Friday, May 19, 2023

THE HAUNTING OF JULIA (1977) (Imprint Films Blu-ray Review)

Imprint Collection #218

Label: Imprint Films
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: M
Duration: 97 Minutes & Seconds  
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Richard Loncraine 
Cast: Keir Dullea, Mia Farrow, Tom Conti, Jill Bennett, Robin Gammell

The Haunting of Julia (1977) aka Full Circle (in the UK), directed by Richard Loncraine (Slade in Fire), is an adaptation of Peter Straub’s novel Julia (1975), opening at the London home of couple Magnus (Keir Dullea, Black Christmas) and Julia Lofting (Mia Farrow, Rosemary's Baby) who are having breakfast with their daughter Kate (Sophie Ward, Waxwork II: Lost in Time) - which is tragically interrupted when Kate begins choking on apple. Apparently neither of the parents know the Heimlich with Magnus attempting to dislodge the obstruction by holding her upside down by her legs and trying to jostle it out, when that fails to work the panicked mother grabs a kitchen knife and attempts the unthinkable, an impromptu tracheotomy, which goes horribly wrong, resulting in their daughter's death. In the aftermath Julia is understandably distraught and ends up at the psychiatric facility for a stay. We catch up to her the day she is being released, her husband has come pick her up but she bolts, deciding to pursue a new life in London away from Magnus. Julia moves into a new somewhat creepy old flat and strikes up a friendship with nice guy Mark Berkeley (Tom Conti), which further angers Magnus, who starts to make assumptions that Julia has lost her mind, attempting to force his way back into her life. Dullea brings the same sort of toxic masculinity he brought to his role in Black Christmas, a tense and not-to-be-trusted presence, cold and calculating,

Meanwhile Julia’s sister-in-law, Lily (Jill Bennett, The Nanny), asks he if she would be willing to host a séance with a peculiar medium named Mrs. Flood (Anna Wing, Xtro) at her new flat, which she agrees to. During the session the medium become visibly shaken, afterward warning Julia that the spirit of a malevolent child inhabits her new home home. Julia's mental state is still in recovery mode following her daughter's death, the seed planted by the possibility of her daughters potential presence lures her down a rabbit hole that exposes her a decades old story connected to a diabolical little girl who once lived in the house. Now Julia finds herself seemingly haunted by the spirit of a little girl… but which one? 

The Haunting of Julia is a dreamy and melancholic haunter, it's slow to unfold but is assured and measured, marked by a terrific turn from Mia Farrow who convincingly embodies the fragility of the character recovering from a mental breakdown, her portrayal is quite sympathetic. It walks that delicate and ambiguous line between what could be a potential supernatural element or perhaps just the product of a grief-induced mental illness playing tricks on the mind. There are several deaths that occur around Julia, and we are left to wonder if she had something to do with these deaths, is a spirit somehow involved, or is she perhaps a vessel possessed by a malevolent spirit? 

The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Peter Hannan (Withnail & I) with a hazy soft-focus sheen to it, the heavy atmospherics enhanced by a brilliant score by composer Colin Towns (Space Truckers) with Farrow's distraught but hopeful performance holding it all together in the center. Hopefully with this little-seen gem finally getting a proper release, both by Imprint Films in Australia and Scream Factory in the US, this haunting take of grief will find a wider audience and become a topic of conversation alongside other haunting grief-tinged classics like The Changeling, Don't Look Now and Let's Scare Jessica to Death.  

Audio/Video: The Haunting of Julia (1977) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Imprint Films in 1080p HD widescreen (2.35:1), sourced from a new 2022 4K scan from the original negative. The new scan looks gorgeous, the source is in great shape with nary a flaw. There's a natural bed of film grain with some pleasing textures, and the 1970's earthy colors that aren't flashy but are accurate to the period and production. The film is shot with a diffuse lensing that is a bit hazy and dreamy, which does not lend itself to sharp, crisp imagery, but perfectly suits the haunting subject matter. I compared the Imprint release to the Scream Factory Blu-ray and they are practically identical, down to the framing and color-grading. The lone audio comes by way of English LPCM 2.0 Dual-Mono with optional English subtitles. The uncompressed mono audio sounds quite nice, dialogue is never hard to discern, Colin Town's eerie score sounds terrific, and while there is some minor source-related issues such as hiss and sibilance in a few spots it's nothing that should be worrisome. 

Imprint Films offers up a bevy of new extras that are exclusive to their release, so be aware that if you own the US UHD + BD Combo from Scream Factory as I do, just know that if you you might want to double-dip either way.
Exclusive to the Imprint release is a new Audio commentary by authors Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons, the 14-min Breaking The Circle – interview with composer Colin Towns; the 27-min Framing The Circle – interview with cinematographer Peter Hannan; a 7-min Joining The Circle – interview with associate producer Hugh Harlow, plus a 24-min Motherhood & Madness: Mia Farrow and the Female Gothic – video essay by film historian Kat Ellinger and a brief oddball Trailer. Additionally the Imprint release comes with a newly remastered 11-track Soundtrack CD featuring what would consider one of my favorite film score period-dot by composer Colin Towns, which includes 20 minutes of previously unheard music - which pretty much makes this an essential purchase for soundtrack enthusiasts. 

Extras shared with the Scream Factory release include the Option to view the film with The Haunting of Julia or Full Circle Title Sequence, and an Audio Commentary by director Richard Loncraine and Simon Fitzjohn. The Scream Factory release contains exclusive bonus features not found on the Imprint release, those US exclusives include a (0:38), a tn intro by the director, a then and now location tour (15:33), interviews with actors Tom Conti (11:01) and Samantha Gates (10:25), and a retrospective with UK journalist/author Kim Newman (24:47). Like I said, these are competitive releases, and each is a treasure trove unto itself. The US release offers a UHD and the Imprint release has the soundtrack CD - if I had to choose between the pair, I would have to go with  the Imprint release... though that Kim Newman retrospective is tempting. Both have reversible artwork options - the same in fact, but the Full Circle artworks have different title fonts. but the Imprint version includes a snazzy lenticular higher quality hard box and a gorgeous booklet, compared to Scream Factory's standard slipcover - so the imprint has more shelf appeal overall. All I have to say is that I thank the cinema-gods I have both releases. 

The 2-disc BD/CD set arrives in a clear keepcase with a reversible sleeve of artwork featuring both The Haunting of Julian and Full Circle variant artworks, this comes housed inside a very handsome and high qualify 3D lenticular hard box. Inside there's Illustrated Collector’s Bbooklet with writing on the film by Sean Hogan detailing the novel to film adaptation and it's major differences, the author and the director's thought on the film, plus we get and information composer Colin Towns and his score, including a track list. 

Special Features:
- NEW 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-ray from a 4K scan from the original negative (2022)
- Option to view the film with The Haunting of Julia or Full Circle title
- NEW Audio commentary by director Richard Loncraine and Simon Fitzjohn
- NEW & EXCLUSIVE Audio commentary by authors Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons
- NEW & EXCLUSIVE Breaking The Circle – interview with composer Colin Towns (14:12)
- NEW & EXCLUSIVE Framing The Circle – interview with cinematographer Peter Hannan (27:16) 
- NEW & EXCLUSIVE Joining The Circle – interview with associate producer Hugh Harlow (7:01) 
- NEW & EXCLUSIVE Motherhood & Madness: Mia Farrow and the Female Gothic – video essay by film historian Kat Ellinger (23:42) 
- Newly remastered soundtrack on compact disc by composer Colin Towns, including 20 minutes of previously unheard music (11 Tracks, 61 Minutes) 
- Trailer (0:33)
- Lenticular Hard Box 
- 44-page Collector’s Booklet with essay by critic/writer Sean Hogan
- Reversible Sleeve of Artwork  featuring Variant Artwork/Film Title

Screenshots from the Imprint Films Blu-ray: