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by Guido Henkel

Yesterday New Line Home Video hosted an exciting press event to exclusively unveil their upcoming “Nightmare On Elm Street” DVDs to an eclectic mix of journalists. Opening the presentation with the final scenes from the first of the films, they welcomed their guests at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to set the right mood for the things to come.

“Nightmare On Elm Street”, as often stressed by company representatives, is the essence of New Line, the franchise that helped grow the studio into what it is today. From an esoteric independent, New Line has come a long way to become a well-recognized name in the film industry, constantly delivering refreshingly interesting films.

“Nightmare On Elm Street is our time-capsule,” are the words New Line used to open the actual presentation, making it immediately clear that New Line is very proud of the Freddy franchise, and is dedicated to make sure it stands out at any cost. With the re-release of the entire “Nightmare On Elm Street” series in September, New Line is hopeful to completely satisfy the wishes of all fans of the films, as well as attract completely new fans to the Freddy phenomenon. It has been 15 years since Freddy first haunted the dreams of the Elm Street children and many of today’s teenagers have never had the chance to actually see the movies or any of its sequels. Many of the films had been out of print for a long time and hard to find, and the series’ parts 2 - 5 had not been in control of New Line, making a concerted release impossible until recently.

The “Nightmare On Elm Street” box set we are about to see on DVD has been in the making for a full two years and will contain all seven parts of the Nightmare series, including Wes Craven’s more mature take on the material in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”. It also contains an additional eighth disc that is stuffed with supplements. None of the bonus material will be on any of the film discs, but accumulated on this one disc, giving people over 4 hours of additional footage. With its tons of supplements, the 16x9 transfers and the new 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks, New Line feels that this release is one of the most exciting ones since the launch of DVD. To prove it, they will also put quite some marketing power behind the release, generating some 50 million consumer impressions for the films. It will be trailered on the upcoming “Diablo II” and “Half Life” computer games, as well as the “Austin Powers 2” DVD. There will be coupons, advertising on AOL and in print ads, and much more. All is done in order to target male 18-24 year olds, the “Scream” generation who will now be introduced to Freddy’s nightmares.

Michael Mulvihill, New Line’s executive director of DVD development unveiled some of the facts behind the creation of this mammoth box set. “Parts 2 - 5 of the series came back to New Line on December 31, 1997,” he explains, “and we immediately started working on the re-release of the entire series.” Initially New Line simply tried to create a 40-minute documentary with all the directors involved, but new ideas sprung up as the project evolved and now we’re looking at hours of solid material that has been added to the release.

All films in the series have been remastered in high definition, from which then the 16x9 enhanced transfers for the DVDs were derived. All films have been remixed to 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtracks, although the original soundtracks will also be supplied on the discs. The original “Nightmare On Elm Street” and part 7, “Wes Craven’s New nightmare” will contain commentary tracks by director/writer Wes Craven, director of photography Jacques Haitkin, stars Heather Langenkamp, and John Saxon. As a special treat the 6th installment in the series “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” will contain the original 3D ending from the theatrical run. Alternatively viewers can also select the flat 2D version and access the 3D segment isolated through the special features menu on the disc. The 3D segment is a nice gimmick and works on this disc just as well as it did in theaters, although New Line admits there have been some technical difficulties making this happen. It is great and very satisfying for a Freddy fan like myself to see with which reverence New Line is treating the entire series, by adding details like this.

All discs in the box set will be single-layer, single-sided discs and only the 8th disc with supplements will be dual-layered. The discs with the films will not contain any notable extras other than cast & crew biographies, which are taken from the original theatrical press packages. This brings up an interesting aspect of the first part of the series however. New Line CEO Robert Shaye never thought “Freddy” would be really important and always felt the theme of the film would be what excited people. As a result during its original theatrical run Freddy was completely downplayed and Robert Englund did not even have a biography entry in the press package at the time. Incidentally neither did Johnny Depp for his part as Glen Lantz. Well, today, we all know better, but once again it is remarkable how authentic New Line stays to the material and does not include Robert Englund’s biography on the disc for the first part.

That takes us to the ominous 8th disc in the mix, the one that is stuffed with extras, the disc that will make every fan of the series salivate in anticipation. After seeing some of the material during the presentation there can be no doubt that this disc will satisfy everything you ever wanted to know about the “Nightmare On Elm Street” series.

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The disc, called “The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia”, is presented in three separate parts. The first one is called “Primetime”, derived from Freddy’s remark in the 3rd installment “Dream Warriors”. It is a 45-minute documentary covering many aspects of he series and New Line Cinema as well. It explains how everything came together, how New Line’s Robert Shaye helped shape the nightmare that turned out to be his good luck charm. “The House That Freddy Built” was long the name New Line Cinema was associated with, and in this featurette you will learn what lead to Freddy’s success and how the series evolved. It looks incredibly well done and researched with plenty of interviews with cast & crew members, as well as other industry people. Interestingly a small segment with Sean Cunningham, the creator of the “Friday the 13th” series, was shown during the presentation, in which he explained that no one at the time had faith in Wes Craven’s ideas to bring Freddy to the silver screen.

The second segment is the “Labyrinth”. It is an original game, based on the series. It almost looks like a photo-realistic first person computer game in the vein of “Eye Of The Beholder” and quickly proves to be a good looking game that incorporates real adventure gaming elements with images from the series. It is completely navigatable through your remote control and plays on every DVD Video player. According to Mark Rance, the producer of the entire Elm Street DVD line, it will take experienced players about 5 and a half hours to play through the entire game. It looks like an interesting experience that seems to use your knowledge of the series’ details to solve the puzzles.

Then there is the “Index” section that will give you access to a plethora of bonus materials for each of the films, including alternate endings, music videos, interviews, and much, much more.

“The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia” also contains a significant DVD-ROM portion that is presented in the same feel as the settop presentation. It uses the same look and imagery for the menus as those on your DVD Video player, which is a significant step away from the sterile and cluttered-up user interface of many current DVD-ROM productions.

This section includes the complete screenplays for all seven films and allows you to watch the according scenes from the film in a small window as you read the script. Very neat, and once again a notch above current fare that forces you to break out of the script environment to view the scenes. With the help of the “Internet Movie Database”, New Line is also able to present very complete cast & crew biographies for all the films in a presentation that looks like an offline version of the IMDB website.

There’s also a trivia game on each of the discs. It consists of 60 “Nightmare On Elm Street” trivia questions for every movie and the player will be presented with 20 randomly picked ones when playing the game. Answer 13 of them correctly and you will get a code. Once you have the codes from all 7 films, you can use them to play another game on the 8th disc that will eventually give you access to some more bonus materials on that disc and lets you participate in an online sweepstakes!

To round up the entire box set, New Line is also inserting a new 36-page commemorative booklet about the “Nightmare On Elm Street” series in the release. It contains the original production notes for the films’ publicity press kits and introductions by Robert Shaye (Producer, Founder CEO NL) and Robert Englund.

At the end of the presentation New Line then launched the official “Nightmare On Elm Street” website which can be found at www.nightmareonelmstreet.com from now on. It contains some exciting features and information so make sure to check it out. It will also give you a great feel for what the DVDs feel like.

After the presentation a very interesting sensation befell me. It was one of real satisfaction. I had heard much about this box set before, and I knew New Line was crafting an amazing package. But seeing is believing, right? Well, after seeing it first-handedly I have to admit that New Line’s plans to create a milestone DVD release are very real. The material I have been allowed to see convinced me that not only will this be the ultimate “Nightmare On Elm Street” release, it will once again set a new standard for other DVD releases to come.

Thanks go out to New Line Home Video manifold. For allowing us to take a look at this upcoming release, but more importantly for giving the “Nightmare On Elm Street” series the treatment it deserves. Firmly embedded in the culture of the teens and twens of the 80s, I have no doubt Freddy will be just as appealing to the teens and twens of the new millenium. Time to show them the real kid on the block!

 August 11, 1999

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