Poltergeist (1982)

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Released 9-Oct-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 109:44
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Tobe Hooper
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Jobeth Williams
Craig T. Nelson
Beatrice Straight
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Spanish
Portuguese
German
Romanian
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I'm certain this film has scarred more young psyches than mine alone. I first saw it when I was 12, on a crummy 48cm TV stuck in the corner of the room, and it scared the absolute daylights out of me. Naturally, when the chance to see it again on glorious widescreen DVD presented itself, I leapt at the chance!

    Don't you hate it when you realize that things which terrified you as a child aren't frightening anymore? Dr. Who. The closet. Broccoli. And Poltergeist.

    Looking at the film in the harsh light of adulthood, I'm struck by how reminiscent of a Steven Spielberg film it is, despite being ostensibly directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Tobe Hooper. The camera angles, the touches of light humour, the omnipresent kids and dogs. Spielberg may not have given a direct command on set, but this is his movie in everything but name. And, to give it its due, it's a great ride.

    The plot revolves around the Freeling family, successful from father Steve's real estate career. In fact, he's responsible for selling most of the properties in their suburban nightmare of a neighbourhood. Unfortunately for the Freelings, something decidedly supernatural has taken an interest in their daughter, Carol Anne. At first the only evidence is bent utensils, chairs moving by themselves and other reasonably harmless occurrences, but when Carol Anne suddenly vanishes into the TV set, her family are forced to confront the poltergeist on its own turf. Cue: fun.

    While a little tense at times with a couple of good shocks, this film is never mean-spirited (sorry). On release, Spielberg managed to procure a PG rating in the States, and I'd concur with that. Even today, the special effects (courtesy of ILM) are stunning, and the storyline and performances are winning. I just wish I could get that 12-year-old-huddled-under-the-covers feeling back.

    Speaking of covers, compared to the US release, the R4 artwork looks like a cheap pirate job.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer was pretty much as I would have expected for a film of this era.

    The original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is preserved, and with 16x9 enhancement to boot.

    Sharpness is good but not outstanding, and noise and grain are low in level. Blacks are good and solid, and shadows are retained as far as the film stock used would allow. While I never felt like I was missing information while watching, I don't consider this a reference transfer simply due to the quality of the original film stock.

    Colour is solid, well saturated and vibrant. The picture looks reasonably 'filmic'.

    I saw no MPEG artefacts, very mild and isolated aliasing and no significant film artefacts considering the age of the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Here we run into problems. Poltergeist was originally released with a Dolby Stereo soundtrack in theatres, true, but there were 70mm roadshow screenings, which means that a 6-channel sound master exists. The US DVD gets a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but we are restricted to a Dolby Digital 2.0 matrix soundtrack. I ask you. Really.

    The disc contains three Dolby Digital audio tracks, English and French 2.0 surround-encoded and Italian 1.0. I listened exclusively to the original English track.

    Dialogue is clear and generally natural, and a good system should reproduce it easily at all times. At one point JoBeth Williams shouts loudly, driving the soundtrack into mild distortion, but I would expect that to be a source problem, rather than a flaw with the transfer. There are some dodgy elements in the mix, though. The barks of the Freeling's dog, for example, sound very flat and phoney through my reference system.

    Audio sync was as good as you'd expect with a major Hollywood release, which is to say, excellent!

    The score is by Jerry Goldsmith, and is very Spielbergian. Trust me, when you hear it, you'll understand. Although Spielberg is generally associated with John Williams, Goldsmith proves an admirable substitute, with a score that's equal parts light and menace. The orchestra fills as much of the soundstage as a Pro-Logic mix physically can, and is well recorded.

    The surrounds are used very aggressively at times, although the bandwidth and dynamic limitations that a Pro-Logic mix impose mean that you're never as immersed as you would have been with a discrete mix. In particular, the mono rear channel detracts from a few key scenes later in the film.

    The LFE channel is used sparingly but effectively with some decent rumblings. It's a long way from a window-shaker, but the soundtrack doesn't sound lightweight.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Here you go, folks. One menu, coming right up. Basic, too.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The most glaring omission for Australian viewers is the 5.1 channel soundtrack, which will make the R1 disc the only option for many. Beyond that, we miss out on a trailer (quality unknown) and a pan-and-scan version, which I'll happily do without, thanks very much.

   Reports are that the US disc is no longer available, and the rumour is that a special edition is in the works. If you're a fan, I'd be inclined to wait and see if that's true.

Summary

    Look, this film is rated M, sure. And you're worried about your kids and their impressionable minds, sure. Ignore that. Show your kids this film. Let them freak out and have nightmares and need the hall light on for a few days. When they look back on it, they'll thank you.

    The video quality is probably as good as you can expect given the age of the film.

    The audio quality is decent, but far short of what we should have had. Big smacks to Warner for not providing the 6-channel soundtrack.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Dossett (read my bio here or check out my music at MP3.com.)
Thursday, October 19, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer 103S DVD-ROM with Hollywood Plus decoder card, using S-Video output
DisplayMitsubishi DiVA (78cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A1
SpeakersFront L/R: Richter Excalibur SE, Centre: Richter Unicorn Mk 2, Surrounds: Richter Hydras

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