VENICE – Director John Landis says his new 3-D version of “Thriller” gives Michael Jackson fans chance to see the groundbreaking video how the late king of pop would have wanted them to.
“Michael and I always intended it to be seen in a cinema,” Landis told reporters Monday at the launch of his new revamped version of one of popular music’s most influential and successful productions at the Venice film festival.
Using modern technology, Landis has remixed the sound and enhanced the visuals as well as making the 1983 recordings 3-D compatible.
“When you watch it on YouTube, you don’t see how it is supposed to be. Now you can see the way Michael intended it to be,” Landis added.
“My only disappointment is that he is not here to see it, because he’d love it!”
The 14-minute werewolf-themed video is screening in Venice alongside a “making-of” video that was also made in 1983 but has never had a cinema release before.
Jackson died in 2009, aged 50, not long after Landis and “Thriller” producer George Folsey had launched legal action against him over rights and royalties to the video.
A settlement was reached with Jackson’s estate in 2012, and Landis said the legal issue had not had any impact on the shock he felt on hearing of the singer’s untimely death.
“It was a tragedy – for his children, for his friends, for the whole world,” he said.
“Truly great performers are rare. I was horrified and I am still upset about it.
Jackson approached Landis to make the video after watching his film An American Werewolf in London, telling the director he wanted to go through the same kind of transformation from man to four-legged wolf creature featured in the film.
“We realized it wasn’t going to work – if Michael was going to dance, it would be a hell of a lot easier for his monster to have two legs instead of four,” Landis said.
As result, the look of the monster sequence in the video ended up being inspired more by a 1957 film, I Was a Teenage Werewolf.
“Turns out he hasn’t seen many horror films, they were too scary. I found him great,” Landis said, laughing. “He wanted zombies, but the big thing for Mike was turning into a monster.
“It was basically a vanity video because Michael wanted to turn into a monster and everything that came from that was spectacularly successful. I was totally surprised.”
“(‘Thriller’) was nobody’s good idea, it was no brilliant business plan,” Landis said.
Landis said the period was a happy time in the singer’s life, coming a few years after he had severed his ties with his family.
“He would come over to my place and we would stay up till 4 a.m. watching cartoons.”
Things were different when Landis worked on another Jackson video, “Black and White,” eight years later.
“On ‘Thriller’ he was happy to let me do it, on ‘Black and White’ I was working for Michael. He was much more guarded.”
By this stage, Jackson had a claim to be considered the most famous man on the planet and Landis said that he didn’t envy the singer’s “bizarre” level of celebrity.
Landis added, “There was a child-like quality about Michael. He wasn’t childish. He never had a childhood and that is why he was so interested in pursuing one when he was grown up.
“Michael was very determined that everything had to be the best, the greatest,” he said. “He had a spectacular work ethic, but he was an old pro, the guy has been performing since he was eight years old.” – AFP/Reuters