3 John Carpenters from across the pond

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Lyle_JP, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. Lyle_JP

    Lyle_JP Screenwriter

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    I just received my DVDs of John Carpenter's Starman, Prince of Darkness, and They Live from Amazon.uk.co, and here are my impressions. I will discuss the three audio commentaries at the end of the post.

    First, I'll talk about Momentum video's Prince of Darkness. The video quality is quite good. It looks very similar to the Image DVD, but less noisy and grainy. Colors and brightness levels look right for this film. The sound quality, while still 2.0 stereo, is improved, with deeper, punchier bass. Dialog is easy to understand. It has not been pitch-corrected for PAL speedup. The only video extra is the film's creepy and cool trailer, enhanced for 16:9.

    Momentum also released They Live. This one has problems. The sound quality is identical to the Image disc (other than the PAL speedup, of course), but the aspect ratio is wonky. The film starts out with the proper 2.35:1, even moderately windowboxed to accommodate the titles. But once the last title has flashed on the screen, the picture then goes to a cropped 2.1:1. If you have either the Image or Universal discs, don't get rid of them when you buy this one. The only video extra is a promotional "behind the scenes" fluff piece.

    Finally, there is Columbia/Tri-Star's Starman Special Edition. This disc sports a new 5.1 mix, which is a minor improvement, but by no means a revelation. Mostly, it sounds like the 2.0 mix was fed through a Pro-Logic IIx decoder. There aren't really any split-surround effects to speak of, but the score has much more of a presence in the surrounds compared to the 2.0 mix, and the bass has been enhanced, but never sounds like it's too much.

    The picture on this one compared to the R1 disc is a mixed bag. There is significantly more detail and color in the picture, but there really is no such thing as black, just dark grey, which stands out against the truly black letterbox bars. I would say that this does look more pleasing than the R1 disc, but it would look better if it were darker. There are two video supplements here. One is a better-than-average promotional "behind the scenes" fluff piece. There is also a music video of Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges performing "All I Have to do is Dream". It's the kind of thing you will only watch once in your life, trust me.

    Of course, the real appeal of all three of these discs is the audio commentaries. John Carpenter is legendary for giving "good commentary" (we'll forgive him for his "In the Mouth of Madness" snore-fest for now), and these three discs do not disappoint. In each one he has paired himself with an actor from each film. Surprisingly, the best of the three is his PoD commentary with Peter Jason. Carpenter has used this character actor in several of his films, so they're old friends and Carpenter is comfortable and relaxed, and even a little self-deprecating, which is always fun. This commentary reminded me of the beloved ones he has done with Kurt Russel.

    With the other two commentaries (where he is paired with Roddy Piper on "They Live" and Jeff Bridges on "Starman"), he is sharing a commentary with someone he has not seen or worked with in over a decade, and the feel is very different. These commentaries had a similar feel to the one he did for "Christine": informative, but not quite as fun. Still, they are excellent additions to your Carpenter Commentary Collections! [​IMG]

    There is one oddity I noticed. Clearly, both the PoD and They Live commentaries were recorded while Carpenter and guest were watching a PAL-sourced video, as there is no evidence that the voices have been sped up. This makes sense since Kinowelt (a German video company) originally produced these commentaries. In fact, Carpenter mentions on They Live that they are looking at "French titles" during the opening scene, although we see the familiar English titles on the Momentum disc.

    However, the Starman commentary is quite clearly sped-up for PAL. One can only assume that Columbia/Tri-Star originally recorded this commentary for an American special edition DVD (probably around the same time they did Christine), but for some reason, it never got released here. Maybe there are rights issues with the music video. Who knows?

    Bottom line: Get these discs for the commentaries. The other supplements are not worth replacing your current discs, and with the exception of Starman (which is a toss-up), there is no significant improvement in picture or sound.

    -Lyle J.P.
     
  2. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Have had They Live for ages. Roddy Piper is outstanding as an actor in this one
     
  3. Mike_Richardson

    Mike_Richardson Supporting Actor

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    They may not be worth replacing with the R1s for picture & sound, but keep in mind the Momentum DVDs pre-dated the remastered Region 1 discs by many months (over a year I believe). Thus, a lot of out-of-region folks have them in their libraries because of it.

    STARMAN will undoubtedly be re-issued here in time. That disc is relatively new, at least in relation to the Momentum discs. Sony is probably waiting to clear out all the remaining copies of the older STARMAN DVD (it's in bargain bins at Walmart and has been for months), then they'll get around to it. There aren't many Columbia "Special Editions" available around the world that aren't here as well.
     
  4. Lyle_JP

    Lyle_JP Screenwriter

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    I have never seen the new remasters from Universal. I was comparing the Momentum discs to the Image DVDs, which date back to the DVD format's beginning, and "They Live" still doesn't measure up, while Prince of Darkness manages a very minor inprovement. I have dumped my Image "Prince of Darkness", but I am holding on tight to my Image "They Live". The aspect ratio issues with the Momentum disc relegate it to "commentary only" status in terms of playback in my library.

    -Lyle J.P.
     

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