• Hearse, The

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 24th, 2017.
    Director: George Bowers
    Cast: Trish Van Devere, Joseph Cotten, David Gautreaux, Donald Hotton, Med Flory
    Year: 1980
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Directed by George Bowers for Crown International in 1980, The Hearse follows a woman who lives in San Francisco named Jane Hardy (Trish Van Devere). Jane’s aunt has recently passed away and has kindly willed her the old home in the country that she lived in thirty years ago. What Jane doesn't realize is that her dear old aunt used to practice Satanism in the house, and the local townsfolk, who were aware of what was happening out there, are none too pleased to see a relative take up residence in the home. Jane's not in the greatest of mental states either - she had a bad divorce not too long ago and she still suffers from the psychological after effects of her marital trauma. Soon after she moves in, she starts seeing things, not the least of which is a creepy old funeral hearse that she quickly figures must be following her.

    As Jane tries to figure out who could be stalking her and why, she notices some strange circumstances involving her late aunt's diary, which she’s been poking through recently. She soon starts to meet some of the people in the town and quickly falls for one of the local men, Tom Sullivan (David Gautreaux). But it doesn’t end there - the local minister, Reverend Winston (Donald Hotton), might know more about what's going on here than he lets on, and then there's the matter of another local man named Walter Prichard (Joseph Cotton), a surly drunken lawyer with a mean streak in him in a mile wide…

    Directed by George Bowers, who served a lot of time as an editor on Crown titles like The Pom-Pom Girls and Van Nuys Boulevard among others, The Hearse has some nice atmosphere and features a decent, if far from amazing, performance from the likeable Van Devere. She had recently starred in The Changeling (she was actually married to George C. Scott at this point in time) just before taking this role. Joseph Cotton is good when he's in the movie but is underused for the most part, but likeable David Gautreaux makes for an interesting love interest in the film. Donald Hotton is fun here, stealing a few scenes in the film as the strange man of the cloth. A few other supporting players are worth mentioning as well. Look out for an appearance by Chuck Mitchell (he of Porky's fame), a turn from a young Donald Petrie (who would later make a big career of directing mainstream films like Miss Congeniality and Grumpy Old Men) and an appearance from Christopher McDonald (who has appeared in everything from Thelma And Louise to the eighties revamp of Matlock) in his feature film debut.

    The movie drags in a few spots and is about fifteen minutes or so longer than it probably needed to be given the quality of the premise, but the script by William Bleich, who worked almost exclusively on television scripts, manages to make things work for the most part. The movie is really well shot and makes good use of the rural locations. The camera work that involves the hearse itself is sufficiently spooky and eerie, lending some nice atmosphere to the picture – which is strange, when you consider that the atmosphere is stemming from the presence of a car, but then… this is a car that carries the dead, which is kind of a weird premise to begin with when you think about it. The film plays things pretty safe and never moves past its PG rating but when it’s all said and done The Hearse turns out to be a pretty solid B-picture when it's all said and done. Bonus points for a trippy opening title card sequence too AND for featuring the park/houses immortalized in the opening credits of Full House early in the film (click here)!


    The Hearse debuts on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 25GB disc. Taken from a 2k restoration of the original 35mm negative, the picture quality here is excellent. Detail is very strong throughout and the image is quite clean, showing almost no noticeable print damage at all. Grain appears naturally, as it should, while color reproduction seems nice and natural. Black levels are solid as well, and skin tones look lifelike and accurate. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement – just a really nice, film-like transfer. No complaints here at all.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD Mono track, with alternate subtitles offered up in English only. No problems here, the single channel track is clean, clear and nicely balanced and the score sounds pretty good too.

    The main extra on the disc is a featurette called Satan Get Behind Thee which is an interview with actor David Gautreaux. In this twenty-minute piece we learn how he was working in New York but brought to L.A. to screen test for The Omen 3, which fed his imagination when he was brought a copy of the script for The Hearse - there are devilish similarities between the two films. He didn’t land the part in The Omen 3 but he did land the role in The Hearse. He talks about auditioning for the role, lying to get the part, his Roman Catholic upbringing and what it brought to his take on the role and how this caused him some inner conflict when shooting for The Omen 3 and how he reconciled this internally, his thoughts on the part he played in The Hearse, working with George Bowers on the man’s directorial debut, how he got along with Van Devere (who he describes as a truly beautiful woman), the sex scene in the movie and how he was nervous about all of this, his admiration of Cotton and hey, there’s even a George C. Scott anecdote in here that’s pretty fun – but we won’t spoil that here. Watch the featurette for yourself! Gautreaux is a great storyteller with an interesting career. Definitely take the time to watch this, it is both entertaining and very interesting.

    Aside from that we also get the film’s original theatrical trailer, a TV spot, a nice still gallery of promotional images and ephemera, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release the clear Blu-ray keepcase also holds a DVD version of the movie with identical extras. It’s also worth noting that this disc comes packaged with some nice reversible cover art – the one sheet image on the first side and some new art from Chris Garofalo on the reverse. The first pressing of this release also comes with a sturdy embossed matte finish slipcover replicating that artwork from Garofalo.

    The Final Word:

    The Hearse is a pretty solid horror movie. Granted, it relies more on atmosphere and ambience than exploitative elements, but that’s not a bad thing. There’s a lot of spooky imagery here and some pretty solid performances, all of which make this one well worth a watch. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack looks and sounds great and contains some nice extras too. All in all, this is a really solid release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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