Release Date(s)1978 (August 7, 2018)
Studio(s)Warner Bros. Television (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B
For years, Someone’s Watching Me! was considered one of John Carpenter’s “lost” films. A made-for-TV movie that aired in 1978, a month after the release of Halloween, it did little to move Carpenter’s career forward, but it was a nice feather in the cap of the folks who participated in it. Carpenter also claims that some of the ideas he employed on Halloween, such as the use of the Panaglide camera, came from this project. A simple story about a woman who is being terrified by someone who constantly calls her on the phone, sends her gifts, and watches her from across the street, it’s an uneven thriller that still manages to capture moments of genuine suspense.
Originally filmed under the title High Rise and shot in a mere 10 days, Someone’s Watching Me! is certainly a curiosity amongst long-time Carpenter fans, but not many have actually seen it. While he had only officially made Dark Star and Assault on Precinct 13 (as well as handful of shorts) before accepting the job of directing the film, he was mostly known as a screenwriter for his work on various TV movies. That all changed after Halloween, of course, but for Someone’s Watching Me!, it meant that he still had something to prove before he would get what he really wanted: complete creative control.
The cast of the film is also interesting. Lauren Hutton stars as the heroine in danger, but also included is David Birney as her love interest and Adrienne Barbeau as her close friend, with whom Carpenter would continue a relationship privately afterwards, also casting cast her in his future films. While Hutton’s quirkiness sometimes works against the movie’s tone, some of the stalking scenes, including a moment when she hides from her potential attacker in a floor grate, are as strong as anything else in Carpenter’s body of work.
Someone’s Watching Me! was released years ago on DVD by Warner Bros. as a part of their short-lived Twisted Terror collection, but has been absent from home video ever since. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray debut features an excellent presentation of the film, giving us the option of watching it in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, or in an alternate 1.85:1 widescreen presentation. According to the inner artwork, “the new 2018 high definition transfer was created in 2K resolution at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging on the Lasergraphics Director scanner from an archival interpositive.” It also opens with the vintage late 1970s/early 1980s Warner Bros. logo for good measure. It’s a TV movie from the 1970s and it definitely looks like one, but it’s a big step up from its previous DVD presentation. Everything appears organic and solid throughout, and despite the inherent softness, there’s still plenty of fine detail on display, especially when it comes to textures on objects, clothing, and on close-ups of faces. The color palette is a bit drab, but it’s slightly more colorful than before, still featuring a lot of browns, tans, and greens, with only occasional splashes of primaries. Skin tones appear natural as well. Blacks are deep with excellent brightness and contrast, and the overall presentation is stable and free of any major blemishes apart from some extremely mild speckling. The audio is presented via an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track with optional subtitles in English SDH. The newfound clarity doesn’t do wonders with its one channel source, but everything is well-separated and clear, including dialogue and score. No instances of hiss or dropouts are apparent either. It’s a solid mono track that shows its age, but works well for its source.
This release also features a nice extras package, including a new audio commentary with author and TV film historian Amanda Reyes, who offers a wealth of valuable information about the film, the main players involved with it, and TV movies in general (including what was being shown on other channels the night the film aired); Adrienne Barbeau: Looking Back at Someone’s Watching Me!, a new 11-minute interview with the actress about working on the film, her experience with playing a gay character, how it affected her outside of work, what it was like to work with John Carpenter, and her revelation about him as a potential partner; Carpenter’s Enforcer: A Retrospective, a new 10-interview with Charles Cyphers speaking about his history with John Carpenter and the various roles he’s played in his films; a new Horror’s Hallowed Grounds ith Sean Clark, which takes a look at a few of the filming locations; John Carpenter: Director Rising, a vintage 6-minute interview with Carpenter about how his work on the film; 2 TV promos (one with audio only); and an animated photo gallery with 17 behind-the-scenes photos and promotional materials. Unfortunately, the original versions of the TV promos couldn’t be included, likely due to the presence of the NBC logo. However, if you wish to see them in full, they’re available to be seen on YouTube.
Aside from some interesting camera work and angles, Someone’s Watching Me! isn’t all that intriguing in a design or lightning sense and looks exactly like a TV movie from that timeframe usually looked. However, it scores plenty of points for good performances and building tension with a careful, guiding hand, which is not all that surprising. Scream Factory’s treatment of the title is top notch and it belongs in every horror fan’s collection. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons