Uncle Sam (1997) (NTSC)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-William Lustig (Director) And Isaac Hayes (Star)
Featurette-Fire Stunts, With Audio Commentary By Stunt Co-ordinator
Gallery-Poster And Stills
|Year Of Production||1997|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||William Lustig|
David 'Shark' Fralick
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
Director William Lustig has unleashed a small, but important assemblage of films that unashamedly slithered across the razor’s edge of the horror and action genres. The despairing world of Maniac, the no-holds-barred rape-revenge scenario of Vigilante, and the supernatural, testosterone-charged vengeance motif of the Maniac Cop films demonstrated that Lustig was a filmmaker not averse to hammering audiences with harsh reality.
When Sergeant Sam Harper (David Fralick) is killed by friendly fire during Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait, his badly burned corpse is transported back to his family in the small suburban town of Twin Rivers, USA. Come the fourth of July Independence Day celebrations, Sam’s restless spirit returns to his charred body after his grave is defiled by a group of teenagers. Clad in an Uncle Sam stars and stripes costume, the angry zombie-soldier sets out to enforce some nationalistic pride.
Apart from an obvious bigger budget, Uncle Sam is no different in tone and execution to Lustig’s previous films. He again teamed up with Maniac Cop writer and b-movie auteur Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Q, God Told Me To) to create a nasty, matter-of-fact slasher that is slow to start, but finds its genre footing in the second half.
Cohen’s writing leaves no room for subtext and the jingoistic narrative is as obvious as the rather fake looking severed head that Sam throws on the BBQ grill. Regardless, the actors play their parts straight and the characterisations would be at home in the printed pages of a Stephen King novel. Like Scatman Crothers in The Shining, Isaac Hayes is quietly intense as the tokenistic mentor for the wise-beyond-his-pre-pubescent years Jody who tries to warn others of Sam’s intent, but of course is not listened to.
Sam’s makeup and the gory effects applications are suitably repulsive and the stunts and death scenes are well executed. The ending gives a clear nod to Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell - an intertitle even pops up announcing “For Lucio” after the final sequence fades to black. Also, don’t tune out after the credits as there’s a very funny blooper involving Uncle Sam on stilts.
Uncle Sam is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced. Apart from a light veneer of grain and some mild edge enhancement cropping up occasionally, this is a sharp, good-looking NTSC transfer.
Shadow detail clarity is excellent, especially during the opening accident sequence which takes place at night in a dusty, smoke-shrouded environment. Black and contrast levels are rich and deep, with no signs of low level noise interference.
Colours are naturally bright and vibrant, but the red stripes on Jody Baker’s shirt at 16:47 and the American flag at 18:16 threaten to bleed, but just manage to remain stable. There are also a number of very dark, red-gel lit sequences (13:12 for example), but these are handled well by the transfer and show no signs of colour bleed or chroma noise.
The print is very clean, with only a mild blemish appearing up now and again.
There are two English-only audio options - Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mixes.
The preferred 5.1 audio rendering is more than adequate. A number of discrete ambient sounds like dogs barking, fireworks whistling in the distance, disembodied voices and Sam’s eerie, raspy breath (37:15) are wisely channelled to the rear speakers.
The blaring trumpets of the Star Spangled Banner roar out through the front speakers with patriotic gusto, while the creepy musical flourishes by composer Mark Governor are rousing and subtly given over to the front and rear channels to promote an enveloping atmosphere of dread (especially during “the awakening” at 28:30).
Sound effects like explosions and the aftermath of the gun shot volley are further enhanced by the guttural growls of the subwoofer.
The 2.0 mix is very good, but comes up short in taking advantage of the subwoofer and a number of discrete rear channel effects. However, dialogue delivery is much louder in the 2.0 mix, as I had to crank the sound right up during 5.1 playback to clearly hear the spoken word.
|Surround Channel Use|
The likeable threesome talk about their respective roles, relationships with each other and enjoy chatting about the film’s production. They broach the obvious similarities between the current war in Iraq and Kuwaiti Gulf War and the mixed reception returning soldiers received when they arrived back in the US.
Lustig mentions how some of the score needed to be taken out at the last minute because it sounded too much like the Halloween theme. He also admits to some of the shortfalls of the film, but the other two quickly jump in on the defense.
The distinctive voice of Isaac Hayes introduces himself and this commentary track. Lustig offers a wealth of scene-by-scene background information about the actors and location details. Hayes doesn’t really have much to say other than agreeing with Lustig.
Surprisingly, after listening to both commentary tracks, there’s very little repetition from Lustig. He seems so proud of his film that another three hours could easily be filled with his thoughts.
Over behind-the-scenes production footage, Spiro Razatos chats enthusiastically about how some of the spectacular stunts were achieved. Some of the explosions had the locals living near the live sets terrified. Readable press clippings regarding the incident can be found in the poster and still gallery.
Theatrical Trailer (1:26)
Just when you thought it was safe to stand up and salute the flag…
A series of 44 poster, publicity and behind-the-scenes stills.
After highlighting the 5.1 Surround option in the audio menu, press left and a blue star will appear beside the Audio Setup heading. Press enter and a few scenes from the film are cut-and-pasted together into a dubious montage suggesting paedophilia.
In the bonus features menu, highlight the Theatrical Trailer and press left. A blue star to the right of the Extras heading will appear. Press enter and a deleted scene between the Undertaker and Sam Harper’s wife plays.
This is the locally distributed version of the Region 0 NTSC Blue Underground release.
An over-the-top attack on American nationalism taken to its right-wing extreme, Uncle Sam is a guilty pleasure for the patient, undemanding slasher fan who likes their apple pie garnished with gore.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output|
|Display||Yamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||get a marshall stack, and crank it up.|
|Speakers||2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.|