Release Date(s)1984 (December 13, 2016)
Studio(s)20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
Science fiction and fantasy filmmaking pulled another rabbit from its hat with 1984’s Dreamscape. Directed by Joseph Ruben, it stars Dennis Quaid as Alex Gardner, a psychic who has been in hiding since leaving a research project under the watchful eye of Dr. Novotny (Max Von Sydow). Eventually brought back into the fold, he discovers that the doctor and his new assistant Dr. DeVries (Kate Capshaw) are experimenting with using psychics to enter the dreams of patients suffering from sleep disorders. Unbeknownst to them, the project is also being watched over by a government official (Christopher Plummer), who intends to use his own psychic agent (David Patrick Kelly) to further his evil plans.
Dreamscape is an interesting movie in many ways. While allusions to A Nightmare on Elm Street can be made here, they’re mostly unfounded. The film’s performances are generally good, if a bit over-the-top in a couple places. The plot itself takes a while to really get going, as it attempts to build up a bit of mystery about what’s going on despite being a bit predictable. Regardless, there’s still plenty of great imagery and special effects on display. The movie’s pace suffers a bit in the middle section where it tends to drag but, overall, Dreamscape is an enjoyable science fiction thriller with a dose of adventure thrown in for good measure.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of the movie is sourced from a new 2K transfer, the results of which boast the best-looking presentation of the movie on home video. It‘s particularly better than the previous Blu-ray release, which had its share of problems. Grain levels are very even throughout, spiking only during opticals, which will forever be the film’s main visual flaw. Detail is quite strong with terrific clarity, even in the shadows. Colors are fairly strong with good-looking skin tones and deep blacks, the latter of which lacks any overt crush. Brightness and contrast levels are excellent as well. The main discrepancies are the aforementioned opticals, or rather the dream sequences, wherein there are multiple layers of film, leaving a lot of dirt, heavy grain, and scratches behind with them. Unfortunately, this is inherent and would require a ground up restoration from scratch, which is extremely unlikely for a title of this vintage. The audio comes in two options: English 5.1 and 2.0, both DTS-HD tracks. The 5.1 track doesn’t offer a massive amount of spacing or surround activity, but some minor ambience and low frequency activity is present. Dialogue is clean and clear on both tracks, revealing some of the overdubbing a little more clearly. Sound effects and score have plenty of weight to them as well. Neither track is the finest representation of the film, but the 5.1 track does offer slightly more in the rear speaker department, so it may be the preferred option of the two. Optional subtitles are also available in English SDH for those who might need them.
There’s also a terrific set of bonus features to comb through as well. All of the extras from previous releases have been carried over, including an audio commentary with producer Bruce Cohn Curtis, co-writer David Loughery, and make-up effects artists Craig Reardon; a set of snake man test footage; a still gallery; and the original theatrical trailer. The real draw here though is the new interviews and retrospectives. There’s the Dreamscapes and Dreammakers retrospective, the Nightmares and Dreamsnakes featurette, the excellent Dennis Quaid: The Actor's Journey interview, and the Bruce Cohn Curtis and Chuck Russell: In Conversation 2016 segment. Most will note the lack of missing footage from the International version of the movie, which amounted to mere seconds of nudity. While including it was impossible for legal reasons, it’s not really missed.
Dreamscape can be a little rough in places, but it has enough ideas, interesting visuals, and engaging characters to make it worth watching. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray upgrade of the movie, with a great transfer and excellent extras, is definitely the definitive version to own.
- Tim Salmons