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 & Blu-ray Picks: March 2015

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

  • Mr. Turner (Momentum Pictures)
  • Nightcrawler (Entertainment One)
  • They Live (StudioCanal)
  • Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (Universal Music)
  • Leviathan (Artificial Eye)
  • ’71 (StudioCanal)
  • The Imitation Game (StudioCanal)
  • Tales of Terror (Arrow Video)
  • The Raven (Arrow Video)
  • The Tales of Hoffman (StudioCanal)
  • Winter Sleep (New Wave) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Down By Law (Soda Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Night On Earth (Soda Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Mystery Train (Soda Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Stranger Than Paradise (Soda Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Rossellini Collection: The War Trilogy (BFI) Blu-ray / Limited Edition
  • Darling (StudioCanal) Blu-ray / 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Veep: The Complete Third Season (Warner Home Video/HBO) Blu-ray / Normal
  • The Grandmaster (Metrodome Distribution) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Sweet Smell of Success (Arrow Academy) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Wooden Crosses (Eureka) DVD / with Blu-ray – Double Play
  • Paddington (StudioCanal) Blu-ray / Normal
  • Interstellar (Warner Home Video) Blu-ray / Normal

> DVD & Blu-ray Picks for February 2015
> The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2014

John Carpenter on They Live

One of the most interesting films of the late 1980s was John Carpenter’s They Live.

After his amazing run of genre films in the late 70s and early 80s (from Assault On Precinct 13 until Escape From New York), his efforts at major studios seemd to lack the intensity of his early career.

But in 1988 he returned with a sci-fi horror film that was a chilling and darkly comic response to the dark side of Regan’s America.

The story of a wandering man (Roddy Piper) who discovers sinister forces secretly shaping society through advertising, it has a new relevance in these recessionary times.

Part of what makes the film so effective is that it wraps a subversive message within the form of an entertaining sci-fi thriller.

In fact, I would suggest that it is one of the most quietly subversive films ever released by a major studio and was possibly a big influence on The Matrix (1999).

Carpenter recently recorded this video introduction for the film for an upcoming screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas.

The cinema recently achieved internet fame by creating the greatest cinema advert ever and artist Shepard Fairey (an admirer of the movie) has even created a special Mondo poster for the screening.

> Buy They Live at Amazon UK
> They Live at IMDb
> John Carpenter and Shepard Fairey at Wikipedia
> More on the Alamo Drafthouse screening of They Live
> Shephard Fairey on They Live