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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Happy Birthday To Me

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#1 of 2 Michael Osadciw

Michael Osadciw


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Posted October 21 2009 - 09:41 AM

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Distributed by: STARZ/Anchor Bay

Film Year: 1980

Film Length: 111 minutes

Genre: Horror/Slasher


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Colour/B&W: Colour


DVD Specifications:

Resolution: 480p



English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround


Subtitles: English SDH

Film Rating: R



Release Date: October 13, 2009


Entertainment Rating: 3/5  http://www.hometheat...es/htf/star.gif">http://www.hometheaterforum.com/img/vbsmilies/htf/star.gif

Scare Factor: 1/5  http://www.hometheat...ies/htf/eek.gif">


Featuring: Melissa Sue Anderson (Verginia ‘Ginny’ Wainwright), Glenn Ford (Dr. David Faraday), Lawrence Dane (Hal Wainwright), Sharon Acker (Estelle Wainwright), Frances Hyland (Mrs. Patterson), Tracy E. Bregman (Ann Thomerson), Lisa Langlois (Amelia)

Story by: John C.W. Saxton

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson



Let’s take a walk back into the ‘80s when video stores were stocked with Betamax rentals.  Through younger eyes, aisles seemed endless with slasher films.  The horror appeared greater.  The magnetic tape under the case reeked with raw butchery.  Such images were tantalizing to innocent minds and remain imprinted for eternity; it’s all part of the nostalgia behind the ‘80s slasher film.


“Six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see!” claimed the poster.  This was a tagline for a small Canadian film called Happy Birthday to Me.  The film appeared at the beginning of the ‘80s streak of story-stripped slashers.  Unleashed and uncensored, the senses were inundated with blood and eyes wept red tears.  And 29 years have passed since, and 29 years of new ways to kill people have appeared on screen.  So what was once shocking may no longer be.  But what was once shocking has become classic in the new era of horror.


From the director of Cape Fear and the producers of My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday to Me is a bit of a whodunit slasher where both suspense and comedy are somehow successfully intertwined.  The film is an amusing 111-minute piece – rather long for a slasher film – but yet manages to maintain interest throughout.  Most of that success is attributed to a story that seems to hold itself together between murders.  Ginny, the new girl in town is a part of the popular clique in the upscale academy school.  We know that she wasn’t always accepted in the past but now she has found friends who stay together in their unusual but yet functioning ways.  It’s a long way from the prairie in this town, and Ginny and her group are coping with the disappearances and deaths of clique members.  An inside job, maybe?  Keep guessing throughout as the film drops clues.  You may be surprised during the film’s climax as Ginny becomes the guest of honour at the most horrific 18th birthday party of all!


Anchor Bay has released this title with its original orchestral score.  The previous Columbia release a few years back had some disco music changes.  Thankfully the film now has its original haunting piano music.  There have also been some murmurings of an uncut version floating around back in the day when the film was on the Betamax rental shelf.  If it does exist, it’s possible that source material may not be that good for video release or could be lost or destroyed.  At this point in time, this is the most definitive version available on DVD.


VIDEO QUALITY: 2.5/5 http://www.hometheat...es/htf/star.gif"></span></span><span  style=1/2


The 1.85:1 image is respectable in its presentation.  While a minute amount of compression and DVD technology-related artefacts affect image quality, the limitations of the source is really what holds this movie back.  Black detail – especially during the film’s opening sequence – is undefined.  Images can be lost in darkness and displays with good black level detail won’t have much to show.  For the rest, it’s grey area.  Colour detail is ok and the image has that wonderful muted ‘80s feel.  Reds are brought out a little more than normal making them appear a bit exaggerated.  The image does not appear to have enhanced edges suggesting natural sharpness for a 480p DVD.  Grain is ever present which throws DVD compression for a bit of a ride but that’s very normal. Image depth can be surprisingly good.



AUDIO QUALITY: 2/5 http://www.hometheat...es/htf/star.gif"></span></span></span></strong><br />
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The Dolby 2.0 Surround was decoded by my Integra DTC-9.8 surround processor in Dolby Pro-Logix IIx Movie.  The front soundstage remained the most active but there were a few moments that spilled into the surrounds.  I didn’t make note of what specifically they were because it really didn’t add to the film’s drama.  The tonal quality of the recording is fair.  It’s not great in imaging nor in transparency, but the dialogue is acceptable.  I chose to listen to this movie with re-EQ off.  I felt that the film sounded too muffled with it on.




No LFE channel therefore no butt-tickling.





Just a theatrical trailer!




Not bad…that’s what I say.  It’s worth giving a spin if you can lay your knife on a copy.  Rumour has it that there is a new screenplay of this film on the cutting board – in 3-D too.  I did like My Bloody Valentine, so my guess is that if the same people are involved, we should see something interesting come of it.  In the meantime, light up the living room fire, warm up the shish-kabob skewers and carve yourself a little slice of birthday cake.


Michael Osadciw

October 03, 2009.
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Warner Bros. Blu-ray Reviewer
Anchor Bay/Starz Entertainment Blu-ray Reviewer

THX/ISF Professional Video Calibrator

#2 of 2 cineMANIAC



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Posted October 22 2009 - 02:29 AM

Thanks for the review - this is one of my all-time favs. I still can't believe this was directed by the same guy who made Guns of Navarone. He was also prolific at gritty action flicks throughout the 80's. Impressive resume!


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