Release Date(s)1984 (October 1, 2019)
Studio(s)Amblin Entertainment (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is a struggling inventor, who returns home from a business trip to Chinatown with an early Christmas gift for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). It’s a curious creature called a mogwai, that’s incredibly charming, intelligent, and affectionate. They name it Gizmo and, in theory, it’s the perfect pet. But it comes with three very important rules: You can’t expose it to bright lights, you can’t give it water, and you should never feed it after midnight. As you might guess, all three rules soon get broken… and all hell breaks loose as a result. Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, and Corey Feldman co-star, with Howie Mandel providing the “voice” for Gizmo.
Directed by Joe Dante (The Howling, Explorers, Matinee), written by Chris Columbus (director of Home Alone and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and writer of The Goonies), and produced by Steven Spielberg, Gremlins is a fairly typical example of a kind of teen comedy/horror filmmaking that was common in the 1980s. In its day it was cute, clever, and darkly edgy. It was also slammed for being too violent for its target audience, leading the MPAA to establish a new PG-13 rating for films. Gizmo (and his eventual Gremlin counterparts) were created using practical and mechanical puppets, that—again for the day—were pretty groundbreaking. Gremlins even has a fine Jerry Goldsmith score. But there’s also not a lot to it; the plot is paper thin and the film feels surprisingly dated at this point, even refreshed in 4K.
Gremlins was shot on 35 mm film using Arriflex and Panavision cameras with spherical lenses. It was finished on film and released in the 1.85 “flat” ratio. The original camera negative has been scanned in 4K for its UHD release and the film has been graded for high dynamic range in HDR10. The resulting image offers nice fine detail, abundant and subtle texturing, and light to moderate grain. Optically-composited shots (titles and visual effects) are particularly soft-looking, as you might expect, but most others are crisp and lovely. Blacks tend to be a little gray on occasion owing to the film stock and the abundant use of smoke and on-set atmospherics. Colors are nicely saturated, sometimes downright bold, and they’re always accurate. The expanded contrast really shines in truly dark daytime shadows and bright nighttime Christmas lights. The presentation is very pleasing overall—certainly this is best this film has ever looked—though given that most of the action takes place at night, it seldom gets the chance to really dazzle.
Audio is included on the 4K disc in the same English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that was available on the previous Blu-ray edition. It offers excellent clarity, clean dialogue, a medium-wide front soundstage, lightly atmospheric use of the surrounds (except when the chaos begins, when there’s very nice directionally and movement), and a full sound. Low end is moderate but sufficient. This isn’t a mix that really wows, but it’s never sounded better and it serves the film well. Audio is also available in French, German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Czech voice-over, Hungarian, and Russian 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), German for the Hearing Impaired, French, Italian for the Deaf, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Latin Spanish, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, and Thai.
Warner’s 4K disc itself includes only two audio-based extras:
- Filmmakers’ Commentary with Joe Dante, Michael Finnell, and Chris Walas
- Cast Commentary with Joe Dante, Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and Howie Mandel
These are the same tracks that were included on the 2009 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release, and they’re as good as ever. The first dives more into process and design, while the second is a bit more lively and engaging. Mandel is funny, Galligan in particular offers some interesting stories, and Cates doesn’t say much. Dante does his best to keep the proceedings moving.
The package also includes the previous Blu-ray version of the film (it’s not remastered from the 4K) with the same commentaries and the following additional content:
- Gremlins: Behind the Scenes (6:21)
- Additional Scenes (available with and without commentary – 10:26 in all)
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer (2:08)
- Theatrical Trailer #2 (1:04)
- Gremlins 2: The New Batch Trailer (1:30)
This is the same batch of vintage material as before. The additional scenes are good, and I particularly like Trailer #2, which playfully opens with the Handel music from Barry Lyndon before revealing itself. There’s also a Digital code on a paper insert.
Gremlins celebrates its 35th anniversary this year and many of you will no doubt appreciate the chance to upgrade your Blu-ray copies to 4K. For newcomers though, the film probably has limited appeal. And of all the catalog films that Warner could choose to release in Ultra HD, I’m not sure that this one was high on anyone’s list. Recommended, but mostly for fans only.
- Bill Hunt