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John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness: Collector's Edition (1987)

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Prince of Darkness - Blu-ray review

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4 stars

Writer/Director John Carpenter must really be a miracle worker.  He’s got some serious mojo working in his favor.  Or maybe he’s simply a smarter filmmaker than most give him credit.

Other than the late great Howard Hawks, I can think of no other director whose films get better (and better reviewed) the older they get.  Hell, even what we now consider a classic like Halloween was panned in its original run.  The Thing was poorly reviewed and its influence on Hollyweird remains.  Even Vampires and Ghosts of Mars seem to be gaining momentum as cult classics.  Can the poorly received The Ward be too far behind?

This phenomenon happens with Carpenter and his style of direction time and time again; so much so that I find myself scratching my head and wondering if Carpenter (donning some sort of future-friendly sunglasses) makes his films for horror hounds and freaks of Tomorrow.  With each new re-release – especially as evident here from Shout! Factory’s release of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness – whatever critics found faulty then seems relatively forward-thinking today.

Carpenter’s quasi-independent thriller is a rather dense and complex affair.  The more you comprehend of how the film is structured and shot, well, the more terrifying it actually becomes.  This is some seriously sharp filmmaking that stumped average audiences when it was originally released in 1987.  Why?  Because we are dealing with Satan himself – as an extraterrestrial in liquid form no less – and a heavy amount of some serious quantum physics.

With the Catholic Church as a target, Carpenter – writing as Martin Quatermass (in reference to the British film and television writer Nigel Kneale and the famous fictional scientist he created, Professor Bernard Quatermass) – presents a new and secret sect who holds the key to a seven million year old canister of green-glowing Evil.  It’s located in the basement of a rundown Church in a poverty-stricken part of Los Angeles called Saint Godard's.   A Catholic priest (Donald Pleasence) and Professor Birack (Victor Wong) team up to deal with this growing threat.  Co-starring Jameson Parker, Lisa Blount, and Alice Cooper, Prince of Darkness reveals the truth of faith after a long and horrifying night of sheer liquid terror as the Evil spreads from victim to victim.

There are two things which much be addressed in order for the effectiveness of the movie to be fully appreciated.  One is that in 1987 the issue of shopping cart homelessness and the attention the media was giving it was at an all-time high – hence the poverty-stricken surroundings of the movie and the stranger homeless people gathering in the street gawking at the assembled team; they are the devil’s first wave of followers.  Also, it was the era of AIDS.  Notice the attention given to the spread of the Evil as it slithers and slathers from host to host.  Obviously, there’s the issue of the spread of a disease at the center of its heart.

The fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of homegrown paranoia grubbing about in Prince of Darkness.  Carpenter is in complete control and he tackles some human issues, combining them with theories on matter and anti-matter while relating it all to questions about human faith.  The imagery is brutal and surrealistic and, ultimately, worth the journey into the subconscious mind in the battle of Good and Evil.

To quote Pleasence, “the secret can no longer be kept” about this film:  John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness deserves its recognition as a good and different breed of horror.  Sometimes cerebral horror can be most … disturbing.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Prince of DarknessMPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
102 mins
Director
: John Carpenter
Writer
: John Carpenter
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Lisa Blount, Jameson Parker
Genre: Horror
Tagline:
Before man walked the earth...it slept for centuries. It is evil. It is real. It is awakening.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You will not be saved by the holy ghost. You will not be saved by the god Plutonium. In fact, YOU WILL NOT BE SAVED!"
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 23, 1987
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 24, 2013

Synopsis: A research team finds a mysterious cylinder in a deserted church. If opened, it could mean the end of the world.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Prince of Darkness - Blu-ray review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

 

Collector's Edition

Available on Blu-ray - September 24, 2013
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Released from the basement vaults by Shout! Factory’s horror division Scream Factory, the 1080p transfer is simply fantastic.  The crisp image is fully resolved with the lightest, most beautiful layer of grain and no detection of digital noise reduction whatsoever.  Blacks are deep and strong.  For a low-budget release in ’87, the mastering here is impeccable.  There is a fair amount of detail and not a speck of dirt to be found.  Simply put, this title has never looked better.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 takes full advantage of Carpenter's and co-composer Alan Howarth's unforgettable synth-based score, carrying the viewer from one scene to the next.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Carpenter provides the commentary and – without a single doubt – this is a must-listen for fans of the genre, the movie, and Carpenter himself.  It is – in a word – golden.

Special Features:

With a great selection of supplemental features, this release is a must-own for even the most casual of Horror Hounds.  Alice Cooper and John Carpenter shine here in a new collection of interviews, shot just for this release.  Along with them are newly recorded interviews from Alan Howarth and Robert Grasmere.  Howarth tackles the famous score.  Grasmere talks effects.  We get a brand new episode of Horror’s Hallowed Ground which showcases the film’s locations as they appear now.  These are some strong supplementals.  Once again, Shout! Factory has outdone themselves.

  • Sympathy for the Devil: An Interview with John Carpenter (10 min)
  • Alice at the Apocalypse: An Interview with Alice Cooper (9 min)
  • The Messenger: All New Interview with Actor and Special Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Grasmere (13 min)
  • Hell On Earth: A Look at the Film's Score with Co-Composer Alan Howarth (10 min)
  • Alternate Opening from TV Version (7 min)
  • Horror's Hallowed Ground (14 min)
  • Trailer and Radio Spots
  • Still Gallery (4 min)
  • Prince of Darkness 25th Anniversary Screening (12 min)

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