FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) and the Challenge of “Limited Edition”

Fright Night officially released on Jan 20 in a sold-out limited edition of 5000 units from Twilight Time.

The 1980’s were a pretty magical time, representing a golden age of sorts. Sure, for many of us thirty-somethings this has more than a little to do with nostalgia, but that’s only part of the equation. Movies were endlessly creative, and still looked like movies. Not only were films still shot on film, but practical effects were in their heyday.

1984 brought a trio of genre classics in Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and A Nightmare on Elm Street — three films at different places on the horror-comedy scale that managed to plant themselves into the mainstream. Though less well known, 1985’s Fright Night feels like a natural follow-up to these films with its youthful protagonist, colorful characters, and well-crafted creature effects and makeup.

As reports of murders and missing persons increase, horror movie-loving teenager Charley Brewster becomes suspicious that his new next door neighbor Jerry, a nocturnal man who seems to have lots of ladies visit — is a vampire. His girlfriend Amy and classmate “Evil Ed” think he may be crazy, as do the police who ignore his concerns. (Evil Ed is quite possibly the most annoying character to ever appear in a movie, yet his character arc is so compelling that I kind of like the guy).

The film has clever references to vampire lore, and incidentally does a better job of nailing the paranoia of Stoker’s Dracula-Harker dynamic better than any filmed adaptation of “Dracula” has ever done. The best callback, though, is Charley’s favorite TV star: vampire hunter Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), whose on-screen persona is equal parts Van Helsing and Svengoolie (and whose name seems to directly reference Peter Cushing and Vincent Price). Charley enlists Vincent to help repel the vampire, not knowing that the actor’s skittish personality couldn’t be further from his heroic screen persona. McDowall’s best trademark feature is his wide-eyed stares, and he gets plenty of chances to use them here.

The final showdown of Charley and Peter against the vampire and his minions is an exciting and effects-laden sequence of goopy thrills, with the grotesque nature of the violence adding some chaotic fun to the scares.

Thoughts On This Twilight Time Release

This second Blu-ray edition of Fright Night was released on Jan 20 in a sold-out limited edition of 5000 units from Twilight Time.

When reviewing new home video releases, it’s always with at least one eye on putting forth the determining factors, if not a more outright opinion, to equip readers to decide whether this might be something they’d want to buy for themselves. With this edition of Fright Night, we find ourselves in the strange position of reviewing something that you can’t purchase, not even at Twilight Time’s premium pricing, except on the secondary market. The release history on this title is such an unusual one that it behooves us to acknowledge it.

The search for a copy.

Twilight Time, for those not aware, is a boutique distributor which reverses the traditional high-volume/low-price strategy. They make very low runs of 3,000 units (occasionally 5,000), which sell for $30. Since they’re available exclusively by mail, the cost to consumers is a few dollars higher with shipping included. They also differ from typical retail releases in that there is no product cycle with eventual markdowns, and sales are rare. It’s unusual to purchase a TT disc for less than the original MSRP. Many titles sell out, sometimes immediately if the film is a particularly popular one.

The idea of limited editions is not a unique one; other distributors like Vinegar Syndrome, Scorpion Releasing, Code Red DVD, and Retromedia also engage in this practice. So why does Twilight Time often get singled out for criticism? To be fair, there are a couple reasons. These distributors focus on niche-interest films, particularly grindhouse fare and exploitation, whereas TT’s output is of much greater general mainstream interest. Additionally, TT’s premium pricing presents a higher barrier to purchasers.

That’ll be $35, plus your immortal soul.

I’ve covered a number of Twilight Time titles, and for the most part I leave my editorializing at the door because I’m here to fairly review the Blu-ray, not its distribution channel. In reviewing these products, I’ve come to respect the amount of work and care that goes into many of these releases, which not only include legacy DVD features where possible, but often newly produced commentaries and featurettes (though some discs are also released barebones). Additionally, I’ve come to greatly admire Julie Kirgo, who (in addition to running the place) writes a booklet featuring an insightful essay on each film — a tradition much appreciated by anyone lucky enough to own multiple releases. For any faults one might find with Twilight Time, it’s clear the people behind it genuinely love these films.

Twilight Time released Fright Night on a fairly barebones Blu-ray edition in December of 2011; one of their first Blu-ray releases. The 3000 units quickly vanished, drawing the ire of many collectors caught unaware. I know this rage because I felt it, man. After all, it released alongside the remake, so surely the studios involved had to have some idea that there would be significant interest in the original. Even without the remake, it’s a well-loved film and horror fans simply tend to collect, repurchase, and obsess over movies more than fans of mainstream fare.

Fan Rage!

Therein, incidentally, lies the rub. Boutique distributors are obviously going to release the best and most profitable titles they can, so in that sense it’s nonsensical to blame them for distributing a popular product. In fact it’s their ability to put out these sell-through hits which helps grease the skids for lesser-known titles to also see the light of day. Any blame for their film selections should be placed directly on studios that license out their titles either from a lack of faith in their product, or the ineptitude to discern their audience.

Back off, kid. I’m busy mastering Amazing Spider-Man 2!

Predictably for anyone who showed up for the first day of Econ 101, the high demand and low supply of Fright Night drove up its value, fetching high prices of $100+ on the secondary market, and it quickly became the go-to title in criticizing Twilight Time. While helpful in bringing lesser known and forgotten films to light, their high-priced, limited release strategy can not only artificially restrict supply when considering popular and collectable genre titles like Rollerball or Night Of The Living Dead, but also diminish the awareness and accessibility of mainstream hits like As Good As It Gets or Sleepless in Seattle, which under normal circumstances should be in the $7.99 bin at Best Buy. The prices are high, and this effect is doubled when considering series titles like Our Man Flint and In Like Flint, which really should have been released as a double feature instead of separate titles totaling a staggering $60 plus shipping.

Sticker shock.

With the release of Chuck Russell’s The Blob last year, Twilight Time made an important step in recognizing customer feedback. Knowing that demand for the horror classic would be high, they expanded their pressing from their usual 3000 units to 5000. The difference doesn’t sound like much in terms of units, but was a substantial increase of 67%. This allowed the run to still be very limited, but put an additional 2000 copies into customers’ hands, not to mention actually having some product available on the release date. They’ve also implemented per-customer limits on some titles to discourage scalping, allowing more genuine buyers to get in on the action.

Rare collectible… Must resist… Urge to unwrap…

Fright Night continues this practice as the second disc to get the larger 5000 print run, but even more significantly, this is their first re-release within the Blu-ray format. Considering the original pressing, this brings the total to 8000 copies between the two editions. Clearly Twilight Time is listening to the complaints of many collectors who wanted a copy of this film for themselves. Besides the influx of new product, we could potentially see a freeing up of the older edition as collectors let them go in favor of the newer, better one. The only potential downside to this move is to original purchasers who held a rare item that has lost some of its lustre and value — but that’s just a constant reality of our hobby.


The Package

This 30th Anniversary Special Edition of Fright Night is differentiated by a transparent white case instead of the usual blue. It includes several new features not available on the earlier TT edition. It’s a visually striking package that looks great and feels “new” while still keeping the classic poster art.

Special Features and Extras

The features on this disc are quite strong: an hour-long panel discussion, a Tom Holland interview with STYD’s Ryan Turek, and a huge vintage EPK with some amazing (albeit low-quality) footage.

Fright Night Reunion Panel (54:32)
 First ever reunion panel from Fear Fest 2 (2008), featuring Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Amanda Bearse, Jonathan Stark, and moderated by Rob Galluzzo. This feature’s widescreen image is presented in an old-fashioned matted 4:3 SD, which appears double-matted on widescreen displays.

Shock Til You Drop Presents Choice Cuts — With Tom Holland and Ryan Turek (28:18)
 Part 1 / Choice Cuts Ep XXII (10:42)
 Part 2 / Choice Cuts Ep XXIII (6:52)
 Part 3 / Choice Cuts Ep XXV (10:44)

Vintage EPK (94:52)
 This apparently VHS-sourced EPK has a wealth of crazy stuff, though there’s some redundancy. There’s also a visual timer which displays throughout the entire length of the EPK. The chapters are encoded so you can skip right to a particular segment.
 1. US Review Acclaim
 2. Music Video (English Titles)
 3. Music Video (Spanish Titles)
 4. The Making Of…… Fright Night Music Video
 5. Featurette: A Vampire For The 80’s (Roddy McDowall Intro)
 6. Featurette: A Vampire For The 80’s (Without Intro)
 7. Newswraps 1–4
 8. Richard Edlund Feature
 9. Open End Interviews: Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall
 10. TV Scene Clips (7)

Stills And Memorabilia Gallery From The Tom Holland Archives

Original Theatrical Trailer (“G” Rated) (1:23)

Original Theatrical Trailer (“R” Rated) (1:26)

A/V Out.

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 [Blu-ray] | [Instant]

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