Saturday, 18 August 2018

Blu-ray Review: The Changeling (Second Sight)

Compile a list of big and small-screen superior spookers, and the usual suspects inevitably come out to play: the BBC's Christmas ghost stories, The Haunting,
The Innocents, The Legend of Hell House, The Stone Tape, Bava's Kill, Baby...Kill!.....another solid addition would be Peter Medak's The Changeling.
My own association with this film dates back to the opening weekend of its theatrical release when I was lucky enough to attend a screening at a cinema
in London's Tottenham Court Road.

"The Changeling" begins with a truly tragic scene. Composer John Russell (George C. Scott) is on vacation with his wife and young daughter when a roadside
accident leaves him well and truly alone in this world.
The grief-stricken Russell moves to Seattle in an attempt to rebuild his life, subsequently moving into the Chessman house, which has spent the last 12 years uninhabited... by the living, at least.

Russell soon finds out why, as strange manifestations suggest the house - or something in the house - is reaching out to him.
A piano that plays untouched by human hands; the ubiquitous child's ball that bounces down the stairs; a music box which plays the same tune
as Russell's latest composition and - most chilling of all - a wheelchair with a mind of its own.
Add to this the thoroughly unnerving banging sounds that always take place at 6.00am, and icy terrors that lie behind closed or half open doors
and you have a haunted house tale par excellence.
There are so many scenes that make the spine tingle and the blood run cold, including a seance that ultimately delivered far more than was
initially suggested, leading Russell to investigate sinister Senator Joseph Carmichael, played by Melvyn Douglas.

Ken Wannberg's wonderfully evocative score builds the tension nicely, while also being sensitive to the twin tragic aspects of this story. Of course,
George C. Scott is also finely tuned into proceedings, delivering a pitch perfect performance as a man who has lost his family and must start again.
Russell's burning desire to positively react to voices from beyond the grave and his reactions to haunted memories are beautifully conveyed by Scott
in one of his most heartfelt performances.
In these times of overkill and excess, the resurrection of this superbly directed film will gladden the hearts of all those who hold it in high regard,
and also bring new admirers to the fold.

Second Sight's Blu-ray presentation unveils a 4K scan from the IP that boasts rich colours and a healthy amount of grain.
The extras begin with an informative commentary track featuring Peter Medak and producer Joel B. Michaels.
We hear why the film almost didn't get made; how Medak started out in the business; his stories about being on the sets of "The Haunting" and "Marnie";
why the film didn't take off in America, and there are discussions about the music and sound design and warm words for Scott and Douglas.

The House on Cheesman Park (17m 31s)
A featurette based on the Cheesman house which was built on a giant graveyard, with between 2,000 - 5,000 bodies still buried there when production began.
The Cheesman property had all the trappings: secret compartments and doorways; a bouncing ball and the diary of a young boy, making this a fascinating story.

The Music of The Changeling (8m 59s)
Here, composer Ken Wannberg talks about the great John Williams; the process of scoring a film and the pressures involved.

Building The House of Horror (10m 56s)
Art director Reuben Freed talks about building and lighting the sets; logistical problems; the budget and the passion of the crew.

The Psychotronic Tourist (16m 2s)
The wonderful Kier La- Janisse - author of "House of Psychotic Women" - plays host to 12 locations used in the film.
We get to see how the places look today, including the scene of the roadside accident, and visit a graveyard that contains two absolute legends.

Master of Horror Mick Garris on The Changeling (5m 31s)
Mick explains that he loves this film for its emotion, and talks about "The Haunting" and "Don't Look Now". He also explains why "The Changeling"
remains a very personal film for those of us who saw it theatrically.

The package is rounded off by the original theatrical trailer (2m 18s) and a TV spot running 29s.
Second Sight have also included the original soundtrack on CD and a 40 page perfect-bound booklet (which I haven't seen) containing a new essay
by Kevin Lyons, original production notes and an archive on-set interview.
Hugely recommended for those cold Winter evenings when shadows cast long and the imagination takes over.