Prince Of Darkness is the low-budget film John Carpenter made after the high-budget, engaging summer actioner Big Trouble In Little China unfairly failed to do the business at the box-office, but just because he hasn’t got all the Hollywood bigwigs singing his praises doesn’t mean his work is any less worthy – far from it.
Father Carlton is dead, but has someone bumped him off, or was it natural causes, or is there some bizarre force at work – which is usually the case in a John Carpenter movie?
There’s mysterious messages claiming to be coming back in time from 1999, which at the time was felt to be the coming of the end of the world, as Y2K approached and we went into the year 2000, and some people were starting to lose their minds… but all that happened was that my email and usenet news program Windis32 stopped working.
We’re told there’s been a change in the Earth… and the sky… “his power”, but despite all the supernatural stuff, your first thought will be that Brian Marsh (Jameson Parker) still sports the best ‘tache ever outside of a Tom Selleck production!
Prof. Howard Birack (the late, great Victor Wong) wants everyone to give up their weekend for reasons unexplained at the point where he gathers them together, but their building is being surrounded by ‘Street Schizos’, led by the one and only Alice Cooper! But why are there ants all over the place? Bleah!
Meanwhile, there’s something flashy, green and swirly that looks intriguing, but possibly dangerous… and by possibly, I mean DEFINITELY!
As usual, there’s a stunning, thumping score from John Carpenter in this film, and it’s complemented by the choral voices as they get to see the swirly green evil thing. In 2001, it was rated amongst the Top 100 best scores of the 20th Century… albeit at No.105 as an “honourable mention”.
While we know that Donald Pleasence (top pic) passed away in 1995, aged 75, I wasn’t aware that Lisa Blount (Catherine Danforth) had passed away in 2010, aged just 53 due to natural causes. That’s incredibly sad news.
Prince Of Darkness has a very slow first act, and as for the rest, it’s never boring, but it doesn’t half drag things out. That said, it does have a perfect ending which I can still remember seeing at the long-gone Carlton Cinema in Stockport, on Wellington Road South, and which was one of only two films I saw there, the other one being… erm… He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe. The location of that cinema is now replaced by a building used by Sky.
The film is presented in the theatrical 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio and in 1080p high definition, and it looks superb for a film that’s just over 30 years old, and makes another great complement to this 2018 foursome of John Carpenter movie restorations.
The sound quality, in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and it gets great used from a wonderfully atmospheric score which fills those 5.1 speakers, and to me, the opening theme reminds me a lot of the opening credits music to Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which is Big Pig’s I Can’t Break Away. It’s the bass riff, for sure, although Bill and Ted‘s release came two years later, so Carpenter takes the bass crown.
Check them both out below:
The extras are as follows:
- Malevolent: Unearthing John Carpenter’s Prince Of Darkness (33:43): All of these new restored releases have featured one new, big extra and this time, it’s a retrospective documentary, and how this film came about just after he’d released the – at the time – flop, Big Trouble In Little China.
As with previous releases, there are no chapters in any extras, but on the plus side, there’s a ton of interviews including Cinematographer Gary Kibbe, actor Peter Jason, composer Alan Howarth, script supervisor Sandy King, visual effects supervisor Robert Grasmere, stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, Carpenter biographer John Muir, film historian C. Courtney Joyner, music historian Daniel Schweiger and Producer Larry Carpenters, and the one and only Alice Cooper.
- Sympathy for the Devil (10:28): An interview with John Carpenter from 2013, and since he wasn’t in the new one above, here he is on his own. It’s also a worthy extra and he says not to tell anyone how they created the ‘claw’ effect in the penultimate scene… which I’m not revealing here.
- Horror’s Halloween Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark (13:44): Sean Clark takes us through a number of locations in another great piece to which we were also treated on The Fog Special Edition and Carrie Special Edition. I love how he recreates some scenes, although… and he’s still more tattoo than man.
It made me laugh so much when he tried to climb the same wall as Brian did at a key point, got a load of crud on his hands and commented, “Oh, that’s fucking gross!” 😀
He also recreates the final scene…
- Intro by John Carpenter (7:13): A long intro, this was originally recorded for a 2003 French DVD release. It’s more like an interview piece.
- Scene Analysis by John Carpenter (2:49): Another 2003 piece with Mr Carpenter
- Theatrical Trailer (1:46): Cropped to 4:3, and which actually shows an alternate take for the very end of the film where… (spoilers!)
- Photo gallery incl. Behind the Scenes (4:21): A ton of on-set pics changing approx every five seconds. You can’t skip through them as they’re not chaptered.
- Radio spots (1:01): Two of them.
- Audio commentary: John Carpenter and actor Peter Jason (Dr. Paul Leahy)
The main menu mixes hand-drawn film locations for the church and the street schizos, in a similar animation style to They Live, and again, it’s silent! Why? Subtitles are in English, French and German, and chapters are a bog-standard 12.
here’s Alice Cooper as a Street Schizo.
Running time: 102 minutes
Released: November 26th 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD-MA
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (35mm, Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: John Carpenter
Producer: Larry Franco
Screenplay: John Carpenter (as Martin Quatermass)
Music: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Priest: Donald Pleasence
Brian Marsh: Jameson Parker
Prof. Howard Birack: Victor Wong
Catherine Danforth: Lisa Blount
Walter: Dennis Dun
Kelly: Susan Blanchard
Susan Cabot: Anne Howard
Lisa: Ann Yen
Lomax: Ken Wright
Mullins: Dirk Blocker
Calder: Jessie Lawrence Ferguson
Dr. Paul Leahy: Peter Jason
Frank Wyndham: Robert Grasmere
Etchinson: Thom Bray
Bag Lady: Joanna Merlin
Street Schizo: Alice Cooper
Nun: Betty Ramey
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.