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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 9/28/99



A Nightmare on Elm Street

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection


A Nightmare on Elm Street (Boxed set version)

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

A Nightmare on Elm Street
New Line Platinum Series - Boxed set version - 1984 (1999) - New Line

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B/B+

Specs and Features:

92 mins, R, widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Snapper case packaging, commentary track (with director Wes Craven, actors John Saxon and Heather Langenkamp and director of photography Jacques Haitkin), cast and crew info circa 1984, DVD-ROM features (Script-To-Screen screenplay access, Dream World trivia game #1, up-to-the-minute cast and crew information, Freddy's Portal website access), film-themed menu screens with animation and music, scene access (25 chapters), language: English (DD 5.1) and (DD mono), subtitles: English, Close Captioned



A Nightmare on Elm Street (Movie-only version]

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

A Nightmare on Elm Street
New Line Platinum Series - Movie-only version - 1984 (1999) - New Line

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B/A

Specs and Features:

92 mins, R, widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered, Snapper case packaging, commentary track (with director Wes Craven, actors John Saxon and Heather Langenkamp and director of photography Jacques Haitkin), theatrical trailer, cast and crew info circa 1984, DVD-ROM features (Script-To-Screen screenplay access, Dream World trivia game, up-to-the-minute cast and crew information, Freddy's Portal website access), film-themed menu screens with animation and music, scene access (25 chapters), language: English (DD 5.1) and (DD mono), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a creepy "haunted house of the mind" film. Four teenagers (that we see at least) are tormented by a mysterious man in a red and green sweater, with "long finger nails" (which we know from the opening credits to actually be knives). The man only comes to them in their dreams, and he's not trying to be their friend. He's out to get them, and the reason why is only revealed at the end. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) is the lead teen, a girl who has her share of typical teen problems, like divorced parents, and a mother who drinks too much. The film is seen through her wide-open eyes, as she comes to grips with the fact that she could die in her dreams at any moment - and that means dying for real. Who is this mysterious man in the red and green sweater? Why does he want to kill Nancy? Where can I find that sweet talking Freddy doll Matchbox put out a few years back?

The first Nightmare is always the best, and this is especially true for this film, when it comes to the overall horror-factor. In this film, Freddy is creepy, his body is thick with maggots and bile, and his skin is a Kentucky-fried crispy rather than the melted cheese sandwich look he was given in most of the rest of the series. The film also has a layered mythical quality to it. It's not an easily dismissed film - it has an intelligence behind it, that sadly has been undermined by the rest of the films in the series (at least up until New Nightmare). Robert Englund gives so much character to Freddy, that I find it hard to believe he's such a nice guy in person. The guy has to have a few bodies stacked up in his closet. Seriously, though, Englund is a really talented actor, and to be able to emote as well as he does under all that latex is testament to that. The rest of the cast is also good, in that B-movie sort of way. I had a crush on Heather Langenkamp up until a few years ago, and it's always nice to go back and watch the movie for her. I really feel that Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the best horror films ever made, and if no sequels had ever been done, you'd find this in the top 3 scariest films of all time lists. Sadly, the sequels hurt this film (but that will be discussed the later films' reviews).

You can now get this great film two ways on DVD: as part of the complete set or individually. For now, this is the only film of the series you can get by itself, and if you're a fan of good horror (but didn't dig the sequels), you'll be happy.

The movie-only edition DVD contains the 16x9 anamorphic, 1.85:1 widescreen version, as well as the full frame 1.33.1 edition. Both look really good. We held this edition up to the region 2 Japanese edition, and even though the compression on the Japanese edition was slightly better, the colors on both are dead on. This DVD transfer is quite comparable to the fantastic laserdisc special edition put out by Elite a few years back, except for one thing: the transfer for the LD was supervised by cinematographer Jacques Haitkin. If you look carefully at the sequence after Freddy is brought into the real world, he takes a tumble down the stairs. On the widescreen version you can clearly see the stunt mat covering the stairs, which was a gaff. On the LD, Elite and Haitkin worked around the gaff and it was covered up quite nicely. On the DVD, it's there in all its glory. Oh well. The good thing about that is - at least we know that this is a brand new transfer to DVD. Other than those MINOR complaints, the picture is pretty sweet. The blacks are solid, there are no artifacts to be found, and the grain isn't exacerbated by the MPEG-2 compression - it look quite natural. The deluxe box set edition contains only the anamorphic widescreen version, and it looks exactly like the movie-only edition. Don't be fooled about the dual-layering of the movie only edition - the additional layer is there for the full frame version of the film. Video-wise, between the two, the only thing you're missing out on is full frame.

Sound-wise, A Nightmare on Elm Street is kick ass. There's a new 5.1 track done for this DVD, and when you're in the boiler room... YOU ARE IN THE BOILER ROOM. The sound is very well done here. I did hear some weird dialogue stuff going on, which is most likely the original mono sneaking in a few times, but you won't mind it. The original mono is also available, and it's fun to compare the two - the mono track is nicely represented as well. It's pretty full-sounding for a mono track, but doesn't hold a candle to the 5.1. Both sound options are available on both the box set and movie-only discs.

The special edition materials are only slightly different for the two discs. The movie-only edition and SE DVDs both contain the commentary track with Wes Craven, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon and Jacques Haitkin. It's the same track produced by Elite Entertainment for their laserdisc, and it's incredibly informative and fun to listen to. Craven and the gang all seem to really enjoy themselves, and they bounce loads of stuff off of each other. You'll have fun listening in. Another fun extra, that appears on both discs, is the cast and crew bios. Taken from the film's original 1984 press packages, they read like a look into the past. Although not incredibly useful, it's an interesting approach to press information, historically speaking. The original press lists omitted actors Johnny Depp (who made his screen debut in this film) and Robert Englund who plays Freddy (New Line wanted a slight mystery to surround the character, and didn't want to give a human face to the onscreen evil), and so both are missing on the DVD-Video site (although they are on the DVD-ROM side - more in a minute). Both discs also feature DVD-ROM capabilities. The movie-only edition has a longer trivia game, the theatrical trailer (which is available on the Encyclopedia disc in the set), and a web link to the Nightmare on Elm Street website. The trivia game on the boxed set edition features only the first level of trivia questions (all the other films contain different levels of trivia which, if completed, give the proper codes for the Nightmare Series Encyclopedia disc). The questions range from really easy to really hard, and it's a good primer for going through the Encyclopedia disc's Labryinth. Both discs also include the ability to read the script while watch the film at the same time through the DVD-ROM, as well as keeping up with the latest info on the cast and crew via the Internet Movie Database (here Depp and Englund are included). All in all these are pretty packed discs. And as anything missing from the boxed set version of this film is contained in the set's Encyclopedia disc, you're not missing out on anything (in fact, you ultimately get a LOT more).

A Nightmare on Elm Street made a true horror fan out of me, and a boat-load of other kids as well, back in the 80s. It helped bring intelligence to horror, and made New Line Cinema a film industry powerhouse. I, for one, am incredibly excited that these films are finally on DVD, and I'm especially happy this film is out in such high quality. Get ready for primetime, kids... Freddy's back.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


A Nightmare on Elm Street


The Nightmare on Elm Street Collection


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