Halloween comes early


I cannot remember the first time I watched John Carpenter’s Halloween (1979), in fact I have lost count how many times I have watched this film. Obviously it is compulsory viewing on October 31st but, for me, it still holds up well after countless viewings. I recall purchasing Halloween on VHS in the early nineties on the 4Front label. The transfer was dark and atrociously panned and scanned. I remember purchasing the first American DVD release of Halloween on the Anchor Bay label and being amazed at the difference between the compromised pan and scan version and the full anamorphic widescreen frame. I then replaced this version with the two disc limited edition release, also by the enterprising American Anchor Bay label. This version was even better as it included a cut of the film containing scenes that were shot especially for a television the film as well as having a cool holographic cover. Some years later I purchased the Anchor Bay UK ‘Divimax‘ release since it had a Carpenter audio commentary that was not present on any other release. So, by my calculations, it is a film that I have purchased four times and currently own two releases of.

That number now needs to be changed to five as when I arrived home this afternoon I found the Anchor Bay/Starz Blu-Ray release waiting for me on the porch floor along with Dawn of the Dead (1978). I had intended to wait until October 31st to watch this film but it was a temptation that I just could not resist. Initial reports on this disc have been more that favourable apart from one which has generated a minor ripple amongst the fan community. High-Def Digest, who are somewhat known for their inclement reviews of HD discs, gave the video a one out of five score in their recent review. This is not because of the visual quality of the transfer but because it does not feature the exact colour timing of the original print. There have been some screen grabs posted on several forums that confirm this oversight. But this does not necessarily mean that it is worthy of such a low score.

So this transfer may be in some way compromised for some but for a low budget film that is over twenty-five years old this is some achievement. The AVC encoded transfer presents so much detail. Even though I have seen the film numerous times there were occasions when it felt like I was watching a brand new film, there were so many things that I had not noticed before. Obviously this will never be a perfect transfer but this is probably about as good as Halloween will ever look . This will be a title that will persuade many horror fans to take the plunge and buy a PS3 or a Blu-Ray player. Providing that are not too concerned about the colour timing issue that will be very pleased with the results. Another added bonus is that the disc is region free meaning that it can be played on Blu-Ray players worldwide. The special features are identical to the Divimax SD-DVD release, it would have been nice to have seen the 25 Years of Terror documentary included as an extra to make this release even more desirable. The audio options are plentiful and for once the original audio track is included in addition to the PCM uncompressed 5.1 track.

Halloween is by far my favourite Blu-Ray release and will definitely be watched again on Halloween night. It has rekindled my interest in producing a monograph on this film. Perhaps this may finally come to fruition in the near future.

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