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Animal Factory
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Japanese PCM Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Interview with critic Barry Forshaw covering Eddie Bunkerís varied career
  • Audio commentary by novelist/co-writer/actor Eddie Bunker and co-producer/actor Danny Trejo
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacob Phillips
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collectorís booklet containing new writing on the film by Glenn Kenny

Animal Factory

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Steve Buscemi
2000 | 94 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $34.95 | Series: Arrow Video
MVD Visual

Release Date: November 28, 2017
Review Date: November 28, 2017

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amazon.com  amazon.ca

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SYNOPSIS

Troubled youth Ron Decker (Edward Furlong, American History X) is sentenced to a ten-year stint in the notorious San Quentin State Prison for a drug-dealing conviction. Inexperienced in the ways of prison life, heís taken under the wing of Earl Copen (Willem Dafoe, To Live and Die in LA), an experienced con with the entire prison in the palm of his hand Ė inmates and guards alike. But as Ron grows increasingly cocky in his privileged role as Earlís confidant, is he in danger of biting off more than he can chew with some of the jailís more volatile inhabitants?

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Eddie Bunker (Reservoir Dogs), Animal Factory was Steve Buscemi (Lonesome Jim, Interview)ís second stint in the directorís chair and sees him marshaling a formidable ensemble cast, including Bunker, Danny Trejo (Machete) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), for a powerful and sincere account of the men caught up in the penal system and the deals they cut with each other, and themselves, in order to survive.


PICTURE

Arrow Video brings Steve Buscemiís second feature film, Animal Factory, to Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz encode comes from a high-definition restoration.

Disappointingly Arrow isnít doing their own restoration and look to be using an older master supplied to them by Ambi Distribution. While watching the film it is obvious the image certainly isnít what it could be but considering how the film has been mistreated through the years this still looks substantially better than I was anticipating. It offers a decent film-like look, rendering grain decently enough (a little noisy in places). Itís never razor-sharp Iím sad to say, and there are a handful of scenes a bit softer than most, but despite this I still found detail levels decent enough and the grimy textures of the prison are rendered well enough. The colour palette isnít the most dynamic thing: there are pops of reds and such but the colours are limited mostly to browns, greens, and pale blues. Black levels are surprisingly decent, offering strong shadow details most of the time.

The restoration itself is a bit scattershot, though: itís actually quite clean on the whole, but every once in a while we suddenly get these rather large marks and bits of dirt that cluster about. These moments are a bit odd (and may be happening around reel changes considering the timing) and only stand out all the more as the film is actually very clean throughout.

But despite any shortcomings this does still come off looking pretty good. The film never really received a big theatrical release and was sort of snuck out on video under the radar back in 2000, so while a fresh new scan and restoration would be most certainly a great thing in all honesty I think weíre lucky it comes off looking as decent as it does here.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Arrow provides a lossless PCM 2.0 stereo surround track. Itís not overly robust but it is clear, dialogue sounding clear and intelligible, and John Lurieís score sounding really deep with some great bass; this latter aspect makes it a shame this doesnít receive a 5.1 upgrade. There is some notable surround activity with some background effects and music but itís not all that showy. In all it offers a serviceable experience.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Arrow doesnít pack in the supplements sadly, and based on the specs of the old Sony DVD (which I havenít seen) it looks as though some interviews didnít get carried over. But at the very least Arrow does port over that discís audio commentary featuring actor/producer Danny Trejo and actor/author Edward Bunker. The unfortunate aspect of the track is that there is a lot of dead space, especially when we get to the filmís final act, but itís worth waiting these sections out because the two really do have a lot of great and fascinating things to say when they do speak. They talk about the filmís production, getting it together and finding the right director to draw in the actors (they figured Buscemi would be perfect in this regard) and Bunker, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, talks a little about the influences of certain sequences in the film, most drawn on real-life incidents. But the track is at its strongest when the two get more personal. The two have both served time in prison, even serving at the same time in the same prison in the 60s and it sounds as though a friendship developed between the two starting here. Once out of prison Bunker, who started writing in prison, would go on to become a published author and even work on scripts for feature films. He would find himself working on Runaway Train and he would get Trejo a job on that film, leading to his own film career. The two also talk about the prison system, what it should do, what it doesnít do, and even talk a bit about the social order. Itís unfortunate that there are a large number of dead spots but when the two are talking itís all great.

Arrow does provide one new feature: an interview with author Barry Forshaw talking about the life and work of Edward Bunker. He had met Bunker a number of times and recalls his personality before going into his novels and his work in film, even getting into Bunkerís thoughts on the adaptations of his novels (Bunker talks a little about this in the commentary, and itís obvious heís not all that fond of Straight Time) and his favourite authors. It runs about 21-minutes.

The disc then closes with a trailer, which looks like the kind that would have preceded the feature on a video cassette. The first printing of this edition also includes a booklet featuring a great essay by Glenn Kenny about Bunker, his work overall before focusing on his novel The Animal Farm, and then this film and its performances.

Itís a shame nobody else is able to participate (getting Buscemi would have been especially great) but the content we do receive is solid. The commentary, the interview, and the booklet effectively cover the film and the source novel.

6/10

CLOSING

It's a release open to improvement but Arrow has still effectively saved the film from certain obscurity with it. It's still a good edition and well worth picking up.




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