Considering the vast library that Stephen King has penned over the years, it’s no surprise that the filmography based upon his works is just as robust. But despite his popularity, there’s still a handful of his adaptations that haven’t made the proper upgrade to high def. Thankfully, Warner Brothers has heard us and rectified that with three brand new Blu-Ray releases. Out now, you can find Blu-Rays of CAT’S EYE, SALEM’S LOT and IT! (More on where to actually find them in a bit.)
You won’t find a more loyal consumer than the horror fan, so no doubt, a lot of you out there already have purchased one of the above, or all three, in some form or another whether it be VHS, DVD, etc. So, do you really need to upgrade yet again? The short answer is yes.
The only vague memory I have of CAT’S EYE involves a tiny troll, a cat and little Drew Barrymore. It’d been years since I’ve seen it, but both my Shock Waves co-hosts, Ryan Turek and Elric Kane, have both recently revisited it and piqued my curiosity. Sure enough, it’s actually far better, and more fun than I recall. An anthology with 3 King-scripted stories, it opens with our main cat leading us from segment to segment. He’s chased by Cujo into the street and just narrowly escapes the wheels of Christine. Yep, some fun King cameos are crammed right into the opening to truly thrust us into the world of the master of horror!
“Quitters, Inc” is the first sequence, fronted by James Woods, in which he’s a smoking addict that joins a group that will go to extremes to ensure you truly quit the nasty habit! A gambler taking things to the edge and forces AIRPLANE’s Robert Hays out onto “The Ledge” in the 2nd segment. And finally, the cat takes front and center to defend Drew Barrymore from a venomous troll in “The General.” As a kid, the troll segment is what stood out and now in retrospect, that makes total sense. It is, by far, the most kid friendly of the 3 stories. But now, that’s also what makes it the weakest in an otherwise rather adult affair. I still absolute love it and I feel it embodies everything that made me fall in love with King’s brand of horror as a kid. But I can now appreciate the more adult themes of the first two segments, as well as the entire movie as a whole. At the helm is Lewis Teague, who also directed CUJO and ALLIGATOR, so you’ve got a seasoned horror filmmaker doing a good job of adapting King’s work. This one’s going to be a Halloween season rediscovery for a lot of people.
No doubt, if you saw SALEM’S LOT the way I did, which was at far too young an age on either TV or VHS, then there are a few moments that have probably periodically haunted your dreams ever since. For one, the infected vampire kid Ralphie Click tapping on the window of his brother’s bedroom in the middle of the night. Second, pretty much any scene where we see Reggie Nalder as Kurt Barlow, the Nosferatu-like vampire. Brrrr…
Ben Mears (David Soul) is a writer that moves into Salem’s Lot at the same time as it’s mysterious new resident Kurt Barlow, that no one has actually ever met. But sure enough, Barlow is a vampire feeding on the townspeople. This one was directed by none other than TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE co-creator Tobe Hooper, and remains one of his strongest works, at least in terms of nightmare inducing imagery. Presented on this Blu is the 183 minute mini-series in its entirety. It’s a bit of a slog if you watch it all in one sitting, since it wasn’t intended to be seen that way, but when Barlow appears on screen, it’s as terrifying now in high-def as it’s ever been! Also, very few horror movies can capture horror atmosphere as well as this film manages to. Although not set during Halloween, the Halloween spirit is all over this thing.
STEPHEN KING’S IT
Confession: I had taped the mini-series IT when it originally aired on television and every day, when I got home from school, I would watch the first half that told the story of the kids. For a while there, I had just about every line of the showdown between “the Loser’s club” versus IT completely memorized. So needless to say, I love this movie and it holds a special place in my heart. Although I’ve always loved it, it’d been years since I’ve seen it, and I’m OK with the upcoming remake. In fact, I’m quite excited by the prospect of this generation’s IT, especially in light of the huge success of STRANGER THINGS, which played like a long lost late 80’s King novel. How does it hold up in high def? Pretty good. It’s not great. The second half with the adults suffers a bit of losing all the mystery around the mythology that the first half builds, but all the child actors are terrific, and Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise The Dancing Clown is the stuff of nightmares. The plot is about 7 kids that find each other through fate during a summer when an entity is feeding off of the towns children. Together, they fight and attempt to kill IT, but make a pact that if IT ever comes back, they’ll return to finish the job. 30 years later, IT’s back, and now they have to make good on their promise.
So is it worth the upgrade? Yes. The film has never looked better than it does on Blu, and if anything, I’m extremely impressed in the filmmaking craft of director Tommy Lee Wallace, most well-known for HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH and FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2. A lot of the filmmaking tricks he employs are more obvious, now that I’m watching this with adult eyes. And considering how dense and rich the novel is, I’m amazed they were able to restructure it to fit in this mini-series format. That said, I can’t wait for the new movie. But until then, I’m happy to finally have the original IT mini-series on Blu!
Now comes the big question. Where the hell can you find these discs?! That’s a very good question, considering how much retail has changed over the last few years. Like most of you out there, I’m relegated to mostly purchasing things online, and in particular on Amazon.com. But alas, for whatever reason, Amazon was one of the only retailers not carrying these titles. Up until a few days ago, there weren’t even listings on their site, except for a $42 dollar collector’s edition of IT, which comes with a t-shirt. So what gives? After several emails, no one at Warners returned my inquiry, but after a bit of research, I’ve found you can buy them from several places. First, Warner Brothers direct at: WBshop.com. Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and FYE are a few other spots that have them listed on their sites. I’d recommend calling in advance to check if the store nearest you physically has it in stock. Listings have finally popped up on Amazon, with a tentative release of November 4th penciled in. But who can wait that long when you know they’re out there?!
Regardless, with the Halloween season already upon us, I can’t recommend these Stephen King titles enough. They’re worth the thrill of the hunt!