This is a first for my little year-end round-ups and kind of surprised I didn’t about this before. With all these new Blu-rays coming out, there are times that seeing a film that we’ve seen countless times before, but now seeing in a restored, cleaned up, or whatever those crazy Blu-ray producers do, sometimes can be like watching the movie for the first time. I had more than a couple of those instances happen this year.
The first one was seeing the new Blu-ray of Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (1979). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this amazing film, from in the theater, at drive-ins, countless times on VHS and even DVD. But when I started watching the new Blu-ray…wow. When the part comes up with Tommy’s funeral, and Michael is watching the Tall Man put his casket in the hearse by himself, I could hear this noise coming from the back speakers. Wait…is that rain? Then I notice the beads of rain running off the casket as the Tall Man picks it up. W-T-F? That is the kind of clarity these guys did on this film. Simply amazing. If you’re going to be one of those that complains because they changed something with the spheres, in a shot that last seconds, then you are missing out on so much more. I’m not one for double-dipping, but this is a must.
I made the jump (finally) this year and bought a import Blu-ray player. I had been putting it off for quite some time, but knew it would happen eventually. The final straw was when I heard that an uncut print of Hammer’s Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1973) had been released in the UK. Years ago, finding an uncut print of this title was a journey. To my knowledge, the only fully complete version came from the Japanese release, which did come out on a laserdisc. So finding a copy from that, as close as you could to a first generation copy, was any serious Hammer collector’s goal. I had one, but the quality wasn’t the greatest. Years ago, Anchor Bay released it on DVD, but in the American cut, which is butchered worse than any of the good Doctor’s experiments. Then there was a German DVD I believe that was almost uncut but not completely. Then when making a comment on Facebook about wishing a completely uncut version would get released, I got several replies stating it had been in the UK. I ordered it right then and there, and then set about ordering an import Blu-ray. Of course, while ordering from Amazon UK, I might as well get the version of Hammer’s Horror of Dracula (1958), with the recently found footage from the Japanese prints too, right? So when those two discs came in the mail, I sat down and watched them both. Seeing the colors from a movie made 40 to 50 years ago and having them just pop off the screen is just amazing. Especially since Hammer was known for their colors, this was just a great revisit to two classic horror films.
The reputation that Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) has is something that every horror fan is familiar with, especially the look and the colors throughout the film. I had seen it on the big screen decades ago, but it was the highly cut American print. Synapse Films had been releasing Blu-ray versions of Argento’s films, such as Tenebrae and Phenomena and had done spectacular jobs on them. So when they announced they would also be tackling Suspiria, it was fantastic news to the fans. Back in August, a month or so before the disc was set to be released, there was going to be a special screening at the Flashback Weekend convention of the newly remastered 4K restoration of the film…in the theater! Well, it was a no-brainer on whether or not we were going to this. Not only seeing this gorgeous film on the big screen was incredible, with all those colors just jumping out from the screen, but the sound was amazing, almost like hearing it for the first time. Then a couple of months later, when the Blu-ray finally comes out, seeing it again on my TV was, once again, just staggering. Just starring at the screen and looking in wonder at all the different colors, crisp and clear and bright as ever. Just wow. So thank you to Don and Jerry from Synapse for all the hard work you put into this. It is an unbelievable gift to the fans.
Now there also can be a couple of times when you revisit a film, one that you’ve either only seen once or maybe many times, but for some reason this time it just hits you differently. Or maybe you just see something that you didn’t before. I had two of those experiences this year.
The first of these titles was the 1999 film Virus, which is about a salvage ship that comes across a derelict vessel that hasn’t something hiding on it, something like we’ve never seen before. I first saw this film when it was released in the theater almost two decades ago, and thought it was pretty much trash. All I can remember that with this all star cast, with Donald Sutherland leading the way, the acting was terrible. But for some reason, I decided to revisit it. So…the terrible acting…is still terrible, as well as the dialogue. In fact, the whole plot is downright silly. BUT…the special effects, coming from pre-CGI cartoons, were just awesome. Sure, this might be a title for a future Turkey Day marathon, but I had a lot of fun with it this second time around. Just goes to show you that your opinion can change on a movie. Might not mean it’s a better movie than you thought, but you just might enjoy it a little more.
The second film is another one that I really disliked when I first saw it in the theater, way back in 1987. I’d seen it several times on VHS and DVD over the next three decades and changed my opinion to that it was just an okay film, with parts I liked, but other parts I really didn’t care for. But shortly after picking up the Blu-ray of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, I sat down and watched it to mainly see how the quality of this new Blu-ray was. And for some reason, I just was sucked into the story and came out after the viewing just loving this film. Not sure if it was because I think the story is just so smart and slick, reminding me more of the old Quatermass films (which is what Carpenter was trying to do), but it just drew me in. Some of the parts that I didn’t care for, such as some of the acting, didn’t seem to bother me this time. The questions I had on the plot seemed to either fade away or since I was drawn so much into the story, that I didn’t need to have every little question answered and left it open to just being ambiguous. This time out, the film just worked on so many levels that I enjoyed it more than I ever have before. Once again, proving to me that you really can’t see a film twice with the same eyes.
Next Up….Final Thoughts and Misc. Memories