Studio: Shout! Factory (licensed thru MGM)
US BD Release Date: March 19, 2013
Original Release Year: 1982
Running Time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0)
Movie: 3.5 out of 5
Lyle Swann (Fred Ward) is a hot shot dirt bike racer with a high-tech motorcycle, racing in the Baja 1000. With all the extra gadgetry, Swann manages to get lost, and stops to investigate some strange-looking machinery in the desert. Before he can ride off, he is transported back to 1875. Unfortunately, he drives off into the desert before the time travel device (code named Timerider) and its monkey companion are brought back to present day (November 5, 1982). While exploring the Wild West, thinking he’s still in modern day Baja, Swann crosses paths with a gang of outlaws led by Porter Reese (Peter Coyote), who is at first terrified of the motorcycle, but then realizes the technical marvel of it (If General Lee had had that machine, we’d have won the war). Swann escapes to the small town of San Marcos, where he meets a corrupt priest (Ed Lauter) and the beautiful Claire Cygne (Belinda Bauer), who is instantly attracted to Swann and seduces him while hiding him from Reese and his gang, who are plotting to steal the bike. Meanwhile, back in 1982, the inventors of the Timerider device are trying to find a way to bring Swann back before he disrupts the timeline any further.
One of the problems (and possibly one of its charms, too) with Timerider is that Swann never knows, until possibly the very end, that he has travelled back in time, and thinks everyone around him is crazy. The film does get off to a slow start, but the pacing does pick up once Swann arrives in 1875. The script by Director William Dear and Executive Producer/Composer Michael Nesmith plays the fish out of water story more tongue in cheek than going for the big laugh, and the film may have succeeded more if there had been at least a few good belly laughs. Fred Ward plays the reluctant hero quite well (and continues to perfect throughout his career in films such as The Right Stuff, Remo Williams, and Tremors), bringing a great deal of charm and likeability to Swann. Peter Coyote has fun playing the villainous Reese (he would later appear as Keys in Steven Spielberg’s ET), and Tracey Walter and Richard Masur are a hoot as his main henchmen, the Dorsett Brothers. Ed Lauter also has some fun playing both sides as the corrupt Padre (trading well water with the locals for anything they can offer). Belinda Bauer is well-cast as the mysterious and beautiful Claire, her odd accent adding some additional exoticness to her character. L.Q. Jones and Chris Mulkey round out the cast as the US Marshals hot on the trail of Reese.
For a low budget film (even by 1980s standards), the effects and cinematography still hold up, particularly Larry Pizer’s use of the Steadicam mounted on the front of a motorcycle during the Baja race sequences. If anything severely dates the movie, it’s Nesmith’s use of 1980s synthesizers in his mostly guitar-driven rock score.
Video: 3.5 out of 5
The 1080p transfer, compressed using the AVC codec, approximates the film’s intended 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio by opening up the frame ever so slightly to 1.78:1 to fill a typical 16:9 display. The harvested image is somewhat soft, but still a major improvement over the earlier transfers seen on television. Colors are mostly consistent and not overly saturated, contrast and black levels are decent, and only a few shots suffer from intrusive grain. The print used is mostly free of debris and scratches, and this is perhaps the best Timerider has ever, or will ever, look.
Audio: 3.5 out of 5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track replicates and improves upon the film’s original matrixed Dolby Surround 2.0 track, offering higher fidelity and wider dynamic range, as well as improved stereo separation to give the film a much wider sound stage. Dialogue is never overpowered and directs quite nicely to the center channel. Ambient and directional sound effects, as well as Nesmith’s score, are pushed to the left, right, and surrounds, filling the room nicely.
Special Features: 3 out of 5
Audio Commentary by Director William Dear: The director discusses working with Michael Nesmith, the casting process, how the movie was made, what he learned from making the movie, and how he would do some things differently today.
Making of Timerider (HD, 19:29): Director William Dear and Co-writer/Producer Michael Nesmith discuss how they met, how Timerider came to be, casting the film, and working on a small budget.
Still Galleries: A selection of behind the scenes photos and storyboards are provided.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:25): The film’s trailer is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen.
TV Spots (SD, 2:19): A series of six TV spots are presented in the 4:3 aspect ratio.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5
Shout! Factory brings yet another film to Blu-ray that, while long overdue, many thought would never arrive, with improved audio and video, as well as a restored theatrical cut and an interesting set of extras.
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