It’s certainly been a long time coming. First announced and set for release a year ago, Warner Bros decided to hold back the high definition bow of Gremlins until now, as the film passes its 25th birthday. Just typing those last few words makes this reviewer feel very, very old.
Truth be told, it doesn’t feel like Warner Bros has gone to town on the disc in the extra year it gave itself, though. It’s not often switching on a Blu-ray that I’ve struggled to hunt down too many improvements over a DVD release (however small they may be), but Gremlins does make it a bit of a challenge.
I found the 1080p presentation of the film quite muggy, and more in line with a solid DVD transfer rather than a premium high definition upgrade. The age of the film and the state of the original materials clearly has held back just what’s possible here, but personally I’d prefer studios to be a bit fussier over which titles they choose to release on Blu-ray. In the case of Gremlins, if the tools aren’t there to do a sufficient high-definition upgrade, then there’s not too much point doing one, surely?
On the audio side of things, the news is better. The upgraded surround mix is active, vibrant and effective. Granted, Gremlins doesn’t have the foundations-shaking moments that will ever make it the perfect workout for a solid sound system, but the work that’s been done here has clearly had some benefit.
The extras package is strong, but then it’s a straight port-over from the earlier DVD edition. This is a real disappointment: surely when a film hits its 25th anniversary, and surely if you’re holding a release back to mark the fact, then it wouldn’t hurt to have another rustle around the archives?
As things stand, you do get two very good audio commentaries (one with director Joe Dante, along with his producer and effects artist, the other with Dante and members of the cast). You also get a very tatty looking featurette from the time of the film’s release. I do have a soft spot for these, as there’s a rawness to the press kit featurettes here that’s lacking in the modern day, glossy and safe equivalents. You also get a gallery, some extra scenes and trailers.
I’ve deliberately left the film until last, though. I’ve long been a massive fan of Gremlins, even though I have a sneaking preference for its sequel. It’s tonally quite dark (more so with this first film), and is bursting with classic moments. For me, the highlights are Phoebe Cates’ legendary speech about when she realised Santa Claus didn’t exist, and the sight of Gizmo zooming around in the finale in a toy car. And then, of course, there’s the screening of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, that kills me every time I see it.
Gremlins is a delight. Under the stewardship of Den Of Geek-favourite director Joe Dante, it’s a dark comedy, with some superbly realised creatures. It’s played well by a good ensemble cast, who gamely seem to understand that the whole film will be stolen from them as soon as the creatures of the film’s title turn up.
Has it stood the test of time? Yes, it has, albeit with one or two slight frays around the edges. And the reason it has is surely the mischievous sense of fun and light horror that Dante injects the film with. Backed by a bright score, and with the eternally cute Gizmo still working a treat, Gremlins is a terrific film. It’s certainly one that deserved a better Blu-ray release, too…
The Film:The Disc:
Gremlins is out now on Blu-ray.