"Outlander! We have your Blu-rays!"
Arrow are bringing out a box set of the first three films based on Stephen King's short story (there are eleven in all). We'll have a look at what we get altogether in a minute but right now it's time for another edition of Summarise That Franchise! Here we go:
CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) More about that in a bit
CHILDREN OF THE CORN II: THE FINAL SACRIFICE (1993) Ditto
CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST (1995) See above
CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: THE GATHERING (1996)
CHILDREN OF THE CORN V: FIELDS OF TERROR (1998)
CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC'S RETURN (1999) and yes John Franklin is back to play Isaac.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN: REVELATION (2001)
CHILDREN OF THE CORN (2009) SyFy Channel Remake
CHILDREN OF THE CORN: GENESIS (2011)
CHILDREN OF THE CORN: RUNAWAY (2018)
CHILDREN OF THE CORN (2020) Not a remake but doing the modern day thing of not bothering with a number or subtitle.
Right! Let's get on with Arrow's set:
Disc One: CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) in 4KUHD
Yes that's right. Arrow are bringing out Fritz Kiersch's low-budget adaptation of Stephen King's short story in a format that ensures the film looks the best it ever will while at the same time confirming it never looked that great anyway. But we do get a 5.1 surround mix to complement what remains one of the best 1980s horror movie music scores (from Jonathan Elias), which is a definite bonus. Most people will know the story by now: young couple (Peter Horton & Linda Hamilton) find themselves stranded in a small Nebraska town where all the adults have been murdered by the children at the behest of the unseen He Who Walks Behind the Rows. The short story is a cracker but, as Cinefantastique's review quite rightly said back in the day, George Goldsmith's screenplay has really had to steamroller it out to get it to feature running time. It's not a terrible film by any means but it's not that special either, and is most likely to be remembered with affection by those who first encountered it on VHS.
Arrow's package of extras for CHILDREN OF THE CORN is, however, very special indeed, and includes a 35 minute making of with director Kiersch and stars Courtney Gains (Malachi) and John Franklin (Isaac). Linda Hamilton gets her own 15 minute interview and there are also a stack of interviews with production designer Craig Stearns, composer Jonathan Elias (all too brief & I wish they'd sat him at a synth), producer Donald P Borchers, screenwriter George Goldsmith and even the actor whose part as 'The Blue Man' was cut. You also get two commentary tracks - one with Kiersch, Gains and Franklin with producer Terrance Kirby, and another with Justin Beahm and John Sullivan, described as a 'CHILDREN OF THE CORN historian'. There's a piece on the locations and, as an added bonus, the short film DISCIPLES OF THE CROW from 1983 which adapts the King story and predates the movie. With the transfer, sound mix and extras this disc alone makes this set worth getting.
Disc Two: CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) on Blu-ray
The same as all the above but in Blu-ray format
Disc Three: CHILDREN OF THE CORN II: THE FINAL SACRIFICE (1993)
It took nine years for a sequel to appear, and probably the most succinct explanation as to why one appeared at all is included in the interview on this disc with screenwriter A L Katz. It's the 'next day' in Gatlin and the bodies of all the murdered adults have been discovered. The surviving children get moved to the next town over where surprise surprise it all happens again, only with a much lower budget and less talent involved in pretty much every department.
However, that's not to say CHILDREN OF THE CORN II isn't worth a look, because there are moments when it achieves true Bad Film status. From some jarring dialogue ("Stupid old corn") to the wheelchair through the plate glass window scene to a very peculiar reference to Victor Fleming's THE WIZARD OF OZ, CHILDREN OF THE CORN II has enough nonsense going on to stop discerning viewers from pressing the fast forward button.
There are two audio commentaries for this film (one would think one would be pushing it) as well as interviews with the above mentioned Katz as well as director David Price and Director of Photography Levie Isaacks. As well as stills and trailers there's also a scuzzy-looking work print of the film which has been spotted with bits from other music scores presumably as a guide to composer Daniel Licht and might actually see the best use at a fan Halloween or Xmas party quizzes.
Disc Four: CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST
Two of the boys from the end of the second film (I think) end up being adopted by a couple in Chicago and one of them uses the handy abandoned factory next door to plant the suitcase full of corn he's brought with him. Shenanigans ensue, including a massive (and unfortunately massively low budget) Screaming Mad George corn monster at the climax which might have been brilliant with more money but more approaches sub FLESH GORDON / EQUINOX levels of animation.
For a film that has the potential to bring 'He Who Walks Behind the Rows' to the big city this one's rather short on imagination, and spectacle and, well, everything really. It's not actually bad enough to be entertaining in the way Part II is but the monster at the end does almost make this one worth watching.
Arrow provides more extras for yet another film we never thought would see them. For a start there are two versions of the film - the R-rated US theatrical cut and the international version that's uncut. The chocolatey tones of Guy Adams guide us through a video essay that does it's damnedest to fit the film into the eco-horror subgenre, there's a new 16 minute interview with screenwriter Dode Leveson and a new commentary track from critics Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain. Perhaps most interesting of all is 38 pages of treatments of early versions of ideas for CHILDREN OF THE CORN III. Plus you get the usual still galleries and trailers.
Arrow's limited edition box set of CHILDREN OF THE CORN
I, II, & III is out on Blu-ray and 4K-UHD for Part I on Monday 27th September 2021