The Vineyard Review

The Film

James Hong is one of those actors that you kinda know because his face has been everywhere, rather than because of outstanding roles or performances. In nearly 60 years of performing on big and small screen, he has amassed credits including Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China, The West Wing, Bonanza, Magnum PI, Hawaii Five.... in fact if an American program or a film needed a creepy looking Chinese man in the last 40 years he has pretty much dominated that market. Heck, this being Hollywood, he's played his share of Japanese as well.imageBesides his supporting ubiquity, Mr Hong has also dabbled on the other side of the camera, directing four films, three of which have been skin flicks boasting a quality of stars such as Shannon Tweed and Rene Bond. If The Vineyard represents his sole attempt to create a mainstream movie, it still relies on exploiting skin, violence and cheese much as I imagine his other directorial efforts have. Still, it is a quite peculiar effort - The Vineyard is an oddity to say the least..

Of course, Hong plays the lead, a rich wine grower with a dark secret behind his youthful good looks. His character is lauded by supporting characters as the most suave man alive and his frankly disturbing disco dancing passes off with little in the way of comment when I would have already been calling social services. Gorgeous, not really, young, not really, people are recruited for parties on his private island and, once there, they fall victim to his wall eyed henchman and curses of Mayan, not really, Voodoo, not really. Can big spectacled Michael Wong (before his career started) or big haired Karen Witter (no, me neither) prevent their weekend away from becoming a nightmare.imageNow, I am sure we can all recount things that we wish we'd never witnessed. Mum and Dad having "special" time, Noel Edmond's return to TV and that McKellen/Jacobi disaster on ITV. All of these things pale next to the sight of Hong getting down with his young friends as some 80's lift music simulates a raving good time, complete with semi-attractive young starlet falling under his "handsome" spell. It is far more monstrous than anything intentional in this tale, and I advise eyewash if you come into contact with it.

There are a few so bad it's good moments. Hong has his henchman sort out his adulterous wife and chauffeur. After a protracted unconvincing fight, the henchman stands over the beaten chauffeur with machete in hand and bad wife forced to look on..."Castrate him", shouts Hong as his henchman goes medieval with the chopper, followed shortly by "Kill the Eunuch"! The bric-a-brac nature of props and the low budget cause hilarity as well as the script builds up Hong's wealth and importance by showing him on a very unimaginatively mocked up magazine cover.....imageLargely, The Vineyard is a cinematic bubble and squeak. Take some leftover mutant creatures, take some supposed to be attractive imprisoned young women, throw in some Jekyll and Hyde, some tinned Voodoo and some non specific Asian backstory, stir with bad action set-pieces, violence delivered without menace and a host of contradictory plot points scattered as a garnish. Like its culinary counterpart, the recipe is unreliable, a tad stale and makes you wish you splashed out on real food.

The Disc

Offered as a budget release by Arrow, you can pick it up for a little over a fiver, this is understandably a near-barebones release with only a trailer on the single layer region 2 locked disc. The film has a kind of straight to video aesthetic and is not really loaded with great cinematography or effects so I can report that it looks better than I have seen it before with little worry. Flesh tones look appropriately warm, detail has not been excessively boosted and edges have not been over-enhanced, the black levels are strong and there's very little to complain about here. For a reference on quality, I'd say this is similar visual quality to the recent Charles Band releases from 88Films. imageThe audio is a basic stereo track - the film was released boasting "ultra-stereo" which may have raised some hopes for a surround track. The sound is reproduced well and does justice to a not very dynamic source without any issues with clarity of dialogue.


So it's not an especially good vintage, presented basically with few frills.

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