Misery Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Rob Reiner
Written by William Goldman
1990, 107 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on November 28th, 2017
James Caan as Paul Sheldon
Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes
Richard Farnsworth as Buster
Frances Sternhagen as Virginia
Lauren Bacall as Marcia Sindell
Best-selling novelist Paul Sheldon has just completed his latest work and is on his way home when his car rolls off the winding, snowy road in a Colorado blizzard. When he regains consciousness, he is in the care of nurse Annie Wilkes. She wasn’t able to get him to a hospital, as the roads are impassible, so she brought him home until the weather clears. Among his various injuries, Paul’s legs are badly broken and he will likely be bedridden for at least a month while they heal. Annie does her best to help with his pain and earns his gratitude. He grants her request to read his new manuscript and while she may be his number one fan, she is also his harshest critic. Annie prefers the romance novels he is famous for and is ecstatic with the arrival of the latest entry at the local bookstore. She is unsatisfied with this new book too and demands he write another on the spot. Paul quickly realizes she is a tad bit crazy and that he is becoming more and more her prisoner every day. He agrees to write the new piece to buy him some time to plan an escape, but can he manage to pull all of the pieces together in time to survive this ordeal?
Misery is Stephen King’s tale of fandom crossing into obsession and combines it with the idea of a man trapped by his own success. The book delves a bit deeper into the psychological aspects but Reiner’s movie remains captivating. Annie Wilkes is a strong villain without becoming an object of misogynistic hate. Her intentions are pure, but her thinking is a bit muddy. Isolation is the unspoken antagonist that drives one character deeper into madness and leaves the other unable to escape it. King masterfully concocts a tale that at its heart is a power struggle where the protagonist is suddenly helpless to survive without the care of the person most likely to kill him.
Misery is a high-water mark in the world of cinematic adaptations based on Stephen King novels. Director Rob Reiner (Stand by Me) tries his hand at the thriller genre and comes up aces with this riveting experience. He effortlessly builds suspense from one taut scenario to the next before finally releasing the tension in an explosive finale. Screenwriter William Goldman (Marathon Man) delivers a marvelous script that is faithful to the source material with only a few minor additions. The character-driven narrative is well-realized, as the plot centers primarily around two people trapped in a snowbound cottage, one of them bedridden and the other bipolar. The third man of the behind-the-scenes triumvirate is the wonderful cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld (Miller’s Crossing), whose graceful camera work keeps things moving in a visually dynamic manner.
The shining star of the film is Kathy Bates (Dolores Claiborne), whose Oscar-winning performance is nothing short of stunning. Bates disappears into the role and brings a sympathy to Annie Wilkes that belies the ugly facts we learn about her as the story progresses. She does all of the heavy lifting as an emotionally damaged woman living an isolated life who is met by the man of her dreams. This unrequited romance is nothing like the material of her favorite novels, but Annie is determined to make the feeling last as long as possible. An understated James Caan (Rollerball) stars as Paul Sheldon, the injured novelist and focus of Annie’s affection. Misery is a bit obvious when it comes to describing the world in which he finds himself trapped, but Caan is always watchable and does quite a bit of hard work while confined to a bed for the majority of the picture.
As for the supporting cast; Richard Farnsworth (The Straight Story) and Frances Sternhagen (Raising Cain) are spectacular as Buster and Virginia, the small town sheriff and his wife/deputy searching for the missing writer. They provide a welcome break from the tension brewing in the Wilkes cottage and offer a bit of occasional levity. Screen legend Lauren Bacall (To Have and Have Not) gives the picture a strong boost with her appearance as Sheldon’s literary agent Marcia Sindell. Her screen time is limited, but her presence is forever welcome.
Misery is a well-crafted thriller that retains its emotional impact thanks primarily to a star-turning performance by Kathy Bates and expert direction by Rob Reiner. There are a lot of things that work in this picture and several memorable moments that keep audiences returning to this contemporary classic. Scream Factory has gone all out on this Collector’s Edition release and if you are lucky, it might just turn up in your stocking this holiday season.
Video and Audio:
Scream Factory has sprung for an all new 4K remaster of the original film elements and the results are gorgeous. Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, there is really nothing to complain about with this transfer. Colors are strong and black levels are solid with plenty of small-object detail found in hair and fabrics while flesh tones appear natural throughout.
Audio options include a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and a 2.0 stereo mix, both of which get the job done. The dialogue-heavy feature benefits from the expanded 5.1 track, which has some nice separation of sound effects and rich music cues too.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
MGM previously released Misery as a loaded special edition DVD and a bare-bones Blu-ray. Scream Factory ports over all of the previous supplements and contributes a few new ones for this Collector’s Edition.
Director Rob Reiner sits down for an all-new interview, Rob Reiner Directs a Thriller (37 minutes), in which he discusses his early career in comedy before focusing specifically on the making of this feature. The segment is rather satisfying and fans will definitely want to check it out.
Special make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero discusses the merits of make-up techniques, such as those used in the making of Misery in the segment Practical Effects and Human Replicas (26 minutes). Nicotero seems like a really down-to-earth guy who genuinely appreciates the opportunity to talk about his craft.
The disc also features two audio commentaries, one with Rob Reiner, the other with screenwriter William Goldman. These tracks are full of information that is pretty awesome, but both suffer from some extended gaps of silence as the men watch the film.
Misery Loves Company (30 minutes) is a vintage look back at the making of the film featuring interviews with key members of the crew including Reiner, Goldman and Barry Sonnenfeld.
Marc Shaiman’s Musical Misery Tour (15 minutes) allows the composer to look back on his process of creating the score for the movie.
Next up is a psychological profile of Annie Wilkes provided by forensic psychologist Dr. Reid Meloy, (9 minutes). Specific illnesses ranging from bipolar disorder, delusions and depression are just some of the high points on the lengthy list.
A series of featurettes provide an overview of stalkers in society: Advice for the Stalked (5 minutes), Profile of a Stalker (6 minutes), Celebrity Stalkers (5 minutes) and Anti-Stalking Laws (2 minutes). Each feature interviews with professionals, including Dr. Reid Meloy, John C. Lane (Omega Threat Management Group) and Los Angeles prosecutor Rhonda Saunders. The topics of discussion are self –evident from the titles.
Also included is a pair of theatrical trailers, including an elusive holiday-themed preview.
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