Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blu-ray Gets XTreme

So any of you guys remember X-RATED KULT Video? That occasionally shady but somehow still ground-breaking German label that sold everything in VHS sized hard cases, run by semi-pro sleaze director Andreas Bethmann? Sure you do, because they were the label that kick-started that whole simultaneous multiple covers trend that Germany has wallowed in ever since! They still exist as far as I know, and Bethmann has since "inspired" a new generation of German labels, among them "'84 Entertainment", "XT Video" and "CMV Laservision", with the lot of them regularly putting out 5 notably different boxes, all with the same discs inside, for films that German audiences have bought at least 10 copies of in the last decade.

If I were a cynic (who, me?!) I'd probably insult the notion of selling the exact same product in 3 limited boxes with varying covers, but hell, the fact that each cover is limited to 66 - 333 pieces each means they're probably only pressing a thousand copies of anything at one time. If you can't sell out with numbers like that at 20 Euros, you're doing something wrong!


With covers like this, who needs English dubbing?

One of those offshoots is such a racket they're literally producing empty hardboxes. I swear, for ten euros you can get the French one-sheet of The Evil Dead on a sturdy case with no specifics for the disc specs and put your favorite DVD and/or Blu-ray copy in yourself. That's how crazy Germans are for these goddamn things. Imagine if Blue Underground charged you $15 for an alternate cover of The Nesting - the entire American market would shit themselves laughing and then never mention it again.

They've been slowly embracing Blu-ray by way of combo packs, and it seems they're finally ready to go whole-hog with High Def releases either later this year or early the next... details are sparse, but we know the titles lined up are as follows, with films of particular note in bold:

EIN ZOMBIE HING AM GLOCKENSEIL (City of the Living Dead)
PROFONDO ROSSO (Deep Red)
PHENOMENA
WOODOO (Zombi 2)
DER NEW YORK RIPPER
GEISTERSTADT DER ZOMBIES (The Beyond)
SADO (Buio Omega: Beyond the Darkness)
MUTTERTAG (Mother's Day)
DAS HAUS AN DER FRIEDHOFMAUER (The House by the Cemetery)
TENEBRE

I have little doubt that all of these titles will be using the same materials offered to Arrow Video, Media Blasters and Blue Underground. The question is will these films end up with better transfers in the hands of XT Video? The Arrow BD for Phenomena is rife with DVNR, both releases of The Beyond can be described as unimpressive (with the initial release bordering on "fucking unwatchable"), and while the French transfer of Tenebrae was very nice indeed, the Arrow BD was... well, let's just call it 'less so' and move on. Though I suspect that in all instances Arrow was handed less than ideal materials to start with, it'll be very interesting to see if any of them improve in the hands of a label that may have a better understanding of what to do with less than stellar materials. Heck, Blue Underground encoded circles around Arrow Video with Deep Red, despite the US transfer having a 25% lower bitrate!


Go ahead. Try and tell me you don't need that as a poster.

"Sado" is, of course, Buio Omega/Beyond the Darkness, a title that Media Blasters fucked up the presentation of quite spectacularly. I honestly don'texpect the Germanic release to be properly framed, or have the missing sequence restored, but if they do both they've got one guaranteed order from me. Buio Omega seems to have been quite popular in and around Germany, so I can only hope they pull out all of the stops for it.


It's 3D. No glasses required!

The New York Ripper is a more... complex situation. The Blue Underground release is actually pretty damned good - I suspect it's a bit noisier and higher-contrast than it really should be, but it's likely the best looking transfer BU has minted for a Euro Horror release in the last 3 years. The issue is that there's a 15 second sequence (detailed HERE) that was missing from the Blu-ray. As this site shows, German dubbed prints were missing the scene, and while it was present on the Anchor Bay DVD from 1999, it was in a completely different spot in the film. This all leads me to assume that the scene itself is some kind of outtake, and with that in mind I don't consider the release "Cut" in the traditional sense. Anyway, the UK release on the Shameless label does include that scene, but it also removes what may be the film's single most infamous sequence to earn a BBFC approved "18" certificate, so I flatly refuse to import a release for 15 seconds of "guy looks over his shoulder" when it, in turn, is missing 20 seconds of "a whore's boob meeting a razor blade". The audio is all there, but they covered the footage up with cut-aways.

Of course, this begs a lot of questions; Will they be region locked? Will the English credit sequences be replaced with the more familiar German titles? Will there be English dialog provided at all? If a scene wasn't dubbed in German, will it be cut and shuffled off to the extras as a "Deleted Scene"? Will bonus features be presented in PAL? Could XT Video produce even worse transfers than Arrow Video?

And before you scoff at the notion, don't forget that X-Rated started this push to putting packaging and title recognition over absolute product quality. X-Rated were the guys who released VHS quality transfers of Caligula 2 and Female Vampire on DVD, uncut or not. Bethmann and his company would also regularly overlay ridiculous video-generated title cards seemingly just to fuck with people. No, seriously. I can find no other explanation for why the title for the X-Rated Kult Torso DVD looks like this:

...goddamn it, Bethmann...
(What's sad is they were STILL better than Mya!)

But anyway, a little healthy competition can only help keep Blue Underground, Media Blasters and Arrow Video on their toes. It's just too bad that pretty much everything they've announced has already been released by the three of them. If these released don't at least meet the quality of the transfers already kicking around, then the only real advantage they'll have is for those who speak German. Well, and those who love them some hardboxes and mediabooks and digipacks and whatever else Germany's grooving on these days, packaging-wise...


Really? Germans actually buy these butt-ugly things?

Waitasecond, fucking Mothers Day too? Well, good for them I guess, but it looks kinda weird shoe-horned in between that much Fulci and Argento.

UPDATE: A dashing young Anonymous has informed me by way of the comments section that NSM Records is running XT Video, not X-Rated Kult! As such, the piece has been updated, but most of the points I've made remain valid enough that I'm keeping them.

That said, NSM re-released several X-Rated titles (like TORSO, PUPPET MASTER 3: TOULON'S REVENGE and ANTHROPOPHAGOUS). They've also re-released a number of shitty Laser Paradise "Red Edition" DVDs in hardboxes too though, so odds are any "former" X-Rated titles being in their catalog are mostly coincidental.

18 comments:

LoBo said...

Yes, this will be interesting.

Anonymous said...

By the way: It's Bethmann with 2 "n" and the chap has nothing to do with XT Video or '84 Entertainment ;-)

Kentai 拳態 said...

Well... you were right about me spelling the poor guy's name wrong, so I'll assume you're right about him not being directly involved in XT Video, too. :D

I've known for some time that Bethmann ran X-Rated, Xcess and a couple of minor labels for one or two titles ("Relax" springs to mind) so I assumed any German label with "X" in the name would fall under his general umbrella.

So, any clue who IS pulling the strings over at XT Video/'84 Entertainment? Are they resurrected versions of NSM Records and Laser Paradise perhaps, or are they all new labels that simply followed in Bethmann's footsteps?

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

XT Video belongs to the Austrian distributor NSM Records.

'84 Entertainment (formerly Covervision) is still independent AFAIK, but they mostly sell repacks of crappy old dvds made by Laser Paradise (Thomas Buresch), Marketing Film (belonged to Oliver Krekel) & others and their "own" productions (like the obviously bootlegged TALES FROM THE CRYPT series) are authored by other studios like Oliver Krekel's DigiDreams...

Most of those "labels" doesn't take licenses too seriously and try to smudge their traces, so it's often hard to say who's behind something.

Kentai 拳態 said...

I've long known that stuff like "copyrights" are thought to be for pussies in Germany. I think the first German import I had was the (recalled) Red Edition of Großangriff der Zombies, which I bought because it was dirt cheap, and Blue Underground hadn't yet bothered to release it. That DVD turned out to be a copy of the Japanese LD, complete with laser rot and kanji subtitles!

I do thank you for the info Anon, and the write-up has been updated to reflect it. Still, Bethmann's limited "multi-box" schemes and constant fuckery of materials is worth mentioning, so I'll keep it for the time being and edit as I see the need to.

On the subject of bootlegs and German releases, I'm 99% sure that CMV Laservision release of ALIEN 2 is just the Midnight Legacy Blu-ray with the German dub slapped on top. ML has been so anal about doing their own transfers it'd be weird for them to have sold them to CMV, no?

Oh yeah, German hentai is a fun little subject too! Trimax occasionally releases stuff not available anywhere else - like NIGHT SHIFT NURSES 2 - but despite being a legitimate business, they burn everything on DVD-R rather than press a couple hundred copies at a replicator. They also dub their porn but don't subtitle it. Weak!

Kentai 拳態 said...

To the OTHER anon who needs to get in touch with me: The Blogger Profile page has been updated to include my eMail address. I'd forgotten that it wasn't there to begin with, sorry 'bout that.

Kevin Pyrtle said...

Did CMV actually release ALIEN 2? I know there's an ALIEN TERROR in their catalogue, but it's a '70s US / Mexican co-production starring Boris Karloff.

Kentai 拳態 said...

They sure did, under the old-school German title ALIEN - DIE SAAT DES GRAUENS KEHRT ZURÜCK.

They released it a stunning six separate limited editions: three hardboxes (one of which I actually really dig), two "VHS Editions" and a Retro Edition.

Anonymous said...

MiG Film Group claims that they purchased the rights for ALIEN 2 and sublicensed it to CMV Laservision, that's all I know about this subject.

Off-Topic: I read that you own the VIOLENCE JACK HK VCD which I'd love to see - but I can't find it anywhere in the WWW.

Could you upload this rare gem somewhere? I'm sure I wouldn't be the the only one to appreciate it!

Kentai 拳態 said...

I have no doubt that CMV owns the rights to sell ALIEN 2, in and of itself. The part that raises my brow is that they're using a PAL version of Midnight Legacy's restoration, and even used their outtakes, which we know for a fact hadn't been seen prior.

At this point, Midnight Legacy is the only label taking a "hands on" approach with Italy, and they'd be fools not to either keep the rights to their own transfers or at least be in charge of who can use them. Alternate I guess CMV COULD have done their own restoration from the negative, but you can practically hear me rolling my eyes at the thought of that happening.

Mind you, I don't really care who's stealing what. (Glass houses and all that jazz.) I'm just fascinated how absolutely nobody in Germany seems to give even the slightest fuck about sticking to their licensing contracts and will stuff a bunch of crap on the disc they may or may not have any legal right to. I can only imagine that most film licensors see German dubbed imports as so little of a threat to their primary markets that they could care less.

I also vaguely remember XT Video getting accused of taking Anchor Bay's DAWN OF THE DEAD bonus features when they first released that three-disc set years ago. They've since re-released the film a few times, but never included the bonus disc since, so I wouldn't be surprised if it were at least partially true.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, that's how many smaller German labels run their businesses since the VHS era. Nobody gives a shit, nobody asks. And they know one thing for sure: Most of the foreign copyright holders wouldn't try to sue them because it's simply too expensive and time-consuming for them...

The last time I read something about this topic was when Code Red's Bill Norton accused infamous Eyecatcher Movies to have stolen some of his DVDs for their own f-ugly NTSC-PAL conversions.

Kevin P. said...

D'oh - so they have! I still don't see it in their online catalog (I also don't see half of the CMV discs I own, so no surprise there), but a google search reveals all. That dismembered head hardbox is sweet... may pick it up if I can find it on the cheap at auction.

Kentai 拳態 said...

Eyecatcher Movies? Oh yeah, those are the guys who said they wouldn't make a German subtitle track for SEX & ZEN, because the cost of translating the film into German would eat up whatever minor profits they expected to make from it.

But the release does have English subtitles. I'm sure that didn't come off as a kick in the balls in the slightest!

Anonymous said...

It's because of the German laws that you don't find all titles in their online-catalog - they are not allowed to "promote" such titles over there (that's why you don't find them at amazon.de or ebay.de either).

Kentai 拳態 said...

Germany's in a really weird situation, aren't they? There's clearly a market for German dubbed horror/exploitation DVDs, but the government likes to ban them and nobody likes to actually have it in their stores! About all you can do is set up shop in Austria and then run everything via mail-order and hope that nobody gets so cocky they try to sell banned titles in Germany - I hear that's why Astro Filmworks closed down years ago, even...

I guess Germany's all in a tizzy over A SERBIAN FILM right now. There's an uncut DVD/Blu-ray release ready to go, but no label was announced and packaging didn't list any studio at all. Now most of the German webstores are taking it down, presumably because everyone's expecting it to get banned anyway... keep in mind that in Germany, a title getting the ban-hammer means anyone who's even bought a copy is considered to have committed a crime!

Granted, nobody's been arrested under charges of "kinderporno" for having bought that X-Rated Kult DVD of Maladolescenza, but the potential is there none the less...

Anonymous said...

As long as the titles are "only" banned according to Article 131 StGB (glorification of violence)you aren't commiting a crime if you buy/own them as a private citizen for your own personal use. It's illegal to produce and sell them, though.

MALADOLESCENZA (banned according to Article 184b - child porn, as you said) is a different story...

Kentai 拳態 said...

Ah, cool! I didn't realize there were different "levels" of ban-hammering in Germany. Keeping track of any country's censorship based tics is hard to do from afar; I've had to explain to friends on more occasions than I can count why a pubic hair is pixelated in Japan, but sperm isn't. Ah, technicalities...

A Serbian Film is probably one of those rare films that well could run afoul of 184b, though, don't you think? That's what they're charging it with in San Salvador anyway, but maybe Spain's definition of CP is stricter than Germanys? I have no idea, just bouncing possibilities off what little I know about the country.

All I do know the label releasing Srpski Film in Germany is so worried about SOMETHING happening that they won't even put their name on the box. That means the "something" in question is probably a pretty big fucking deal, whatever it is.