Millennium / R.O.T.O.R. (Double Feature)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Feb 24, 2016
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Millennium / R.O.T.O.R. (Double Feature)

Director

Michael Anderson/Cullen Blaine

Release Date(s)

1989/1988 (February 23, 2016)

Studio(s)

Orion Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: D

Millennium/ROTOR (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Millennium was released in 1989 and quietly went away thereafter, but has since held somewhat of a place for select cult movie fans. It was directed by Michael Anderson, who also directed two other cult titles, Logan’s Run and Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, as well as the classic Around the World in 80 Days. Millennium tells the story of a safety investigator (Kris Kristofferson) who, while checking out a bizarre plane crash, meets Louise (Cheryl Ladd), a mystifying woman that leads him down a path of discovering the true fate of not just the plane’s passengers, but of humanity’s future.

Millennium was based upon the short story “Air Raid” by John Varley, but unfortunately, was altered from Varley’s original screenplay many times with various directors before the cameras actually rolled on it. Other notable directors that were attached to the project at one time or another were Douglas Trumbull and Richard Rush, all of whom Varley worked with. After ten years of development hell and eventual green light, Varley was eventually dissatisfied with the whole experience, as well as the finished product.

Millennium didn’t do well upon release, to say the least. It has some interesting ideas, some decent special effects, and some terrific make-up effects, but overall, it winds up feeling very bland as a story. Because of its structure, it was probably a story more suitable for reading anyway, at least in the way that it was executed. It feels its length at times, particularly during certain scenes wherein repeats of ideas go on far longer than they need to. By the time you figure out what’s actually going on in the story, only half of the movie is over, and the rest feels like a chore to sit through. And it doesn’t help that Kris Kristofferson just wasn’t suited for this kind of movie. He’s always been a more rugged type of actor, even in his later years, and his most successful work speaks to that. So the movie isn’t very good, but it has some good things about it, just not enough to warrant repeat viewings.

R.O.T.O.R., on the other hand, is one of the most baffling, fascinating, and entertaining good/bad movies ever made. It tells the story of a policeman/robotics expert named Coldyron (Richard Gesswein), a man who has been developing a robotic police officer to combat the war on crime. After his commander forces him and his scientific team to speed up development, the unfinished prototype escapes and begins dealing deadly justice to anyone that gets in its path.

If you have to blame one person for R.O.T.O.R., it would be Cullen Blaine, as it was his only directorial credit. He works mainly as a story director and production designer on children’s TV shows and has done so since the 1970’s. He also had a hand in writing and producing the movie, so consider him suspect numero uno. Hardly anything about the movie makes any sense, on any level. The only aspect of it that’s passable is that it was actually decently shot – everything else is just a giant mess. The movie suffers from erratic pace issues, an embellishment of establishing shots, an inconsistent narrative, jokes that fall completely flat, drama that falls completely flat, music choices, characters that appear and disappear for no reason, horrible overdubs, continuity issues, tone issues, ripped off ideas from other movies... basically everything wrong with a movie that you can possibly imagine.

All of this boils down to one of the best good/bad movies that you’re ever likely to see. But then again, I’ve have seen various reactions to the movie. I wouldn’t call it so much divisive as I would varied. Good/bad movie fans love it, others hate it, others enjoy it at face value (why I don’t know), and some are just perplexed by it or have no feelings at all towards it. It’s hard to imagine a movie this bad actually getting made, but it happens occasionally. Thankfully, movies like it never die and get rediscovered later, much to the original filmmaker’s shame, I’m sure. R.O.T.O.R. is far from a masterpiece, but it’s an intriguing look at what can go horribly wrong, even with the best intentions.

Scream Factory has seen fit to put Millennium and R.O.T.O.R. on the same disc, although I feel like they both probably could have had their own separate releases, but beggars can’t be choosers. Just having these movies in any kind of good quality is a minor miracle. The transfer for Millennium features a strong, but somewhat limited presentation. There’s a light grain structure with a bit of softness to it that looks just a little too clean, which leads me to believe that DNR was probably applied. However, it’s still quite organic in appearance. It also has decent color reproduction, but skin tones leave a little to be desired. Blacks are fairly deep with some decent detail on display, but also some crush as well. Contrast and brightness levels are pretty good, but I felt that the overall visual quality left it looking a little cloudy. There were also some film artifacts leftover, mainly black and white flecks and occasional lines running through the frame.

R.O.T.O.R., if you can believe it, actually looks better by comparison. It certainly looks better than it has any right to. It’s worth noting that the print sourced for this transfer carries the title Blue Steel, and to my knowledge, it wasn’t released anywhere in the world with that title. Regardless, it looks terrific. It’s a very organic-looking presentation with light unobtrusive grain. It seemed a little too clean at times, again likely due to the use of DNR and possible artificial sharpening as well. It also has great color reproduction with excellent skin tones, as well as deep blacks, but with some obvious crush (particularly night scenes). Both contrast and brightness levels are perfect and the print itself is extremely clean with very few film artifacts leftover. The most I noticed was an occasional line running through the frame, but otherwise, very clear.

The audio presentation for Millennium is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track. It’s actually a pretty decent stereo track with plenty of ambience and spatial activity. Dialogue is always clean and clear, while sound effects and score mix into the proceedings naturally. The audio for R.O.T.O.R. features an English 1.0 DTS-HD soundtrack. It’s certainly not lacking in presence, particularly when it comes to both the score and the music. The constantly overdubbed dialogue stands out more than ever now, however, and sound effects are all over the place as far as quality is concerned. There isn’t much spatial activity to be had, obviously, but it’s a very good mono track. There are also subtitles in English on both movies for those who might need them. There’s also very little in terms of extras. Millennium’s main menu features an alternate ending, while both movies have their respective original theatrical trailers alongside them.

MILLENNIUM (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C-/B/B

R.O.T.O.R. (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): D-/B+/B+

Millennium and R.O.T.O.R. is an odd pairing for a Scream Factory Double Feature Blu-ray release, I’ll grant you that, but it certainly gives you a bit of perspective, at least from an audience’s point of view. Both movies are not good, but while one is a bit plodding and boring, the other is interesting because of how absolutely inept it is. For me, that makes for an entertaining watch, and if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ll agree.

- Tim Salmons

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