The film adaptation of Ghost Story is a bit controversial in horror circles – and like any controversial production, it has an interesting story behind it. A lot of the details of that story have lain dormant for years but thankfully Scream Factory has produced a reissue of the film for the blu-ray market that digs into those details.
Things start with an excellent transfer of a tricky title: Ghost Story was shot in a frequently glossy style by the great Jack Cardiff and also features a ton of optical effects that create the film’s wintry setting. The transfer used here keeps up with all the film’s visual complexities, respecting the film’s frequently soft look while wringing out a level of detail and depth that would have been unimaginable in its standard-def incarnations. The audio part of the transfer sticks to its original mono mix but it gets a lossless presentation that adds a lot of punch, particularly to Philippe Sarde’s dramatic musical score.
Scream Factory has also packed the disc out with a special edition’s worth of extras. The first is a solo commentary track by director John Irvin. He offers a low-key but informative stream of comments, covering how he became involved with the project and warm memories of his old-Hollywood leading men. More interestingly, he explains the theme he built the film around is men’s fear of women, which goes a long way towards explaining the film’s changes to the novel’s central elements and themes.
Next up are a quartet of featurettes. The first is a nearly 40-minute session with novelist Peter Straub, who describes his creative process and the technical aspects of it, including an interesting bit where he discusses the influence of jazz on his writing. His various points are broken up by moments where he reads excerpts from Ghost Story.
“Development” edits together two sitdowns with producer Burt Weissbourd and Lawrence D. Cohen. Weissbourd gives some interesting insights into how he worked with his writers and directors during the production process and reveals why he ultimately left the film business. Cohen reveals the motivations in how and why he pared down the source novel and is frank about its shortcomings. He also talks about how Irvin’s realist approach softened the supernatural elements of the finished product. Both have interesting things to say but Cohen is particularly lively and incisive.
The third piece is a 29-minute interview with Alice Krige, who tells the story of her involvement in the film in a classy and intelligent manner. She talks about the whirlwind nature of working in Hollywood for the first time, praising the kindness of her classic Hollywood co-stars, revealing her process for developing the character and speaking frankly about the challenge of doing the film’s nude scenes. She’s a pleasure to listen to.
The final piece is an interview with visual effects photographer Bill Taylor. He reveals that creating the film’s snowy settings was the film’s biggest challenge and also gives a detailed explanation of a few key visual effects. He has a great respect for his collaborators and tells warm anecdotes about Albert Whitlock, who was his mentor, and Jack Cardiff.
The disc is rounded out by a selection of promotional material. A theatrical trailer and t.v. spot sell the spookiness and star-power of the film effectively, with the theatrical spot featuring some inventive cross-cutting and sound editing. A pair of radio spots use the same eerie style of narration as the trailers, adding some new material about the concept of fear. Finally, an animated photo gallery offers nearly nine minutes’ worth of stills, lobby cards, behind-the-scenes photos and promotional pictures.
In short, this disc of Ghost Story is a fine special edition that offers a strong transfer and a rich set of supplements that give the viewer an idea of the complexity involved in bringing the novel to the big screen.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Ghost Story, click here.