Fritz Kierschís Children of the Corn receives yet another Blu-ray edition, this time through Arrow Video. In the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 this new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 2K restoration conducted by Arrow, taken from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. It is delivered here on a dual-layer disc.
This film has received a ridiculous number of home video releases since its theatrical release that Iím sure the carbon footprint from this film alone is devastating. Countless VHS releases, DVD editions, Blu-ray releases, and even a UMD edition (of all things) have all seen the light of day, and it almost seems ridiculous to be getting yet another release of some sort. But in this case itís easy to forgive a billionth release for the film because what Arrow has pulled off here is rather shocking. I admittedly havenít seen the previous Blu-ray editions released by Anchor Bay and Image Entertainment but itís really hard for me to imagine them even looking anything close to this let alone better: because of this new restoration the film looks as though it could be brand new, filmed within the last year, barring some of the dated effects of course.
The image itself is razor-sharp, the amount of detail present unbelievable a lot of the time. You can clearly make out every single corn stalk in the long shots of corn rows, every little pebble on the various roads, and every fine thread and pattern on the fraying clothes of the children. Film grain is quite fine but present and rendered well, even in some of the smokier interiors scattered about the film. These latter scenes donít come off noisy or present any banding effects either, and the keep a clean and very natural smoky look.
Black levels are very nice and the filmís many darker scenes look clean with decent shadow detail. Colours also look good; theyíre bright and perfectly saturated, with natural looking skin tones present. Restoration wise the image is also very clean, only a few small specs popping up in a couple of places.
If the image faults in one area (and itís an area out of Arrowís control) itís in its presentation of the optical effects sequences. These moments can look a bit rough and itís really a side effect of the cheap effects, with Arrow even noting work was minimal on these sequences to avoid creating unwanted artifacts and it was probably the right call. The scenes look a bit off in black levels and there is some more obvious damage, but ultimately, itís not too bad. Besides youíll more than likely be too distracted by the crudeness of the effects to notice much else.
Still this is an exceptional looking presentation, easily the best Iíve ever seen it. It looks sharp and filmic, and, again, it looks like it could have been filmed recently. 9/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Arrow offers a substantial amount of material here, porting over features from previous editions and adding a few of their own. Carried over from previous editions is an audio commentary featuring director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby, and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains. Itís an entertaining track covering the filmís production and a few humourous stories around certain decisions or poor planning. Budget issues (a common story around New World Pictures) were a constant struggle and they admit the filmmakers admit the film didnít turn out exactly the way they wish (the effects at the end probably being the biggest hurdle) but theyíre still proud of the film. Itís an entertaining track and I enjoyed listening to their stories, particularly how the film has affected their lives since, but not too different from other film crew tracks.
Arrow then includes a new commentary featuring horror journalist Justin Beahm and ďChildren of the Corn historianĒ John Sullivan. This is more along the lines of an academic track, the two talking about this adaptation and other adaptations of the same story (including a short film called Disciples of the Crow, which also appears on this release), along with the endless sequels this movie has inexplicably created. They also talk about how they discovered the film and like to talk about the construction of a few sequences, and even get into detail about the infamous ďdeath of the Blue ManĒ scene that showed up in promotional materials but was ultimately cut from the film and then lost. Itís a fine track that should work for fans, though I felt they did struggle for things to talk about during the last third and it did kind of lose me when Beahm (I think) actually defends the TV version of The Shining. Ugh!
Also from previous editions is the 36-minute making-of Harvesting Horror, featuring interviews with Kiersch, Franklin, and Gains. A lot of the material here is covered in the commentary track but is more structured, basically following the timeline of the shoot or sequences in the film. Franklin also talks a bit more about how he came to get the role and how he studied evangelical preachers, while Gains explains getting himself into character.
There are then a number of other interview features, including one with Linda Hamilton (called It Was the Eighties!) recorded for Anchor Bay, explaining how she got the part, talks about the experience of filming in an incredibly hot car, the physical requirements, and how the film started up her career from there. This is then followed by a new interview compilation with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin, who played Rachel and Amos in the film. This is a lengthy one at 50-minutes and it offers an excellent perspective of the experience of making the film from the other children, the two talking about the exciting experience and the casting process. What sort of stunned me, though, was despite this being a wonderful experience for Philbin heís never bothered to read the rather short story.
Also new is an interview with screenwriter George Goldsmith. He first talks about his passion for writing and the path he took to become a screenwriter. He talks about the relevance of the movie today (the filmís themes about the dangers of blindly following a religion or belief) though says the Iran revolution was a bit of an influence at the time (though the analogies he throws out feel to be really pushing it). But the most interesting portion is when he talks about reworking Stephen Kingís original script and the discussions he had with the author. Kingís big problem, he says, is that he internalizes everything and doesnít understand that the visuals are more important with a film, and King did object to some of the changes he made, though was ultimately still gracious. This one runs 17-minutes.
There are then a couple of more interviews from previous editions. Producer Donald P. Borchers jokes about the naivete of his younger 26-year-old self making this film before mentioning a remake heís working on (I assume the TV remake). There is then another segment featuring production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias talking about their contributions, Elias mentioning the quick manner the score came about and how proud he is of it considering the brief time frame he had. These interviews run 11-minutes and 15-minutes respectively.
The next couple of supplements, new to this release, prove to be the most fascinating thanks to interviews with the locals that are featured within them. The first feature, which goes over the filmís locations features John Sullivan (from the one commentary) touring the towns and spots that made up Gatlin in the film. Some places look better, some worse off (or gone!) but the gem of this is when we get interviews with the locals who share stories about the area and recall that period when Children of the Corn was being filmed there, which was a big event at the time. This is followed by an interview with local Rich Kleinberg who talks about his performance as the ĒBlue Man,Ē his scene ultimately being cut out. This one ends up being especially great since Kleinberg, a member of a local theater group, not only talks about his scene (and the disappointment in how his scene was cut) but also talks about other members of the group who were also in the film. Running 16- minutes and 5-minutes theyíre probably my favourite features on here and it would have been fun if Arrow could have rounded up some more local people.
Thereís a 5-minute animated storyboard gallery featuring the storyboards for an early scene in the film, which is then followed by the original theatrical trailer. Interestingly Arrow also includes the 19-minute short film Disciples of the Crow, another adaptation of the Stephen King story Children of the Corn made around the same time as the feature film, though itís a more faithful one (the makers had to change the title because the feature film version had dibs on the original one). Itís actually a pretty good adaptation, nicely building up mood and tension, despite some rough edges. It also looks really good here, appearing to have been restored.
The included booklet features an essay by Sullivan, which rounds out a lot of the material on the filmís production that appeared elsewhere on the disc. It also features a second essay by Lee Gambin on preachers in film and then real life child preachers, including Marjoe Gortner and Uldine Utley. Arrow also includes a reversible fold-out poster featuring new art on one side and the original poster art on the other. This release also comes with a sleeve. I believe all of this, the booklet, poster and special packaging, are limited to first pressings.
Through some older material and some really great new material Arrow offers up fans a fun and fairly comprehensive edition for the film. All thatís missing really is an interview with Stephen King. 9/10