Return of Alan Strange (The) (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (14th February 2023).
The Film

Amongst overlooked filmmakers, British director Michael J. Murphy ranks as one of the most sorely neglected. Having cut his teeth on a variety of homemade 8mm shorts, he had completed three feature-length productions by the age of eighteen. Over the next five decades, Murphy would go on to make many more films across a variety of genres, dividing his production time between Greece, Portugal and the UK, with family, friends, and local stage performers becoming his regular cast and crew in exchange for holidays in the sun.

Despite this prolific output – a total of more than thirty completed films over a half-century, of which twenty-six survive – Murphy’s work remains rarely seen and little championed. Fitfully available on videotape and barely represented on DVD, this comprehensive and long-gestating ten-disc Blu-ray collection seeks to rectify that situation once and for all. Boasting all-new 2K restorations from archival 16mm and 8mm elements, as well as a number of new digital captures from Murphy’s personal tape masters, this extensive retrospective of the obsessive auteur’s work is bolstered by a wealth of bonus features, including surviving fragments from lost works, and a 120-page book, all of which provides the definitive account of the weird and wonderful worlds of Britain’s great unheralded DIY filmmaker.


The final review ...


The films on these two discs are the last phase of Murphy's life and career, the 21st century and are all made on video. From the booklet regarding the films on these discs:
Roxi and Skare were shot and produced in SD. ZK3 was shot in HD, but the finished film was only ever archived in SD. Nekros: Isle of the Dead and The Return of Alan Strange were shot and produced in HD. The presentations of all five films were extensively remastered to repair instances of pixelation, correct blanking and matting issues, and remove sound faults.
The films presented in standard upscaled (Roxi, Skare and ZK3):

Image is pretty typical for fairly modern productions lensed on video. They look like cheap television productions with a soap opera feel, almost like outside broadcast video. Colours are rich, blacks deep and contrast mostly allows detail to shine although on some instances of white clothing detail was blown out a smidge, but I saw no black crush. Detail is decent as one would expect from brightly lit modern video productions although being in standard (albeit upscaled) there is a certain softness. The superior compression (and top notch encoding) obviously making the most of these productions. The restoration (quoted above) has done a bang-up job in removing any artefacts or defects in the masters as I saw nothing to report.

The films presented in 1080p24 (Nekros: Isle of the Dead, The Return of Alan Strange):

The visual qualities of these two HD productions are fundamentally the same as the three standard def productions above with some variances. Colours struck as slightly more muted, contrast is more layered and shadow detail and highlights are stronger with no unintended crush. However, there are blowouts on some sun-drenched exteriors and occasionally on some interiors. Obviously, detail is greatly enhanced due to the increased resolution. Encoding is top notch and these are as clean and sharp as one would expect.

1080p24 / AVC MPEG-4 / All discs BD50 / 1.78:1

Running Times:
Disc 9: Roxi (96:14), Skare (86:34).
Disc 10: ZK3 (78:37), Nekros: Island of the Dead (97:03), The Return of Alan Strange (81:59).


English LPCM 2.0 Surround (48kHz)
Subtitles: English HoH

Very basic surround stereo mixes with dialogue being firmly routed at the from of the sound stage. Ambiance and score occasionally have presence and the surrounds kick in for score and crowd scenes but as befitting micro-budget cinema, these are primitive and very basic. I detected little or no subwoofer action. However, this all can't really be held against the discs because that's almost certainly how these things were produced, it's all about as good as it's possible to be. Dialogue is clear although there's the occasional mild distortion on the odd word or delivery indicating some post production work or microphones having an issue during recording. The subtitles are, as usual, excellent covering 100% of the dialogue in every sequence I sampled.


Disc 9
Audio commentary on Skare with Michael J. Murphy and Judith Holding (22 January 2009)

As with other Murphy plus cast commentaries, very warm, relaxed and chatty with plenty of anecdotes and info on the making of the production. Plenty of amusing moments and recollections. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

"The Making of Roxi" 2004 featurette (12:50)
"The Making of Skare" 2009 featurette (14:42)

Vintage makings of presented in upscaled 1080i60 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. In the first we have cast members Mary-Anne Barlow, Bruce Lawrence, Ross Maxwell and Valia Yanarou discussing thwir roles plus some deleted scenes. There's also some B-roll footage from the production. In the second we have Murphy discussing how Skare came to be, how it was based on a short store he wrote and how it was made before in 2001 but was lost in transit when it was sent to be processed. Also interviewed is Judith Holding and we get outtakes and B-roll footage.

Roxi Outtakes (27:39)
Skare Outtakes (13:34)

B-roll material, outtakes, interview outtakes from the making of pieces; a right mixed bag. Lots of laughing and cockups all presented in upscaled 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Skare Alternative Opening and end Credits (3:26)

The original 2007 opening and closing to Skare before it was fine tuned for the 2009 DVD version. Presented in upscaled 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

Skare Readthrough (46:19)

Labeled upfront as "Out-takes" this is what it says, excerpts from a 2006 read through with Murphy and the vast refining the script as they go, cocking up and having a laugh. Presented in upscaled 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

Skare (the lost 2001 version):
- Rushes (36:37)
- The Leftovers (2:50)
- Fight Rehearsal Footage (2:23)
- Oliver Price Selected Footage Commentary (5:34)
- Michael J. Murphy on Chris Jupp's Beast (4:28)

All that's left from the 2001 version presented in a mixture of upscaled and genuine (for the 16mm rushes) 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound (although the rushes are silent).

- Roxi Trailer (2:03)
- Skare Trailer (1:37)

Trailers presented in upscaled 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

- The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 2004-2009 Image Gallery (25 images)
- Roxi Image Gallery: Original Shooting Script (124 images)
- Skare Image Gallery: Original 2001 Shooting Script (122 images)
- Skare Image Gallery: Original 2006 Shooting Script (125 images)
- Another Man's Poison Image Gallery: Short Story (71 images)

Yowsas! A mega-chunky set of images and script pages in HD.

Disc 10

"Murphy's Lore, Part 3: Legacy" 2017 featurette (24:56)

The third part of this 3-part documentary. Interviews with actor Phil Lyndon, filmmakers Jackson Batchelor, Sam Mason Bell, Chris Jupp, Tom Lee Rutter, academic Johnny Walker, festival manager Paul Cotgrove and film historian Darryl Buxton all discussing Murphy's legacy and how he influenced and or inspired the interview subjects. Presented in 1.78:1 with uncompressed LPCM 2.0 surround. In a communication with disc technical producer Michael Brooke* I asked if this documentary was 1080i50 or i60 because it didn't activate the 24p on my player. His response was thus:
The overwhelming majority of the video material across the entire box set will be 23.976fps for maximum compatibility. The Murphy's Lore episodes were the major exception because they were natively 29.97fps, so it made sense to retain that framerate (even if it didn't do some of the clips too many favours).

* Wayne Maginn is the overall producer of the set.

"The Making of ZK2" 2012 featurette (11:10)

Vintage making of presented in upscaled 1080i60 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. Murphy recounts how the project came to be made. There's the usual B-roll footage, outtakes and interviews with cast members, in this case Judith Holding and Phil Lyndon.

ZK3 Premiere (Paxos Film Awards 2012) (10:33)

A home video recording of the awards ceremony with lots of good humour and celebration. Presented in 1080i60 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

Nekros: Behind the Scenes (Final Version) (16:17)
Nekros: Behind the Scenes (Rough Assembly) (53:19)

B-roll footage of the production featuring cast and crew at work. This is the final edit and the much longer rough assembly. Presented in 1080i60 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. We get some deleted material in amongst the B-roll stuff.

"Wish You Were Here" 2012 featurette (3:01)

Humorous piece with Phil Lyndon larking about taking the viewer on a mock-tour of the location, presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

The Return of Alan Strange Pick-up Take (0:35)
The Return of Alan Strange Green Screen (0:37)

Bits of ephemera presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

Trailers (Play All - 5:02):
- ZK3 Trailer (1:29)
- Nekros: Isle of the Dead Trailer (1:58)
- The Return of Alan Strange Trailer (1:34)

Promos presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

- The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 2012-2015 Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (39 images)
- ZK3 Image Gallery: Original Shooting Script (66 images)

The usual, substantial HD galleries.

120-page liner notes book with new essays by Murphy experts Wayne Maginn, Paul Higson, Darrell Buxton and Johnny Walker, a comprehensive filmography and film credits

A massive hardcopy tome designed to increase understanding and appreciation of Murphy's films. The booklets that Powerhouse Films do for their Indicator releases are second to none and this one is well up to their supremely high standards. The articles here provide exceptional added value.


Not sent for review.


The final two discs contain Murphy's last five films where he turned to making them on video. Image quality is consistently good and surround sound is the order of the day. Extras remain of the same high quality found on discs 1-8. This set has been a labour of love and a model of how to curate a boutique set designed to bring together a filmmaker's complete, surviving body of work. I suspect the late Michael J. Murphy will be grinning with pride wherever he may now be over a crafty glass of wine.

Highly recommended and easily the greatest, most ambitious release Powerhouse Films have yet created.

Video: A- Audio: B Extras: A+ Overall: A-


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