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Dark: Collector's Edition, The
Directed by John ‘Bud' Cardos (who stepped in to finish the movie once Tobe Hooper was removed from the project), 1979's The Dark is a weird mix of sci-fi, horror and suspense that tells the story of a man named Roy Warner (William Devane) who writes violent horror novels under a pen name. When his daughter is killed by someone or something late one night, he is understandably upset but let's Detectives Dave Mooney (Richard Jaeckel) and Jack Bresler (Biff Elliot) do their job, even if they don't like each other.
When it turns out that Warner's daughter was only the first in what be a fairly long list of victims, Police Captain Speer (Warren J. Kemmerling) starts putting pressure on the cops to put a stop to this by any means necessary. Meanwhile, a TV news reporter named Zoe Owens (Cathy Lee Crosby), who has hosted a less than flattering piece on Warner, starts investigating herself with some help, and also some hindrance, from her producer, Sherman Moss (Keenan Wynn). Of course, eventually Warner and Zoe meet up and she realizes he's not so bad and he realizes she's not so bad, and they start working together to figure out what's behind the killings.
Featuring some amusing bit parts for both Casey Kasem and a young Philip Michael Thomas, The Dark is a fairly clunky genre picture that starts off strong, loses sight of its target in the middle stretch and then pulls out all the stops for a ridiculously fun finale. If you can get past the pacing problems here and don't necessarily need your horror pictures to be total gore fests (or, to be honest, all that scary), and you've got an affinity for late seventies style, then you'll probably have a good time here. Throw in some pretty awesome low-fi optical effects and creature makeup employed in the film's final twenty-minutes and, if it isn't the most gripping genre picture you're ever going to see it is at least entertaining, sometimes in spite of itself.
William Devane makes for a pretty decent lead here. He's believably salty and surly, we have no problem buying him as a tough guy and it's fun to watch him banter back and forth with the other characters, whether he's getting mouthy with the cops or trying to sweet talk lovely Cathy Lee Crosby. She's decent here too, likeable and believable as a smart, tough, capable reporter not wanting to be shoved aside in what was the man's world of serious TV news reporting. They have an interesting chemistry together. Keenan Wynn is pretty entertaining in a fairly humorous role as her boss, literally twirling his moustache at one point, and chewing a fair bit of scenery. Richard Jaeckel is fine as the no-nonsense cop working the cast and Biff Elliot as his constantly eating partner.
This one won't blow your mind or charge your world but it's got enough goofy, charming appeal to it that less discerning genre fans should be pretty entertained, even during the slower stretches.
The Dark arrives on Blu-ray for the second time via the MVD Rewind Collection who offer up the film on a 25GB disc framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 21.7GBs of space. The transfer appears to mirror the older Code Red release but that's okay as that release looked pretty good, as does this one. A new 4k scan surely would have yielded more detail but what's here is pretty nice. The image is quite clean and the elements were obviously in nice shape, and we get strong depth and texture here as well as very nice color reproduction and good black levels as well.
The 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono track, in the film's native English, sounds just fine. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion and while range is understandably limited by the original recording, dialogue is clean, clear and audible throughout. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.
The commentary tracks with director John ‘Bud' Cardos and producer Igo Kantor that was originally included on the Code Red Blu-ray is carried over to this release. For those who have year to hear it, the track is pretty engaging, covering how Cardos came to direct the film, Tobe Hooper's involvement in the production, casting the picture, what it was like working with the cast and crew and plenty more.
Also carried over from the Code Red release is a twenty-five minute interview with composer Roger Kellaway. Here he speaks about how he came to work on the film, what he tried to bring to the movie with the music he wrote for it, and his thoughts on the finished product. We also get a thirteen minute interview with John 'Bud' Carlos, again from the Code Red release, where he discusses how he came to work on the picture without much advance notice after Tobe Hooper was fired from the production, changes that were made to the script during his time on the production, how he moved from stuntman to director over the span of his career, working with Al Adamson and some of the other films that he directed.
Outside of that we get the film's theatrical trailer, a few bonus trailers for other MVD Rewind Collection releases, an isolate score option, menus and chapter selection.
As to the packaging, we get a nice slipcover with this release and folded up inside the Blu-ray case is a collectible mini-poster replicating the film's iconic poster art. We also get some cool reversible cover sleeve art.
The Dark has some slower moments but it builds to something nonsensically beautiful in its last fifteen minutes or so. It also benefits from a pretty fun cast and some enjoyable wonky special effects. Those with an affinity for slow burn, seventies B-trash/horror pictures should find much to appreciate with this clunky, goofy monster flick. MVD's Blu-ray release mirrors the out of print Code Red release but improves on the packaging if that matters to you. Recommended for shlock fans.
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.