Blu-Ray

The latest winner in the format wars, we look at both television and movies that are hitting the shelves in this pristine new technology.

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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Patrick McGoohan in All Night Long on Blu-rayAs we approach the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner next year, it is not surprising that there will be a rising interest in all things ‘Patrick McGoohan’. And so it is that we see a fully restored Blu-ray release of “All Night Long” from Network, which is Shakespeare’s “Othello” set against an internal backdrop of an East London jazz jamboree.  Its subject matter is as timeless as you would expect with work based on the Bard, with one little bit of vintage technology making this very much a period piece.

From 1962, and presented in a brand-new High Definition transfer from original film elements in its as-exhibited aspect ratio, McGoohan is drummer Johnny Cousin, with the actor revealing another talent not widely mentioned on his CV. It’s terrific to see him genuinely playing with gusto amongst a parade of topline jazz stars of the time. That said, in one instance when McGoohan's character is playing a drum solo, the kit is different in the medium shots and Point-Of-View shots.

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Police Story - Lockdown - out now on Blu-ray and DVD“Police Story: Lockdown” is the sixth film in the action-packed franchise that started way back in 1985. The inimitable Jackie Chan stars, this time as Captain Zhong Wen, an elite cop who is kidnapped when he meets up with his estranged daughter at a nightclub. The club’s owner, Wu Jiang (Ye Liu – “City of Life and Death”) has a serious grudge to settle, and the lives of a dozen or so hostages lie in the balance. Can Wen save the day?

A cross between “Die Hard”, “The Dark Knight” and “Saw”, “Lockdown” features little of the Chan trademark humour, but a surfeit of impressive stunts and fights. He may be 62 but Jackie (“Rush Hour”, “The Karate Kid”) is still going strong. This is a movie oozing in brooding, claustrophobic atmosphere and a sense of constant danger. Director Ding Sheng got the best out of his star before in “Little Big Soldier”, and does so again here.

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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Cocoon - out now on Blu-rayDirector Ron Howard (“The Da Vinci Code”) enjoyed further success after “Splash” with this gentle sci-fi tale about the peculiar side effects of some old folks’ encounter with aliens. Most of the occupants of the Sunny Shores Villas retirement home seem resigned to their sedentary existence and declining health, but not all. Several gentlemen defiantly try to see off the Reaper by breaking into a neighbouring property’s magnificent swimming pool.

One day the OAPs discover a number of large, pod-like objects in the pool, and post-swim the men feel unusually alive and bursting with vigour. The cocoons have been placed there by a group doing some marine archaeology, but who are they and what is their intention? Regardless of the answers, the men have some hard decisions to make regarding their new-found lust for life and their futures.

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Monday, 04 July 2016

Wizards - out now on Blu-ray“Wizards” is an animated fantasy film about an epic war between two wizard brothers. The battle takes place on an Earth that is still recovering from a global nuclear attack by terrorists two million years ago. On the good side is Avatar who marshals an army of fairies, elves and dwarves, whilst the evil opposition is led by a mutated, skeletal wizard called Blackwolf, whose forces include demons, mutants and robots.

Blackwolf (voiced by Steve Gravers – “The Car”) sends three assassins to kill all good believers in magic, but one of them – a gun-toting robot called Necron 99 (David Proval – “The Shawshank Redemption”) - is turned and decides to help Avatar (Bob Holt – “Gremlins”). The forces of good set out for Blackwolf’s castle in the land of Scortch, desperate to put an end to the evil wizard’s campaign before his reign of terror wipes out magic forever.

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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Enemy Mine - out now on Blu-rayIn the late 21st Century, mankind is at war with an alien race called the Drac. Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid – “The Day After Tomorrow”) is a hotshot pilot who is forced to crash land on a barren planet after a thrilling dogfight. Also stranded on the surface is a Drac (Louis Gossett Jr. – “An Officer and a Gentleman”), so Davidge is driven to kill his enemy before even thinking about finding food, water and shelter in this inhospitable place.

Despite their extreme animosity towards one another, the human and Drac are soon forced to put their differences aside as two brains working together stand a better chance of survival. Their future is uncertain, what with devastating meteor storms lashing down on them, extreme seasonal variances in weather, deadly native creatures out for their blood and the possibility that they may never be rescued by either race.

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Monday, 20 June 2016

Smokey and the Bandit - out now on Blu-rayA daredevil truck driver called The Bandit accepts an $80,000 challenge to illicitly haul 400 crates of beer from Texarkana to Atlanta in 28 hours. The Bandit (Burt Reynolds – “Deliverance”) opts to run interference against the police (aka smokies) whilst his buddie Snowman (country and western singer Jerry Reed – “The Waterboy”) drives the 18-wheeler. Against them stands Sheriff Buford T Justice (Jackie Gleason – The Honeymooners).

Sally Field (“Forrest Gump”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”) co-stars as a hitch-hiking bride-to-be who jilts her partner, none other than the Sheriff’s son (Mike Henry – “Soylent Green”). Naturally this adds further fuel to the lawman’s fire. As the trio tear through the U.S. they leave a trail of devastation in their wake, and a growing tail of cop cars intent on bringing their crazy endeavour to a premature end.

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Sunday, 19 June 2016

That Cold Day in the Park - out now in a combo Blu-ray and DVD packFrances Austin is a 30-something spinster who lives on her own in a luxurious Vancouver apartment. She socialises with folks much older than her but remains lonely. One day Frances spies a mute, adolescent boy huddled against the cold and rain in the local park. She takes pity on him and invites him home to dry off, have a warm bath and a meal. The teenager accepts her generosity but his identity remains a mystery despite her best efforts to get him to open up.

The boy (Michael Burns – Wagon Train) stays the night and on through the next day. Frances (Sandy Dennis – “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”) becomes increasingly infatuated with him, splashing out on a new set of clothes and giving him the run of her home, a truly bizarre state of affairs involving complete strangers. Directed by Robert Altman (“M*A*S*H”, “The Player”), this disturbing psychological thriller gets under your skin.

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Thursday, 09 June 2016

Every Home Should Have One - out now on Blu-ray and DVDMarty Feldman is one of those comedy icons who has turned into the stuff of legend, as so much of his material from over the years has been junked from archives. In “Every Home Should Have One”, his first big screen performance, out for the first time on Blu-ray as well as a DVD rendering, this risqué comedy revolves around Teddy Brown, an advertising executive whose life becomes unnecessarily complicated when he's declared the man to run a campaign to ‘sex up’ one of his agency’s top products – and there’s no Tony Blair in sight!

It is 1970, and poor Teddy has several problems to contend with. His colleague’s advice to 'Think Dirty' (also an alternative title for the film, and a catchy tune laced throughout it) seems to have resonated worryingly with his young son, while the Rev Geoffrey Mellish (Dinsdale Landen) complicates matters when his ‘Clean-Up TV’ campaign gains unexpected support from Teddy’s wife. As Teddy's ineptitude is mistaken for talent, he needs an erotic angle for McLaughlin's Frozen Porridge (Highland Fresh Instant Oats). His solution is to stage a national hunt for a ‘Goldilocks’ to feature in some television commercials, which have to meet the approval of McLaughlin himself (Jack Watson).

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Monday, 25 April 2016

The Professionals MkIV - The final batch of original episodes comes to Blu-rayWith the release of the final 18 episodes of The Professionals, in this collection known as “Mk IV”, Cowley, Bodie and Doyle head off into the sunset, with some fine examples of the series, and all three of the actors at the top of their game. There are no fillers here, and we get little glimpses of character back story, leaving the audience to flesh out their out-of-episode lives themselves. It’s a lesson which contemporary television could learn from – concentrate on the plots and let them be the driver for characterisation, and not the other way around.

Gordon Jackson, Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins had wheel-spun themselves through 57 episodes. And once again, Network Releasing has spared no expense in bringing us the episodes in a quality as good as it will ever get, and actually far better than when originally broadcast. Here, on Blu-ray for the first time, they have been restored from the camera-original negatives with the option of 5.1 surround sound, to add to the atmosphere and unsettle the neighbours – especially when the opening credits roll! Even if you are very familiar with the stories, here we have a rendition which will have even the hardest hearted beaming big smiles throughout.

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Monday, 11 April 2016

Three Days of the Condor - out now as a dual format Blu-ray and DVD setRobert Redford and Faye Dunaway star in this conspiracy thriller about a CIA researcher who uncovers top secret information that puts his life in mortal peril. Joe Turner (Redford) pops out of the office to get some lunch and returns to find his colleagues at the American Literary Historical Society have been brutally murdered. Shaken to his core, Turner contacts his employers seeking sanctuary but things go south and he is forced to go on the run.

Thinking on his feet, Turner kidnaps a complete stranger (Dunaway) and, from the relative safety of her home tries to convince her that his far-fetched story is true. Meanwhile, a professional hitman (Max von Sydow – “Flash Gordon”, “Minority Report”) is closing in. This Oscar-nominated movie was directed by Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie”, “Out of Africa”), and also stars Cliff Robertson (“Spider-man”) as a CIA chief.

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Monday, 15 February 2016

Fixed Bayonets - comes to dual format Blu-ray and DVDThe Korean War (1950-1953) is the setting for Samuel Fuller’s “Fixed Bayonets!” Starring Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, “La Strada”), Gene Evans (“Shock Corridor”, “The Steel Helmet”) and Michael O’Shea (It’s a Great Life, “Lady of Burlesque”), the film focuses on a platoon of 48 reluctant soldiers tasked with holding a doomed, rear-guard action to buy time for the retreat of 15,000 troops.

Facing the imminent arrival of overwhelming Chinese forces, the American platoon bed into a snow-laden, cramped valley between two sheer cliff faces, laying mines, digging fox holes and generally planning to make life as difficult as possible for the enemy. Fuller (“The Big Red One”, “Pickup on South Street”) had strong views about the futility of war and consequently the movie aims for a tone of restrained realism.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Friends of Eddie Coyle - out now on a dual-format Blu-ray and DVD releaseBased on a novel by crime writer George V. Higgins, this movie stars Hollywood tough guy Robert Mitchum (“Cape Fear”, “The Night of the Hunter”) as the eponymous aging gangster. Coyle is due to be sentenced for a recent misdemeanour and is desperate to avoid another stretch. As a gun runner he has a lot of criminal contacts and senses he can buy a pardon by turning a few of them over to the police, but at what price?

Directed by Peter Yates (“Bullitt”, “Krull”), the film is fashioned in a very naturalistic, believable style that is aided by Mitchum’s relaxed, slightly burnt-out performance. Eddie Coyle is an experienced criminal whose edges have been dulled and he seems more interested in providing for his family than he does getting rich through a dangerous lifestyle.

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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Return of the Pink Panther - out now on Blu-rayThe world’s largest and most valuable diamond has been stolen and that can only mean one thing: Peter Sellers is called on to reprise what is probably his most famous role as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The detective is on back the trail of master cat burglar The Phantom, aka Sir Charles Litton (the iconic Christopher Plummer – who has played everything from Chang in “Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country” to Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”). All may not be what it seems however, as Litton is engaged in his own hunt for a thief.

All of the usual ingredients of Blake Edwards’ hit comedy are present: Herbert Lom plays Clouseau’s twitching, nervous wreck of a boss, Burt Kwouk’s Cato keeps us and the Inspector in suspense as his servant and sly martial arts plaything, and Henry Mancini’s timeless and sublimely slinky theme tune sets the tone. Effortlessly glamorous Catherine Schell (Maya in season 2 of Space: 1999, and Countess Scarlioni in the classic Doctor Who story “The City of Death”) co-stars as Lady Claudine Litton.

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Robinson Crusoe on Mars - Out now in a Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD set“Robinson Crusoe on Mars” is a sci-fi spin on the classic novel by Daniel Defoe. After their spacecraft narrowly evades a collision with a meteor, Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West – Batman) and Commander Christopher Draper (Paul Mantee – Cagney & Lacey) are forced to eject down to the surface of Mars. Their escape pods are separated by miles of unforgiving terrain, and supplies of air, water and food are dwindling rapidly.

The film, made in 1964, follows Draper’s search for resources, shelter and his colleague, who he soon learns has perished in a crash landing. Draper is not left entirely alone however, because Mona, their pet woolly monkey also gets down safe and sound. Every time the survivor thinks he has overcome all the challenges the red planet can throw at him, a new and even more deadly peril arrives, be it environmental or otherworldly.

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Monday, 09 November 2015

Dr Terror's House of Horrors - out now as a limited edition Blu-ray SteelbookIt soon becomes a crowded train carriage in the opening scene of this anthology movie. First we have well-known DJ Alan Freeman sorting himself out, before Neil McCallum joins him. Then Roy Castle (a late substitution for what would have been Acker Bilk), followed by Christopher Lee, and Donald Sutherland. Finalising those in there is Peter Cushing, complete with Doctor’s bag carrying the initials ‘WRS’. He drops it, and it spills open, spreading a deck of Tarot cards across the floor. Not something his fellow passengers are familiar with, but this is Dr Schreck, who offers to foretell the futures of the five other passengers.

This is a 1965 British horror classic from Amicus Productions, who would go on to spearhead the two Dalek movies of the 1960s, both of which followed this one. In charge was Milton Subotsky, and here we have a digitally restored release on Blu-ray from Odeon Entertainment, with a smattering of superior special features to give the full flavour and importance to this star-laden movie. It’s a positive joy to watch, and the ‘star spotting’ on offer here is prolific, even beyond the half a dozen names already mentioned.

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Monday, 02 November 2015

Tower of Evil - out now on UK Blu-ray and DVDA deserted lighthouse on the fog-shrouded Snape Island sets the scene, where two fishermen (George Coulouris and Jack Watson) moor their boat and begin to explore. They chance upon three naked, dead bodies before they find themselves attacked by Penny Read (Candace Glendenning – Rashel in Blake’s 7 “Weapon”), a crazed woman. When she is taken back to the mainland, she reveals little due to her mind having switched off from the terror she has endured. However, an ancient artefact found with her may provide a clue as to what happened. An expedition is quickly organised to try and solve the series of violent and sexual murders.

From horror producer Richard Gordon (“Devil Doll”, “Horror Hospital” and "Inseminoid") 1972’s “Tower Of Evil” is known Stateside as “Horror On Snape Island”, and also found itself released almost a decade later as “Beyond The Fog”, suggesting (wrongly) that it was a sequel to John Carpenter’s movie. With a selection of engaging extras, Odeon Entertainment’s Blu-ray release gives the production another boost for a modern audience.

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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Seconds - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVD“Seconds” is a thriller from director John Frankenheimer (“The Manchurian Candidate”, “Ronin”) about a bored banker who is drawn into shady scheme to dole out new identities. Not only does the man undergo extensive plastic surgery to change his entire appearance, but he is handed a new and luxurious house (complete with servant), a ready-made career and a carefree lifestyle. His old body and life, family included, is jettisoned.

The aging, overweight banker, Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph – “Serpico”, “Prizzi’s Honor”), is transformed into Antiochus ‘Tony’ Wilson (Rock Hudson – “Ice Station Zebra”, The Martian Chronicles), a younger and more handsome figure. He quickly strikes up a relationship with a beautiful woman (Salome Jens – the Female Shapeshifter in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and seems to be living the dream, but appearances can be deceptive.

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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Skull - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDBased on a short story by “Psycho” author Robert Bloch, “The Skull” is a dark, gothic horror film about a skull with the power to compel murder. The picture stars Peter Cushing (“Dracula”, “The Curse of Frankenstein”) as Christopher Maitland, a rather starchy collector of occult relics, with Christopher Lee (“The Wicker Man”, “The Mummy”) in the supporting cast as a fellow collector who has somehow evaded its influence.

The skull was severed from the neck of none-other than the Marquis de Sade, the infamous 18th-19th Century French aristocrat with a penchant for sadism and other morally dubious behaviour. On its own, the skull is able to control the weak-willed but when combined with other satanic artefacts, its power could overwhelm even the strongest and most devout minds. Incredulous, Dr Maitland pursues the object with potentially deadly results.

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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The Naked Prey - Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD released“The Naked Prey” portrays one man’s struggle for survival as he is hunted by an African tribe after the rest of his safari party is tortured and killed. Cornel Wilde (“The Greatest Show on Earth”, “Leave Her to Heaven”) stars as ‘Man’ in a film he wrote, produced and also directed. The story is loosely based on the real-life experiences of American frontiersman John Colter, and set in the 19th Century.

The arrogant sponsor of Man’s expedition refuses to offer up a gift to pay respect to a tribe that crosses their path, triggering the rather savage response. Engaging in what they anticipate will be a bit of simple sport, the tribe decide to give the white explorer a small head start before they send one of their warriors to kill him. The plan backfires and they soon realise that their prey may present more of a challenge than they anticipated.

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Sunday, 18 October 2015

80000 Suspects - out now on Blu-ray and DVDOne of BAFTA-winning director Val Guest's most memorable films, “80,000 Suspects” is now available in a brand-new High Definition transfer from the original film elements. It’s also in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio on this new Blu-ray and DVD release from Network. Hitting screens in the UK in 1963, with the tale of a crisis which begins one New Year’s Eve, Richard Johnson (Hugh Drummond in “Deadlier than the Male” and “Some Girls Do”) and Claire Bloom (a BAFTA winner for “Shadowlands”) star as marriage-on-the-rocks couple Dr Steven and Julie Monk. The duo would go on to star in Robert Wise’s “The Haunting”, but here they are at the centre of a smallpox epidemic in the city of Bath.

Dr Monk suspects there’s a very serious problem when he is asked to examine a patient with unusual symptoms, after the good Doctor pops by the hospital following a party which has been uncomfortable at best – and he’d only gone in to pick up a camera! The results come back from ‘the lab’, and it is indeed his worst nightmare. Alongside all this, there are complications of a soap opera variety, which entwine with the medical plot as a love triangle plays out alongside the traumatic events.

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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

We Are Still Here - out now on Blu-ray and DVD“We Are Still Here” is a haunted house horror starring Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig. The Sacchettis are a middle-aged couple who leave the city and some terrible memories behind, moving into an isolated country abode in New England in the midst of a bitter winter. It does not take long after the pair settle in before they discover that their new home is not altogether empty, and that the locals are harbouring a rather nasty secret.

Paul (Sensenig – “Upstream Colour”) is a sceptic, but Anne (Crampton – “You’re Next”, “Re-Animator”) immediately senses something off in the house, wondering whether it might be the spirit of their recently-departed son. She contacts a couple of spiritualist friends who might be able to help. Something supernatural is lurking in the basement, whilst the townsfolk provide a rather frosty welcome that reinforces the sense of dread.

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Monday, 05 October 2015

The Avengers Series 6 out on Blu-ray nowThe Avengers – The Complete Series 6 on Blu-ray, with a RRP of £79.99, was the incentive prize for nominating your favourites in the Cult TV Awards 2015. Thanks to Studiocanal we had three sets to give away, with the winners chosen from all those who gave us their nominations, thus helping continue to make our Awards truly representative of UK television fandom.

This was the final season of the original series of stories featuring John Steed. It begins with the departure of Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel, who hands over to Linda Thorson’s Tara King. Production difficulties meant these episodes were of varying quality, but when it gets it right we can view some of the best episodes of The Avengers EVER! The troubled beginning to this mega-season of 33 episodes, rescued by the return of producers Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell, followed Cathy-Gale-era producer John Bryce taking the helm for just three episodes. 

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Monday, 28 September 2015

Space 1999 Series 2 out on Blu-ray nowSeason two of Space: 1999 creates a huge divide in Gerry Anderson fandom. An American story editor forced onto the production in the shape of Fred Freiberger, famous for his show-runner role on season three of classic Star Trek, and one which would prove to be that show’s last. He would also preside over the final run of Space: 1999 episodes. Executive Producer Gerry Anderson insisted that Freiberger took the Producer credit, mainly due to the huge changes the man from across the Atlantic brought to the format, characters and philosophy of the series.

Network have finally released the Blu-ray set of the entire second season. The word on the street is that, unlike the first season release on Blu-ray back in 2010, the rendering to High Definition was a lot more difficult for this follow-up set of stories. The first season release included the premiere episode “The Metamorph”, and last year we had the teaser Blu-ray release of “The Bringers of Wonder Parts 1 and 2” to whet the appetite of what was to come. Here we have, in these 24 episodes, some of the best – and worst – stories from the series as a whole.

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Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Man Who Could Cheat Death - out now on dual-format Blu-ray and DVDHammer Pictures strike fear into audiences with this creepy, cautionary tale directed by horror stalwart Terence Fisher ("The Curse of Frankenstein", "Dracula"). Starring Anton Diffring, Christopher Lee and Hazel Court, the film centres on Georges Bonnet (Diffring - "Where Eagles Dare", Doctor Who), a pioneering doctor and artist with a penchant for beautiful women and very dark secret concerning his obsession with immortality.

Every decade the 104-year-old Bonnet must undergo surgery to replace his parathyroid gland, or else face a terrible fate whereby all of the illnesses and aging he has unnaturally evaded strike him down. The doctor's 10-year cycle is almost up and he must locate a new gland and an experienced surgeon who is willing to carry out the surgery. As he searches for solutions, a tonic temporarily keeps death from his door but time is running out.

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Sunday, 30 August 2015

Medium Cool - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDOscar-winning documentary director and cinematographer Haskell Wexler ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?") presents a frightening look at the USA in a state of turmoil during the Vietnam War. We witness events unfold through the eyes of fictional TV cameraman John Cassellis (Robert Forster - "Jackie Brown", "Mulholland Drive") during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

John and his soundman Gus (Peter Bonerz - Home Improvement) are given strict instructions on where to go and what to cover, but John develops a keen independent streak and goes off the reservation. At the same time he encounters Eileen (Verna Bloom - "High Plains Drifter"), a war-widow with a young son who keeps homing pigeons. They strike up a friendship against an increasingly edgy backdrop of civil unrest.

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