The Devil's Nightmare

Color, 1991, 103 mins. 22 secs.
Directed by James Glickenhaus
Starring Christopher Walken, Maria Conchita Alonso, Michael Ironside, Steve James, Victor Argo, Thomas G. Waites, Chick Vennera
Synapse Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), NSM Records (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/ PAL), Arrow Video (DVD) (UK R0 PAL), DFW (Blu-ray & DVD) (Holland R0 HD/PAL) / WS (1.781) (16:9)

For just over a decade, McBainJames Glickenhaus was one of the most reliable names directing independent McBainaction films starting with the sleazy hit The Exterminator and continuing with The Soldier, The Protector, and Shakedown (not to mention numerous stints as a producer). Essentially marking the end of an era, McBain was Glickenhaus' final theatrical action feature, offering a bullet-sprayed look at the damage wrought by the international narcotics trade and featuring a committed lead performance by Oscar winner Christopher Walken. The film also marked the end of the theatrical aspirations for distributor Shapiro-Glickenhaus (which had its own VHS arm as well as a deal through MCA/Universal) after ambitious action and horror features like Red Scorpion, Maniac Cop, and Frankenhooker. Here the crazed, large-scale action scenes and relatively prestigious cast result in a curious experience, a film that would never get a theatrical release today but feels far too lavish to be consigned to VHS.

In what amounts to an updated riff on his role in The Dogs of War, Walken stars as Bobby McBain, first seen being sprung from his prison in Vietnam by buddies Santos (Vennera) and Eastland (James). Flash forward to modern day New York City where McBain is approached by Santos' sister, Christina (Alonso), after her McBainbrother is killed in Colombia during a failed revolt against the cartel-controlled government. After raising funds by raiding crack houses McBainand taking down a few mob members, McBain and his combat buddies head to South America where they instigate a cavalcade of aerial fights, explosions, hurling bodies, and a massive amount of artillery scattered all over the jungle.

Shot on location in the Philippines and Manhattan, McBain is tons of trashy fun built around a presumably sincere message about the evils of oppressive governments and criminal networks. Seeing Walken, Alonso, Michael Ironside, and various company players from other Glickenhaus films trotting around firing machine guns is always a treat, and you even get a small role for a very young Luis Guzmán who steals his few minutes of screen time.

McBain first turned up on VHS and laserdisc as part of that MCA/Universal deal (alongside films like Maniac Cop 2 and Slaughter of the Innocents), and it's been a home video fixture around the world since then including a DVD release in the U.K. and a variety of DVD and Blu-ray editions around the world. One of the more ambitious editions came from NSM Records in Germany featuring a trailer, a strangely awkward "Blast 'Em Up" (13m57s) featurette with Glickenhaus produced for the U.K. DVD from Arrow, a quick 20s Glickenhaus intro, a 1-minute gallery, filmographies for the director and McBainthree stars, and an archival EPK interview collection (10m18s) from the set with Walken, Alonso, Ironside, James, and McBainGlickenhaus.

In 2023 (many years after announcing it had acquired the title), Synapse Films issued a U.S. Blu-ray of the film taken from the same excellent 1.78:1 HD master seen on the European releases, carrying over the usual DTS-HD MA 2.0 English surround track. New here is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track the amps up the fun with some extra split directional effects and subwoofer action, which makes for very fun viewing in the second half when everything starts blowing up. Optional English subtitles are also provided. In addition to the trailer, you get a new audio commentary track here with Glickenhaus and Chris Poggiali who go through virtually every aspect about the film you could want to know including the Filipino shooting locations, the casting, the infamous, identically named character on The Simpsons, and various little touches sprinkled through the film to reward repeat viewings.

Synapse (Blu-ray)

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NSM (Blu-ray)

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Reviewed on July 1, 2023