Review: John Carpenter Restorations out on Blu-ray and 4K

Studiocanal is going to release some of director John Carpenter’s considerable back catalogue, including The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981), Prince of Darkness (1987) and They Live (1988).

These films will also get shown at UK cinemas over the next 7 days.

For more information visit: https://www.johncarpenter4k.co.uk/films


THE FOG (1980)

After the cult crime drama Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), followed by a massive breakout success of low-budget horror Halloween (1978), he came out with The Fog. A spooky film about sailors who use the weather to enact ghostly retribution for crimes past.

Whilst it doesn’t have full-bore intensity of his early work, it is notable for a cameo by John Houseman (mentor of Orson Welles) and the real life relationship of Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) and her mother Janet Leigh (Psycho), both performances are nice ironic nods to previous horror classics.


ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

One of the great cult films of its era, this futuristic tale of a dangerous criminal (Kurt Russell) forced by a prison commissioner (Lee Van Cleef) to rescue the US President (Donald Pleasance). Whilst the setting (1997) has long passed, some of the ideas leave their mark: Manhattan run as savage open prison; a police force run like the special forces; a city surrounded by an enormous wall.

This features some great production design by Joe Alves, and some notable actors in the cast: Harry Dean Stanton and Isaac  Hayes. Some of the set pieces are brilliantly arranged and a lot of burnt out New York was actually filmed in St. Louis, which had suffered a devastating fire. Carpenter and his team (including a young Jim Cameron) presented a chilling vision


PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)

One of the more underrated films of the Carpenter canon, this came after some perceived studio failures, The Thing (1982), Christine (1984) and Big Trouble in Little China (1986). Carpenter seemed determined to have his own vision back by teaming up with independent companies and the result was a chilling film about strange things going on in an abandoned LA church.

With scientists recruited by an old priest (Carpenter favourite Donald Pleasance) they seem baffled by the on set of an infectious green fluid, which leads to possession and demonic chaos. Perhaps some will dismiss this as hokum, as they did on first release – but this has interesting ideas complemented by some clever visuals.


THEY LIVE (1988)

The most ardently political film made by Carpenter was also his funniest. Featuring the wrestler Roddy Piper, this damning satire of Regan era was filled with inventive twists. Principally the idea that the ruling classes of America were ugly aliens controlling a blind public through hidden slogans. Only by wearing specially made sunglasses can he see the difference.

This might sound like hard work, but it is so shrewdly crafted and features some savage political humour, now especially pertinent in the era of Trump.  But it is also features some hilarious scenes, especially towards the climax. These four films represent some of the highlights of Carpenter’s career and to seem them remastered in 4K is a delight.

> More about John Carpenter at Wikipedia
> More about John Carpenter on 4K

DVD Pick: Escape From New York

Writer-director John Carpenter‘s smart, dystopian thriller Escape From New York was re-released on regular DVD and Blu-ray this week.

Made in 1981 it imagines a futuristic New York where crime has spiralled out of control to the point where Manhattan has been turned into a maximum security prison.

When Air Force One crashes over the island, the prison governor (Lee Van Cleef) recruits a notorious criminal named “Snake” Plissken (Kurt Russell) to go in and rescue the leader of the free world.

The major snag is that he has less than 24 hours to complete his mission and must survive in a completely lawless and hostile environment.

Although the premise stems from anxieties about New York that now seem dated, the film holds up remarkably well with the visuals, acting and a pulsating electronic score all adding to the mix.

The extras on both releases include:

  • Return to Escape from New York: A 23 minute featurette on the making of the film with interviews and insight from cast and crew.
  • John Carpenter Interview: A new and exclusive 30 minute interview with the writer-director about the film.
  • Snakes Crime: The deleted opening scene where Snake robs a federal bank.
  • Commentary: John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, which is highly engaging and informative.

There are also three theatrical trailers including this one:

The Blu-ray version is presented in 1080P 2.35:1 Widescreen (VC1) with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.

> Buy it on regular DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Escape from New York at the IMDb
> More information on the film at The Official John Carpenter site