It has tak­en Curtains a long time to build its rep­u­ta­tion as a cult favorite in hor­ror fan­dom cir­cles. A big rea­son behind this slow build is that all past video ver­sions of this film have been hard on the eyes.  The orig­i­nal Vestron VHS was a dingy, dark eye­sore and the dupes that have popped up in cheap-o hor­ror DVD col­lec­tions seem to have been drawn from the same crum­my mas­ter.  Thankfully, Synapse has picked up the gauntlet to restore this title — and the results are mag­ic for fans of ‘80s hor­ror.

Curtains-bluThe cen­ter­piece of the set is a fan­tas­tic new HD trans­fer drawn from the orig­i­nal ele­ments.  The lev­el of fine detail is eye-pop­ping, the col­or palet­te is lav­ish and the over­all image qual­i­ty has a rich, cel­lu­loid look that pre­serves the film’s glossy look with­out ever allow­ing to get too grainy or too slick.

The orig­i­nal mono mix is pre­sent­ed in loss­less form with this trans­fer as well as a new 5.1 stereo remix.  The lat­ter was uti­lized for this review and is a taste­ful­ly done, immer­sive affair that draws out Paul Zaza’s musi­cal score and some choice sound effects with­out ever going to arti­fi­cial lengths to boost the mix.  Simply put, Curtains has nev­er looked or sound­ed this good before and it’s hard to imag­ine any­one will top Synapse’s work here.

Curtains-04Synapse has also includ­ed a fist­ful of extras that address the fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ry behind the film’s trou­bled pro­duc­tion, a tale that is almost as twisty as the film’s plot­line.  The bonus fea­tures begin with two com­men­taries.  The first fea­tures stars Lynne Griffin and Lesleh Donaldson, with Edwin Samuelson serv­ing as mod­er­a­tor.  Samuelson prompts the two with ques­tions: their mem­o­ries on vary­ing top­ics can be hit-or-miss but both still have inter­est­ing tales to tell.

Griffin reveals that she wrote much of the stand-up act she per­forms in the film, as well as the place her moth­er makes a cameo, and Donaldson talks about the has­sles of her big skat­ing scene.  Both praise Ciupka for his actor-friend­ly ways and admit that Samantha Eggar could be a bit Curtains-05haughty.  The two have a fun, jokey rap­port and that qual­i­ty makes this track a pleas­ant lis­ten.

The sec­ond com­men­tary track isn’t a com­men­tary in the clas­sic style: instead it col­lects a lit­tle over an hour’s worth of audio inter­view mate­ri­al with pro­duc­er Peter Simpson and star Eggar.  Simpson gets most of the time and he’s amus­ing­ly forth­right and pro­fane.  He’s frank about the weak skills of the film’s lesser actress­es, claims to have writ­ten half Vernon’s lines, dis­cuss­es the exten­sive mate­ri­al he direct­ed for the film’s open­ing and clos­ing sec­tions and even iden­ti­fies the secret iden­ti­ty of a celebri­ty “stunt breast” used in one scene.

Eggar’s mate­ri­al runs a brief 10 min­utes, offer­ing more of a thumb­nail overview of her career.  Curtains is only men­tioned briefly — she makes it clear she’s not into the hor­ror gen­re — but she does reveal the inter­est­ing, lifestyle-based rea­son that she end up doing a run of hor­ror and Curtains-06action gen­re entries dur­ing the late ‘70s and ear­ly ‘80s.

Elsewhere, there are two fea­turettes.  The first is a vin­tage piece enti­tled “Ciupka: A Filmmaker In Transition.”  This 15-min­ute piece offers a bio­graph­i­cal sketch of his rise as a young cin­e­matog­ra­pher in Canada dur­ing the late ‘70s/early ‘80s and the cir­cum­stances that led to him mak­ing his direct­ing debut on Curtains.  There is some nice on-set footage here, par­tic­u­lar­ly a bit where Ciupka directs John Vernon.  Interestingly, he ques­tions how much direct­ing he wants to do near the end, which is iron­ic as it take over a decade for him to make anoth­er fea­ture after Curtains.

The oth­er fea­turet­te is a new ret­ro­spec­tive piece pro­duced for this set by Michael Felsher’s Code Red Pictures. It is enti­tled “The Ultimate Nightmare” and offers a 36-min­ute account of the film that fea­tures input from Ciupka, Griffin, Donaldson as well as sev­er­al crew mem­bers like com­poser Paul Zaza, make­up FX design­er Greg Cannom and edi­tor Michael McClaverty.

Curtains-07The results are an eye-open­er that gets deep into the tan­gled pol­i­tics beneath the sur­face of the pro­duc­tion.  Ciupka is frank about his dis­ap­point­ment with the film, includ­ing his shock when he first saw the sce­nes that he didn’t direct.  MacClaverty reveals how Simpson decid­ed to rework and restruc­ture the film, includ­ing a sec­ond end­ing that was ulti­mate­ly reject­ed, and Zaza adds some inter­est­ing shad­ings to the dis­cus­sion by reveal­ing how pro­duc­er Peter Simpson tend­ed to use direc­tors as eas­i­ly-replaced pat­sies.

ThereCurtains-08’s also triv­ia like Cannom reveal­ing how a sub­plot involv­ing the char­ac­ter of Samantha being a ban­shee was writ­ten out of the film because Eggar didn’t want to wear the make­up. Everyone admits to being embar­rassed by the final film and sur­prised by how it became a cult item via t.v. screen­ings and home video.  In short, this is a riv­et­ing piece that offers insight into how polit­i­cal film pro­duc­tion can be as well as the tor­tured route that a film often takes on its way to devel­op­ing cult pop­u­lar­i­ty.

The pack­age is round­ed out by a vin­tage red-band trail­er for the film that does an effec­tive job of sell­ing the film as a twisty-turny shock­er.  All in all, Synapse’s edi­tion of Curtains is one of the finest gen­re home video release of the year, giv­ing a stel­lar trans­fer to a film that has long need­ed one and an array of sup­ple­ments that take you into its fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ry.  Anyone into ‘80s hor­ror should snap it up, post-haste.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Curtains, click here.