Wednesday, September 18, 2019

THE WITCHES (1990) (Warner Archive Blu-ray review)


Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English DTS HD-MA 2.0 English with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Cast: Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling Rowan Atkinson, Jasen Fisher, Charlie Potter, Anne Lambton  

Based on the same titled children's book by author Roald Dahl (Charlie & The Chocolate Factory), directed by Nicolas Roeg (Don't Look Now) and produced by Jim Henson Productions (The Dark Crystal) comes The Witches (1990), a nightmare inducing slice of kiddie-terror that even though I was already in my teens when it was released still got under my skin with it's creepiness.

Orphaned at 9 years-old we have little Luke Eveshim (Jasen Fisher, Hook) living with his cigar-smoking granny Helga (Mai Zetterling), who fills her grandson's head full of tales of evil witches who want to see all the children of the world suffer. Following an illness the pair find themselves vacationing at a resort hotel in Norway which is also hosting an annual meeting of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, an organization run by Miss Eva Ernst (Anjelica Huston, The Royal Tenenbaums). 

It turns out that the organization is really a cover-up for a coven of witches who are plotting to turn all the children of the world into mice! Now young Luke and his granny Helga must match wits with the coven of witches, plus an uptight hotel manager Mr. Stringer (Rowan Atkinson, Rat Race), tp prevent the coven from enacting their diabolical plan. Complicating matters is that poor Luke and a glutenous vacationing kid named Bruno become the first victims of the witches rodent-riddled plan, and end up facing-off against the witches in their rodent form! 

The Witches is a fun and frightening kiddie-horror entry, it's the rare PG film that can inspire nightmares with it's delicious blend of magic, fantasy and fright, featuring children being transformed into little mice. The transformations themselves are actually quite grotesque looking with various stages of latex applications, the young victims emitting a ominous green vapor during the change. The designs of the witches when they are revealed are absolutely hideous 
creations, and none more so than the Grand High Witch played with an appropriate amount of campiness and witchy venom by the wonderful Anjelica Houston with her long witchy schnoz and talon like fingers that I still find frightfully fun. 

Apparently author Roald Dahl kind of hated the final film and how nightmarish it was, not to mention altering the original ending of his book, with director Nicolas Roeg himself trimming some stuff he deemed too damn scary for the kids. The finished film was far from a safe film though, the movie still has plenty of that kinder-trauma factor that still packs a punch to this day, making this essential viewing for bad parents like myself who want to introduce their young kids to lifetime-lasting nightmare inducing PG cinema. 

Audio/Video: The 90's kinder-trauma classic The Witches (1990) arrives on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive with a new 2019 2K scan framed in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p HD. The velvety fine grain looks wonderful throughout with solid blacks and pleasing contrast. The colors look fantastic, particularly the eds, purples and greens seen throughout the film, it captures the surreal fantasy vibe of the film. It's great to see this movie looking so wonderful on home video, h
opefully it will go onto terrify kids for years to come with this upgraded presentation. 

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track with optional English subtitles. A crisp and well-balanced track throughout, the score from  Stanley Myers also sounds great in the mix. 
WAC don't offer any new extras for this release but we do at least get the HD theatrical trailer for the film. 

Special Features:
 - Theatrical Trailer (1 min) 

The Witches (1990) gets a stunning looking Blu-ray from the Warner Archive, a release that will guarantee this kiddie-horror classic will continue to haunt kid's nightmares for years to come, as well as pleasing long-time fans with it's gorgeous A/V presentation. 

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