The Frighteners Blu-ray

The Frighteners (1996)

Source: blu-ray.com

Frank Bannister is a psychic swindler with the perfect business partners. They work cheap… they’re dedicated… and they’re dead. Possessed with a genuine ability to communicate with the dearly departed, Bannister earns a stiff living by setting up “spirit clearance” scams with his trio of ghostly cronies. But a series of inexplicable deaths and bizarre occurrences suggests the presence of a malevolent poltergeist. As Bannister attempts to unravel the supernatural crime spree, he ventures into a realm where all fears are realized… and true evil does not die.

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Jim Fyfe, Chi McBride, John Astin
Director: Peter Jackson

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The extras have been ported over from the 2005 director’s cut DVD, which was itself a port of the 1998 Universal “Signature Edition” laserdisc set.

Peter Jackson’s 10th Anniversary Intro (SD; 1.78:1, enhanced; 2:40): This introduction by a newly svelte Jackson was recorded in 2005 and plays before the director’s cut. It is also available as a separate extra from the director’s cut menu.

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Commentary by Director/Writer/Producer Peter Jackson (director’s cut only): Jackson recorded this commentary in his living room. Like the documentary, it was completed during the unexpected hiatus that occurred in the late Nineties when Universal initially shelved his remake of King Kong. It’s lively, entertaining and benefits from being done just a few years after the film was made, so that Jackson’s memory is still fresh.

Jackson is painstaking in pointing out the restored footage, and he is clear that the theatrical version was released with his full approval. Most cuts were made for pacing and overall running time, although a few were either requested by the studio or made in response to preview feedback (e.g., the swastika on Dammers’ hand, which audience members mistook to indicate that Dammers was a Nazi, even though the dialogue clearly explains that he’d had to acquire it when he went undercover with the Manson Family — youthful viewers appeared not to know the history).

Jackson ranges over a wide array of topics and, unlike many commentaries, much of what he says supplements rather than simply repeating the documentary. This is particularly so where he has the opportunity to point out cameos (including a rare one by Fran Walsh), recalls the circumstances during the day(s) when a specific sequence was shot, or recounts the evolution of a plot point as it unfolds on screen.

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The Making of The Frighteners (SD; 1.33:1; 3:45:54): How comprehensive do you like your documentaries? Would you believe three and three quarter hours, made by the filmmakers themselves? Jackson was an afficionado of elaborate special editions since before the days of DVD, and he had a video crew documenting production of The Frighteners from early on. The result is a film geek’s treasure assembled with a filmmaker’s skill. Any summary would be inadequate, but here are the chapter headings:

Ghost Stories
Script Development
Michael J. Fox & Trini Alvarado
Jim Fyfe, Chi McBride, John Astin
Rehearsing
Lyttleton as Fairwater
Introduction to WETA
Scene 28
Ghost Effects
Motion Control & Bluescreen
The Jackson Boys, Peter’s Cameo & Billy Jackson
Stunts
On the Set
The Reaper
Rustler
The Gatekeeper
Jeffrey Combs
Miniatures
Dee Wallace Stone & Jake Busey
Trini’s Bruises
Slimeface & Blobman
Wallpaperman & Portraitman
Acceleration
The Worm
The Gatekeeper, the Judge & Other Deleted Stories
Music
Bloopers
Ratings & Final Thoughts
Credits

The documentary is preceded by a new introduction by Jackson taped in 2005, which is framed at 1.78:1 and enhanced for 16:9.

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Storyboarding (SD; 1.33:1; 45:39): If you have ever read that the “Making of” documentary on the laserdisc was four and a half hours, don’t worry; nothing has been lost. For whatever reason, the remaining 45 minutes has been broken out and presented separately here. As Jackson explains in his introduction, he always found it frustrating as a laserdisc viewer to be forced to keep hitting a button to view each new storyboard. So this extra organizes the sketches into a slide show; the viewer just has to watch.

Theatrical Trailer (SD; 1.85:1, enhanced; 2:03): Probably because Zemeckis was involved, the trailer opens with the theme from Death Becomes Her, which I’ve always enjoyed.

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