Mysterious Men (4K UHD Review)

  • Review by: Bill Hunt
  • Revision date: November 12, 2022
  • Format: Blu-Ray disc

Mysterious Men (4K UHD Review)


Usher Kinka

Release date)

1999 (22 November 2022)


Golar Productions/Dark Horse Entertainment/Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)

  • Film/program category: B-
  • Video Note: A+
  • Audio quality: B
  • Additional Rank: B+

Mysterious Men (4K Ultra HD)



Welcome to Champion City, where dozens of B- and C-list superheroes toil in the dark to defend their fellow citizens from evil, unable to escape the long shadow of local favorite son, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear). But unlike those who would follow in his footsteps, Amazing is bored with his job, having long since defeated all the top villains. Then in danger of losing his sponsorship deals (for the products he advertises on his uniform), Amazing arranges the release from prison of his former nemesis, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), on the advice of his publicist (Rickey Jay). But when this dodgy scheme goes awry, a team of those same loveless B and C-listers are all that stand between Casanova and his nefarious goals.

So who are these average defenders of justice? Well, there’s Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), whose power comes from his unbounded rage. Shoveler (William H. Macy) shovels very well. The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) is the mystical master of cutlery. The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) can really roll, and the magic of his ball drips from his late father’s skull. As for Spleen (Paul Reubens), let’s just say that if you shoot his finger, you will feel his wrath. The Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell) can indeed become invisible…but only when no one is looking. And Sphinx (Wes Studi) is the spiritual leader of the team, not to mention a veritable dark circular fountain of wisdom.

Directed by Kinka Usher (an ex-Roger Corman cameraman turned prolific TV commercial director), Mysterious men falls a little short of greatness, but would surely be a cult classic if only more people knew it existed. Based on Flaming carrot comics characters created by Bob Burden, it’s roughly in the same wheelhouse as Ben Edlund’s The tickand could certainly be considered a precursor to Garth Ennis The boysfiltered through a visual style that parodies that of Joel Schumacher Batman suites (with a touch of blade runner thrown in for good measure). While the film’s editorial pacing is a bit languid and the rivalry chemistry between Rush and Kinnear is never quite there, Mysterious men is filled with fun moments – Furious conjuring his rage by frantically squeezing a stress ball, Shoveler defending Amazing’s secret identity (“Lance Hunt wears glasses…Captain Amazing doesn’t!”), Blue Raja forcing Casanova’s car. The team superhero tryout scene is a classic. And be sure to watch for appearances from Michael Bay, Tom Waits, Eddie Izzard, Doug Jones, Dane Cook and Devo lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh.

Mysterious men was shot on 35mm film by cinematographer Stephen H. Burum (Carlito’s path, Impossible mission) using Panavision cameras with spherical lenses, and it was finished on film at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For its Ultra HD release, Kino Lorber Studio Classics took advantage of a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, with High Dynamic Range gradation (Dolby Vision and HDR10 are available on disc). The resulting picture quality is phenomenal, offering a significant improvement in resolution over Universal’s 2012 Blu-ray release. Details are crisp and well-refined (look at the texture of the golden fabric of Blue Raja’s cape), with only digitally produced effects shots exhibiting a softer look, as was typical of this period. The contrast is impressive, with deep shadows and strong highlights that really benefit the sparkling costumes of the characters. The colors are stylized, yet richly vibrant and well saturated. (This is especially evident in Casanova’s lair during the final battle.) A slight washout of photochemical grain is visible at all times, with no signs of untoward noise reduction. As unexpected as it may seem, this is a reference quality 4K image and a major upgrade.

The film’s original English audio is included in lossless 5.1 and 2.0 formats in the DTS-HD Master Audio format. It’s not a particularly aggressive mixture, but it is full and pleasantly atmospheric. The soundstage is medium to wide in the front, with subtle directional cues and music filtered from the rear channels. Panning is modest but smooth, with highlights including the swish-silk Raja cutlery flying through the air and Bowler’s dad’s ball zooming into the room. The bass is solid when it kicks in, although not particularly often. (There are really only a few fight scenes that use it.) Optional SDH English subtitles are included for the deaf and hard of hearing. No foreign language option is available – this one is English only.

The Ultra HD version of Kino is a two-disc set that includes the film in 4K on UHD and a remastered 1080p HD version in 4K on Blu-ray as well. Both discs contain a special feature originally produced for the film’s 1999 DVD release:

  • Audio Commentary with Kinka Usher

The commentary is decent, offering some interesting information. To this, the Blu-ray adds the following new and legacy content:

  • We are the other guys! : The Creation of Mysterious Men (HD – 23:39)
  • I’m a superhero, mom! : The costumes of the mysterious men (HD – 12:01)
  • Inside Champion City! : The Effects of Mysterious Men (HD – 9:27)
  • Disco is life! : The score(s) of Mystery Men (HD – 8:33)
  • Location Spotlight: The Creation of Mysterious Men (SD – 17:40)
  • Deleted scenes (SD – 11 scenes – 7:40 p.m. in all)
  • Mysterious Men Trailer (SD-2:24)
  • Tropic Thunder Trailer (HD – 2:29)
  • Hudson Hawk trailer (HD – 2:05)
  • Half-baked trailer (SD – 1:54)

The HD featurettes are all good, created just for this release by Daniel Griffith’s Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. They feature new interviews with director, costume designer Marilyn Vance, VFX supervisor Todd Tucker, and film music historian Daniel Schweiger (on the film’s unusual score). Many deleted scenes are also taken from the original DVD release, including one in which the Shoveler’s children laugh at him when he comes home after a hard day’s work (“Stronger than deodorant! Can’t jump above anything!”). You also get the original “making of” featurette from the DVD, plus trailers for this film and three others (which are also available or coming soon on disc from KLSC). The only thing missing from the DVD are Kel Mitchell Who are these mysterious men music video and a few pages of production notes and character biographies.

Mysterious men is a movie that really deserves to be seen by more people, so a big shout out to the folks at Kino Lorber Studio Classics for championing this remaster in 4K Ultra HD. In fact, if any studio execs at Universal are looking for an interesting reboot or franchise opportunity, here it is. Just remember the Shoveler’s advice: “We’re not your classic heroes…we’re the others.” Recommended.

-Bill Hunt

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Key words

1999, 4K, 4K Ultra HD, action, Ben Stiller, Bill Hunt, Bob Burden, Captain Amazing, Casanova Frankenstein, Champion City, Claire Forlani, Dane Cook, Dark Horse Entertainment, Dolby Vision, Doug Jones, DTS-HD Master Audio, Eddie Izzard, Flaming Carrot Comics, Geoffrey Rush, Greg Kinnear, Hank Azaria, HDR10, Hierarchs, High Dynamic Range, Janeane Garofalo, Kel Mitchell, Kinka Usher, Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Lena Olin, Mark Mothersbaugh, Michael Bay, Mr Furious, Mystery Men, native 4K Digital Intermediate, Neil Cuthbert, Paul Reubens, critic, Rickey Jay, Sphinx, Spleen, Stephen H Burum, Stephen Warbeck, superhero parody, The Blue Raja, The Bowler, The Digital Bits, The Invisible Boy , The Shoveler , Tom Waits, UHD, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, Universal, Wes Studi, William H Macy


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