Gremlins is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year and Warner Home Video has released at new 2 disc Diamond Luxe Edition that we all hoped would become the definitive edition of the film on Blu-Ray. Unfortunately there is both good and bad news on this new release. First let’s get the bad news out-of-the-way first. The first disc of the set is the same disc as the previous 25th Anniversary edition. So it’s the same VC-1 transfer from 2009 with a new label on the disc. So if you were hoping for an upgrade in the transfer of the film then I’m sure you will be disappointed. The good news is that all of the special features on the 2nd disc are brand new.
The plot of the movie is, Searching for an unusual Christmas present for his teenage son, struggling inventor Randall Peltzer (Axton) discovers a small, furry creature called a Mogwai in a Chinatown antique store. The owner refuses to sell the Mogwai, saying that owning one is a great responsibility. However, as Randall is leaving the store, the owner’s grandson (Louie) sells Randall the creature, explaining that his family needs the money. There are three specific instructions for looking after Mogwai: never expose it to bright light (especially sunlight, which will kill it); never get it wet; and, most importantly: no matter how much it cries or begs, never, ever feed it after midnight. Randall takes the Mogwai to his family in the town of Kingston Falls; being an inventor, he names it “Gizmo”. Randall gives Gizmo to his son Billy (Galligan) and tells him the three rules he must obey. A glass of water is accidentally spilled on Gizmo, causing him to convulse and produce five new Mogwai from his own body. Their temperament is very different from Gizmo’s; they torment the family’s pet dog. One of the new Mogwai, dubbed Stripe for his white quaff of hair, acts as their leader and is very hostile to Gizmo. Wanting to learn more, Billy takes one of the Mogwai to his science teacher, Mr. Hanson (Turman). When Billy drops water on the Mogwai from a pipette, he produces a sixth new Mogwai. Leaving with Mr. Hanson this new Mogwai, on which he will conduct tests, Billy returns home. He meets up on the way with his friend Kate Beringer (Cates), who works at a tavern; she agrees to a date. When Billy tries to study in his bedroom, the five new Mogwai are very excitable. They trick Billy into feeding them after midnight by biting through the power cord of his alarm clock, causing him to believe it’s earlier than it actually is. In the morning, Billy discovers that the creatures have cocooned. Gizmo, having virtuously refused to eat, remains unchanged. In the meantime, the sixth new Mogwai undergoes tests at the hands of Mr. Hanson, who clocks off after two o’clock in the morning. When Mr. Hanson finishes work, the Mogwai steals his unfinished sandwich and cocoons itself. Later, it hatches and breaks out of its cage, hiding in the dark corners of the room. Hanson tries to reason with it and bribe it with a candy bar, but the creature eats it and his hand. Billy arrives and finds the Mogwai has turned into a reptilian monster. Elsewhere, the other Mogwai have hatched into “gremlins”, mischievous reptilian monsters. They attack Billy’s mother (McCain), who is able to escape with Billy’s help, and the gremlins are killed. Stripe escapes and leaps into a swimming pool, creating hundreds of new gremlins who go on a rampage. Billy rescues Kate when the gremlins overrun the tavern she works at. Billy, Kate, and Gizmo discover the gremlins are enjoying Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the local theater. They set off an explosion that kills the gremlins and destroys the theater, but their celebrations are cut short when Kate spots Stripe in the window of a nearby Montgomery Ward store. Billy follows and battles Stripe, who leaps into a water fountain intending to multiply again. Before he can multiply, Gizmo opens a set of window blinds, causing sunlight to pour into the store, killing Stripe. As the Peltzer’s recover from the rampage, the antique store owner arrives to claim Gizmo, saying that the Western world is not yet ready for the responsibilities that come with caring for a Mogwai, but that Billy may someday be ready to care for Gizmo properly; Gizmo likewise believes so, having become attached to Billy.
The movie is one of those rare films that has the perfect fine line between horror and comedy. Dante was a perfect choice to direct the film because he can pull this off so well. This is one of those films that fires on all cylinders so perfectly. The script by Columbus is sharp and snappy but never shies from the horror elements that are at the heart of the story. The key to the story is the balance of Gizmo to the evil Gremlins so that the viewer has a hero to root for to save the day. To make the puppets in the film work is having a great cast that never have you believe otherwise that they are anything but that they really exist. Casting Hoyt Axton as the father is one of those time that I could never imagine anyone else doing a better job. Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates have such a great chemistry together onscreen and really drive the film. There are far to many great supporting cast to mention but they are perfectly cast in both larger and smaller supporting roles that make this film that much more impressive. It’s hard to watch Gremlins now and not feel sad knowing that Jerry Goldsmith is no longer with us. Who would have ever thought that Goldsmith could do a score that included the now classic Gremlins Rag music that proved how versatile of a composer that he was. Chris Walas was tasked with bringing the Gremlins alive with puppetry that never for one moment do you not believe that they are effects. Watching this film is a sad reminder of the lost art of doing visual effects are not nearly as good as they used to be. Having physical effect while very difficult to build and control are much more effective than computer animated creatures. The Gremlins feel real because they are real and that is why the film works so well. It is no wonder why Gremlins has endured for 30 years. This is one of those films that you can go back and watch and you always seem to find something new to discover because there is so much going on in the film that it’s a lot to take in visually. This is one of my go to films for both Halloween and Christmas and is a must have for any great film library.
Disc 1 Video and Audio Quality:
It’s really disappointing that Warner Home Video Diamond Luxe Edition is pretty embarrassing because for the most part they are promoting this line of titles as a quality package. From the press release they described the releases as “Diamond Luxe Editions represent state-of-the art-design, intended to communicate sophistication, class and value. They are an homage to the company’s iconic film catalog and designed to encourage collectability – a boon to home libraries everywhere.” While the package for the set is really nice and there are new special features on the 2nd disc, to just reuse the old disc is this new package is a real slap in the face to collectors. With that said the video quality is at this point the best available version of the film. While it would have been nice for a fully remastered version of the film overall it’s a decent transfer considering the source material. Per usual Warner Home Video never does a proper original aspect transfer of their 1:85 films and its cropped to a 1:78. Now in the case for Gremlins and other Dante films he shot most of his film at 1:66 but did frame them for a 1:85 theatrical presentation. The video has a soft look to it that matches the original look of the theatrical presentation. The good news is that the transfer has not been overtly processed and still has the film grain intact. Black levels are Ok but should be more deep and solid but they never are too light or blue or green. The color palette while soft they overall have a nice look and do not break or distort. The audio is a big improvement over previous video releases with a solid 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix that does a nice job. The dialog is nice and clear and when there is a lot of action going on the bass and the surrounds envelop the viewer very nicely. Overall the audio is very pleasing and while it’s not going to give your audio system a big workout it does deliver a nice solid audio presentation.
Disc 1 Special Features:
Because this is the same disc as the previous 25th Anniversary disc all of the bonus material is included.
Commentary with director Joe Dante, producer Michael Finnell, and special effects supervisor Chris Walas. While this is more technically oriented commentary it really is very well done and very lively most of the time. They talk about what a demanding shot the film was and all of the challenges of working with the puppets and trying to get it all done on time.
Commentary with Dante, Phoebe Cates, Zack Galligan, Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel. This commentary is a lot more loose and fun with the actors and all of the stories while working on the film. Mandel really steals the show when he talks and Cates is pretty quite during most of the commentary. Galligan is quite the storyteller and has a lot of great memories while working on the film.
Behind the Scenes Featurette (SD 6:21)
This is a pretty standard EPK (Electronic Press Kit) material that was done by the studio to help promote the film on its initial release. While not stunning it does has some nice behind the scenes footage.
Additional Scenes (SD 10:26)
This is a collection of 10 deleted scenes that can be played with or without Dante and the cast commentary. As Dante explains most of the scenes were cut for time or pacing and you can see why they were it’s nice that they are included here to see.
This includes 30 production stills from the movie
There are 3 trailers
Gremlins Theatrical Trailer (2:08)
Gremlins Re-Release Trailer (1:04)
Gremlins 2 Trailer (1:30)
Disc 2 New Special Features
So after the disappointment of disc 1 of this new edition this is where the new special features are located.
Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous: Making Gremlins From Gizmo to Gremlins: Creating the Creatures (HD 29:15)
This new documentary has new interviews with Joe Dante, Producer Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Mike Finnell, Chris Columbus and Zach Galligan talk about how the script by Columbus was read by Spielberg and he loved it and wanted Dante to direct the film. They discuss the making of the film and how difficult it was to shoot. The also discuss the controversy of the film when it was release and the legacy of the film. This is a really nice documentary that has the key players that made the film and while there is some rehash from the previous releases material, the addition of Columbus, Spielberg, Finnell and Marshall bring new thoughts on the making of the film and new stories. Dante credits Jerry Goldsmith’s score for really bringing the film to life and this was the first time that they had worked together. There are also numerous behind the scene photo that have not been previously seen. This is a solid documentary that does really add new stories to the making of the film.
From Gizmo to Gremlins: Creating the Gremlins (HD 17:48)
This feature is about the creation of the Gremlins and includes interviews with Chris Walas who designed and created the puppets for the film. There are also interviews with Columbus, Finnell, Spielberg, Dante, Marshall, Galligan, and Howie Mandel who did the voice of Gizmo. This is a more in-depth look at how the Gremlins were created and how difficult it was to film them. There is new behind the scenes footage of the shooting of the effects that is fantastic to see for the first time. Walas does a really nice job of explaining the detail of the puppets and all of the people who it took to bring the Gremlins to life. Mandel did all of the voice recording after the film was completed and tells that it was Frank Welker that got him the job on the film. There is a lot of great things that are both told and seen in the new footage. This is a great companion piece to the first documentary.
Hangin’ With Hoyt on the Set of Gremlins (HD 4:18) This is a collection of the on set interviews with Hoyt Axton that was shot on the set during production. Some of this footage was in the previous Behind the scenes that is on disc 1 but there is new footage that is seen here. Axton was one of the reasons that the film worked so well and he was quite the character on the set as you can tell from this footage. It’s short but nice to see all of the footage in one place.
Gremlins The Gift of the Mogwai (HD 7:01)
The Last Gremlin (HD 6:40)
There are 2 motion comic that are digital recreation of the original vinyl record read-a-long books that were release when the film was released in 1984. There are two of the five releases included here. I do not know if they are the original recording or re-recorded for this. The story has “motion” in it now but does use the original artwork from the book. While they are not amazing it’s a nice nostalgic look back at the read-a-long books that they used to make.
Overall this new edition of Gremlins is a bit of a letdown. While the new special features are a nice edition to the previous special features, this is going to be a tough decision for people to buy. Warner Home Video should be ashamed of touting this as a deluxe edition when it is far from it. While I will say that the new packaging is really gorgeous, that is not the main reason for collectors to re-buy a film. If you are a Gremlins fan the new special features are a great addition and the quality of the two new documentaries make the double dip a bit easier to swallow. I am a big fan of this film and am really torn about recommending it. While the previous transfer is good one wonders what it would look like with a full restoration and new transfer. It would look better for sure but how much is hard to tell. I think that it could be a much more solid transfer than a huge difference. If you add both discs special features it really covers all aspects of the film so there is not much more that can be said about the film. If you do not for some insane reason own Gremlins then this edition is a no brainer must buy. If you previously own the 25th Anniversary edition then here is a possible solution. Give your old Blu-Ray to someone who doesn’t have it and they will be able to enjoy this wonderful film. This way you might not feel so bad about double dipping on this one.
Currently the first batch of the Diamond Luxe Edition titles are exclusive to Best Buy until early December. They are currently $16.99 so if you want the title now that is where you are going to have to buy them.