I hope you don’t mind a little self-promotion, because as each one of these new John Carpenter titles is released to Blu-Ray, I’m going to have to remind you that in 2012, we here at The Liberal Dead/Dead Air Podcast recorded a year long John Carpenter Retrospective podcast series, examining in-depth, each of Carpenter’s films, and how each film affected his career as one of the most prolific genre filmmakers in cinematic history. It was a tremendous undertaking, and it would have been helpful if all of these bad ass collector’s edition Blu-Rays were made available for us to research. That’s okay, though. All of us enjoy gaining knowledge the old fashioned way, and now with the release of some of his films on Blu-Ray this year, it gives us an excuse to spread around the old episodes. Despite the fact that it was almost a year ago at this point that we finished the final episode, people are still downloading the episodes to this day. I’m glad that people are enjoying it, because it was definitely fun to do. You can find the Prince of Darkness episode here.
If you have listened to the episode, you’ll know that, while I find some of Prince of Darkness nonsensical, it is definitely something I enjoy. Carpenter himself, though, admits that a lot of what he poured into the script was nonsense. He was really into science fiction novels, and books about subatomic particles, and wanted to implement these things into a horror film, whether or not they made sense in context is of no significance. And, for the most part it works, so long as you’re not nitpicking the story for plot holes, or things that aren’t scientifically accurate. In addition to the science gibberish, Carpenter also implemented a religious theme to Prince Of Darkness, simply because that type of thing scares him. By this point in his career, Carpenter had struggled with the studio structure, became extremely tired of all of the politics that come with that, and he just wanted to get back to his independent roots, and make a film the way he wanted it to be made, rather than having to deal with studio interference.
Prince of Darkness might not be my favorite Carpenter film, but I certainly think it’s an underrated one. Carpenter signed a multi-picture deal with Alive Pictures, in which he would be given 3 million dollars per film, and was given complete creative control. The second film that would come from this deal was They Live with Roddy Piper. Arguably Carpenter’s most iconic film, next to Halloween of course. Despite the fact that it opened to a lukewarm critical reception, Prince Of Darkness made its production budget back on opening weekend, and then some. It debuted at #2, and would go on to rake in $14 million domestically. This might not sound like a lot, but with a production budget of $3 million, it was a more than successful release. We forget, because some of Carpenter’s films are considered by fans to be some of the best genre films in the history of cinema, that upon their releases, they were financial failures. Even The Thing, which is arguably the best Sci-Fi/horror films ever released, flopped at the box office. Carpenter would experience similar financial success with the film that would follow Prince, They Live.
This is the first time Prince Of Darkness has been available on the Blu-Ray format, so there are no previous high definition editions of the film for which to compare. If you’re new to Blu-Ray, and you’re wondering what the big deal is, Scream Factory’s Prince Of Darkness release is a pretty good way to get your feet wet, so to speak. Not only does it look and sound amazing, as we’ll get into in a second, but it’s loaded with extras, none of which is “filler”. Of course, you have the John Carpenter audio commentary. If you are a fan of Carpenter’s films, each one of his commentaries are essential. Some are better than others, of course, but all of them are entertaining and educational. Prince Of Darkness is no exception to this rule. Anything you could possibly want to know about this film, or Carpenter’s career at the time of the production is laid on the table. For whatever reason, only around half of the extras that come packaged with this release are listed on the packaging. In addition to the commentary, we’re also treated to a decent amount of video interviews, all from Red Shirt Pictures. One interview, titled Sympathy for the Devil, is a sit-down interview with John Carpenter himself, and is essential viewing for all fans of this man’s work. Another interview on the disc is titled Alice at the Apocalypse, wherein Alice Cooper talks about his experience during the filming of Prince of Darkness, as well as his favorite horror movies and how he met Carpenter, which ultimately led to his role in the film. In yet another interview, we have a featurette titled The Messenger, which is an interview with the special visual effects supervisor on the film, Robert Grasmere, who also ended up with a fairly significant on-screen role in the film. But wait, there’s more! Following The Messenger we have Hell On Earth, which is a detailed look at the production of Prince Of Darkness’ score with Co-Composer Alan Howarth. If you love those minimalist John Carpenter scores, this is a great behind-the-scenes look at the process, with a man who has worked with Carpenter on tons of his scores. After you examine the production of the film’s music, you can go on a road trip with Sean Clark of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, as he visits the locations in which Prince Of Darkness was filmed. If you’re familiar with Clark’s series, you know what to expect from this. Also on the disc is the alternate opening of the film that was used for the TV version, and of course, the original theatrical trailer. Holy hell, that was a mouthful. I told you this disc was stacked!
Prince Of Darkness makes its Blu-Ray debut with an AVC encoded, 1080p transfer in 2:35.1. If you’ve read any of my other Scream Factory Blu-Ray reviews, you know I’ve been a happy camper with each and every one of their releases. Prince of Darkness exceeded any expectations I had for a Blu-Ray release of this film. On top of being loaded to the gills with extra features, this is one of their best looking releases to date. Whereas the previous Scream Factory title I reviewed, Psycho III was a little heavier on the grain that I would have liked, the transfer here is nearly perfect. This is a film, so grain is present as it should be, it’s just not quite as thick as it was in some scenes in Psycho III. The colors, oh how they pop. The level of detail is gasp-inducing. Any time Donald Pleasence is on the screen, you will be able to see not only crystal clear beads of sweat running down his beautiful bald head, but every pore and imperfection in his face, as well as every other member of the cast. Almost identical to the Psycho II and III Blu-Rays, you have audio options to choose from. You can either view the film in its original form, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, or you can select the impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Normally I would advise you to go with the two channel track, as that’s the way you would have seen it upon its initial release, however, this time around the 5.1 track is notably better. Granted, since it was filmed and released in stereo, the surround action is few and far between, but it utilizes its channels well by focusing on the heavy synth score of the film, as well as crystallizing the dialog. This is unquestionably the definitive edition of Prince of Darkness, so if you’ve been on the fence for whatever reason, hop on over. If a better version is released later on down the line, I will be genuinely shocked.
Scream Factory’s Prince of Darkness Blu-Ray will be released on Tuesday, September 24th. Pre-order it directly from Shout! Factory’s website, and receive an exclusive 18″ x 24″ poster, featuring the new artwork commissioned for the release.