‘Michael Jackson’s Thriller’ Is Getting a 3D Upgrade

Director John Landis has supervised a full restoration and 3D conversion of the beloved 1983 music video/short film.

If you weren’t around in 1983, it’s all but impossible to understand the sensation caused by the release of the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” – and it’s impossible for those of us who were here to overstate it. The 14-minute promotional clip for the title single from Jackson’s blockbuster album wasn’t just a “music video”; it was a full-on short film, with wrap-around story and dialogue scenes, directed and written by John Landis (Animal House), whose 1981 film An American Werewolf in London inspired Jackson’s vision for the video. (Landis brought along that film’s Oscar-winning make-up artist Rick Baker to provide the convincing creature effects.) From its ambitious conception to its big-screen personnel to its successful theatrical run and home video release, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was treated less like a music video than a movie (and it’s the only music video in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry). So it only makes sense that, like many beloved movies from our recent past, it’s being re-mastered and re-released in 3D.

Landis supervised the restoration and conversion from the original 35mm negative, provided by the Jackson estate archives. (If you’re curious about how they make a 3D movie out of one that wasn’t shot that way, here’s more on that.) In addition to the visual work, the film’s audio – the song, the effects, and Elmer Bernstein’s original score – has been upgraded to 5.7, 7.1, and Atmos standards. So as usual, however you feel about slapping a layer of 3D on an old movie, at least they’re doing a restoration first.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller 3D will make its world premiere at the 74th annual Venice Film Festival next month, alongside its original companion film The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller – an hour-long behind-the-scenes documentary whose broadcast sale to MTV and Showtime and release on VHS offset the costs of the pricey Thriller film itself. Making Of has never been released on any other format, and Thriller has never been released on Blu-ray – so here’s hoping there’s more news on that front to come.