A DVD REVIEW: JOHN CARPENTER'S THE FOG - SPECIAL EDITION (MGM/Sony/Avco Embassy) [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums



10-05-2005, 10:48 AM
-Edgar Allan Poe

Well, folks, I've been duped. Released just yesterday to tie in with the remake that is coming, MGM/Sony Entertainment's "re-issued Special Edition" of John Carpenter's The Fog appears to be the exact same product as the previous green-covered release which has been sitting on shelves for years now. And that wasn't a bad disc -- although it had a horribly cropped pan and scan transfer on one side, there were a plethora of extras about this creepy little ghost film, commentary by the legendary John Carpenter and even a "Digitally Enhanced" remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix; it seems all these features and the audio track has carried over to this version, and although Sony's new marketing influence on the box itself proclaims that this "reissued" Special Edition has been "Mastered in High Definition," it appears we have the same transfer here as before -- which really doesn't look much like anything even resembling high definition enhanced video, but I'll get to that later.

WHY this film needed to remade is just absolutely beyond me -- but I have been saying the exact same thing about every one of these old, classic creepers that have been finding their way into remakes lately, and, in my opinion, simply can't hold a ball of wax to their original counterparts. Since this "remake craze," we have been witness to Psycho, Dawn of the Dead, House of Wax, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, and even Carpenter's own Assault on Precinct 13. What I cannot believe is how Carpenter would actually authorize and allow these remakes of his films to be made -- he must REALLY be in need of a paycheck because to imitate his art is just unnatural in my opinion. His visions of these classic films simply cannot be so quickly remade to satisfy the hordes of MTV-Generation teens who pile into theaters today to take in this lightning-quick-edited heap of garbage that has been shooting out of Hollywood -- all of which have never even heard of John Carpenter, KNEW there was an original The Fog or never heard of Ronald De Feo and how he killed his entire family in Amityville, New York in the late 1970s and there was a REAL case behind it......they are piling into the theaters to see closeups of hard bodies, huge breasts popping out of tank tops (which is not a bad thing but in this case it is) and all kinds of alterations that just ruin the original visions of these pictures. In the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we had closeups of Jessica Beil (did I get her last name spelled right?) in tight jeans and skin tight tank tops, and in the remake of The Amityville Horror we had Ryan Reynolds in the lead as George Lutz with a six pack stomach and a muscular build -- which is NOTHING like the way the real George Lutz looked -- AT ALL. In fact, Lutz is suing the producers of the remake for taking a completely inaccurate spin on their "story;" good for him. I hope he wins because the remake was complete bull****. And so, we arrive at the remake for Carpenter's The Fog, which looks to follow all the same patterns of the aforementioned remake attempts -- the trailers show quick-cut shots of "hot young chicks" in their panties, a deliberate trade for Carpenter's original atmospheric, creep-inducing vision. But hey.....that's what sells tickets today unfortunately and although it makes me ill as a cinema buff to see this happening, there's nothing we can do about it. On the plus side regarding the remake, there were FOUR $7.50-off admission tickets for the remake inside this box of the reissued Special Edition of Carpenter's The Fog so at least I won't have to pay to see this piece of **** in theaters. Anyway.....

Here's the big problem John Carpenter faced: he needed to create a follow up to his sensational, legendary Halloween and this wasn't going to be easy, by ANY means. What he crafted was a creepy little ghost yarn along with long-time collaborator Debra Hill, with many Carpenter staples coming along for the ride in terms of casting: appearing once again was Jamie Lee Curtis (coming off her leading role in Halloween), along with Adriene Barbeau (not flaunting her deliciously gigantic melons like she did in Carpenter's Escape From New York), Tom Atkins (who would appear in the Carpenter-co-produced Halloween III: Season of the Witch), Janet Leigh, John Houseman and even Hal Holbrook in a semi-leading role.

The film centers on the sleepy little town of Antonio Bay, California (which I am uncertain is going to change for the remake) and a "curse" that has been put upon it which we learn about through a campfire story told by John Houseman in the opening sequence. It seems 100 years prior to the time the film is taking place, a clipper ship named the Elizabeth Dane, carrying members of a leper colony, were lead to shore by a false fire only to have the ship sink and their gold aboard the boat stolen by some members of Antonio Bay's residency. Houseman then goes on to tell the young boys sitting around this campfire with him, intrigued by the story, that legend has it that at 12:00 midnight on this anniversary of the sinking of the Elizabeth Dane, the vengeful spirits of the doomed men will seek revenge upon those who lead them to their icy deaths....we are lead to be believe this is only a legend, but as it turns out, Houseman couldn't have been farther from the truth.

After the opening title sequence, Carpenter builds the tension and pace slowly, and then rapidly boils the plot in its quick 90-minute running time; we are witness to Antonio Bay becoming "seized" by some unknown force once 12:00 hits this 100 years after the sinking of the Elizabeth Dane....bottles in a liquor store shake by themselves, gas pumps at a station release themselves, cars begin rising on lifts, car alarms begin going off, dogs begin barking.....something is wrong in Antonio Bay. Father William Malone (Hal Holbrook) finds a journal buried inside the wall of his church after the bricks come undone by themselves at 12:00, which tells the tale of the Elizabeth Dane and what happened to Antonio Bay 100 years ago.....and his grandfather was directly involved. It seems Holbrook's grandfather had made a deal with someone named "Blake" who was the head of this leper colony whereby they were allowed to set up residency on the shore of Antonio Bay -- but they were lured in by a false campfire which broke their ship in half somehow, killing the men and allowing the fortune of gold they had onboard to be stolen....

Enter Adriene Barbeau, running and owning the local radio station in Antonio Bay, WKAB, who begins to suspect something is wrong on this anniversary of the founding of Antonio Bay when a ship in the middle of the waters surrounding the town goes missing once an eerie fog rolls in. The men of this fishing boat are indeed "attacked" by ghouls that come out of this glowing fog; ghosts vengeful enough to kill all the men aboard the ship in a rather gruesome fashion, using hooks to slice them up and such. Barbeau attempts to convince the town's weatherman (who also appeared as the Sheriff in Halloween) that something is definitely wrong about this fog that is rolling into town, but he is unconvinced until the ghosts in the fog come to pay him a personal visit at the weather station. Tom Atkins, a fisherman and friend of the men who were killed on the ship attacked by the fog (with the character name of "Nick Castle," paying DIRECT homage to the name of the real man who played Michael Myers behind the mask in Carpenter's Halloween), picks up hitchhiker Jamie Lee Curtis, and goes out to sea looking for his missing friends. The boat is spotted, but what they find doesn't make any sense; the body of one of the men is taken back for an autopsy, where the examiner tells Atkins that it appears as if the man had been laying in the ocean for a long period of time -- but Atkins tells him he was found below decks in a dry area of the ship. After this body gets up and almost hacks Curtis to death with a scalpel, we know something is weird about this fog and what it has brought to Antonio Bay.

In the interim, Barbeau's son finds a gold coin on the rocks of the beach, which suddenly turns into a piece of driftwood with the word "DANE" carved into it......he brings it back to Barbeau, who brings it to her radio station, where it explodes into a fireball and suddenly the words on the piece of wood change from "DANE" to "MUST DIE".....Carpenter begins to pick up the pace here, and during the 100 year anniversary celebration of Antonio Bay, spokeswoman Janet Leigh and her assistant (who also appeared in Carpenter's Halloween), along with Atkins and Curtis, all try to escape this invading fog which has now been identified as hostile and apparently carries with it the vengeful, ghastly ghosts of the ill-fated leper colony crew. They make their way to the hillside church where Holbrook has barricaded himself into, terrified of the truth he has read in his grandfather's journal. Once in the church, Holbrook reads to these surviving Antonio Bay residents exactly how his grandfather was involved in stealing the gold from this leper colony and deliberately sinking their ship through the journal that he found in the wall. It's not long before the ghosts in the fog find their way into the church, smashing through windows and doors, searching for the last of the "conspirators" who killed them.

Holbrook discovers a massive gold crucifix which had been created out of the gold that was stolen by his grandfather, and confronts "Blake" -- the head ghost of this leper colony who has come to claim the last of the conspirators, wanting to sacrifice himself for his grandfather's evil doings. The end sequence, while some call it cheesy, is rather cool with the ghosts of the crew standing in a fog in the aisle of the church, their eyes glowing red, while "Blake" approaches Holbrook to take the gold crucifix from him. For some odd reason, after taking the gold crucifix, Blake and the other ghosts from the fog suddenly disappear and the fog rolls out of Antonio Bay, making Holbrook wonder why Blake spared him after knowing his own grandfather was responsible for luring Blake's ship in and killing his men and stealing his gold.......

......or did Blake spare him?

From what I can tell of the trailers for the remake, this is going to be an over-the-top CGI fest, once again, replete with underwater ghostly apparitions, sexy female teens in lead roles and just everything Carpenter's original was not; the current Hollywood gloss over is going to now coat this rather underground cult-followed Carpenter gem, taking the suspense away, instead concentrating on satisfying an attention-starved teenage audience with breakneck-paced editing techniques and all the other aforementioned qualities I feel ruin these original motion pictures. Once again -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- just like in his monumental Halloween, it is what Carpenter DOESN'T show in The Fog that made it so creepy; he creates a sense of environment and atmosphere which carries the film, and even though the ghosts in the original had rather dated-looking special effected glowing red eyes piercing through the mist of the fog, something about that made the original just so appealing.

Now that Sony has gotten involved with MGM's home video affairs (and MGM took over the title vaults of Orion and Avco/Embassy studios), much of their influence can been seen on these DVD products -- such was the case with this reissued Special Edition of The Fog. Where MGM's original release boasted an all-green box, Sony, in conjunction with MGM here, has coated the box blue this time, using the same cover art of the ghosts in the fog holding their swords, which is fine, but the title art of "THE FOG" has been made tremendously larger on this new version; no big deal, but where you see Sony's marketing influence the most is on the back of the box, and I noticed this right away -- toward the bottom of the rear of the keepcase, that typical Sony Entertainment marketing jargon which lines up the audio and video specifications in a vertical line separated by rectangular boxes adds the words "MASTERED IN HIGH DEFINITION," which adorns almost all of Sony/Columbia's newer releases. How does it stack up and does it live up to this moniker? Let's take a look.


MGM's original Special Edition release of this title was a flipper, and this time around, thankfully, we have lost the pan and scan version of the film and instead get a supposed "High Definition-treated" widescreen-only transfer; now, I know in the case of the re-issuing of MGM's The Amityville Horror in that four-disc box set that was put out to coincide with the remake of the film, THAT print was supposedly given a high definition transfer from scratch and it showed -- the film looked absolutely gorgeous for a title from the 1970s and blew the original bare bones disc out of the water. In the case of The Fog, this really looks nothing like high definition to me; this appears to be the same widescreen transfer from the last Special Edition release, and in spots, it's really not that great to look at. This is a dirty film stock from almost beginning to end -- and it appears as though no special treatment was given to the transfer to clean it up. While not TOUGH to look at per se, this just doesn't look as clean as other MGM remastering efforts such as Carpenter's Escape From New York Collector's Edition or the aforementioned Amityville Horror; of course, those stocks I believe were struck from all-new high def prints of the film, which really showed the differences in quality. Here, I don't think we're dealing with a freshly minted print of Carpenter's ghost ship tale. There are moments during the presentation that get rather clean and stable, such as colorful, vivid exterior shots of Antonio Bay and the oceanfront, and these exhibit very little to no dirt, noise or grain. But that doesn't stop the "old" quality of this transfer to come popping through during most other scenes; in all, this is not different from what MGM put out last time around and it doesn't really live up to any "high definition mastering" slogans slapped on the back of the box, to be honest. It's still not a terrific-looking print. But, at least we get an anamorphic (not labeled as such on the box) 2:35:1 transfer and lose that pan and scan version, which severely hacks up all of Carpenter's films in particular.

One thing worth mentioning regarding the video is that I did notice some annoying white "haloing" around certain characters during certain sequences, and I cannot recall if that imperfection was on the original MGM release of the title.


I don't know what MGM/Sony/whatever they want to call themselves mean, exactly, by "Digitally Enhanced" 5.1 surround, but this is the same label that was slapped on MGM's last release of this disc, and to be honest, doesn't even sound like a surround track. The entire presentation remains up front, confined to the three front channels -- mainly the center as if this was a "glorified mono" mix as I like to call it. The only moments of ANY surround activity that I was able to detect was towards the very end as the fog is completely surrounding Antonio Bay and the group is trying to make their way to Father Malone's church, and the pounding, electric Carpenter-authorized score spills into the surrounds just a tad......enough to know that the speakers are on, nothing more. Believe it or not though, there were brief moments of downright satisfying LFE on the track for such an old title -- notably when the men of the Seagrass fishing boat are being attacked by the ghosts in the beginning; other brief, shallow bass burps made their way to my sub during other "action" sequences as well. The whole track, however, sounds dated, as if it's appropriate for the age and time of this film, and by no means sounds "Digitally Enhanced" as advertised; but, like I said, this was the same labeling given to MGM's first release of this Special Edition, and it sounds like the same rather weak 5.1 carryover mix. There is little directionality to the mix, but up-front stereo separation seemed to be rather effective at times, separating the eerie synthesized score from some of the onscreen action. But the track, as before, lacks power and you're gonna have to turn your master volume levels up a bit more than usual to enjoy this one. Overall, not an impressive audio delivery, but acceptable for the $9.99 this "reissued" title was going for at Best Buy, and considering you get the admission tickets to see the remake in the box (whatever that's worth to you) I guess this wasn't a terrible double-dip moment for me personally.

The SPECIAL FEATURES carried over from the first release, and included:

-Tales From the Mist: Inside THE FOG Documentary
-Storyboard to Film Comparison
-"Fear On Film: Inside THE FOG Documentary"
-Advertising Gallery
-Audio Commentary by John Carpenter and Debra Hill

steamboy 2
10-09-2005, 02:18 PM
I own the laserdisc $49 bucks back about 10yrs or so ago. and i also think that a remake is not a good idea., bottom line i will keep my laser version for sometime to come. good review lex.


10-10-2005, 09:27 AM
I own the laserdisc $49 bucks back about 10yrs or so ago. and i also think that a remake is not a good idea., bottom line i will keep my laser version for sometime to come. good review lex.


Hey Mike,

As always, thanks for the thoughtful words, my friend! WOW.....$49???? Is that what they were GOING for back then, the big LDs??? Wow. I cant see spending that PER title.....

And yes, the remake is a horrible idea....like I said, Carpenter must be in desperate need of a paycheck in order to let this happen......what's next, a remake of Halloween?

That happens and I will never watch another motion picture again........

steamboy 2
10-10-2005, 06:30 PM
In fact, i read this past friday that the weinstein brothers are going to remake HALLOWEEN no date has been set but, it is in the works. now it's safe to say that hollywood has really ran out of any ideas.

10-11-2005, 09:01 AM
In fact, i read this past friday that the weinstein brothers are going to remake HALLOWEEN no date has been set but, it is in the works. now it's safe to say that hollywood has really ran out of any ideas.

No......absolutely NO way.......are you being serious here or no? I cant believe it........

Where did you read this exactly?

steamboy 2
10-11-2005, 12:56 PM

10-11-2005, 12:58 PM
The apocalypse is upon us.

steamboy 2
10-11-2005, 03:12 PM
Yes, Very Much So !

10-12-2005, 11:17 AM
Holy **** I cannot BELIEVE they are gonna even ATTEMPT to remake Halloween.....I need to see this for myself on this site......

I better not ask.....what is next? A RE-DOING of the Friday the 13ths from beginning to end now that New Line has their paws on the franchise, or what about re-doing the Nightmare on Elm Streets? They've done just about EVERYTHING else, so who's to stop them? This is getting just absolutely ridiculous......