Directed by Joe Dante
Starring Zack Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holliday, Frances Lee McCain.
A boy inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.
I’m a no-doubt-about-it Gen Xer, so I was squarely in the demo, as they say, for the prodigious output of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in the 70s and 80s. I count a movie like Gremlins in that output, since Spielberg produced it and he’s always been known as a hands-on guy who doesn’t put “Steve Spielberg Presents” on something unless he stands behind it.
While many of the films directed by Lucas and Spielberg were home runs, Gremlins is probably a double, a movie that cemented director Joe Dante and screenwriter Chris Columbus’s abilities while setting up stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates for careers that never reached their potential. It’s a film that’s very much a product of its time, tinged with stereotyped Eastern mysticism and featuring a cute, fantastical creature who proves that dumb Americans can’t handle a few simple rules.
The story is a typical tale of good versus evil, including coldhearted Mrs. Deagle, who seems to be a descendant of Almira Gulch from The Wizard of Oz in her desire to get the dog owned by main protagonist Billy Peltzer. Billy works at the local bank and his dad is a struggling inventor who buys a cute creature called a mogwai in Chinatown as a Christmas gift for his son.
Billy’s father imparts the three important rules of owning the mogwai, but his friend Pete (played by Corey Feldman, of course) accidentally breaks one of them by spilling some water on the creature, now called Gizmo. That leads to the birth of some more mogwai, one of which becomes an evil leader that tricks Billy into breaking another rule (never feed them after midnight). Pretty soon the town of Kingston Falls is overrun by maniacal, reptilian creatures far removed from Gizmo’s cute fuzziness, and Billy and his girlfriend Kate must figure out how to save the day.
If you’re a fan of Gremlins and are looking to upgrade your home video library, you can’t go wrong with this new 4K release, which used a 4K scan of the original camera negative. It may not be a movie you want to put in the player to show off your state-of-the-art home video setup, but it’s probably as close as possible to the way it looked on opening day in 1984.
However, if you’re a fan of the movie and you have the 2014 Diamond Luxe edition that was released on Blu-ray, you’ll want to hold onto it since the extras on its second disc aren’t found here. Instead, the bonus features are found on the Blu-ray disc in this package, and they’re recycled from the 2009 edition. (The Blu-ray looks like it’s the same one previously issued in 2009 and 2014.) They include:
- Two commentary tracks (found on the 4K disc too; they’re the only bonus features on that platter): The first one is a filmmakers’ commentary with Dante, producer Michael Finnell, and special effects artist Chris Walas. It’s a more technical track, with the topics including how the film came about and how the effects were created, with a bit of talk about how they would have been done with modern technology. Thankfully, no one has decided to give Gremlins the kind of digital makeover that’s been applied to other films of that era.
The second track features Dante and cast members Cates, Galligan, Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel. As you might expect, it’s focused more on memories from the making of the movie, with lots of “Oh, yeah, this is the scene where [fill in the blank]” moments as certain things happen on screen.
- Gremlins: Behind the Scenes: Clocking in at just over 6 minutes, this is one of those old EPKs (electronic press kits) that were usually shot on set back then and feature the cast and crew hyping up the movie.
- Additional scenes: These run about 10.5 minutes and have an optional commentary track featuring the same folks as in the cast commentary. They help fill in a few things, such as why Judge Reinhold’s character vanished, but, mostly, it’s understandable why they were cut, especially the pointless subplot about turning the town into a toxic waste dump.
I don’t own the aforementioned Diamond Luxe edition, but it has some lengthy making-of materials, along with a couple digital comics. I’m not sure why they weren’t ported over to this release.
A code for a digital copy of the movie is included too.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★