David Cronenberg’s films have gotten a lot of attention on home video over the years. However, the size of his filmography has ensured that some titles have gotten more play than others on various formats. Consider Dead Ringers: it got an early Criterion DVD and a 2005 Warner Brothers disc but subsequently drifted out of print. It has finally made it to blu-ray via a new special edition from Scream Factory. The results give it the red carpet treatment it has long deserved in this format.
Firstly, you get two transfers: a 1.78.1 transfer on the first disc and a new 2K transfer of the interpositive at 1.66:1, Cronenberg’s preferred ratio, on the second disc. Both look good but the it’s the 1.66:1 transfer that gets the edge here. Everything — color, detail, film grain — looks a little better on the 2K transfer. Both 5.1 and 2.0 lossless stereo mixes are included for each transfer. The 5.1 was utilized for this review: like the film itself, it’s a subtle affair. Surround speaker effects are deployed gently and it’s the musical score that really benefits from the full digital treatment.
In terms of extras, this set carries over vintage DVD extras and adds some impressive new material as well. Here’s what you can look forward to:
Commentary 1: This is a solo track with William Beard, a film professor and Cronenberg scholar. He gives the film an appropriately intellectual scene-by-scene analysis, focusing on “twin-ness” as a theme and offering a stream of comments with particular focus on characterizations, directorial technique and visuals (he has really interesting observations on the use of lighting). He describes the film as “the saddest of Cronenberg films — and the best”: this track makes a nice case for that.
Commentary 2: this is a DVD-era solo track with Jeremy Irons. He gets into the artistic and technical challenges of playing twins, also offering his thoughts on his director and castmates. Comments get sparser as the track progresses but there’s enough interesting thoughts on the acting process for fans to give it a listen.
Heidi Von Palleske interview (19:05): this actress discusses one of her earliest roles with great fondness. She reveals how she landed the role before exploring her thoughts on Cronenberg and Irons, the technical challenges of the scene where she dances with twins and her thoughtful analysis of key scenes. A particularly interesting moment arrives when she discusses how her mom, who was a twin in real life, reacted to the film.
Stephen Lack interview (23:56): if you’ve seen an interview with Lack before, you know this artist and sometime actor is a fascinatingly quirky character. He lives up to that description here, offering a tour through his personal gallery that is intercut with anecdotes about his relationship with Cronenberg, some fun anecdotes about the shoot (listen for the lighter story) and an analysis of the film. It’s quite entertaining, particularly the parts where he reads from some illustrated books he has created.
Gordon Smith interview (19:16): the makeup FX specialist is frank about his disagreements with the director and his own technical failures as he discusses the film’s makeup effects, including a few that didn’t make it into the film. You’ll learn about the alternative version of the film’s “siamese twins” effect as well as another, similar effect that was cut from the film (and why).
Peter Suschitsky interview (12:41): the veteran cinematographer discusses this film, which was the beginning of a lengthy association with Cronenberg. He goes into detail on their instinctive working process and how they shot the scenes with both twins on camera at the same time.
Vintage Interviews (17:03): a comprehensive block of talking head interviews utilized for the vintage featurette seen elsewhere on the disc. It includes a profile of Irons, a nice expansive chat with Cronenberg where he discusses both the film’s technical challenges and taboo themes and some brief interviews with producer Marc Boyman and co-writer Norman Snyder.
Vintage Behind The Scenes Featurette (7:14): an EPK produced during the film’s shoot that mixes talking heads, on-set footage and film clips. It’s interesting to note how it tries to make the film look like more of a “normal” drama than it is. It also gives you the best look at the camera trickery involved in creating the visual illusion of Irons as twins.
Trailer (1:36): sells the film like a scary soap opera. Fittingly, it uses some musical cues from the score of the previous Cronenberg film, The Fly.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Dead Ringers, click here.