When Shout! Factory revealed their initial lineup of movies licensed from Universal to be released on Blu-ray under the Scream! Factory label, many wondered if Prince of Darkness would eventually be included. Released on DVD twice previously by Universal as a bare bones disc, this new Scream! Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray includes not only a spiffy HD transfer, but also some terrific bonus materials (some new, some ported from the region 2 DVD release) to please any fan.
Distributed By: Shout! Factory
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Run Time: 1 Hr. 42 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/24/2013
Something strange and evil is happening in the City of Angels. The sun and moon are appearing almost simultaneously in the sky. Ants and cockroaches are swarming. When a priest dies clutching a box containing a key to a hidden doorway, another priest (Donald Pleasance) uses the key and finds a large vat of swirling green liquid with an indecipherable manuscript in the basement of the church. The priest invites Professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) and his class of physics students, led by Brian Marsh (Jameson Parker) to investigate and translate the manuscript. As the liquid begins to possess the students one by one, the team soon learns that the liquid is a sentient being, the son of Satan himself.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness was not only the director’s return to horror, but also to smaller, non-studio films, and marked the first of a two-picture deal with Alive Films (owned by Carolco) and Universal Pictures. Although Carpenter lost the big budgets he had worked with on previous films (Big Trouble In Little China, Starman, The Thing), he gained the creative freedom and control he had longed for since Escape From New York. Carpenter’s screenplay (credited to the fictional Martin Quatermass) attempts to combine quantum physics and Catholic doctrine, resulting in silly mumbo jumbo (that even Carpenter himself acknowledges in the bonus materials that he doesn’t completely understand). Prince of Darkness also allowed Carpenter to work with a number of actors he had worked with previously: Victor Wong (in one of his few non-comedic roles), Donald Pleasance, Dennis Dun (who gets some of the film's best lines), and the first collaboration with character actor Peter Jason.
It is interesting how time can change one’s opinion of a film. When I first saw Prince of Darkness during its brief theatrical run in 1987, I found it to be a slowly paced incomprehensible mess. Seeing it again for the first time over 25 years later, the film has grown on me. It’s still an incomprehensible mess, but it’s a fun mess of a movie, with some ridiculous dialogue and enough genuine cheap thrills to keep me entertained.
The 1080p transfer provided to Shout! Factory is, perhaps, the best Prince of Darkness has ever looked, including its theatrical run, retaining its intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Compressed using the AVC codec, colors are vibrant, well-saturated, and consistent. Blacks are inky and deep, and detail is excellent. Film grain is present, but never overly distracting. Some shots may appear distorted, but those are intentional, as the film was photographed with wide angle lenses and in anamorphic.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
Prince of Darkness has two audio options: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo. The latter replicates the films original Ultra*Stereo matrixed surround theatrical mix, while the 5.1 not only widens the soundstage slightly, it also keeps most of the dialogue directed to the center channel, and provides a much more deeper low-end for atmospheric effects and the synth score by Carpenter and Alan Howarth.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Carpenter and Actor Peter Jason: Ported over from the region 2 DVD release, Carpenter and Jason have a great time discussing the film.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Sympathy For The Devil: An Interview With John Carpenter (1080p, 10:28): Carpenter discusses many of the inspirations for the film.
Alice At The Apocalypse: An Interview With Alice Cooper (1080p, 9:27): The musician discusses how he managed to get cast as one the the leading homeless “zombies” in the film.
The Messenger: All New Interview With Actor & Special Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Grasmere (1080p, 12:41): Grasmere discusses how he ended up being cast in the film as Frank Wyndham, best known for the line “Hello. I have a message for you, and you’re not going to like it.”
Hell On Earth: A Look at the Film's Score with Co-Composer Alan Howarth (1080p, 10:15): Howarth explains how the scores for Carpenter’s films are created and recorded, and how he is involved in the process.
Alternate Opening from TV Version (1080p, 6:55): Upscaled from a VHS off-air recording (with the channel notification bug scrubbed out).
Horror’s Hallowed Ground (1080p, 13:44): Sean Clark takes viewers on a tour of some of the film’s locations.
Trailer and Radio Spots (2:48) The theatrical trailer appears to be upscaled from a 4:3 analog source, and is followed by two radio spots.
Stills Gallery (1080p, 4:27): A collection of various posters, promotional stills, and behind the scenes photos.
25th Anniversary Screening: Screamfest 2012 (1080p, 12:10): The Q & A session with John Carpenter prior to the screening at Screamfest 2012 is an easter egg that can be found on page 2 of the bonus menu.
Reversible Cover: Owners can choose between new cover art or the original poster art.
Prince of Darkness is a film that has grown on me since I first saw it in 1987, and finally gets a release on Blu-ray that is truly worthy of the title Collector’s Edition. Fans of both the film and John Carpenter will be very pleased.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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