Eerie Indiana: The Complete Series (1991)
"To Whom It May Concern: If you're reading this document it either means I'm dead, or have disappeared under mysterious circumstances."- Marshall Teller (Omri Katz)
Stars: Omri Katz, Justin Shenkarow
Other Stars: Julie Condra, Francis Guinan, Mary-Margaret Humes, Henry Gibson, Dick Miller, Vincent Schiavelli, Harry Goaz, Doug Llewelyn, Tobey Maguire, Nikki Cox, Michael J. Pollard, Gregory Itzin, Matt Frewer, Claude Akins, Paul Sand, Anita Morris, Ray Walston, John Astin, Rene Auberjonois, Mark Blankfield
Director: Joe Dante, Sam Pillsbury, Bryan Spicer, Tim Hunter, Bob Balaban, Ken Kwapis, Mark Goldblatt, Greg Beeman, Tom Holland
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (possibly mildly frightening situations for young children)
Run Time: 08h:00m:00s
Release Date: 2004-10-12
DVD Review"Ever since moving here, I've been convinced that something is very wrong with Eerie, Indiana. I tried telling myself there was a logical explanation for everything, but logic doesn't apply here." -Marshall Teller
One of the things that I really love about television series boxed sets released on DVD is that it gives me the opportunity to share some long-lost programs that I fondly remember (a rarity unto itself, by the way) with my 13-year-old daughter, shows that were on when she was too young to enjoy them. Programs like Sliders, The Land of the Lost or even the early seasons of The Simpsons (hardly long-lost, but the early seasons don't show up as often in syndication) have been given proper DVD treatment lately, allowing them exposure to new generations of fans.
Case in point is Eerie Indiana, a show that barely made it one full season back in 1991, even though a talent like Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins, The 'Burbs) was not only creative consultant, but a recurring episode director. For the small screen, that's a big deal, if you ask me.
So what's the skinny on this show? Was it for kids? Adults? Both? Created by Jose Rivera, it was sort of a somewhat family-friendly cross between The X-Files and The Twilight Zone, with more than a pinch of the appeal of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books thrown in for good measure. The series originally aired in the unenviable time slot of a half-hour before the official start primetime on Sundays, something that seemed to instantly brand it as being something safer and more wholesome than it actually was. The titular creepy town was "the center of weirdness" for 13-year-old Marshall Teller (Omri Katz), who has moved to the supposedly picture-perfect town with his family: mom Marilyn (Mary-Margaret Humes), dad Edgar (Francis Guinan) and teenaged sister Syndi (Julie Condra).
Marshall, ever the outsider in a town filled with sinister and sometimes deadly happenings that only seem to be evident to him, finds an unlikely ally with an equally adrift 9-year-old named Simon (Justin Shenkarow). Together, the two boys explore the dark underbelly of Eerie in neat half-hour installments in which they uncover things like deadly talking dogs, a disturbing robotic ATM (darn that creepy Mr. Wilson), an alternate reality, a roving mummy, a couple of ghosts, and, if you include the opening credits, plenty of straight-jackets, an Elvis sighting or two, and Bigfoot, who regularly eats out of garbage cans. Marshall and Simon keep an evidence locker full of tagged clues to their adventures, and each episode generally ends with them adding another piece to their collection, having just barely escaped some horrific catastrophe—at least until next week.
BMG has all 19 episodes on the show's run on five discs for this boxed set, though the back cover states there are "three original episodes." As far as I can tell, the only ep that NBC never aired was The Broken Record (though it did air later on the Disney Channel), so I'm not 100% certain what other two episodes are considered "original" by BMG. But the long and short of it is this is entire run, original or not.
Curiosity seekers will get a kick out of the occasional guest stars, which were a mix of a soon-to-be-stars or familiar faces, with Tobey Maguire, Henry Gibson, Dick Miller (a Dante regular), Vincent Schiavelli, Harry Goaz, Doug Llewelyn, Nikki Cox, Michael J. Pollard, Matt Frewer, and Ray Walston showing up to help flesh out an episode here or there.
One of the enduringly edgy things about this series is the fact that things don't always end pleasantly, as witnessed in an episode like The Retainer, which really sets a dark tone by implying a couple of secondary characters (including a child) meet rather grisly deaths. Joe Dante has always had a real knack for capturing the shadowy and menacing side of neat and clean suburbia, and in Eerie Indiana he gets to blend Rockwellish silliness with some enjoyably spooky stories that, while decidedly juvenile in tone, have the mass appeal cajones to draw in older viewers. It's a Dante thing, and I'll admit his involvement drew me in back then; I confess to watching this show regularly during its original run, at the time I was in my thirties with a newborn that wasn't watching anything. So there.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: BMG has issued Eerie Indiana in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Quality is certainly spotty at best, with some sequences, especially some of the opens, looking horribly grainy. The body of most episodes look pleasant enough, though a number of darker scenes do come off murky; likewise with fleshtones that occasionally take on a slightly reddish hue. The rough spots are generally brief on a given episode, even if the majority of the time the presentation is plainly average.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: All 19 episodes sport remastered 5.1 surround tracks, along with the original 2.0 stereo mixes. There is quite a noticeable boost to the sub channel response with the 5.1 option, though this largely remains a front-centric mix across the board. Dialogue is presented cleanly with either audio choice, but you'll get an improved separation and depth with 5.1, though its hardly the kind of mix that properly utilizes all channels.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 114 cues and remote access
Packaging: Box Set
Extras Review: No extras to speak, short of the three originally unaired episodes. There is a fairly pointless "preview" option, which highlights the episodes on subsequent discs.
Each 24 minute episode is cut into six chapters, and each disc offers the handy Play All option.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsThis is one of those series that barely registered a blip on the public radar back in 1991, which is a shame considering that it not only regularly featured strange and bizarre spooky stories, but a number of them were directed by the show's creative consultant, Joe Dante.
The complete run of 19 episodes (including three that never aired) are spread across five discs for this collection, and though it seems geared toward 13-year-olds, at least on the surface, there is enough hip quirkiness to satisfy an adult's craving for left-of-center weirdness.
Rich Rosell 2004-10-11