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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer [Blu-ray]


(John McNaughton, 1986)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Dark Sky Films

Video: MPI Home Video



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:02:49.153

Disc Size: 23,938,697,202 bytes

Feature Size: 18,583,965,696 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.75 Mbps

Chapters: 14

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 29th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted onto 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video



LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps



English, none



• Commentary by director John McNaughton

Portrait: The Making of Henry

• The Serial Killer: Henry Lee Lucas documentary

• Deleted Scenes and Outtakes


Stills gallery

Interview with John McNaughton (33:54)





Description: Michael Rooker is unforgettable as Henry, a soft-spoken loner with a cool exterior masking an inner rage that boils at blast furnace intensity. When fellow ex-con Otis invites Henry to move into his Chicago apartment, he becomes a willing participant in Henry's senseless, random killing sprees. Meanwhile, Otis' unsuspecting sister, Becky (Tracy Arnold) is smitten with Henry, whose broken childhood mirrors her own. Masterfully directed by John McNaughton, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a chilling character study of a mass murderer that continues to shock and disturb twenty years after its debut.



The Film:

Filmed in 1986 and trapped in the movie rating system for three years, a movie named "Henry" finally came into wider view in the autumn of 1989.

The story of a pathological mass murderer, it was told in such flat, unforgiving realism that it inspired angry debates after its screenings at film festivals and midnight cult screenings. Some viewers feel it is evil incarnate; others say it is suberb filmmaking. The MPAA denied it an R rating (and said, indeed, that no possible cuts could qualify it for an R movie), so now it has been released with no rating at all.

This is a movie that's an obvious candidate for the proposed A (for adult) rating. It is a chilling film that - fair warning - will horrify many viewers and is intended to illuminate, not entertain. But it also is a very good film, a low-budget tour de force that provides an unforgettable portrait of the pathology of a man for whom killing is not a crime but simply a way of passing time and relieving boredom.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE



Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

NOTE: We've previously compared the Optimum Releasing - Region 2 - PAL - edition to the MPI (Director's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC DVDs HERE.


Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has some meager 16mm roots but the bump to 1080P by Dark Sky Films definitely benefits the presentation. The colors on Blu-ray seem richer and far more pronounced than on the previous DVD releases of the film. Grain is thick and intact but noise is still an issue especially in monochromatic darker sequences. The original 1.33 aspect ratio (matted onto a 1.78 frame) image - as we can see from the comparative captures below - is actually cropped a shade. It appears to be somewhat flat and some DNR may have been used as the image details are more homogenized than one might hope. Daylight scenes are more impressive but detail is never pristine. This Blu-ray brings out the film's textured realism to another, more chilling, level and I suspect this may be as good as it can look for your home theater. By modern standards this is fairly primitive visually but as a representation of the original - I doubt much more could be done.




1) Optimum Releasing - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) MPI (Director's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE

3) MPI - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



More Blu-ray Captures

















Audio :

The uncompressed linear PCM track at 1536 kbps does solid service to the presentation. It exhibits some decent, haunting, bass in the score and dialogue remains scattered without buoyancy. The disc offers optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.




Extras :

Director John McNaughton's audio commentary (also found on the Optimum DVD) is revealing as he explains his intent to expose the graphic nature of the story rather than exploit it for further exposure. There are 2 documentaries with the one about real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas giving the presentation more of a cutting edge - it's quite fascinating. We also cut deleted and outtake scenes, storyboard and a stills gallery.


Obviously not a film for all tastes but Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer does have a brooding verité intensity that extends beyond the film's bloody moments. This Blu-ray is no demo disc but the improved visuals and aural qualities seem just what this film needed from the, comparatively, lackluster DVD interpretations. It's a film you won't soon forget and exposes the Serial Killer nature in a more refreshing and unique perspective than seen before. That alone gives it value. 

Gary Tooze

September 19th, 2009




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze








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