A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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Released 6-Oct-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Menu Animation & Audio
Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Train
Audio Commentary-Cast And Crew
Featurette-Making The Glove
Featurette-Welcome To Prime Time
Featurette-The Revolving Room
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 87:30
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Wes Craven
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Saxon
Ronee Blakley
Heather Langenkamp
Amanda Wyss
Jsu Garcia
Johnny Depp
Charles Fleischer
Joseph Whipp
Robert Englund
Lin Shaye
Joe Unger
Mimi Craven
Jack Shea
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Charles Bernstein
Steve Karshner
Martin Kent


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

One… two ... Freddys coming for you. Three… Four… Better lock your door.”

I remember sitting in a darkened bedroom with my younger sister when I was around 11 years old and watching this film on a small 34cm TV when it was first shown on television in the mid 1980s. This was the first horror film we had ever seen and it scared the hell out of us. Subsequently I watched it and some of the sequels again when they were released on VHS tape and it was certainly a horror favourite of mine as a teenager. It’s always interesting revisiting these pivotal experiences later on in life, although you sometimes worry that they will not live up to your memories. In the case of A Nightmare on Elm Street I am glad to report that this film does stand up as a great low budget horror film.

The story centres on Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), a high school student who has been having nightmares inhabited by a dark and disfigured man who has knives on his fingers. She soon learns that some of her friends, including boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp in his big screen debut), friend Tina (Amanda Wyss) and her boyfriend Rod (Jsu Garcia) may be experiencing similar nightmares. They soon find that the injuries sustained in these nightmares manifest themselves in real life when they wake up. Tina will come to learn that the man in their nightmares is Fred Kruegar (referred to as Freddy Kruegar in later films) (Robert Englund), a brutal murderer of children. Why is he haunting their nightmares, what does he want and how can he be stopped?

If the idea of people being harmed in their dreams seems a little clichéd then you’d be wrong. When it first came out the idea of a “boogie man” getting people in their dreams was quite original. The script for the film had actually been shopped around the various studios by Wes Craven and had been rejected because it was thought that people would not buy into this concept. When it was finally made and released audiences not only bought into the concept but totally embraced it. The film was a huge success and in true horror style launched a swag of sequels (of varying quality) onto the market.

What really makes this original film work so well is the fact that it relies more on atmosphere and psychological fear than on gore, although there certainly is some of that. The acting performances are all quite reasonable for a horror flick. Heather Langenkamp is particularly good as the film’s protagonist Nancy, managing to play a character with both vulnerability and great inner strength. Johnny Depp in his debut role as her boyfriend Glen is a little less convincing. He seems a little uncomfortable in the role but we do get to see a few glimpses of the talent that would be shown in his later performances.

While A Nightmare on Elm Street may not appear on many lists of great horror films it is nonetheless a landmark horror film of the eighties and it has been extensively imitated and parodied since. For fans of the horror genre this film should without question be added to your DVD library.

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Transfer Quality

Video

For a film just over 20 years old the transfer is reasonably good and stands up well when blown up onto my 2 metre wide screen where, while a little soft, it exhibited a nice film-like appearance.

The film is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 which matches the original aspect ratio of the movie. The DVD is 16x9 enhanced.

While the image may be a bit soft it still displays reasonable levels of detail considering the age of the film. Black levels are fine although some of the dream sequences had rather greyish blacks such as at around 36 minutes. While black levels were quite good the actual shadow detail was only average although this may have been deliberate, as horror films are often as much about what you can’t see as what you can. No low level noise was noticed in the transfer.

Colours were nicely saturated, exhibiting a colour palette common for the mid 1980s Skin tones were fairly accurate although sometimes they took on a slightly over-ripe appearance.

The film print used is quite good. Some minor instances of dirt were observed with the worst artefact being a small glob on the screen at 29:13. MPEG artefacts are kept well under control for the most part and the image is free of edge enhancement. The only thing I did notice was the effects of noise reduction a few times such as the Toshiba logo on a television at 19:46 and the bars of a window at 37:40 which twitched and pulsated a bit. I doubt this would be noticeable on a normal sized TV unless you looked for it but I did find the effect a bit distracting on my 90” screen.

Only English subtitles are available on the disc. They are white and easy to read and are mostly word for word verbatim with the on-screen dialogue.

The film is presented on a dual layer disc. The actual film fits entirely onto one layer with the bonus features on the other and therefore there is no layer change to report.

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

Audio

Two English soundtracks are provided (excluding the audio commentary), a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s. I listened to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in its entirety and sampled the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Both are reasonable, although they sometimes seemed a little thin, especially the dialogue. The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 is the more dynamic of the two.

Audio sync was generally quite good although I did observe a few scenes where the dialogue had obviously been subsequently looped in, such as the scene at the beginning of the film around 5 minutes into the movie.

The original music in the film by Charles Bernstein is fairly typical of horror soundtracks of the 1980s with a fair amount of emphasis on electronic synthesiser music which, while effective, does tend to date the film a bit.

The remixed 5.1 soundtrack is fairly aggressive and I felt the surround channels sometimes drew unnecessary attention to themselves. The surrounds are used for both music and adding atmosphere to the scenes which they do accomplish quite well.

The subwoofer was used fairly extensively to add tension to scenes although I felt the actual quality of the subwoofer channel was fairly average and lacked real definition.

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

Extras

Despite the cover for this DVD listing only an Audio Commentary and Theatrical Trailer as the extras on this disc, in reality it also includes a number of interesting featurettes including a 45 minute retrospective documentary that fans of the film will not want to miss.

Menu

The menus are 16x9 enhanced, nicely animated and feature atmospheric music.

Audio Commentary - Wes Craven (Writer and Director), Jacques Haitkin (Director of Photography) and Heather Langenkamp (actress, Nancy Thomson).

This is a fantastic audio commentary featuring Wes Craven (Writer and Director), Jacques Haitkin (Director of Photography) and Heather Langenkamp (actress, Nancy Thomson). This was obviously originally recorded for the Laserdisc release (they make several mentions of the Laserdisc) but it is nonetheless essential listening for fans of the film. They primarily discuss the actual production of the film and give the listener many insights into how the film was made including many of the creative methods used to achieve the desired results given the lack of budget. In the words of Jacques Haitkin, the Director of Photography, “we did it on the sushi budget of a real feature”. They tell a number of interesting anecdotes including one about a poison bug getting loose on the set and how it was because of Wes Craven's daughter and her friends that Johnny Depp was chosen to play the character of Glen.

Making the Glove (1:08)

This short featurette shows Lou Carlucci, who handled special effects on a number of the Nightmare films, discussing how he created the original Freddy glove and the subsequent changes that happened to it over the franchise. It is presented at 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

Welcome to Prime Time (46:30)

This is by far the most substantial of the extra features and is a retrospective documentary that includes participation from all the major players in the original film. This documentary includes discussions of the genesis of the film, the problems faced getting it made, the actual production of the movie, how it was received and how the participants feel about the movie now. Fan of this film and the Nightmare series will not want to miss this fascinating documentary. It is presented at 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

The Revolving Room (1:53)

This short featurette is about how one of the bedroom sets actually rotated. It is presented at 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

Original Theatrical Trailer (1:39)

This is the original theatrical trailer presented in 16x9 widescreen and with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. It seems pretty dated by today’s standards.

Easter Egg

As if the declared features are not enough, there is also an alternative ending lurking in there too. For those too lazy to look, (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) from the Documentary Vignettes menu highlight Special Features, press the left arrow key to highlight Freddy and press Enter.

Censorship

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R4 vs R1

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

The Nightmare on Elm Street films are available on individual barebone Region 1 DVDs featuring only the films or they are available as part of an 8 disc box set featuring the 7 movies and an 8th disc titled “The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia”. I was unable to find reliable information about the exact contents of this 8th disc but I think it’s a fair assumption that the bonus features on our region 4 discs are the appropriate material for each film from that DVD. Therefore, if you wish to buy one of the films separately then the Region 4 versions are by far the best of choice. If, however, you want to buy the whole series then the 8 disc Box Set from Region 1 is the only way to go.

Summary

A Nightmare on Elm Street may not appear on many lists of great horror films but it is nonetheless a landmark horror film of the 1980s. The video and audio transfers are both very good but do show their age a little. The extras package is excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Gauntlett (read my bio if you're bored.)
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVPNS575-S Progressive Scan, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE900E HD LCD Projector onto 90" 16x9 Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderLogitech 5500 THX. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationLogitech 5500 THX
SpeakersLogitech 5500 THX

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Elm Street R1 extras -
R4 Cover labelling -
Only ONE of the alternate endings...? -
Alternate endings ARE on DVD (Response to Wilson Bros messaget): - REPLY POSTED
Like I said... - capone (they're some fine antibiotics you got there..) REPLY POSTED
Elm Street R1 extras - REPLY POSTED
Elm Street R1 extras -
2-disc special edition - chaossphere
Re: 2-disc special edition -