Matinee – UHD Blu-ray Review

4.5 Stars Joe Dante's nostalgic comedy debuts on UHD Blu-ray
Matinee Screenshot Review

Let’s dig into Matinee. Beginning his career working under the legendary Roger Corman, Joe Dante first started editing trailers for New World Pictures before getting his big break as a director with his second film Piranha (1978). Since then, he has made a name for himself with melding humor and 1950’s B-movie aesthetic with films like The Howling (1981), Gremlins (1984), Explorers (1985) and Innerspace (1987). One of his more underrated movies is Matinee, an ode to the B-movies of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Previously released on DVD by Universal and on Blu-ray by Shout Factory (reviewed by HTF’s Todd Erwin here), the latter has given the movie its UHD Blu-ray debut here.

Matinee (1993)
Released: 29 Jan 1993
Rated: PG
Runtime: 99 min
Director: Joe Dante
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton, Omri Katz
Writer(s): Jerico (story), Charles S. Haas (story), Charles S. Haas (screenplay)
Plot: A small-time film promoter releases a kitschy horror film during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
IMDB rating: 6.8
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Shout! Factory
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 39 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray
Case Type: Black keep case with slipcover
Disc Type: UHD
Region: A
Release Date: 06/25/2024
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 4.5/5

“You see, the people come into your cave with the 200-year-old carpet. The guy tears your ticket in half. Too late to turn back now. The water fountain’s all booby-trapped and ready, the stuff laid out on the candy counter. Then you come over here to where it’s dark. There could be anything in there! And you say… ‘Here I am! What have you got for me?'” – Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman)

In October 1962, as the world waits with bated breath over the outcome of the ongoing Cuban Missile Crisis, movie producer and showman Lawrence Woolsey arrives in Key West, Florida to premiere his latest movie, Mant! For 15-year-old monster movie fan Gene Loomis (Simon Fenton) – a recent arrival to the area – the arrival of Woolsey provides a welcome distraction for him, since his father is one of the Navy officers sent out to confront the growing crisis. Along the way, Gene finds new friends – as well as a growing attraction to classmate Sandra (Lisa Jakub) – and even assists Woolsey in preparing for the movie’s premiere. When the curtain finally rises for the big premiere, the citizens of Key West will be treated to a show they’ll never forget.

A love letter to moviegoing and cinema in general, Matinee is not only one of Joe Dante’s most personal films, but also one of his best overall. The film not only pays tribute to the monster B-movies of the 1950’s and 1960’s – most notably those from Universal-International and William Castle (who was a partial inspiration for the Lawrence Woolsey character here) – but also the bygone practice of theater showmanship; indeed, “Atomo-vision” and “Rumble-Rama” are riffs on not only Castle’s noted gimmicks, but also Universal’s own Sensurround process in the 1970’s. Also, the decision to have the story play out during the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis illustrates not only the topical fears of the adults, but also the innocence of childhood and gulf between the two in terms of what scares them. Best of all, the film is well made from top to bottom – even Jerry Goldsmith’s music score contains cues from previous Universal monster movies! – and Dante gets great performances from his cast all around. Overall, Matinee is a sweet, good-natured and funny look at the time when monsters and showmen ruled the B-movie circuit and also an ode to a now bygone era when you got your money’s worth when you went to the movies.

As the William Castle inspired showman Lawrence Woolsey, John Goodman has one of his best film performances in either a leading or supporting part; the other inspiration for the Woolsey character here was longtime American International Pictures head Samuel Z. Arkoff. After making a memorable Oscar-nominated debut in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980), Cathy Moriarty is well paired with Goodman as actress and Woolsey’s partner Ruth Corday; she also appears in the film-within-a-film Mant! as Carole. Though he was better known for his work in television, Simon Fenton likely has one of his best film roles here as Gene; Omri Katz – better known today for his appearance in Hocus Pocus (released the same year as this movie) – also casts a memorable impression as Stan, Gene’s new friend trying to win the heart of the beautiful Sherry (Kellie Martin). Rounding out the cast here are the aforementioned Martin as Sherry, Robert Picardo as the theater’s nerve-wracked manager, Lisa Jakub as Sandra, Lucinda Jenney as Gene’s mother, Jesse Lee as Gene’s younger brother Dennis, James Villemaire as Sherry’s ex-boyfriend, the brooding James Dean/Fonzie lookalike Harvey Starkweather, Dante regulars Dick Miller and John Sayles as two members of Woolsey’s entourage posing as the movie’s protesters, Belinda Balaski as Stan’s mom, David Clennon as Sandra’s father, Lucy Butler as Sandra’s mother and Jesse White – in his final film appearance – as movie theater mogul Mr. Spector; in the film-within-a-film Mant!, look for William Schallert, Robert Cornthwaite and Kevin McCarthy and Naomi Watts has one of her earliest film appearances as the leading lady of the Disney styled film-within-a-film The Shook-Up Shopping Cart.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new Dolby Vision HDR transfer created from a 4K scan of the original camera negative supervised and approved by Joe Dante; the UHD Blu-ray disc presents the film in HDR, while the Blu-ray disc presents the movie in SDR. Film grain, fine details and the combination of color palette and gray scale (in scenes either utilizing archival footage of the Cuban Missile Crisis broadcasts or for the film-within-a-film Mant!) are all presented faithfully with minimal cases of scratches, tears and dirt present on the transfer. This release is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video and easily surpasses all previous home video editions.

Audio: 5/5

There are three audio options on this release: a Dolby Atmos track, a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track and a 5.1 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio track present on both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs. Dialogue, sound mix and Jerry Goldsmith’s music score (with stock music composed by William Lava, Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter and Herman Stein utilized for Mant!) all presented faithfully with minimal cases of distortion like crackling, popping, clicking and hissing present on each track.  Whichever your preference for watching the movie in, you can’t go wrong, as this release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video and surpasses previous home video editions.

Special Features: 4.5/5

On both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs

Commentary by film critics Drew McWeeny and Eric Vespe – Newly recorded for this release, McWeeny and Vespe go into an enthusiastic appreciation of the movie while giving some details on the film’s production.

On Blu-ray disc only

Florida Daydream (10:39) – Actress Kellie Martin, who portrayed Sherry in the film, reflects on her involvement in the movie in this brand new interview.

Cold War Thing (13:14) – David Clennon, who portrays Sandra’s father in the movie, looks back on his brief part and his own memories during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the second of the two new interviews for this release.

Master of the Matinee (20:28) – Joe Dante looks back on how the movie was made in this archival interview from the Shout Select Blu-ray.

The Leading Lady (12:01) – Cathy Moriarty – who plays Ruth Corday and Carole in Mant! – shares her memories of the movie in this archival interview.

MANTastic!: The Making of a Mant (25:11) – Designer Jim McPherson and performer Mark McCracken talk about how they brought the Mant to life for the movie-within-a-movie in this archival featurette.

Out of the Bunker (16:16) – Actress Lisa Jakub – who played Sandra – shares her appreciation of working on the film with Dante in this archival interview.

Making a Monster Theater (15:33) – Production designer Steven Legler reflects on the challenges of pulling off some of the aspects of the theater set – including the collapsing balcony – in this archival interview

The Monster Mix (11:37) – Film editor Marshall Harvey talks about cutting together archival footage, the Mant! footage and the studio and on-location footage in this archival interview.

Lights! Camera! Reunion! (21:12) – The late cinematographer John Hora reflects on his work on capturing the era the film was set in in this archival interview.

Paranoia in Ant Vision (32:36) – Carried over from the Region B Blu-ray release from 2015, Dante goes into details on the film’s making and reception; some of the information here overlaps with his later interview on the Shout Select Blu-ray.

Making of Featurette (4:27) 

Behind the Scenes Footage (8:20)

Deleted/Extended Scenes (5) (2:21)

Still Gallery (59 stills) (4:03) – Stills provided by Legler and Brett Cameron.

Noticeably missing here is the standalone version of Mant! with the introduction by Joe Dante and the film’s theatrical trailer from the previous Shout Select Blu-ray.

Overall: 4.5/5

Attracting praise from critics – despite the film not attracting huge audiences upon initial release – Matinee is a heartfelt tribute to a bygone era of moviegoing and one of Joe Dante’s best and most underrated films. Shout Factory has bested their previous Blu-ray in terms of visual and audio quality and amassed a plethora of special features; the only downside here is that the full-length version of Mant! is missing from this release, so hold on to your Shout Select Blu-ray for that. That omission aside, this release is still very highly recommended and worth the upgrade.

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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Todd Erwin

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One of the bizarre notes on the making of the film in John Hora’s interview was how Universal Orlando (when they were still a working film studio) didn’t have a lumber department and the sets had to be built with “leased” lumber, so as soon as they were finished with a set, it was immediately disassembled, which made reshoots virtually impossible.
 

Todd Erwin

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What a great movie from Dante. A pity that audiences didn't go see it.
Universal has even admitted they had no idea how to market this film, even though executives at the time really liked it. They basically just dumped the film in theaters with little fanfare in early January.

Another fascinating story was how this was going to be an independent film, but since Dante's offices of Renfield Productions was on the Universal lot, Universal kept advancing them development money while Dante's company waited for their investor to come through with the money. The investor never came though, and Universal had advanced so much money at that point that they went ahead and financed it, I think on the condition that they shoot at their new Orlando studios. This film and Ron Howard's Parenthood were the first major films shot at their Orlando facility, IIRC.
 
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