Three major things I remember from summer 1985: a low-grade bully from grade school committed suicide—it was in the paper and I was heading into my sophomore year of high school. He and his brother, or cousin (can’t remember what they were to each other) took the same bus I did since they were in high school too, but a year ahead of me. ‘Good, he’s dead,’ I remember thinking at the time. I still have no regrets about thinking that—the movie Lifeforce, which never came to a nearby theater, and the music video from Remo Williams, “What If,” by Tommy Shaw. It’s through that music video I became familiar with the movie even though I had no desire to see it.
Well, isn’t that bizarre, and proof of how deceptive memories can be sometimes. Sure, I consider this a “memory movie,” but having a look just now on IMDB I see it didn’t hit theaters until October. Yet, for some reason, my mind wants me to believe I saw this in the summer. Maybe, I should stop thinking of this as a “memory movie?” A personal term I’ve been using for years to categorize all those films I saw during childhood and into my early twenties. Any “memorable” (using the term loosely for this one) film where I can easily, and/or sometimes not so easily, recall where I was in life. At any rate just knowing the year of any ‘memory movie’ out can help put it into context as to where I was. I’ve mentioned this many times before in reviews I’ve done of flicks from the 80s of how much I adored that decade. Everyone has their favorite. The 80s was mine. And there were a ton of movies (good and bad) that came along that have now become, wait for it, wait for it, people, drum roll please—memory movies!
Remo Williams, if you didn’t know, you might not, depending on where you fall in age and interest in this flick, is based on The Destroyer pulp novels. The character, according to the extra features, is very different from who he is in the novels. In the movie he’s a cop chosen by this secret organization, CURE, to be their newest assassin to right the wrongs people in power have been creating. To off the political and corporate scum that have been contributing to America’s downfall. In the extras he’s described as a sort of blue collar James Bond and that’s a perfect description of what this movie is about. The scum (aka the villain), George Grove (Charles Cioffi) of Grove Industries, is an arms manufacturer with high connections in the government. He also has two goons in his employ, Jim Wilson (Michael Pataki) and Stone (Patrick Kilpatrick). Actually Stone is the more hand’s on goon.
As I mentioned Remo was once a cop named, Sam Makin, who was dumped into the river, police car and all, by fellow CURE member, Conn MacCleary (J.A. Preston), and given extensive plastic surgery as well as a new name. Harold Smith (Wilfred Brimley) is the head of CURE, and counting him, these three are the only members CURE has.
Before Remo can assassinate he must be trained in the art of Sinanju, the secret Korean martial arts CURE uses to make all their assassinations look perfect, as in so perfect no one would even think it was assassination. Korean master, Chiun (Joel Grey), is Remo’s trainer and Remo must live with him while this is happening. To be honest the villain of the movie is the weakest part, where this film shines and what is the main focus is Remo’s training and the friendship he develops with Chiun, despite the fact that Chiun has orders to kill Remo if training him doesn’t work out, and Chiun would have no problem in doing this if he were so ordered.
Training Remo comes in the form of the movies most memorable action scenes, as it’s incredibly unorthodox, like having him scale a Ferris Wheel while Chiun is seated comfortably inside, ridding Remo of his fear of heights by training him on the Statue Of Liberty, which was surrounded in scaffolding at the time as it was getting a face-lift, and bringing his fighting techniques up to Sinanju snuff by teaching him to actually dodge bullets! Sinanju isn’t your typical martial arts and Chiun can do some incredible things the ultimate of which is seen at the end when he runs on fucking water!
Eventually, Remo reaches a level Chiun isn’t entirely dissatisfied with and is sent out to finally take down Grove, Wilson and Stone. This is actually a fun movie I saw for the first time on cable and always liked.
MGM first put out Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins on DVD back in 2003, but it was full screen. For a long time I thought Remo was a 2.35:1 movie, apparently it’s not. It wasn’t until last year when a better version came out through Kino Lorber Studio Classics (buy it here at Amazon), which finally puts it in its correct aspect ratio, but with zero extras except trailers. Twilight Time DVD is the one who was able to get the movie from MGM and release it on blu-ray finally this past September, but if you want it I recommend buying it quick. Twilight Time only presses 3000 units of their movies (5000 on rare occasions). Either hit up their site or Screen Archives Entertainment, the only two places you can buy a Twilight Time blu. As of this review it’s still available too! If you’re based in the UK you can still acquire a blu of it since Arrow Films has one currently in release.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 Music (Soundtrack) DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDh subs only.
Bottom line, this transfer looks fantastic!
Extras included . . .
- Audio Commentary With Historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer And Paul Scrabo
- Created, The Destroyer: Writing Remo Williams (17:08)
- Unarmed And Dangerous: Producing Remo Williams (21:50)
- Secrets Of Sinanju: Training Remo Williams (8:45)
- Balance Of Power: Designing Remo Williams (15:04)
- Assassin’s Tune: Composing Remo Williams (13:45)
- Still And Promotional Gallery (7:08)
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Isolated Score Track
Twilight Time has created a well rounded amount of extras for this release, though, I wish they had gotten Fred Ward involved. They did, however, manage to score a new interview with Joel Grey, but I get the feeling Ward isn’t the type of actor who reminisces about his roles as it pertains to talking about them on DVD extras. You’ll learn such things like at one point Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis were considered for the role of Remo; why they didn’t call it The Destroyer, and why it failed at the box office. There were plans for at least four Remo films, but once it hit TV that’s where it acquired it’s cult following. Back in 2014 news hit the net that a remake was being planned, but there have been no updates since then.