The Changeling sees music lecturer John Russell (George C Scott) renting a great big house after a freak accident kills his wife and daughter, meaning he can, understandably, not live in his own house any more, and needs to sell it.
Sadly, things go from bad to worse for him as there’s something important which the owners of this gothic-fronted abode forgot to tell him about – it’s haunted. But who by? If it’s his family, then why would they kick off? They’ll know that what happened wasn’t his fault, so why torment him? And if it’s not them, then who is it? And what’s it got to do with Senator Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas)?
Well, Russell must turn detective – and, seemingly, abandon his job – to find out the truth in this movie which is a daft piece of hokum that does go on a bit too long.
Amusingly, there’s a scene with a medium which was probably quite scary in its day, but now just makes you laugh as she flails about while writing out the answers she’s receiving to her questions.
Mr Scott was only 71 when he died, in 1999, and would’ve been 52 when he made this, although as per a lot of just-past-middle-aged people at the time, he looks at least ten years older than he is.
As for the title, I won’t describe what a Changeling is as that’d be a spoiler (even if the film IS almost 40 years old), so you’ll just have to watch it to find out.
I keep thinking that I must’ve seen this, or parts of it at least, while growing up in the ’80s, but if I did, I don’t remember. Either way, shot in 1979 and released in 1980, it’s great that the film can’t rely on CGI like too many do today. In fact, all it takes to put the willies up you is some spooky old dear to say, that the house “doesn’t want people”. EEEEEK!
The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio, and in 1080p high definition. While I understand they’ll have remastered it for this release, the original print isn’t fantastic. As well as there being a fair bit of a look of haze on view at times, the opening credits – hence, the start of the first film reel, which is always going to come off worst as a piece of film – does look pretty bad. Things calm down after a while, but bear in mind that this is as good as the film is ever ging to get.
The audio has a stereo and a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio option. There’s use of the rear speakers initially just to amplify atmospherics like an orchestra, although it does come into its own when the haunting elements kick in. most of the rest of the time, the mostly-dialogue piece resides in the front speakers. The rear stuff might’ve been part of the original soundtrack given when this film was released, however, as opposed to being a new creation. I just assumed it was all new, but then again, Dolby Surround had been born with A Star Is Born, in 1977, and George C Scott was a well-known lead actor at the time, so the studio might’ve fronted up the cash for it.
There’s a decent set of extras more akin to the sort of release we expect from Arrow, so it’s nice that they have some competition. That said, it’s not like they’re selling the same film with a different reason to buy it – you buy based on whether you like the film or not, but you get the idea.
The extras are as follows:
- The House on Chessman Park (17:31): A very wordy extra as author and historian Dr Phil Goodstein tells us the true story behind the movie. He’s definitely an acquired taste, though.
- The Music of the Changeling (8:59): Conductor and music editor Ken Wannberg, who has worked on a number of big movies including the Star Wars original trilogy and the prequels, plus Raiders of the Lost Ark, talks about writing the music for this movie, as well as how he met Williams at a party at his house.
- Building The House of Horror (10:56): Art director Reuben Freed talks about how he came to do set design and how it led on to this one, which involved building an external front for the house, as well as a number of individual rooms, and it all works brilliantly well.
- The Psychotronic Tourist (16:02): Author Kier-La Janisse introduces a piece which revisits a number of the key locations in the film. I see the Lincoln Center in New York is still the same concrete jungle today.
- Master of Horror Mick Garris on The Changeline (5:31): The filmmaker and screenwriter tells us briefly why the film is important to him.
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2:18): Presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio, expect the usual quality from a trailer from that era, but it’s great that it’s included. If you haven’t seen the film, then watch that before the trailer, so as to avoid spoilers.
- TV Spot (0:29): A brief trailer in 4:3.
- Audio commentary: with director Peter Medak, producer Joel B Michaels, and David Gregory from Severin Films, who notes that they recorded this on October 18th 2017, which would’ve been Scott’s 90th birthdaay!
I can only review what I’m sent which is the above on a single disc, but the boxed version also contains:
- Reversible sleeve with new artwork by Christopher Shy and original poster artwork
- Original Soundtrack CD
- 40 page perfect-bound booklet with new essay by Kevin Lyons, original production notes and archive on-set interview
- Double-sided poster featuring new artwork by Christopher Shy and original poster artwork
- Rigid slipcase
The menu features a static shot of the house with green mist animated over the top of it, along with a short piece of the theme. There are 16 chapters and subtitles are in English only.
The Changeling Special Edition is out now on Blu-ray.
Running time: 107 mins
Distributor: Second Sight
Released: August 20th 2018
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Peter Medak
Producers: Garth H Drabinsky and Joel B Michaels
Screenplay: William Gray and Diana Maddox
Story: Russell Hunter
Music: Rick Wilkins
John Russell: George C Scott
Claire Norman: Trish Van Devere
Senator Carmichael: Melvyn Douglas
Joanna Russell: Jean Marsh
Captain DeWitt: John Colicos
Parapsychologist: Barry Morse
Mrs Norman: Madeleine Thornton-Sherwood
Leah Harmon: Helen Burns
Mrs Grey: Frances Hyland
Minnie Huxley: Ruth Springford
Albert Harmon: Eric Christmas
Eva Lingstrom: Roberta Maxwell
Robert Lingstrom: Bernard Behrens
Eugene Carmichael: James B Douglas
Security Guard: J Kenneth Campbell
Mr Tuttle: CM Gampel
Joseph Carmichael: Voldi Way
Kathy Russell: Michelle Martin
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.