MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981) Collector's Edition Blu-ray
Director: George Mihalka
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

Scream Factory sings "The Ballad of Harry Warden" with their collector's edition two-disc Blu-ray of MY BLOODY VALENTINE.

Two days before Valentine's Day, the town of Valentine Bluffs is planning a dance at the Union Hall, the first in twenty years since Harry Warden, the sole survivor of a mine explosion who went insane after having to survive on the remains of his fellow miners and spent a year in an institution, pickaxed the two mine supervisors who were partying at the Valentine's dance during the tragedy, promising to come back again and again to kill if there is ever another dance. Failing to heed the warning in the interest of company morale, mine owner/mayor Hanniger (Larry Reynolds, VIRUS) and police chief Newby (Don Francks, FAST COMPANY) fear the worst when a box of candy comes with a human heart inside it on Thursday the 12th and the seared body of local laundry owner/dance committee coordinator Mabel (Patricia Hamilton, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES) is found inside of dryer also missing her heart on Friday the 13th. Unable to confirm whether or not Harry Warden is still institutionalized, the chief wants to keep the town from panicking but nevertheless cancels the dance; whereupon, Hanniger's son T.J. (Paul Kelman, I'M GOING TO GET YOU... ELLIOT BOY) suggests that they take the party to the mines, hoping to win back girlfriend Sarah (Lori Hallier, WARNING SIGN) from his former best friend Axel (Neil Affleck, VISITING HOURS). When the killer starts "picking" off the partygoers, however, T.J. and Axel must work together to rescue Sarah who has gone below ground with pal Patty (Cynthia Dale, HEAVENLY BODIES), prankster Howard (Alf Humphreys, FUNERAL HOME), team leader Hollis (Keith Knight, MEATBALLS), and lovers Mike (Thomas Kovacs, SCANNERS) and Harriet (Terry Waterland).

Following quick on the heels of Paramount's major release of FRIDAY THE 13TH, the Canadian-made MY BLOODY VALENTINE feels quite formulaic in retrospect with the past tragedy and killings that resume when a long-forbidden celebration is taken up again by those who fail to heed the warning (a scenario also seen the same year in THE PROWLER). While the brutal killings realized by effects artist Tom Burman (PROPHECY) were pruned down by the MPAA, the film managed to engage with a good balance between scenes involving the elder characters doing the investigating and the younger characters lined up for the slaughter (with both sets of characters expressing as much grief as terror upon discovering the bodies of love ones). The central love triangle at first seems tiresome even though it sets up both men to potentially be the actual killer, but their shared love refreshingly tires of both of them after a punch up, setting up the climax as she joins other friends touring the mine to get away from both suitors. The kills remain brutal even in the R-rated version but the unrated version has more impact (although newcomers may wonder what is the big deal considering the content of R-rated horror these days). The scoring of Canadian genre regular Paul Zaza (CURTAINS) is atypically understated to the point of being largely unnoticeable. Producers Andre Link and John Dunning were the cofounders of Cinepix, although MY BLOODY VALENTINE was a tax shelter work with funding from The Canadian Film Development Corporation and Famous Players (RITUALS). Prolific Canadian director George Mihalka's next genre entries were the underrated ETERNAL EVIL/THE BLUE MAN (also rumored to have been heavily compromised either during production or in post) and the less interesting made-for-cable THE PSYCHIC. MY BLOODY VALENTINE was remade in 2009 in 3D by former Dimension Films editor-turned-director Patrick Lussier with SUPERNATURAL's Jensen Ackles in the lead.

One of the early slashers ravaged by the MPAA, MY BLOODY VALENTINE was released theatrically by Paramount Pictures and then to VHS and laserdisc in its R-rated theatrical version, which was also the version featured on Paramount's barebones 2002 DVD which did feature a new anamorphic transfer at least. When Paramount briefly sublicensed some of its titles to Lionsgate, a Blu-ray and DVD was issued in 2009 featuring the so-called uncut version of the film, reinstating three minutes of gore trims in lesser condition from film sources (the rumors that the footage was upscaled from standard edition probably came from the inclusion of the deleted scenes in context viewable separately with cast and crew introductions which all were encoded in 480p). Scream Factory's two-disc edition Blu-ray offers up 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen encodes of the theatrical (90:25) and unrated (93:00) cuts – it is a misnomer to refer to it as uncut as it is still missing an entire sex-and-death sequence reminiscent of BAY OF BLOOD and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, and Mihalka in his introduction (0:23) does indeed refer to the presentation as being mostly as intended – in new 4K scan of the original camera negative, with the deleted bits also rescanned and cleaned up to better match the footage around it, looking a tad darker overall but with improved detail from facial features to Burman's gore (the pickaxe through the eye bit is particularly nastier this time around). While Lionsgate added a lifeless 5.1 upmix in addition to a lossy mono track, Scream Factory's inclusion of the mono track in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 on both versions is more than adequate, with the killer's gas mask breathing coming through in some unexpected places that might have gone unnoticed on the earlier incarnations (a dip in levels during the final pickaxe death seems to be common to all versions).

None of the extras from the Lionsgate edition have been ported over, but Scream Factory have created a host of new ones (none of the interviews, commentary, or other featurettes are listed on the back cover or slipcover which just lists "and more…" as per usual with Scream Factory's practice of unveiling artwork so far ahead of release and failing to update the artwork which is presumably also printed in advance of the disc production). In "An Anemic Valentine" (24:09), director Mihalka recalls that MY BLOODY VALENTINE was the second of a two-film contract with Cinepix but it was the first produced because of difficulties on the other production, leading to a rushed production schedule with American distributor Paramount wanting to get the film ready for a February 14th release date. He discusses the script, wanting to cast actors who had an identical chemistry to the characters, the location shoot, the effects work, and the MPAA battles which lead to him dismissing the film for years but warming up to it later on. In "From The Heart" (14:15), actor Kelman notes that the identity of the killer was withheld from the cast and he was instructed to act as if he may possibly be the killer, hence his playing up the character's violent streak. In "Friends Of Mine" (19:20), actress Hallier recalls initially turning down the production because it overlapped with the end of one semester of her theatre course and the start of another, but Mihalka worked out a deal with her school. She also recalls having a back injury during the shoot and the uncertainty whether she would be replaced, and the Cape Breton location shoot. In "Axel, Be My Valentine" (14:48), actor Affleck, who went on to work as an animator and director for ten seasons of THE SIMPSONS as well as THE FAMILY GUY, also notes that the killer's identity was indeed withheld from the cast but the requirement that he figured out the identity due to the requirement that he have some prosthetic cast work done a week before the last day of shooting.

In "Becoming Sylvia" (17:17), actress Udy recalls only having to scream for her audition since she had worked with Mihalka on an earlier film and some comical memories of taking her Method Acting training too far trying to work herself up into a fright for her death scene, as well as working with Burman on the effects. In "The Secret Keeper" (27:25), actor Rob Stein recalls the film being a larger role after his previous collaboration with Mihalka in PICK-UP SUMMER, points out how an early scene was both foreshadowing for his girlfriend's death and the possibility that he might have been the killer, his memories of the late Humphreys, and his continuing friendships with some of the surviving cast (including Udy who he had seen the very day of this interview). In "Broken Hearts And Broken Bones" (10:36), effects designer Burman notes his distaste for "graphic repulsion movies" but that they allowed for the invention and innovation of effects techniques, and that he liked MY BLOODY VALENTINE's over-the-top nature and was disappointed that so much of what they did was cut from the film. "Holes In The Heart" (12:29) is a side-by-side comparison of the R-rated and expanded versions, with the footage in the featurette as it looked before it was color-corrected to match the 4K scan of the negative. The first disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (2:11), TV spots (1:32), radio spots (1:01), and a stills gallery (11:41).

The unrated cut is accompanied by an audio commentary by director Mihalka who reveals that the character scenes and the whodunit aspects were more of interest to him than the stalk-and-kill sequences, noting the indebtedness of his Steadicam POV shots to BLACK CHRISTMAS rather than HALLOWEEN, and that the dialogue and the script was reshaped on location as he got to know what the town's real miners did for fun. He also reveals that the town upon learning a film would be shooting at the mine went to the effort of cleaning and repainting it in bright white, necessitating that the film go over budget before it started shooting in order to bring scenic painters from Montreal to redress the mine to make it look old and dirty, as well as the decision to use dancer Paul Cowper (OH HEAVENLY DOG) to double for the killer to give him a more elegant gait and to withhold the identity of the killer from the cast (as well as to better choreograph the killings since some of them required to performer to move while also holding both victim and Steadicam). The track is rather dry, with an off-microphone moderator occasionally mumbling questions, but it is informative, supplementing the rest of the extras rather than the other way around.

The unrated disc also includes a "35th Anniversary Cast Reunion Panel At The Bay Of Blood Convention" (46:54) featuring Mihalka and actors Hallier, Cowper, Helene Udy (THE INCUBUS), Rob Stein (PICK-UP SUMMER), Jim Murchison, Kovaks, and Humphreys. Cowper discusses the choreography of some of the kills, Udy recalls replacing an actress who could not scream and having a full body cast by Burman's studio, and Kovaks and Mihalka discuss how much of his footage ended up on the cutting room floor because the MPAA told Mihalka that the sex/death scene had to be cut entirely not just a matter of frames. Actor Kovacs also performs “The Ballad Of Harry Warden” live at the same event (5:03). The cover is reversible and a slipcase is also included. (Eric Cotenas)