be on Blu. Great little neo-noir with black humour (a common trait) and excellent performances. Still glad I grabbed the widescreen laserdisc on Boxing Day.

Tied to the original review of NML was a short-short nonsense video I made on the video’s packaging, which is still archived on KQEK.com’s YouTube and my own Vimeo channels. I did a slight update in adding a logo I designed in the mid-1990s and rebuilt and animated within After Effects decades later. I don’t know why triangles with weird fill were big, but they were.

That said, the short is available in a ProRes format for themed and nostalgia screenings. Ahem:

 

 

Coming next: reviews of Sam Fuller’s nutbar cult The Crimson Kimono (1959) from Twilight Time + weird & spoofy Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1972) from Olive Films.

And coming right after: three CanCon tax shelter classiques produced by Filmplan International – The Funny Farm (1983), Dirty Tricks (1981), and Gas (1981), the last written by NML scribe and future Law & Order creator Dick Wolf.

 

 

Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com

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Category: EDITOR'S BLOG

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