Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
2.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Dreamscape: Collector's Edition

Street Date:
December 13th, 2016
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
December 6th, 2016
Movie Release Year:
1984
Studio:
Scream Factory
Length:
99 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Decades before Inception hit the big screen, there was 'Dreamscape' – a movie with many of the same ideas as Chris Nolan's blockbuster hit, just with a much smaller budget and perhaps a concept about 25 years too soon for audiences to really grasp. But for whatever reason...it's become somewhat of a cult classic over the years, leading to this Shout Factory Collector's Edition of the movie, which fans should enjoy quite a bit.

The premise of 'Dreamscape' is that a group of scientists have discovered that it is possible for a human being to enter another human being's dreams – and actually influence what happens in them. However, the really neat idea this movie presents (and one that made me afraid to fall asleep for a while after I saw this film as a kid) is that if you're killed in your dream, you die in real life. That's not an idea that originated with this title (as they point out in the bonus materials, it's kind of an old wives' tale that's been passed down for generations), but this might be the first movie ever to explore that concept.

The film starts a young Dennis Quaid as Alex Garner, someone who has a history of impressive telekinetic abilities, but who has turned his back on those in the science field trying to help him develop those abilities and instead spends his days at the horse racing track picking winners (and getting in trouble with bookies). Alex is recruited into the government's exploration of dream manipulation by his old mentor, Paul Novotny (Max von Sydow), and also meets Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw), a doctor who is assisting Novotny in his research.

Of course, this is a 1980s movie, where all government agencies are shady, and sure enough a government agent named Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer) wants to use another gifted, yet far more mentally imbalanced, young man named Tommy Ray Glatman (David Patrick Kelly) as sort of a "dream assassin". His first target? The President of the United States (played by Eddie Albert).

Alas, a great premise can't help a movie that only had a $6 million budget (low by even 1984 standards) and 'Dreamscape' suffers by not really being able to deliver when it comes to the dream sequences (although almost everyone who remembers the story claims to have been horrified by "Snake Man", the effect now comes across as bargain-basement cheese). Still, if you can look past the things that age this film, the premise is still very interesting and the acting here – while by no means Oscar-caliber – is certainly good enough that none of the actors involve need feel embarrassed by their participation.

Finally, a couple of notes about this release that potential viewers may want to take note of: First, 'Dreamscape' was Hollywood's second release (the first being Patrick Swayze's Red Dawn) to get a PG-13 rating. Second, and more notable for potential buyers is the fact that this version does not contain any nudity, something that appeared on European releases of the movie, thanks to the reframing of one dream sequence and the addtion of some deleted footage involving Kate Capshaw. Despite rumors to the contrary, the original U.S. theatrical version was always sans nudity, as is this Shout Factory release.

The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats

This special collector's edition of 'Dreamscape' arrives from Shout Factory in a standard Elite keepcase that houses the 50GB disc. While new artwork graces the keepcase slick, the flip side contains the original theatrical artwork, with the back cover staying the same on both sides. There are no front-loaded advertisements on the Blu-ray, whose main menu features a still of the box cover image and menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.

The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Dreamscape' was shot on 35mm film and is presented here in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. As you may or may not be aware, the previous Blu-ray release of this movie suffered from a lot of image problems, not the least of which was that it got a 1080i interlaced encode. This time around, Shout Factory has gone back to the original film elements for a brand-new 2K scan. And while this new transfer does have some problems, it's a huge leap up from the prior version.

Like many older films that get a new scan, the opening credits here have the most problematic issues, with stabilization and dirt on the print being the biggest two. Once the movie starts though, things become much more watchable – particularly an opening segment with Dennis Quaid's character at the race track that shows some real color and depth.

The biggest issue with this new transfer, however, is consistency. While some scenes look very good, some of the darker portions of the movie look very flat and noisy. Sadly, most of these worse-looking segments are the dream sequences. While the new scan is thankfully mostly free from any technical glitches, I did note one framed special effects sequence (where viewers are about to enter a dream) where there's a glaring bright line down the complete left side of the frame. Whether this reflects the original presentation (meaning it was always there) or whether this particular moment was framed incorrectly is anyone's guess. I also noticed some annoying shimmering in the background of the room where the dream tests take place (it's the same room as in the screenshot below with Dennis Quaid and Max von Sydow).

So this isn't the best transfer, but it's still a huge improvement over the prior Blu-ray release and probably about the best were going to get given the source material (yes, this is a 2K scan, but a 4K scan probably would have made matte lines and other F/X work even more obvious than they already are).

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The featured track here is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is most likely the same as on the prior Blu-ray release. Most of the audio is up-front, with not a whole lot happening in the rears, aside from some soundtrack enhancement and the occasional ambient accompaniment to a scene (such as the clanking of glass-wear when Quaid and von Sydow have a chat in a bar). LFE use is virtually non-existent, despite some sequences where you think it might come into play. There are no glitches in the track that I noticed, including any problems with muddiness or dropouts. Some of the ADR use in the movie was a little more obvious because the track is relatively crisp, but that – of course – is no fault with the track itself and actually a complement to its quality and clarity.

In addition to the 5.1 lossless track, a new 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also available. Subtitles are an option in English SDH only.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary – This commentary track dates back to the 2000 DVD release of the movie and features Producer Bruce Cohn Curtis, Co-Writer David Loughery, and Makeup Artist Craig Reardon. In addition to this commentary now being rather dated, it's also not the most engaging track I've ever heard, but it's worth a listen if you're a die-hard fan of this film as it does provide some interesting behind-the-scenes stories about how it all came together.
  • Snake Man Test Footage (HD, 2 min.) – Also a carry-over from the original 2000 DVD release is this raw test footage of the not-so-scary "Snake Man" seen in the movie.
  • Still Gallery (HD, 2 ½ min.) – This is a slide show of various behind-the-scenes photos, mostly dealing with the creation of the "Snake Man". Viewers don't have the option of moving through these at their own leisure, so if you want a longer look at any one image, you'll need to use the pause button on your remote.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 min.) – The original theatrical trailer for 'Dreamscape'. The trailer is in pretty poor shape and is shown in 1.33:1 full-frame.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Dreamscapes and Dreammakers (HD, 62 min.) – This brand-new and lengthy look at the development and making of 'Dreamscape' features comments from Co-Writer David Loughery, Director Joseph Ruben, Cinematographer Brian Tufano, Associate Producer and Co-Writer Chuck Russell, Editor Richard Halsey, Miniature Supervisor Susan Turner, Special Photography head Kevin Kutchaver, Visual Effects Supervisor Peter Kuran, Stop Motion Visual Effects Supervisor James Aupperle, Special Makeup head Craig Reardon, Miniture Construction guru James Belohovek, and a rather haggard-looking David Patrick Kelly.
  • Nightmares and Dreamsnakes (HD, 23 min.) – A look back at the concept and creation of "Snake Man", whom we learn here was originally supposed to be a "Rat Man", with comments from David Loughery, Joseph Ruben, Chuck Russell, Craig Reardon, and David Patrick Kelly.
  • Dennis Quaid: The Actor's Journey (HD, 15 min.) – Not listed on the back of the box cover, this is a brand-new interview with the actor during which he discusses his work on 'Dreamscape', including a real astral projection experience he had during the making of the movie and comments about all the actors he worked with.
  • Bruce Cohn Curtis & Chuck Russell – In Conversation 2016 (HD, 23 ½ min.) – 'Dreamscape's Producer Bruce Cohn Curtis and its Associate Producer and Co-Writer Chuck Russell have a conversation with each other about their history together and their work on 'Dreamscape'. In many ways, this is the best featurette on this release, and not just because Curtis hints at the end that a 'Dreamscape' reboot many be on the way.

Final Thoughts

'Dreamscape' probably isn't as good as your memory of it might be, and it's certainly not as scary, but it's still a solid 80s sci-fil thriller with some neat ideas and some quality actors involved. This Collector's Edition adds enough new bonus materials to make this one worth adding to your collection. Recommended.

Technical Specs

  • 50GB Blu-ray
  • Region A

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio
  • 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary With Bruce Cohn Curtis, David Loughery And Craig Reardon
  • Snake Man Test Footage
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

Exclusive HD Content

  • "The Actor's Journey" - Interview with Dennis Quaid
  • "Dreamscapes and Dreammakers" Retrospective including Brand-new interviews with Director Joseph Ruben, Co-Writer David Loughery, Actor David Patrick Kelly and other members of the special effects team
  • "Nightmares and Dreamsnakes" – Looking Back at the Snakeman with Craig Reardon, David Patrick Kelley and others.
  • In-Depth Conversation Between Bruce Cohn Curtis And Co-Writer/Producer Chuck Russell

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