The Hills Have Eyes is another in the long line of Arrow Special Edition releases where I’ve only seen it for the first time in this format. Forever billed as one of those ’70s shlock horror classics, I had to see what all the fuss was about.
After an encounter between E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial‘s Dee Wallace vs a big tarantula, the film eventually moved on to the job at hand, where there’s something hiding in the bushes, killing people and eating their insides, occasionally leaving their intestines and other entrails behind. Yummy!
This is all thanks to a group of weirdo savages who clearly haven’t seen modern civilisation in a long time, mostly named fter planets such as Mercury (who, on learning the others have kidnapped a baby comments “Maybe I make a joke like last time and eat the toes”), Jupiter, Mars and Pluto, the latter played by the very bizarre-headed Michael Berryman, who later played one of the bikers in 1985’s Weird Science, and was concerned reporting their disgraceful actions would result in him losing his teaching job.
The Hills Have Eyes is one of those horror flicks which was censored back in the day, although mostly for violence and I think it may have only happened in the US. Checking online, it tends to revolve around people being beaten up by the oddballs, although there is a scene of a man shown burning alive, which was pretty gross. It was made to show nothing too graphic and just generally give the impression of the effect, but it still has that desired effect.
This disc also has the alternate ending, and without giving spoilers, between the two, I preferred the theatrical one. The version with the alternate ending also lasts a couple of minutes longer. This includes deleted footage which was believed to be lost, although it was included on the 2003 DVD release from Anchor Bay DVD.
As for the film, it passes 90 minutes, but it’s far from brilliant. However, if you’re a fan, then there’s a stack of extras below, so you’ll definitely want to get this.
The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition. This is the first time I’m aware of this film making it to Blu-ray and it does have a really ropey picture in places. As you’d expect, this was a very low budget film (approx $230,000), so production values can’t be compared to a modern horror, hence any issues with the print will be down to how it was filmed, and no issues at Arrow’s end. However, I am scoring it on how it appears so you can judge your purchase accordingly.
The audio is in DTS HD 1.0 (mono), and it’s functional but fine. No major problems, and just exactly what you’re expecting from a low-budget movie of its age.
The large amount of extras are as follows:
- Looking back on The Hills Have Eyes (54:35): An extensive ‘making-of’ documentary including Wes Craven – who also talks about his career’s beginnings, producer Peter Locke, director of photography Eric Saarinen and many key cast members. Also coming into the chat is the Sawney Bean family on which the weirdos in this movie were based.
It’s brilliant that this lasts almost an hour, but sadly there are no chapters to this. I’m not sure if that’s because the documentary originally was made for Anchor Bay’s 2003 DVD release.
- Family Business with Martin Speer (16:08): A new interview with actor who plays Doug Wood, recorded in LA in June 2016. Nearly 40 years on, he understandably looks a fair bit older and tells us how the daytime temperature can be extremely hot, while it’s completely the opposite at night. The former means that at least they had a trailer in which to occasionally do some filming and escape the heat… until the scene where it has to be blown up! 😀
- The Desert Sessions with Don Peake (11:00): A new interview, this time with the film’s composer, and recorded in LA in May 2016, including telling us how even necklaces formed part of the score! In fact, this interview highlights just how bizarre the score is.
- Alternate ending (11:34): There doesn’t seem a huge difference to this – it swaps the last two main scenes and then tags on a bit of previously-assumed deleted footage before alternate end credits appear.
- Outtakes (18:57): Now this is quite a find. You wouldn’t normally expect outtakes from a film that’s almost 40 years old, so to have nearly 20 minutes of them? That’s awesome!
- Trailers and TV spots: The US trailer (2:43) – giving away a number of deaths, German trailer (2:46) – pretty much the same thing but dubbed into German, and TV spots – 4 of them with varying quality (1:54).
- Image gallery: 40 posters and assorted images in total.
- Audio commentaries: Three in total – one with the cast, a second with director Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke, and a third with Mikel J Koven, senior lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Worcester and you can also follow him on Twitter.
My review disc was the film and extras on Blu-ray, but if you buy the finished boxset, there’s also six postcards, a reversible fold-out poster featuring new and original artwork, a limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and a consideration of the Hills franchise by Ewan Cant, illustrated with original archive stills, the original screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content) and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper.
The main menu features a short piece of the theme set to clips from the film. There are a bog-standard 12 chapters to the film, and subtitles are in English.
The Hills Have Eyes Special Edition is out now on Blu-ray, and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.
Running time: 89 minutes (92 minutes – alternate cut)
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: October 3rd 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio (Mono)
Widescreen: 1.85:1 (Super 16)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Wes Craven
Producer: Peter Locke
Screenplay: Wes Craven
Music: Don Peake
Brenda Carter: Suze Lanier-Bramlett (as Susan Lanier)
Lynne Wood: Dee Wallace
Fred: John Steadman
Bobby Carter: Robert Houston
Doug Wood: Martin Speer
Big Bob Carter: Russ Grieve
Papa Jupiter: James Whitworth
Ethel Carter: Virginia Vincent
Pluto: Michael Berryman
Mars: Lance Gordon
Ruby: Janus Blythe
Mama: Cordy Clark
Mercury: Peter Locke (as Arthur King)
Baby Katie Wood: Brenda Marinoff
The Beast: Striker
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.