Blu-ray
For Fans Only
2 stars
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Overall Grade
2 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
1.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
1.5 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
For Fans Only

Avalanche

Street Date:
September 16th, 2014
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
October 8th, 2014
Movie Release Year:
1978
Studio:
Scorpion Releasing
Length:
91 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
PG
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Back in the 70s, Hollywood was obsessed with making natural disaster flicks. They gathered together some of the finest actors to star in these films of terror, and pretty much all of them made big money at the box office and have become quite the cult classics today. With film's like 'The Towering Inferno' or 'The Poseidon Adventure', audiences came out in herds to see their favorite actors survive in some sort of epic disaster type film. It paved the way for more modern films today like 'Deep Impact', 'Armageddon', and even 'Volcano'.

Well, a filmmaker named Roger Corman, who is known for making tons of B-Movies very fast, had to cash in on the whole natural disaster phenomenon. But where those previous disaster films succeeded, Corman ultimately failed. The reason being is that Corman was not looking to make a quality film. Instead, he goal is usually to make something on the cheap and reap a big profit later on. It's not an art form so much as it's a business to him, and it shows with his film 'Avalanche'. All of that being said, 'Avalanche' isn't an awful film, as it has some decent suspense and a good cast including Robert Forster, Mia Farrow, Jeanette Nolan, and Rock Hudson. But it's the poor dialogue and the horrible special effects that keep this disaster flick from being epic. 

'Avalanche' takes place in Colorado of course at one of the high end ski resorts. David Shelby (Hudson) owns the resort and is trying to keep his staff and guests happy. One of David's acquaintances, Nick Thorne (Forster) tells him that his resort is built on unstable ground and is in the direct path of a big avalanche if it were to happen. Of course, David ignores this since he has a big event happening, which even his ex-wife Caroline (Farrow) will be attending.

This being a disaster movie, the worst happens, and a giant avalanche completely devastates the new resort. Now, a few survivors are trapped inside the damaged resort and are trying to get help and survive. I wish the rest played out like John Carpenter's 'The Thing', but unfortunately it doesn't and instead we have a run-of-the-mill thriller where our characters have secrets of their own and might be being killed off by the recent catastrophe. Writer/director Corey Allen did as much as he could with Corman's budget and notes as the usual genre tropes show their faces with love affairs, a cute child, and characters trying to redeem themselves.

The problem is that everyone seems to be asleep at the wheel, giving the movie that famous "so bad it's good" vibe. I believe the film had a little over a $6.5 million dollar budget, and for being a big epic disaster flick, that might have been enough for a box of fake snow. But Corman being who he was, knew how to stretch a dollar, and boy does it show. Instead of showing the avalanche or even building a miniature set to film an avalanche, Corman cuts to stock footage of some avalanche that was probably filmed by some National Geographic team for an older documentary, which should muster up some laughs and head shakes.

'Avalanche' is nowhere near the same quality as some of the films that came before it, but has somehow kicked up a fan base that still loves the film, warts and all. The only thing that would have made the film better is if a young Arnold Schwarzenegger popped up and said "Chill out."

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Avalanche' comes with a decent 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For being a film that is thirty-six years old and made by someone who cut corners to make a bigger prophet on a shoestring budget, i'm surprised at how good this video presentation looks. By no means is it demo quality or even in the 'very good' range, but it gets the job done with some sharp moments of clarity. During the opening of the film, there is quite a bit of apparent damage, warping, and dirt.

But after the first few minutes, that all seems to subside and go away. The rest of the picture from then on looks quite good. Closeups reveal some nice textures in the props and winter clothing as well as some wrinkles, makeup blemishes, and dirt on the actor's faces. Colors look decent with some good blues and whites on the exterior shots. On the interior shots, colors are warm with several very bright winter outfits that pop off screen. Black levels are mostly deep and skin tones look natural throughout. The layer of grain also looks good and gives it the nostalgic 70s look. This is not an excellent looking picture, but it isn't a terrible either.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

 This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 audio mix. I wish this sounded better. For being a disaster flick, the sound did not hold up well at all. Mr. Corman did not care about preserving or getting the best sound out of his actors nor did he seem to mind the lack of sound effects that could have fully immersed you in the film. Nothing much is changed on this Blu-ray either. Dialogue is soft, rough, and not all that loud. It's easy to follow and hear what the actor's are saying, but there is no crispness or clarity to the sound.

There is quite a bit of hissing going on too, along with pops and cracks throughout. If you were hoping for the heavier action scenes to pack a punch, you'll need to look elsewhere, because these sound effects and ambient noises barely register as anything catastrophic. The LFE is not great and the dynamic range is not wide whatsoever, leaving this audio presentation with low marks.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Interview with Roger Corman (HD, 7 Mins.) - Mr. Corman discusses why he went forward with 'Avalanche' and some of the quality of production.

Interview with Robert Forester (HD, 13 Mins.) - This is not a fun interview at all. Mr. Forster did not enjoy working on this film, but he has kind words for his fellow actors. He more or less talks about his other films here.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives. 

Final Thoughts

'Avalanche' is for the cinephiles who love Roger Corman and don't mind watching bad movies. It's a true B-Movie in every way. Well, it might be a C-Movie, but the film as it is today is fun to  watch. The video looks decent but has its flaws, and the audio is downright bad. There are a couple of interesting interviews to round out the extras as well. This is for fans of Corman or the film only. 

Technical Specs

  • 25GB Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles/Captions

  • None

Supplements

  • Interview with Roger Corman
  • Interview with Robert Forster
  • Theatrical Trailer

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