Some films cry out for a special edition treatment and have a hard time getting there. From A Whisper To A Scream, originally released to theaters and VHS as The Offspring, is a good example. Despite a killer cast of cult movie actors and a well-deserved cult reputation, it had to wait until 2005 to be released on DVD and was dropped on the market with no extras besides its trailer. Thankfully, it has been revisited on blu-ray by Scream Factory — and the filmmakers tapped Daniel Griffith’s Ballyhoo Motion Pictures to produce some of the best extras you’ll see on any cult movie reissue this year.
The transfer looks pretty nice here, bringing new levels of color and detail to the image while retaining its gritty celluloid texture. The film’s original stereo mix is presented in lossless form and does well by the vintage mix, maintaining a solid blend of dialogue, effects and music throughout.
Though it is strangely not listed as a special edition, this disc of From A Whisper To A Scream adds hours of bonus content to supplement the main feature. The bonanza begins with a pair of commentary tracks. The first is a solo track from director Burr, who offers a consistently engaging and informative stream of chatter. He discusses his learning experiences as a first-time director and shares great stories about his once-in-a-lifetime cast, including a hilarious anecdote about Susan Tyrrell and Vincent Price. He mostly avoids repeating tales from the other extras, which is a nice touch.
The other commentary pairs producer/co-writer Darin Scott with writer C. Courtney Joyner. Their banter is informal but informative as they analyze their choices as storytellers, swap set stories, point out their cameos and express a great deal of appreciation for their cast. Like Burr, they have some fun stories about Cameron Mitchell.
However, the real action in the extras section arrives with a pair of video extras produced and directed by Daniel Griffith. He was actually chosen by the filmmakers to chronicle the film and he honors their commitment by bypassing the usual featurettes to produced full-length documentaries.
The first is “Return To Oldfield,” a retrospective on From A Whisper To A Scream that runs nearly two hours and features input from Burr, Scott, Joyner and virtually every other key crew member on the film. It’s a comprehensive piece that starts by establishing how the filmmakers became friends and why they settled on an anthology before covering the production in detail, segment by segment, all the way through to its distribution.
Griffith leaves no stone unturned in this doc and, despite the length, it moves a fast clip all the way through. His rapport with the filmmakers leads them to be very forthcoming, admitting to their shortcomings while still expressing wonder at and fondness for all they achieved. The stories about how the different character actors became involved in the film are great, with the story of how Vincent Price got involved being a complex and suspenseful story-within-the-story. Griffith also applies a lot of cinematic style, including a cool opening titles sequence and artful use of film clips and photos as counterpoint to the tales spun by his subjects.
The second documentary is called “A Decade Under The Innocence” and it’s one of the more unique extras to appear on a horror reissue in recent memory. It focuses its seventy-plus minutes on the childhood filmmaking exploits of Burr and several people who would work on From A Whisper To A Scream, including Mark Hannah and Allen Posten. We see how they independently developed cinematic ambitions via learning with Super-8 equipment, ultimately crossing paths and being encouraged by the adults in their Dalton, Georgia hometown to refine their craft.
The results are not only entertaining but surprisingly poignant for any fan of vintage genre fare: Burr and his friends represent the last generation of monster kids who grew up playing with real film equipment to learn their craft at a time when it really took desire and ambition to pursue the craft. It’s touching to see how adults nurtured their ambitions (even the filmmakers’ long-suffering moms get to speak here) and there are plenty of clips from these old projects that will raise a smile with anyone who toyed with the cinematic arts as a kid.
The extras are rounded out by the original theatrical trailer. It illustrates how the original distributor mishandled the film, pitching it to audiences as a monster flick instead of an anthology. It also blows some of the surprises in the stories so first-time viewers may want to watch it after they’ve seen the film.
All in all, this edition of From A Whisper To A Scream is a treat for its fans and well worth seeing for anyone into independent horror filmmaking. Griffith’s extras really put it over the top, showing an effort that few extras producers are willing to go to and essentially doubling the value of the overall package. It’s one of the best horror blu-ray releases of the year so if you’re serious about your special edition releases, don’t pass this one by.