The Hills Have Eyes: Special Edition (1977)

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Released 17-Oct-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Wes Craven (Writer/Director) And Peter Locke (Producer0
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Horror Trailers
Featurette-Looking Back On The Hills Have Eyes
Alternate Ending
TV Spots
Gallery-Stills And Posters
Gallery-Storyboard Art
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 89:47
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Wes Craven
Studio
Distributor
Blood Relations Co
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Susan Lanier
Robert Houston
Martin Speer
Dee Wallace-Stone
Russ Grieve
John Steadman
James Whitworth
Virginia Vincent
Lance Gordon
Michael Berryman
Janus Blythe
Cordy Clark
Brenda Marinoff
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $29.95 Music Don Peake


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Wes Craven began his film career in 1971 co-directing Together, a softcore documentary with Sean S. Cunningham. Cunningham would later go on to produce and direct the original Friday The 13th  in 1980. Craven made his feature film debut with the gruesome Last House On The Left, beginning a lasting affair with the horror genre. Craven then gained some morbid inspiration for his next film, The Hills Have Eyes.

    The Hills Have Eyes is loosely based on the Scottish legend of the Sawney Beane family. They were a clan of cave dwelling cannibals, consisting of a wife, six daughters and eight sons. Later came eighteen grandsons and fourteen granddaughters, all products of incest. In the early fourteen hundreds they robbed, murdered and devoured anyone that passed through their area in the East Lothian County. Their crimes continued for twenty five years until they were hunted down, captured and taken to Edinburgh. It was here that the family were all horrifically tortured and later executed.

    Craven's loose adaptation of the legend takes place in modern day America. The Carter family are a typical American family making their way through the desert, enroute to California. They are Bob and Ethel Carter (Russ Grieve and Virginia Vincent) together with their adult children, Bobby (Robert Houston), Brenda (Susan Lanier), Lynne (Dee Wallace-Stone), her husband Doug (Martin Speer) and their baby daughter.

    The family stops for fuel at a run down service station, run by a nervous old man, Fred (John Steadman). Fred is exceptionally anxious about something and is in the process of abandoning his business when they pull in. He tells the Carter family to stay on the main road and not to visit the old abandoned silver mine, as they had planned to do.

    Of course, the Carters don't take Fred's advice and end up running off the road. With the added weight of their caravan, the rear axle on the car snaps and leaves the family isolated and vulnerable in the barren landscape.

    As the family embark on an action plan to get help, they are totally unaware that the nearby hills have eyes. The stranded travellers are being watched by a family of savage outcasts who have an agenda of extreme violence and cannibalism.

    This tribe of rouges is led by the imposing father, Jupiter (James Whitworth). Mars (Lance Gordon) and Pluto (Michael Berryman) are the twisted and evil sons, hell-bent on causing mayhem and death. The adult daughter of the clan is the only shining light amongst them. Ruby (Janus Blythe) sees the evil and despair of living with the family and plans to escape. The film's producer, Peter Locke (credited as Arthur King), plays the small role of Mercury, another of the clan's evil offspring.

    The horror of the situation is soon apparent to the Carters as the primal fury of the clan is unleashed upon them. But this average family from suburbia can only take so much and plan their fight back. However, their fight for survival will require them to transform their homely personas into that of their attackers and use the same primitive cunning and savage violence to defeat them.

    We live in an era where seemingly no popular film from the past can escape the dreaded Hollywood re-make. A new film version of the The Hills Have Eyes is due for cinema release in March 2006. This new version is directed by Alexandre Aja, with Wes Craven and Peter Locke thankfully taking on roles as Producers.

    Wes Craven wrote and directed a sequel to The Hills Have Eyes in 1985, however The Hills Have Eyes - Part 2 failed to gain an enthusiastic audience.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer for The Hills Have Eyes is very good considering the age of the source material.

    The film is presented on this DVD in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This transfer of The Hills Have Eyes certainly displays its low budget origins. The film exhibits minor film grain throughout; this is consistent with the source material, as anyone who has seen the film in any medium will testify. Sharpness levels are reasonable, although slightly dulled by the presence of this grain. Overall, the image has a slightly soft edge to it. Put into context though, this is very good video transfer and I believe a faithful transfer of the original film. Blacks are generally of high quality, displaying good depth and are clear of low-level noise. Shadows, while not perfect, also exhibited excellent detail.

    Colours also appear faithful to the source material and have a distinctive seventies appearance. They are well balanced with no evidence of oversaturation or colour bleeding.

    I found no MPEG artefacts in this transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were well controlled and caused no significant problems. Film artefacts were also (surprisingly) kept to minimal levels. The occasional faint vertical line was briefly noticed to the left of centre screen, but this wasn't at all distracting.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles on this DVD.

    This disc is a single sided, dual layered disc. The layer change on disc one occurs at 68:35, which is very well placed and barely noticeable. Disc two is a single layered disc, so there is no layer change.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is an excellent re-mix of the original mono soundtrack.

    There are three audio tracks available on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)

    Dialogue quality is consistent and clear throughout the film. Audio sync is also very good and presented no problems.

    The original music score by Don Peake is used sensibly to enhance the general atmosphere of the film.

    The surround channels provide subtle enrichment of ambient sound and music. The occasional direct sound effect is audible, but this is basically a front based audio re-mix of the original mono track.

    The subwoofer was not troubled throughout the entire film.

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

Extras

    The selection of extras available is fantastic and should please fans.

Menu

   The menus are all static and quite basic. They feature music and dialogue from the film and have 16x9 enhancement. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Extras Disc One: 

Audio Commentary Wes Craven (Writer and Director) and Peter Locke (Producer)

    The friendly banter between these two old friends is enjoyable to listen to. Apart from being quite humorous, it is appropriately informative as the pair discuss the many aspects of the film. Both have a good recollection of the production and are happy to reminisce on the trials and tribulations they went through making the film. A highly enjoyable and informative commentary.

US Theatrical Trailer

    The Hills Have Eyes (2:40)

German Theatrical Trailer

    The Hills Have Eyes (2:45)

Horror Trailers

Extras Disc Two:

Documentary - Looking Back On The Hills Have Eyes (54:44)

    This retrospective look at The Hills Have Eyes was made for the R1 Anchor Bay DVD release and was made in 2003.It is an informative documentary which features interviews with many cast and crew members including Wes Craven, Peter Locke, Dee Wallace, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier, Janus Blythe, Michael Berryman and Eric Saarinen. Most aspects of the film are covered in the documentary, with footage from the film used to highlight the discussion. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Alternate Ending (1:19)

    A slight twist on the ending of the film. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

TV Spots

    All four of these advertisements were made for and were screened on television back in the days of the film's initial cinema release. All have a running time of thirty one seconds, except the final one, which runs for sixteen seconds. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

Stills and Poster Gallery

    A collection of seventy six behind-the-scenes images relating to the film. Also featured are a mixture of twenty eight posters and advertising material from a variety of countries.

Storyboard Art (1:46)

    A collection of very rough sketches which storyboard a couple of scenes from the film. These storyboards were provided courtesy of Wes Craven.

More Horror Trailers   

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.

    There is a marginal difference between this local two-disc edition of The Hills Have Eyes and the similar R1 version released by Anchor Bay in September 2003.

    Both are two disc editions, but the R1 version features Dolby Digital 6.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES audio tracks, which are not available on the local version.

    The R1 edition also features an additional documentary, The Directors: The Films Of Wes Craven. This appears to be a retrospective look at Craven's body of work and features interviews with many actors in particular.

    The R1 version looks the winner here.

Summary

    Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes is a cult classic that has finally been released on DVD in this country. I believe the passage of time and the countless horror films that have emulated this film have slightly dulled its impact on a current day audience. The Hills Have Eyes certainly broke new ground in its day and is so much more than a senseless horror film, as it symbolizes many elements of society. It's also an excellent retrospective look at the beginnings of Wes Craven's film career, before his macabre and hugely successful films such as A Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream.

    The video transfer, while not pristine, is quite faithful to the source material.

    The audio transfer is a subtle re-mix of the original mono soundtrack, which works quite well.

    The selection of extras spread over the two discs should keep fans of the film happy.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Region 2 extras - Lee N REPLY POSTED
Alternate ending... - Le Bros Wilson, UK REPLY POSTED
For fans the Region 2 version is definitely the way to go... - Sev REPLY POSTED
American Nightmare - Anonymous
R2 American Nightmare Cut - Tony REPLY POSTED
This was a fizzer - Eddie