Stephen King's Silver Bullet [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (11th February 2018).
The Film

"Stephen King's Silver Bullet" (1985)

Ten-year-old Marty (played by Corey Haim) and his fourteen-year-old sister Jane (played by Megan Follows) have a love-hate relationship. As Marty is a paraplegic, he gets some sympathy from the family and townspeople, but he can have some annoying habits to cause irritation from his strict older sister. Their Uncle Red (played by Gary Busey) is coming out of his third divorce and is looking to stay with them for some times until he can get back on his feet, but only Marty sees the temporary visitation as positive. He may be an alcoholic troublemaker, but young Marty sees Red as a fun-loving uncle while others see him in a more negative light. While the family is going though some changes, so is the town.

In the small rural town of Tarker's Mills, a series of grisly murders transforms the fairly peaceful town into a place of fear. A man is decapitated at the rail years. A woman is mauled to death in her own bedroom. A man is mysteriously killed in his toolshed. A teenage boy is also killed under mysterious circumstances. The entire town is given a curfew and the townsfolk become irritated that the police are not able to catch the mysterious killer. Marty though sees something that may have solved the mystery, but something that no one would believe - a werewolf...

Producer Dino De Laurentiis previously worked on screen adaptations of Stephen King's "The Dead Zone" in 1983, "Firestarter" in 1984, and "Cat's Eye" in early 1985 to fair success. Continuing the success, King's novella "Cycle of the Werewolf" was adapted by King himself for the film adaptation, retitled as "Silver Bullet". For the adaptation most of the key elements were left intact. The protagonist as the young boy in the wheelchair, the uncle as the black sheep of the family, the identity of the werewolf were kept as is, though some details were changed in the film version. Some of the deaths were changed, some characters were renamed, the time of year it took place, and others, but it overall kept the core of the original novella. The story, like Stephen King's "It" the story is mostly seen through the eyes of children and the child-like innocence is certainly here, and like "It" the story is more for the audience whose age is above that of the main characters, as the R-rated bloody violence is there from the start and does not let go.

Director Daniel Attias was a young director making his feature debut with "Silver Bullet", and even here showed great promise with his skills directing the fairly complex production, with many special effects sequences and a fairly large cast. Though not everything was slick and smooth. De Laurentiis was disappointed with some of the aspects of the production. He felt the film needed more violence for an R-rating while Attias was looking to secure a PG-13 rating to connect more with the teen audiences. In this case De Laurentiis won the argument and additional gore effects were inserted for certain scenes. In addition the werewolf effects were to be the highlight of the film, but time and budget restrictions caused quite a few compromises, and the final werewolf suit was very lackluster. Compared to the incredible effects seen in "An American Werewolf in London" (1981) and "The Howling" (1981), the production standards were set extremely high with the intricate makeup and effects used for transformation sequences and the character movements. Unfortunately for "Silver Bullet" the suit looked closer to a bear and was nicknamed "Were-Bear" during production. While it did not meet the quality standards that audiences may have expected, like "Jaws", the less seen the scarier it was. But for audiences who were expecting a powerful and amazing monster were sorely disappointed. As for the production standards, one that stood out the most for audiences was the motorized wheelchair that Marty controlled as well as the rocket-like vehicle that Uncle Red builds for him as a "power-up" that was appropriately called "Silver Bullet". The story is set in the mid-1970s, so it does seem strange that a little kid from a middle class family would have such a high tech machine in a rural town. But then again motorized wheelchairs have been around since the post WWII era so it was entirely possible to have at the time period.

As for the cast the interaction between Corey Haim and Megan Follows does feel quite genuine as brother and sister and Haim's relationship with Gary Busey as the uncle feels natural as well. The brother and sister have their minor quarrels, the uncle tells dirty jokes and treats Marty as an equal rather than a "cripple" as many others usually see him. Rather than an adult figure, Red feels more like a cousin in a grown man's body and that gives him a youthful sense as well. Though there are some scenes that if you look carefully, Haim's legs do actually move so he obviously was not a paraplegic in real life. Considering that his acting career and as a teen heartthrob would grow through the late 1980s, it was very tragic that he died at the young age of 38 in 2010. There are other notable actors such as Everett McGill as the town's reverend, Terry O'Quinn as the sheriff, and Lawrence Tierney as the barman, in smaller supporting roles, making memorable marks in their roles.

The film was shot in late 1984, but with reshoots and additional tweaks, plus for the film to not be competing with the April 1985 theatrical release of "Cat's Eye", "Silver Bullet" was finally released on October 11th, 1985 in the United States and distributed by Paramount. Like many other horror films of the day, critics were not especially kind to it but there were some positives including critic Roger Ebert giving it positives with the story and the performances. The effects were particularly panned and audiences did not flock to the screens as hoped. The $7 million production grossed just over $12 million theatrically, which was slightly less than the $13 million "Cat's Eye" grossed a few months before. It was still a profit and was a minor hit, but did not resonate or cross over into the mainstream. The film eventually found an audience through television broadcasts and the home video market over the years. Just over 32 years after the theatrical release, Umbrella Entertainment gives the cult favorite film a proper special edition Blu-ray.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray which can play back on any Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec, in the original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The film starts with the modern Studio Canal logo, the rightsholder for non-US territories, followed by the 1985 Paramount logo. The image looks very good overall, with good color reproduction and sharpness in the image. There are a few scenes here and there where the image is not as clear overall but that may be due to the original elements rather than the remastering process. If looking closely there are instances of dust and specs but for the most part is fairly unnoticeable until it gets to the darker scenes. A very good transfer of the remastered edition from Umbrella Entertainment.

The film's runtime is 94:55.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
The original mono track is presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio. The sound has also been cleaned and remastered, with the original synth score by Jay Chattaway sounding very good as well as the effects, though there can be some muffled sounds with dialogue in a few occasions. It is a pleasing track with nothing sounding unbalanced, and no issues of hisses or cracks in the audio.

There are optional English subtitles for the main feature.

Extras

Audio commentary with director Daniel Attias
In this newly recorded commentary moderated by Red Shirt Pictures' Michael Felcher, Daniel Attias talks about his first and so far only feature film he had directed as his career went to directing television for the last thirty years. Discussed are his early career, some behind the scenes tidbits, some of the things that worked with the film and things that didn't, some words on the individual actors, the disagreement with De Laurentiis on having to make additional gory scenes and shots, and more. Interesting is that for years Attias was hesitant to talk about the film as it was not highly regarded and he felt some blame on the production not being a big success. But as he states in the commentary it was the many fans over the years talking to him about how much they loved the film that he was able to see it in a new light in retrospect.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Dino's Angel Takes on Lycanthrophy: Martha De Laurentiis Remembers Silver Bullet" featurette (25:34)
Dino De Laurentiis' business partner since 1980 and his wife since 1990 until his death in 2010, producer Martha De Laureniis looks back at the production of the film in which she served as producer. She discusses how she got into the business, meeting Stephen King for previous productions such as "Cat's Eye", the creation of the special effects, working with the young actors, and more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Isolated score selections and audio interview with composer Jay Chattaway
Moderated by Red Shirt Pictures' Michael Felcher, Jay Chattaway discusses his early career including the scores for "Maniac", the questionable rap song from "Maniac Cop", having to do some rescores due to additional shots changing the score cues, the recording sessions, and more. The interview lasts for 38 minutes and for the next 32 minutes are selections from the isolated score. This extra plays as an alternate audio track for the film. After the 70 minute mark the audio reverts back to the film's audio.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"The Wolf Within: An Interview with Everett McGill" featurette (16:16)
Produced by Red Shirt Pictures, this interview with actor Everett McGill discusses his role in the film, with some spoilers beware! He talks about the relationship he had with De Laurentiis, about the special effects makeup and the the uncomfortable suit, while he gives very positive words on Attias as well as the other actors on the production.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"Full Moon Fever - Interviews with Special Effects Artists Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle" featurette (21:04)
In this interview, Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle discuss the special effects sequences for the film. Not everything is exactly positive as the short amount of time and limited budget had a toll on the outcome, as the werewolf was referred to "Were-Bear", how the decapitation scene was supposed to have much more blood but the pump did not spew the blood as planned, and how De Laurentiis was very demanding. They do share some positivity of the experience and speak highly of the film itself.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Image gallery (6:20)
Behind the scenes stills are presented in a running slideshow with music accompaniment.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, LPCM 2.0

Theatrical trailer (1:17)
The original US theatrical trailer with the distinctive deep voice narrator looks fairly clean with only a few specs and dust on the image, though it is not as clear as the feature itself.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

TV spot (0:31)
"Starts Friday at a theater near you!"
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Radio spot (0:39)
A single radio spot is presented.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles


The film was released a few months ago in Germany on Blu-ray by Koch Media, which included a solo commentary from the director plus the gallery and trailer extras. Some of the DVD releases also included the commentary track as well, but the Australian release is miles ahead in terms of extras.

Packaging

The rear package claims the disc is region B but it is in fact region ALL.
The inside artwork features the same design as the front cover without the ratings logo on one side while the other is a reproduction of one of the original posters.

Overall

"Silver Bullet" may not be a bonafide masterpiece but is a highly enjoyable ride with many fun moments, gory effects, and a sense of nostalgia. The Umbrella Entertainment gives and excellent presentation as well as compiling a great number of new extras making this highly recommended.

The Film: B Video: A- Audio: B Extras: A- Overall: B+

 


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