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Frankie Scarlatti (Luke Haas) lives in a small town with a deadly secret. For a decade, a serial child killer has eluded police, and the death toll continues to rise. Then, one night, Frankie gets locked in his school and witnesses the ghost of the first victim being murdered. Now, aided by the girl's restless spirit, Frankie takes it upon himself to bring her assailant to justice. But, in a town with no strangers, the killer may be closer than he knows. (From Scream Factory’s official synopsis)

 Lady in White
Horror fans and critics tend to characterize the 1980s as the era of intensified gore and technical developments in make-up effects. It’s remembered as a colourful and poppy era, but few of its defining traits are ‘family-friendly.’ However, beneath the Friday the 13th sequels, the auteur-driven remakes, and the rubbery werewolf movies, there was an oft-forgotten mini-industry of horror movies aimed at children. I’m not talking about R-rated (wouldbe) franchise starters that featured kids in leading roles, like Tom Holland’s Child’s Play (1988) or Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys (1987), or tepid, teen-friendly horror comedies, like Rod Daniel’s Teen Wolf (1985) or Howard Storm’s Once Bitten (1985), but smart, creative films that were made to stoke the imaginations of actual children – Jack Clayton’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), Florence Engel Randall’s The Watcher in the Woods (1980), Bernard Rose’s Paperhouse (1988), and Frank LaLoggia’s Lady in White (Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches just barely missed the cut-off, as it was released in 1990). Few of these films were particularly successful at the box office, but their scares became cemented into the minds of the adults that rented them as children.

I had personally never seen Lady in White before. Like many others, I unfairly dismissed it as children’s entertainment. Since this is my first viewing, I’ll keep my thoughts brief and defer to the experts for a more impassioned critique. Generally speaking, I’m surprised it doesn’t have a bigger following, because it fits the nostalgic (and anachronistic) ‘boy’s adventure’ tones of Stephen King literature and Steven Spielberg-branded movies from the era (including stuff Spielberg didn’t direct, but lent his name to, like Gremlins and Poltergeist). You know, the exact thing that is super hot right now, due to the popularity of Netflix’s Stranger Things. At first, the lack of real conflict and LaLoggia’s awkward attempts at writing about idealistic and adorable children is irritating. But it isn’t long before the writer/director’s ‘outsider’ sensibilities, which give the film the skewed tone of an authentic children’s story, and the campy adult supporting cast send the movie on a more esoteric and expressionistic fairytale path (the stagey qualities of the fantasy sequences are a perfect companion piece to the underseen Paperhouse). The unhinged and unfocused narrative, which wafts listlessly between genres and extraneous subplots, begins to feel like a natural extension of its unique and endearing tone. Even the fumblingly obvious attempts at social commentary works in the charmingly overloaded context.

 Lady in White
Scream Factory has gone the extra mile for fans by including three different cuts of Lady in White – The Director’s Cut (DC, 117 minutes), the original Theatrical Cut (TC, 113 minutes), and, for the first time, a new Extended Director’s Cut (EDC, 126 minutes). I did find an informative breakdown of the differences between the TC and DC, but, as I noted earlier, I’m not familiar enough with the film to immediately recognize every difference between the older DC and the new EDC. For this review, I watched the EDC, then sampled the other two cuts for the sake of video comparisons (though I do want to say that the newer cut has pacing issues).

Video


Again, Lady in White really earned its reputation and following on home video and television. It was easily found on VHS and was released on Laserdisc from Image Entertainment. The DC was first included as part of Elite Entertainment’s Laserdisc re-release and non-anamorphic DVD debut in 1998, then reappeared on Optimum Home Entertainment’s 2009 UK DVD and MGM’s 2010 US DVD. Both releases were anamorphic and taken from the same transfer. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray marks the first digital home video versions of the TC (aside from the earliest LD) and EDC, as well as the HD debut of all three cuts. Note that the TC & DC were taken from inter-positive materials, while the EDC was assembled from parts of that same IP scan and a longer film print. There are minor quality differences (see below), but the image quality in the assembled print is surprisingly consistent.

 Lady in White
LaLoggia and cinematographer Russell Carpenter shot Lady in White in the fashion of earlier supernatural thrillers of the ‘70s and early ‘80s. It’s a foggy look that thrives on soft focus and diffused lighting schemes that could wreak havoc with a lesser transfer. Edges are rarely sharp and details are a bit soggy, but the results appear natural, considering all of the photography techniques being instituted. The diffused gradations and glowing light sources are relatively clean and separation isn’t dulled by the blurry qualities. On the more modern end of the film’s visual design is its blue and orange nighttime palette. Though cinematographers had shot using such stark and stylish colours before ( Halloween D.P. Dean Cundey, for example), the blueness in particular was something that started showing up a lot as genre movies entered the slicker 1990s. Not being familiar with the movie outside of this release, I can only assume that this is the intended colour temperature – though the ‘bluing-up’ of whites and blacks is a bit suspicious. These night/dark sequences are tidy and consistent without overwhelming the possibility of subtle variations. Daylight scenes are more eclectic, but also muddier, due to the aforementioned diffusion/fuzziness. The only notable compression issues I could see was minor discolouration noise. My only real problem is the chunky/blocking quality of grain in some places, which I believe is a scanning issue, not a mastering issue. It’s a very nice transfer, but there is room for improvement in the source materials.

Audio


Lady in White is presented in its original stereo 2.0 sound and a 5.1 remix, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio. The remix is tasteful and respects the directional placement of the original tracks. The major difference is the centered dialogue, which I actually prefer, so I supposed I slightly prefer the 5.1 over the 2.0. LaLoggia’s hands-on approach extended to the film’s super symphonic score. The themes are big and sentimental, like John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith’s family film music from the ‘80s, and are often overwhelming. But, when they work, they feel as vital to the film’s tone as the foggy photography. The discrete LFE channel of the 5.1 remix gives the scarier cues a nice bass bounce and the stereo spread is similar between the two tracks. Effects work is minimal throughout the film, because the score tends to act as a stand-in. That said, the basic environmental sounds are comparable and clean between the two mixes. As mentioned above, there are some minor discrepancies in sound quality if you watch the EDC, namely a few pops and buzzes.

 Lady in White

Extras


All extras, besides the alternate cuts, are found on disc one with the Director’s Cut:
  • Commenaty [sic] with Frank LaLoggia – This is, I assume, the same track that accompanied Elite, MGM, and Optimum’s DVD releases. LaLoggia’s discusses just about every aspect of the production – from his autobiographical inspiration to writing, direction, casting, funding, and critical reactions – with a gentle tone, as if he’s relating the making-of story to a room full of six-year-olds.
  • Introduction by LaLoggia (0:46, SD) – This brief intro was also part of the earlier DVD releases.
  • Behind-the-scenes footage with introduction and optional commentary by LaLoggia (16:21, SD) – This raw, home movie-style footage was shot using a camcorder. I highly recommend listening to it with the optional LaLoggia commentary, because, otherwise, it’s just a jumbled series of images.
  • Deleted/extended scenes with introduction and optional commentary by LaLoggia (36:13, SD) – Like the behind-the-scenes footage, these unused sequences are presented in their rawest form, taken from a video source. They include deleted bits and unprocessed effects shots.
  • Extended behind-the-scenes footage (73:21, HD version of SD footage) – Scream Factory’s first exclusive extra is more than an hour’s worth of home movies from production & post-production processes. Again, ‘raw’ is the word to describe the footage. I’m sure fans will love this rare glimpse at the filmmaking process, but, boy, is it ever long.
  • Promotional short film (7:16, HD version of SD footage) – This promo, which was shot for funding purposes, includes scenes from the final movie, though with different actors and some temporary locations. This was originally only available with Elite’s long OOP DVD.
  • Theatrical & alternate trailers
  • TV & radio spots
  • Behind the scenes photo montage
  • Extended photo gallery


 Lady in White

Overall


Lady in White is definitely a film I look forward to revisiting. Too often, cult followings are based in boring vulgarity or blind nostalgia, but Frank LaLoggia’s work earns its cult reputation with unique (sometimes completely unfocused) storytelling and visual sensibilities. Fans should be satisfied with this collection for featuring three different cuts, strong remastered HD transfers (that are limited by the fuzzy condition of the original photography), two solid DTS-HD MA soundtracks, and loads of supplemental content. Me? I’m just hoping Lionsgate decides to release Paperhouse as part of their new Vestron Collector’s Series.

 Lady in White

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


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