Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 21st, 2018
BluRay released: February 27th, 2018
Approximate running times: 109 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $32.98
Penitentiary II written and directed by Jamaa Fanaka, whose other notable films include, Welcome Home Brother Charles, Emma Mae and Penitentiary. The cinematographer on Penitentiary II was Stephen L. Posey, whose other notable films include, Bloody Birthday, The Slumber Party Massacre, Savage Streets and Friday the 13th: A New Beginning.
Content wise, though Penitentiary II takes many of the elements that made its predecessor successful. The end result is two films could not be further apart. And nowhere is more evident, then how drastically these two films differ in regards to their tone.
With that being said, the narrative for Penitentiary II, picks up right where its predecessor left off. And though the action has shifted from the penitentiary, to world beyond the walls of the penitentiary. The protagonist struggle remains the same, as he is faced with many of the same problems he faced in the penitentiary.
Performance wise, the cast are best described as serviceable. With this film’s heart and soul being Leon Isaac Kennedy (Hammer, Mean Johnny Barrows) in the role of film’s protagonist Martel ‘Too Sweet’ Gordone. One drawback of the performances is how two key characters Seldom Seen and ‘Half Dead’ have been recast for this sequel.
Other notable cast members include, Glynn Turman (Cooley High, J.D.’s Revenge) in the role of Martel’s brother in law, Mr. T (Rocky III, The A-Team) and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) in the role of ‘Half Dead’, Martel’s nemesis who holds a grudge from their time in the penitentiary.
From a production standpoint, the narrative does a good job keeping the momentum moving forward. With this film finding a satisfying balanced between the more dramatic and violent set pieces. And once again, the fight scenes play a large role in the story at hand.
Penitentiary II comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source for this releases transfer was newly scanned and restored in 2k from the 35mm original camera negative. This is another solid transfer from Vinegar Syndrome, that is on par with their transfer for Penitentiary.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. There are no issues with background noise or distortion, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.
Extras for this release include, a reversible cover art, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 26 seconds), an option to listen to an Isolated music track, an archival interview with screenwriter / director Jamaa Fanaka titled In the Raw (27 minutes 39 seconds), an interview with actor Leon Isaac Kennedy titled Too Sweet on the Outside (16 minutes 14 seconds) and an archival audio commentary with Jamaa Fanaka.
Topics discussed in the interview with Jamaa Fanaka include, film distribution and his troubles with film distributors, 42nd street / grindhouse audiences, his family, independent filmmaking and his heath related issues.
Topics discussed in the interview with Leon Isaac Kennedy include, how word of mouth can help a film reach a wider audience, Cannon Films / Body & Soul, Penitentiary II, the cast & why new actors where brought in for characters that were also in Penitentiary, how United Artists mishandled Penitentiary II’s theatrical release, Jamaa Fanaka, the cast and his thoughts about the film.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, how Bea-Bob productions was named after his parents, the cast, how the opening credits roll was inspired by Star Wars and his cinema influences. It should be noted there are long stretches where the track goes silence.
Also, included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo. Overall Penitentiary II gets a solid release from Vinegar Syndrome
Note: This special limited edition embossed slipcover (designed by Earl Kess) is limited to just 1,500 units.