XT VIDEO AUSTRIA (25 Mb/s ABR)
ARROW VIDEO UK (32 Mb/s ABR)
You really never know what you're going to get from a German centric import, and with both INFERNO and 4 FLIES ON GRAY VELVET having gotten their definitive releases in Austria, I was certainly curious to see how the rest of them would turn out. I'm a little sad to say that the XT release of Dario Argento's most awesomely WTF fueled film, PHENOMENA, is... basically the exact same thing as the Arrow release. The bitrate is lower and the transfer is ever so slightly softer as a result, but without comparing the two head to head I'd never have noticed that one was superior to the other, and as such I won't waste any more bandwidth to make that point. If they literally just bought the UK release, synced the German audio to it and then re-encoded it using x264, I wouldn't be surprised.
XT's release also has no lossless audio or English subtitles for the footage exclusive to the Italian "Integral Hard" cut - just German subs, which makes sense - so unless you speak German as your first language (or you need absolutely every Argento film in a Digibook), this one is pretty safe to skip. In any case, just avoid the FSK-18 rated German release by Ascot International. They re-submitted the film to the ratings board, but for reasons I'll never understand the release is still CUT by about 10 seconds.
Arrow Video has produced a number of new interviews and featurettes, on top of a nice booklet and the usual fold-out poster. XT Video goes old school by providing a stack of vintage behind-the-scenes documentaries and including various international trailers, though long time fans have likely seen all of that fluff before. You also get your fancy Digibook with your choice of cover art, but as Arrow was still doing that whole "window slip" box you get your pick of artwork for the UK release, as well.
For the time being Arrow Video's UK release still seems to be the one to keep. The DVNR is pretty obnoxious and the film really, really needs a new six-track sourced remix to smooth over the soundtrack inconsistencies between the Italian and English masters, but until that happens... well, this remains the best of Arrow Video's earlier releases. We'll have to talk about one that out-classed this by a wide margin soon, though.