Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blue Undead Running Through My Head

...I fucking hate being right all the time.

Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE (Zombi 2, 1979)

Lucio Fulci's HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero, 1981)

The fine folks over at Rock! Shock! Pop! have more comprehensive reviews HERE and HERE. If I'm not mistaken they rank as the first online reviews with accompanying screenshots, so Ian gets potentially more traffic for both being speedy and taking lotsa pretty peek-a-tures. These rank as some of the worst images in their respective sets, so go look at more if you want a slightly more complete idea of how these titles look from start to finish.

Sadly, the above two images tell me everything I needed to know: It really doesn't matter how much money you throw at a title, LVR's dated Cintel DSX setup is simply incapable of creating an accurate, high quality film scan that doesn't prioritize video noise over legitimate detail.

What's worse is I'm still keeping my pre-orders for these films... sorry, bitter principles, but we're talking about Zombie and House by the Cemetery. These could look as bad as Zombie Holocaust or Burial Ground and I'd probably still pony up for the privilege, but thankfully they appear substantially better than either of those unfortunate transfers. From the looks of it though, neither is quite as good as The New York Ripper or The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, the two titles I'd rank as the best we've seen outside of Alien 2 (Midnight Legacy) and Tenebrae (Wild Side).

It's a crying shame that the "best" looking Fulci BD is bound to be the one title BU wouldn't spring for a dual-layered disc on...


Anonymous said...

Yuck...I hate digital noise. Sad, but not totally unexpected given BU's track record of Italian films. I wish they would change their authoring house. Seriously, does BU even look and compare their transfers from their US titles to their Italian ones and realize something is fucked up? I mean the pseudo grain in their Italian titles sticks out like a sore thumb regardless of what monitor/screen you view it on. By the way, Shriek Show did release "Smash Cut" on blu ray earlier this year. It's actually one of their better transfers. I would have been surprised if they fucked it up given the fact it was shot with Red One.

Kentai 拳態 said...

Thanks for the tip! It's not always easy to tell exactly what is and isn't available from Media Blasters, what with their "Solicit and forget it" release strategy...

(Case in point, Right Stuf International has been shipping QUEEN'S BLADE S2 on Blu-ray since mid July. Amazon charged me, oh... two or three days ago? WTF?)

As for Blue Underground's QC process, I just don't know anymore... I'd take Bill and his team over the goons at Arrow Video every time, but let's not forget that MANIAC is a pretty major fuck up with it's "fade to clipped dark blue" impressionist black levels, and that a film that Bill made for crying out loud!

But like I said before, assuming these look no worse in motion (and I'm not holding my breath after TORSO!), I'll begrudgingly take a middling looking ZOMBIE over the painful looking transfer ZOMBI HOLOCAUST or CAT O' NINE TAILS got.

Kriztoffer Swank said...

I wrote BU a pretty pissed off email a few minutes ago. I wonder if they'll actually take the time to reply (and feed me with more bullshit like when they told me the noise in Stendhal Syndrome "IS JUST FILM GRAIN; THAT'S HOW IT LOOKS") or just throw it aside? Heh.

It just sucks that the equipment LVR is using seems to pick up on the grain in a really mystifying way, pushing it to the forefront, and then makes the rest of the image look totally hazy. And what's with these bland-ass colors? A lot of these titles look practically identical.

The biggest kick to the nuts about these shit-dick transfers is that we'll still pay for 'em 'cos they are so far (overall) the best looking versions of these films on video.

At least all of these titles so far have looked much better in motion...

And here a piece of crap like Troll 2 looks pretty nice and filmic in HD...

Kriztoffer Swank said...

As for Maniac, I was terribly let down by that Blu-ray, not knowing the hubbub over its quality before watching. It made me question if BU really knows what they're doing. You'd think, as you said, since it's Lustig's film that he'd make it look its finest, but that BD was a gigantic disappointment. Half the time I kind of wondered if my eyes were getting sleepy, watery, and out of focus, and the terribly blue black levels were really unappealing.

What scares me most is knowing that if Suspiria ever gets rescanned, it probably won't look a whole hell of a lot better than the current telecine.

Kriztoffer Swank said...

At least I can take comfort in knowing that I snagged Synapse's Frankenhooker BD for fifteen bucks and here it arrives a month before release and will likely be a swell transfer. Looking forward to poppping this sucker in tomorrow night.

Kriztoffer Swank said...

Hell, why not a FOURTH comment in a row and one only slightly related to the topic?

Any idea if Synapse's Blu-ray for Coffin Joe's Embodiment of Evil looks any different from Anchor Bay's UK release? I own the latter and it looks great, so there's really no reason for me to consider buying the other except maybe to support Synapse further; just wondering if there's any difference in picture/sound quality or if the two are essentially the same.

Apparently Synapse are bringing Coffin Joe's At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul to Blu-ray, which is terribly exciting. Hopefully they don't wait long for This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse to follow. The Coffin Joe trilogy are three of the greatest horror films, ever.

And they're bringing out Basket Case 3. I can soon finally ditch my shoddy UK two-films-on-one-disc DVD. Hopefully there'll be a Blu-ray for that and also the second in the series.

Damn... Kinda sucks being a film freak 'cos it costs so much money. But having an extensive, impressive Blu-ray collection is something I so desperately want, especially for when I eventually get my own house with a nice projector and that. Totally gonna have me a theater room.

LoBo said...

It`s too bad about the noise, but Zombi 2 and HBTC looks improved compared to Zombie Holocaust and Burial Ground. Yes, i actually was happy with them, but yes they could have looked nicer. I don`t regret buying them

This is the best they have looked, so i`ll buy them because i really like them. I am forgiving of these old Italian horror films, in terms of picture and sound quality.

Greg M said...

Christopher, It's not hard to save your money when so many of these cult-titles look like garbage. I have yet to buy anything from Media Blasters and the only titles I own from BU are Bird with the Crystal Plumage and NY Ripper. The screenshots of Maniac spoke for themselves. There was no mistaking that blue-tinged mud.

I simply refuse to waste money on these things when they look like fuck, no matter how much I love the films.

Synapse is the only consistently excellent cult-film label at this point. I own every one of their Blus so far and plan on continuing my support until I no longer have the money to do so. And I think I remember reading that their release of Embodiment was the first home video presentation to be scanned from the actual negative. Don't quote me though.

Greg M said...

I spoke too soon. Shout Factory is a serious contender for Synapse's title. Even if the prints they master from are often less than ideal.

Kentai 拳態 said...

Christopher: EMBODIMENT OF EVIL was shot on HD Video of one flavor or another, and I distinctly remember Don May talking about having the finished film on a hard disk. Odds are the US and UK releases are comparable, if not identical, but I've never actually seen a comparison...

I vastly prefer AT MIDNIGHT I'LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE to Coffin Joe's first feature (and never saw his third, come to think of it...) but heck, if Synapse is hoarding enough blatant insanity to release the lot of them I might have to buy them solely on principle.

LoBo: While I'm going to buy these two, and will likely buy more titles in the future, I tend to be less forgiving these days. There are just too many titles available to spend money on movies I've bought twice before unless I absolutely love it, or the upgrade is actually worth the money.

Mind you I don't want to tell people how to spend their hard earned greenbacks. I just want to make sure they know what they're getting before they do, and want to let the studios releasing these films when they aren't (or are!) doing a good enough job to warrant a double dip.

Greg: I take it you never saw VAMPIRE CIRCUS? Despite being a UK sourced master it's every bit as noisy and grungy looking as any of the transfers LVR has made for Blue Underground. But otherwise, yes, Synase seems to be on a hot streak of good to very good. Here's hoping that INTRUDER is a knock-out.

I was very happy with GALAXY OF TERROR and remain disappointed that we're probably not going to see HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP in HD. But honestly, I thought AUDITION was perfectly middling - constant (but minor) print damage, zero stabilization, cue marks and so on. I have no doubts that the Interneg they had to work with was nothing good to start with, but I still found the whole thing pretty disappointing. (Also, I fucking *love* Audition.)

Mind you, BLOOD FEAST looks worse, but I paid $12 for three feature length movies and dropped about $20 on Audition. It might be just a bit unfair, but I think we all scale our expectations somewhat based on what we're actually getting for the money.

Greg M said...

I didn't realize Shout were the ones responsible for the Audition release. I read mediocre to negative things about it upon release (courtesy of Whiggles and others) and never bothered to pick it up even though it's a fave of mine as well.

To be fair, the only Shout releases I've seen are the Corman titles and they're all pretty stellar. Oh and Humanoids From the Deep DOES have a Blu release and it's of the International print which includes the decapitation!

Greg M said...

Kriztoffer Swank said...

I asked Don May if there was a quality difference between the UK and US BDs for Embodiment of Evil, to which he replied, "A HUGE quality difference." I hope the dude's not just pulling my leg to get a sale. ;) Looks like I'll be picking that up at some point.

Kentai 拳態 said...

Greg: Really? Awesome! Now why the heck was I thinking this didn't have a BD release? I know I remember Shout Factory releasing CANNIBAL GIRLS on DVD only (despite a Canadian BD release being readily available), so I must have mistakenly filed HFTD in that same boat for whatever reason...

Thanks for the correction, either way. I won't be able to buy it for a while - whatever money I *had* left is going towards preorders - but I'll be sure to pick this awesome schlock up as soon as I can.

But yeah, AUDITION was... not so good. I know they were working with poor elements and were supposedly outright denied access to the negative, but the final release is still blurry, noisy, has insanely cranked out color saturation and just looks like a less than great 35mm release print to me.

Chris: Interesting... Not that Don would have any reason to be biased towards his own work, of course, but outright lying about it to a potential consumer probably isn't a way to get repeat business, either.

Never having seen a comparison I just assumed both releases were more or less the same.

Anonymous said...

"Christopher: EMBODIMENT OF EVIL was shot on HD Video of one flavor or another, and I distinctly remember Don May talking about having the finished film on a hard disk."

I have to admit that it looks like film to me, and Don said on his website -- -- that it's a new transfer from the negative. The UK BD was sourced from HDCAM.

Oh, I just found a post on AV Maniacs back when Don was still posting there that goes into a little more detail:

. . .

The film is ready to go, along with a true NTSC version of the "making of"... we're just waiting for a few other pieces for extras. Also, OUR version will be a true 1920x1080 HD version... we actually received a 2K scan of EMBODIMENT as data on a hard drive.

The Anchor Bay UK version was mastered from regular HDCAM (not HDCAM SR), which means the UK version wasn't mastered from a true 1920x1080 HD source (their source was a compressed 1440x1080 original source, that was upsampled on playback and encode). Blech!

Kentai 拳態 said...

Anon: Well now, don't I feel like a 'tard! :D

I couldn't for the life of me remember where that blurb came from, and all I remembered was the "2K" bit and talk of hard disks versus tape masters. The fact that he went out of his way to mention 35mm directly evidently flew in one ear and out the other.

So yeah, disregard everything I said prior. I'm sure that the Synapse release is a marked improvement over a release sourced from old-school HDCAM.

Kriztoffer Swank said...

Thanks, ye great anonymous gent (or lady?). Before reading that reply, I'd shot Don May a Twitter message asking if it was a whole new master or just a better transfer of the same, to which he replied, "I did my own master and fixed SPFX shots."

So, hell yeah, time to plunk down s'more money. (Here comes more ridicule from my friends.) I love the Coffin Joe trilogy, and the last one struck me as one of the most graphically disturbing films I've yet seen.

Adam said...

No problem. I didn't mean to be anonymous...I was just being lazy. :) (I'm Adam Tyner of DVD Talk "fame".)

Kentai 拳態 said...

Always nice to meet a new reader, Adam. Keep up the good work - you're convincing me I need all those damn Synapse releases, even if I can't afford 'em!

And thanks for correcting the inaccuracies I accidentally spewed all weekend, too. I swear, the parts of my brain that remembers useless trivia AND knows how to use Google both shut down at once. Either I'm getting senile, or the boundless, repetitive rage of DEMON'S SOULS has started to take its toll on my general mental health. :D

Adam said...

Thanks for the words of support! I definitely appreciate it.

And yeah, I'm a huge fan of your blog. This and Land of Whimsy are two of the only places I've found where there's really substantive discussion and analysis about the way films look on Blu-ray without any bickering to get in the way. Maybe there are other pockets of sanity out there, but I haven't stumbled upon them. So many blogs and message boards treat knowledge like dick inches, where everyone's just trying to pretend how much more they have then everyone else, no matter how little they're *actually* packing. I feel like I come away from here and Land of Whimsy better informed, and there aren't a lot of Blu-ray-heavy blogs and forums where I can say that.

Kriztoffer Swank said...

Having just watched the US Embodiment of Evil BD, ho-ly hell is it ever an improvement over the UK disc. And the footage from the first two films really whetted my appetite for having those on the format; apparently Synapse are planning the first one.

Kriztoffer Swank said...

And thanks to the awesomeness of Horror Movie Empire, them having a limited time pre-order of the Intruder Blu-ray for sixteen bucks and me having a $5 off discount they recently handed out to all registered users, I just scored a copy for twelve bucks. A Synapse BD for $12. That's rad. (And my Frankenhooker BD from them got sent out a month before release, so hopefully I'll get Intruder in November.)

Kriztoffer Swank said...

(Excuse me: seventeen bucks.)

Kentai 拳態 said...

Adam: And thank you, good sir.

Just saw your piece on ZOMBIE - appreciate the shout-out, and thought you did a fine job hitting all of the vitals. I think I'm a bit more fond of the film than you are, but I've always had a soft spot for undead spaghetti splatter anyway.

I'll be posting some thoughts as soon as my copy arrives, but I think you've hit all the bases I was concerned with nicely. I was especially curious on the audio end, since there was plenty of hubub over Anchor Bay/Roan Group's old 5.1 mix having been "upgraded" with new foley work that sounded rather obnoxious.

Christopher: Nice deals, man. And I'm glad to hear you liked that EMBODIMENT OF EVIL upgrade. I wasn't any help in getting you there, but if my friends in the comments section can do my job better than I can, hey, awesome. ^_~

I'm looking forward to INTRUDER, but after that mess of the price dropping on a recent Synapse title literally 24 hours after release I may just hang tight and see what Amazon does with them.

It's for the best, though, I'm sure. Blue Underground ate all the money I can justify buying horror films for the next few weeks (...not months?) anyway.

Kriztoffer Swank said...

Yeah, I just bought Maniac Cop from Amazon for $16. Didn't think any Synapse BD would drop below $20 there.

I was wrong about the first two Coffin Joe films being on Blu-ray. I saw the titles in Synapse's 2012 catalog and just assumed, but Don May said, "The Brazil lab never mastered them in HD." Le bogue. Hope it happens eventually; the footage looks great in HD in the third film.

Still, I think I'll buy Synapse's DVDs in the meantime. My coffin-shaped box set from Fantoma has nonanamorphic transfers and there's certainly room for improvement in other areas as well.

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