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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Lady in White (Blu-ray)
Lady in White (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // September 27, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted September 12, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

Frank LaLoggia's The Lady In White takes place in the year 1962 in a small upstate New York town. Here we're introduced to Frank Scarlatti (Lukas Haas), a nine year old boy who, like a lot of nine year old boys, is a little quirky. He doesn't seem to quite fit in with the other kids and it's safe to describe him as a bit of an outsider. Frank ‘escapes' by putting his vivid imagination to use and writing horror stories in his spare time. He lives with his dad, a widower named Al (Alex Rocco), his older brother and his two Italian grandparents who spoil him just a little bit.

The story is set just before Halloween, Frankie's favorite time of year. He's pretty excited about the upcoming holiday but these hopes are dashed when two bullies lock him in the coat room at school. He can't get out and no one hears him. Frankie winds up spending the night in there, and it's then that he sees the ghost of a young girl. Shortly after that, a man whose face is covered in a mask enters the room and starts fishing around for something hidden in the duct work. He spies Frankie and almost kills him, but changes his mind and dashes out at the last minute. When Frankie's dad eventually finds him and frees him, he starts to wonder what the ghost he saw was really all about. As he starts digging into the history of the town, he learns that over the years more than a few children have gone missing. Frankie decides to put on his sleuthing hat to solve the mystery, but then there's the matter of the so called Lady In White, an apparition known to wander the streets of the town in the middle of darkest night… and a strange old woman named Amanda (Katherine Helmond) who might hold a key to help him unlock all of this.

This film is a little bit long but otherwise very well done. Some might complain about its pace, those who want their horror movies to move at the speed of light, but LaLoggia's clearly more interested in crafting rock-solid character development than he is in creating jump scares. Although this is very definitely a ghost story, its done in the tradition of writers like M.R. James rather than ‘jump out an go boo!' movies like the Paranormal Activity or Conjuring films. Those can and are a lot of fun in their own way but there's something more personal about the approach employed in a picture like this. The human element matters more than the supernatural element, though in a way they are inseparable. LaLoggia accomplishes this by giving the phantom(s) in his picture a back story, a reason to exist, and this in turn humanizes them. Where they otherwise might exist only to scare us, here we feel for them in much the same way that we feel for Frankie and for some of the other living, breathing characters in the film.

Those comfortable with the film's sometimes languid pacing will find much to appreciate about other aspects of the film. Aside from some very well written and entirely believable small town characters, the movie is beautifully shot. LaLoggia and cinematographer Russell Carpenter (who would later win an Oscar for his work on Titanic) do a remarkable job with the visuals. The fall colors really look gorgeous here and there are all manner of very nicely framed shots evident throughout the picture, some very impressive in their artistry. The film also benefits from an excellent score composed by LaLoggia himself. It fits the tone of the film, the way that it incorporates a child's perspective into the events that take place, quite appropriately. It gives the whole thing an appreciable warmth that's missing from a lot of similarity themed films and this makes the movie easy to like and somewhat nostalgic for those of us in a certain age grouping.

Performances are also very strong here. Lukas Haas is excellent here in an early role. He's completely believable as in the part, and he plays Frankie as smart, curious and brave but never to the point where he doesn't act like most kids his age would act in the type of predicaments he finds himself in. Katherine Helmond plays the eccentric old lady quite well, putting in a memorable turn, while Alex Rocco is just plain likeable as Frankie's dad.

It's definitely worth noting that this two disc release from Shout! Factory includes three cuts of the film. On the first disc we have the director's cut, which is the same version that Elite Entertainment put out on DVD. On the second disc we have an extended director's cut and the original theatrical cut. The difference between the theatrical cut and the director's cut is about four minutes, mostly made up by trimming a few scenes (Frankie and Ms. La Della in the car, the aftermath in the bedroom after the ghost appears, Angelo driving the Williams' home from church, Frankie and the typewriter and a scene where Geno gets his temperature taken). Those scenes are put back in to the director's cut, thus the slightly longer running time. As to what makes the extended director's cut extended, it's nine minutes of additional footage.

Viewers will obviously prefer whichever cut works best for them. The theatrical cut is definitely the tightest, the director's cut fills things in a bit more and the extended director's cut fills in even more, but the pacing isn't as tight in the longer versions. Shout! Factory has done the right thing by including all three versions, that way you can choose whichever option works best for you.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

The Lady In White arrives on a two disc Blu-ray set from Shout! Factory in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks good for the most part. Some of the darker scenes have some minor crush and shadows can sometimes swallow up fine detail but the image is clean and quite colorful most of the time. Skin tones look nice, if ever so slightly orange, while depth and texture are quite solid if a little shy of perfect. Some shots do look a little bit softer than others but these are the exception rather than the rule. There are no noticeable issues with any edge enhancement or compression artifacts while a natural looking amount of film grain shows up throughout.

Sound:

English language DTS-HD tracks are provided in 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo format with removable subtitles provided in English only. Those who want remixes on their Blu's should be pleased with the 5.1 track as it does a pretty nice job of pushing out some of the sound effects and the score to the various channels while keeping the dialogue more or less up front. The 2.0 mix sounds a bit more authentic but both tracks offer good quality, proper balance and a good listening experience.

Extras:

The extra are spread across the two discs in this set as follows:

Disc One:

Aside from the one hundred and seventeen minute Director's Cut of the film the first disc also includes some other extra features of note. The first of these is the audio commentary with Frank LaLoggia that was originally recorded for the old DVD release. This is a pretty engaging discussion in which LaLoggia makes clear just how personal this project was for him. He talks about where some of the ideas came from, casting the film, the locations and settings featured in the picture and a fair bit more. It's well-paced and quite interesting. He also points out what was put back into the movie to create his director's cut version compared to the theatrical edit. Worth a listen, especially if you've never heard it before and want to know more about the movie.

Also on hand is sixteen minutes of Behind the Scenes Footage with introduction by Frank LaLoggia. This is basically some VHS footage of the director at work on set. It's interesting enough to see, but far more comprehensive is the Extended Behind The Scenes Footage section that contains a mammoth seventy-three minutes of material. In here you'll find footage showing off what it was like on set during the production as well as footage documenting the post production process. There's a lot of stuff in here and while casual fans might find it to be a bit much, it's a sure bet that the film's dedicated fan base will eat it all up.

The disc also serves up thirty-six minutes of deleted scenes from the film that play with introduction by Frank LaLoggia. These were included on the old Elite DVD as well, but appear here in high definition and look much better than they have in the past. Also of interest to fans is the seven minute Promotional Short Film that was originally made to drum up interest from investors to get the feature version made. It's interesting to see LaLoggia using some of the same actors here, and to see what he could pull off on a presumably modest budget here.

Outside of that, the first disc throws in two different trailers for the feature, an introduction by Frank LaLoggia (less than a minute in length), a handful of TV and Radio Spots, a Behind The Scenes Photo Montage, an Extended Photo Gallery, menus and chapter selection.

Disc Two:

The main attraction on the second disc is the one hundred and twenty-six minute long Extended Director's Cut "with never-before-seen footage" (which was culled from a different source. So while the bulk of the film mirrors the quality seen on disc one, when we get to the inserted material there is a bit of a drop in both audio and video quality due to the elements available. Disc two also includes the Original Theatrical Cut that runs one hundred and thirteen minutes in length. Quality of this version appears to mirror the director's cut found on the first disc.

Final Thoughts:

The Lady In White is more of a fantasy/mystery hybrid than a traditional horror film but don't let that dissuade you from checking it out. Those who saw it as kids in the eighties likely carry a nostalgia for the film (guilty!) but even if you don't fall into that camp you've got to appreciate the art direction, the performance and the sheer creativity on display in the film. Shout! Factory has really gone all out on their two-disc Blu-ray release of the film. It's presented in very nice shape, with an excellent selection of extras and with three different cuts of the film (and each one in high definition). It's hard to ask for more than that! Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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