HTF REVIEW: "Gremlins" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Aug 5, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Gremins Special Edition

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1984
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 106 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)

    Don't get him wet, keep him out of bright
    light, and never feed him after midnight.

    In 1984, I was in my early twenties and a manager
    at a local movie theater. Talk about great job!
    My first day on the job ended with an early
    sneak employee showing of a new film called
    Gremlins. To this day, I can still remember
    the excitement that followed this viewing. I felt
    as if I had just seen something incredible. Seems
    that many others shared my opinion of this devilishly
    dark and humorous romp as it has become an absolute
    classic that never tires of repeated viewings.
    Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is an amateur inventor
    who peddles his newest gadgetry that never seems
    to quite work right. While visiting a shop in
    Chinatown, Peltzer discovers a creature in the
    corner of the shop. He takes this creature home
    and presents it as a Christmas gift for his son
    Billy (Zach Galligan). The creature, named Gizmo,
    is a "Mogwai" and is utterly cute and adorable.
    Billy's father warns him not to get Gizmo wet,
    expose him to bright light or feed him after midnight.
    Such responsibility for a young Man. Billy carelessly
    allows the neighborhood kid (Corey Feldman)to spill
    a glass of water on ol' Gizmo. Soon comes the
    realization that exposing Mogwais to water makes
    them reproduce. Before he knows it he's surrounded
    by five more of the damned things.
    It's only a matter of time before they trick Billy
    into feeding them after the forbidden hour. They then
    go into pods and emerge several days later as gremlins
    and set out to destroy the sleepy town of Kingston
    Falls. Now its up to Billy and his girlfriend Kate
    (Phoebe Cates) to round up the Gremlins and restore
    order to the town.
    A tribute the 1950s matinee genre, Gremlins
    never lets up in action nor suspense. It has
    touches of horror and violence that will cause
    some parents to cringe, but retains a tremendous
    feel of magic and innocence thanks to the influence
    of Producer Steven Spielberg. What more fun can
    there be than watching slimy creatures break dance
    to cheesy music and sing along to Snow White and
    the Seven Dwarfs?
    How is the transfer?
    A little bit of history here. Gremlins
    was originally released to DVD in 1997 during the
    format's infancy. It was a time when the studios
    were taking catalog product that was in poor
    condition and just throwing out to the masses.
    The original DVD transfer of Gremlins was
    piss poor. In fact, I wanted to remind myself just
    how bad it was, so for old time sake I popped it
    in my DVD player. From the opening Warner logo,
    you can see the nasty scratches and dirt that plagued
    the print. The very first scene of a street in
    Chinatown looks awfully murky with smeared reds.
    I suggest that everyone who owns the original
    DVD release to watch the first 5 minutes of it just
    so you can appreciate what you are about to see...
    This new transfer of Gremlins is like day
    and night to the old. From the moment the Warner
    logo appears, you can see how clean the print looks.
    Gone are the scratches. Gone is the dirt. The
    transfer looks smooth. As you find yourself watching
    that familiar Chinatown street, it suddenly doesn't
    look as familiar anymore. Gone is the smearing.
    Picture looks sharper, detailed and far more color
    balanced with rock solid black levels. The film grain
    that was so abundantly clear in the original transfer
    is now gone. Colors are much more vivid -- especially
    when set against the snowy white background of
    Kingston Falls.
    The only problem I saw is the slight change of
    quality 5 minutes into the film as we go into
    the title sequence. There you can see dirt in
    the snowy white scenes. You should realize from
    past experience, catalog title sequences never look
    very good, and once Joe Dante's name appears in the
    opening credits, the film returns to looking pristine.
    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is delightful. The
    front soundstage is quite robust full with distinct
    stereo separation. Even the tiniest sounds can be
    heard thanks to the fact there is no background hiss.
    The rears play the most important part of this
    mix by not only supporting Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful
    score, but adding a funhouse effect to all the
    crazy action that takes place on screen. You never
    quite know what direction sound is going to
    come from next as the rears provide the effect laughs
    of the Gremlins and all the sounds of chaos
    they create. The famous bar scene will give you
    a front row seat to the surrounding whirring and
    crashing noises caused by the drunken creatures.
    A very active and highly entertaining mix.
    Special Features
    With a new Special Edition of Gremlins,
    you would have hoped that the studio would have
    done something creative with the Main Menu. Not
    here. The menu is plainly dull, with the film's
    rag score playing in the background.
    There are two Feature-length commentaries
    included on this DVD. The first is with Director
    Joe Dante, Phoebe Cates, Zach Galligan, Dick Miller
    and Howie Mandel (the voice of Gizmo). The second
    is with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell
    and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas.
    This is the kind of stuff I love watching but
    never knew existed. An original 1983 Featurette
    that takes us on the set of Gremlins. As the
    featurette begins, Director Joe Dante takes us on
    a tour of the Chinatown set (actually built in
    Burbank). Hoyt Axton carefully describes the plot
    of the film without giving away any secrets as does
    a very young Steven Spielberg. We watch the cameras
    roll across the Chinatown set as well as a department
    store set where actor Zach Galligan describes the
    chaos that is about to ensue. Gremlins Designer
    Chris Walas describes how tedious his task was in
    making this film as his creations are active for
    most of the film's running time. The beautiful
    young Phoebe Cates describes how carried away she
    got in her role, often being scared by the Gremlin
    creatures. This short featurette blows away those
    other DVD "fluff" pieces that are often 3 times as
    long, simply for the fact we see the actors on the
    set, acting naturally, without trying to promote
    a film.
    (length: approx. 6 minutes)
    Three trailers are provided on this disc.
    First is the original theatrical trailer. Next is
    the reissue trailer. Finally, the trailer for
    Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
    There are over 10 minutes of never-before-seen
    footage that is looped into one continuous play.
    These additional scenes include:
    * Randall Peltzer's initial entry into the
    China man's shop, meeting a sales lady at the
    counter, and telling her he is looking for a
    gift for his son. She proceeds to show him
    all sorts of little trinkets that he finds no
    interest in.
    * Billy being taken into the bank President's
    office to be lectured, much to the amusement of
    Gerald (Judge Reinhold).
    * An introduction to Billy's room upstairs,
    which was shot to establish its location in
    the home.
    * Billy shaking hands with the Reverend who is
    about to mail a few letters.
    * Does Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday) have a
    dastardly plan in store for the town? Billy
    and Kate stumble upon some secret plans in
    the bank's back office.
    * A gag involving carolers and a gremlin was
    ultimately cut.
    * A scene explaining how Mr. Futterman (Dick
    Miller) lost his job at the noodle factory.
    * Gerald gets locked in the vault and Billy
    and Kate find him.
    These scenes can be viewed with or without the
    aid of audio commentary. I found the commentary
    to be interesting -- especially the fact that
    actors Zach Galligan and Phoebe Kates did not
    remember most of these scenes ever being shot.
    There is a wonderful photo gallery of
    cute pictures of Gizmo, as well as the diabolical
    Gremlins playing amidst Director Joe Dante. Some
    nice candid shots of both Dante and Spielberg on
    the set, as well as cast members clowning around.
    There are also a few storyboards included.
    Unfortunately, there seems to be less than 3
    dozen pictures and it makes you kind of yearn
    for more.
    There is a very nice cast and crew filmography
    that gives a little history of each person rather
    than just listing their film credits. Reading
    Phoebe Cate's biography, it was interesting to see
    she was originally turned down for the part because
    of her image of playing 'bad girl' roles. She
    wanted to be a dancer, but a knee injury ended that
    Behind The Scenes is simply pages of text
    that give you background on the creation of
    Gremlins, that was the idea of screenwriter
    Chris Columbus. The rest of the text just glosses
    over general information about the actors, the
    effects creators and composer Jerry Goldsmith.
    Final Thoughts
    This new transfer alone is the reason why owners
    of the original Gremlins DVD should immediately
    buy this new Special Edition and give their old copy
    to an enemy.
    What more can be said about Gremlins?
    This was certainly Director Joe Dante's greatest
    success, and serves as an reminder of how inventive
    and cool blockbusters seemed when you were a child.
    Release Date: August 20, 2002
  2. Chuck West

    Chuck West Stunt Coordinator

    Jul 21, 2002
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    This is one of those films I watched over and over again as a kid, and at 26 I still love it. Thanks for the review Ron! [​IMG]
  3. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    must ... not ... buy ... this ... one...
    okay I will, but seriously Ron I was not going to buy this one until I read your review. Perhaps I will also get the sequel as well. So little money, so little time
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
  4. Rich Romero

    Rich Romero Supporting Actor

    Jun 6, 2002
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    I'll be buying it, no doubt.
  5. PhilipG

    PhilipG Cinematographer

    Jan 13, 2000
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    Gremlins was actually the first film I bought on VHS, in 1985 or thereabouts. It came in an oversized plastic case, and was so old there was a betamax logo on the spine (obscured by a sticker). Amazingly the film was presented in widescreen too. I knew little about OAR back then... but when the pan/scam TV version eventually screened, I remember thinking to myself "there's something wrong with that picture, it's too cramped". Ah, nostalgia! [​IMG]
    I shall be picking up the SE DVD. Thanks for the review, Ron! [​IMG]
  6. Rob T

    Rob T Screenwriter

    Aug 26, 2001
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    I'll be getting this and the sequel for sure! [​IMG]
  7. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

    Apr 25, 2000
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    Manchester, England
    Real Name:
    Steve Christou
    Nice review Ron, the only thing missing from this SE is a new 'making of' documentary, but never mind its still a must buy, I prefer it to the mad hellzapoppin' sequel.

    "Don't see this if you still believe in Santa Claus." Roger Ebert
  8. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

    Jun 21, 2000
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    I was really pumped up for this one...and now I am even more-so. August 20th can't coem any sooner!
  9. Will K

    Will K Screenwriter

    Feb 6, 2001
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    Yep, that first DVD was absolutely dreadful. This one's got me drooling in anticipation! This and G2.
  10. Matthew Chmiel

    Matthew Chmiel Cinematographer

    Apr 26, 2000
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    I can't wait for this DVD. Same goes for the sequel.
    August 20th is going to be the greatest day for DVDs ever (remember Van Wilder comes out that day too [​IMG]).
    Is it me, or do the menus look a lot like the menus on the first DVD release of the film? [​IMG]
  11. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
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    I been waiting for this review for a month...and I happy to read it too. I going to buy both Gremlins movies once they hit the street and be watching back to back. ^^
  12. Inspector Hammer!

    Inspector Hammer! Executive Producer

    Mar 15, 1999
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    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    John Williamson
    One of the very first films my father ever took me to see when I was a kid, saw it for the first time on my 12th birthday in fact as a presant. It's a real Norman Rockwell memory for me you see. [​IMG]
    Gizmo is, was, and always will be, the most adorable creature ever created for the movies! I guess you've already figured out that 'm picking this up, [​IMG]
    Great review Ron! [​IMG]
    Just let me at that cast commentary!! I havn't been this excited to listen to a commentary track since The Goonies!
  13. Gary W. Graley

    Gary W. Graley Second Unit

    Feb 9, 2001
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    Surprised to see the current release for sale at for more than the Special Edition?
    How does that work...?
    ps waiting on this one as well! [​IMG]
  14. Bruce Hedtke

    Bruce Hedtke Cinematographer

    Jul 11, 1999
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    I am so there. A revisit to these childhood favorites is welcome indeed. Thanks for the splendid review, Ron.


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