Some films are ignored and mishandled in their own time but get a proper rehabilitation on home video. This is definitely true for The Burning, a slasher flick that suffered from heavy-handed MPAA tampering with its effects and an erratic theatrical release. It’s come a long way in the last few years, finally getting an uncut transfer from MGM that made it to DVD a while back. Scream Factory has added to its repertoire with an excellent blu-ray edition that is the best release of this title yet.
The anamorphic transfer was viewed on the blu-ray for this review and it looks great, with the bump in HD resolution enhancing the textures of summer camp locales and making the black levels nice and rich during the night exteriors. The audio portion of this transfer sticks with the original mono mix but it gets a lossless presentation that really adds oomph to Rick Wakeman’s wild synthesizer score – all the buzzing low notes and swooping sting effects pack a visceral punch.
Those who didn’t get the MGM DVD of this title will be happy to hear all its extras are preserved here. First up is a commentary track that pairs director Tony Maylam with UK horror press journalist Alan Jones. Maylam offers a journeyman’s perspective on his work, including a frank assessment of the film’s development process and his thoughts on the cast and the production. He’s surprisingly critical of his work at times, particularly the finale. Jones does a good job of keeping the topics flowing and striking a conversational tone with Maylam that makes for a smooth listen.
Also carried over from the MGM disc is “Blood And Fire Memories,” an interview featurette featuring Tom Savini. It was helmed by Michael Felsher, who gets plenty of good commentary from Savini. Topics covered include how the various effects were achieved, Savini’s fond memories of his work on the slasher boom and even a little bit of the behind-the-scenes politics that went on in the editing phase. Felsher layers the narrative with plenty of film clips and behind the scenes footage, making it a very engaging piece. The behind-the-scenes footage used in this piece is also available as its own supplement: it was shot by Savini and shows him masterminding a few effects plus some footage of the film’s big fire stunt.
Scream Factory adds a nice selection of new special features that more than double the total amount of extras. The new stuff begins with a commentary track featuring cast members Bonnie Deroski and Shelley Bruce, moderated by Edwin Samuelson. They were featured campers in the film and are thus able to offer a particular insight into what the set was like, how the production ran and what it is like to discover that the little film you did a few decades ago has acquired a cult following. Samuelson does a good job of keeping the two focused and leading them though a variety of questions to keep the track fresh. It’s a relaxed yet informative track and Bruce offers some surprisingly thoughtful appreciations of the film and its fans.
There are also a trio of new interview featurettes from Red Shirt Pictures, all edited by Michael Felsher. “Summer Camp Nightmares” focuses on Leah Ayres, who reveals how acting was a side-career to her work as a dancer and talks about how unusual it was for a non-horror person like herself to be working on a horror film. “Cropsy Speaks!” offers a relaxed chat with Lou David, who played the film’s killer. As is often the case with people who play killers and monsters in movies, he’s charming and low-key as he recalls what scenes he worked in, what Savini’s makeup was like and even a nice little tale about how his son was born around the time of the shoot. The last is “Slash And Cut,” which is an interview with editor (and future director) Jack Sholder. He discusses his background as an editor for New Line Cinema, how he didn’t have a horror fan background and how the lessons he learned on The Burning informed his work on his own film Alone In The Dark.
The package is rounded out by a series of promotional materials. There are two click-through image galleries, one dealing with stills and promo art and the other offering a variety of behind-the-scenes photos dealing with the makeup effects. The cherry atop this sundae of slash is the inclusion of the film’s script as a DVD-ROM option.
In short, this is the full-blown special edition of The Burning that slasher movie fans have been waiting for. This little gem has come a long way in the world of home video – and Scream Factory has given it its finest treatment thus far.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of The Burning, click here.