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Default Stepfather, The (R2 PAL)



Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: April 7, 2008

Released by: Marketing Film
Release date: 9/25/2003
MSRP: ??.??
PAL, Region 0
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



Long missing from domestic DVD, fans of the Stepfather movies have mostly had to turn to imports. While Stepfather II did receive a domestic DVD release from Buena Vista, both the original and part III remain missing in action.

In 2003, a company by the name of Marketing Film released the entire trilogy on DVD in Germany. The discs are PAL, but fortunately they are region free. A long since out of print box set was released containing the entire trilogy, but the only purchase option these days is to buy them individually from an importer such as Xploited Cinema.

Any horror fan knows that DVD imports can be hit or miss. Companies like Anchor Bay UK are reliable, but the relatively unknown (and seemingly now defunct) Marketing Film could prove to be a gamble as a blind buy. Lets take a look at their DVD release of the original Stepfather and see how it holds up.

The Story

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Henry Morrison (Terry O'Quinn) is covered in blood as he calmly prepares to leave the scene of a mass murder. A mass murder in which he is the killer; the killer of his entire family. He heads into the bathroom, strips down, showers, shaves his beard and significantly alters his appearance. He walks out the front door and catches a ferry out of town. He is ready to begin life again under the name of Jerry Blake.

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Jerry relocates to Oakridge, Washington and marries Susan Maine (Shelly Hack). Susan became a widow the year prior; she has a daughter named Stephanie (Jill Schoelen). Jerry is excited to once again have a family. While it's far from perfect, Jerry believes he has finally found the right family to settle down with. Stephanie is not so keen to be part of Jerry's new family, however, and resists any and all affection from Jerry. Since her father's death, Stephanie attends regular therapy sessions with Dr. Bondurant (Charles Lanyer). She confides in Dr. Bondurant that Jerry scares her, and that she believes he is hiding something.

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Back in the town of the mass murder, Jim Ogilvie (Stephen Shellen) begins investigating Morrison's disappearance and hopes to hunt him down. Ogilvie is the maiden name of Morrison's wife; Henry Morrison killed Jim's sister and Jim's hoping for revenge. He believes that Morrison prepared for a new life just prior to the murders. His investigation brings him to the town of Oakridge, where he believes Morrison is now residing.

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Jerry's picture perfect family begins to become just that. Even Stephanie begins to warm up to Jerry after the mysterious death of her doctor. The perfect family begins to crack when Jerry catches Stephanie kissing a boy at their front door. Jerry snaps, insisting the boy was trying to rape her. All progress he has made with Stephanie is gone. Jerry realizes that all hope is lost for this family. He starts making plans to relocate once again. As he prepares to dispose of his family, Jim shows up and throws a wrench into his plans. Jerry one ups Jim, however, and now Stephanie and her mom must face Jerry on their own.

The story in Stepfather is nothing exceptional. If anything, it's bland. There's not much too it. Man finds fault in family, kills family, and then is off to find another family to start the cycle again. In reality we know there is no perfect family, which is what makes Jerry crazy. He refuses to accept this, or is simply unable to do so. I'm not sure. The real draw to Stepfather is the characters, not the story.

The character of the stepfather is certainly what drives the movie, and it's O'Quinn's performance that seals the deal. He plays the role to perfection. On the outside he a seemingly normal, loving stepfather. But when he loses it, he loses it. It's easy to relate to him, and even root for him. All he wants is happiness. As a viewer, even knowing the guy is a homicidal maniac, we are happy when he finds it. When the family fails to maintain its perfection, you can't help but feel for the guy. The story briefly hints to a troubled childhood as the cause of Jerry's insanity, but it never delves any deeper, which is just fine by me. A back story is wasted screen time. The movie instead focuses on the present Jerry and the Maine family.

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The supporting cast gives admirable performances as well. Stephen Shellen doesn't sell the role of the vengeful brother too well, but Jill Schoelen is great as the suspicious stepdaughter.

The gore and even the amount of killings are slim, but if you're a fan of trillers, you are bound to enjoy Stepfather. Recommended.

Image Quality

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The DVD has been released in its original 1:85:1 aspect ration and it is 16x9 enhanced. Marketing Film did a great job with the transfer. I owned the P&S laserdisc and can tell you that this DVD blows it away. Having said that, the transfer on the DVD is not without its flaws. The image overall is sharp throughout much of the movie, but there are some scenes that appear soft and lacking in detail. The same can be said for grain, which pops up in a handful of the darker scenes. Colors are somewhat subdued but that is due to the source material, not the transfer. No print damage was found. This is easily the best transfer of Stepfather to date.

Sound

There are two German tracks Dolby 2.0 and Dolby 5.1. The track reviewed here is the English Dolby 2.0 track. There's not much in regards to channel separation, but the track is clear and audible at all times. No distortion was heard.

Supplemental Material

Standard extras are included here. First up are theatrical trailers, one in English and one in German. Next are sideshows and artwork from the various home video releases. Biographies for Terry O'Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, and Joseph Ruben are included. The original opening both in German and English are included. Sadly there's nothing to either opening; they are simply a rehash of the opening shot that pans up to the house. Bizarre. Rounding out the supplements are some theatrical trailers to other Marketing Film releases.

Final Thoughts

Until Stepfather is released here in the United States, this is the disc to own. It has a good audio and video presentation plus a few extras to boot. The story itself is enjoyable thanks to a solid performance by O'Quinn. If you haven't seen it, I would recommend doing so. This disc is a good place to start.

Rating

Movie - B
Image Quality - B+
Sound - A-
Supplements - C

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Rated R
  • German Dolby 5.1
  • German Dolby 2.0
  • English Dolby 2.0
  • Dolby Surround 2.0
  • Chapter Stops
Supplements
  • German Trailer
  • US Trailer
  • Slideshow
  • Artwork
  • Original German Opening
  • Original UK Opening

 

 

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Old 04-07-2008, 10:30 AM
Maniac
maybe it's advisable to wait for buying this, since there is going to be a new R2 release of this and the sequel in the Benelux in the series 'Mr. Horror', a Dutch enterprise by Jan Doense.
 
 

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