You've gotta love a good double billing. I have vague memories of when I was a kid the old second run theater where I saw the likes of 'Superman IV: The Quest For Peace' and 'The Masters of the Universe' would frequently offer double features - although I never got to partake in them. I wish it was a practice that was still used today, especially for movies with little to no redeeming value - as so many come out each year - it'd be a great way to get bottoms in seats and sell popcorn! Thankfully, Scream Factory has been continuing the tradition with several of their Blu-ray releases.
While some of their previous outings were linked by a sub-genre like gigantic monsters, or even an entire franchise as with 'Blacula,' their latest double feature 'Millennium' and 'R.O.T.O.R.' are linked in that they're both Science Fiction titles that were made in the late 1980s. Since one of these movies is considered a solid science fiction thriller and the other a campy midnight movie cult classic, it's an odd pairing to have both films on a single disc, but just the same, it's great to see them in High Definition.
"Watch that first step… it's a killer!"
Airplane crashes are tragic events that require a crack investigative team. Bill Smith (Kris Kristofferson), is the best NTSB investigator there is. Having been the sole survivor of an airplane crash in 1963, he's seen his fair share of death and destruction and has a knack for spotting things others might miss. While investigating a recent crash, he learns aspects of the incident that are strikingly familiar to the one he survived over twenty years earlier. When he meets the beautiful Louise Baltimore (Cheryl Ladd), Bill becomes distracted from his work. Not only is she a knockout and shows genuine affection for him, but Bill can't shake the sense that he's met her before - perhaps decades ago on the flight he survived, but that's impossible!
When Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Arnold Mayer (Daniel J. Travanti) starts digging into the latest crash, Bill begins to wonder if there isn't something else at work, some plot to cause these accidents to happen. Bill soon learns that everything he's experienced from the first air collision he survived to this latest crash he's investigating are in fact, carefully planned and executed tragedies. But what Bill is unprepared for is the truth that Louise is part of a team of time travelers from 1000 years into the future who kidnap the people who would otherwise perish in these doomed flights in order to replenish the human race.
'Millennium' is another great flick from my misspent youth that I watched over and over again. I was about seven years old when my Dad brought this one home on VHS and it became a fast favorite in our house. It featured time travel, action, adventure, and a couple of weird looking robots and people in tubes with odd makeup work! What I am grateful to see is that this movie still holds up after all these years. As a favorite, I was a little worried about trying this one again. The last time I'd seen it was nearly 18 years ago, if not longer. I never owned it on DVD so I was initially a bit hesitant and worried that it wouldn't still be the same adventure film that I remembered loving all those years ago.
This time out, I was actually struck by how well the script holds together. Written by John Varley and directed by 'Logan's Run' director Michael Anderson, 'Millennium' is a smart movie that doesn't take any shortcuts when it comes to the mechanics of time travel. While time travel has been used again and again of late to reboot franchises with 'Star Trek,' 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' and most recently 'Terminator: Genisys,' 'Millennium' is a movie that takes time to get it right. While Bill, a man of the past, may have met Louise Baltimore on multiple occasions with different disguises on, Louise is having an entirely different experience. Because Bill knows her from his past, it requires her to make several trips to his past in order to prevent a temporal paradox - an event that can rip apart the future universe. It's a pretty fantastic concept that keeps track of the damage that changing the past can make. While 'Millennium' uses a little Greenwashing to pump in an environmental angle as a motivation for the time travelers, I dig their methods for taking people off of doomed aircraft and replacing the bodies with people of their own time in order to save humanity. It's a clever idea and keeps the excitement rolling.
"You fire me and I'll make more noise than two skeletons making love in a tin coffin, brother!"
The future of law enforcement has arrived with R.O.T.O.R. - Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research. Discovered by former Dallas lawman and brilliant robotics scientist Barrett Coldyron (pronounced Cold-Iron to make him a total badass), this robotic officer is a flawless law enforcement machine. That is of course when it's been properly setup and its programming have been properly installed. Coldyron (played by a scenery-chewing Richard Gesswein) After an accident frees R.O.T.O.R. (Brad Overturf) with incomplete programming, the future's savior for peace and order becomes mankind's worst nightmare. Acting as Judge, Jury, and Executioner, R.O.T.O.R. begins killing people at random and for petty crimes. Since he created the robotic monster, Coldyron becomes the only man capable of stopping the widespread death and destruction R.O.T.O.R. leaves in its wake.
If you're starting to think that 'R.O.T.O.R.' (A.K.A. 'Blue Steel') sounds like a cheap knock-off version of 'RoboCop,' you wouldn't be far off the mark. Other than the robot in question being an actual villain causing death and destruction and not the hero of the film, there's actually little separating the two films, storywise at least. 'R.O.T.O.R.' is one of the finest examples of late 1980s Cheez Whiz in a can. You're not exactly sure what it's made of, it looks familiar, you probably shouldn't be watching it, but darn it all, it's still good entertainment. That isn't to say that 'R.O.T.O.R.' is a good movie - it isn't - but it still proves to be a heck of a lot of fun.
Part of what makes this movie so much fun is that it takes itself so damn seriously at times - the plucky robot pal notwithstanding. The script is also laughably macho to the point that you're not sure how the cast was able to say half their lines with a straight face. Directed and co-written by Cullen Blaine, this is a movie that is just goofy from frame one and doesn't let up. From the voice-over monologues by Coldyron to the botched robot suit which looks like it was a stolen uniform from 'Mad Max,' everything this movie manages to do, it does wrong - but in all the right ways. A true pizza and beer movie through and through. If you're having a tough time making it through the movie straight, I strongly suggest you give the Rifftrax version a try. Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy do a great job of making this movie watchable! If you can't go for their riffing, get your friends together and give it a go yourself, this movie provides plenty of fodder and moments for you to add your own colorful commentary!
While 'Millennium' and 'R.O.T.O.R.' may be the odd couple of double features, both movies are at least entertaining in their own way. Taken as a smart piece of Science Fiction, 'Millennium' is the smarter movie while 'R.O.T.O.R.' may be the one to watch with people with a quick wit and a great sense of humor. Taken together, this release from Scream Factory proved to be a fun way to spend an afternoon on a cold day.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Millennium / R.O.T.O.R.' arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Scream Factory. Both films are pressed onto a single Region A locked BD50 disc and is housed in a standard Blu-ray case. The reverse side of the cover artwork features stills from each film. The disc loads to a navigation map that allows you to choose which film you want to enjoy. Each film enjoys their own respective static menu with standard navigation features.
Featuring a 1.85:1 1080p transfer, 'Millennium' makes a splendid leap to Blu-ray. While my basis of comparison is limited to memories of an old VHS tape, I'm pleased to report that fine film grain has been retained allowing for a fantastic amount of detail. Colors are muted at times, contingent of the time period and setting in the film, but overall they offer plenty of primary presence. Flesh tones can appear slightly pink at times but not too overwhelmingly warm. Black levels are strong, not quite deep inky black but still strong enough with enough shadow separation to provide a sense of depth to the image. It would appear that a slight bit of edge enhancement was used, the giveaway is Cheryl Ladd's 80s hair styling - it can look too crunchy at times, but thankfully banding doesn't appear very often keeping compression anomalies to a minimum. The print sourced for this transfer is also in great shape without any damage to report. All around a pretty solid looking HD image.
With a 1.78:1 1080p transfer, 'R.O.T.O.R.' looks better than I thought it would considering it's low budget origins and cheesy visual effects work. Fine film grain is present but minimal, I wouldn't say that DNR or digital smoothing has been applied, but at times, the image can appear a bit on the softer side. Like 'Millennium' there is a bit of edge enhancement employed, but nothing too serious. There are some instances of slight banding here and there but considering this movie is being packed onto the same disc as 'Millennium' it's not as bad as one might expect. Colors are on the warmer side of things making great use of the Dallas area settings and ranches. Primaries have plenty of pop and flesh tones appear normal. Black levels can be a bit on the thick side with some slight crush here and there, sometimes it's rather hard to see R.O.T.O.R. during the night shoots and can appear as a floating face. All around this is a pretty good looking image but this movie has never been a great looking film, so this HD upgrade is probably the best it's ever going to look.
'Millennium' arrives with a strong and resonate DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. Dialogue is crystal clear and is never at odds with any background effects or the film's score by Eric Robertson. With some of the visual effects work and the action sequences at play, I wish this movie had been given a full 5.1 upgrade, but this 2.0 track is still very strong. It features plenty of space around the elements and a nice sense of directionality. Keeping to the midranges, the film lets the score dominate the lower registers giving the movie a nice ominous tone to it. Levels are pretty good, but for some of the quieter conversational moments, I did have to pump up the volume (without Christian Slater) to hear what was being said, but this only happened a couple times as most scenes feature a lot of busy sound design work. All around this is a solid audio track.
'R.O.T.O.R.' is given a rock solid DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono audio track. Given that all of the audio is being forced through a single channel, the elements like dialogue, sound effects, and music can sound a bit hollow and flat. There isn't much of a sense of dimensionality to the audio at times making it sound almost dubbed over in several places. Dialogue is clean and easy to hear - which is important because some of the lines are a real hoot! Imaging is restricted due to the lack of channel movement. Levels are well balanced and you shouldn't need to adjust volume too often, you may want it loud just to appreciate the cheesy dialogue with such gems as "The R.O.T.O.R. will walk through a bus load of nuns just to get to a jaywalker!"
While 'Millennium / R.O.T.O.R.' is undoubtedly a strange pairing for a double feature release disc, both movies prove to be entertaining in their own ways. I would consider 'Millennium' a solid time-traveling adventure thriller while 'R.O.T.O.R.' is a piece of science fiction canned cheese. Both are fun to watch but I wouldn't recommend looking at them back to back. Scream Factory has put together a solid release for these films allowing them to have pretty great Audio/Visual presentations that should please fans. Considering both films are pressed onto the same disc, extra features are unfortunately light. Considering the entertainment value of the films and their respective transfers, I'm calling this Blu-ray release of 'Millennium / R.O.T.O.R' Recommended.