When speaking about ghost stories on film, there are a few that immediately come to mind. Robert Wise's The Haunting and Jack Clayton's The Innocents are two of the best known, as is Peter Medak's marvelous The Changeling. Based on a true story, The Changeling is among the finest horror movies of the '70s, and a surprising "get" for Severin Films, who tend to focus on lesser known titles. Starring the legendary George C. Scott (Patton) and his wife Trish Van Devere, The Changeling manages to be scary and dramatic without leaning too hard on either tone, creating an eerie atmosphere and increasingly tense experience as the film draws near to its remarkable conclusion.
The Changeling opens with a horrific roadside accident that takes the lives of a mother and her young child. Left behind after this tragedy is composer John Russell, who decides that in order to heal, he must move far away from his bustling Manhattan home to a rustic mansion in Seattle where he continues to work. Before long, Russell is witness to numerous small unnatural occurences in his home, which leads him to wonder where exactly he is living. He consults the local historical society to find that the mansion has an unusually dark past.
As these supernatural events become more and more disturbing, Russell finds himself compelled to get to the bottom of a mystery that spans seventy years, millions of dollars, and one tragic forgotten death. Along for the ride is Claire Norman (Van Devere), an agent of the historical society, who helps him access some of the secrets the mansion has to offer, though not without a fight from those with the power to stop her.
Russell and Norman dig deeper and deeper into the mystery until they discover that the secrets may have the power to disrupt not only the home, but also have implications that could shatter lives beyond counting. Incredibly scary, tense, and well made and acted, The Changeling is one of the best ghost/haunted house stories there is, a nearly perfect horror film.
The Changeling comes to US Blu-ray from Severin Films, who have gone all out for this release. Created from a new 4K scan of the interpositive (a second generation source, the next best thing to the original camera negative), The Changeling looks spectacular in this new release. Details fill teh frame, sharpness is great, and there is a healthy layer of grain that isn't distracting but gives the image a nice organic feel. The original 2.0 audio track is clear and free from damage, though initial pressings of the disc include a faulty 5.1 surround track in which some dialogue is missing from the surround channels. I watched it with the original stereo, so I noticed no issues. Severin is offering a replacement scheme for those who want to get a corrected disc.
The Changeling is the kind of film that deserves scholarly discussion, and Severin doesn't disappoint with numerous wonderful bonus features that are all well worth watching. First up is an audio commentary with director Peter Medak and producer Joel B Michaels moderated by David Gregory. This commentary is full of behind the scenes tidbits and anecdotes as well as scholarly discussion of the production. In addition the commentary there are a ton of great supplemental features worth checking out.
The House on Cheesman Park is a featurette exploring the real story on which The Changeling is based. While the film is set in Seattle, the real story took place in Denver, and a local historian walks us through many of the details.
The Music of The Changeling is exactly what is sounds like, arranger Kenneth Wannberg discusses the process of creating the music for the film, including adjustment he made to help Medak create the film's unique eerie vibe.
Building the House of Horror discusses the process of designing and producing the sets on which the film was shot. Much of the mansion shots were using sets, and art director Reuben Freed discusses how he and his team put it all together.
Mick Garris also discusses his love for the film in a short segment.
My favorite, though, is The Psychotronic Tourist - The Changeling. This is a lengthy and detailed tour of many of the locations used in the film. The segment is hosted by film programmer and author, Kier-La Janisse, he guides the viewer through several segments shot across the US. It's fascinating to see how some locations have changed and others haven't, each segment comes with it's own personality and fun facts. It's a really nice addition to an already packed disc.
Severin Films' release of The Changeling is stellar and well worth the wait for fans of classic horror. Highly recommended!