[box cover]

The Fog

To follow up the surprise success of 1978's Halloween, director John Carpenter took a shred of an idea he got from visiting Stonehenge; noticing how ominous the fog looked among the triptychs, Carpenter thought it had its own personality — or enough of a personality to hang a movie on. Born of that was 1980's The Fog, a disappointing sophomore effort after his breakthrough film, but ultimately rewarding to Carpenter's loyal fans. Headed up by Kathy Williams (Psycho's Janet Leigh), the town of Antonio Bay is preparing for its centennial when a strange fog arrives during the night. At first the vapor just causes strange things to happen — like lights flickering on and off — as it's noticed by the town's DJ, Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau). But when the fog hits a boat, ghosts in the fog kill the crew. And when Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) and his new hitchhiking girlfriend Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) go out looking for the sailors, the men are found dry as a bone but with saltwater in their lungs. The mystery lies with Father Malone (Hal Holbrook), who discovers his grandfather's journal, which tells of how the original founders of Antonio Bay built their town by killing pirates and a leper colony to get their gold. 100 years later, the pirates have come back for revenge. Though the The Fog tries to be a tone-piece, it never becomes more the sum of its parts, and those born of a mildly clever idea. Maybe the film seems a bit confused because the ghost-pirates act as slashers; the gore elements are more in line with the Halloween knock-offs than a mood piece like the original Haunting, which is what this seems to be aiming for. And because The Fog is an ensemble piece, the menace is never made palpable enough as the main characters only come together for the final reel. That said, Carpenter sets a good tone and — as is always the case with his films — he gets great use of his anamorphic frame. He's is a natural-born director, and any fan of his will find more than enough reasons to forgive The Fog for its faults. And to ease the pain as it were, MGM has put together a deluxe DVD, which presents the film in both anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan, with a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track and the original monaural track (2.0). The highlight of the supplements is an audio commentary with Carpenter and writer/producer Debra Hill (from the previous Laserdisc release), in which Carpenter talks about how reshoots saved the film; the pair remains engaging throughout. Also included is a brand new 29-minute behind-the-scenes documentary and a 10-minute featurette from the film's release. Behind-the-scenes footage, storyboard comparison, outtakes, trailers, TV spots, a still gallery, and an Easter egg round out the set. Keep-case.

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