“Uncle Sam” wants YOU to buy this new 4K version
Let’s be patriots.
There was a time when director William Lustig could be relied on to deliver the grindhouse goods: Maniacal (1980), Vigilant (1982), the manic cop series (1988-1992). But his one attempt to deliver a holiday horror image missed the mark, and it also happened to be his last. Uncle Sam (1996), as its name so clearly suggests, features a jingoistic GI Joe, reanimated and ready to slash the unpatriotic citizens of his hometown.
You’d think that even on a fanciful premise, Lustig and his frequent collaborator Larry Cohen, who penned the screenplay, could deliver a tongue-in-cheek picture full of visceral violence, draped in our country’s flag. In place, Uncle Sam is a challenging course from start to finish, with the only fleeting bright spots being cameos inspired by Lustig’s legacy roster. For example, this opening is sloppy, but getting some action from William Smith is worth it. It’s a film that I wanted to turn into a must-see of the year, for these 4e of July when I can sneak into another movie after Jaws (1975) and independence day (1996). But seeing it again almost 15 years after the last time I saw it was a firm reminder that there isn’t much to celebrate.
Also Read: ‘Powertool Cheerleaders Vs The Boyband Of The Screeching Dead’: The Title Says It All [FrightFest 2022 Review]
After Staff Sergeant Sam Harper (David Fralick) is killed during a desert storm skirmish by friendly fire, his body is sent home to Twin Rivers, where he is left in the care of his estranged sister. Sally (Leslie Neale). And when I say “care of”, the coffin with his body is literally in the living room. Jody (Christopher Ogden), Sally’s son, is a young patriot who adored his Uncle Sam. Now he acts, mourning the loss of his hero. Uncle Sam’s red, white, and blue juices start flowing again once 4th of July hits, and a late-night encounter with a voyeur sees Sam tag an outfit matching his avuncular name. The undead madness culminates in an Independence Day celebration that turns blood red when Sam carves up the townspeople like a barbecue. This leaves Jody thinking that her uncle may not be a brave idol after all.
My biggest problem with the film is that there are no compelling characters. There’s no one you want to put yourself behind. Jody, apparently the leader, is a kid and he just doesn’t have it. Lustig throws in plenty of familiar faces: Isaac Hayes, PJ Soles, William Smith, Frank Pesce, Bo Hopkins, and Robert Forster, whose cameo gives the film a much-needed shot of seriousness. But not a single main cast is above average. And while I tend to like Larry Cohen’s work, this script feels like it was written for the holiday angle and there hasn’t been much thought beyond that. to be a 4th of julye slash.
Read also: “After Blue” is a hypno-sexual fantasy [Review]
Let’s not even talk about the blind child who has a psychic link with the eponymous character.
What works? I like the Small Town USA vibe. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I find a certain charm in the direct-to-video aesthetic of Lustig’s film, even if it feels cheaper than anything he’s done before. As I mentioned, Forster’s cameo is a winning moment. I would love to congratulate Isaac Hayes, but he seems half asleep here. Oh, and we get a full body burn during the climax, courtesy of Lustig’s as-in-the-hole stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos. I searched for all the good I could, but a small part of this 89-minute feature inspired me as much as its eponymous mascot was designed to do.
This is the last of Lustig’s Blue Underground owned films to get the 4K treatment and the results are as expected. It has a nice 2160p 2.40:1 image that comes from a 4K 16-bit scan of the original camera negative. The colors are lush and bright. Black levels are dark and inky. There’s not a smudge or dirt or debris to be seen, and the film grain hovers over the image in a fine sheen. The aesthetic is somewhere between direct-to-video and cinema. One downside to the increased resolution is that some makeup effects don’t hold up to this level of scrutiny. While I’m not crazy about the movie, I’m totally in love with Blue Underground’s amazing 4K work to make it look flawless.
Also Read: ‘Do Not Disturb’ Is a Finger-licking Good Cannibal Horror [Popcorn Frights 2022 Review]
An English Dolby Atmos track was included as an upgrade over the also available DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. I found the dialogue to sound a little low at times but the track is clean and the mix is effective. Mark Governor’s score is decent, but it doesn’t stand out like the scores of Lustig’s previous films. Not a lot of OOMPH on the track either, although some climactic explosions do register the low side of things a bit. Subtitles are available in SDH English, French and Spanish.
There are two audio commentary tracks – one, featuring director William Lustig, writer Larry Cohen and producer George G. Braunstein; two, with Lustig and actor Isaac Hayes.
“Fire Stunts” (SD) is a fantastic featurette that lasts 9 minutes and 48 seconds. This on-set footage features an interview with stuntman Chris Durand (who played Uncle Sam for the stunts) with audio commentary from stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos.
A deleted scene (SD) is 53 seconds long.
A gag reel (SD) spins for 40 seconds.
The theatrical trailer for the film (4K) is 1 minute and 34 seconds long.
A gallery of posters and still images (SD) contains 53 images.
- NEW EXCLUSIVE 4K RESTORATION FROM ORIGINAL 35MM CAMERA NEGATIVE COMPLETED FOR FILM’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY
- DOLBY VISION/HDR FILM PRESENTATION
- NEW DOLBY ATMOS TRACK
- Audio Commentary #1 with Director William Lustig, Screenwriter Larry Cohen and Producer George G. Braunstein
- Audio Commentary #2 with director William Lustig and star Isaac Hayes
- Fire stunts with audio commentary by stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos
- deleted scene
- reel gag
- Theatrical trailer
- Poster and Still Image Gallery
- Optional subtitles in SDH English, French and Spanish for main functionality
- Limited edition mobile lenticular cover (first pressing only!)
- FREE REGION
I wish I had more nice things to say about Lustig’s upcoming annual slasher, but this one never worked for me. I will say it was moderately fun to see it again about 15 years later. The unparalleled quality of 4K transfer is undoubtedly the best part of the package, with this cool piece on fire stunts.
Tags: 4K Blue Underground Uncle Sam Review