(Canada - 1980)
Directed by Peter Medak. Written by William Gray and Diana Maddox. Cast: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas, Jean Marsh, John Colicos, Barry Morse, Madeleine Thornton-Sherwood, Helen Burns, Frances Hyland, Ruth Springford, Eric Christmas, Roberta Maxwell, Bernard Behrens, J. Kenneth Campbell, Michelle Martin. (R, 107 mins)
Though a huge success in its native Canada, the tax shelter-era haunted house chiller THE CHANGELING was released to middling box office in the US in the spring of 1980, sandwiched between the previous year's megahit THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and the soon-to-be-released THE SHINING. While it didn't really find an audience in American theaters, it gained a strong cult following on cable and in video stores throughout the decade. Time has been kind to THE CHANGELING, and it's held in high regard today and belongs near the top of any short list of great haunted house horror movies, often mentioned in the same breath as 1963's THE HAUNTING and 1973's THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. In a year where the horror genre was dominated by the controversy and game-changing impact of FRIDAY THE 13TH and the explosion of the slasher film, THE CHANGELING, directed by versatile career journeyman Peter Medak (THE RULING CLASS), brought a level of class and respectability thanks to the presence of revered, award-winning actors like George C. Scott and Melvyn Douglas and a notable lack of gore, exploitation, or even gratuitous post-EXORCIST/OMEN demonic histrionics (though one minor supporting character dies an OMEN-esque death late in the film). Even in 1980, THE CHANGELING felt like a bit of a throwback that didn't quite go in the direction that horror was trending, which may have diminished its commercial appeal then but almost certainly helped contribute to its ability to stand the test of time and remain as chillingly effective nearly 30 years later. The film has never been ideally represented on home video until now, thanks to Severin's recent Blu-ray release, which finally gives this classic the loving presentation it so richly deserves.
THE MEN'S CLUB, but he enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in the early 1990s with a trio of acclaimed crime thrillers with THE KRAYS, LET HIM HAVE IT, and ROMEO IS BLEEDING before settling back into hired-gun mode with the likes of SPECIES II. The now-80-year-old Medak also directed the upcoming documentary THE GHOST OF PETER SELLERS, chronicling the chaotic shooting and colossal failure of GHOST IN THE NOONDAY SUN, which has clearly haunted him over the years like the spirit of Joseph in the Chessman House.
|THE CHANGELING opening in
Toledo, OH on April 25, 1980.