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Chopping Mall: Vestron Video Collector's Series Blu-ray Review

Chopping Mall (2016) movie poster Chopping Mall

Theatrical Release: March 21, 1986 / Running Time: 76 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jim Wynorski / Writers: Jim Wynorski, Steve Mitchell

Cast: Kelli Maroney (Alison Parks), Tony O'Dell (Ferdy Meisel), Russell Todd (Rick Stanton), Karrie Emerson (Linda Stanton), Barbara Crampton (Suzie Lynn), Nick Segal (Greg Williams), John Terlesky (Mike Brennan), Suzee Slater (Leslie Todd), Paul Bartel (Paul Bland), Mary Woronov (Mary Bland), Dick Miller (Walter Paisley), Gerrit Graham (Technician Nessler)

Buy Chopping Mall from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD

Twenty-three years before Paul Blart first scooted around on his Segway, a film centered on a rather different mall security guard on wheels.
In 1986's Chopping Mall, the 8-level Park Plaza 2000 introduces the Protector 101 series of robots. The film opens with a short film demonstrating the robots in action, catching an after-hours jewel thief and neutralizing him. Three such robots are employed in this unabashed sci-fi horror B-movie.

After introducing us to them, the film turns our attentions to the human employees of Park Plaza. I guess they're supposed to be teenagers, though all of them look well into their 20s, which is how old the actors portraying them were. There are a couple of friends who work as diner waitresses together. A trio of guys work in a mattress store. There's also a husband and wife with a road service business. When the mall closes this Friday, these and other mostly interchangeable good-looking people get together for a little party in the mattress store. Sex, beers, dancing, television... you get the idea.

One down, two to go: the preppy men of "Chopping Mall" (Nick Segal, Russell Todd, and Tony O'Dell) take out a killer robot.

Of course, though, those robotic security guards are going to go haywire, killing innocent people they encounter. Things begin to go awry when a night janitor (B-movie legend Dick Miller) is electrocuted by a faulty bot. It's only a matter of time when those fun-having youths will cross paths with the deadly, laser-shooting robots and get knocked off, in typical horror movie fashion, one by one.

The seemingly helpless girls take to the air vents. The guys meanwhile pick up weapons at a hunting store and go all action hero badass. Eventually, the ladies get into the self-defense as well, as the numbers thin and they can all only dream of getting out of the improbably-secured mall alive.

Chopping Mall was made in the moment, with seemingly no thought given to its longterm prospects and how it would hold up. As a result, it gives us the mid-1980s as it was for some young adults: the poofy hair, the slang, the fashions that have long since fallen out. Many of the film's more respectable contemporaries were set in the past. And even those that weren't would have placed more an emphasis on telling a story and developing characters than this one, which just wants to have a good time.

The Protector 101 robot security guards of "Chopping Mall" take their duties to an extreme.

There is an art to the B-movie, which this low-budget production understands and achieves. It is a lot more enjoyable than your run-of-the-mill bad movie and the more easily found mediocre one. Is it ridiculous and stupid? Absolutely. But there is room for that kind of thing alongside true stories, moving dramas, popcorn entertainment for the masses, and generic genre fare. It takes a certain kind of ambition and recklessness to make a good B-movie and I don't hesitate to call Chopping Mall that.

Director Jim Wynorski and his co-writer Steve Mitchell haven't gone away.
Wynorski has moved to making schlocky TV and direct-top-video movies like Dinocroc vs. Supergator and Busty Cops, while Mitchell, after putting in years as a television writer, has gotten involved with documentaries and producing home video featurettes. The cast soon aged out of the narrow demographic for looks-based acting work and mostly faded into obscurity. But Chopping Mall stands as a record of their modest but not insignificant contributions to cinema.

A testament to the film's appeal is the way in which it came to Blu-ray this week from Lionsgate's Vestron Video line, a recently resurrected brand that was attached to B-movies in the early days of VHS, from 1981 to 1992. Arriving alongside fellow '80s B-movie Blood Diner, Chopping Mall is treated to a Collector's Series release that is absolutely loaded with bonus features and carries a price tag on the order of a Criterion Collection release rather than your average 30-year-old catalog Blu-ray title.

Chopping Mall: Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)br> Suggested Retail Price: $39.97
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Previously released on DVD ($14.98 SRP; August 17, 2004)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Costing just $800,000 to produce, Chopping Mall is no Back to the Future. And yet, it still looks pretty delightful on Blu-ray, getting presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, approximating the 1.85:1 of its original theatrical exhibitions as opposed to the 1.33:1 it got on DVD. There is a little wear on certain shots, particularly early on. But the colors are vibrant, grain is kept to an appropriate level, and there aren't even any other minor issues to mar the experience. The monaural 2.0 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is true to original exhibitions as well and it gets the job done without ever commanding particular notice apart from the very period-appropriate electronic score.

Writer-director Jim Wynorski is among the many "Chopping Mall" personnel reflecting on their creation in "Back to the Mall." Editor Leslie Rosenthal discusses "Chopping 'Chopping Mall.'"">

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Chopping Mall's cornucopia of bonus features begins with three audio commentaries.
That's right. Three audio commentaries, which is three more than every Steven Spielberg movie has ever gotten.

The first commentary features director/co-writer Jim Wynorski, actress Kelli Maroney, and co-writer/2nd unit director Steve Mitchell. The second commentary teams up historian/s authors Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo Video and Ryan Turek of Shock Till You Drop. The third and final commentary pairs up Wynorski and Mitchell again, but this one was recorded back in 2004 and gets recycled here.

Next, there is a fourth alternate way in which to experience the film: an isolated score track that loses dialogue and effects but keeps the music by Chuck Cirino.

Commentaries and isolated scores not your thing? Don't worry, there are plenty of high quality video extras (all in HD unless otherwise noted) to satisfy you here as well without making you rewatch the film.

They begin with "Back to the Mall" (26:29), a brand new documentary catching up with most of the principal cast as well as Wynorski and Mitchell. They reflect on the film from conception and casting to filming, stunts, their favorite moments, the title's evolution, a 29th anniversary screening, and the film's legacy. It's pretty much a fan's dream come true.

Next up comes "Chopping Chopping Mall" (8:19), in which editor Leslie Rosenthal reflects on putting the film together. Her remarks are complemented by more from Wynorski and Mitchell.

"The Lost Scene" preserves a sequence written but never shot. A killbot answers questions about the movie in a most economical fashion in "The Robot Speaks."

"Talkin' About...The Killbots" (12:11) lets robot creator Robert Short reflect on the killing machines' design and how they were in operation.

"Scoring Chopping Mall" (11:04) turns our attention back to Cirino's music, as he and others reflect on the film's very '80s sound.

"The Robot Speaks!" (2:12) lets Wynorski voice one of the robots to answer Mitchell's questions about the film and its making. It's cheap and silly but fun.

"The Lost Scene" (3:01) lets Wynorski and Mitchell describe a scene that was written but never filmed, which is followed by scrolling through the corresponding script excerpt. It involves a horse and two mall employees (Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov reprising their roles as Eating Raoul couple the Blands) only briefly seen in the film.

"Chopping Mall" mega fan Carl Simpson proudly shows off his surviving, working killbot in "Army of One." Robot creator Robert Short describes his creation both in this 2004 piece and a newer interview. The "Chopping Mall" trailer presents an unsettling silhouette not seen in the actual film.

"Army of One" (6:01) checks in with big fan Carl Simpson of Long Island, who shows off his collection of Chopping Mall paraphenilia, including the only surviving working killbot.

"Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots" (15:41), a standard definition piece recycled from the heyday of DVD,
lets robot creator Robert Short and the duo of Wynorski and Mitchell reflect on the look and design of the film's robotic antagonists. It's pretty much remade as "Talkin' About...The Killbots."

Finally, we get Chopping Mall's short trailer (0:50, SD), a definite relic from another era.

The Blu-ray's tasteful animated menu loops clips and electronic score.

No inserts accompany the full-color disc inside the eco-friendly keepcase, which is topped by a glossy slipcover reproducing the same poster-derived artwork with some minor differences. Both keepcase and slipcover assign a spine number of 1 to Chopping Mall, upping the collectability of this Vestron Video line.

In "Chopping Mall", all hell breaks loose when robotic security guards turn deadly.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Chopping Mall is by no means a good movie, but it certainly is an entertaining one and something altogether different from today's horror and sci-fi films. This apparent cult classic makes its Blu-ray debut in style, being shown love rarely bestowed upon catalog titles. This praiseworthy set includes a fantastic feature presentation and a wealth of extras that fans should truly enjoy. As long as you go in with the right expectations for a 30-year-old B-movie, this disc warrants a look.

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Written and Directed by Jim Wynorski: Dinocroc vs. Supergator | Featuring Jim Wynorski: Corman's World

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Reviewed September 30, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1986 Concorde and 2016 Lionsgate and Vestron Video.
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