Monday, August 22, 2011

Slower. Rottener. Sharkier. Zombi 2-ier!



Blue Underground has released the following behind-the-scenes EPK detailing, in brief, the process being used to bring Lucio Fulci's most famous horror milestone, ZOMBI 2, to Blu-ray. Having an idea of how many hours went into dirt clean-up and exactly what workstations are being used to remove damage to the negative is some pretty cool stuff, though unless you talk to film preservationists on a regular basis it's hard to say if this is the white-glove special, or just the average shave and a haircut (two bits!) treatment.

This could shock a few of you, but I'm really, really hoping this one turns out to be the best transfer in Blue Underground's catalog. Zombi 2 is the most famous film in Fulci's canon for good reason, and this may well be the one "evergreen" title left in Bill Lustig's bag of Italian tricks. If there's anything left up his sleeve he should pull out every stop for, friends, this it it.

Still, for all the great promises this bit of promotional material holds, it's all just a little disconcerting. LVR and their CRT-based Cintel DSX is clearly the film lab of choice for Blue Underground (as I've already theorized), and if earlier Techniscope transfers like City of the Living Dead andCat O' Nine Tails were made using the same process as Zombi 2, well, what's going to prevent it from having similar problems? I want the final results to be flawless, and have no doubt that Blue Underground has spared no expense on what could be their last hurrah for Euro-Horror, but... isn't LVR the likely weak link in the Euro-Horror chain? If this transfer is a winner that's great, but that'll only raise further questions.

Bring it on, Lustig! I'm more than ready to see some "Eye-Popping" High Definition.

11 comments:

Tommy said...

It's funny...I always thought City of the Living Dead was one of the few that Italian transfers that everyone approved. But lately I keep hearing the opposite. You obviously know your shit (I've been following your blog for a while), and I believe your complaints are valid, but to me even if it's a bit noisy...it looks pretty damn good. Idk...maybe I'd need to see a revised transfter to understand. Btw, what are your thoughts on blue underground's Deep Red trasnfer?

LoBo said...

I also have high hopes for this Blu-ray release and their upcoming The House by The Cemetery.

LoBo said...

I think the Arrow Video BD was pretty good. It looked much better than my old Anchor Bay DVD. Apart from the compression artifacts and video noise, i was happy.

LoBo said...

I forgot to post a link to this DVD vs Blu-ray comparison:

http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/39716/picture:0

Tommy said...

Wow...how is it that the DVD completely looses the red lighting in the background? Is it not an exact frame match? Either way...yeah...it looks a lot better. I have the blue underground, but I think it's the same transfer. I would've imported Arrow's but I didn't know about their kick ass packaging yet.

Kentai 拳態 said...

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of those frustrating wild-cards. It's always looked like crap on home video, and it might be the only Techniscope film ever made hard-matted to 1.85:1, which basically limits the potential resolution further than any other film made using the same process. In effect, we don't know "exactly" how it's supposed to look because no other examples of the cinematographic process used even exist!

So, what do we do with COTLD? Do we give it a pass since we don't really have a better point of reference? Or do we look at the host of other smudgy, noisy Italian transfers we know should look better than they do and assume it's yet another casualty? I wouldn't be surprised if the truth is somewhere in the middle; I have no doubt that COTLD looks worse than Zombie and The Beyond even on the camera negative, but I'm not convinced that the Blue Underground transfer is totally representative of how it could look, either.

Of course, this is all just an educated guess - I've been wrong more than once in my life, and unless some enterprising upstart label decides to do their own transfer from scratch we'll probably never know.

(Tommy's comparison is largely valid, but don't worry - that's NOT an exact frame match. The light behind Radice flickers on and off as the scene plays out.)


As for DEEP RED, I'll point you to the Land of Whimsy site run by my good friend Michael, who wrote several pieces on the Arrow/Blue Underground BDs. He's watched the film far more times than I ever have, and agree with damn near everything he has to say about the materials.

The only thing I'm really frustrated by is that the blue channel seems... compromised. Clipped, maybe? Flesh tones have an unusually yellow tinge to them and it's hard to make out veins and the like under people's skin that were perfectly visible on the Anchor Bay DVD. Wither that was a problem with a new IP they created or it was drained out intentionally, I really don't know, but it makes the whole film look a bit... sickly, for lack of a better word to describe it. Still, the resolution of the HD transfer is a pretty massive upgrade over any of the DVDs, and the fact that Blue Underground managed to unearth actual 35mm sourced credits for BOTH cuts of the film finally balances out their bone-headed freeze frame shot for the old DVD. It's certainly not BAD, it just looks slightly... off, I guess.


Indeed, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is a uniquely fun experience, and with that overly bright EC Ultrabit copy still hogging up my shelf space, I'll likely upgrade to the BU transfer sooner or later. Still, the more titles come out, the pickier I find myself getting... I'd say "cheaper", but that's not it. I just spent $70 on the Trust and Betrayal Blu-ray, god help me...

And I thank you for your kind words. I'm not an expert, really. I just play one on the internet. :-)

Tommy said...

Wow, thanks for the thoughtful response. I was unaware that COTLD was blown up from Techniscope. That would certainly help explain the overly-pronounced texture of the grain field. It's kind of frustrating though considering The Beyond's transfer was free of that obstacle, yet looks far worse. I guess their are just a million factors that way in. As for the Deep Red transfer (although you mentioned the color timing), it seems like the grain/noise issue mentioned with every other Italian title is not present here. So, what made the difference? Considering Deep Red was blue undergrounds latest Italian release, maybe we will see the same results from now on...

Kentai 拳態 said...

It's worth noting that both DEEP RED and INFERNO aren't "new" Blue Ungerground transfers, and as such probably don't say much about what we can expect from future releases. I think the last "new" BU transfer to be sourced from Italy was CAT O' NINE TAILS, so... yeah...


DEEP RED was sourced from the Medusa HD master minted back in 2004, and originally released as a WMV HD bonus disc included with the Italian DVD. The master has held up considerably well, all things considered. Michael covers the WMV HD release nicely HERE, if you're curious. I'm sure proudly shouting something akin to "Our brand new Blu-ray master of one of the most critically acclaimed giallo of all time is actually 7 years old!" is probably the sort of thing you want to avoid, even if the actual results are head and shoulders above a newer master.

It's worth noting that the Arrow release of Deep Red has really, really funky compression, which can be seen HERE in full effect. I don't know if it was pre-filtering gone wrong or what, but the Arrow transfer looks like it's literally made of tiny macroblocks instead of grain. No idea why, since the Arrow release has a substantially HIGHER bitrate than the BU release (25mb vs 18mb!) - just one of life's little mysteries, I guess...


INFERNO is based on the Fox HD remaster, first released on DVD in Italy in late 2007. Blue Underground appear to have performed some additional clean-up and color correction work, but the same initial HD scan has also been seen in France (Wild Side), Japan (King Records) and the UK (Arrow Video). All of the releases are slightly different, but they all share similar contrast cut-off points and grain structure, which would presumably the hardest things to re-create during a new telecine.

This master doesn't have the "scanner noise" problem we've come to expect from Italian telecine work, but it is pretty damned grainy. For once, I have no trouble assuming that we're seeing actual 35mm halide crystals, though I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was a generation or two further away from the OCN than was claimed...

Tommy said...

Ah..I thought the Deep Red transfer was sourced by blue underground themselves...to bad. I grabbed a copy of the Cat o' Nine Tails when it came out, but I haven't gotten around to watching it yet (one of my least favorite Argento films). I've watched BU's Inferno release twice, and was fairly wowed by the picture both times, even if it wasn't perfect. I also have the King Record's Suspiria blu ray, which despite it's interlaced transfer, doesn't look half bad. Anyways, overall I'm just happy a company like blue underground is around to serve our high-def needs. When compared to what some of the bigger studios are getting away with, I think BU deserves at least a nod of appreciation. Here's to hoping Zombi is the best transfer yet...

Kentai 拳態 said...

I don't have a problem with BU's transfer for DEEP RED so much as I do everything they've said about it. If memory serves the official story is that they had "a brand new High Definition master made from the camera negative" and they "didn't know what materials Arrow Video was working with".

This was a clever half-truth, at best; the English titles for the shorter "Export" version were indeed made from a brand new transfer. The longer Director's Cut, however, was a master minded in 2004, and the rest of the Export cut appears to be made from the same materials as the Director's Cut anyway. If they'd have just said that I'd have had a bit more respect for them as a label, but to beat around the bush and let us learn the hard way that they're using materials we've seen before... I dunno, it's just disingenuous. Makes me not want to trust you very much.

Blue Underground is certainly more stable than Arrow Video and Media Blasters put together, but man, when they bone it they bone it hard. Have you seen MANIAC, with it's milky black levels and weird oversaturated colors? I try to never say "the DVD looks better", but man, that's a clusterfuck and a half - and Lustig actually made the fucking movie!! If you want to point fingers and say "Hey, the DP said this is what he wanted!" okay, I guess, but seriously? You guys managed to screw your own pooch harder than anything you've licensed from elsewhere?


I'm still hoping we hear back from Midnight Legacy in the very near future. That ALIEN 2 release was really, really nice looking, and I fully expect them to continue releasing transfers of that caliber in the future. If we can get a half-dozen releases out of these genre films at that same standard, I wouldn't have much reason to bitch anymore - I'd just buy it, post caps and be on my merry way!

Tommy said...

Yes...Maniac was an absolute disaster. I can surely agree with you there. Considering it's Lustig's film (as you mentioned), there HAD to have been some kind of bazaar obstacle in the way of that transfer...I mean, there are points where I feel like I'm watching a poorly compressed youtube video, for real. I would really love to know what the fuck happened with that one.

And as for Midnight Legacy, with their first release (of an uber-obscure low budget rip-off turd nugget) rivaling that of a Criterion title...it's hard to not to raise an eyebrow at every production company out there, MB, BU, and Arrow aside. Too bad Midnight Legacy can't just own the rights to EVERYTHING!!! I too can't wait to hear what they have in store for us next. I really hope it's something I've actually heard of.