Thursday, March 25, 2010

John Woo Gets Killed By The Weinsteins

So, John Woo's THE KILLER/喋血雙雄 is on Blu-ray from Dragon Dynasty - the "Asian Action" sub-label owned by Genius Products. Or as many of you may know them, the home video branch of The Weinstein Company.

Yes friends, the same Weinstein Company who ran "MiramAXE" with an iron fist back when they couldn't help but re-write, re-score, and generally butcher every single title they got their hand on to the point of suicidally-depressing hilarity.

I'll let the official SHAOLIN SOCCER video ad speak for itself.

They've gotten a little bit better since then. Most of their DVDs are reasonably competent, though we still have to put up with asinine retitlings like The Banquet becoming "Curse of the Black Scorpion", occasional dubtitled releases like Hard Boiled, and of course that ugly-ass video generated title card on Fist of Legend... they've come a long way, and yet they still really suck. The sad fact is that they don't screw these films up any harder than the Hong Kong producers themselves, which is exactly why some desperate fans still support these half-cocked DVD releases.

Cropped, not scaled.

I'll admit it, this shot physically can't be an upscale. There's more fine detail in Chow's greasy forehead than even square pixel SD PAL (1024x576) can resolve... in terms of being a "Real HD" transfer, I guess this gets a pass, if just barely. But does the whole disc look this good?

Of course not.

This particular shot is so heavily drenched in vaseline-like DVNR they could have cribbed that from an LD and you'd never know the difference. It looks to be sourced from the same restored print TF1/HK Video released in France, but "enhanced" after that to remove the grain and film damage... the result is that there's actually less fine detail in pores and backgrounds than on the French DVD. If you really want the best looking release of the film available, just get that and find a way to add English subtitles to it... I'm not kidding, and I'll prove that in a minute.

Sadly, we still have a much bigger problem than Noise Reduction...

Take a look at this:

Those are interlacing artifacts - yes, INTERLACING ARTIFACTS on a 35mm film. Every single frame is 100% interlaced, and this can't be fixed with IVTC based deinterlacing. The transfer only runs 107 minutes, despite uncut NTSC versions running 111 minutes, so the audio pitch and playback are affected the same way a PAL transfer would be... That's right my friends, this Blu-ray transfer is - alongside the premier Dragon Dynasty BD release of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin - is a motherfucking "PAL HD" to "NTSC HD" standards conversion! Keep in mind that the 36th Chamber of Shaolin was progressive NTSC on DVD (480p with 3:2 pulldown flags), yet the new Blu-ray release has this exact same field-blending problem...

However, The Killer is a PAL > NTSC transfer, even on DVD. What the hell? The French DVD taken from the same HD master was progressive, so this is NOT a problem with the materials themselves - this is just the Weinstein's screwing the pooch themselves, pure and simple. Either that or they were given a pre-converted master, which is so crazy that A) I refuse to believe it, and B) even if it was true, they should have refused to take it.

Besides a bullshit 1080i50>1080i60 transfer, you get no lossless "HD" audio - just Dolby DVD quality 5.1 upmix tracks. No Woo commentary despite two of them existing, and no, despite including an assortment of "Deleted Scenes" the full length 128 minute Taiwan sourced "Version Integrale" is nowhere to be found. So far, that moniker of "The Definitive Special Edition" is looking pretty weak.

We do get a series of new interviews with Woo running nearly 50 minutes, a location retrospective running about 10, a Woo trailer reel, and uh... well, fuck. That's it! Oh wait, we get a slipcover too. Wow...

The HK Video Limited Edition 2 DVD set includes a hand-full of decent bonus features - the original trailer and a 33 minute documentary among them, but the most important was the extended, original cut on disc 2. It's telecined from what appears to be a beat-up Taiwanese theatrical print, and as such it's got burned-in English/Chinese subtitles and is dubbed into the Mandarin dialect, but it's the only way you'll ever get to see the extended 128 minute (NTSC) cut of the film. The "Deleted Scenes" featured on the new Blu-ray account for only about a third of the missing footage found in the Taiwan version.

HK Video DVD (SD PAL) Disc 1

Dragon Destiny Blu-ray (1080i60) Deinterlaced

"Definitive" my ass, Weinsteins. The R2 DVD and the US Blu-ray are damn near identical in real-world image quality, with some scenes looking better on the Blu-ray, and others looking better on the DVD... it really comes down to how hard they tried to filter out each individual scene. You can find more comparison on the AVS Forum, if you're ever so inclined.

Max, Harvey... I know you're more or less used to incompetence, but for fuck's sake, find a new authoring house A.S.A.P. This shit is just embarrassing, even for you.

Forgive the 1600x900 resolution on the above caps. I have no clue how to get Blogger to stop doing that, and I'm far too lazy to link from separate image servers. Like I said, try AVS Forum if you want a comprehensive shoot-out between the two.

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