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'Poltergeist' Laser Disc Scarier Than Ever

By BARBARA SALTZMAN, Time Staff Writer

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Our fascination today may be on the side of the angels, but a dozen years ago far darker spirits made us shiver in our seats, thanks to Steven Spielberg.

   "Poltergeist," which he co-wrote with Michael Grais and Mark Victor, put the otherworldly into the special-effects realm of George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic. Director Tobe Hooper and co-producers Spielberg and Frank Marshall concocted a host of frightening special effects that made most of us sit up and take notice, or dive under the chair.

   If you saw only half of the scary 1982 film because you had your hands over your eyes or caught it on television or videotape in its ludicrous pan-and-scan version, MGM/UA's new letterboxed (at its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio), three-disc CAV edition ($60) is for you. Here is a chance to see it all one heart-stopping frame at a time, or even in slow motion, with full-gear Dolby Surround sound, in a beautiful transfer.

   The story of a typical suburban family (with Craig T. Nelson as the father and Jobeth Williams as the mother) doing battle against not-so-nice-guys from the other side who want their young daughter (Heather O'Rourke) is an exercise in breathtaking special effects and storytelling.

   An accompanying promotional film on "The Making of Poltergeist" gives us a glimpse of how difficult it was to pull off, but leaves us wanting more. "There was a special effect in every sequence," Spielberg notes, as we see him explaining one effect he has in mind. It's a reminder that a second audio track explaining what went into each shot and effect would have made this laser release so much more valuable. It is not enough just to add production stills and an international trailer. This was a missed golden opportunity.

[snipped-the rest of the article dealt with MCA Universal laser disc]

1994 © the Los Angeles Time

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