Penitentiary II (1982) (Blu-ray/DVD Review)

Penitentiary II (1982) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: Jamaa Fanaka
Starring: Leon Isaac Kennedy, Glynn Turman, Ernie Hudson
Rated: R/Region O/1:85/1080p/Number of Discs 2
Available from Vinegar Syndrome

Martel “Too Sweet” Gordone (Leon Isaac Kennedy) has just been paroled. Trying diligently to stay out of trouble, he rekindles an old fling with his former girlfriend Clarisse and begins a job as a delivery roller-skater. But when his prison arch nemesis, Half Dead, breaks out of jail and murders Clarisse, Too Sweet is forced to return to his old life and seek vengeance the only way he knows how…

Vinegar Syndrome did the cool thing of dropping Penitentiary II on us a month after dropping the original one. This time, however, we have a few changes to the overall movie. We still have our leading man played by Leon Isaac Hayes, but we have a recast on a lot of good characters from the first one. One of which being the no good “Half Dead” who oddly enough is now replaced by Ernie Hudson. Seldom is a recast as well, which might be the hardest one to get over. Adding to the mix, however, is none other than Mr. T played Mr. T! He’s here to coach Too Sweet this time around. He’s also here to randomly wear a genie outfit and rub a lamp. Yes, this movie is a whole other world of difference compared to the original. I’d still call it a fun movie but we have a loss of overall movie quality and we aren’t as serious here despite one of the key plots being Half Dead killing Too Sweet’s lady. Instead of seeking revenge, Too Sweet decides to become a role model and box while Half Dead still is a problem. This leads us back to the pen and to see Too Sweet once again face Jesse ‘The Bull’ Amos, who is at least played by the same actor as he was in the first film.

While true Blaxploitation to the core the first time around, the original film was a very well-made and solid movie with a more serious tone and an underlying quality. Part 2 here is more 80’s cheese. While that has a place as well, the movie looks bad when watched after the original. One it’s own you can find a charm in it for different reasons, but it is on a whole other planet than what you might be expected since watching the original. It is a movie that looks good on disc and it is always good to see prime Mr.T. This movie came out right before he hit it big but you can see why everyone thought he’d be a star here. Even if it isn’t on the level of the first film or perhaps even this one, this does make me still want to watch Penitentiary III.

Extras

– Region free Blu-ray/DVD combo pack
– Newly scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm original camera negative
– Archival commentary track with Jamaa Fanaka (writer / producer / director)
– “In the Raw” – archival interview with Jamaa Fanaka
– “Too Sweet on the Outside” – interview with Leon Isaac Kennedy
– Isolated soundtrack
– Original theatrical trailer
– Reversible cover artwork
– English SDH subtitles

Quality of Transfer: 95%