Release Date(s)1985 (December 17, 2017)
Studio(s)Paramount Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Growing up in the 1980s, Stephen King was a mainstay if you were a horror fan. Few of his books drew you in quite as powerfully as Cycle of the Werewolf, a short novella featuring fantastic artwork by the late, great Bernie Wrightson. On the flipside there was Silver Bullet, the Dino De Laurentiis film adaptation. The story of a small town in which a werewolf is killing its citizens, leaving only a wheelchair-bound young boy, his sister, and his alcoholic uncle to stop it managed to earn cult status over time, but wasn’t well-received by critics initially.
In Silver Bullet, no one is safe from the clutches of the werewolf, including the young, the handicapped, and the pregnant, which to younger eyes made it more effective, and therefore memorable. Unfortunately, the werewolf itself doesn’t hold up. Criticized for looking more like a bear than a wolf, it’s also difficult to match the perfection achieved on The Howling and An American Werewolf in London only a few years prior.
On the other hand, the film’s human counterparts are likable and interesting in contrast. Corey Haim is a sweet young boy just trying to do the right thing in a world full of people standing over him, not to mention having to deal with a werewolf. Credit must also be given to Gary Busey, who gives one of the best performances in the film, bringing more substance to his role than just the manic energy he is generally known for. And as always, Everett McGill kills it (literally) as a man of the cloth on the surface, but with something more sinister lurking underneath.
What’s also interesting about the film is that throughout the 1970s and 1980s, a number of Stephen King adaptations started out with different directors at the helm, such as John Carpenter on Firestarter and George A. Romero on Pet Sematary, among others. In the case of Silver Bullet, Don Coscarelli, who was fresh off of The Beastmaster, left the project early on during its development over creative differences. Newcomer Daniel Attais stepped in and took over, making it his own.
Today, Silver Bullet is often seen as one of the overlooked in the realm of Stephen King adaptations, mainly due to its lack of treatment on home video, getting not much more than a trailer as an extra. In 2017, the Australian company Umbrella Entertainment brought the film to Blu-ray with a few bonus materials in tow. Scream Factory, having gained access to material at Paramount Pictures, finally gives the film the stateside Collector’s Edition treatment, porting over most of the Umbrella extras and adding a few new ones.
The transfer appears to be taken from a totally different master than what Umbrella’s release had to offer. Since the film is controlled by StudioCanal overseas, it’s likely that Umbrella was given a different master than Scream. The differences are readily apparent. The Umbrella disc has a lot of cross-stitch noise and appears brighter with a lower encode. It also features much more apparent wear and tear, as speckling, scratches, and even splice damage is noticeable. Scream Factory’s presentation eliminates all of those issues. It’s a little darker but much more solid in terms of fine detail, though pixelation still occurs due to the age of the master. Colors are bold and blacks are much deeper, but with possible crush in a few key scenes, such as Marty’s confrontation with Reverend Lowe on the covered bridge. All of the material is stable and clean as well, with nary a blemish to be found. It’s certainly the better of the two presentations.
The audio is presented as an English 2.0 DTS-HD track with optional subtitles in English SDH. There isn’t much to offer in terms of speaker to speaker activity, though ambient moments do pop up, specifically those taking place in the forest at night with crickets chirping in the background. It’s not exactly a flat, narrow track either as there’s plenty of fidelity to be had, as well as strong dialogue reproduction and a potent score. It’s also clean with no apparent damage leftover.
To boot, there’s a nice set of extras as well, courtesy of Red Shirt Pictures:
- Audio Commentary with Producer Martha De Laurentiis, Moderated by Michael Felsher
- Audio Commentary with Director Daniel Attias, Moderated by Michael Felsher
- Isolated Score Selections and Interview with Composer Jay Chattaway by Michael Felsher
- A Little Private Justice with Kent Broadhurst (HD – 11:51)
- Cutting to the Bone with Daniel Loewenthal (HD – 16:39)
- The Wolf Within with Everett McGill (HD – 16:15)
- Full Moon Fever: The Effects of Silver Bullet (HD – 21:03)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:27)
- TV Spot (SD – 0:31)
- Radio Spot (0:39)
- Still Gallery (HD – 6:20)
The new material consists of the audio commentary with Martha De Laurentiis (which essentially replaces the Dino’s Angel Takes on Lycanthropy: Martha De Laurentiis Remembers Silver Bullet interview from the Umbrella disc); the interview with actor Kent Broadhurst, who provides plenty of perspective on his brief time on the film; and the interview with editor Daniel Loewenthal, who speaks frankly about his work on the film and his disappointment at not making more films with Daniel Attias. Speaking of whom, Attias’ commentary goes over much of his involvement with the production, as well as his other film and TV work. In his interview, Everett McGill reveals his issues with the film, but is also grateful for the fans of it. Full Moon Fever features interviews with special effects artists Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle, both of whom tell great behind the scenes stories. The trailer that’s included is not the reconstructed version found on the Umbrella disc, and the animated still gallery features 77 on-set photos, behind-the-scenes photos, promotional stills, lobby cards, and posters. It’s also worth noting that an older audio commentary track with director Daniel Attias exists on several overseas DVD and Blu-ray releases, including Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray, but hasn’t been carried over.
Like many horror films of the 1980s, Silver Bullet has its fans who continue to adore it over thirty years after its initial release. Thanks to repeated cable viewings and numerous VHS rentals, it grew on many folks who were initially skeptical about it. Although the Umbrella Blu-ray was certainly welcomed with open arms, Scream Factory’s release tops it with a superior A/V presentation and a few additional extras. Highly recommended to horror fans.
– Tim Salmons