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Empire of the Ants/Jaws of Satan (Double Feature) - Blu-ray Review

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Empire of the Ants/Jaws of Satan - blu-ray Review

3 stars

Mutant mayhem strikes doubly hard in Scream Factory’s twofer release of 1977’s Empire of the Ants and Jaws of Satan, originally released in 1981. One flick has mutant ants growing as big as people in it and the other features a morbid python possessed by Satan himself. Both of these B-movies, in spite of their laughably low budgets, hold up incredibly well in a modern day viewing.

Sharing more than its fair share of resemblance to the set-up in Jurassic Park, Bert I. Gordon’s Empire of the Ants sees a group of property investors exploring an uncharted island (which kinda sorta doubles as a toxic waste dump) as Joan Collins tries to get them to sink their millions in her investment scam. Everything is hunky dory (because who reads the fine print??!) until huge creatures show up and start attacking the poor suckers. No, not dinosaurs. Ants. Really big ants. So much for some beach front property. These ants mean business.

Co-starring Robert Lansing, John Carson, and Robert Pine (who played Sgt. Joseph Getraer on NBC’s television series CHiPs), Empire of the Ants uses the same effect Gordon mastered in Food of the Gods to make small look bigger than big. It is still pretty effective and features some pretty cool-looking ant attacks as a prop handler sticks a mock-up prop in the frame to attack its human victim. Collins is noted for vocalizing her dislike of the attack scenes because of all the scratching and, maybe, that realism is captured in the final result because no one looks like they are faking the pain of being ravished alive.

This is the third and final film in the H.G. Wells cycle American International Pictures commissioned and, based on the results here, they were still not out of gas. Oh, it’s cheesy and each one feels very similar (in that the mutations happen because of human irresponsibility) but, mixed in with all that cheese, is a fairly competent creature feature with a message we still ignore. Probably Gordon’s specialty but, if you are in to these type of creature feature flicks, nothing too troublesome.

The lesser-known and long out-of-print Jaws of Satan is definitely going to appeal to all the morbidly curious hounds of horror out there. This is the dark side of the B-movie because, in all honesty, it gets everything wrong and becomes some sort of fascinating train wreck. Starring Gretchen Corbett, Fritz Weaver (Creepshow) and noted as being Christina Applegate’s feature-length debut, the horror film also stars her mother, Nancy Priddy, and features a snake who stands up straight on its tail and a mayor, so consumed with his bright and shiny new dog racing track, that doesn’t want the word getting out about what stalks his community.

Clichéd-ridden and gloriously ridiculous, Bob Claver’s Jaws of Satan gets the genre wrong … which makes it hysterical and has so many sideways scenes – including a snake who “saves” a potential rape victim. Photographed by THE Dean Cundy, the film definitely has some nicely-composed shots in it (who wouldn’t want to see what a chase looks like from the point of view of a snake?!?!?) but, and not really due to the subpar acting, fails to make much of an impact.

Scoop up this twofer release from Scream Factory if watching unnaturally large creatures ruin picnics is your particular cup of tea or if you simply want a laugh or two. Who knew “When Animals Attack” could be so … hysterical?

Empire of the Ants/Jaws of Satan - blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 26, 2015
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: LPCM 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Joan Collins in HD anyone? The 1080p transfer is an upgrade from previous versions. Colors are well-saturated. Black levels are strong. The contrast is high. While there is still some damage to the source material, nothing is too distracting from watching giant ants and possessed snakes attack stupid humans. The release is offered in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. 

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • In this newly recorded commentary, Bert I. Gordon talks about directing Empire of the Ants and working with Joan Collins.

Special Features:

Outside of the one commentary, there are only radio spots, photo galleries, and theatrical trailers for each film included.

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