Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Fog: Special Edition

The Fog: Special Edition (1980)
Movie rating: 6/10
DVD rating: 8/10
Release Date: August 27, 2002
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Rating: R
Distributor: MGM
List Price: $19.98
Disc Details
Special Features: Widescreen anamorphic and full-frame formats
Chapter selection
Commentary track by director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill
New documentary "Tales from the Mist: Inside The Fog"
Original 1980 documentary: "Fear on Film: Inside The Fog"
Theatrical trailers and TV spots
Photo galleries
Storyboard to film comparison
Liner notes by John Carpenter.
Video Format: Widescreen (2.35:1)
Languages: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Subtitles: English, Spanish, French.
Captions: Yes
Casing: 1-Disc Keep Case

John Carpenter's "The Fog" was his first theatrical movie after "Halloween." "The Fog" is an old-fashioned ghost story dressed up with loads of gore. The 1980 film features an excellent cast, some good special effects and a few genuine frights. The problem with the movie is the fact that Carpenter gives up the ghost early in the film.

In the opening scene, John Houseman tells a group of children a story about a ship that sank of the shore of their town 100 years ago that night. In a later scene between Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh and Nancy Loomis, Mr. Holbrook reveals a dark secret about the town. These two scenes reveal the film's "mystery." By revealing the secret early on, John Carpenter lost the potential to maintain suspense during the film's climatic scenes.

This complaint aside, "The Fog" is still an enjoyable film. The photography and special effects are genuinely creepy. The cast, especially Adrienne Barbeau, is great. "The Fog" is far from Carpenter's best work. While the film has his distinctive style, he has trouble making the story work. The idea of things coming out of a fog bank is wrought with horrific possibilities. Had Carpenter left the eerie happenings less well explained, the film might have achieved the cult classic status of "Halloween" or "The Thing." Instead, "The Fog" is a fun film, which doesn't achieve its full potential.

The Disc
Good movie. Great picture and sound. Excellent extras.

Picture Quality: 8/10
MGM did a nice job with the transfer. Especially nice job with the delineation of dark and light colors. The film's scariest scenes take place in the fog-enshrouded town at night. The scene in which Adrienne Barbeau fights off the ghosts atop her lighthouse is a standout.

Sound Quality: 9/10
John Carpenter's electronic music works well in his films. While not up to par with his scores for "Halloween" or "Assault on Precinct 13," his music is still very good. In addition to the music, "The Fog" features a large number of sound effects designed to make you jump out of your skin. Most scares are emphasized with a musical cue, followed by the wet sounds of flesh ripping. Adrienne Barbeau's throaty voice sounds as sexy as ever. The 5.1 remastered track is superior to the 2.0 mono.

Menu: 7/10
Good use of images and music from the film. Easy to navigate. Nothing special though.

Extra Features: 9/10
Very nice extras. The commentary track by Carpenter and Hill gives some good insights into the mechanics of low-budget filmmaking. They describe how they had to spend a few hundred thousand dollars to re-shoot many scenes in order to make the film work. Originally, there was much less gore. The success of the David Cronenberg's gory "Scanners" causes studio pressure on Carpenter to bloody up his movie.

There are two so-called documentaries. "Fear on Film: Inside "The Fog" is a seven minute promotional featurette made by Avco-Embassy for the film's original release. I found it of interest only for comparing it to the second documentary to see how much the people involved had aged. I know, I'm shallow. The second documentary is very good. "Tales From the Mist: Inside 'The Fog'" is a nice look back at the making of "The Fog." The 30-minute documentary includes new interviews with all of the major players on this fan favorite. Lots of nice candid stills.

The advertising gallery includes three theatrical trailers, three TV spots and a poster and memorabilia gallery. There is also a publicity photo gallery and a behind-the-scenes gallery.

The outtakes are funny if you like scenes of actors flubbing their lines. I like that kind of stuff, so I enjoyed the five-minute montage of screw-ups. The storyboard comparison covers the first ghost attack on a trawler.

The Final Word:
Fans of the director will eat this one up. "The Fog" isn't his best work, but fans will enjoy the commentary track with both Carpenter and his long time business partner Debra Hill.

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