• Someone’s Watching Me (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: August 7th, 2018.
    Director: John Carpenter
    Cast: Lauren Hutton, David Birney, Adrienne Barbeau, Charles Cyphers, Grainger Hines, Len Lesser
    Year: 1978
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    Someone's Watching Me - Movie Review:

    Released to television screens around North American in 1978 just before Halloween made him a star director, John Carpenter’s Someone’s Watching Me takes place in Los Angeles where we meet a recent transplant named Leigh Michaels (Lauren Hutton). When the film begins, she’s just moved into a fancy new apartment complex. She’s recently split up with her boyfriend and makes her living as a television director. It’s at her job that she befriends Sophie (Adrienne Barbeau). Leigh fits in pretty quickly in her new digs, and soon she’s even dating a dashing professor named Paul Winkless (David Birney).

    Leigh’s luck changes pretty quickly when it turns out she’s got a bit of a ‘peeping tom’ problem. It starts off with a few odd phone calls and then things start arriving in the mail under the guise of them being prizes for contests she never entered. The cops are no help, but the telescope that she ‘won’ turns out to be more useful than she realized. As Leigh’s admirer’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, she realizes that she’s in danger and sets out to figure out who is watching her, why and how to get it to stop.

    A strong thriller that is, at times, reminiscent of Rear Window, Someone’s Watching Me is a tense and well-acted film that showcases Carpenter’s impressive directorial skills. Working from his own script, this made for TV movie does a great job of keeping us engaged in the narrative while slowly – but not too slowly – building tension. The story is also clever, keeping us guessing as to what’s really going on in the film and painting some interesting comparisons between Leigh and her stalker, particularly during the last half hour or so of the feature. This isn’t a horror film in the way that Halloween or The Fog are horror films, it’s definitely more of a psychological thriller, but shows here a real knack for handling this type of material, making you wonder why he didn’t wind up making more straight thrillers in his career than he did.

    Performances are admirable across the board. Lauren Hutton is likeable in the lead, she’s plucky but also charming and amiable. As the story progresses she rises to the occasion, her acting increasing in intensity as the storyline calls for it. Recognizable TV actor David Birney is fine as the love interest, we can see why she likes him. It’s fun to see Carpenter regular (and future wife – they’d get married a year after this movie was made) Adrienne Barbeau show up here. She’s not the star but she gets a very fine supporting part and makes the most of it, cast against type as a lesbian (fairly atypical for a made for TV movie of this era). Supporting parts for Charles Cyphers (who many will recognize for his role as Brackett in Halloween), Grainger Hines (who seemed to pop up in every TV show that aired in the eighties!) and prolific character actor Len Lesser are also worth mentioning for how they’re able to round out the cast quite effectively.

    Someone's Watching Me - Blu-ray Review:

    Someone’s Watching Me arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory taken from a new 2K scan of original 35mm film elements presented in both 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 aspect ratio options on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Which options looks better, in terms of its framing, is really going to come down to personal preference – the 1.33.1 option obviously accurately represents its made for TV roots, while the 1.85.1 reduces some of the excess head room in certain shots and looks more theatrical. Either way, the image quality here is excellent. The picture has a nice amount of natural film grain but very little in the way of actual print damage, it’s quite clean. Detail is very strong, texture and depth as well. Skin tones look great and the color reproduction looks very accurate – no issues there. The image is also free of obvious compression issues and there are no noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement problems to complain about. This looks great.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, is of perfectly fine quality. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and the levels are properly balanced. There are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion. Range is, understandably, limited by the original recording but this is a solid older single-channel mix.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary with author Amanda Reyes, author of Are You In The House Alone?: A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999 and host of the Made For TV Mayhem podcast. Reyes knows her stuff and delivers a lot of information in an engaging and entertaining manner. She covers everything from how the film did in the ratings to the different bit part players that pop up in the film to the lead roles to how the movie compares to other made for TV thrillers from around the same time period. There’s also talk, of course, of Carpenter’s direction and script, the score, the camera work and lots more.

    From there, dig into a new interview with Adrienne Barbeau: Looking Back at Someone’s Watching Me that runs just short of eleven-minutes in length. Here the actress talks about how and why she wound up in the role, working with Carpenter on the picture and what she learned from the experience she got from this project. After that, we get Carpenter’s Enforcer, a new ten-minute interview with Charles Cyphers on his career in John Carpenter’s films. He and Carpenter go way back, so there’s talk here about working on Assault on Precinct 13, his work on Halloween, acting in Someone’s Watching Me, his legacy in genre films and more. Also new to this disc is an installment of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds in which we spend seven-minutes poking around the locations that were used for the production as they exist now, comparing and contrasting them to how they look in the film itself. These featurettes are always interesting, this installment is no exception.

    Carried over from the older DVD release is the six-minute John Carpenter: Director Rising featurette, in which Carpenter talks about what inspired the story that turned into the film, casting the picture, writing the picture and more. Rounding out the extras on the disc are an original TV promo for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    Someone's Watching Me - The Final Word:

    Someone’s Watching Me holds up, a taut Hitchcockian thriller made with a fair bit of style and featuring some strong acting. Shout! Factory has done an excellent job bringing this underrated entry in John Carpenter’s filmography to Blu-ray with a beautiful transfer and a nice selection of extras – highly recommended!

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