• The Entity (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: June 11th, 2019.
    Director: Sydney Furie
    Cast: Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, David Labiosa, George Cole
    Year: 1981
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    The Entity – Movie Review:

    Directed by Sydney Furie from a script by Frank De Felitta based on his novel of the same name, The Entity purports, like many supernatural horror films made around the same time, to be based on a true story. In this case, it’s the Doris Bither case, wherein said woman reported to have been raped by the spirits of three dead Asian men in her California home in 1974.

    The movie starts off with a genuinely intense scene where single mother Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is beaten and raped by an unseen force in her bed late at night. He three kids hear her screams and run into the room, but no one is there with her – she has them look around the house and check the closets, but they come up empty handed. When it happens again, Carla takes her kids and flees to the home of her friend Cindy (Margaret Blye). The next day when she returns home, she’s almost killed in a strange car accident.

    At Cindy’s behest, Carlo starts seeing a psychiatrist named Dr. Phil Sneiderman (Ron Silver), but the attacks only seem to intensify and eventually she starts showing up with bruises and abrasions on her body. Sneiderman believes that these were self-inflicted and as the sessions continue we learn that Carla did have a pretty traumatic childhood, the kind that could leave mental scars on a grown woman, but again, the attacks continue and the next assault takes place in front of her three kids, one of whom is injured when he tries to interfere on his mother’s behalf. When Cindy witnesses the next attack, she starts to see things from Carla’s perspective and after a chance meeting with two paranormal investigators at a book store, the two men agree to look into her case. Soon enough, Carla’s boyfriend Jerry (Alex Rocco) also witnesses an attack. When one of her sons hears the commotion and believes Jerry to be abusing his mother, it’s enough to cause Jerry to end the relationship. Despite Sneiderman’s warnings to the contrary, as Carla creeps ever closer to her wits’ end she agrees to participate in an unorthodox experiment in which they hope to trap the entity haunting her.

    This one takes some obvious liberties in terms of how it interprets the events that Doris Bither supposedly went through, but the basic principal is the same – a woman is sexually assaulted by an unseen force and presumed to be crazy be her psychiatrist. It makes sense that those around Carla in the film would doubt her, it’s a fairly preposterous proposition in the first place. What makes The Entity interesting, and less exploitative than it would have been otherwise, is how the lead character finds strength through her experiences. Carla is weak at first, understandably upset and terrified by what has happened to her, but she gets tough and persists, even pushing back against Sneiderman, insistent on using the paranormal investigators she sees as her only hope.

    Despite an interesting but fairly ludicrous premise, the movie works quite well. At almost two hours in length the film doesn’t lag too much and Sydney Furie does a pretty solid job of building tension and suspense. Some of the effects work featured in the film’s finale haven’t aged so well, but you can’t fault a product of its time for being a product of its time. The real reason that this one works, however, is the incredibly committed performance from its lead. Barbara Hershey is remarkably convincing here, really putting herself into the role and delivering some seriously impressive acting. The supporting cast are fine too, but really, this is Hershey’s show for the most part and she makes the most of it.

    The Entity – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings The Entity to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Not much to complain about here, this is a solid film-like effort with a good bit rate and strong black levels. Detail isn’t typically outstanding the way that the best HD presentations are but this certainly rises about what DVD could provide, especially in close up shots which tend to fare better than medium and long-distance shots. Colors are nicely reproduced and the image shows no evidence of noise reduction or edge enhancement. Grain appears natural throughout and the image is quite clean, showing very little in the way of print damage, just the odd white speck now and again. Compared to the Umbrella Blu-ray release it’s a little bit darker, but it maybe looks a little more natural for that reason.

    Audio options are provided in DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1 (which played with the original 70mm version of the movie theatrically and is not available on any of the other Blu-ray releases at the time of this writing) with subtitles offered in English only. That 4.1 mix is quite interesting, it’s got some serious power behind it when the movie calls for it and some strong channel separation that heightens tension in a few key scenes. All three tracks are clean, clear and properly balanced, free of any hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary with author/filmmaker Daniel Kremer, the man wrote Sidney J. Furie: Life And Films. This is a very thorough track that covers not just Furie’s work on this picture, though that is the focus, but also his career as a whole. Kremer is very well-informed about all of this and he does a great job of explaining how and why Furie came to be involved in the film, his style and where his picture falls in his interesting filmography. He also covers contributions from the cast and crew as well as some background on the Doris Birther case that inspired Frank De Felitta’s book and quite a bit more.

    Shout! Factory has also included a few all new nineteen-minute featurettes starting with Inner Strength, which is an interview with actress Barbara Hershey. This is an excellent piece where she goes into quite a bit of detail about her work on the film. She explains what appealed to her about the story and the script, offers some insight into the events that inspired the movie and offers plenty of information about what it was like filming the movie’s infamous rape scenes.

    Up next is Seeing Is Believing, which interviews actor David Labiosa four fourteen-minutes. He speaks here about how he landed the role after doing some TV work, how excited he was to work with Hershey and Silver, how he and Silver in particular got along during the shoot, complications that arose from an onset injury, some of the material that the filmmakers wanted him to act in that didn’t wind up being shot and quite a bit more.

    Composer Charles Bernstein shows up next in High Dread wherein he talks for seventeen-minutes about collaborating with Furie on the film, his creative process, what goes into scoring a film, how it always seems to be his horror movie projects that people want to discuss with him, his thoughts on the picture and his appreciation for what Hershey was able to bring to her role in the film.

    Lastly, editor Frank J. Urioste shows up for twelve-minutes to discuss his work in Spirits & Sprocket Holes. He talks here about how he come to collaborate with Furie and what it was like working with the storied filmmaker, his background, a bit on how he got into the business, what writer Frank De Felita went through while working on the book and a fair bit more.

    Carried over from the old Anchor Bay DVD release is The Entity Files, a twenty-seven-minute featurette that interviews parapsychologist Dr. Barry Taff alongside one of the investigators who worked on the actual case on which the film was based. It’s an interesting piece that explains the differences between the case and how things were portrayed in the movie.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film’s original theatrical trailer, a Trailers From Hell entry featuring commentary from director Luca Guadagnino (the director of the 2018 version of Suspiria), a few TV spots, a still gallery, some radio spots, menus and chapter selection. Shout! Factory also provides some nice reversible cover art and, for the first pressing, a collectible slipcover.

    The Entity – The Final Word:

    The Entity was thoroughly trashed by critics when it was first released, but over time it’s rightly developed a decent sized cult following. The film isn’t perfect but it is interesting and Barbara Hershey is frighteningly convincing here – her performance is very good. Shout! Factory has done a great job bringing this to Blu-ray in a nice presentation on a disc stacked with extra features.

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