Release Date(s)1986 (April 11, 2017)
Studio(s)Paul Entertainment/MGM (Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C-
One of the biggest daytime TV phenoms of the 1980s was General Hospital, which featured John Stamos in a popular continuing storyline. Hot off of that success, Stamos took on the role of Lance Stargrove in the mostly forgotten Never Too Young to Die. The son of a secret agent, Lance spends his days palling around with his geeky dorm room buddy while training in gymnastics and trying to stay ahead in school. When he learns that his father has suddenly died, however, Lance takes it upon himself to find out how and why. Soon he meets Danja (Vanity), his father’s sexy ex-partner, and a hermaphroditic evildoer known as Velvet Von Ragnar (Gene Simmons), who threatens to poison the city’s water supply for ransom. Does Lance have what it takes to step into his father’s shoes and take down Ragnar and his goons before it’s too late?
Fortunately for Stamos, his career recovered well after Never Too Young to Die bombed at the box office. Taking a good look at the movie’s storyline and tone, it’s abundantly clear that the producers were attempting to make a James Bond-style action star out of him. His nerdy friend dreams up cool hardware and weapons, Vanity is his gorgeous love interest, and his father is played by none other than Bond actor George Lazenby (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). The film’s title even sounds like a mash-up of Never Say Never Again and Live and Let Die. Unfortunately, the response to the movie was tepid. It quickly fell into obscurity, unknown to all but cult movie fans, who continued to give it its due.
While the film contains some decent action scenes, it wears its budget on its sleeve and is never quite as entertaining as the films it aspires to imitate. The idea of turning John Stamos into an action star is not a bad one and could have worked under the right circumstances. But matched against Gene Simmons overacting in drag and other uninspired bad guys, there just aren’t enough elements at play to make it work. It doesn’t help that the story is poorly executed and many of its scenes are downright baffling. On the other hand, most of this is why the movie has had an unintended cult afterlife. Never Too Young to Die is an interesting time capsule of its era, but can almost never be taken seriously. It was justifiably disowned by all involved.
Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray debut of the movie appears to have been sourced from a much older master. It’s possible that the movie’s original elements couldn’t be found or were deemed too expensive to remaster, though just getting a decent release of the movie on disc at all is a step up from VHS. Still, it’s an uneven presentation that is often soft and lacking in definition, texture, and grain. Detailing is decent, with some scenes looking better than others. However, due to the encode, macroblocking is definitely noticeable and is more obvious during daytime scenes. Color reproduction is merely good with uneven skin tones. Black levels are deep with obvious crush. Brightness and contrast are simply adequate. Other than some occasional speckling, the image is at least clean and stable. As for the audio, an English 2.0 DTS-HD soundtrack is included. While not overly enveloping, there is some decent heft to the sound effects and music. Stereo movement isn’t abundant, but spacing is evident. The dialogue is definitely discernable, but not always thoroughly clear, which I don’t necessarily blame on the mix itself. Subtitles are included in English for those who might need them.
This release is light on extras, which I’m not entirely surprised by. You get an alternate VHS transfer of the movie with vintage-style intros and outros (compare it to the main Blu-ray presentation and you can appreciate the improvement). There’s also an audio commentary with pop culture historian Russell Dyball, a TV spot, and a DVD copy of the movie. If you’re so inclined, a vintage newscast can be found on YouTube that briefly covers the making of the movie and features interviews with most of the main cast. It’s a shame that it couldn’t have been included here, but it’s out there if you’re curious to see it.
Never Too Young to Die is a movie I found myself appreciating a little more upon rewatching it. I’ve owned a bootleg DVD copy for a while now, and seeing it in better quality does make a difference. It’s a nutty film and one that I’m sure fans of “outside the norm” cinema will appreciate more than anyone else. As a side note, eagle-eyed horror fans might want to keep their eyes peeled for a small role by Robert Englund.
- Tim Salmons