Release Date(s)1990 (November 28, 2017)
Studio(s)Castle Rock Entertainment/Nelson Entertainment/Columbia Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
In many ways, Misery stills tops the list of Stephen King adaptations for me. One of the more well-realized efforts, it’s Rob Reiner and William Goldman utilizing their skillful storytelling instincts with the crown jewel of the package being Kathy Bates’ Oscar-winning performance as the devilishly delightful Annie Wilkes. While the film doesn’t incorporate absolutely everything from its source novel (as if it could), one can’t help but appreciate, if not applaud the effort. It’s one of the rare instances where a Stephen King-based property was critically acclaimed, financially successful, well-received by audiences, and rewarded with a coveted gold statue, the only King-sourced film to do so.
Paul Sheldon’s car crashing, ankle-breaking, typewriter-wielding trip to stalker hell has managed to hold up incredibly well since its debut in 1990. In all honesty, I actually haven’t seen it that many times since its original home video release, which is when I saw it quite a bit. Almost Hitchcockian in its own way, it has a heavy emphasis on character with screw-tightening thriller moments sprinkled in. Paul’s attempts at reaching out for rescue from this insane woman are repeatedly thwarted, until the end when he finally conquers her and escapes in relatively one piece with psychological scars. It’s one of the reasons why I prefer the film over the novel, which portrays him as more of a victim, whereas in the film, he’s more of a survivor. Even in the worst moments, he is emotionally resilient to Annie’s outbursts, let alone the physical harm she wreaks upon him.
Regardless of which incarnation of the story is better, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of the film is an excellent release. It includes a brand new 4K restoration from “the original film elements”, which I can only assume means the original camera negative. While it’s true that it’s been available on Blu-ray for some time now from MGM and 20th Century Fox, this new transfer is a definite improvement. Grain is much more refined and detail comes through more potently. There are occasionally some soft moments, but there’s obviously been no artificial sharpening carried out to make the images any finer than they already are. The edges of the frame also carry more visual information than the previous Blu-ray release. Everything appears more natural, including flesh tones and color reproduction, the latter of which features greener greens and whiter whites. A tad bit of crush is on display during a couple of moments, and the film is also slightly less bright than the previous release. It would have been nice to have had Barry Sonnenfeld sign off on this, but to my eyes, this a terrific high definition improvement. This release also sports two audio tracks: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD, equipped with subtitles in English SDH. I personally found the 2.0 track the more effective the two. The 5.1 doesn’t offer much in terms of surround activity, which is to be expected from a film like this. The 2.0, however, has everything mixed properly with excellent dialogue reproduction, sometimes biting sound effects, great score reproduction, and loads of ambient activity, particularly during quieter moments in the house or outside in the snowy wilderness.
There’s also a nice bevy of extras to dig through as well. Everything has been carried over from the previous DVD and Blu-ray releases, while Scream Factory has added two new interviews to the pile, including Rob Reiner Directs a Thriller and Greg Nicotero: Practical Effects and Human Replicas. Both are excellent and well-worth checking out. Also not to be missed is the other material, which includes two audio commentaries, one with director Rob Reiner and the other with screenwriter William Goldman. Additionally, there are 7 featurettes (Misery Loves Company, Marc Shaiman’s Musical Misery Tour, Diagnosing Annie Wilkes, Advice for the Stalked, Profile of a Stalker, Celebrity Stalkers, Anti-Stalking Laws) and 2 theatrical trailers for the film.
Well-deserving of its stature, Misery is a finely-tuned piece of work. It also comes towards the end of Rob Reiner’s incredible run of films that include This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride, The Sure Thing, A Few Good Men, and Stand By Me (another King adaptation). With his direction, James Caan’s and Kathy Bates’ performances, Barry Sonnenfeld’s masterful cinematography, and Marc Shaiman’s terrific score, it’s one of the finest character-driven suspense films ever made. Scream Factory’s treatment of it is top of the line, as to be expected, and is an essential disc to own for horror fans.
- Tim Salmons