The Changeling is a 1980 horror film directed by Peter Medak (Romeo Is Bleeding, Species II, The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, & Homicide: Life on the Street). Donald Cammell & Tony Richardson were the two original choices to direct this but both left the project due to creative differences. The screenplay is based upon events that writer Russell Hunter claimed he experienced while he was living in the Henry Treat Rogers mansion. It won the first ever Genie Award for Best Canadian Film. It also won awards for Best Foreign Actor, Best Foreign Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Design, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, & Best Sound Editing. In 1987, director Lamberto Bava did an unofficial made for television film that was marketed as a sequel for its home video releases called Until Death.
John Russell (played by: George C. Scott from Patton, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Hardcore, The Exorcist III, & Firestarter) is a composer from New York that moved to Seattle after a traumatic event that caused him to lose both his wife & daughter at the same time. He doesn’t really want to be bothered so he rents a old abandoned mansion. Claire Norman (played by: Trish Van Devere from The Hearse, Messenger of Death, Hollywood Vice Squad, & Movie Movie) tells him that the property has been vacant for 12 years. John starts to experience some strange things at his new home. He starts to get curious about the previous owners & the history of the location so he does his own investigation of it. He finds out about some dark stuff that happened in this mysterious place. He holds a seance at the house & overhears the voice of the spirit caught on audio recording equipment. He is calling himself Joseph Carmichael & John discovers that Joseph was murdered in 1906 here. He tries to contact Senator Carmichael (played by: Melvyn Douglas from Ghost Story, The Tenant, The Vampire Bat, & Being There) about this disturbing past but gets ignored by the man. Captain DeWitt (played by: John Colicos from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Battlestar Galactica, The Last Don, & X-Men) is sent by the senator to get a family item back & to question the stranger who had such outlandish claims about his past. Senator Carmichael finally agrees to talk with John after some recent bad luck. This all leads back to the mysterious mansion & anyone that comes near it ends up cursed somehow. John is trying to survive this nightmare while being tormented by his past, can he handle all this stress?
As far as ghost stories go, The Changeling is one of the best films ever produced in that sub genre. It could easily be considered the greatest one ever made. One of the proudest moments in the history of Canadian cinema. Everything about this production is at it’s highest quality. It was carefully crafted at every level. The cinematography looks great, it has a nice creepy atmosphere to it, the locations are memorable, the score elevates the suspense, the script is well written, & the performances rival any other genre when it comes to acting! Especially George C. Scott, he’s a powerhouse in this & takes over every scene that he’s in. It’s one of the greatest efforts in the existence of horror. There’s a reason why The Changeling is a influence to so many filmmakers out there. It’s one of those features that gets better with each viewing. It just stays with you & it kinda haunts your mind a little bit after the overall experience. It doesn’t depend on cheap scares. It gets inside your mind & play tricks with you. I love psychological material like this. I am surprised it took so long for this to get proper treatment from a label. This is a high profile release & it’s been anticipated for a long time from fans. Severin Films has resurrected & upgraded a true classic to high definition for home video!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Severin Films. This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer from a brand new 4K restoration is a huge upgrade from all previous releases & it’s the highest quality it’s ever been on home video. The colors pop out on the screen, the cinematography really shines, & it just enhances the already creepy atmosphere that the film has. It’s already been reported & confirmed that there’s a few issues with the DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1 track. Severin Films has set up a replacement program for it. The the other audio options include DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0, Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 2.0, Dolby Digital Audio Italian 2.0, Dolby Digital Audio German 2.0 & they all have no issues here. The dialogue is very clean & Rick Wilkins (Night Walk, Ladies’ Night, The Suicide Murders, & The Accident) score sounds awesome on it! It also has English subtitles.
Let’s discuss the special features on this blu ray disc. “Audio commentary” with director Peter Medak & producer Joel B. Michaels moderated by Severin Films own David Gregory. They talk about the various locations. They chat about working with the great George C. Scott. They go into detail about how he got the role & what he thought about the finished product. They bring up the performances in this feature. Peter Medak goes through his overall experience on the production. They mention ghosts & it’s sub genre. They chat about this film influencing so many others in cinema. They bring up the Haunting & they talk a little bit about it. They talk about the iconic poster & how it was picked for this. They discuss the music for The Changeling. They chat about the classic seance scene. They mention Steven Spielberg & Poltergeist. Peter Medak talks about getting his opportunity to work America. They bring up the casting & the supporting actors for this. They mention that this film didn’t do that great in America due to poor distribution decisions. They said it had success everywhere else. They cover a decent amount of scene by scene conversations. They are full of information & stories about the production. The track has a nice flow to it & it’s never dull. “The House On Cheesman Park: The Haunting True Story Of The Changeling” is a little over 17 minutes. Author & historian Dr. Phil Goodstein goes over the history of this location. He tells various stories about it & you end up learning lots of information that you didn’t know about. “The Music Of The Changeling: Interview With Music Arranger Kenneth Wannberg” is almost 9 minutes. He chats about working with his friend John Williams on various projects. He talks about how he got the gig for the feature & his overall experience for it. He says he loves working on horror films. He bring up that the music box was already done before he joined the production. He plays what his version would have sounded like if he actually done it. “Building The House Of Horror: Interview With Art Director Reuben Freed” is almost 11 minutes. He brings up how he got the job & talks about some previous work. He chats about the locations for it. He mentions some of the collaborations & people he worked with for the movie. He says the bouncing ball was a struggle. He brings up that it had a very low budget compared to films today. He says that he is glad people are still interested in The Changeling. “Master of Horror Mick Garris On The Changeling” is a little over 5 minute chat with the horror director. He shows his appreciation for the film. He chats about George C. Scott & his performance. He also brings up The Haunting & Don’t Look Now. He talks about inviting & having Peter Medak working on his television show “Masters of Horror”. He mentions how little know this was back in the day & it always felt personal to him. He says the ghost sun genre is misunderstood by most. “The Psychotronic Tourist: The Changeling” with Kier-La L Janisse is 16 minutes. She shows how some of filming locations look now from various scenes. Fangoria’s Michael Gingold & “We are Still Here” director Ted Geoghegan also make an appearance to show a location for the film in New York. They mention other stuff that was filmed around there. FX artist/Director Ryan Nicholson visits a location in Canada that has changed drastically since filming. This is pretty cool & lots of locations have changed so much over the years. Last but not least, it has promotional material like “Poster & Still Gallery”, “Trailer”, & a “TV Spot”. It’s available everywhere right now, check it out! A limited edition version is also available from Severin Films, it includes a slipcover with different artwork, a poster, enamel pin, replica ball, & a CD for the original score. This release needs to be in every horror fan’s collection, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!