THE CHANGELING (1980) Reviews and overview

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The Changeling is a 1980 Canadian horror film directed by Peter Medak (Hannibal TV series) from a screenplay by William Gray (Humongous; Prom Night) and actress Diana Maddox. 

The movie stars George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere (Scott’s real-life wife).

The story is partly based upon events writer Russell Hunter alleged he experienced while he was living in the Henry Treat Rogers Mansion of Denver, Colorado.

Months after the death of his wife and child in a car accident, composer John Russell (George S. Scott) retires to an old mansion which has been unoccupied for years. But John’s hopes of peace and quiet prove unfulfilled, as he finds himself regularly disturbed by a strange and uncanny presence that haunts the house.

Teaming up with local historian Claire Norman (Trish Van Devere), John begins to research the house’s past, and soon finds secrets more terrible than he ever imagined. It is now up to John to right the injustices of the past and finally lay to rest the spirits which haunt his home…

On August 7, 2018, Severin Films is releasing The Changeling in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD from a new 4K scan of the inter-positive film element. Special features:

  • Audio commentary with director Peter Medak and producer Joel B. Michaels, moderated by Severin Films’ David Gregory
  • The House on Cheesman Park: The Haunting True Story of The Changeling
  • Interview with music srranger Kenneth Wannberg
  • Interview with art director Reuben Freed
  • The Psychotronic Tourist: The Changeling
  • Master of horror Mick Garris on The Changeling
  • Trailer
  • TV spot
  • Poster & still gallery


Buy Blu-ray:

Meanwhile, back in the UK, Second Sight is issuing The Changeling on 13 August 2018 as a Limited Edition Blu-ray. Special features:

  • Brand new 4K scan and restoration
  • Limited Edition packaging featuring outer rigid slipcase, Amaray case, poster, 40 page booklet and OST CD
  • Audio commentary with director Peter Medak and producer Joel B. Michaels moderated by Severin Films David Gregory
  • The House on Cheesman Park : The Haunting True Story of The Changeling
  • The Music of The Changeling : Interview with Music Arranger Kenneth Wannberg
  • Building The House of Horror : Interview with Art Director Reuben Freed
  • The Psychotronic Tourist : The Changeling
  • Master of Horror Mick Garris on The Changeling
  • Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • New English subtitles for the hearing impaired
  • Original Soundtrack CD
  • 40 page perfect bound booklet with new essay by Kevin Lyons, production notes and on-set interview with George C. Scott
  • Double-sided poster and reversible Amray sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by artist Christopher Shy and original poster art


The Changeling is quite simply a terrific film. Unassuming and quiet at first, by the end, I was struck by how much of it stuck with me. Its plot is excellent, complex, and holds one’s interest throughout.  I mentioned the somewhat cheesy end, and this is true, but it doesn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth.  The film is still extremely satisfying.” Absolute Horror

“George C. Scott offers a fine dramatic performance, a fine fit for director Peter Medak’s (The Ruling Class) subtle and realistic approach to the supernatural. There is a lack of gore, but none is needed because the foreboding, heavyweight mansion, with its Gothic architecture, is scary enough.” Adam Lukeman, Fangoria’s 101 Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen

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“Medak doesn’t reinvent the wheel here, but this is good stuff, with a little more emphasis on drama and character than overt horror. That doesn’t mean it’s dull, in fact it’s quite tense and atmospheric. It takes a while to get going (despite a stunner of an opening scene), but once it does, hold on!” Ryan McDonald, The Horror Asylum

“Even the most hackneyed scenes, such as a séance in which a scribbling medium attempts to contact the unquiet spirit of the murdered boy, are staged with consummate skill and emotional conviction. Guillermo del Toro maintains that the best ghost stories all have an undertow of melancholy. That’s certainly true here.” Nigel Floyd, Time Out


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The Changeling is a well-made, classy, classic ghost story with wonderful acting and great atmosphere. It’s smart, and filmed with a rare level of respect for the material. If you haven’t seen The Changeling, it comes highly recommended.” Rare Horror

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“It’s a stodgy sort of picture, too self-consciously “classy” by half, and engineered rather than simply directed, but it does have a few effectively spooky sequences and a likeable central performance by Scott.” Caelum Vatnsdal, They Came from Within

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Cast and characters:

  • George C. Scott as John Russell, composer + The Exorcist III + The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986)
  • Trish Van Devere as Claire Norman + The Hearse
  • Melvyn Douglas as Sen. Joseph Carmichael + Ghost Story; The Tenant
  • John Colicos as De Witt + Phobia (1980)
  • Jean Marsh as Joanna Russell + Tales from the Darkside (TV series); Frenzy
  • Barry Morse as Doctor Pemberton + Murder By Phone; Funeral Home; Asylum
  • Madeleine Sherwood as Mrs. Norman + Haunted By Her Past; Deadly Nightmares; Wicked, Wicked
  • Helen Burns as Leah Harmon + Tales from the Cryptkeeper 
  • Frances Hyland as Mrs. Grey + Tales of the Haunted; Happy Birthday to Me
  • Eric Christmas as Albert Harmon
  • Roberta Maxwell as Eva Lingstrom

Filming locations:

In the US, establishing shots were filmed in Seattle, and some location shooting was done in New York City. Notable Seattle locations seen in the film include SeaTac airport, University of Washington’s Red Square, the Space Needle, the Rainier Tower, and the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, amongst others.

In Canada, interior scenes at the university were filmed at the University of Toronto and the Historical Society scenes at the Flatiron-shaped Hotel Europe in Vancouver. The scenes at the senator’s home were filmed at what was then Royal Roads Military College (now Royal Roads University) in Victoria, British Columbia. Interior scenes of the mansion where Scott’s character lives were a set, as were the exterior scenes; the house was a giant mock-up.

Running time and aspect ratio:

107 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Film Facts:
The original script title was House on Chessman Park.

Image credits: Rare Horror

Every ‘80s horror film:

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