Plot: What’s it about?
Though not directed by Stephen Spielberg, it might as well should have been. Gremlins remains a favorite among many and for good reason. It combines the elements that make stories entertaining (not good, mind you), but it’s got drama, suspense, action and comedy. Essentially, all of the bases are covered as they were with another "Spielberg" production known as Back to the Future. However it’s Joe Dante here that is credited with the work and I suppose I shouldn’t be so hard on Mr. Spielberg, he’s produced some of my favorite and entertaining movies of all time. However, Dante like Robert Zemeckis were crafted in his image and therefore they all seem like one conglomerate to me. Wrong though I may be, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. But as far as Gremlins is concerned, this is now the second incarnation (note the use of the word "incarnation" as it pertains to the film) on DVD. The first was bare bones and now it’s been given the Special Edition treatment. Let’s take a look…
The plot is essentially simple. A boy’s father brings him home a present from his business trip to Asia. A creature called a magui (I’m sure I spelled that wrong) looks like a cross between a koala bear and a cat. Cute, in other words. Purring and essentially just looking irresistible, there are three rules that go along with having a pet like this:
1. Never let them be exposed to sunlight (aka "E.T." bright light)
2. Never let them be exposed to water.
3. (Most important) Don’t feed them after midnight!
All of these things happen, of course, or else there wouldn’t be a movie attached. The creature is exposed to water and thereby spewing (almost literally) more of it’s offspring. A lead one emerges (with a sign of the times bleached mohawk) and is, of course, evil. Evil is as evil does and it’s not long before the whole town is reaked with havok and only a few individuals can save the day. Ties to "The Goonies" are relevant as a particular line in that film goes "…or is it like the time that you told me about the creatures that multiply when you pour water on them". Ahhh..Spielberg. Sit back, relax and enjoy the film. It’s as good now as it was some twenty years ago (boy am I getting old)!
Video: How does it look?
Given a new digital anamorphic transfer, Gremlins has never looked better. Now this isn’t the best-looking DVD out there, but it is an improvement over the previous DVD release and way beyond any other VHS or Laser Disc release that I can think of. The 1.85:1 image is clean and solid throughout, though some flaws do arise. The edge enhancement is a little more than I figured, but due to the low-budget nature of the film, I suppose that any errors should be given some slack. Black levels are on target and I only noticed a hint of artifacting throughout the film. On the whole, it’s a very solid effort but doesn’t live up to the way that newer movies (then DVD’s) look.
Audio: How does it sound?
This version of Gremlins has been given a re-mastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Like the video, it does suffer a bit from age as this film wasn’t that strong on audio to begin with. There is a difference in the two tracks (the early DVD that I have was used for a comparison) isn’t that great, but this one definitely wins out over the two. There is a bit of a "hiss" in the dialogue, thereby dating the film a bit. It’s not like that of movies from the 40’s and such, but you would hear it and could tell that it’s an older movie. Surrounds were used occasionally, but not enough to really make the track stand out. Overall, it’s a step up but not anything to demo your theater with.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Two audio commentary tracks are featured, both with Joe Dante. They are essentially almost the same track but they do have a lot to offer. A brief featurette is also included, produced at the time (1984) it doens’t feel like so many others that we see today. A sigh of relief is felt and I rather enjoyed this little piece. Also, some deleted scenes with commentary are include. A photo gallery is shown, containing a few dozen pictures. As per most Warner releases, there is also some cast and crew bios, production notes and a few trailers (one for this and one of “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”). Fans of the movie will want to pick this up as the picture and sound are improved and the supplements, while not that robust, are worth the extra money.