Nightmare at Noon (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)1988 (December 6, 2022)
Studio(s)Omega Entertainment (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
Filmmaker Nico Mastorakis had made a number of independent B movies by the time 1988 arrived with his latest offering, Nightmare at Noon. Among them were Island of Death, Blood Tide, The Zero Boys, and The Wind, all familiar genre efforts. By the time Nightmare at Noon went into production, he had formed his own production and distribution company, Omega Entertainment, which he still maintains to this day. The film itself has become a sort of classic in the “so bad it’s good” circle, though others maintain that it’s a better film than it’s given credit for.
A diabolical secret agency, led by a dangerous albino scientist (Brion James), injects a mysterious substance into the water supply of the sleepy desert town of Canyonland. He and his well-armed men then monitor the town, using their equipment to disable the electricity and prevent anyone from leaving. Arriving in town that day is a hot shot city lawyer (Wings Hauser) and his wife (Kimberly Beck), as well as a drifter they recently picked up, Reilly (Bo Hopkins). Stopping for something to eat, they’re soon attacked by one of the townspeople, and it quickly becomes apparent that anybody who has recently been drinking the local water goes murderously crazy and their blood turns into a green acid. Things get out of control for sheriff Hanks (George Kennedy) and officer Julia (Kimberly Ross), but Reilly, who has experience with aggressive law enforcement, takes charge to help stop the men responsible for the chaos.
Shot on location in the town of Moab, Utah, Nightmare at Noon is chock full of schlock from beginning to end. It offers effective explosions and stunts, as well as some surprisingly decent moments of composition, lighting, and even performances. But the dialogue is as cheap and bottom of the barrel as they come. It’s entertainingly poor at times, but the well-executed moments, which include impressive fire and motorcycle stunts and a moment of genuine pathos, give the film a little more bite than your average low budget action horror film of the era. It’s by no means a work of art, but for a film that concludes with a full scale helicopter chase before one of the helicopters morphs into an obvious model prior to exploding, you can’t ask for much more.
Nightmare at Noon was shot by director of photography Cliff Ralke on 35 mm film with Panavision Panaflex, Arriflex 35 IIC, and Eyemo cameras with Panavision lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Arrow Video brings the film to Blu-ray for a second time (Scream Factory previously released the film) with a new 2K scan of an interpositive. It’s a very solid presentation with nice grain management, strong textures, and high levels of detail, both in the shadows and in broad daylight. Saturation offers a nice spectrum of reds, blues, and greens, as well as the browns and tans of the desert landscape. Flesh tones are a tad orange at times, but fairly natural most of the time. Blacks are deep and the image is clean and stable with a healthy bitrate, hovering between 30 and 40 Mbps most of the time.
Audio is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH or Greek. The 5.1 track opens the film up with decent separation, featuring moments of panning and background ambience. Activity in the lower registers for explosions and gunfire is frequent. The stereo track is a tighter experience, but dialogue is mixed the slightest bit higher. For example, Bo Hopkins is sometimes unintelligible on the 5.1 track.
Nightmare at Noon on Blu-ray sits in a clear amaray case with a 16-page insert booklet containing cast and crew information, the essay No Real Nightmare at Moab by Johnny Mains, restoration information, and production credits. The insert is double-sided, featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys on the front and the previous Blu-ray cover art on the reverse. The following extras are included, all in HD:
- The Films of Nico Mastorakis Part III: Nightmare at Noon (33:15)
- Behind-the-Scenes Cut of Nightmare at Noon (49:15)
- On-Set Interviews: Wings Hauser (12:39)
- On-Set Interviews: Bo Hopkins (11:06)
- On-Set Interviews: Kimberly Beck (7:36)
- On-Set Interviews: George Kennedy (4:28)
- On-Set Interviews: Brion James (17:09)
- Trailer (3:04)
- Image Gallery (27 in all – 12:30)
The majority of the extras are made up of vintage interviews and behind the scenes material shot on Hi8 and upscaled for the best possible image quality. The Films of Nico Mastroakis has been cut together by Mastorakis himself, and he provides commentary to discuss the making of the film, saying very nice things about some of the cast, but also providing very lurid details about problematical cast members. The Behind-the-Scenes is made up of raw footage from the making of the film, while the On-Set Interviews were shot at the same time. Last is the trailer and an Image Gallery containing 27 production stills (for whatever reason, they’re shown over and over again to pad out the running time). Not included from the Scream Factory release is a vintage making-of documentary.
Part of the appeal of Nightmare at Noon is its cast, and the other equation is its overt cheesiness and a parade of moments that we’ve seen before in other, more successful films. Yet, with a group of people, this is a party movie, through and through. Arrow Video’s treatment ups the ante on Scream Factory’s now out-of-print Blu-ray release with a superior transfer and a nice extras package to go with it. For fans, it’s definitely one to pick up.
- Tim Salmons
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