"Prince Of Darkness (1987)"
Shout Factory! Collectors Edition Review
Starring Donald Pleasance, Jameson Parker,
Lisa Blount, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun and Peter Jason
COLOR/1987/RATED R/1 HOUR 42 MINUTES
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1 1080p Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
After achieving success with the memorable horror films "Halloween" and "The Fog" as well as the classic action-thriller, "Escape From New York", famed director John Carpenter was given his major studio plumb in the remake "The Thing", which was a major disappointment when it was released but now is considered a masterpiece (and rightfully so). Other studio success would follow with the Stephen King adaptation of "Christine" and the critically acclaimed Sci-Fi drama "Starman" which garnered Jeff Bridges a well deserved Oscar nomination. Carpenter would find the studio to be more problematic in Fox's "Big Trouble In Little China", which had studio interference written all over it and soon after he made the decision to go back to his roots of independent film making and his first project was 1987's "Prince Of Darkness" which he wrote under the pseudonym of Martin Quatermass and the first
The film revolves around a priest (Carpenter film veteran Donald Pleasance) who has discovered the Church's most kept secret. A box containing a key leading to a seemingly abandoned church which is surrounded by homeless (led by rocker Alice Cooper) who seem out of sorts with pale faces. The priest enlists the help of a physics professor Birack (Victor Wong, "3 Ninjas") whom he then takes to the church and sees a cylander containing some green ooze that happens to contain the liquified remnants of the son of you know who! Birack enlists his class of students that include Parker and Parker's Jameson Parker, "An Officer And Gentleman's" Lisa Blount, "Big Trouble In Little China's" Dennis Dun and "They Live's" Peter Jason to figure out and study(?) what exactly is inside the cylinder and the mysterious surroundings. Soon whatever is inside the cylinder starts spew out of its' seal drop by drop soon possessing most of the students turning them into mindless zombies with a bigger agenda in mind while the homeless surround the church making sure that no one escapes. Soon the surviving members of the group have to battle their possessed classmates have to figure out and find a way to stop the son from fully awakening and ending the world as we know.
The film was hammered critically and most critics felt that Carpenter's atmosphere and tension that made his films "Halloween" and "The Thing" riveting was simply not there. There are only a few characters that we do remotely care about, but then there are others that are just simply throwaways so that the story can move along at a brisk pace. Even Carpenter's explanation of what the cylinder contains and its' scientific relevance is just totally out of whack to the point of laughter. Parker is the most capable actor to pull the dialog that he had to state in that point in time while others like Pleasence, Wong and others try to refrain a straight face and dignity to their performance. Without trying to give away too much from the film's ending, its' simply just too whacky to be believable and probably that's part of the films' charm at times, yet it's also heavy handed in that regard and simply too much to enjoy unlike the misfire "Big Trouble In Little China", which did have a sense of humor to it.
Shout Factory's release is a major upgrade from the original Image Entertainment and Universal DVD's of the early 2000's with superior picture quality and fine sound. John Carpenter's and Alan Howarth's thumping creepy soundtrack really does get a little more justice and packs a heck of a punch with the sound quality really first rate. This combo pack also features a nice assortment of special features giving the film a really comprehensive look behind the scenes like never before:
Special Features on this Blu-Ray include:
Audio Commentary with John Carpenter actually also features actor Peter Jason. This is nicely conversational and is intermittently informational, with Carpenter flat out confessing he doesn't understand all of the film (even though he wrote it). Some of the best moments deal with the special effects, including Carpenter's explanation of the cool mirror effects that cap the film.
Sympathy For The Devil: An Interview with John Carpenter (10:28). Carpenter talks about how religion and faith has informed his oeuvre, and perhaps surprisingly how the Hammer Films seemed to utilized religious iconography or concepts quite a bit.
Alice At The Apocalypse: An Interview with Alice Cooper (9:27). Cooper discusses his small but pivotal role in the film.
The Messenger: All New Interview With Actor And Special Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Grasmere (12:41). Grasmere, who played the "Doubting Thomas" of the group, reminisceces about his role and some of the special effects.
Hell On Earth: A Look At The Film's Score with Co-Composer Alan Howarth (10:15). Carpenter of course tends to score his own films, but Howarth was also on hand here helping to shape the score, and he discusses some of the synth sounds and techniques he brought to bear on the project.
Alternate Opening from TV Version (6:55)
Horror's Hallowed Ground (13:44) is another Sean Clark hosted look at the film's locations.
Trailer and Radio Spots (2:48) Still Gallery (4:27)
Prince of Darkness 25th Anniversary Screening (12:10) features a Q&A from 2012's Screamfest. This is an "easter egg" but isn't too hard to find
As with their previous special editions, Shout Factory scores another hit with "Prince Of Darkness" despite the film being of John Carpenter's most inspired misfires, it still works on a level to shock and scare you because of his capable and energetic direction which has always been a great thing about his films. This one is has a cult status and a very good one and Shout Factory definitely seems to think so since they went through the trouble of producing a healthy amount of nice features and terrific artwork. A nice release all around despite the films' flaws.