Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Kino Lorber‘s release of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.
As a child of the 1980s, there are many films I recall playing on the boob tube during my adolescence. Whether I was watching Back to the Future for the 100th time or revisiting Ghostbusters and watching Ray get “ghost head” and not understanding what the ghost did to make him roll his eyes, there was plenty of cinema to be had in my house. The ’80s. What a time to be alive.
One of those movies I recall watching more than once was the 1985 action/comedy Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Even though I saw the film multiple times as a child, I don’t recall seeing the movie after my tenth birthday. It was like a light switch: I left Remo Williams almost as quickly as it left theaters. Did it deserve such abandonment? Kino Lorber didn’t think so as they rescued the film from obscurity, cleaned it up, and released it on Blu-ray.
I’ve talked about how I like to frequent my local brick-and-mortar stores for my physical media shopping. During my latest excursion, I found the recent Kino Lorber release at a satisfying price of fewer than 15 dollars with the slipcover. “Sure,” I thought to myself. “If I’m ever going to revisit this frequently-watched film, now’s the time.” I plunked down my money and left my store as the proud owner of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Only one question remained: would it play as well now that I’m an adult? That’s a somewhat complicated answer.
I’m a fan of Fred Ward and seeing him get the chance to headline a film is a treat. Remo Williams works to try and balance action and humor, garnering mixed results at best. Ward is capable of anchoring the film, but it has trouble navigating the silliness of Joel Grey’s Master character and the thriller aspects dealing with the organization, CURE. The film is messy, but it’s never an arduous chore and has enough entertainment value to warrant my purchase. I’m not going to go into Grey’s stereotypical character, as it’s a character that plenty of people will have something to say, but he is entertaining. Take that as you will. The ’80s were a different time.
Getting into the features, Kino Lorber provides a handful of interviews, the first of which, “Created, the Destroyer: Writing Remo Williams,” finds Devin Murphy, son of Warren Murphy and historian Chris Poggiali, discussing the history of The Destroyer novels, from where the film came about. Murphy and Poggiali do a solid job navigating the history of the books for which the film is based and offering their thoughts on what works and doesn’t with the movie adaptation. Each offers their perspective and knowledge to create an interview that packs a lot of information during the run time.
The next featurette, “Unarmed and Dangerous: Producing Remo Williams,” looks into the film’s production. Producers Larry Spiegel and Judy Goldstein give a brief history of obtaining the rights to the book series, The Destroyer, before tracing the film’s production to Orion Pictures and getting James Bond writer Christopher Wood and Bond director Guy Hamilton on board. On the casting side, Spiegel and Goldstein talk about how Bruce Willis almost came aboard as Remo Williams and Spiegel’s reasoning for using Grey as an Asian character. One of the more intriguing aspects of this featurette comes when discussing the usage of the Stature of Liberty and is worth a listen. Everything one could want about the production of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins is here. There’s plenty of information to be had—my only gripe being that the run time was longer.
“Secrets of Sinanju: Training Remo Williams” is a chat with actor Joel Grey. Grey talks about his apprehension to the Asian community about taking on the role and the work of makeup effects artist Carl Fullerton. Grey then talks about his approach to acting—studying all aspects of Korean culture for his role in Remo Williams. There is a sense of enjoyment as Grey recounts his time on set, discussing all aspects, including his acceptance through the Korean community and assuming the film would spawn a series. It’s nice to hear from Joel Grey. His on-camera interview is a welcome addition.
Next up is “Balance and Power: Designing Remo Williams.” Production designer Jackson De Govia discusses the challenges of working with the real Statue of Liberty and a replica. De Govia dispenses plenty of his know-how between shooting at the location for the Statue of Liberty and ones done with the duplicate in Mexico. De Govia also details the reasons for shooting in Mexico and the unforeseen consequences that come with it. “Balance and Power” is another thorough and well-paced interview that any Remo Williams fans should enjoy.
The last featurette, “Assassin’s Tune: Composing Remo Williams,” focuses on the musical side of the film. Composer Craig Safan talks about his influences in crafting the score for Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Along with an interview, “Assassin’s Tune” also showcases Safan hitting the keyboard to play notes from the film. Safan talks about talking with the Korean community to avoid “stereotypical, chopsocky-type” music. “Assassin’s Tune” is another feature that covers all aspects of its topic, leaving you satisfied.
We next get a handful of stills and promotional material. What we get comes with behind-the-scenes photos, storyboards, and various marketing images. It’s thorough and exhaustive, but if you enjoy these, there’s plenty here.
Rounding out the marketing supplemental material, Kino Lorber includes a radio spot and the film’s theatrical trailer. You also get trailers for The Final Option, Murphy’s Law, Runaway Train, and Force 10 from Navarone.
The last feature on the disc is a feature-length audio commentary with producer Larry Spiegel and co-producer Judy Goldstein. The track plays like an extended version of the featurette, Unarmed and Dangerous: Producing Remo Williams.” Some of the stories mentioned on the prior featurette find their way onto this track, but Goldstein and Spiegel play well off each other, recounting tales from the set. While they occasionally lapse into silence while watching the film, this commentary works well for those seeking more after viewing “Unarmed and Dangerous: Producing Remo Williams.”
And there you have it! Revisiting Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins was a treat. While the film didn’t hold up as well as one might hope, it was still a good time. The Kino Lorber release comes stacked with a multitude of features, most courtesy of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, to create the ultimate edition of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. If there’s a caveat, it’s the omission of any discussions with Fred Ward. As he passed recently, hearing some of his words about headlining a film of this magnitude would have been the cherry on this ice cream sundae. You can’t always get what you want, though. The rest of the features pick up the slack and give you almost everything one might hope for with this Blu-ray. If you’re a fan of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins or looking for a quirky PG-13 action/comedy to add to your collection, this Kino Lorber release is the disc for you!