|Year Of Production||1984|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (47:20)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Joe Dante|
Warner Home Video
Frances Lee McCain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Gremlins giggling at end|
The premise of Gremlins is both strikingly simple and ridiculous. There are these little fluffy creatures, called Mogwai. They're really cute, clever and fun. However, there are some arbitrary rules that you've got to follow or Bad ThingsTM will happen. Best of all, the rules don't make any sense! Don't get them wet, or they multiply. However, they can drink liquids without anything happening. Sunlight kills them, although they're covered with protective fur, and feeding them after midnight makes them turn into scary monsters. Unfortunately, Mogwai DNA has a perfect sense of time. Hero Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan, whose only other memorable role was... erm, Gremlins 2) manages to break all the rules and before you know it, it's Small Town USA - Population: Shrinking.
Kids can take this information and run with it, but it's a tribute to the witty script and likeable B-grade cast that adult viewers can remain entertained as well. Film buffs take note; Dante throws in nods to the Don Siegel classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which this film liberally borrows from), Disney's Snow White and even hero/mentor Steven Spielberg's megahit ET. Kids will love Gizmo, the nauseatingly-adorable Mogwai, cheer at the resourceful mum zapping a gremlin in the microwave and maybe even get some of those great scary dreams we look back on so fondly when we get older. Adults might enjoy keeping an eye out for fleeting cameos by animation legend Chuck Jones and Spielberg himself, and let's not forget the talents of voice-over god Frank Welker, who has contributed character voices to more films and TV series than most people have seen.
Obviously the film has dated technically. I can definitely notice the animatronics and stop motion effects which seemed so flawless and striking when I was young, but I couldn't imagine Gremlins otherwise. Again, there's more soul here than Small Soldiers, despite all the state-of-the-art CGI in the latter. Perhaps some things just feel better with a little grit around the edges, or perhaps films do work better when you start principal photography with a completed script?
Hey, what's this? (Cue sound of frenzied inspection of the DVD cover art.) What's with messing with the DVD cover art? Personally, I prefer to see the original movie poster on the cover of my DVDs, although the modification is fitting, and reminiscent of the scene in the sequel where gremlins get into the projection room.
The transfer is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.
The picture is noticeably soft, with easily discernible grain and low level noise in many shots. Although blacks are deep, shadow detail is a little disappointing. The image reminds me of a decent quality TV broadcast rather than a pristine digital signal. Yes, the film is pushing on to 20 years old, but I've seen films from the 60s that look razor-sharp compared to this disc.
The colour is typical of many 80s films, leaning a little towards oversaturation, but generally pleasing and natural.
I saw no MPEG artefacts, no telecine wobble and no aliasing, but the elements used for this transfer are far from perfect. Besides the grain, there are quite a lot of film artefacts, which will likely disturb a few buyers. I saw scratches, hair, dirt, and a couple of interesting defects: an intriguing 'warp' at 39:50 and a groovy scratch line running down the screen for a scene at 52:20. I would have expected that Warners could have made more of an effort to locate a better print, but there you go.
This is an RSDL disc, and I can't figure out why. With an average bitrate of 6.84Mbps, a running time of just over 100 minutes and no extras, the data should easily fit on a single layer. Despite watching very carefully for a layer change, I didn't detect one. (Ed. The layer change is at 47:20, during Chapter 11.)
The disc contains three audio tracks, English, French and Italian 5.1. I listened exclusively to the English track.
The 5.1 remix reproduces the 'tweaks' used to make the original Dolby Surround mix more dynamic in the theatre, but the remixers didn't compensate for the greater clarity and channel separation of a discrete format. Hence, sounds panned off-centre come from the very corner of the soundstage, rather than localizing midway between the centre and front speakers, and dialogue is often forward and artificial-sounding. Obviously it's looped, but you shouldn't be able to realize it so easily! However, dialogue is always clear, easy to understand and free of distortion.
The soundtrack is a little overbright, with some hiss apparent in quieter moments. Using THX-style re-equalisation solves both problems.
I noticed no problems with audio sync. Never do.
The score is by Jerry Goldsmith, and is a decent, fluffy effort (which is fitting, obviously!). The arrangement is generally traditionally orchestral, but there is some Moog synth work that occasionally reminded me of Wendy Carlos' work on Clockwork Orange... no, I can't explain why either. The score is presented well for a film of this era, sounding rather more natural than the dialogue, and wraps into the surrounds well.
The 5.1 remix has used the surrounds far more aggressively than would have been possible with the original soundtrack, with a fair amount of gremlin action coming from behind the viewer. A particularly effective sequence has Billy's search for Stripe lead him to the YMCA (56:44). The wind noise in the rear channels during this scene was so convincing that I had to pause the disc to work out whether I was hearing the film or bad weather brewing outside!
The LFE channel is used sparingly, but effectively. It's not as aggressive as a modern film, but then, you don't expect it to be.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The video quality is, I'm sorry to say, quite average by today's R4 standards.
The audio quality is decent, considering the age of the film. Big smacks to Warner for not providing the original soundtrack.
I can only assume gremlins stole the extras (sorry).
|DVD||Pioneer 103S DVD-ROM with Hollywood Plus decoder card, using S-Video output|
|Display||Mitsubishi DiVA (78cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Speakers||Front L/R: Richter Excalibur SE, Centre: Richter Unicorn Mk 2, Surrounds: Richter Hydras|