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The Hunger: DVD Savant Review

The movie “The Hunger,” directed by Tony Scott, faced initial criticism due to various misconceptions. Scott, known for his work in commercials and music videos, was unfairly accused of riding on the coattails of his successful brother, Ridley Scott.

The Hunger


Warner Archive Collection
1983 / Color / 2:40 enhanced widescreen / 96 min. / Street Date August 18, 2015 / available through the WBshop / 21.99
Starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff De Young, Beth Ehlers, Dan Hedaya, Rufus Collins, Ann Magnuson, Shane Rimmer, Bessie Love, John Pankow, Willem Dafoe.
 Stephen Goldblatt
Production Design Brian Morris
Special Makeup Effects Dick Smith
Art Director Clinton Cavers
Set Decorator Ann Mollo
Costume Design Milena Canonero
Film Editor Pamela Power
Original Music Denny Jaeger, Michel Rubini
Written by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas from the novel by Whitley Streiber.
Produced by Richard Shepherd
Directed by Toni Scott

The Hunger: DVD Savant Review
The Hunger

Tony Scott’s The Hunger has been unfairly criticized since its inception. Scott, known for his work in TV commercials and music videos, was accused of capitalizing on his brother Ridley Scott’s success.

The film appears to be a perfect opportunity for marketers, featuring a modern take on vampires before the genre’s commercialization, an artistic approach, renowned actors, and the promise of provocative scenes.

Whitley Streiber’s novel adopts a contemporary approach to vampires, depicting them as semi-human, functionally immortal, but with constraints.

The main character, Miriam Blaylock, an ancient vampire, can pass on her sanguine addiction and enhanced longevity to chosen individuals.

As her current companion faces rapid aging, she seeks a new one in Dr. Sarah Roberts without intending to offer her a choice.

Streiber’s Wolfen was recently adapted into a somewhat unconventional horror thriller that received little attention. The Hunger was an easy target for critical scrutiny, primarily focused on style.

It resembles a commercial or a perfume advertisement, with meticulous attention to visual details, including settings, costumes, makeup, and elegant cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt.

Commercial directors are determined to achieve precise visuals, and Goldblatt demonstrates a level of accuracy that visually aligns movies directed by a wide range of filmmakers, including Francis Coppola and John Patrick Shanley.

Tony Scott’s direction begins with a literal Bauhaus music video, incorporating the disco-punk song ‘Bela Lugosi is Dead’ with relevant images of the character Miriam Blaylock.

The use of atmospheric effects, such as shooting through screens, nets, gratings, and flowing curtains, saturates the screen.

Each composition is carefully crafted, featuring silhouettes, long shots, and extreme close-ups.

The Hunger: DVD Savant Review
The Hunger

Also, see Haskell Wexler and the Making of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

Miriam’s life resembles a continuous fashion shoot, exuding effortless elegance and sleek exteriors. There’s a little enigma to her character – Deneuve’s flawless portrayal doesn’t reveal whether her character is scheming a violent act or simply pouting.

Meanwhile, Sarandon’s doctor character is depicted in a few obligatory lab scenes, expressing concerns about her experiments involving premature aging in monkeys.

This subplot primarily aims to highlight the contrast between mortality and immortality.

Despite including unsettling video footage of an ailing monkey and a stop-motion animation sequence depicting a decaying monkey, the focus tends to wane.

We hardly take notice, even with the unsettling video of an ailing monkey and another stop-motion animation scene depicting a monkey decaying in time-lapse, akin to an ancient Morlock.

Susan Sarandon provides a captivating contrast to Deneuve, exuding a healthy and openly sexual allure.

Her appeal extends beyond her boyfriend, Cliff De Young; anyone would be drawn to her, with her appealing neck and great short hairstyle. There is an eager anticipation for the anticipated intimate scenes between Miriam and Sarah.

The Hunger: DVD Savant Review
The Hunger

Every visual element is meticulously crafted to enhance the neo-Gothic allure and avoid mundane details. Despite the considerable amount of spilled blood, there is never a concern about disposing of bodies.

Miriam’s townhouse, attire, and striking hairstyles are all immaculate, exuding elegance that would impress even Grace Kelly.

Surprisingly, the Blaylocks do not have any servants or support staff, reminiscent of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, who, despite living in a filthy crypt, appears impeccably dressed at the opera without any hint of decay.

While Scott’s glamorous imagery successfully distracts us from these inconsistencies, it fails to resonate on a deeper level.

The film’s exposition often clarifies the plot mechanics, and flashbacks provide context yet lack depth. The Egyptian boudoir is the only unconvincing set, and the film relies heavily on aesthetically pleasing but superficial visuals.

In contrast, Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary and Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr utilize atmospheric shots to evoke a subtle sense of unease and mystery. Vampyr, in particular, prioritizes atmosphere over narrative concerns, leaving the audience with an uncanny feeling of the unknowable.

The Hunger: DVD Savant Review
The Hunger

The Hunger contains disturbing elements, such as Miriam storing her undead, seemingly conscious lovers in boxes in the attic.

This scenario compares Queen Antinea and Ayesha, known for displaying their former partners as mummified exhibits. However, Miriam’s attic contains nothing glamorous; instead, it’s filled with neglected boxes gathering cobwebs.

Rather than contemplating the horror of eternal conscious entombment, one can’t help but wonder how Miriam has managed to transport her filing system through the ages.

Similar themes are also present in Anne Rice’s later glam-gothic horror works, where vampirism is portrayed as just another facet of luxurious living, suitable for the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Undead.”

The standout element of The Hunger is the character played by David Bowie.

John starts as a vigorous lover and co-predator with his wife of two centuries, but within a few days, he deteriorates from a state of complete health to a withered, bald individual.

The initial phases of the transformation are impressively portrayed, thanks to Bowie’s performance and the skillful makeup by Carl Fullerton and Dick Smith.

Bowie’s physical changes are depicted authentically, with his neck thinning out, developing a wattle, and his skin undergoing texture changes.

His face’s gradual drooping and hollowing are convincingly executed, avoiding the appearance of artificial prosthetics.

The camera angles adeptly capture the decomposition process, demonstrating Tony Scott’s attentiveness to his experts’ guidance.

Subsequently, Bowie’s portrayal enters the realm of Dick Smith’s masterful makeup artistry, which remains effective.

Unlike Smith’s previous work on Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man, which relied primarily on surprise value, the skin textures on Bowie convincingly convey the effects of aging.

The inclusion of liver spots further emphasizes the authentic portrayal of aging. The pallid and pulpy texture of “old” John’s skin is intentional, as despite aging 80 (or 150?) years, his body has only experienced a few days of “weathering.”

The film’s conclusion was reportedly altered to accommodate a potential sequel, and while the expected twist is acceptable, it’s unclear how Miriam’s plan is ultimately thwarted.

The sight of a room filled with decrepit ex-husbands coming to life is undoubtedly unusual, and the visual effects excel in portraying their crumbling and the sound of their bones snapping under their weight.

While this is a technical achievement, it is a standard horror movie cliché.

The cause of this rapid decomposition remains ambiguous, suggesting that Miriam may have violated a rule established in Cairo 2,000 years ago, akin to the “don’t get the vampires wet or feed them after midnight” trope.

The Hunger: DVD Savant Review
The Hunger

Despite its elaborate visual presentation, The Hunger remains a conventional piece of commercial storytelling. As I remember, the primary draw for viewers was the anticipated thrill, particularly the promised intimate scenes.

Ultimately, it’s movie stars engaging in romantic encounters, occasionally using body doubles for Ms. Deneuve. While the initial focus is on a lesbian encounter, it transitions to scenes of blood sampling from each other’s elbows.

The most provocative moment is a close-up of Sarandon sucking blood, yet Scott ensures it is artistically distanced. The film presents soft-focus romantic scenes akin to a Clairol advertisement, with impeccable hair without extended dissolves.

However, in this aspect, The Hunger fulfills its promises, as the lead actors embody classic-era movie legends, each contributing to the desired fantasy.

Tony Scott’s artistic approach may lack subtlety, but he earnestly endeavors to create an upscale erotic horror film, a commendable effort.

Following this promising project, Scott’s career transitioned to a viral yet controversial film of the Reagan era, which would significantly influence action filmmaking for decades.

The film features Ann Magnuson being attacked by Bowie in one scene, with Dan Hedaya portraying an investigating cop and Beth Ehlers as a violin prodigy who frequently visits the Blaylocks.

Willem Dafoe and John Pankow have a notable street scene, seemingly extended to give them more than a brief moment on screen.

The Hunger: DVD Savant Review
The Hunger

The Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray of The Hunger represents a significant improvement in the quality of the film’s presentation compared to previous versions.

It eliminates the issues associated with previous pan-scan cable showings, offering a visually and aurally impressive viewing experience. The movie itself is visually captivating, featuring trendy imagery.

The film’s trailer emphasizes the allure of the Deneuve-Sarandon scenes, promoting an upscale-trashy aesthetic. The director’s commentary, dating back to around 2003, provides valuable insights.

Tony Scott comes across as candid and self-aware, expressing pride in his work while acknowledging the contributions of his technical and artistic team.

Additionally, he reveals the clever filming location deception, with almost all New York scenes shot in London.

Susan Sarandon also contributes to the commentary, offering candid reflections on her involvement in the film, particularly her approach to the intimate scenes, dealing with nudity on set, and explaining these risqué roles to her children.

Her contributions reflect her enduring grace and professionalism as an actress and individual.

The Hunger: DVD Savant Review
The Hunger

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,

The Hunger Blu-ray rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Commentary with Tony Scott and Susan Sarandon
Deaf and Hearing Impaired Friendly? Yes; Subtitles: English
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: August 16, 2015


1. Fullerton and Smith are credited as the creators of “Makeup Illusions,” a nod that may be linked to the filming location in England. This acknowledgment suggests that while special effects makeup artists were increasingly recognized and billed prominently, the renowned Smith was not recognized similarly.

2. This brought to mind one of the most memorable scenes from Terence Fisher’s Horror of Dracula, where the vampire’s hand disintegrates as he attempts to move his fingers as if his flesh instantly transformed into vacuum cleaner dust. In The Hunger, the decomposing corpses transition from preserved flesh to chalk-like substance to flaky mulch. Achieving these “Guanajuato Mummy” effects likely involved intensive study of morgue photographs and macabre reference images. The execution is exceptional.

3. A tangentially related film is Roddy McDowall’s unfortunate The Ballad of Tam Lin featuring Ava Gardner. Although not a vampire, she embodies a supernatural entity that entices male companions into a living death akin to a form of “social limbo.”

Also, see The ‘Star Wars’ Movie You Won’t Be Seeing Next Year.

Ashish Maharjan
Ashish Maharjan
Ashish, a seasoned editor and author for World Cinema Paradise, intricately weaves creativity with precision in his writing, establishing himself as a prolific content creator. Renowned for clarity and captivating storytelling, Ashish has cultivated a devoted readership, driven by his unwavering passion for words and commitment to excellence.

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