AUDREY ROSE (1977) Blu-ray
Director: Robert Wise
Twilight Time DVD

A later entry in the great Robert Wise’s genre filmography, AUDREY ROSE arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

In Manhattan’s Central Park West, young couple Janice Templeton (Marsha Mason, THE GOODBYE GIRL) and her successful executive husband Bill (John Beck, NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON) live a seemingly happy life with their 11-year-old daughter Ivy (Susan Swift, BURNED AT THE STAKE). A sinister-looking bearded man named Elliot Hoover (Anthony Hopkins, MAGIC) follows the family around, stalking their daughter from a close distance. When the police tell Bill there’s nothing they can do, the couple respond to one of Elliot’s repeated phone calls to meet him and find out what this all about. Elliot tells them that he truly believes that Ivy is the reincarnation of his late five-year-old daughter, Audrey Rose, who burned to death in a car accident which occurred outside Pittsburgh some ten years early. Naturally, the couple dismiss the man as a crackpot, but with their daughter having violent nightmare fits, Elliot seems to be the only one who can calm her down (soothingly calling to Ivy as “Audrey Rose”). Bill refuses to listen to Elliot, believing he’s only bringing his family down, while Janice, still in great fear of the man, suddenly leans towards putting credence in his reincarnation theories.

Ivy continues to have nightly screaming fits, mysteriously burning her hands, though the couple still confides in their physician (in the days when they still made house calls) rather than Elliot, even though he obviously has a calming effect on her, whether or not she is the reincarnation of Audrey. One night during one of her fits, Elliot and Bill have a confrontation in the corridor, and Elliot abducts Ivy to care for her in the apartment he is now renting in the same building. With Elliot now under arrest, the case goes to court, with Brice Mack (Robert Walden, BLOODY MAMA) as the defendant in his corner and Scott Velie (John Hillerman, BLAZING SADDLES) as the prosecutor in the couples’ corner. Elliot’s testimony even goes so far as to bring in an Indian guru (Aly Wassil, ALIENS FROM SPACESHIP EARTH) as an authority on the reality of the transmigration of souls, and when she takes the stand, Janice finally admits her belief in what Elliot claims about her daughter. After Ivy is nearly burnt (while in a trance) at a bonfire outside a convent, she is hypnotized by a doctor (Norman Lloyd, SABOTEUR) who induces transgression, and the shocking results are on public display at a medical theater as part of the trial.

AUDREY ROSE was based on Frank De Fellita’s 1975 novel of the same name, and he also co-produced and co-wrote the screenplay (the author would go on to write “The Entity” which became a film with Barbara Hershey, and directed the 1981 telefilm DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW). The reincarnation storyline (never a popular film subject) has a few chills and a thoughtfulness to it, even though it gets heavy-handed with some of the mystic transcendental preachiness (there’s even a bit of stock footage of funeral practices in India during the trial scene). No stranger to horror, veteran director Wise had a number of solid efforts under his belt including THE CAT PEOPLE, THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE and of course THE HAUNTING, and though many fans are on the fence as to how this film ranks along his other credits, here he builds a nice level of tension and uneasiness and never resorts to visual effect trickery or standard exploitation elements to tell the story or lay on the scares, so some of his filmmaking characteristics are definitely on display here. Even though this film tackles reincarnation as opposed to exorcism, some similarities to THE EXORCIST are obvious, and it’s likely United Artists greenlighted the film after their previous “paranormal” horror hit, 1976’s CARRIE.

Wide-eyed child actress Swift is able to handle the trance hallucinations convincingly enough as well as convey the secondary lingering juvenile soul and her constant cries for help with aplomb (scenes of the girl in this state, screaming at a window pane while rain pours down, are quite striking). And once you convince yourself that Mason is not in a Neil Simon (her then-husband/his then-muse, so to speak) movie, you’ll realize how intense her performance gets as the long-running film evolves and it works that the domestic situation pushes Janice and Bill further apart since Mason and Beck seem a very unlikely onscreen married couple. Still years from American stardom, Hopkins plays the desperate man whose life’s goal is to free his daughter’s soul, with his usual assuredness and a mild-mannered calmness, giving way to some tender moments during his brief reunions with his daughter, somewhere within the subconscious of another young girl.

Twilight Time presents AUDREY ROSE on Blu-ray only, using MGM’s recent HD master. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in a nice-looking 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer. Colors are generally realistic and well balanced (especially in the outdoor Manhattan-lensed scenes) and detail is for the most part excellent. There is excessive amounts of grain in a few scenes, but any so-called visual flaws seem to have been inherited from the original elements, which are clean and free of damage. Even when the transfer is not exceptionally sharp, you will have no doubt that you're viewing a high definition image, and overall, this is a very satisfying upgrade over the previous standard definition DVD which MGM released over a decade ago. The 1.0 DTS-HD English track is the track is as full and balanced as it needs to be, with good fidelity and no noticeable problems. A secondary audio track isolates Michael Small's score and English (SDH) subtitles are also included. The original trailer is included, as are menu listings of all Twilight Tim releases by year. Julie Kirgo's writes some great liner notes included in the insert booklet. Note that Twilight Time's release of AUDREY ROSE is limited to a pressing of 3,000 copies, and is available exclusively at Screen Archives. (George R. Reis)