“A MONSTER MOVIE THAT BREAKS NEW GROUND!
A pulse-pounding love letter to 1950s creature features that delivers horror and humor in equal measure, Tremors is a bonafide cult classic that has grabbed audiences’ affections ever since its release and spawned a successful franchise that continues to this day.
Good-ol’-boy handymen Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) are sick of their dead-end jobs in one-horse desert town Perfection, Nevada (population: 14). Just as they’re about to escape Perfection forever, however, things start to get really weird: half-eaten corpses litter the road out of town; the phone lines stop working; and a plucky young scientist shows evidence of unusually strong seismic activity in the area. Something is coming for the citizens of Perfection… and it’s under the goddamn ground!
Bursting with indelible characters, quotable dialogue and jaw-dropping special effects, Tremors is back and bigger than ever in this 4K-restored and fully loaded collectors’ edition.
Ron Underwood’s creature-feature Tremors is presented by Arrow in a new limited edition UHD release. The film has been given an all-new 4K restoration by Arrow, and it has been sourced from the original negative. Arrow gives the film a 2160p/24hz high-definition encode with Dolby Vision on a triple-layer disc.
Arrow’s restoration and final presentation is really something to behold. The details of the film’s rocky landscape just leap off of the screen, allowing you to make out every pebble and weed. Surprisingly the film is rather grainy (the previous Universal Blu-ray scrubbed this away a bit) but it’s quite fine and rendered cleanly: only a couple of optical shots in the film look a bit off thanks to a coarser grain.
Colours really pop on this, particularly the blue skies. Even the browns of the dirt look gorgeous. The film is also very bright, but nothing ever looks blown out, and the image transitions perfectly from brighter areas of the screen to darker areas in the shadows. Black levels are nice and deep, and the range in the shadows is incredibly wide, more information being visible in comparison to the Universal Blu-ray (as a note, I have not seen Arrow's standard Blu-ray presentation).
The restoration work has cleaned the film up and it’s almost immaculate, outside of sequences that involve optical effects (which there are really only a handful of). I don’t ever recall any blemishes sticking out. In the end, Arrow has done an incredible job and I’ve never seen the film ever look anywhere near as good on home video as it does here.
Screen captures added January 20, 2021
Arrow includes three soundtracks, all in DTS-HD MA: a 2.0 stereo mix, the original 4.0 surround mix, and the 5.1 surround remaster. I listened to the 5.1 mix and sampled the others. The 5.1 mix is nothing to write home about but it gets the job done. Most of the audio is still mixed to the fronts, but some of the more action-packed sequences, and sequences where the worms burrow underground, present some noticeable surround activity, as does the score. Sound quality is excellent, and range is pretty wide. There is not distortion or damage present.
Sampling a couple of the louder scenes, the 2.0 and 4.0 soundtracks do sound a bit duller, lacking the punch of the 5.1 track. But quality is still fine, no distortion or edginess sounding to be present.
Unsurprisingly Arrow goes all out with their two-disc set, packing on Universal’s older content along with a substantial amount of new content. Arrow first gathers together director Ron Underwood and writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock to talk about the film in an all-new audio commentary (surprisingly the three had never recorded a commentary together for the film prior to this). It’s typical of most filmmaker tracks, with the three sharing stories around the production, everything from writing the original script, finding the locations, casting appropriately (apparently Kevin Bacon was hesitant in doing the film, much to my surprise), and then creating the film’s monster worm effects on an incredibly limited budget. They spend a lot of time on the effects work, explaining how certain ones were pulled off and how they seamlessly blended model work with live action. The track does die out a bit as we get to the film’s climax, and the three only pipe up once in a while during this portion of the film, but it’s very informative and I was beyond impressed with what they have managed to remember 30 years later.
Arrow also provides a second commentary, this one by Jonathan Melville, author of a book on the film, Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors. This one fills in gaps left in the previous track (and other areas of the features), Melville doing a dutiful job covering the film’s production, expanding on how effects were done, and also sharing more stories from the set. He talks about the things that stick out for him in the film, and I enjoyed how he would point out these little things that might otherwise go under the radar. He also talks a little about the sequels and a 2015 television pilot that Bacon even signed up for, with the promise of Fred Ward showing up if it actually got picked up (it didn’t). It sounds like Melville is going through a checklist of things and there can be a certain staleness at times because of that scripted feel, but I was still rather impressed at all of the material he was able to dig up around the film.
The first disc (which is the triple-layer UHD disc) sports a number of video supplements as well. First is a new making-of documentary made by Universal called Making Perfection, running around 31-minutes and presented in 4K (though with a low bitrate that would even choke standard 1080 content). The documentary features Underwood and the two writers again, along with Melville, talent agent/co-producer Nancy Roberts, producer Ginny Nugent, visual effects artist Alec Gillis, location scout Tony Salome, actors Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross and Ariana Richards, and more. It ends up being quite a bit more rewarding than the archival making-of documentary found on Universal’s older releases (as well as on this edition), delving more into the location that was used for filming along with the work that went into getting it right for the movie. There's also more details around the script process and the film’s effects. It’s also great to finally get Bacon to talk about the film, which he admits he did only because he was broke at the time. At the very least, he seems far more appreciative of it now.
It's not a bad documentary, though the studio produced nature of it is obvious. To accompany this Arrow has recorded their own new interviews, starting things off with Nancy Roberts, who, for 22-minutes, manages to expand even further on how the film got off the ground, which was more or a rough road than hinted at in the other features so far. It’s honestly pretty amazing the film got made at all after listening to her go over it here. She also talks a bit about the film’s many sequels, which some of the same people were involved with up to the fourth one. I keep forgetting the original film was a dud in theaters, but Roberts explains that the film was and still is a huge money-maker for Universal's video division, which is why the sequels all went straight-to-video (and I assume that will hold true for streaming as well).
Both director of photography Alexander Gruszynski and associate producer Ellen Collett get their own separate interviews (running around 11-minutes and 12-minutes respectively) recalling their own experience working on the film and how they met, fell in love, and married (amusingly, Collett explains she could not stand Gruszynski when she first met him). Collett also talks a little about her experience with Roger Corman (who, unsurprisingly, comes up often throughout the features) and shares some small details about the film (like having to deal with F-bombs that Underwood littered throughout, risking their desired PG-13 rating), while Gruszynski talks about the difficulties in filming in the harsh environment.
This is then followed by a new feature on the film’s special effects (featuring Robert Skotac, Christopher Warren, Gene Warren III, Elaine Edford, and Brett Mixon), which gets into some of the finer details of the effects, particularly how certain camera shots were pulled off (the underground effects) along with how rotoscope was employed in the film. The miniature effects are also broken down a bit more. It runs about 21-minutes.
The disc also features the 13-minute Music for Graboids, delivering audio interviews with composers Ernest Troost and Robert Folk, both recorded separately. Troost was brought on originally and he explains the idea between using different music to capture different tones, but Folk was then brought in when it was felt the score didn’t entirely work, and he redid portions of the it, though Troost ended up getting sole credit (which might be a bit of a sore spot for Folk, it’s hard to tell here). You do get to hear some of Troost’s original music here as an added bonus. Troost, to his credit, also explains why his full score didn't work.
Arrow then throws in a number of archival features, including the original 44-minute The Making of Tremors, which is pretty standard for making-of material but it does feature quite a bit of behind-the-scenes material. There is also a 10-minute “Creature Featurette” which offers 10-minutes of camcorder footage documenting some of the film’s model effects, including the film’s climax. The music is a little much, though.
The film’s deleted scenes also get carried over, which includes an alternate opening showing how one character got into the predicament he did. There are also four EPK featurettes, including a promotional 4-minute making-of along with profiles for Bacon, Gross and Reba McEntire (all of these are really glorified advertisements for the film). There’s also a collection of trailers, including 2 theatrical, a radio spot, 3 TV spots, a VHS retailer trailer (which was paired with another film but Arrow sadly cuts it out), and then one trailer for each of the film’s sequels (I've seen the second one, which I thought was decent enough, but I haven't had much of an urge to see the others). There is also a very extensive image gallery featuring a number of production photos, the gallery that appeared on the LaserDisc (and I’m sure DVD, I can't recall), two different drafts of the screenplay (one an earlier draft, the other the “shooting” script), along with storyboards for a few sequences and a collection of posters and home video art. There are hundreds of images here.
In an amusing touch, Arrow also includes a 16-minute featurette about the TV version, which cut out some of the violence and all of the swearing (even “pecker”), and it compares the edited sequences to how they appeared in the original film.
Exclusive to this edition is a second disc, a standard dual-layer Blu-ray. There is about 5 hours’ worth of extended interview footage that was filmed for the new making-of documentary that appears on the first disc. The footage comes from interviews with Ron Underwood, S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Nancy Roberts, and Alec Gillis. I ended up only sampling this material, which appears to be more-or-less presented in raw form.
Also included is footage from a Q&A session from a 2015 screening of the film at the ArcLight in Hollywood. Running 71-minutes total, the footage is broken up into two sessions, one before the screening and one after, with the one before featuring Ron Underwood, S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Nancy Roberts, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Conrad Bachmann, Robert Jayne, Richard Marcus and Charlotte Stewart, and then the one after the screening presenting Underwood, Wilson, Maddock, Carter and Gross again, along with Alexander Gruszynski, Ivo Cristante, Tom Woodruff Jr., Alec Gillis, John Goodwin and Robert Skotak. The second one is more technical in nature, covering effects, production design, and such, while the former discussion has more of a focus on the actors. The benefit here is getting the discussion with the supporting cast members that don’t appear anywhere else in the feature. It’s an okay addition, but the other features in the release cover stories around the film to a decent extent already.
Following that is a gag reel that was prepared for the wrap party with an optional introduction and commentary by Wilson. The best features on this disc, though, are three early short films by the filmmakers. S.S. Wilson’s creative 8-minute stop motion short Recorded Live revolves around a man who takes a job at a studio only to face off with a menacing creature, and this is followed by an educational short by Maddock (and produced by Underwood), called Dictionary: The Adventure of Words. Also stop-motion, the film finds a child having to correct a school paper and a dictionary comes to life to explain how properly use a dictionary. Finally, Underwood’s Library Report is another educational short explaining how to properly write a school report. Amusingly, the film was made in 1984 and takes place in “the future,” imagining what would now be called a “smart home” and to its credit, some of the material is not all that far off. They're all great additions to the set.
As usual with Arrow’s limited sets, the release includes a thick booklet, this one totaling 59-pages. It features a loving essay by Kim Newman, followed by a reprinting of the material found in the film’s original press kit. You’ll also find a reprint of a 1990 Fangoria article written about the film and its production by Marc Shapiro, followed by an essay by Jonathan Melville covering the film’s sequels (which warns of spoilers if one is concerned). The set also includes a reversible poster, featuring the new artwork on one side and the original artwork on the other, along with a little fold out presenting the anatomy of a Graboid. That same little fold-out also presents a recreation of the Perfection population sign on the other side. The keepcase then houses 6 postcards and then a 50% off coupon for Walter Chang’s market (with heavy restrictions that would make it basically unusable). The last one is a nice touch.
I’m surprised there aren’t a couple more academic features on here but Arrow does pack in a lot of material, most of it worthwhile, and the fun little souvenirs that come with it are all nice touches.
Arrow yet again goes all out with another cult classic, delivering an incredible presentation and a wealth of supplementary material that should keep fans busy.