By the Dawn’s Early Light

Uncle Sam teeters on brilliance, mocking the false conservative patriotism that followed the first Iraq war. The killer is born by the hands of flag burners, and kills those who refuse to show total subservience to the country.

Young Jody (Christopher Ogden) is safe from that wrath, worshiping the military and America. He plays with army toys and dreams of serving, turning angry when he discovers a lawyer defended a company against the IRS. A kid, so enamored with the country, he cares about paying all taxes. It’s hilarious, if only the tone matched.

Uncle Sam’s low grade production values offer the freedom for crass anti-war commentary

Dialog chooses poignancy, or at least attempts to. Isaac Hayes throws up a speech about modern wars lacking the same obvious enemy as they once did. Jody’s teacher defends a choice not to enter the Vietnam war, to which Jody sees as cowardice. A subplot concerning a soldier’s past abuse provides the backstory for the killer, too dark for something so inane as a zombie dressed in a Fourth of July costume.

What’s left for Uncle Sam are the R-rated kills. Sam picks off a teenager who desecrates the National Anthem, a phony Abraham Lincoln parade host, the pot smoker, and a mayor in his position only for ego and arrogance. The victims fit. The idea fits. The execution does not.

It’s such an oddity, this movie. Uncle Sam’s low grade production values and lack of studio backing offer the freedom to coat the slasher movie in thematically fun, crass anti-war commentary. Yet, all Uncle Sam seems interested in is snuggling up to the genre through American iconography. At the end, Isaac Hayes again makes a plea, calling out Sam not as a hero, but a cold, unrelenting killer. Speaking to the visage of Uncle Sam, it’s quite a potent moment, just lost in a movie failing to acknowledge the goofy premise.

Video

For a movie originally destined for the VHS market, Uncle Sam’s gorgeous film print shows excellent definition, texture, and clarity. Blue Underground’s encode is a little messy, but passable enough to handle a thicker grain structure. It’s consistent regardless. Impressive resolution brings sharpness galore to this low budget piece, detail heavy for both close and wide shots. The slightest ringing is detectable in spots, the only unwanted anomaly on an otherwise perfect master.

Little is spared when pushing the Dolby Vision pass, generating intense highlights and truly impressive contrast. Headlights on cars, lamps in houses, general sunlight – all of it looks dazzlingly bright. Dense black levels do spectacular work too.

Splashed with color, primaries glow. Flesh tones are precise, appealing even when against the heightened saturation around them. The constant reds and blues stand out, while keeping the brilliant greenery around the neighborhood equally pure.

Audio

Remastered up to Dolby Atmos (and there’s a DTS-HD 5.1 track too), spacing fares well. Immediately, voices stretch the front soundstage. That will happen often. Ambient effects filter through the surrounds and rears, with the occasional journey into the heights. It’s infrequent, but enough to acknowledge their use.

Minor bass shows the age. A cannon fired by Isaac Hayes barely rumbles and the music, in places, drops low enough to catch the subwoofer. Late, there’s a fireworks display that produces muddy, average bass during the largest blasts.

Extras

A triple stacked commentary brings in director William Lustig, writer Larry Cohen, and George Braunstein. Lustig returns on the second track, this time joined by Isaac Hayes. A select scene commentary covers the fire scenes as presented by stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos. A deleted scene, gag reel, poster/stills gallery, and trailer finish up Uncle Sam’s 4K debut.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Uncle Sam
  • Video
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Movie

Teetering on the verge of brilliant satire, Uncle Sam whiffs by playing itself totally straight and wasting the opportunity.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: