So! About that Image BD release of RE-ANIMATOR...
Where the fuck is this amazing art from, anyway?
Yes, I've now officially bought a copy of Image's new Blu-ray... much to my initial chagrin. Apparently the film was shown on MONSTERS HD, a now-defunct satellite station around 2005. I was never in a position to get dish up until very recently, so my overall interest in 1080i broadcasts was marginal at best, and this particular snippet of info had gone below my radar completely. With this in mind, why Anchor Bay chose to recycle the Millennium Edition SD materials for the "Anchor Bay Collection" DVD in 2007 when Brian Yuzna already had a newer HD master is a confusing turn of events indeed, but the fact that they didn't lean towards using a new source is a big part of why I assumed there hadn't even been a new source since Elite pulled the film out of the vault for their 16:9 master in 2002... seriously, who the fuck goes back to a Digibeta when you have an HDCAM SR tape right there at your fingertips?
I guess all I can do is take this one on the chin; Re-Animator was, according to sources who have spoken directly with Brian Yuzna in the past year, sourced from a "real" HD master. No upscaling here, despite my initial bitterness. I should have waited to flip my shit until I could dissect the whole disc, and yes, perhaps if I had done that, I may not have come to that conclusion to start with.
That said, Image Entertainment's Blu-ray press materials claimed that this was "A BRAND NEW 1080p TRANSFER APPROVED BY PRODUCER BRIAN YUZNA." As we've established, this master was first shown at least seven years ago. I don't think there's a statute of limitations as to how old a video source can be before calling it "New" is strictly bullshit, but I'm pretty sure this one's expired harder than year old milk.
Having finally seen the disc itself, I'll relent and say that is is marginally better than screenshots would suggest, with a fairly consistent coating of grain on lighter areas and improved close-up details, particularly those of David Gale's dreamy mile-long stares:
ELITE MILLENNIUM EDITION DVD (2002)
IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT BLU-RAY (2012)
Does it look better than the 10 year old DVD? Absolutely. Am I glad I can give my DVD away and not feel the slightest pang of hesitation? You bet! Does it look as good as I expected when being promised a "New, Producer Approved HD Master"? Not for a goddamn second. I'm going out of my damned way to find a static shot of an extreme close-up to give the Blu-ray every chance it can possibly have of clobbering the DVD, and in the end all I can do is shrug and nod that, yeah, I see the difference... it's not anything to get excited about, but after being reminded of what The Average Fuck-Upscale looks like, sure, I'll take this in a heartbeat.
That said, a modest increase in resolution and more natural flesh tones are about all there is to get excited about. For one thing, the entire disc has obvious halos along horizontal planes, which makes me think it's been the victim of some pretty harsh low-pass filtering, something I thought we had generally moved well past as a species:
"WATCH OUT! Those bags are all equipped
with edge-detecting forcefields!"
For another, grain looks natural enough on brightly lit scenes, but has an uncomfortably noisy look during the darker scenes. This is likely the result of an older, CRT based film scan, and while I know some people like the coarser, "grainier" look that this produces I can't say I'm one of them. Still, I'll begrudgingly take this over the same master plus some DVNR smearing...
Well, it's still not as bad as DJANGO.
There's also rampant black and white spots that vary in both size and intensity from start to finish. You can't find a single minute that doesn't have some sort of film artifact. Unlike the other two complaints above, I'm not entirely sold on this one way or another; obviously the fix for this can go very, horribly wrong, and I don't mind some of that "sparkle" (and Spielberg loves to call it) peeking through, but if nothing else it proves that Image did absolutely zero work on the source they were given. At first I thought that the Blu-ray actually had more dirt than the Elite DVD, but having compared the two side-by-side, I think that the general boost in clarity and lack of obvious DVNR on the HD masters just makes the gnarliness of the IP that much more obvious.
The scratches are coming, Barbara...
The Anchor Bay Collection DVD from 2006 actually incorporated some automated digital scratch repair, and while not perfect, it means that this is NOT, technically, the cleanest presentation the film has ever had on home video... and that's kinda fucked up.
So hey, I was wrong: RE-ANIMATOR is no upscale, and the Blu-ray is worth the $12 you should actually pay for it, particularly if - like me! - you didn't have the Anchor Bay retrospective already. That said, it's barely the "new and improved" master Image was promising, and it's nowhere near as good as this fantastic cult movie actually deserves. The negative hasn't been touched in over a decade now, and while I have little doubt that a film made in 1985 for less than a million dollars will always look pretty rough around the edges, we've still got a good long way to go before anyone who actually respects this film is going to treat it right... assuming they ever do, of course.
Don May was angling to make this a Synapse release, but for whatever reason, Brian Yuzna took his business elsewhere. I'm sure he didn't make that decision lightly, but even so... Brian, just in case you're listening, please, reconsider Don's offer next time? You got my cash for this one and God knows you'll get it each and every time you release another Gordon picture, but I'll be more apt to suggest friends buy their own copies if you do a good job instead of just giving them my old hand-me-downs.
Hopefully I'll be able to tell y'all how TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 looks soon. 'Till then!