Release Date(s)1990 (December 15, 2020)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
Tremors is thought of today as a franchise, but when the first film was released in 1990, one would not have believed that its meager box office take would spawn six sequels and a TV series. But after becoming a bigger hit on cable and home video, this comedy/horror/monster movie hybrid achieved a lucrative cult status. The idea of Short Circuit screenwriters Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson, Tremors eventually got before the cameras with Ron Underwood (City Slickers) at the helm and Kevin Bacon in the lead. The “Graboids” were engineered by movie special effects gurus Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., who by this point had worked on Aliens, The Monster Squad, and Leviathan before starting their own company—Tremors being one of its first projects. Shot over the course of seven weeks in the mountainous and desertous regions of California with an unusual cast of film and TV actors, as well as country music star Reba McEntire, Tremors was retooled after initially receiving an R rating for language. It was finally released with a PG-13 rating, but achieved its popularity on the small screen instead.
In the small Nevada town of Perfection (population fourteen), a pair of handymen, Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward), are disenfranchised with their lot in life, working their way from one small job to the next without much to show for it. Rhonda (Finn Carter), a grad student studying seismology, is nearby measuring vibrations that have become frequent throughout the region. After an especially tense day, Val and Earl pack up and attempt to make their way to the nearby town of Bixby for a fresh start, but are waylaid by scenes of carnage and destruction, ranging from mutilated sheep, toppled rock formations, and even dead bodies. They head back to Perfection and inform the locals that they’re essentially cut off from the world and that somebody or something is out there killing animals and people. They soon discover large, underground, worm-like creatures that sense vibrations, making walking on the ground an impossibility. Holed up together with little chance of escape, the ragtag group which includes store owner Walter Chang (Victor Wong), local misfit Melvin (Bobby Jacoby), and gun enthusiast/survivalist husband and wife team Burt and Heather Gummer (Michael Gross and Reba McIntyre) must all work together in order to outsmart these monstrosities and avoid being eaten.
Tremors was shot on 35 mm film using Arriflex cameras and lenses. It was finished photochemically on film with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Arrow Video has performed a native 4K scan and restoration from the original camera negative, with the final approval of director Ron Underwood and cinematographer Alexander Gruszyanski, and this Blu-ray is mastered from that source. Any upgrade of Tremors was sure to be an improvement over Universal’s previous soft, high contrast, unnatural-looking high definition Blu-ray master. That said, Arrow’s new presentation excels, revealing a fine sheet of natural film grain, totally organic in appearance, with crisp detail in every shot. The color palette has not been substantially altered, but it does appear a tad more earthy. Skin tones are definitely improved with less of a tanned quality. Contrast is less extreme, with clearer detail in the shadows and more natural blacks. The opening shot, as well as a few opticals throughout the film, are softer than the rest of the presentation, but everything else is otherwise clean and stable. The 4K UHD presentation (which we’ve also reviewed here at The Bits) obviously contains a higher level of fine detail with a richer color palette due to the high dynamic range, but both releases are major improvements.
The audio is provided in English 2.0, 4.0, and 5.1 in DTS-HD Master Audio format, with optional subtitles in English SDH. All three tracks have plenty to offer depending upon your personal preference. The surround offers the most low frequency, while the stereo is obviously more compact, but no less impactful. The quad mix is the most curious offering of all, front-loading the track with dialogue and sound effects, and filling the rear speakers with music and ambiance. All three tracks feature clear and precise dialogue exchanges, while Ernest Troost’s and Robert Folk’s combined music and score set the tone perfectly. There are no instances of leftover analog hiss, crackle, dropouts, or distortion. Everything is just as it should be.
This Limited Edition release includes the film on Region A/B Blu-ray, as well as a Blu-ray bonus disc, both of which feature extras in HD:
DISC ONE: BLU-RAY (FILM)
- Audio Commentary with Ron Underwood, Brent Maddock, and S.S. Wilson
- Audio Commentary with Jonathan Melville
- Tremors: Making Perfection (31:07)
- The Truth About Tremors (22:02)
- Bad Vibrations (10:47)
- Aftershocks and Other Rumblings (12:38)
- Digging in the Dirt: The Visual Effects of Tremors (20:59)
- Music for Graboids (13:35)
- The Making of Tremors (44:15)
- Creature Featurette (10:26)
- Deleted Scenes (4 in all – 5:02)
- Pardon My French! (16:18)
- Electronic Press Kit: Featurette (3:50)
- Electronic Press Kit: Kevin Bacon Profile (2:53)
- Electronic Press Kit: Michael Gross Profile (2:20)
- Electronic Press Kit: Reba McEntire Profile (1:53)
- Theatrical Trailer #1 (1:58)
- Theatrical Trailer #2 (1:55)
- Radio Spots (8 in all – 4:21)
- TV Spots (3 in all – 1:23)
- VHS Promo (1:19)
- Tremors 2: Aftershocks Trailer (1:53)
- Tremors 3: Return to Perfection Trailer (1:14)
- Tremors 4: The Legend Begins Trailer (0:51)
- Tremors 5: Bloodlines Trailer (0:43)
- Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell Trailer (0:56)
- Tremors: Shrieker Island Trailer (0:59)
- Production Stills Gallery (113 in all)
- Behind the Scenes Gallery (55 in all)
- Laserdisc Image Gallery (112 in all)
- Screenplay – Draft 6, 1998 Gallery (111 in all)
- Screenplay – Draft 8b, 1989 Gallery (106 in all)
- Storyboards Gallery (61 in all)
- Posters & Video Artwork Gallery (22 in all)
DISC TWO: BLU-RAY (BONUS DISC)
- Extended Interviews: Ron Underwood (47:44)
- Extended Interviews: S.S. Wilson (81:44)
- Extended Interviews: Brent Maddock (63:06)
- Extended Interviews: Nancy Roberts (50:37)
- Extended Interviews: Alec Gillis (59:31)
- ArcLight Hollywood 2015 Pre-Film Q&A (26:31)
- ArcLight Hollywood 2015 Post-Film Q&A (44:40)
- Gag Reel with Introduction and Commentary (10:48)
- Gag Reel (9:54)
- Recorded Live Short Film (8:12)
- Dictionary: The Adventure of Words Short Film (16:26)
- Library Report Short Film (24:32)
The new audio commentary with director Ron Underwood and writers Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson is an entertaining listen as the three men reminisce about the making of the film while watching it, only occasionally going quiet. The other new audio commentary with author Jonathan Melville, who wrote Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors, is a more thorough guide to film’s content. Tremors: Making Perfection is a new documentary about the overall franchise, featuring new interviews with S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Nancy Roberts, Jonathan Melville, Kevin Bacon, Ron Underwood, Ellen Collett, Ginny Nugent, Alec Gillis, Tony Salome, Ivo Cristante, Tom Woodruff Jr., Michael Gross, Alexander Gruszyanski, Ariana Richards, Chris DeFaria, Laurent Bouzereau, and Jamie Kennedy.
The Truth About Tremors interviews Nancy Roberts of Stampede Entertainment who represented S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock before and during the making of Tremors. Bad Vibrations features director of photography Alexander Gruszyanski who discusses his background, how he got involved with the project, and how it was shot. Aftershocks and Other Rumblings features an interview with associate producer and second unit producer Ellen Collett who talks about working for Roger Corman and Gale Anne Hurd and how she helped execute the script. Digging in the Dirt: The Visual Effects of Tremors includes interviews with Robert Skotak, Christopher Warren, Gene Warren III, Elaine Edford, and Bret Mixon of Fantasy II Film VFX and 4-Ward Productions VFX about their work on the film. Music for Graboids features audio interviews with composers Ernest Troost and Robert Folk about the score. The Making of Tremors is a 1996 documentary on the film, produced for Laserdisc and directed by Laurent Bouzereau, and later included on the subsequent DVD and Blu-ray releases.
Creature Featurette is a compilation of camcorder behind-the-scenes footage on the film. The Deleted Scenes include the original opening for the film that sets up what happens to Edgar, a fun moment when Val and Earl roshambo for a Payday bar, a small moment when Val, Earl, and Rhonda get back to Chang’s and Earl tries to convince Rhonda that Val has potential, and another minor moment when everybody is in the back of the semi-trailer and Val comforts a distraught Mindy. Pardon My French! is a compilation of censored footage from the TV version of the film. The Electronic Press Kit features a short featurette and interviews with Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire. Under Trailer Gallery, there are two trailers, eight radio spots, three TV spots, a VHS promo, and trailers for the other six films in the franchise. Following all of that up are several sets of extensive still galleries, including the Laserdisc archive.
The Extended Interviews go into much deeper discussions with the participants than Making Perfection is able to. The Q&A footage, which was filmed at the ArcLight Hollywood in March of 2015, features moderator David Weiner with cast and crew members Ron Underwood, S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Nancy Roberts, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Conrad Bachman, Robert Jayne, Richard Marcus, Charlotte Stewart, Alexander Gruszynski, Ivo Cristante, Tom Woodruff Jr., Alec Gillis, John Goodwin, and Robert Skotak. The Gag Reel is a crude VHS copy with an optional introduction and audio commentary by S.S. Wilson. The short films are the early work of S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, and Ron Underwood during their days as students and employees for Barr Films who made educational shorts for classrooms.
The two discs are housed inside standard black amaray casing with double-sided artwork, a two-sided business card for Walter Chang’s Market, and 6 lobby card reproductions. Alongside it is a double-sided poster with the original theatrical artwork on one side and new artwork on the other; another double-sided poster with an anatomy diagram of a Graboid on one side and a roadsign for the “City of Perfection” on the other; and a 60-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, Good Vibrations by Kim Newman, the original press kit, Tremors Rocks the House by Marc Shapiro, Graboids, Gummer and Guns: The Evolution of a Franchise by Jonathan Melville, restoration information, production credits, and special thanks. All of this is housed within sturdy cardboard slipcase packaging featuring new artwork.
No stone has been left unturned on this grand Limited Edition of Tremors. The 4K Ultra HD release is certainly our preferred option if you’ve upgraded to the format, but this Blu-ray edition is still an amazing package that truly does the film the kind of justice it deserves. Enough said.
- Tim Salmons