It’s not often that I get a Blu-ray version of such a old film, especially one that could be considered a black sheep somewhat. Disney has been releasing a lot of lesser-known titles on Blu-ray through their Disney Movie Club service that I’d never imagine would get such a high quality treatment, such as The Black Hole, Return to Oz, and of course, The Black Cauldron.
I’ve been a subscriber of Disney Movie Club for a few years now, and picked up a couple of exclusive titles from there. One of my favorites is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So they’ve been great at taking old films and giving them the nice Blu-ray treatment. And I must say, the quality on these is top-notch. It’s clear they didn’t do just an upscale of the DVD. If I had to guess, they went back and did an original scan of the prints. The DVD for 20k had some audio/video sync issues, but they’re all fixed up here. And of course they look gorgeous.
The Black Cauldron is a classic film for me for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s one of the few movies we went and saw in the theater when I was really young. It came out in 1985, which means I would have been 9 years old at the time. And of course this movie is so dark and scary that I remember it quite well. I loved it.
Because it’s so dark, it got a PG rating, something unheard of at the time. The next movie to get a PG rating that was an animated film wasn’t until 1998, with DreamWorks Studio’s film Antz. So that was a first for Disney. That this movie even got approved is pretty impressive.
I’ve never read much growing up, but I did read the Chronicles of Prydain, a five-book set by Lloyd Alexander, where The Black Cauldron is the second book. The only things really fictional / fantasy back then that I read was also the Chronicles of Narnia. So this was right down my alley.
So how does the picture look? It’s gorgeous. I’m not much for writing fancy Blu-ray movie reviews, or movie reviews in general for that matter, but I am a particular videophile and I can tell when things look nice or not, and this one is good. I only skimmed through parts of this so I could get this blog post out, and I can’t wait to see the whole thing. I watched it not too long ago already on DVD, so I’m going to wait until my brain resets and forgets it.
Another reason this is a favorite, is that I had a print of the movie poster years and years ago that I framed. The poster itself is gorgeous as well. I think I got it around when I was 20 or so, when I used to work at movie theaters. I had a collection of posters back in the day.
If you haven’t seen it, the movie is dark. Even by today’s standards it would be a scary movie for kids to watch, and I can’t think of anything contemporary that would still come close. Disney does a good job of keeping it light hearted at the same time, with cool characters that are fun, but you still have a demon king who wants to enslave the world, and how cool is that?
I can’t remember if I ever had the soundtrack or not. It was released on CD, and back in the day I collected a ton of them as well. Things sometimes get purged by my collection because I’ll have a fit of OCD (obsessive / compulsive disorder) where I’ll decide that I have stuff that’s wrong or what-not. Moral OCD is something I struggle with on and off. I call that mode of my brain ‘Puritan Steve’ because it can honestly take anything and prove it morally wrong. Of the OCD, I have the obsessive part … I honestly couldn’t imagine life with the compulsive part, which I don’t have.
I’ve only had about three major episodes in my life, I call them a ‘purge-ocalpyse’. One time I decided to get rid of ALL my DVDs, which fortunately at the time weren’t that many. I can’t remember the reason why. I think I wanted to go back to a simpler point in time where all I had that was entertaining was my senior high school year where my favorite thing was reading my English class textbook (which I still have by the way, it’s pretty awesome). Then there was the time I decided to get rid of everything I bought that put me in debt (although, confusingly, it was all paid off by that time …) and ended up taking my 5.1 surround sound system and other things to the thrift store for donation. The third one, something triggered it which I can’t remember quite well, but I got rid of about half my DVDs and soundtracks. Having OCD really sucks. I don’t recommend it.
I’ve since put a few barriers in place to prevent another purge. One is the most obvious, which is medication. Once my and my doctor found the best prescription, life has been great. Another rule I have is that I can only throw away one thing a day, so that kills it as well. I also have a visual reminder for myself — I have my huge binder where I keep all my movies in, and when my head finally cleared up, and I realized the huge mistake I made, I made ‘placeholders’ for all the now discarded titles. So when I go look at my binder now, I can see the empty places among my collection which is sorted A-Z. It’s a good reminder that these episodes can be really damaging.
Anyway. The soundtrack is what I was talking about. There’s a site called Soundtrack Collector where I keep a list of everything I’ve saved up, and the album is showing up in my collection there, so I guess I never picked it up … which seems odd, this looks like one I would have grabbed back in the day when my collecting was at its height. You can grab a copy for it now on ebay for about $50. So, maybe one day I’ll pick it up. I’ve been listening to it on YouTube since I started writing this post, and it’s pretty good.
Well that’s it for the movie review part. I just want to reiterate again how gorgeous the artwork is in this time. They did a really good job on it. Not bad for the same director who worked on ‘The Fox and the Hound’, eh? Check it out. One more screenshot for good measure:
The disc does come with two special features — a deleted scene and an old Disney cartoon starring Donald Duck and his nephews in ‘Trick or Treat’. If you’re an avid Disney animation collector, you’ll want to pick this up since it comes with a very cleaned up source, that believe it or not is also in HD! It’s not uncommon for a lot of special features to come in SD so this was a nice surprise.
So if you’re looking for something cool to check out for this Halloween, check this movie out. If you’re not interested in getting a subscription to Disney Movie Club and pay a premium for this title, then it’s also streaming on Disney Plus instead. Have fun!