‘Poltergeist’, ‘Lost Boys’ get 4K upgrades – Knox County VillageSoup
Poltergeist (1982, Warner Bros., 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray or digital, PG, 104 min.). The classic 1982 horror film, co-written by producer Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper (2 films “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Lifeforce”), holds up very well after 40 years and is up there with ” The Exorcist” as the best horror films from Warner Bros. Although I’ve seen the film many times before, its three jumps still scare me, and the Oscar-nominated visual effects from Richard Edlund, Michael Wood, and Bruce Nicholson still amaze and delight. This is the film’s debut in 4K Ultra HD format, with two of the three extras coming from its 2008 Blu-ray Digibook release.
Spielberg (“Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Jurassic Park,” 4 “Indiana Jones” movies), who wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Grais and Mark Victor, sets the scene an ordinary suburban lane development in which look-alike houses almost touch each other. The story centers on an ordinary family, with her husband Steve Freeling (Craig T. Nelson, television “Coach”), the leading home salesman, his wife Diane (JoBeth Williams, “The Big Chill” and the sequel from this film) and three children, namely Dana, 16 (Dominique Dunne, who was murdered the same year), Robbie, 8 (Oliver Robins from the sequel and “Airplane 2: The Sequel”) and Carol Anne, 5 years (Heather O’Rourke from 2 “Poltergeist” sequels and “Happy Days” from television).
Steve gets into a fight with a neighbor because their remotes operate both televisions, setting up football against “Mr. Rogers neighborhood. Robbie climbs the tree outside his bedroom window – a truly creepy dead tree that appears to have faces on it.
Everything is ordinary until it’s not. The first sign is that Carol Anne is talking to the TV when it’s just showing static. Then, Diane notices that the chairs in the kitchen are rearranged. Later, a storm brings a tornado and the tree reaches inside the house to grab Robbie, while Carol Anne is sucked into her closet, never to be seen again.
This prompts the Freelings to seek help from a trio of parapsychologists, led by Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight). Lesh then enlists professional exorcist Tangina (Zelda Rubenstein, also from the 2 sequels) to try to save Carol Anne.
For those who weren’t there in the 1980s, the film opens with the “national anthem” being played on television because, back when there were only three networks, that was how the stations signed for the night. Previously released special features include a “making-of” that shows some of the filmed stunts (7:15) and a two-part look at the real world of poltergeists, including “Science of the Spirits” (15:30) and “Communion with the dead” (15:31). The 4K version includes two enhanced audio options. The Blu-ray has also been remastered. Rating: 5 star movie; supplements 2.25 stars
Scoring guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = jump
The Lost Boys (1987, Warner Bros., 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray or digital, R, 97 min.). Joel Schumacher’s cult vampire flick also debuts in 4K, featuring a terrific young cast. It was the first film to feature both Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, who would go on to make eight films together and a television series. The film also stars Kiefer Sutherland, who would reunite with Schumacher three years later for the newly revamped “Flatliners,” and Jason Patric, resembling Jim Morrison of The Doors.
In the bonus retrospective (24 min.), Schumacher recalls that Patric initially turned down the role because he thought it would be an exploitation horror film. “There was absolutely no one with those looks and talent at 18 at that time, absolutely no one,” Schumacher says.
Sutherland plays David, the suspected leader of a gang of tough, trouble-making teenage vampires, including Alex Winter (3 “Bill & Ted” movies and the TV series) as Marko and Billy Wirth (” Boys on the Side”) as Dwayne. There are also two half-vampires – they haven’t made their first kill – in the pack, played by Chance Michael Corbitt as a child Laddie and Jami Gertz (“Twister”, “Sixteen Candles”) as Star, the one who captures Michael’s (Patric) love interest.
Michael and Sam (Haim, 16, dressed as some kind of midshipman Duran) are the sons of Lucy (Dianne Wiest (“Hannah and Her Sisters,” “The Birdcage”), who moved to Santa Cruz, Calif., by the beach, to live with Grandpa (Barnard Hughes, “Tron”, “Doc Hollywood”). Sam meets Edgar Frog (Feldman) at the comic book store. Edgar and his brother Alan (Jamison Newlander, ” Lost Boys: The Thirst”) are self-proclaimed vampire hunters. Rounding out the main cast is Edward Herrmann (“Annie”) as storekeeper Max, who becomes Lucy’s new love interest.
The movie is loud, with lots of rock music and amusement park noise from the boardwalk, and the interactions of the two Coreys are very ho-hum for a long time. David uses Star to lure Michael into their ruined hotel HQ and makes him drink his blood, turning Michael into a half-vampire that Sam must now deal with. The movie, aided by a big garlicky joke and the disgusting death of a vampire, improves and has a fun, action-packed ending. Interestingly, like “Poltergeist”, he crawls across the stage from the ceiling.
Other previously released extras include deleted scenes (15:16); watch Schumacher’s Vision (6:58), Comedy vs. Horror (4:44), A Different Kind of Vampire (4:23) and Greg Cannon’s Undead Creatures (14:02); the story of the two Coreys (18:23); and Lou Gramm’s “Lost in the Shadows” music video (4:35). Rating: 2.5 star movie; 3 star supplements
Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World, aka Maciste at the Court of the Great Khan (Italy, 1961, KL Studio Classics, Blu-ray, NR, 98/76 min.). The title “Samson” makes no sense, because Gordon Scott’s barrel-chested character isn’t called Samson, but actually Maciste, and there aren’t seven miracles or wonders in the movie. The second title, a translation of the Italian original is very faithful. The disc contains both the 98-minute International Cut and the 76-minute American AIP Cut.
The Great Khan (Leonardo Severini) liberated China from invaders in the 13th century, but an assassin – with no tongue so he can’t confess – kills the Chinese emperor. (This is the part cut from the American version.) The film then jumps forward 10 years, when Khan treats everyone like slaves. The rebels retaliate by throwing rocks up a hill to kill Mongol soldiers.
Back at court, Khan has the heir, Prince Tai Sung, prisoner, but executes a plan to have him and his sister, Princess Lei-ling (Yoko Tani), killed in an attack on the convent where she stay. Lei-ling manages to escape on her own, and Maciste (Scott, six Tarzan movies) shows up in time to save the prince. Maciste eventually helps put everything back in order, even though he’s buried under a pillar in the basement and there’s unexpected destruction at the end. The action is quite weak.
The only extra is novelist and critic Tim Lucas’ audio commentary for the AIP version. Rating: 2.5 star movie; 2 additional stars
The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu/The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu (1929/1930, KL Studio Classics, Blu-ray, NR, 81/73 min.). Those two films, starring Warner Oland (16 Charlie Chan films) as Fu, marked the walkie-talkie debut of novelist Sax Rohmer’s evil doctor. Their timeline is consecutive, with most characters appearing in both films except for the eight killed off in the first.
“Mysterious” shows how Fu went from kind to vengeful after British soldiers accidentally killed his wife and young son during the Boxer Rebellion battles. Ironically, Fu has just agreed to raise Lia, the daughter of a British fighter, before the attack. More than a decade later, Fu uses a hypnotized Lia (Jean Arthur, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”) to help kill three generations of British officer families. His latest targets are the Petries, with Dr. Jack (Neil Hamilton, 2 Tarzan movies, Commissioner Gordon in “Batman” on TV), the youngest, who has fallen in love with Lia. Fu’s “worthy” adversary is Scotland Yard Inspector Nayland Smith (OP Heggie, “The Earl of Monte Cristo”) and the ending takes place at Redmont Grange, high on a seaside cliff.
“Return” opens with Fu emerging from his coffin, while pretending to die of poisoning, and continuing with his plans to kill Dr. Jack, whose marriage to Lia he interrupts. The action takes place at the home of Lady Agatha (Evelyn Hall, “The Devine Lady”), who is kidnapped by Fu. Both movies feature William Austin as the comedic/fussy butler Sylvester.
Both films have audio commentary by novelist and critic Tim Lucas. Rating: both films 3 stars; both extras 2 stars
Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has been a music critic since 1972, right after graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwest-ern University. It has been reviewing videos/DVDs since 1988.
The Shakespeare Society begins the season on October 3 and welcomes new members