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When a Stranger Calls / Happy Birthday to Me [Blu-ray] [US Import]

4.1 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: MILL CREEK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00AUPSR14
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 78,413 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Sheesh! STILL have to stick these clarifications at the top of reviews in case this review gets shunted onto another release...


"Have you checked the children?"

Still one of the finest opening scenes in a horror movie. Creepy and unnerving without needing to spill a drop of blood. This opening scene could cut together as a great standalone short movie. As for the rest of the film, previous times I've sat through the film what follows always came as something of an anticlimax. Essentially it reverts to showing the killer as he wanders the city after escaping the mental hospital while a retired detective (played by Charles Durning) attempts to track him down, not to apprehend him but to kill him. The film becomes more a portait of a madman than a suspenseful horror and I always felt it never really picked up the same quality until about ten minutes before the end.

This time I really enjoyed it however. Probably more so than any previous time I watched it.


Probably because the picture and sound quality on this release is first rate. Mill creek are a fairly cheap and cheerful operation but so far they have managed to stick out some great quality releases that actually look and sound great. Compared to the rotten looking dvd releases when a stranger calls looks phenomenal on Blu-ray. Lots of detail, great colour and in anamorphic widescreen. For the going price of the disc this alone would be worth shelling out for but then we also get...


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What we have here is another great value double movie pack from American cheapie label Millcreek. This release concerns horror and in particular slasher flicks and features two late 70s early 80s efforts in the form of When A Stranger Calls and Happy Birthday To Me both making their high definition debuts. Both films are reasonably good examples of the genre despite being obviously dated with Stranger being the far more unnerving film and Happy Birthday being the gorier sibling with an decidedly odd but still effective ending.
Please note that this American import is a region A locked Blu ray and will require playback on a multi-region player although I did easily get this to play on my UK Panasonic BD80 by pressing stop on the wrong region screen then hitting the '1" button followed by 'ok'. I believe this ONLY works on certain Panasonic machines so please don't take my words as gospel but it was nice to sidestep the region coding and be able to see these two films.

Millcreek's record on quality has been famously hit and miss but thankfully this to-fer is one of the better ones presenting both features in 1080p AVC MPEG 4 encoded transfers. Happy Birthday To Me is the best looking of the two with a surprising strong transfer that appears to have been sourced from well preserved elements. Framed at 1.77:1 the picture exhibits a wealth of detail in the image despite the obvious low budget of the movie and the relatively low bitrate of the encode. The bright outdoor daytime scenes looks great and thanks to solid black levels the night segments are especially strong too showcasing excellent shadow detail perfect for the bell tower and graveyard scenes as well as the low-lit interiors.
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Mill Creek grant us a double-bill of slasher-esque horror/thrillers from the golden era of the slasher. When A Stranger Calls (1979) is a well crafted film about a nut who kills a couple of kids that a young Carol Kane is baby-sitting for - she escapes with her life and he's locked up. Years later he escapes, wandering around the city as a homeless bum in between periodically knocking somebody off because his twisted mind knows no better. Eventually he becomes aware that Carol Kane's character lives in the vicinity, and now she has a couple of young kids of her own... It's not a bad way to spend an hour and a half, with the killer portrayed sympathetically well (he's quite a sad soul really, who appears to be tragically aware that he and his life are permanently messed up). It's odd the way Carol Kane, who features prominently on the front of this Blu-ray, is around for the first twenty minutes or so and then disappears for about an hour, to finally return and feature in the last act. Well photographed and ominously scored, this is a nice one to add to the archives of film collectors.

Happy Birthday To Me (1981) is closer to the traditional slasher - a group of teens are knocked off one by one (as usual) at the hands of a psychopath, while one of the girls clearly has a few deeply rooted psychological issues. At nearly two hours this could have done with being edited down by around fifteen minutes or so, but the story is reasonably good and there are a few twists to keep you on your toes, along with some nasty murders and a morbid finale. The original poster artwork would have been more desirable for the cover (rather than the Columbia Tristar DVD artwork) but I'm not going to jump on the cove-bashing bandwagon that is so popular these days.
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