Thursday, September 3, 2015

THE HUNGER (1983)

THE HUNGER (1983) 

Label: Warner Archive 

Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 96 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional EnglisH SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Susan Sarandon, Cliff De Young, Dan Hedaya, Suzanne Bertish, Willem DaFoe

Synopsis: Miriam Blaylock collects Renaissance art, ancient Egyptian pendants, lovers, souls. Alive and fashionably chic in Manhattan, Miriam is an ageless vampire. Although "vampire" is not a word you'll hear in this movie based on the novel by Whitley Strieber (Wolfen). Instead, debuting feature director Tony Scott fashions a hip, sensual, modern-Gothic makeover. Catherine Deneuve radiates macabre elegance as Miriam, blessed with beauty, cursed with bloodlust. David Bowie is fellow fiend and refined husband John. In love, in life, in longing, they are inseparable. But when John abruptly begins to age and turns to a geriatric researcher (Susan Sarandon) for help, Miriam soon eyes the woman as a replacement for John. The Hunger is insatiable.


Tony Scotts moody and stylish take on Whitely Stieber's source novel is a thing of arthouse beauty, an original vision of  what the life of contemporary bloodsuckers might have been in the '80s.  Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and John Blaylock (David Bowie) are centuries long lovers, Miriam a vampire from the time of the Egyptian Pharpahs, John her companion whom she turned during the 18th century. The film opens with a phenomenal scene of the lovers at a night club where Goth rockers Bauhaus are performing, they meet a young couple and take them to their home where they exsanguinate the clubbers while professing their eternal love for each other, is sad and wonderful, and has a fatalistic mystique about it. 

We learn that while Miriam is eternal in her youth provided she feeds once a week that her companions who she turns begin to retroactively age at an accelerated rate after three-hundred years. John grows increasingly panicked by the aging and seeks the assistance of scientist Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon), who has been in the news having published a book about her research into the biology of aging, she has been able to accelerate the process but have not yet reversed it. Roberts blows off John at her clinic believing him to be a nut and asks him to wait in the lobby with no plans to follow-up, during the hours long wait John ages dramatically in a well-executed series of scenes. Frustrated by being blown-off John leaves but not before Roberts spots him on the way out, later she tracks John to his shared home with Miriam in Manhattan, and there's a certain chemistry between the two women.

Afterward, in a moment of desperation John's commits a heinous murder that is hard to frogive, the murder of an innocent and one of the Baylock's only regular visitors to their home. soon after the aging progresses leaving his body near useless, what follows is a haunting revelation as we learn that Miriam's former lovers through the millennia do not die in a traditional sense, they merely wither away physically but live on, useless, she keeps each of them in lovingly tucked away in a series of coffins she keeps in her attic.

When Robert's (Sarandon) comes calling at a later date to look in on John she is told by Miriam that he has since left for Sweden to seek a cure for his illness, and the two women conversate over wine with Miriam seducing Sarah. In an erotically charged lesbian scene that has been burned into my head since my younger years, it rivals anything from Bound, which is surprising as I do not consider sarandon to be an object of sexual desire, but Deneuve on the other hand has a classic and eternal beauty. During the encounter Miriam transfuses Sarah's blood with her, infecting her with the curse of vampirysm. 

What happens next is an exploration of the forced vampirysm with Sarah's behaviours becoming more erratic which alarms her boyfriend Tom (Cliff De Young), who is also a co-worker at the lab, where Sarah begins to run tests ion her blood, discovering that there are two strains struggling for supremacy within her, he own natural blood and the infected strain from Miriam. As things transpire Sarah struggles to reconcile the her relationship with Jon who is becoming more suspicious of Miriam and the way she was turned without permission. 

Audio/Video: Tony Scott's The Hunger (1983) arrives on a long overdue HD format courtesy of Warner archives who have released this as an manufacture-on-demand format in the original (2.40:1) widescreen aspect ratio. The 2K scan looks fantastic in 1080p HD, faithfully reproducing the deep shadow and light compositions, this film is drenched is neo-noir imagery, each scene is painterly with hard shadow and angles of light slicing through it, the blacks are deep and inky and there are textured wafts of smoke permeating the air. 

We only get a DTS-HD Mono 2.0 mix on the disc, but it's solid with a good dynamic range and good separation, from the opening scenes with Bauhaus's "Bela Lugosi is Dead" on through to the more classical composition and electronic augmentation we have a top notch presentation free of any distortion, very crisp and clean. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

A fantastic commentary from with director Tony Scott and actor Susan Sarandon and a theatrical trailer is carried over from the 2004 Warner Bros.DVD, missing is the extensive still galleries from that disc. The commentary is stitched together from two separate commentaries, Scott and Sarandon are not together on this one, but chime in separately. 

Special Features: 
Commentary by Susan Sarandon and Director Tony Scott
- Theatrical Trailer 

As a young kid I saw this movie on TV and didn't care for it, the stylishness of the production did nothing for me, I wanted traditional bloodsuckers and Gothic vampire lore, the contemporary setting felt cold and I couldn't appreciate how prescient the transmission of the "curse" through blood was at a time when the AIDS epidemic was in bloom. Watching it again in my twenties after I'd developed an appreciation for foreign and arthouse cinema it floored me, and remains one of my favorite vampire movies of all time. A stylish, slightly narrative-poor, slice of arthouse that is both haunting and gorgeous, with a certain amount of ambiguity that I've come to enjoy, not all of life's mysteries require definition. The Blu-ray from Warner Archive looks fantastic, and while I would have loved a new making of doc the commentary is really great. 4/5

1 comment:

  1. I remember watching THE HUNGER at THE PI-ALLEY movie theater in Boston. I fell in love with the look & beautiful soundtrack. Tony Scott should have done a sequel. Catherine Deneuve IS SOO STYLISH! Bowie & Sarandon played their roles Oscar worthy.

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