Digi-Schlock: THE FOG (Scream Factory Blu-Ray)

As far as horror fans are concerned, there is always room for more extras on a special edition. Scream Factory subscribes to that credo and has done well with their reissues of titles that already had special editions, being careful to preserve the familiar extras from those sets while adding new ones to further enhance their value. Their versions of From Beyond and The Howling reflect this – and they’ve done it again with their new blu-ray of The Fog, which preserves the strong extras from the old MGM DVD while adding plenty of worthwhile new extras and excellent A/V quality.

For starters, this set boasts a new HD transfer that was supervised by the film’s cinematographer, Dean Cundey. The Fog is a difficult film to present on video for a number of reasons: there’s a lot of starkly-lit night photography, extensive use of fog and scenes shot through soft filters. This new transfer manages to rise to all the challenges, delivering a vivid level of detail and rich yet natural colors. Black levels also look quite good during the nighttime shots. Overall image quality is very impressive and easily the best this film has ever looked on home video.

In terms of audio, both 2.0 mono and 5.1 stereo remix options are offered, both lossless. The stereo option was listened to for this review and it opens up the sound in a nice, natural way: surround effects are subtle and sparing but very effective and the analog synth score gets a new depth as its textures are spread out to fill the soundscape. The results are immersive without feeling synthetic.

The extras begin with a vintage commentary track featuring co-writer/director John Carpenter and co-writer/producer Debra Hill. Fans will be happy that it was carried over because it is an excellent, highly informative track. Carpenter and Hill establish a few themes early on – namely, that they improved the film by doing reshoots and it was a project that was “made” in the editing room – and then do a scene-by-scene analysis that backs those arguments up.

Filmmakers will be pleased with the high level of technical detail: they cover the elaborate mixture of locations and sets (several scenes requiring the use of both) as well as the motivation behind particular choices in camerawork and editing. There is also material on the challenges of doing such an ambitious film on just over a million dollars, including how the shoot was scheduled around the availability of particular actors and how the filmmakers did most the film’s visual effects themselves. The resulting track is as educational as it is entertaining.

Scream Factory has also included a new commentary track: this one featuring actors Tom Atkins and Adrienne Barbeau, editor/production designer Tommy Lee Wallace and Sean Clark from Horror’s Hallowed Grounds as moderator. Wallace is the MVP here, offering extensive information on the particulars behind the various reshot scenes. Barbeau and Atkins offer some anecdotes from the actor’s perspective, with Barbeau also adding some unique perspective on her romantic relationship with Carpenter. Clark is gentle in his moderating, just asking the occasional question to direct the conversation and also offering some factoids about the locations. All in all, a solid track and a nice supplement to the Carpenter/Hill commentary.

There are no less than five featurettes about the film on this disc, including both featurettes that appeared on the MGM DVD plus three new items created for this disc. “Fear On Film” is a vintage EPK, around 8 minutes in length, that includes Carpenter, Hill and several actors discussing the film. Both Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis pop up here and it’s fun to hear them voicing their thoughts on the appeals of horror and suspense.

“Tales From The Mist” is a half-hour retrospective featurette originally done for the MGM DVD. It’s a classic DVD-era featurette that interviews multiple people involved in the film – Carpenter, Hill, Wallace, Dean Cundey, Leigh, Barbeau, etc. – and covers all phases of the film’s history. As in their commentary, Carpenter and Hill reveal how the film became an important learning experience about storytelling when they had to “make” it twice. There is also a lot of excellent info about how Cundey used the camera to enhance both suspense and production value as well as discussion of the simple but effective methods used for the film’s many special visual effects. This piece was directed by Jeffrey Schwarz of Spine Tingler fame and offers a slick, entertaining textbook example of how such a retrospective featurette should be done.

The three new featurettes do a nice job of either filling in gaps from “Tales From The Mist” or enhancing it in interesting ways. “My Time With Terror” is a sit-down chat with Jamie Lee Curtis, who not only discusses The Fog but also her short yet eventful history as a scream queen. She is witty and forthright as she dishes about all her slasher flicks, how it took a while for Halloween to impact her career and how her personal friendship with Carpenter and Hill impacted her work on The Fog. If you’ve been waiting to hear her talk candidly about this era, your wish will come true.

The new featurettes continue with “Dean Of Darkness,” a solo interview with Cundey that finds him discussing his cinematography work with Carpenter. He offers a lot of technical insight, particularly on the challenges he faced with Escape From New York and The Thing, and reflects in a humble but insightful way about these films made his career as a top-shelf D.P. The trio is rounded by a new segment of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, with Sean Clark taking the viewer on a tour of The Fog‘s locations. The beach locations remain as gorgeous as ever, some buildings have changed in interesting ways and you’ll learn some neat stuff about how the window-breaking gags in the film were done. Also, Clark does a fun John Houseman impression and you get another in a growing series of cameos from a certain cast member of Nightmare On Elm Street 2.

Elsewhere, a variety of production-oriented extras shed light on what the production was like. There is a storyboard-to-film comparison that shows some interesting differences in how one shock scene was planned and how it ended up being shot and edited. On a similar note, there is a brief montage of special effects test footage that show how they tackled the effects challenges in practical ways (it also includes a brief bit of optical FX done for a power plant scene that wasn’t used in the film). For laughs, there is a skillfully edited blooper reel of “outtakes” that show off a variety of flubbed lines, behind-the-scenes goofing and a montage of a silly face that Barbeau would pull after bad takes.

The package is rounded out by an extensive amount of promotional materials. For starters, you get three theatrical trailers and six (!) t.v. spots for the film. The theatrical ads include an interesting teaser with no actual footage from the film and the t.v. spots include a variety of effective variations, including two spots for the double bill that paired The Fog with Phantasm. There is also an extensive, animated image gallery that starts with a variety of color and B&W stills, including some nice behind-the-scenes shots, before moving on to two different sets of lobby cards and finally closing with a several different examples of poster art.

In short, fans of The Fog get the best of both worlds here: all of the great old extras and plenty of worthy new ones – plus a killer transfer. If you have any interest in this film, this is home video version to get.

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