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The films of director Joe Dante have taken us to some strange places – a mysterious Chinatown antique store in Gremlins; a secluded resort populated by werewolves in The Howling; even deep inside the human body in Innerspace. But now he takes us to the strangest place of all – surburbia!

Family man Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) is looking forward to a week of putting his feet up at home in the quiet, leafy cul-de-sac of Mayfield Place. But his plans are scuppered by the arrival of new next-door neighbours, the Klopeks, whose behaviour and habits are more than just a little kooky. But things go from kooky to downright sinister when local old boy Walter disappears, leading Ray and his buddies to suspect their new neighbours of killing and eating him! Sure, the Klopeks are a strange bunch what with their digging up the backyard in the middle of the night – but they’re not devil-worshipping cannibal killers… are they?

If you’re looking for a knowing slice of tongue-in-cheek terror then look no further than The ’Burbs. A standout horror comedy from a director who has given us more than his fair share of fun frighteners, The ’Burbs assembles a superb cast including Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher and Corey Feldman in a tall tale of small-town terror. You’ll never look at those eccentric neighbours in the same way again!
(Taken from the official synopsis.)

 'Burbs, The
Okay, confession time: Prior to receiving this Blu-ray I hadn’t watched The ‘Burbs since its original home video release all the way back in 1989! Furthermore, I had little to no recollection of the events featured in the film. I’m not quite sure why it passed me by, but one advantage of having no real attachment to the picture was the ability to watch it objectively on this viewing (something that’s not always possible with some of my favourite childhood films). You know what? I really enjoyed it!

Now I’m a fan of Dante’s work anyway, with films such as Piranha, Innerspace the Gremlins movies ranking among some of my favourites (I even kind of liked his 2009 flick The Hole). While The ‘Burbs isn’t quite up there with the rest at the moment it could certainly earn a place over time, with its deft fusion of comedy and horror tropes and impressive ensemble cast. Watching Tom Hanks’s decent into paranoia is a real hoot, especially whenever he’s in the company of his oddball neighbours played by Rick Ducommun and Bruce Dern. For my money the final act is a bit of a let-down, or at least the denouement is, and I’d have liked to see something that subverted genre conventions (the bonus material reveals that to be the original intent, before the studio got involved), but I had a lot of fun with the film and I can see why it has such a loyal following.

 'Burbs, The
Unlike the majority of their recent releases, which have utilised licenced third-party masters, Arrow has created an entirely new one for this release of The ‘Burbs (word has it that they rejected the master that was originally supplied earlier in the year, or so I’ve read). As usual the booklet that accompanies the release contains information about the transfer process, which is detailed below:

Quote: The ’Burbs is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with stereo 2.0 audio.

The ’Burbs was exclusively restored in 2K resolution by Arrow Films for this release. The original fine grain positive was scanned in 2K on a 4K ArriScan by NBCUniversal StudioPost. The film was graded to Director Joe Dante’s specifications on the Baselight colour grading system at Prime Focus, London. The film was then restored at Deluxe Digital-EMEA, London, where thousands of instances of dirt, light scratches and debris were removed through a combination of software tools and techniques. Image stability and related picture issues were also improved. The soundtrack was mastered from the original audio elements by NBCUniversal StudioPost.

This restoration of The ’Burbs was overseen by James White on behalf of Arrow Films and has been approved by Joe Dante.

 'Burbs, The

Video


As mentioned in the accompanying booklet, the The ‘Burbs was exclusively restored for this release by Arrow Films. I don’t claim to be intimately familiar with the way in which the film looked theatrically or on previous home releases, but the fact that this version was personally approved by director Joe Dante is good enough for me. The results really are fantastic, delivering an image that’s blessed with wonderfully natural colours, particularly during the daytime exterior scenes. The lush greens of suburbia look delightful, as do the varied hues of the colourful eighties clothing and décor, and while contrast runs a bit flatter than the average modern feature the image never looks ‘dull’. There’s also a good level of detail for what looks to be a naturally soft eighties movie, although the optical shots at the beginning are inherently softer than the rest of the picture. Unsurprisingly there’s plenty of visible grain on show, more so in the darker environments or night-time exterior shots, but it’s entirely in keeping with the film’s aesthetic and never a distraction. The restoration techniques employed to remove the film artefacts paid dividends, as there are almost none to be seen beyond a couple of black flecks here and there. Furthermore, I didn’t spot any encoding issues such as banding and blocking etc. This is a really great presentation and yet further proof that Arrow is currently leading the way when it comes to the quality and consistency of their transfers.
 
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Audio


As is the norm for its catalogue titles, Arrow’s release of The ‘Burbs forgoes any multi-channel remix in favour of the original stereo audio, presented here in LPCM 2.0. The biggest surprise for me was the overall fidelity of the track, which is simply marvellous and not at all muddied in the way that some pictures from this era can be. Although things pick up towards the end there’s obviously not a tremendous amount of action in the film, but even so there is some nice movement between the stereo channels. There isn’t a whole lot of low end, even during the scenes where you’d expect to hear it, but in my experience eighties movies tend to have less aggressive LFE than today’s pictures so this wasn’t entirely unexpected. A big positive is the dialogue reproduction, which is fantastically clear and free from distortion throughout. Special mention must also go to Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which is a real treat and well-suited to the tone of the feature. In all honestly this is one of the best stereo tracks I’ve heard in a while!

Extras


Arrow has assembled an impressive collection of bonus material for this release, including a previously-unseen version of the film that’s sure to have rebid fans foaming at the mouth in anticipation. Here’s a list of what you can expect to find on the disc:

  • Isolated music and effects soundtrack
  • New audio commentary with writer Dana Olsen, moderated by author Calum Waddell
  • There Goes the Neighbourhood: The Making of The ’Burbs
  • The original workprint cut of the film
  • A Tale of Two ‘Burbs
  • Alternate ending
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kenneth J. Souza, author of Scared Silly: The Films of Joe Dante, and an article looking at the collaborations of Joe Dante and composer Jerry Goldsmith, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

 'Burbs, The
Truth be told I’m fonder of vanilla isolated scores than isolated scores and effects tracks, as I prefer my music uninterrupted. That said, it’s nice to have the composer’s music available without dialogue and Jerry Goldsmith’s music is always a treat.

The audio commentary is an entertaining and thorough affair, in which writer Dana Olsen recounts many, many stories about the production. He touches on everything from writing the original screenplay, including the way in which it evolved once Tom Hanks came on board, to working with Joe Dante, casting, location shooting and much more. I found his comments about the writers’ strike that was in progress during the shoot particularly fascinating, as I’m always interested in bonus material that contextualises events surrounding a film’s production. As is common for Arrow commentaries, author Calum Waddell is on hand to focus the direction of the conversation.

The feature-length documentary ‘There Goes the Neighbourhood’ is another great addition, including as it does interviews with director Joe Dante, actors Corey Feldman, Courtney Gains and Wendy Schaal, director of photography Robert M. Stevens and production designer James H. Spencer. Although big names like Hanks and Dern are missing there’s still plenty here to amuse and inform, and you’re sure to learn some new trivia along the way.

 'Burbs, The
Next we come to what is surely to be many people’s most anticipated feature, the original workprint cut of the film, available on home video for the very first time. This version of the film includes numerous deleted and alternate scenes and has been transferred from director Joe Dante’s personal copy. Unfortunately said copy was a VHS tape, so the presentation here is only as good as the source, which is a gentle way of saying that it looks and sounds pretty terrible. That’s not a dig at Arrow though, as they can only work with the available material and you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. The fact that they have included it at all is to be commended, as this version of the film could quite easily have been lost forever had it not been transferred to the digital realm. As to which is the best version of the feature, well that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself!

‘A Tale of Two ‘Burbs’ is a neat little featurette that covers the differences between the theatrical and workprint cuts of the movie, with accompanying commentary from Dante should you so desire. He provides reasons for the omission of certain scenes and discusses other scenes that were filmed but subsequently lost, or even planned but never filmed.

 'Burbs, The
Also present is the film’s alternate ending, which is delivered here in high-definition for the very first time. It’s very similar to the workprint ending, with a couple of minor differences (that the disc intro challenges you to spot). The original theatrical trailer is also included in high-definition.

The final extras take the form of the reversible sleeve, which offers a choice between newly-commissioned and original artwork, and a Kenneth J Souza written booklet that offers background information on the film and an overview of Dante’s career, along with an article by Michael Heintzman that originally appeared in Film Score magazine in 2005.

 'Burbs, The

Overall


If truth be told I enjoyed The ‘Burbs, a whole lot more than I expected. I had such foggy recollections of the picture (that were also confused with the Dan Akroyd movie Nothing But Trouble) that I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Joe Dante’s take on Dana Olsen’s script about suburban paranoia is wonderfully realised and features some find comedic performances. I don’t have the sort of nostalgic attachment that would see it elevated alongside other favourites from the era, but it felt comfortable, like an old pair of slippers, and I’ll definitely be watching it again soon.

As to the Blu-ray, well it’s another home run from Arrow, featuring a crackerjack visual presentation, impressive audio and a wide selection of interesting and informative bonus material. The inclusion of the workprint alone makes it a must-have release for the film’s many fans, all of whom should be over the moon with what Arrow has delivered. This one comes highly recommended.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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