Shivers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A low-budget project from the mid-70s, the image showed its roots.
IMDB claims Shivers used 35mm stock, and perhaps that’s true. However, it sure looks like 16mm to me.
Whatever the case, sharpness tended to seem decent but inconsistent. Close-ups offered fairly good delineation, but anything wider leaned to the soft side. This left an overall impression of passable clarity and not much better.
The image lacked shimmering, jagged edges or edge haloes. Outside of a couple specks. source flaws failed to create any distractions, and grain remained natural, without signs of digital noise reduction.
Colors came across as fairly dull. The movie pushed toward a mix of yellows, blues and greens, all of which tended to seem somewhat bland.
Black levels usually stayed moderately deep and dense, while shadow detail showed reasonable consistency, albeit a bit murky at times. Ultimately, Shivers provided an acceptable visual presentation given the limitations of the source.
As for the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Shivers, it was perfectly adequate for its era but not much better than that. Speech sounded intelligible and clear, though the lines sometimes suffered from a somewhat boxy sound.
The movie offered a moody score, and these elements came across reasonably well. While the music lacked great range, it seemed clear enough.
The effects represented the source elements in a competent manner. These elements offered reasonable accuracy without great punch. All of this was good enough for an age-adjusted “C+“.
A nice array of extras appear on the disc, and we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director David Cronenberg. Along with moderator Chris Alexander, the filmmaker looks at story/characters, challenges of his first commercial feature, cast and performances, sets and locations, effects, music, editing and photography, and related domains.
We get a pretty solid chat here, as the commentary touches on a nice array of topics. Cronenberg brings plenty of insights, and Alexander ensures the track moves at a nice pace. This becomes a satisfying discussion.
For the second commentary, we hear from co-prpducer Don Carmody. Also along with Alexander as moderator, Carmody provides his own running, screen-specific view of his work on Shivers as well as other aspects of his career.
This makes Carmody’s chat a more general discussion than Cronenberg’s, and this makes it less compelling. Carmody seems likable and he gives us a decent take on matters, but the track feels less informative than I’d like.
As we shift to video features, we launch with Mind Over Matter, a new 12-minute, one-second interview with Cronenberg. He discusses the movie’s push into production, aspects of the shoot, and the flick’s legacy. A little of this repeats the material from the commentary, but Cronenberg finds enough new content to make “Mind” worth a look.
Good Night Nurse brings a 16-minute, 54-second chat with actor Lynn Lowry. She covers how she came onto the film as well as her experiences during the production and her later career. Lowry turns this into a winning discussion.
With Outsde and Within, we discover a 12-minute, 55-second interview with special makeup effects creator Joe Blasco. He looks at what led him to Shivers and his creations for the flick. Blasco brings a fun glimpse of his low-budget techniques.
Celebrating Cinepix runs 10 minutes, five seconds and features producer’s son Greg Dunning. Dunning discusses the career of his father John in this informative piece.
Next comes an Archival 1998 David Cronenberg Interview. In this 21-minute, 16-second piece, he examines a mix of topics related to Shivers and its production. Despite the inevitable repetition, we get a decent array of new material.
Presented as a running eight-minute, one-second reel, we get a Still Gallery that brings 87images. These mix movie images, shots from the production and advertisements/video covers.
The “Gallery” also can be viewed with or without a circa 2011 interview with executive producer John Dunning, as he tells us about aspects of his career. Recorded shortly before Dunning’s death, this becomes a fairly informative piece.
Note that the version with the interview lasts 36 seconds longer to accommodate an opening text crawl to explain its origins.
The disc ends with two trailers, one TV spot and three radio spots.
If made by the David Cronenberg of 1985, Shivers might become an intriguing horror tale. Unfortunately, the David Cronenberg of 1975 lacked the same level of skill, so the film winds up as a slow, amateurish dud. The Blu-ray brings dated but decent picture and audio along with a good set of supplements. Watch Shivers if you want to sneak a peek at early Cronenberg, but don’t expect a good movie.