January 25, 2021
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:
$49.95 Blu-ray, $59.95 UHD BD;
Stars Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Victor Wong, Bobby Jacoby, Ariana Richards, Charlotte Stewart, Tony Genaro.
The original Tremors was such an unassuming creature-feature at the time of its release in 1990 that it’s hard to believe it spawned a massive franchise of seven movies and a TV show over the course of 30 years.
Of course, while that first film was the only one released in theaters, the direct-to-video follow-ups have been hugely important in maintaining its status as an iconic cult hit while expanding on the mythology of the deadly Graboids. As a result, the first film holds up remarkably well to the passage of time, maintaining a timeless quality owing to its uncomplicated depiction of small-town American life, and subsequent films’ ability to maintain that charm despite the advent of technological progress.
This new Arrow Films boxed set is a definitive archive of the original Tremors, containing a sharp new transfer of the film and a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes material.
The film stars Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as a pair of hard luck handyman servicing the small town of Perfection in the remote desert of Nevada. When the area is besieged by giant worm-like monsters called Graboids that tunnel though the ground to eat people and livestock, the surviving residents band together to defend their homes from the creatures.
While the film was shot in 1989, it seems much closer to something one might find in the mid 1990s. It also feels like a throwback to 1950s monster movies, thanks to some nice visual effects work that makes use of practical methods such as miniatures and puppets, rather than the CGI that would come along later (and be used in some of the direct-to-video sequels). The performances, creature effects and offbeat tongue-in-cheek humor make the film, and the franchise, a lot of fun.
Among the more memorable characters are Burt and Heather Gummer, a couple of doomsday preppers played by Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. The role marked the acting debut of country music superstar McEntire, while Gross was just coming off playing the pacifist left-wing dad on “Family Ties,” so playing a paramilitary survivalist was an interesting change of pace for him. Given a chance to expand the role in subsequent sequels increased Burt’s popularity with audiences to the point where he eventually became the face of the franchise — including headlining the seventh movie that just came out in October. Gross is the only actor from the original to appear in all seven films and the TV show (though he wasn’t in every episode).
Also on hand is young Ariana Richards, who would turn up three years later in a similar running-from-monsters role in Jurassic Park. Richards would also return to Perfection in 2001 for the third “Tremors” movie.
Among the tidbits gleaned from the copious retrospective bonus material, the film was developed under a variety of titles, such as Land Shark and later Beneath Perfection, the preferred title of the creators. To appeal to Japanese investors, Universal Studios changed it to the earthquake-flavored Tremors.
The movie comes with two new commentary tracks — one by director Ron Underwood and co-writers Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson; the other by fan and Tremors expert Jonathan Melville, who also contributes an essay about the history of the film’s sequels to a nice booklet included with the set.
In addition to deleted scenes, the 1996 making-of featurette and EPK profiles from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases, there are also hours of new retrospective featurettes, starting with the half-hour “Making Perfection,” a new documentary produced by Universal. “Making Perfection” includes interviews with several of the filmmakers and cast from the original film, including Bacon, Gross and Richards, and even ropes in Jamie Kennedy, a co-star of the fifth and sixth films.
Other new featurettes include a discussion of the development of the movie with co-producer Nancy Roberts; an interview with cinematographer Alexander Gruszynski; and a discussion of the music of the film with its composers.
Most interesting is a look at the visual effects, which is accompanied by some test footage.
Also included is a montage of edits made to the film to sanitize it for broadcast TV.
The only drawback to the set is that the 4K Ultra HD box isn’t a combo pack. Both the 4K and Blu-ray sets include two discs — one with the film and most of the extras, and a second with a few more supplements. The first disc is either 4K or standard Blu-ray depending on the format indicated on the box, while the bonus disc in both versions is the same standard Blu-ray. The 4K does not include a standard Blu-ray version of the film, so collectors who want that 1080p copy for whatever reason will have to decide between buying both Arrow editions, or keeping their old Universal Blu-rays around.
Extras on that second disc include additional “Making Perfection” interviews, a gag reel, early short films from the creators of Tremors, and footage from a 2015 Q&A event with several cast members and filmmakers conducted at a 25th anniversary screening at the Arclight Hollywood.
Other goodies in the box include a two-sided 16×20-inch poster containing the film’s original poster art on one side and the DVD art on the other; a mini-poster highlighting Graboid anatomy; and lobby cards with images from the film.