This 25th Anniversary Edition of Gremlins punches its way onto your screens at a theatrically correct 1.85:1 using the Warner preferred VC-1 codec at 1080p. Whilst it's fair to say that this is probably the best release that you've seen, it's also fair to say that it's not top drawer and is unlikely ever to be so.
I'm not adverse to grain in movies at all but this one seems to go overboard, especially in the darker scenes, of which there are many. There doesn't seem to be any digital manipulation though even though the faces, whilst not looking waxy, have no real defined structure or definition to them. This is a result of the filming style at the time, a softer approach was taken and this permeates itself through the entire film.
The many dark scenes appear flat and lifeless and whilst blacks are pretty solid they're never as black as you would want them to be and the wash dark grey then simply hides any detail or depth that might have been apparent. On the other hand, the outdoor daylight, brighter, scenes fair very well indeed. The opening shots of Kingston Falls in the crisp, light snowy streets shows much better detail than before, has some element of depth and the whites are very well presented and confined with little to no bleed into any surrounding areas.
Colours are slightly better and more stable than earlier releases with skins tones pleasing, with no red push on show. The detail, mentioned earlier, and due to the filming style, is not the best you will see; scenes such as Billy's bedroom contain such an amount of kit that edges simply get lost. Infuriatingly certain scenes can show better detail, Randall's invention den is one example, but even then there's simply far too many items just not sharp enough to gaze at for too long. The print is in decent enough shape but you'll still see the occasional blimp and speckle.
The audio is a bigger step up having been upgraded into a Dolby TrueHD variety although for those purists there is the original stereo track to listen to as well. That being said though don't expect something akin to a more recent release because again it's just not there to begin with.
Mainly a frontal affair with some ambiance and steerage towards the surrounds, the audio is a little 'thin' at times. Dialogue can be easily heard as long as you crank the sound a little but there appears to be some cut-off in the higher tones, the whole dynamic range suffers because of this. The background score by Jerry Goldsmith is strong and well presented but even there at times it does fall flat on its face a little.
Surrounds are used for ambiance and during the set pieces they do kick in to action with steerage from Gizmo's car, flying gremlins, garbled speech and the bubbling water in the local swimming pool. LFE is adequate enough when needed, specifically the explosion at the cinema. Not the best audio track but not the worst either, but do remember to turn the volume up a few notches.
- Commentary with Joe Dante, Michael Finell and special effects artists Chris Walas.
An interesting enough track discussing the individual elements which went into bringing this film to life. Design of the gremlins and shooting is mentioned, the writing, production and what perhaps would be changed if it was to be redone now. A good enough listen but not as engaging as...
- Commentary with Joe Dante actors Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller and Howie Mandel.
If you are going to take in just one of the extras from this set then this is the one you should be aiming for. It doesn't necessarily give any major insight in the movie, the casting or the special effects but it is a joy to listen to, a laugh a minute from start to finish. Zach more or less drives this commentary forward with Howie chipping in with his Gizmo voice as and when required. All five participants have an excellent rapport and the chat flows seamlessly from one to another. A must listen. Of course there is some discussion on the film itself but it takes a back seat to the memories they all left with.
- Gremlins: Behind the Scenes Featurette. - 0:06:21 - 480i/VC-1
A short 1984 standard promo for this film. You see some cast members having their brief say, Joe behind the camera instructing the actors and at one point Steven Spielberg saying it would never happen in real life. Really Steven? The origins of the gremlin myth are discussed as is the 1943 Bugs Bunny cartoon Falling Hare.
- Photo Gallery.
A selection of colour and black and white photos from the film, the production and the cast and crew. These can be navigated using your remote control and are an interesting quick look but little more than that.
- Extended Scenes. - 0:10:26 - 480i/VC-1
A number of additional or extended scenes, from the different opening Chinese shop, Billy and Kate finding repossession plans in the bank's back offices, or the local minister giving Billy a Christmas Card. Viewed with or without an accompanying commentary I found these additional scenes perfectly placed, that being on the cutting room floor. I didn't think they added anything to the film as a whole
- Trailers 0:04:42
Trailers for the original film, the re-release and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. These can be played individually or one after the other.
Taken from earlier releases this set of extras I found a tad disappointing. Yes there are a couple of commentaries, but only one is really worth listening to. The other additional extras you get here are watch once leave after type of affairs. As I say listen to the cast commentary as that's a major hoot, as for the rest, well it'll be your choice at the end of the day.
I enjoyed Gremlins 25 years ago and I enjoyed Ghostbusters too. To this day I still love both films but if I had to take just one to a desert island then I'm afraid that it would be Gremlins for me every time. At times it's just so richly dark and that always appeals to me.
Bar the actual gremlins themselves the participants have largely had forgettable careers, but if you're not wanting a mean humbug or revitalised soul this Christmas then you could do much worse than pick up and watch this with your kids in tow. The Eighties were a glorious time for fun movies and 1984 in particular with Spinal Tap, Terminator, Amadeus, The Last Starfighter, Stop Making Sense and of course Ghostbusters all available for your viewing pleasure.
The audio and video are what they are, to attack the grain with DNR would just further reduce any detail which might be in there, the audio is a little better but perhaps some work could be done on that in the future. The extras are a little weak and I would like to see an updated viewpoint from one or more of Dante, Spielberg or Galligan. As a whole it's still not a disappointment because the film is a good roller coaster ride of mayhem and is a step up in terms of video. Recommended but don't be expecting miracles.
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