New Double Dragon Blu-Ray celebrates the weird artifact 25 years later
From late-2000 to mid-2001, Lorenzo Lamas starred in a Highlander rip-off TV show called The Immortal. If you want to own the full series on DVD, which is now the only way to watch most episodes of this forgotten trash, you need to find one of the thirty people who bought the DVD box set in 2005. A few days ago, I almost spent $100 on a sealed copy I found on eBay. There's just this one episode I saw while on vacation with my family where the three main characters are transported to the Wild West and Lamas, the only one who retains his memories, has to save the other two and remind them that they aren't actually in a Wild West show.
I didn't pull the trigger. The seller was willing to go as low as $75, but I slept on the decision and when I woke up I thought "What the hell is wrong with me?" and declined the offer. There were a couple hours, though, where I went back and forth on this. I tried to figure out how much that specific nostalgia is worth. The answer is "south of $75," but honestly, it isn't that much less. There is a particular type of garbage that drew me in as an excitable kid and draws me in now as a nostalgia-broken adult who is bad with money. I'll always pay for that garbage.
I'm not alone. I don't know if I could say we're legion, but there are enough people out there who would be interested in spending $40 on a blu-ray copy of a bad movie adaption of a video game from 1994 that the Pennsylvania-based company MVD has made Double Dragon available in that format, at that price, in 2019.
Double Dragon is only "famously bad" to people of a certain age-- probably anybody who could have played the original games in arcades. It certainly never transcended its time the way something like Mac & Me did. And even then, it isn't as notable as a Street Fighter or a Mortal Kombat, which were both more popular in arcades and had bigger movies come out around the same time. To have anything deeper than an "oh, huh, right" reaction to hearing DD's name, you probably have to also be a person capable of ranking your favorite 3 Ninjas movies. When Dragon came out terrible, there weren't a lot of people aware enough to make fun of it. And even if they had been aware, it isn't the total aesthetic malfunction that your average Uwe Boll movie would end up being. It was bad and then it was gone.
Double Dragon isn't, then, a "so bad it's good" movie you build drinking games around. It is not a force that epitomizes anything. It is, I think, a focused shot of flavor. Somewhere between nostalgia and culture studies, MVD's Double Dragon presentation is a celebration of the kind of personality you'd see in movies on cable in the mid-90s. The blu-ray's reversible cover has fake "Be Kind, Rewind" stickers already included in the design, and that's what this is-- an attempt to replicate a box you'd see at the video store and want to know more about.
That it's $40 is weird but also necessary. Because no kid is ever going to discover Double Dragon at 10AM on TNT ever again. If kids are still watching regular TV, TNT is showing them Battleship and Taken, not Double Dragon. And I don't think anybody is coming across this in video stores-- the few people lucky enough to have access to them are probably greeted with a more curated selection than the West Coast Video I grew up with (i.e. more classics and art house picks, less copies of minor Jim Carrey vehicles). And, I'm told, people don't buy DVDs, and if they do, they aren't getting them at the few big box retailers left; nobody's fishing a cardboard case Double Dragon DVD out of the $5 bin at Tower or Borders.
Here, at the point of convergence where bulky cable packages and physical media have both died, Double Dragon almost doesn't exist. It is almost purely a Wikipedia page and some "Bet you never heard about this!" YouTube videos and the fuzzy memories of people who half-remember it when they see Robert Patrick in ads for whatever the hell Scorpion is. Nobody is accidentally stumbling on this film. If you want to own it, you need to pay $40 to MVD Rewind, the trash cinema equivalent of the Criterion Collection. You need to already be down for this thing. MVD is charging what they should be charging for a "fully loaded" experience here. It's just a shame we're past the point anybody else can charge less for a more stripped-down experience.
But the market has spoken, and we're here, and we're lucky. Double Dragon is a movie where two brother characters, whose personalities are "red" and "blue," kick a bunch of butt in a mostly-dilapidated Los Angeles. Earthquakes and gangs have left the city a mess-- what the most paranoid Republican thinks modern Chicago looks like after dark. The weirdness of Double Dragon is easy to convey, but you're better off seeing it for yourself. Here's a still of Robert Patrick's hair:
There's a bad guy punk named Bo Abobo, who looks like this:
and then he gets mutated into this:
That's all you need to know, really. This speaks to you or it doesn't. It's a good, weird time, but it isn't why you would buy this disc; MVD has blown the special features section out like Abobo's neck muscles. We get old TV commercials and the pilot of the Double Dragon animated series (itself coming to DVD in April). We get storyboards, if you like to look at storyboards on your TV. And we get an hour-long retrospective interview feature with cast and crew who are all openly embarrassed about being part of Double Dragon. Stars Scott Wolf and Mark Dacoscos have predictable stories about how fun it was to be on set, producer Don Murphy talks about his adventures putting the whole thing together and, far and away most interestingly, writers Michael Davis and Peter Gould discuss being brought on the project as writers 3 and 4 after future Batman megabrain Paul Dini and kid's book millionaire Neal Shusterman had already moved on.
Davis and Gould remain good friends two decades later. Davis went on to write and direct the bugfuck Clive Owen/Paul Giamatti live-action cartoon Shoot 'Em Up. Gould wrote on Breaking Bad and co-created Better Call Saul, probably the best thing on TV. To watch these two talents remember how weird it was to be just out of film school, writing and rewriting an adaptation of a game they'd never played, is wonderful. For the actors, Double Dragon is a stumble. Maybe Scott Wolf was meant to play lead in better movies, but Double Dragon seemed like a good idea once and he's had to live with it since 1994. He's generous with his time, but Wolf is basically describing slipping on a banana peel and bruising his ass. Davis and Gould, though, are describing how crazy it was watching another person slip on a banana peel. One will remember a small detail and the other will laugh and shake his head, like "yeah, I can't believe it, but that's exactly what happened." People talking about the way they felt in 1994, watching Robert Patrick come to set with that hair, is beautiful.
And so the feeling I'm reaching for when I am always one bad decision away from spending too much money on is here on this blu-ray disc. It's buried in the "Special Features" tab and is in service of what's supposed to be the main attraction, but it's there. Double Dragon is great, but the feeling of Double Dragon is better, and MVD put a lot of work into packaging that feeling. It only took two seconds to the death of physical media for somebody to get everything so right.