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DVD: Ghosts Of Mars (2001)
Review Rating:   Good  
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Columbia Tri-Star 
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1 (NTSC)

December 4, 2001



Genre: Horror  
On colonized Mars, a police unit is sent to transport a dangerous criminal prisoner back to justice. While there, the remaining dwellers on the planet seem to be possessed by former inhabitants of the colony.  



Directed by:

John Carpenter
Screenplay by: John Carpenter,  Larry Sulkis
Music by: John Carpenter
Produced by: Sandy King

Ice Cube,  Natasha Henstridge,  Jason Statham,  Pam Grier,  Clea DuVall,  Joanna Cassidy,  Liam Waite,  Wanda DeJesus,  Duane Davis,  Rodney A. Grant,  Lobo Sebastian,  Robert Carradine,  Peter Jason,  Richard Cetrone,  Rosemary Forsyth

Film Length: 98 mins
Process/Ratio: 2.35 :1
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:   English (Dolby 5.1) / English,  French Subtitles
Special Features :  

Audio Commentary by Director John Carpenter and Actress Natasha Henstridge / "Video Diary: Red Desert Nights" (16:56) / Scoring “Ghosts Of Mars” (16:23) / Special Effects (SFX) Deconstructions (6:31)

Comments :

John Carpenter's last few films have been a mixed bag for fans and critics, and though “Vampires” (1998) managed to successfully integrate vampire lore with the director's western riffs, “Ghosts of Mars” remains as disappointing as “Escape from L.A.” (1996).

Though Columbia's DVD offers anamorphic and full screen versions of the film (both in 5.1 Dolby Digital), the sacrifice is a loss in fine details, and given the rich red and amber hues which cinematographer Gary Kibbe strove to maintain, it's a shame the colour depth and shading is marred by obvious pixilating.

The DVD includes several bonus items: "Video Diary: Red Desert Nights" is mainly edited snapshots of the film's production, covering the extensive nighttime shooting and views of the large Martian/western town set; and "Special Effects Deconstruction" covers the sleek transport train models, along with Joanna Cassidy's balloon crash, and a handful of combat sequences.

"Scoring Ghosts of Mars " offers a few interesting glimpses of Carpenter in the recording booth, as members of Anthrax, Buckethead, and veteran guitarist Steve Vai make their contributions to the clamorous heavy metal soundtrack. Considering Carpenter rarely speaks about his musical scores, the latter video is the highlight of the trio. Each of the videos contain no narration, and a series of onscreen titles and generous samples of the film soundtrack are used.

Similarities to “Assault on Precinct 13” (1976) are evident in the basic plot, and the 'ghosts of Mars' who have been killing the human population are loosely explained as remnants of an ancient war-like tribe who achieved a high level of spirituality. That's one of the few salient details Carpenter mentions in his feature-length commentary, and while accompanied by lead Natasha Henstridge, much of their discussion runs like a lunchtime chat.

Recorded in August of 2001, Carpenter assumes the role of genial host, and their laid-back conversation rarely offers any deep insight to the filmmaking process. Perhaps it's simply a case of the filmmaker having already covered his approach on previous commentary tracks, and what's needed are a few cast or production members to add more flavour. (Henstridge, however, does ask Carpenter about her replacing Courtney Love, who left weeks before filming. "Didn't she hurt her foot?" Henstridge queries, and Carpenter wryly replies, "Something like that… Something like that.")

A major misfire that's primarily for Carpenter completists.


© 2001 Mark R. Hasan

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