Last week I reviewed Shout Factory’s really nice Blu-Ray release of The Howling on there Scream Factory label. This week to help you start getting in the mood for Halloween (you can never start to early for Halloween). This week I look at the new Blu-Ray release of John Carpenter’s The Fog. This was Carpenter’s first follow-up to the wildly successful 1978 Halloween that is still one of the most successful independent film in film history at the time.
Here is a quick plot synopsis,The sleepy seaside village of Antonio Bay is about to learn the true meaning of the word “vengeance.” For this seemingly perfect town masks a guilty secret… a past steeped in greed and murder. Exactly 100 years ago, a ship was horribly wrecked under mysterious circumstances in a thick, eerie fog. Now, shrouded in darkness, the long dead mariners have returned from their water grave to exact a bloody revenge.
Carpenter and Producer Debra Hill really got a great cast together for the film with Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, John Houseman, and Janet Leigh. This was the only film that Janet Leigh starred with her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis (Leigh had a cameo in Halloween H20 but did not star in the film). The crew Carpenter gathered was very impressive. Dean Cundey was the Director of Photography who went on to work with Carpenter two more times with The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China. He is also was the Director of Photography on the Back to the Future trilogy, Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The makeup effect were done by Rob Bottin who went on to do Joe Dante’s The Howling and worked with Carpenter again on The Thing. And of course Carpenter composed the music himself as he had done for Halloween and would go on to score most of his own films.
The thing I find great about the film is its lack of gore. While Carpenter did go back and reshoot scenes and add some more gore, it’s still very tame considering the films that were pushing the gore to a new level like The Brood (1979), Phantasm (1979), Friday the 13th (1980) and Humanoids From the Deep (1980). The movie really works because of the suspense and mood that Carpenter creates. The Fog itself is very menacing and the fact that you don’t see what is in the Fog beyond vague hands and outlines. You can tell where some of the added scenes are like on the boat when the fishermen get killed is pretty obvious. While the visuals are just gorgeous the music that Carpenter composed is very creepy. He really is able to set the mood and tone of the film with the music that really adds to the unnerving feeling that the film creates. While the film was a success at the box office when it was released it did get really mixed reviews. Carpenter himself considers it one of his minor films but I think that it has stood the test of time. While maybe not as frightening as Halloween and as over the top as The Thing but I find it to be a really good “ghost” story. I love the fact that you don’t really see the ghosts and that more is left up to your imagination. Carpenter shot the film anamorphic to give it a much bigger feel for the budget. Along with great locations the film has all of the trademark Carpenter style that his films have.
The new Blu-Ray from Shout Factory is simply gorgeous. With a very nice 1080p AVC transfer that retains the great film look that Carpenter is so well-known for. Correctly framed at the original 2.35 Panavision theatrical release aspect ratio that was shot on 35mm film, the transfer does not look overly processed and still retains the original film grain as it should. Black levels are deep and the colors are spot on to the original look of the film. There are two audio tracks. a new 5.1 DTS-Master Audio remix and the original mono track that is a 2.0 DTS-Master Audio track. I prefer the original mono mix because when you remix it to a 5.1 it seems to always be over mixed and tries to make it sound like a modern mix instead of the way it was originally intended. Unless it was the original sound designers doing the new mix I usually never listen to them.Shout Factory has ported over the special features from the previous MGM DVD release with some new features for this Blu-Ray release.
* Audio Commentary
There are two commentaries, the first is from the MGM DVD release that has Director John Carpenter and Producer Debra Hill (who sadly passed away in 2005) that focuses on the production of the film with a lot of the technical aspects of making the film. It’s a very informative commentary with a lot of great stories on making the film.
The second commentary is new to the Blu-Ray edition. It has Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Production Designer Tommy Lee Wallace and moderated by Sean Clark of Horror Hound magazine. This is a nice commentary but Wallace seems to talk the most but they do have great memories of working on the film with some really great stories.
* My Time with Terror (HD, 22 minutes)
A new interview with Jamie Lee Curtis where she talk’s about the behind the scenes with the personal issues with Carpenter and Hill splitting up before production and Carpenter was involved with Barbeau and how she felt about it. She also talks about the fond memories while making the film.
* Dean of Darkness (HD, 19 minutes)
A new interview with frequent cinematographer Dean Cundy where he gives insight to the technical aspects of shooting the film and how with a very limited budget was able to make the film look much better than the budget.
* Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (HD, 20 minutes)
Another new piece where Sean Clark takes you on a tour of filming locations that were used in The Fog. It’s Ok but a bit of a fluff piece.
* Tales from the Mist (SD/up converted to 1080i, 28 minutes)
This is from the MGM DVD that has interviews with the cast and crew and they talk about the making of the film. It has some great vintage footage and really give some great information about the making of the film.
* Fear On Film (SD/ up converted to 1080i, 8 minutes)
Another vintage piece from the MGM DVD that is a roundtable discussion with Carpenter, Hill and Barbeau that was shot during the time of the original films theatrical release. Short but really nice to see.
*Outtakes (HD, 4 minutes)
The typical gag reel with goofs, flub and funny bits.
* Special Effects Test (SD/ up converted to 1080i, 3 minutes)
Rough footage that show the early stages of the visual effect work. This is pretty rare footage to see and a lot of time it’s lost over the years. Nice to see this kind of stuff.
*Photo Gallery (HD)
A very nice sized collection of production stills. publicity photos, posters and some storyboards.
* Trailers (HD/SD up converted to 108i, 5 minutes)
There are three theatrical trailers. The first one is HD and the other two are SD up converted to 1080i.
There are six television spot that are SD up converted to 1080i. The first four are for The Fog and the last two are for a double bill of The Fog and Phantasm
*Easter Egg (SD up converted to 1080i, 1 minute)
There is an Easter Egg that is a promo for when The Fog played on ABC Sunday Night Movie. This is a nice vintage bonus for those of us that grew up before home video and we watched most of our films on TV. To get to the Easter Egg highlight the MORE button at the bottom of the second page of the special features page then navigate to the right and you will highlight the cross on the gravestone. Then press enter to play.
While The Fog might not be one of Carpenter’s scariest films or one of the most popular but I find it to be one that I can go back to time and time again. Thankfully Shout Factory has done a great job in preserving The Fog to the closest to the original theatrical presentation that you can enjoy at home whenever you want. They have not only ported over the very good special features from the previous MGM DVD release and added some really great new ones. The film was made at the rise of the horror/splatter genre of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The film leave a great deal to the imagination instead of a blood bath and I really love the film for that. If you love mood in your horror film then this is a good one to start with and will make a great addition to any film library.