Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Stink-O-Vision [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (25th May 2023).
The Film

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1990)

The fan-favorite 1990 live action adaptation of the iconic comic book and cartoon series characters has been a long staple of the home video market from VHS all the way to Blu-ray in various editions, whether single or in collections with the sequel films. This newest edition which comes from Australia's Umbrella Entertainment is a unique one that is supposedly their first in a "Stink-O-Vision" line, described as a "scratch & sniff cinema experience" to add an extra dimension (not Dimension X) to the feature. As there have been a number or writeups and discussions about the film by various critics and fans over the years, this review will focus more on the scratch & sniff experience unique to this Blu-ray release, as well as some personal recollections.

When I moved to the United States in 1987 as a child, it was the start of Turtlemania with kids through the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" animated series. Being a kid growing up watching the fighting styles of Son Goku in the manga and animated adventures of "Dragon Ball" as well as live action combat of Super Sentai shows, I didn't see a particular appeal with combining the slick and agile martial arts style of ninjitsu with...slow crawling turtles. The title itself sounded awful and the television commercials promoting the show didn't appeal to me. It was through new school friends and playground talk that led me to watch the show to see what the fuss was about, and I was surprisingly entertained. The banter between the four turtles and their distinct personalities, the campy humor of the channel 6 news crew, the bumbling buffoonery of Bebop and Rocksteady, the grace of Splinter, and of course the combat sequences. It was never to the point of getting action figures (as that wasn't my thing), but I played the NES games at friends houses (and later got the Famicom and Game Boy versions for myself), and it was an all out satisfying experience. I will say that one major thing I was waiting for in the animated series for a long time was when Splinter and Shredder would finally face off in a duel, which did happen. But I was a bit confused with the confrontation. I told my school friends, "When they finally met face to face, why didn't they just speak in Japanese to each other?" After all, they are both Japanese and their characters' first language would be so, and my friends said "But then we wouldn't understand what they were saying." My reply was "They could use subtitles." My friends had an odd look and said, "What are subtitles?" Anyway, I look back fondly on the animated series as a slice (pizza reference?) of the time and the fun I had with friends.

In 1989, "Batman" was released in theaters and it was a massive phenomenon. Friends and I would imagine what if they adapted other comic book / animated works to live action, and the Turtles were at the top of our lists. Little did we know that less than a year later, it would come to fruition with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". I went to the theater with my neighboring friends, and while we had a blast seeing it come to screens, there were a few things that didn't quite hit. We were confused as to why Splinter's origin story was different (as the film uses the comic's origin story rather than the animated series which changed it), why Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, and other main characters were not present. And of course, why did April work for Channel 6 as opposed to Channel 3? But it wasn't only just the questions as to what was changed, but the darker tone and the profanity used. When Raphael says "Damn!" a few times, this showed the film was going to be different from the animated series. It was shocking to us kids, but it was also exciting to see. In addition, this was only for Japanese speakers, villain Master Tatsu says one word in Japanese, and it was 「くっそー!」, literally meaning "shit" but used in anger like "Goddamn" would be. The overall darkness and the real world scenario was certainly exciting to see on screen and it brought all that was good from the series - the battles, the humor, the camaraderie, with some differences along the way. It eventually became a favorite on cable and video, though I'd never actually had a copy of the movie on VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray, and it's been a few decades since I had last watched it in its entirety. I knew with this new Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray it would open a nice box of memories from childhood, but it would also be an interesting release to review as it's the first time I would be reviewing the actual smell. Although I do like certain physical media smells, from used vinyl and books, to new releases (Arrow Video has a distinct scent within) and there was one time that a package from Umbrella Entertainment had strangely has a floral scent... Not sure exactly why that was.)



From the Blu-ray's main menu there are two options to watch the film - one in "Stink-O-Vision" which has burned-in numerical prompts on the bottom right corner of the screen at various points in the film, and one as the standard theatrical version without any prompts on screen. Within the Blu-ray case is a thick paper card with nine numbers and drawings to indicate their smells, as pictured above. These will correspond to what appear on the screen during playback. They are colorful and stand out from the main feature, so they are hard not to miss when they appear, lasting about ten seconds or so, depending on the scene. The following are the runtime points, the scene, the smells emitted, and the reaction. There will be spoilers for the film itself.

(1) (5:30) "Sweet Sewer Home" - This is when the opening credits appear on screen after the attack by thugs on April and the Turtles return to their lair through the sewers. The icon is a manhole, so the smell replicates the underground sewer as it is described with wet dirt, manure, and mildew. It doesn't particularly smell like raw sewage (thankfully), but it's not a particularly good smell either. It certainly has a strong musk to it and it is lasting, like a strong awful cologne with a bitter stench.

(2) (10:50) "Margherita Pizza" - This is when the pizza delivery guy (played by Michelan Sisti out of the Michelangelo costume) delivers pizza to the turtles. It is a pizza icon, and as expected it smells kind of like pizza. When I say "kind of", it is because it's not particularly strong and is drowned out by some of the other scents on the card. This one doesn't smell as delicious as it could have been.

(3) (15:35) "Incensed Rat" - This is the sequence in which Splinter lights incense and tries to calm Raphael down. The menu says it is sandalwood and cedar and has a light soothing scent. It's a nice addition and not particularly strong.

(4) (24:25) "Radioactive Ooze" - This is the flashback sequence with Splinter and the Turtles explaining to April about their origin. The turtles are seen crawling in the green ooze, and there is some spunk with a hint of rotting in the scent here. Not sure if radioactive waste would smell as such, but it does also have a hint of the sewer smell. But that may be the strong scent from #1 breezing in.

(5) (25:45) "Hippy Delight" - This comes at the sequence in which the Turtles take April home via sewers. While they are looking for 11th Street, Michelangelo says "Nope, this is only 9th St. Ha ha! Get it?" As a kid I didn't get it, and I still don't get what it was supposed to reference. The Internet is also confused by this line, but according to the Scratch & Sniff card, this is supposed to be the scent of marijuana coming from Greenwich Village. It doesn't quite have that scent when scratching it, though it is a nice herbal smell. Certainly a reference that as a kid I didn't get.

(6) (31:25) "Foot Clan Dojo" - The Foot Clan's hideout should more or less smell like tobacco as all the bad kids are smoking and asking for cigarettes. But instead, this mimics the girl blowing bubbles with her bubblegum. The cherry scent is portrayed here and is quite sweet.

(7) (59:15) "Love Salve" - This is at the farmhouse and it features the smell of massage cream, which Casey gives April. It does have a slight menthol hint, though it may be closer to an ointment rather than something particularly soothing.

(8) (60:19) "Splinter's Magic" - How Splinter as a ghost is able to communicate his wisdom to the Turtles even though he is still alive is a baffling scene, and here is a scent to accompany the Turtles circled around a small campfire. This is worse than it seems as it smells like strong burnt wood rather than a soothing campfire.

(9) (84:15) "Death by Trash" - As the title spoils, or rather doesn't, the sequence of Shredder getting crushed by the garbage truck trash compactor is accompanied by a not so pleasant stench or spunky waste.

And those are the nine smells and prompts. Overall, the stronger scents are a bit overpowering on the card, and it's frequent that after scratching it the scent remains and affects the neighboring smell. In addition, these are not exactly the best smells and are not particularly accurate smelling replications of the image on screen. There have been interesting examples of added smells to the theatrical experience. When director Les Blank/a> screened his documentary "Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers" there was garlic being roasted in the theater. Select screenings of "The New World" had floral scents in certain scenes. With many 4DX screenings there are cases in which mist is used for smells. "Wreck It Ralph" had a great use of scents in delicious ways in addition to the movements. As for scratch & sniff cards, director John Waters screened his film "Polyester" through "Odorama" with cards handed to audience members. Basically using the same idea, the "Stink-O-Vision" release is an interesting one, but it is basically a gimmick that might be fun for kids, but then who is the audience here as the center smell is supposedly replicating a weed scent?

It will be interesting to see what other titles will be presented in "Stink-O-Vision". Will there be zombie movies? Gorefests? Or something delicious instead? John Waters oddballs? Or even the additional Turtles films to round out the original trilogy? We shall see!

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The HD transfer comes from rightsholder Fortune Star, which owns the Golden Harvest catalog. The transfer seems to be a transfer from an existing master which looks fair but doesn't quite have the strength of restorations that we've been spoiled with in more recent years. It is a dark looking transfer due to so many sequences being underground or at night, so shadows and dark hues are key. Some of the lighter scenes can sometimes look overblown and skin tones are a bit on the pale side. Detail and sharpness are fair, colors are well balanced, though the greens of the Turtles themselves don't seem to pop strongly. There are some minor damage marks such as speckles in rare occasions, but thankfully nothing major such as scratches or large debris. Overall it is fair but nothing quite revolutionary.

Note that the disc divides its space with the theatrical version and the "Stink-O-Vision" version, rather than just using pop-up graphics for the latter. Because of this the film takes up 22GB x2 of the 50GB total disc space. Comparing disc space to other releases, according to Caps-a-holic both the German Concorde and US New Line Blu-rays also have about the same size used for the feature on their Blu-rays. The tranfers, runtimes, audio and subtitle options are identical for the two versions on this disc, with the only difference being the overlayed prompts in the corner of the "Stink-O-Vision" version.


The film's runtime with or without the smell indicators both run at 94:13.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo

There are two audio tracks available with lossless 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options. The 5.1 track is quite good, with dialogue being centered and clear throughout, while the surrounding channels being put into use with the various music cues and ambiance. The music, effects, and dialogue are well balanced against each other and there are no issues with distortion, dropouts, or other damage for a clean audio track. The 2.0 track is also quite strong, though the 5.1 is better balanced overall.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font. The quality of the subtitles are a bit embarrassing, as some of the spelling errors are incredibly questionable. When Casey swings his bat and Raphael says "A Jose Canseco bat?" referencing the star baseball player, the subtitles here say "A Hoseiken Seiko bat?" The transcriber here seems to have no knowledge of American baseball of the 1980s, though that may be understandable as the spelling here is using British English. In another case, when Splinter recalls when his ear was cut by a katana, the subtitles spell it as "Catanna". There are a few other instances of odd spelling especially with the slang, and there are some moments with capitalization errors, and not using paragraph breaks to separate different characters speaking their lines. The problem will come with people who might watch the film, not get the particular reference or line and use the subtitle track to help. People might search for "Hoseiken Seiko" or "Catanna" and not get the correct information they were looking for. To be fair, most of the time the subtitles are accurate and well timed. But those two instances are especially awful.

Extras

"Behind the Shells: The Making of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" 1991 featurette (29:49)
This promotional featurette produced by Golden Harvest is basically a piece to promote the sequel film "The Sequel of the Ooze", with behind the scenes footage of the shoot, clips from the film, work on the puppeteering, interviews with the cast and crew, and the dance and fight choreography. But for the first seven minutes, it does look at the original 1990 film in retrospect, with interviews with Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird on how they created the characters, clips from the first film, promotional footage including the famous interview with the turtles and Barbara Walters, as well as fan kids quoting lines from the movie. While the featurette was shot on film, the transfer seems to be coming from a standard definition PAL source, which has been transferred to 24fps. The featurette has been embedded below, from TMNTfilm.
in 1080p (upscaled) AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles



Theatrical Trailer (1:29)
This vintage trailer seems to be the UK re-release from 2003, as it states “In cinemas 19 December”. There is no particular difference to the original American trailer from New Line Cinemas with the same edits and narration, except the New Line logo not appearing and the final screen text being different. Embedded below is the US theatrical trailer.
in 1080p (upscaled) AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles




Extras themselves are the same as what was on the previous Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray from 2015, though note on that Blu-ray the same extras were encoded in 1080i50. The previous Blu-ray also included trailers for the two sequel films. So far the best Blu-ray edition available is still the German release, which has a director's commentary, two alternate scenes, and an alternate ending with Danny and April pitching the idea of a Turtles comic to make things metaphysical.

TMNTfilm.net has some great footage uploaded to YouTube, with some not ever being available on home video anywhere.


Making of and behind the scenes footage from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"


Deleted ending with April and Dan(ny)


VHS promo


"Turtle Power" music video by Partners in Kryme


Gene Siskel not getting the film while Roger Ebert is slightly defending it.

Packaging

The Blu-ray is packaged in a standard clear keep case which has the newly illustrated "Stink-O-Vision" cover. The inner inlay has a behind-the-scenes still of the four Turtles with the great Steve Barron. The film was one of the last features that Henson worked on, as he passed away two months after the film was released. Inside the keep case is the scratch & sniff card and an A3 size double sided poster. One side has the original American theatrical artwork while the opposite side has the new "Stink-O-Vision" artwork. The keep case is housed in a slipcase and a J-card.

Overall

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" in "Stink-O-Vision" was an interesting experience, but it didn't quite give a massive enhancement to the enjoyment of the film itself. There is great personal nostalgia value here with the film, even with its flaws and all while watching it from a critical perspective now. Besides the scratch & sniff card, there are no new extras available and the transfer is a dated one.

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: C- Overall: B

 


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