For whatever reason, reincarnation became a hot topic in the '70s. That made it ripe for a movie like Audrey Rose to come along. This 1977 chiller deals directly with the subject, attempting to mix a thoughtful exploration of it with the kind of thrills audiences need to pay attention to subject matter a portion of them would otherwise be inclined to dismiss. The movie comes to Blu-ray in an extras-packed edition on November 8 from Arrow Video, and it's a disc worth picking up.
Marsha Mason and John Beck are Janice and Bill Templeton, a well-to-do couple living in Manhattan with their young daughter Ivy (Susan Swift). Everywhere they go, they notice a strange man following them. He's Elliot Hoover (Anthony Hopkins), a grieving father who eventually approaches the Templetons with a shocking theory. He believes his daughter Audrey Rose, who died in a violent car accident at age 5, has been reincarnated as Ivy. He's even got evidence to back up the assertion. If true, it would certainly go a long way in explaining Ivy's frequent, inexplicable nightmares.
The first hour of Audrey Rose is terrific, building suspense from the Templetons trying to discern who Elliot is and then debating whether his claim could be true. The screenplay by Frank De Felitta, based on his novel, lays down a lot of clues and coincidences that keep you guessing. Ivy's eerie outbursts, in particular, suggest that this little girl is being troubled by something profound. Superb performances from Mason and Hopkins help ground the supernatural story in genuine human emotion.
The second hour is a bit goofier, although still reasonably entertaining. A trial is held to determine whether Elliot is guilty of kidnapping Ivy after he removes her from the Templetons' apartment without permission. That leads to an effort to scientifically determine if she is, in fact, Audrey Rose – one that involves putting her through past-life hypnotism. This half isn't as intriguing as the first, but at least it remains focused on the mystery of reincarnation.
Directed by Robert Wise of West Side Story and The Sound of Music fame, Audrey Rose has its flaws while still managing to be thoughtful and intermittently intense. The story ends on a provocative note that leaves you with something to think about. All in all, this is a movie to catch up with if you've never seen it, and Arrow's Blu-ray marks an excellent opportunity to do so.
The company has put together a first-rate package, with a wealth of supplementary material, starting with audio commentary by Jon Towlson, a noted author who specializes in writing about genre films. After that come a series of informative mini-documentaries:
“Faith and Fraud” is an interview with magician and escape artist Adam Cardone. He ebulliently discusses the themes of Audrey Rose, how they relate to real-life hypnosis, and general ideas pertaining to magic and unexplainable phenomena. Cardone has some good insights into these matters, making his segment a fun watch.
“Never Birth Nor Death” is a split-screen segment showing Manhattan locations as seen in the film on one side and as they look today on the other. It's cool to see how some have changed significantly, whereas others look exactly the same.
“I've Been Here Before” is a visual essay from film critic Lee Gambin, who explores the way reincarnation has been depicted onscreen over the years. This is a good primer on the subject and how Audrey Rose fits into it.
"Investigator – The Paranormal World of Frank De Felitta" presents the late author talking about how he came to write Audrey Rose and how a real-life paranormal experience influenced another of his books, The Entity, which later became a movie, as well.
“The Role of a Mother” brings us actress Marsha Mason, who reflects back on the making of Audrey Rose. She talks about working with director Robert Wise, trying to help young co-star Susan Swift feel comfortable on-camera, and the friendship with Anthony Hopkins that sprung from the film. Mason also delves into what drew her to the material.
“Hypnotist” features film music historian Daniel Schweiger discussing composer Michael Small's work, both on this particular movie and others.
The original theatrical trailer and a poster and stills gallery round out the package. Thoroughly informative and entertaining, the bonus materials help increase your appreciation of the movie and what it attempts to do. This is a very impressive release.
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Audrey Rose is rated PG for some intense sequences and mild language. The running time is 1 hour and 53 minutes.