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A scientist sends a man with extraordinary psychic powers to hunt others like him.
For more about Scanners and the Scanners Blu-ray release, see Scanners Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 14, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jennifer O'Neill, Michael Ironside, Patrick McGoohan, Stephen Lack, Lawrence Dane
Director: David Cronenberg
» See full cast & crew
Scanners Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 14, 2013
David Cronenberg's "Scanners" (1981) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Australian distributors Umbrella Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; video interview with British horror expert Alan Jones; and the documentary "The Directors: The Films of David Cronenberg". In English, without optional English subttiles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Scanners are people with great telepathic powers. They can easily read and manipulate other people's thoughts. They can also force them to do things against their will.
An underground association of scanners led by Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) has started working on a plan to take over the world. Revok has also declared war on Consec, a large research company also with ambitions for world domination, whose leaders have discovered his group's existence.
Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan, TV's The Prisoner), one of Consec's top men, locates another scanner named Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack, Perfect Strangers, Dead Ringers), who isn't associated with Revok's group and is not yet fully aware of his telepathic powers. After a series of tests and discussions, Dr. Ruth convinces Vale to confront Revok and destroy his group.
Dark and once very much ahead of its time, David Cronenberg's Scanners is an interesting hybrid of a film. At its core it is certainly a horror film it is unapologetically graphic and intense. But behind its graphic visuals there is a prophetic warning about an upcoming reality where large corporations with unlimited resources could do some very bad things if left unmonitored.
The film is somewhat uneven, especially during the first half, where all of the key players and their agendas are identified. Dr. Ruth's sessions with Vale, for instance, feel protracted. The obvious is discussed with puzzling attention that leads one to believe that the narrative could be a lot more complex. But it is not. The more time one spends with Vale, the more one begins to realize that his journey will follow a very familiar route.
The finale is also underwhelming. The visual effects are good, but the moral dilemma Vale faces never becomes intriguing. It also feels like everything is rushed rather than carefully put together. Cronenberg once stated that Scanners was a very frustrating film to make because a lot was rushed during the production process. I think that the finale clearly proves that he was sincere.
Despite its various flaws, however, Scanners is still worth seeing. For example, the sense of heavy paranoia that permeates the film is great. The nameless assassins that go after Vale and his temp partner (Jennifer O'Neill, Summer of '42, A Force of One) also create an element of surprise that push the film closer to the thriller genre (this reviewer thinks that there are some obvious similarities between Scanners and Sydney Pollack's 3 Days of the Condor). Also, it is the exploding head sequence the film is remembered for, but it is the terrific phone booth sequence everyone should have been talking about. It is absolutely brilliant. The fact that Cronenberg thought of it and then filmed it in the early 80s, long before the internet was around, is quite incredible.
Scanners was lensed by Canadian cinematographer Mark Irwin, who after Scanners would also work with Cronenberg on Videodrome (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), and The Fly (1986). The film's minimalistic and very atmospheric soundtrack was created by multiple Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Crash, The Game).
Note: In 1981, Scanners won Saturn Awards for Best International Film and Best Make-Up (Dick Smith).
Scanners Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, David Cronenberg's Scanners (1981) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Australian distributors Umbrella Entertainment.
Even though the high-definition transfer the release uses does not appear to have been struck from a brand new scan, I like it quite a lot. Excluding some extremely light noise and minor compression artifacts, the film has a very solid organic look. During the many close-ups, for instance, detail is often excellent (see screencapture #4), while the large panoramic shots where daylight is prominent boast very pleasing depth (see screencapture #3). The light artifacts are present during a couple of scenes where light is restricted (see screencapture #10), but in motion even on very large screens they never become distracting. Furthermore, colors are stable and natural. There are no traces of excessive degraining corrections. Problematic sharpening corrections have not been applied either. The edges of the image frame also remain tight and stable when one projects the film. Lastly, there are no large damage marks, cuts, stains, warps, or debris to report in this review. All in all, Scanners has a solid organic look, which I am convinced will please, and possibly even impress, its fans. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3or SA in order to access its content).
Scanners Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Umbrella Entertainment have not provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Depth and clarity are good. The range of nuanced dynamics, however, is limited, which should not be surprising considering when and under what conditions Scanners was shot. Overall balance, even during non-action sequences, could have been better. Occasionally, the dialog becomes somewhat subdued and portions of it become somewhat difficult to hear. Still, there are no serious dynamic fluctuations. Turning up the volume a bit makes it quite easy to enjoy the film.
Scanners Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Scanners Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The films of Canadian auteur David Cronenberg are slowly coming out on Blu-ray, but the two that I have been wanting to upgrade the most, Dead Ringers and Crash, are still missing. Now that even Cronenberg's early films are transitioning to Blu-ray -- we will also have a review of The Brood shortly -- I hope that we will see proper releases of these two films soon. Scanners, now a cult classic, has recently been released on Blu-ray by Australian distributors Umbrella Entertainment, and it looks great. I think that it is a flawed film, but it is tremendously atmospheric. Older horror fans should not miss it. RECOMMENDED.
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