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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tony Scott
Cast:
Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff De Young, Beth Ehlers, Dan Hedaya, Rufus Collins, Suzanne Bertish, James Aubrey
Writing Credits:
James Costigan, Ivan Davis, Whitley Strieber (novel), Michael Thomas

Tagline:
Nothing Human Loves Forever.

Synopsis:
The spellbinding tale of a vampire couple who suffer from an incessant hunger for human blood, aging quickly when they cannot receive it, and the young unsuspecting scientist who could help them in their quest for eternal life.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$1.832 million on 775 screens.
Domestic Gross
$5.979 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Monaural
French Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 10/5/2004

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Tony Scott and Actor Susan Sarandon
• Still Gallery
• Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Hunger (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 12, 2004)

David Bowie maintained a pretty low profile for the first few years of the Eighties, but he re-emerged with a vengeance in 1983. Not only did he put out Let’s Dance, possibly his most popular album ever, but also he mounted a hugely successful concert tour and starred in two movies. Only Bowie diehards remember Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, but The Hunger remains well-known by plenty of folks without an intense interest in the singer.

The Hunger focuses on three main characters. Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) researches longevity and regards age as a disease that can be possibly be cured. John (Bowie) and Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) are vampires who maintain a solitary lifestyle and emerge mainly to “feed”, though they tutor teenage Alice Cavendar (Beth Ehlers) on the violin.

Miriam is the one who brought John to the undead lifestyle, and she transformed him back in the 18th century. Apparently he gets a more finite lifetime than she, as he starts to age rapidly. John tries to consult with Sarah about ways to halt this process, but she brushes him off as a nut. Sarah rethinks this prejudice when she sees him a couple of hours later and notices that he aged decades in that span.

John tries to prolong his life with a feeding but this doesn’t help. He soon passes, which leaves Miriam in need of a new “soul mate”. When Sarah stops by to ask about John, Miriam develops an interest in the doctor, who she chooses to be her new partner. The rest of the movie follows these developments.

Many have criticized director Tony Scott for his emphasis on style over substance, and in flicks like Man on Fire, this causes significant narrative problems. However, for Hunger, the choices work. The film suffers from a very thin plot, so Scott’s choice to give the tale a slick visual style makes it significantly more compelling than it might have been.

Granted, this leaves us with slow pacing and a few too many “music video” moments. The flick starts with an almost campy look at a Bauhaus lip-synch performance of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, and that clearly sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Some of the choices seem a bit over the top, but at least Scott establishes a distinctive tone for the movie and gives it a visual presentation that matches the erotic vampire theme.

While the movie does seem to move pretty slowly, this makes sense given the characters. After all, time is usually so meaningless for the undead that the way the flick idles conveys that concept well. Even when time becomes precious to John, he can’t quite break out of established patterns, and the movie continues that sense of time as infinite.

The film’s unhurried pacing makes the occasional scenes of violent more effective. The action doesn’t become rushed or frenetic, but it brings things to life nicely. They remain slick within the movie’s tone, and that conveys the brutality even more strongly. Don’t expect graphic violence, but the bloodshed stands out due to the elegance of the rest of the flick.

Maybe it’s my Bowie bias that makes me feel this way, but I think the flick peters out somewhat after John leaves the film. The flick’s mild energy dissipates at that time and it turns into more of a lesbian fantasy. That might be enough for many people, as the love scene between Deneuve and Sarandon remains famous. I think the movie’s last act lacks much spark, though, and it concludes in a somewhat nonsensical manner.

One odd choice comes from the introduction of Lt. Allegrezza (Dan Hedaya), the cop who investigates the disappearance of Alice. He pops up in the middle of the movie and reappears once toward the end. That’s it; Allegrezza is a minor plot distraction who serves no purpose in this tale. Perhaps he’s more prominent in the book, but here he does nothing and goes nowhere.

Those who look toward The Hunger as a horror film will leave disappointed. It’s really more of a gothic sex fantasy than a traditional vampire flick, and it doesn’t even bother with many of the usual genre conventions; the movie never refers to the characters as vampires, and they seem to suffer no ill effects from exposure to daylight. Despite slow pacing and a thin story, the film’s visual style works well for it and carries the day to make The Hunger a pretty intriguing piece.

Young actor footnote: keep an eye out for a very quick shot of Willem Dafoe as “2nd Phone Booth Youth”!


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C-/ Bonus C+

The Hunger appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.3:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite the movie’s age and many potentially challenging visual situations, the transfer consistently looked good.

Sharpness did nicely. Very few examples of softness ever crept into the image. It almost always remained detailed and concise. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, but I noticed some mild edge enhancement periodically throughout the film. Print flaws were nil. Virtually no signs of specks or other issues crept into this surprisingly clean presentation.

No one expects dazzling hues from a vampire movie, and The Hunger indeed offered a suitably restrained palette. A strong blue tint heavily affected the majority of the movie. Occasionally the image provided other tones, with some red mainly due to blood. Nonetheless, blues were the order of the day, and the DVD replicated these colors cleanly and smoothly. Blacks were dense and tight, while shadows were appropriately dense but not excessively dark. Very few problems appeared in this strong transfer.

Unfortunately, the monaural soundtrack of The Hunger proved to be less satisfying. Speech tended to sound somewhat brittle and sibilant. Intelligibility was adequate but some edginess occasionally interfered and the lines never were very natural. Music failed to present much range. The score and songs were fairly thin and lackluster. Effects sounded reasonably clean but they tended to appear a bit shrill and harsh. Some hiss also popped up in this moderately lifeless and trebly track.

As for extras, the big attraction comes from an audio commentary with director Tony Scott and actor Susan Sarandon. Both sit separately for this edited piece. Scott heavily dominates the track, as Sarandon only occasionally presents information. When we do hear from her, she offers good notes, as she reflects on subjects like working with Scott and his brother Ridley on separate films, the other actors, and the film’s legacy. She’s bright and funny enough to make me wish she talked more frequently.

Scott also proves lively and engaging. He tells us how he got the assignment for his first feature film, the flick’s visual style and makeup effects, working with the actors and casting, comparisons between the movie and the original novel, the film’s reception at the time and its legacy, and other connected issues. Scott offers lots of good notes that help flesh out our understanding of the shoot and the flick as a whole. Some dead air occasionally mars the piece, but not too much of this occurs, and it remains a solid commentary.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a Still Gallery. This splits into five subdomains: “Portraits” (12 shots), “Special Shoot” (13), “Behind the Scenes” (7), “Special Makeup Effects” (7), and “International Posters” (5). None of these seem excellent, but it’s a decent little collection.

A heavily stylized vampire flick, The Hunger offers little for the gore fiends, but it makes up for its slow pace with an unusually strong feel for its setting. It creates a distinctive environment and invests us in that place nicely. The DVD presents very good visual quality but suffers from generally harsh audio. Not many supplements appear, but we do find a very good audio commentary. An unusual look at the undead, The Hunger earns my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6428 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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