John Carpenter 4K Restorations Feature Review

For me John Carpenter is one of the greatest directors that ever lived. An auteur responsible for not only the direction but the script the story and music on many marvellous movies including the best remake ever made with his take on The Thing. Carpenter is also able to turn his hand to any genre and he has created countless pieces of iconic imagery from Michael Myers stalking teens on Halloween to Jack Burton hilariously bumbling about during some big trouble in little China.

John Carpenter has maintained his place as one of the most loved and highly lauded directors in the realm of cult, fantasy and horror filmmaking for over 40 years. From the moment that Halloween broke through to audiences worldwide in 1978, Carpenter has created some of the most intense, imaginative, influential and successful films in cinema history.

To celebrate the work of the master of ‘80s sci-fi, fantasy and horror, John Carpenter, StudioCanal has brought out brand new 4k restorations of four of his most iconic titles: The Fog, They Live, Escape from New York and Prince of Darkness. All four brand new 4k restorations were done using the original camera negatives, with the colour grading approved for the new restorations and UHD versions by the films’ Cinematographers: Gary B Kibbe and Dean Cundey.

They also brought the films back to the big screen with The Fog receiving its restoration premiere at The London Film Festival in October and They Live and Prince of Darkness screening as a precursor to the big Halloween one-night special of The Fog which took place across the country. Lastly Escape from New York was also screened for one day only in November completing the Carpenter screenings all of which were hugely well received and attended.

Celebrated UK based artist Matt Ferguson has created exclusive brand-new artwork for each film and audiences will be able to appreciate the new 4k restorations at home when all films, complete with new brand new and ‘best of’ extras material, are released across Home Entertainment platforms including UHD for the very first time. A very special, 4-disc Collector’s Edition will be available that will also include a copy of the film’s seminal soundtrack composed and performed by Carpenter himself.

Check out the trailer for the brilliant releases:

Below is our full review of the Blu-ray special features.

The Fog (1980)
HE Release: October 29th
Plot: Antonio Bay, California has turned a hundred years old and is getting ready to celebrate its centennial year. But as the residents of the tightknit community begin to prepare for the festivities, a mysterious cloud of fog appears upon the shore and begins to creep its way across the town, leaving a trail of horrifying slaughter that hints at a deep, blood-soaked secret from its past.

Special Features: On the main disc there two brilliant audio commentaries with John Carpenter and writer and producer Debra Hill taking you through the terrifying film on one and actors Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins and production designer Tommy Lee Wallace doing the same on another.

A great set of Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots and Outtakes is accompanied by Photo Gallery including Behind the scenes pictures many will never have seen and The Fog storyboard to Film featurette which offers up a basic comparison between the original; art work and finished product.

John Carpenter himself not only provides an intro but also an in depth Scene analysis on Reel 9 the famous scene where the truck gets stuck and our fear filled heroes attempt to escape the malevolent beings emerging from The Fog.

Horrors Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark is a great little trip around the many amazing locations of the movie with Clark visiting many places fans will instantly recognise. The two smaller featurettes give us interviews from way back with everyone involved in Fear on Film: Inside the Fog and a very interesting delve into a collection of unmade Carpenter movies The Shape of the Thing to Come: John Carpenter Unfilmed. Looking at the many projects he was involved in during his career from Firestarter, Philadelphia Experiment to a remake of the 1992 Creature from Black Lagoon it shows what might have been had his career gone a different direction.

Last but by no means least is Retribution: Uncovering John Carpenter’s The Fog a mammoth brand new 44 min feature with masses of footage and facts on The Fog that will entertain and educate in equal measure.

Escape from New York (1981)
HE Release: November 26th
Plot: The year is 1997 and in a police state future the island of Manhattan has been turned into a maximum-security prison. The rules are simple: once you’re in, you don’t come out. But when the United States president (Donald Pleasance) crash lands an escape pod into the centre of the city after fleeing a hijacked plane, a ruthless prison warden (Lee Van Cleef) bribes ex-soldier and criminal Snake Plisskin (Kurt Russell) into entering the hazardous Manhattan and rescuing the stranded President from the twisted underworld and the demented clutches of its criminal overlord The Duke (Isaac Hayes).

Special Features: Starting with Photo Gallery with Behind the scenes pictures and the Original Trailer Escape from New York also comes with the legendary alternate opening a Deleted Scene named Snakes Crime which can be viewed with or without Audio Commentary. This 10 minute original opening will be a surprise to many who may have never even knew it existed.

Following on are two smaller featurettes one an interview with actor Joe Unger who played Snake’s side kick in the deleted scenes previously mentioned entitled I am Taylor and the other a fascinating look at on the many Visual Effects in the film called Big Challenges in Little Manhattan.

One of Carpenters most iconic characters Snake gets his own featurette in Snake Pliskin Man of Honour while a brand new feature running just under an hour goes into great detail on the making of the movie and more perfectly titled Purgatory: Entering John Carpenters Escape from New York.

Lastly we have a trio of brilliant Audio Commentaries with Producer Debra Hill and Production Design Joe Alves, Actress Adrienne Barbeau and Director of Photography Dead Cundey and best of all Snake himself Actor Kurt Russell chatting alongside John Carpenter making Escape from New York a Blu-ray you won’t want to escape from.

Prince of Darkness (1987)
HE Release: November 26th (Steel-book Oct 29th)
Plot: Deep in the basement of an abandoned church, once run by a sinister religious sect, lies a strange bottle of green liquid being investigated by a group of local theoretic physics students. But as the night draws on the students soon realise that the strange relic holds a dark and powerful force beyond their control. A force that could well be the essence of pure evil: the remains of Satan himself. Starring Donald Pleasance, Jameson Parker and Jason Wong.

Special Features: One of Carpenters lesser known movies there is still plenty to talk about on this great release and the man himself provides not only an intro and Audio Commentary with actor Peter Jason but an excellent Scene analysis on the chaotic climax of the masterful movie.

The behind the scenes photo gallery, Radio Spots and Theatrical Trailer are accompanied by an interview with Carpenter about influences of the film called Sympathy for the Devil and Sean Clark’s Horrors Hallowed Grounds take us through the many and varied locations of Prince of Darkness for a deeper look.

Last up Malevolent: Unearthing John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness is the newest addition to the release and gives plenty of background on the film in its 30 minute running time proving why Prince of Darkness is classic Carpenter even if it is more unknown than his more major movies.

 

They Live (1988)
HE Release: October 29th
Plot: WWF wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper plays John Nada, a homeless, unemployed construction worker who discovers a pair of sunglasses that when worn suddenly reveal a world run by yuppie aliens intent on keeping the human race brainwashed and sedate with subliminal messages fed through advertising and the media. Luckily for us all John Nada is a man of action and so begins the fight-back (including perhaps the longest fistfight in cinema’s history) to save humankind.

Special Features: The final Blu-ray of the bunch the extras are by no means any different and with the Original EPK: The Making of They Live alongside profiles of John Carpenter, actress Meg Foster and the brilliant Roddy Piper all filmed around the initial release we get a real taste of the time the movie was made.

The TV Spots and photo gallery come along with some wonderful interviews including a talk with Meg Foster called Women of Mystery and another with Keith David named Man vs Aliens. Added to this Carpenter himself not only gets interviewed in Independent Thoughts but takes part in a great Audio Commentary with star Roddy Piper which is as fun and crazy as you can imagine.

Most interesting of all to myself was the complete Fake Commercials from the film which have been reconstructed in full giving you a chance to see them properly rather than the brief glimpse you get in the movie. To complete the package is a brand new 47 minute feature Subversion: Exposing John Carpenter’s They Live which like all the other new content is wonderfully well done and immensely in-depth just what you want if you are a John Carpenter fan.

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