Media Blasters has been incredibly uneven with their HD offerings: Anime titles including Moribito - Guardian of the Sacred Spirit and Queen's Blade have been released in their full, native 1080 glory. Versus and Ichi the Killer were obvious upscales of SD Digibeta minted from the start of the century. Visible resolution on MB co-productions including Death Trance and Shadow: Dead Riot are... questionable, but since it's possible that neither of these titles were actually shot or edited on HD equipment to start with, let's be fair and just leave them at 'questionable' for the time being.
So, how does the first non-Media Blasters co-produced Shriek Show catalog title look?
Original HD Frame (cropped to 720p, NOT resized)
Scaled down to 480p, then back to 1080p (again, cropped only)
So... we're back to Standard Definition upscales being passed off as High Definition? Fan-tastic, Media Blasters. Just fucking fantastic.
Yes, I know the "1080p" version looks ever so slightly sharper; but that's the magic of edge-sharpening on upscaled material! If you look at the texture on his collar, the ribbing in his hat or the hair on his manly facial scruff, you'll notice that the NTSC version has the same level of real-world detail, and that's with the downscaling softening the upscale slightly by nature. There isn't any more texture, or depth, or even grain on the Blu-ray - just extra chroma noise which was sharpened after it was upsampled. I could do the same damn thing in AVISynth... and between you and me, I have on more than one occasion.
"But the BD looks better than the DVD, right?" I hear you thinking. "WTF Film even has a split-screen to prove that the BD is sharper, and not interlaced. That's good, right?"
Technically yes, the "1080p" Blu-ray is the better option... but then only because the DVD was a pile of crap to start with. MB was never shy about cranking up the DVNR or encoding transfers as interlaced when they really didn't need to, which means most of the Media Blasters catalog titles would look virtually identical to their Blu-ray editions if they had taken more care when they produced the DVD release years ago.
The only other company out there who regularly releases SD content upscaled to 1080p is FUNimation, and most of the time I'm willing to give them a pass. You know why? Because animation from the late 1990s and up through the mid 2000s was animated in SD and then recorded onto Digibeta. There is no film master to scan in high resolution; when you buy Fullmetal Panic or Daughters of Mnemosyne on an upscaled BD, that's as good as it's ever going to get.
When a feature film was shot on 16mm or 35mm, you can simply go back to the film elements and make a new high resolution scan. Instant High Definition, no re-shoots required. But if you're still upscaling that shit, you're just being cheap and lazy. Maybe they'll trot out the "We can't find the negative anymore!" argument if more people call them on this bullshit, which would be amusing enough to watch. Keep in mind that they found the damn film elements less than 10 years ago for DVD, so unless there was a tragic fire at autuer Bill Hinzman's house that consumed all of the film materials, I don't buy that.
I'll admit that I've had a few knee-jerk reactions to some transfers that may or may not have been sourced from SD materials. But there isn't a single screenshot on the WTF Review that would lead me to assume that this was made from an actual HD master. Media Blasters can't even suggest that it was a "real" HD transfer hit with heavy noise reduction - like many of the blurry Arrow Video transfers kicking around - because the transfer is still noisy as hell!
And before anyone gets the wrong idea, I understand that this was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mmm... and then, uh, released straight to video anyway. It was never going to look especially good, I know that, but it didn't have to look like a DVD hit with a sharpening filter, either. Just look at MGM's release of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left for an example of what even a nasty looking blow-up print can look like in HD. Bill Lustig's Maniac! isn't a reference transfer by any stretch, but even that was actually transferred at 1080p.
Just to prove that MB is capable of making an incredible looking Blu-ray, here's a (cropped) screenshot from what, to the best of my knowledge, remains their only 1080p release to be sourced from an actual 1080p master:
SD boobies? Not on THIS blog!
Understand that I don't want Media Blasters to fail... I just want them to release titles that look more like Queen's Blade. Not in the "big titted anime" sense (...well, not all the time!), just in the "it's an HD release from an HD master" sense. That isn't too much to fucking ask, is it?
I do hope that anyone remotely interested in actually watching Hinzman's low-budget redneck gorefest buy The Zombie Pack II instead of the BD - not only do you save a few bucks, but you also get Mario Girolami's Zombie Holocaust and Andrea Bianchi's Burial Grounds essentially for free. Just so we're clear, this is what's on my shelf, and I didn't buy it for Flesh Eater...
Why do reviewers go out of their way to praise releases that are this poor? Sometimes it's just denial, or even ignorance - I've been guilty of both myself at one time or another. Plenty of people (and I'm not pointing to anyone specific here) don't want to bad mouth a product they get for free, I get that - if I said any of the above about a title MB gave me gratis, they'd never make that mistake again. Others still don't want to say anything to harm an industry they want to see flourish, which I think is the strangest reason of all; if you can't be honest and say that a product is shit, you're protecting a product that rightly deserves to fail. Flesh Eater on Blu-ray is just one of those products.
EDIT: While most of the Shriek Show catalog titles are still MIA, this one was actually released about six months ago. So forget everything I said about WTF's "Early" review... not that MB can get a title out en-masse on release date to save their business these days anyway. (Seriously now, how many weeks did it take non-Amazon retailers to get Queen's Blade?)
Forget. Forget. Forget...