HD DVD: For Fans Only
2.5 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: November 20th, 2006
Movie Release Year: 1980
Release Country: France
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The Fog (1980) (French Import)

Review Date June 28th, 2007 by
  • Editors Note

    This is a review of the French HD DVD release of 'The Fog (1980).' This movie has not been announced for release on either high-def disc format in the United States, although the domestic home entertainment rights are owned by MGM, which is currently a Blu-ray exclusive studio.

    Note that this disc is not region-coded and will play in any HD DVD player -- for more information on importing HD DVD discs, click here

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For Fans Only
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  • Editors Note

    This is a review of the French HD DVD release of 'The Fog (1980).' This movie has not been announced for release on either high-def disc format in the United States, although the domestic home entertainment rights are owned by MGM, which is currently a Blu-ray exclusive studio.

    Note that this disc is not region-coded and will play in any HD DVD player -- for more information on importing HD DVD discs, click here

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: HD DVD
    HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1
    Length:90
    Release Country:France
    Aspect Ratio(s):2.35;1
    English Descriptive Audio: English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround
    English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround
    English DTS 2.0 Stereo
    Subtitles/Captions: English Subtitles
    French Subtitles
    German Subtitles
    Dutch Subtitles
    Finnish Subtitles
    Danish Subtitles
    Swedish Subtitles
    Norwegian Subtitles
    Special Features: None
    Movie Studio: Studio Canal
    Release Date: November 20th, 2006

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

4 Stars out of 5

I've always enjoyed ghost stories about revenge, perhaps because they seem to be the purest form of the horror genre. Let's face it -- if there were spirits among us, why would they be wasting their time trying to scare us if they weren't really pissed off about something? It's from that kernel of supernatural truth that John Carpenter crafts 'The Fog,' an eerie little ghost story and among the best of the director's early efforts.

The tale is first told around a campfire. One hundred years ago, the forefathers of Antonio Bay lured a group of lepers to their deaths off the fog-encrusted shore so that they could steal their ship's bounty of gold. Now, as the town prepares to celebrate its centennial, the ghosts of those killed will return to seek revenge. And so, in a series of increasingly bizarre happenings, a group of seemingly unrelated town residents come face to face with the deadly spectres.

'The Fog' is a total B-movie plot, but that's what's great about it. Carpenter, the skilled USC grad who catapulted to fame with the 1978 classic 'Halloween,' has always been particularly adroit at creating an unyielding sense of dread and unease, and 'The Fog' is drenched in atmosphere. Every shot is infused with a love of composition and craftsmanship, and every shock modulated with great precision for maximum impact. Yes, 'The Fog' is a slow movie, but it is a slow build to a genuine climax that, if not overwhelming, pays off quite well.

Carpenter, along with co-screenwriter Debra Hill (the pair had previously collaborated on 'Halloween') also populate their story with real, if thinly-sketched, characters. There's Stevie Wayne (played by the incomparable Adrienne Barbeau), the recently-divorced local radio station DJ and the town's "night light," who presides over the scary happenings from a lighthouse perched high above the coast. Cynical fisherman Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) usually spends his nights getting drunk, until a quickie with a wayward hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis) leads the pair to help uncover the secrets of the fog. More perky is the town's party planner (Janet Leigh) and her long-suffering assistant (Nancy Loomis), who will also do battle with the ghosts. Finally there's Father Malone (Hal Holbrook), the symbol of Antonio Bay's seriously skewed idea of religion -- an alcoholic at the bottom of the bottle, whose link to the men behind the original crime will put his own "faith" to the test.

What's fun about 'The Fog' is that all these characters will converge by the film's climax, and each will complete an (admittedly slim) arc that causes them to question their beliefs. A true adult ensemble, no single character in the film is really the lead, which may blunt the dramatic momentum a bit, but it's a nice change of pace from the usual slasher pics of the era, which tended to feature a screaming, scantily-clad blonde running through the woods.

'The Fog' is also about repressed lies and secrets, which as we know from any classic ghost story, can't stay buried. By mining the best of EC Comics and pulp fiction, Carpenter and Hill have created an if-not-quite-seminal then far superior B-movie morality play in 'The Fog,' and it is easy to see why the movie remains such a cult flick. No, it's not as scary as 'Halloween,' but then it doesn't need to be. Instead, 'The Fog' is the perfect rainy-day ghost story. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD
    HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1
    Length:90
    Release Country:France
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35;1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround
    English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround
    English DTS 2.0 Stereo
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English Subtitles
    French Subtitles
    German Subtitles
    Dutch Subtitles
    Finnish Subtitles
    Danish Subtitles
    Swedish Subtitles
    Norwegian Subtitles
    Special Features:
    None
    Movie Studio: Studio Canal
    Release Date: November 20th, 2006

Video Review

3.5 Stars out of 5

For my first non-domestic high-def disc review here at High-Def Digest, I thought it would be interesting to check out an older cult title, and not an A-list, blockbuster studio picture with near-guaranteed fantastic video. 'The Fog' also happens to be one of the first movies I ever had on VHS as a kid, and I used to watch it incessantly -- so much so that I know the movie so well I can pretty much recite the dialogue, line for line. Given my intimacy with the source, I figured I'd be especially well-suited to judge its merits on HD DVD.

After putting this French import through its paces, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that for those only acquainted with the film via those old videotapes or late-night cable airings, this 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1 transfer will be a revelation. Just seeing this film in its original PanaVision dimensions is a treat. The compositions really come alive in widescreen, and the source has been upgraded by leaps and bounds. Blacks are much more solid, contrast now has at least a bit of pop to it, and cinematographer Dean Cundey's stylistic visuals boast vibrant, interesting colors. Whereas earlier transfers of 'The Fog' looked like nothing but shades of gray, now Cundey's use of blues, greens and deep purples at last shines through all the haze.

Unfortunately, there are still some problems. Though grain is consistent with a film of this vintage, there are rough patches that are noticeably heavy, such as the early fog attack on the Sea Grass, and the climatic lighthouse duel between Stevie Wayne and the spectral lepers. Darker scenes also suffer from flat shadow delineation, and the murkiest moments are simply impossible to make out. Luckily, the evil ghosts are usually just shadows anyway, but there were moments that certainly would have had better visceral impact if we could see what was going on. And though the print is generally quite clean, there are some minor instances of dirt here and there.

As for how much of improvement 'The Fog' offers over the domestic standard-def DVD release, it is noticeable but not by any means dramatic. Brighter scenes fare the best, with improved detail and depth. The "jaggies" are also lessened in scenes such as the atmospheric shot where the clouds roll over the home of Stevie Wayne, which on standard-def looked a bit edgy. There is still some obvious digital sharpening, and even in high-def the master still has a slightly artificial cast. Darker scenes boast little discernible improvement, with only slightly fuller colors and more textured close-ups the prime beneficiaries.

Audio Review

3 Stars out of 5

Studio Canal provides three audio tracks on this release of 'The Fog' -- English DTS HD Lossless Master Audio, plus French and German DTS-HD High-Resolution 5.1 surround (unfortunately, no bitrate information is available). Given the film's dated sound design and weak source elements, there isn't alot that these high-resolution formats can do with the material.

That aside, 'The Fog' is a decent-sounding remaster for a nearly thirty year-old B-movie. To be sure, dynamics are flat by today's standards, while deep bass has little heft, and mid- and high-range have that compressed feel typical of the era. There is also some obvious ADR. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of the soundtrack is John Carpenter's musical score, which is another of his electro-classics. Though the Kraftwerk-like ringing may get tiresome for some after a while, it actually sounds pretty good here, with a less harsh pitch than on previous versions. Surround effects are minimal at best, and reserved only for Carpenter's incessant use of "stingers," those piercing sounds that usually accompany every major scare. In short, 'The Fog' sounds fine considering its age, but don't expect much of an upgrade in the audio department with this HD DVD.

Special Features

0 Stars out of 5

MGM Home Entertainment released a domestic standard-def DVD version of 'The Fog' in 2001, and it was quite packed with nifty features. Alas, this Studio Canal HD DVD version boasts not a single supplement.

Final Thoughts

'The Fog' is a fun, moody and suspenseful ghost story, and one of the true sleepers of '80s horror. It may not be John Carpenter's most relentlessly terrifying film, but it is surprisingly literate for a genre effort of its type. Alas, it is hard to recommend this Studio Canal import version to anyone but the most devoted fan. Though there is no telling how long it might take for the film to hit high-def in the U.S. (if ever on HD DVD), there is little here to recommend here beyond a slight upgrade to the video. There is also not a single supplement and the import exchange rate is high. Unless you just have to have 'The Fog' on HD DVD, save your money and enjoy the standard-def DVD while you wait for a stateside release.

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  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD
    HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1
    Length:90
    Release Country:France
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35;1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround
    English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Surround
    English DTS 2.0 Stereo
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English Subtitles
    French Subtitles
    German Subtitles
    Dutch Subtitles
    Finnish Subtitles
    Danish Subtitles
    Swedish Subtitles
    Norwegian Subtitles
    Special Features:
    None
    Movie Studio: Studio Canal
    Release Date: November 20th, 2006