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Films that deserve a more dignified home video release: The NeverEnding Story

*This column is one in which we look at different films that we feel should get better treatment regarding release to the public, based on their content and behind-the-scenes material*

With film-making emerging from the dark ages of the 1970’s, growing up in the 1980’s brought us several memorable fantasy pictures that had a dark tone that is missing from some films these days (most likely studios getting cold feet that scaring children will equal less box-office returns).

While some films like Labyrinth and Legend have gotten DVD/Blu-Ray releases with bonus features, there’s one film that I often see on the discount shelves, and sigh when I see that all it contains is just the feature film. That feature film, is The Neverending Story.

The story of a bullied young boy who comes across a book that captures his imagination is often talked of fondly by many adults who were children during the 80’s. The film was Wolfgang Petersen’s follow-up after his well-received U-Boat drama, Das Boot, and also one of the few films in which he contributed to the screenplay of a film he was directing. However, Petersen was hindered in numerous ways: special effects, story, and soon studio interference. Word was that he would have continued Bastian’s adventures in a sequel, helping to pay off the ending narrator’s words that “Bastian made many other wishes, and had many more exciting adventures.”

The DVD/Blu-Ray format helped to showcase plenty of special features that could not be displayed in the original VHS format. Sadly, the DVD/Blu-Ray releases of The Neverending Story seems no better off than the VHS copy (word was, Petersen didn’t even know the film was being released in Blu-Ray a few years ago!). When you think of the film, one has to think that there had to have been numerous concept images, matte paintings, and designs for a lot of the creatures. For all we know, there may have been concepts based on certain parts of Michael Ende’s original novel that were done, but never made real.

Beyond the first film, the story’s name sake has pretty much been trampled and tarnished upon over the last 3 decades when it comes to visual media.

A sequel in 1990 attempted to carry on into the rest of Ende’s story, but failed to do much but rehash Bastian’s negative traits. As well, a third direct-to-video sequel only references certain items from the series, and just further tarnishes the characters. An animated series and live-action TV series also were made, though their quality has not carried them over. Of all that has been made, it is only the 1984 film that seems to endure in the minds of many.

Over the years, I’ve had my own ideas of what a dream release for The Neverending Story would entail. Here is a list of special features that I feel a proper release should have:


1) Audio Commentary – A lot of people dismiss pointless talking over films, but when it’s the filmmakers discussing a technically-complex film like The Neverending Story, there have got to be plenty of stories to tell. While it would be nice to have writer/director Wolfgang Petersen involved, one would hope to also have some of the crew along for the ride. Or, imagine a secondary commentary track with Barrett Oliver (Bastian), Noah Hathaway (Atreyu), and Tami Stronach (The Childlike Empress). Even though Stronach is only in the film for about 5 minutes, I think it would be nice to hear her thoughts on the overall story.

In 2001, Warner Brothers Home Entertainment did an amazing audio commentary, putting the main cast of The Goonies and director Richard Donner in a room, recording them on video as they watched and commented on the film they made. It would be neat to see them attempt something like this for The Neverending Story.

2) Retrospective interview with cast and crew – almost every other Special Features section has one of these for a film that is usually 10+ years old. We could hear thoughts about how Wolfgang Petersen decided to make the film, as well as how the actors got chosen for their roles, and the rigors of using their imagination. One also has to wonder about Noah Hathaway’s words regarding the scene where Atreyu’s horse Artax is overtaken in the Swamps of Sadness.

3) Alternate/Extended Cut of the film – Much like what was done with LegendThe Neverending Story also was cut in several different ways. Word is that while the version we know in the United States contains electronic music by Giorgio Moroder and Kalus Doldinger, word is the cut released in Germany is much different. Though I have never seen it, word is it contains a longer cut of the film, and the electronic score has been replaced by something a little more classical.

4) 60 Million For Fantasies – Unknown to a lot of people, a documentary was made for German television, chronicling the making of The Neverending Story. The film’s 60 million dollar budget (a huge amount to make a film back then!)  is the subject of the title, but the hour-long documentary is incredibly detailed. We see behind-the-scenes with the Special Effects crew, as well as setting up some major scenes, and in a rather amazing inclusion, video of author Michael Ende telling of his displeaure with the film being made. Yes, you heard that right: a making-of special with the source material’s creator criticizing it! You never would see that kind of thing in this day and age. (note: this documentary is on Youtube, though you may need to search to find it in English Subtitles)

A clip from the making-of documentary, “60 Million for Fantasies.” Here, a crew member helps the Rockbiter onto his Rockcycle.

5) Creating the world of Fantasia – A separate documentary with makeup artists, set decorators, costume designers, and other visual effects persons who helped make Rock-Biters look mountainous, made snails race, and much more.

6) A library of the different bits of concept art, matte paintings, and photos regarding the construction/creation of many of the film’s creatures. This could be a bit dicey, since most DVD/Blu-Ray releases have cut back on extra material like this on some Special Features discs.

7) Abandoned Concepts/Deleted Scenes – This would be one area that I could imagine so much information to be found. Looking at the film now, there are some areas where certain scenes just seem to end, and others that feel like they ran out of time and had to force a compromise.

8) Bavaria Filmstudios – The film studio where much of the film was made, is also a treasure trove of animatronics and models from The Neverending Story. Though many of them are not as pristine as they once were, it would be nice to see a video tour of the studio, as well as what remains of the film’s numerous props. Such highlights include Falkor, and even a miniature of Morla, The Ancient One.

The Southern Oracle, and Falkor the Luck Dragon props, currently located at Bavaria Filmstudio. Word is you can actually get your picture taken riding Falkor!

9) The Neverending Story 2: What Might Have Been – Originally, Wolfgang Peterson was to have continued the adventures that were hinted at in the closing narration. While The Neverending Story film covered the first half of Ende’s original story, the remainder dealt with Bastian rebuilding Fantastica with his imagination. However, Peterson did not return, and 6 years later, The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter was released. One has to wonder what Peterson’s original vision was for the two-part magnum-opus.

10) Retrospective on author Michael Ende – To many (like myself),The Neverending Story is the only book of Ende’s that comes to mind. The author of over 20+ stories, it would be nice to have someone give us some background on the man who created Luck Dragons, Fantastica (the original land’s name in his book), and much more.

11) Limahl, and the song film’s theme song – In case you were wondering, the singer of the film’s theme song is a dude (though the dude does sound like a lady). This would shed some light on Limahl’s creative process, and how he came to create the song that just won’t get out of our heads.

12) The Music Video to The Neverending Story – Of course, we couldn’t have the movie without Limahl’s music video, can we?

13) Promotional materials – this would include theatrical trailers, tv spots (if any exist), and movie poster artwork.

14) A Special DVD/Blu-Ray Case – Word was that a couple years ago, a foreign release actually came in a case resembling the book from the film. Given how many studios are releasing fancy boxsets with some of their films, I think this would be a great incentive, and conversation piece for any collector to have! Better yet, if it came with a wearable replica of the Auryn (the talisman given to Atreyu by the Childlike Empress), it’d truly be a thing of beauty!

One concept that Warner Brothers been doing recently for certain films, is the Digibook gimmick for several Blu-Ray titles. This book-like casing is a little larger than the standard Blu-Ray case, but also gives some behind-the-scenes information about the film it is representing. Seeing as it is based on a book, The Neverending Story would be a no-brainer for a Digibook release, in my opinion. In fact, I made a little mock-up on what this set could possibly look like (see below, and remember, this is just a mock-up):

Admit it…you’d buy this, wouldn’t you?


And that’s my ‘grown-up wish list’ for features that I would love to see for this film that is remembered fondly, but has been left in the dust. Even so, the fanbase for The Neverending Story seems to be more conservative than fandoms that have evolved over the years. I’ve never met any die-hard Neverending Story fans, but every other person I know remembers it in some way. The memorable scene of Atreyu riding on Falkor for example, has been parodied in cartoons like Family Guy, Robot Chicken, and a recent episode of Titans Go.

Raven, Starfire, and Silkie in a Neverending Story reference from a “Titans Go” episode.

Recently, word was announced that there will be an upcoming, 30th Anniversary release of the film from Warner Brothers, coming this fall. However, I’m not holding my breath, as there has been no announcement that this will be anything more than a bare-bones rehash of the previous Blu-Ray release. After all, this is the same studio that when Beetlejuice turned 25 last year, did relatively nothing for one of Tim Burton’s most memorable films. (I also included that film in another dignified home video release posting).

With home video sales taking a beating from streaming media these days, studios have stopped giving us impressive special features, and these days seem more apt to just recycle previous releases, with as little heavy-lifting as possible. It’s sad to think we have a better chance of getting sucked up by The Nothing, than ever seeing a dignified release for this gem of Fantasy filmmaking.

Update: 8/12/14

Well, it looks like Warner Brothers may have given in and decided a little TLC towards The Neverending Story’s 30th Anniversary was in order! posted images of the front and rear covers of the upcoming release’s front and back covers, and on the back, this is what was found:

It’s not everything on my wishlist, but it’s got so much that I’m eager for this release. I can only assume Reimagining the Neverending Story is the much-hoped-for retrospective I would love to see.

I’m most intrigued by the audio commentary by Wolfgang Petersen. I’ve only ever heard Petersen’s commentary on the release of Air Force One, though I’m hoping with all these years that have gone by, there’s enough stuff in the film to keep him talking and reminiscing.

The additional making-of and documentary is hard to decipher what we’ll see. My assumption is that the World of Fantasies documentary may be the same as the 60 Million for Fantasies one that I mentioned earlier in the posting.

I am definitely planning to review this release once I get it into my hands. Despite my feelings about Warner Brothers on several of their releases, they have impressed me in the past, with the likes of  their Little Shop of Horrors rekease, which included the long-lost original “Don’t Feed The Plants” ending.

Films that deserve a more dignified home video release: Beetlejuice

*This column is one in which we look at different films that we feel should get better treatment regarding release to the public, based on their content and behind-the-scenes material*

I’m sure all of us have seen at least one film by Tim Burton. A young boy who grew up in the strange suburban world of Burbank, CA, young Tim’s sensibilities were entranced by monster movies, which soon made their way into his sketches of saucer-eyed, spindly creations.

Parlaying his love of art into a career, Tim was accepted into the California Institute of the Arts, and worked briefly for the Walt Disney Studios. While dabbling in hand-drawn animation, he soon created the stop-motion shot Vincent, and a live-action short based on a story called Frankenweenie, about a young boy who reanimates his dead dog back to life. But soon, Tim wanted to branch out and explore new frontiers, and left ‘The Mouse House’ behind.

He then went on to Warner Brothers, where along with Phil Hartman and Paul Reubens, crafted the film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, about a man-child who goes on a bizarre road trip to recover his beloved bike (and given the way that bike looks, wouldn’t you?). After Pee-Wee, Burton got ahold of the script for Beetlejuice, which became a surprise hit as well.

Concerning the Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), an incident on the town bridge causes them to die, trapping them in their house as ghosts, unable to leave. If they do, they find themselves on a strange desert landscape, inhabited by giant striped sandworms.

Of course, all is not well, as their home has been sold to a family of New York subrubanites. Though their afterlife caseworker named Juno says they should scare the living inhabitants out themselves, the Maitlands get conned into unleashing Beetlejuice, a pasty-faced, freelance bio-exorcist.

With numerous films of Tim Burton’s released on DVD, it’s rather odd that given the films from the first 10 years of his directing career, Beetlejuice has been sidelined for so long regarding extras, and other making-of goodies.

In 2008, Warner Brothers released a 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray. So, what made this release ‘deluxe?’ The inclusion of three episodes from the Beetlejuice animated series. Yes, THAT was enough to justify the release as ‘deluxe.’

Given that this year is the silver anniversary of the film, one can dream of bigger, and better release for this little favorite from Warner Brothers. Though nothing has been mentioned as the film’s anniversary draws near (March 30th). Here are a few things that would definitely make me consider purchasing the film if they were included:

1) Audio Commentary – Burton is one of the few directors who has given in and done commentary tracks for the majority of his feature film releases. However, even when he does commentaries, it works best if he has another person in the room to speak with. Lone commentaries (like the one he did for Edward Scissorhands), can be a little ‘bland.’ The one he did for Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure had him trading words with Paul Reubens, and one could imagine him doing a Beetlejuice commentary with Michael Keaton.

2) Interview/retrospective with the cast and crew – 25 years later, almost all the main cast of the film are known for other works, and a few of them even went on to work in other Burton-related productions (such as Michael Keaton, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder).

3) Deleted Scenes –  I once browsed through an old issue of the special effects magazine Cinefex during my college days, and recall seeing information about several scenes that were filmed, but have not been seen in full-motion by the general public. These include:

– a scene of the Maitlands clinging to a windowpane while on the Sandworm planet. This was most likely an exterior view of when the two were clinging outside the upstairs window when the Deetzes discover the miniature model of the town in the attic.

– After he and Barbara return to the house after dying, Adam’s plan to ‘retrace their steps’ was supposed to send him to a world of large gears tearing up the landscape. Early test audiences didn’t ‘get’ this sequence, and scenes of Adam and Barbara encountering Sandworms was used.

– The scene where the Deetzes are menaced by Beetlejuice as a snake was also different from the final product, which featured a spiky-toothed Beetlejuice head on a snake body. Originally, the snake had no trace of Beetlejuice in its appearance, but the decision was made to not use the footage that had been shot. It’s possible that the design was changed, because some people may have been confused that the snake was actually Beetlejuice in disguise.

– After test audiences responded favorably to the afterlife waiting room sequences, one of the final sequences would have had the elderly barber named Harry (whom Adam encountered early in the film when he and Barbara went to town), be in the waiting room. In the end, the scene we know had a witch doctor sitting in Harry’s place.

4) Visual Effects Retrospective – There are plenty of memorable effects in this film, from stop-motion puppets, to makeup effects. It would be nice to see if any effects tests or film exists regarding these items, and maybe some of the artisans talking about being allowed to dabble within Burton’s imagination.

5) Isolated Score – Several Tim Burton/Danny Elfman collaborations on DVD have included an isolated score of Danny Elfman’s score. It would be nice to include this little extra, wherein we can hear Elfman’s orchestrations minus dialogue and other sound.

I will admit that when I first saw previews for Beetlejuice when I was 8, it looked really neat and exciting. However, it was one of several films I saw in 1988 where my eagerness turned to uneasiness. This was my first introduction to the works of Tim Burton, let alone alot of the tropes regarding dead people, skeletons, and strange transformations. Needless to say, I had the same reaction to Beetlejuice as I did with Poltergeist.

Of course, the next year when Batman was released, I got through that one pretty well, though it wouldn’t be until high school that I’d grow to like and understand Tim Burton’s films more, thanks to our Band Director creating several marching shows consisting of Danny Elfman’s music (one of which had us marching to the Beetlejuice theme!).

I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love a new release of this film with the items I’ve mentioned above. As it stands, Beetlejuice isn’t the last Burton film to get extras. There’s also Tim’s 1997 film Mars Attacks, which has plenty of room for special features material. There’s more then enough material in that film that would make for an interesting discussion, including Burton’s decision to use computer animation for the martians, instead of the original plan for stop-motion.

The top image shows several effects men working with a cable-oprated puppet of the original snake.
The lower image is a black-and-white image from the original sequence, showing Delia Deetz (Catherine O’Hara) in the clutches of the menacing creature.

Films that deserve a more dignified home video release: Death Becomes Her

*This column is one in which we look at different films that we feel should get better treatment regarding release to the public, based on their content and behind-the-scenes material*

For me, 1986-1990 was a 5 year period in which I came to know the name of my favorite director: Robert Zemeckis. It was during this time, that Zemeckis and his friend Bob Gale finally got their film Back to the Future made, which also ended up becoming a trilogy. Zemeckis also worked with Steven Spielberg to direct Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a film which was a prime example of how Zemeckis would use effects to not just be showstopping visuals, but also enhance and tell a story.

So, after those 5 years, where did Zemeckis decide to go? Why, into the realm of dark comedy, of course! In a way, Death Becomes Her almost feels like an extended episode of Tales From The Crypt (the HBO television anthology series, which Zemeckis was executive producer of).

The film opens in 1978, where we are introduced to starlet, Madeline Astor (Meryl Streep) as she performs in a Broadway show. Also in attendance, is her childhood friend, Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn), and Helen’s fiance, Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis), a plastic surgeon. Shortly thereafter, Helen’s world is turned upside-down when Ernest is charmed by Madeline, and marries her! After this, Helen falls into a deep-seated depression.

We then cut to the present day (aka 1992), in which Madeline is a fading starlet attempting to keep her looks. Ernest meanwhile, has become an alcoholic, and is now a mortician. Madeline and Ernest are soon invited to a book signing for a self-help book Helen has written, and are surprised when Helen is revealed to look even better than Madeline!

After seeing her exasperated at her aging appearance, a person at a rejuvenation clinic Madeline goes to gives her the card of a woman named Lisle. At the end of her rope, Madeline goes to meet with Lisle, who is willing to sell her a special potion, that can stop the aging process, and allow her to live forever (“Sempre Viva,” as Lisle says).

While the Summer of 1992 had plenty of big films like Batman Returns, Death Becomes Her didn’t come close to reaching the box-office that Zemeckis’ last 4 efforts had achieved. Some have said dark comedies are a hard sell for the American audience, and that summer, it proved to be true (Death grossed the lowest amount of money next to Zemeckis’ first two films, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and Used Cars).

Though it faded quickly at the end of the summer, the film’s name would be revived come awards season, when it took home numerous awards for its ground-breaking visual effects. Much like The Abyss and Terminator 2, Death would take advantage of new computer-generated effects from Industrial Light & Magic, notably in the creation of digital skin for a few scenes. The film’s place in the history of Industrial Light & Magic’s computer graphics revolution put it right before the release of what would truly signal the digital revolution: 1993’s Jurassic Park.

When it came to the home video market, the film became one of those casualties of less-popular releases. We weren’t expecting a lot from video cassettes at the time, but when DVD’s came along, Universal Pictures committed one of the ultimate release ‘crimes.’ While they did put the film on DVD, the release only came formatted to fit the average television set (aka pan-and-scan!). As it stands today, the only way to see a wide-screen release of the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is if you own the laserdisc.

As the marketplace has begun to fill up with all sorts of films being released on the Blu-Ray disc format, many have wondered why Universal Pictures has not yet released this film. There’s even a petition on Facebook that has over 400 likes. Then again, Universal is a studio that loves to dip multiple times into the well of more well-known films (take all the different releases for the American Pie and Mummy movies).

Of course, while many of us would expect better picture quality (not to mention a letterboxed aspect ratio!), there are plenty of features one could include with a new release. Here are some of my thoughts:

1) Audio Commentary – It would be quite a coup to get Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis to all sit down for an audio commentary, but I doubt you could. In my mind, I’d imagine an audio commentary consisting of Director Robert Zemeckis, Screenwriters David Koepp and Matt Donovan, and Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston. There was a similar grouping on the Who Framed Roger Rabbit commentary, and I think these four would be able to keep the commentary lively (no pun intended).

2) The Alternate Cut -Unknown to a lot of people, the final film differs from the original cut, due to a test screening before its theatrical release. Comedian Tracy Ullman was featured as a bartender named Toni who befriends Ernest, and becomes the only true friend he has in his miserable existence. Ullman’s appearance actually did make it into a few scenes shown on the film’s trailers, but after the test screening, all her footage was cut from the final release, and several scenes were rewritten and re-shot (including the ending). With these scenes, they could either give us both the original and theatrical cuts, or they could always just include Ullman’s parts as ‘deleted scenes,’ and just give a small blurb from the filmmakers, talking about how the scenes were rejected.

3) Original Behind-the-Scenes Material –During the making of the film, a 9-minute special was assembled, showing the cast and crew, as well as camera set-ups, and several of the major visual effects setups.

4) Visual Effects retrospective – There have to be special effects tests, and possibly some discussion from Ken Ralston and several other people, regarding not just the digital effects, but even the films makeup effects that made Goldie Hawn look obese in one scene, as well as the various makeup effects also used on Meryl and Bruce.

5) Theatrical Trailers – After all, we cannot have special features without a gallery of these.

It does feel odd how we got Zemeckis’ first two films released with at least an audio commentary in in the last 7 years, but we have not seen anything at all regarding Death Becomes Her. Even his first major hit Romancing the Stone got released with deleted scenes, and several retrospective featurettes.

In a way, Zemeckis seems to love the idea of dark humor. He and his screenwriting friend Bob Gale kept trying to pitch a film called Bordello of Blood for many years, before it finally got made in the early 1990’s. As well, Zemeckis and Gale were also the writers for Steven Spielberg’s 1941, which was pretty un-PC in a lot of areas, and took a more humorist approach to American paranoia in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Death Becomes Her even channels some of Zemeckis’ love of having his characters interact with/inspire historical figures, such as at Lisle’s party which she throws for all the people who have taken her potion. The guest list even includes Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean.

Plus, there’s a great little gag when Madeline finds out that Helen took the potion too. When Madeline demands to know when she took it, Helen responds with “October 26, 1985.” For those who are fans of Zemeckis’ work, this was the date in Back to the Future when Marty Mcfly went back in time.

As this year marks the 20th Anniversary of the film, one would hope there would be some kind of release on the horizon from Universal Pictures. Then again, they’re probably busy prepping that American Pie boxed set that will include this year’s American Reunion.

This image from the film’s movie trailer, shows one of the deleted scenes featuring Bruce Willis as Ernest Menville, and Tracey Ullman as a bartender named Toni who befriends him.

Films that deserve a more dignified home video release: Poltergeist

*This column is one in which we look at different films that we feel should get better treatment regarding release to the public, based on their content and behind-the-scenes material*

It used to be that when scary or spooky things happened, it was in abandoned houses, spooky castles, or giant mansions on a dark and stormy night. With the release of Poltergeist in 1982, Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper showed us that spectral activity could also be found in a place right in our own neighborhood: our own house!

The film concerns the Freelings, who live in a suburban community called Cuesta Verde. Some time after they have moved in, their youngest daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) begins to watch the static on their television set, claiming that she is conversing with “The TV People.” Strange occurrences begin to happen in the household, but one night, a tree outside the older brother’s window seems to come alive, and grabs him! As the parents rush to save him, the closet in Carol Anne’s room opens, and she is sucked into it! Finding her gone, the parents are unsure where she is, when they suddenly hear her voice emanating from their television set! They soon find that supernatural spirits (or poltergeists), have taken their daughter, and enlist the help of a spiritual medium named Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein) to help get Carol Anne back.

The film proved to be a huge success, and eventually spawned two sequels and a television series. Currently, there is word that MGM Studios (in the wake of escaping from bankruptcy) has plans to start remaking lots of films in their library, with one of them being Poltergeist.

What makes the original film work so well, is that suburbia was always meant to be the place where you were safe from the big city. Gridlock, crime, and strangers were meant to be non-existent entities in these planned communities. The use of a spectral presence in the film helps heighten the tension and the scare value, not to mention that the one in danger is not an idiotic teenager, but an innocent child (I think every parent is fearful of something bad happening to their children).

It’s also noteworthy for the involvement that Steven Spielberg had in regards to the film. He wrote the story, co-wrote the screenplay, and acted as a producer on the film (the most amount of story interaction he had since Close Encounters of the Third Kind). One has to wonder that if Universal Studios hadn’t held him to directing only one film at the time (a little picture called E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial), Spielberg would have directed this as well (there have been several occasions in the last 20 years, where he did direct several films back-to-back). Directing duties were given instead to Tobe Hooper (director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), though to this day, there’s alot of back-and-forth on just who directed the film: Hooper, or Spielberg.

You’d think that since it is considered one of the scariest films out there (I still think it holds up well all these years later), that more effort would be put into its release on DVD and Blu-Ray. Sadly, this has not been the case. The last release for the film occurred in the last 3-5 years, but very little material was added. Extra features included only the film’s trailer, and a documentary titled They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists. Prior to this, the only other time extras had been offered on a home video release, was when the film premiered on laserdisc, which included a making-of featurette that was released before the film premiered in 1982. It almost feels that the way the studio treats this film, the ground will open up, and suck down anyone who attempts to give the film a little more material.

Thinking about the film over the years, here are some things I’d love to see on a proper release:

1) Audio Commentary Of course, you’ll never get Steven Spielberg on the commentary track (he’s one of the few hold-outs who declines such a thing), but what about a track dealing with some of the cast, or even the other writers, producers, and director Tobe Hooper? You can’t say that a group commentary wouldn’t elicit some interesting stories or memories regarding the experience, or cast members who have passed on (like Heather O’Rourke, or Zelda Rubinstein).

2) Interview retrospective with the cast and crew – This would probably be the closest you’d get to picking Spielberg’s brain, as he is usually willing to sit down and just chat privately about his experiences. Plus, it would be interesting to know if he believes in spiritual phenomena after all these years (during a War of the Worlds press conference in 2005, he was questioned whether he still believes in alien life). It might also be nice to hear what inspired Spielberg to write the story that eventually became the film. Word was during early production of E.T., Spielberg had heard of a family terrorized by aliens, and that was part of his early musings with that project. But it seems that he chose to split the terror and wonder into two films, making Poltergeist the terror of the unknown, and E.T. the wonder.

3) Creating Fear: The Special Effects of Poltergeist At the time, Poltergeist was the second film in which Spielberg had gone to George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic for help realizing the impossible. In regards to post-production, ILM was doing everything from building miniatures and creating creatures, to doing process-photography shots in the film. It’d be nice to hear from various personnel/staff on what they had to go through, as well as the production design staff in developing the look of the otherworldly spirits.

4) The Making of Poltergeist – This was a making-of featurette that was created in 1982 as part of the film’s promotion. It offered some insight from both cast and crew, as well as little tidbits on some of the visual effects, such as the ‘living closet’ effect that almost takes Carol Anne and her brother.

5) Trailers – Because really, what special features list isn’t going to have them? Plus, it gives us the ability to see how marketing trends were in the early 1980’s.

6) They Are Here: The Real World of Poltergeists – This could be optional to me, but the documentary included on the DVD/Blu-Ray release could be insightful.

I assume some people would love some special features like Hooper vs Spielberg: who is the true director of Poltergeist, or The Curse of Poltergeist. However, that’s stuff that you’d see on E! Entertainment Television, and wouldn’t make for ‘suitable’ making-of material.

In regards to the story, one can’t also help but feel that it may have been inspired by Spielberg’s love for the Rod Serling show, The Twilight Zone. Some have noted similarities to an episode called Little Girl Lost. In it, a girl rolls under her bed, and into a strange, otherworldly dimension. Her parents can hear her voice in her room, but can’t figure out where she’s gone to. This is very similar to Carol Anne’s disappearance in Poltergeist, yet not quite as visceral and terrifying. (FYI, the episode Little Girl Lost was also parodied slightly in the Treehouse of Horror episode on The Simpsons, where Homer ends up in ‘The 3rd Dimension’)

I only saw the film maybe 2 times in my youth (on home video), but there were still plenty of things in it to freak me out. I also had a clown doll (word was my Mom purchased him for me when I was little, because I called him a ‘funny clown’). However, after seeing Poltergeist, I never looked at him the same way again (and yet, I never got rid of him…maybe out of fear he’d come back to get me if I tossed him away). I think the film also brought forth a strange curiosity with spirits. I was never into the likes of Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees, but when there would be TV movies or the occasional Unsolved Mysteries that dabbled in “The Unexplained,” I was there. There was even a strange made-for-tv movie about a haunted suburban development that seemed eerily similar to Poltergeist.

Of course, being that this is the internet, there’s going to be a few people so deeply in love with a subject, that they’ll make a website dedicated to it. One that I came across when perusing the web about Poltergeist, was Poltergeist: The Fan Site . Fan David Furtney has accumulated a great deal of information regarding the film. His site showcases everything from scans of concept art, to information from the film’s press kit, and even information gleaned from copies of the film’s shooting schedule.

Every fourth person you know has probably had an experience with a poltergeist or a ghost, or knows somebody who has. You just have to ask around” – Steven Spielberg, 1982 (from the Poltergeist movie press kit)