Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Zombified Customer Service

Good news, everyone!

Arrow Video has acknowledged that the missing 6 seconds after the opening titles on ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS (y'know, Lucio Fulci's ZOMBI 2) was a casualty of them using seamless branching for the first time, and have - after much good natured pestering - finally said that they'll fix it on subsequent pressings. In short, soon, the Arrow Video release will be the best version possible. Arrow Video, you finally made it to the top goddamn tier on this one!

Oh right, the bad news: They're NOT planning to replace anyone's current copies. Ouch.

Keep in mind that their initial reaction was "Psh, it's nowhere near six seconds long, and we've already spent a goddamn fortune. GET OVER IT." The fact that such a stunning, loving, and otherwise grandiose presentation of a movie I do legitimately like the hell out of was let down by a minor authoring glitch was something even I was willing to overlook (financially, if nothing else!), and seeing them finally cop to the fact that they done fuk'd up and will - eventually - fix it was heartwarming.

The fact that they'll make me purchase another copy to get those six seconds back? Not really helping the "New and Improved!" Arrow Video theme so much. Evidently they've finally ditched that PR company that ran their forum for a few years now, which means the Cult Lab Mods might be a bit less... enthusiastic, going forward. But it also means that Arrow Video might well step in a big pile of not-giving-a-fuck going forward too, since they no longer have anyone to tell them "The Beyond is a fucking train-wreck, and you aren't helping by promising a BD-50 on the box. Fix it up as best you can and offer replacements, now."

Still excited by Arrow Video's upcoming 2013 slate. Doesn't mean the above info isn't a shitty way to start the new years, though. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

UPDATE: Wow, it gets even shittier! Arrow Video have seemingly had a change of heart, and will let anyone trade in their faulty first press copies... for 5 pounds sterling. Yes, now even the people who pre-ordered that release with nothing but positive advance reviews will have to cough up about eight bucks American to fix a fuck-up Arrow themselves caused.

HERE'S THE ACTUAL PRODUCT PAGE. Hand of Argento, that thing's legit. The best part is there's no free shipping outside the UK, so dirty Yanks like myself will pay a bit over of $12.80 for a replacement copy of a disc that never should have shipped, because they clearly didn't pay close enough attention to the one thing in the authoring process they had never done before. It's not like it could somehow have gone horribly wrong...

Their galling excuse for charging half the cost of the retail version is that when they offered a replacement for THE BEYOND - a miserable looking disc, I must add, which was only improved marginally on the "Replacement" version - they only requested that the sales recepit or sales eMail be sent, not the actual faulty disc... like, you know, every other label who's done this, ever. Arrow Video claims that due to their "fan friendly" trade-in plan, they actually sent more replacement copies than they had originally produced! That's horrible (if true), but begs the question why they didn't require anyone to surrender the original disc in the first place? 1 original, 1 replacement. End of story. If you only cover the UK, well that sucks for us Yanks who'll import, but that's all part of the game ain't it?

The 5 Pound "Disc Only" option is even more offensive to people who went out of their way to pre-order the title directly from Arrow Video themselves - they aren't getting comped, despite the fact that Arrow not only got every pence of their purchase, but that they know for a bloody goddamn fact that they deserve a replacement, free of charge! I ordered through Amazon UK, so I'm not bitching because it'd benefit me in any way; I'm bitching because that's what any other fucking company would do, and it's deplorable that Arrow Video isn't, on what's easily their biggest title of the quarter.

I honestly can't decide if the current compromise is better or worse than not offering a replacement at all. All I'm certain of is that replicating and shipping a single BD-50 shouldn't cost Arrow Video more than two pounds tops, so they're not just being ridiculous about charging their customers for a replacement copy, they're actively profiting from it. In short, this has pissed away whatever good will the company had put in my pocket over this release.

Yes, I'd love to have a fixed copy of ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS to put back in my limited tin I pre-ordered. I'd pay for the actual postage of a replacement copy. But I'm not paying over two dollars a fucking second because their QC team doesn't double-check the one thing that so easily could have gone wrong, and I swear, if any of you reading this do you're bigger idiots than I am.

UPDATE #2: And at last, Arrow Video has pulled the stick out of their asses and promised that anyone willing to send in their original "faulty" disc will get a complimentary replacement.

See, Arrow? It's not that hard to stop sucking at everything! GREAT JOB!

And, yes, everything I said yesterday stands: Arrow Video did a shitty thing, and taking it back after your entire customer base tells you to fuck off with it doesn't undo your 24 hours of douchebaggery. But I'll strike it out anyway, so people don't stumble upon it a week later and then start flipping tables or something.


Kriztoffer Swank said...

I know this is a dick thing and Amazon doesn't need this kinda flak, but were I in your shoes, I'd file a complaint about the item saying it's defective and try to get a replacement.

Glad I waited, though. Still no region-free player (hey! I sent you an email about that) and I gotta get more monies before I go importing a buncha titles.

Anonymous said...

Classless move by Arrow, but I am interested in their future titles. On a lighter note, Synapse/Impulse will release "Fairy in a Cage"(1977), a truly twisted pink film, on Blu Ray in March. Hopefully, minus optical censorship.

Kentai 拳態 said...

Kriz: I owe you a reply, no doubt about that! Only reason I haven't yet is because I don't currently have a stand-alone player (SlySoft AnyDVD HD + ArcSoft Total Media Player is the collective shit), so any advice I offer would have to be second-hand, and thoroughly researched.

I've considered the Amazon route, but the fact that I bought the limited tin makes me a bit nervous. I got it for a better price than it's selling for now and Arrow themselves have already sold out! So if moving forward on a replacement means losing my tin, I'd rather keep the flawed disc and just be bitter about it.

What can I say, I love me those steelbooks...

Anon: I saw the Amazon listing, but so far Synapse has yet to release a single Roman Porno film on BD, so I refuse to get excited until we see a cover.

Anonymous said...

Here's the cover from blu-ray.com-


X-human said...

I've learned with DVD that it doesn't pay to pre-order any more. Now Blu-ray is close to 50/50 with these issues it seems. The more complex these discs and transfers get the more things can go wrong.

BTW Image is no longer issuing free no questions asked replacements of Phantom of the Opera either. You have to mail your disc in to get a replacement. For me the Phantom problems aren't grave enough on the disc to dedicate my time and my money to get fixed. Neither are Arrow's Zombie problems.

Kentai 拳態 said...

Anon: Well, bust my buttons! I'll happily throw money in Synapse's direction for 1080p Naomi TANI...

It's just too bad they've wasted so much time doing Roman Porno films on DVD up until now. Some of those films are really good, but my days of spending $20 on a DVD are long behind me - assuming a 35mm print exists, anyway.

X-Human: I have no issue with a label saying "We'll fix it. Just send us the crap disc first." Makes it easier to keep track not only of who actually owns the faulty copy, but it can also give them an idea of how many people care about that sort of thing, and how much more work they have to do internally to avoid looking like idiots in the future.

Anonymous said...


Really appreciate your coverage of all things Italian genre film (especially your willingness to take on the technical aspects of these releases, and to call bullshit bullshit [for example, people who deny, or flat-out ignore, the presence of scanner noise]).

I just watched Arrow's Blu of Zombie, basically the first time I've watched any non-giallo work by Fulci. I'm intrigued enough to want to watch The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, and House by the Cemetery (all of which I've never seen).

The big question though: which Blus do I buy, if any? Are the Arrow Blus of these three titles "good enough" and/or better than their Blue Underground counterparts? Is there a better option? I am region free, so that's not a limitation (in fact I just ordered the German Blu of Scanners based on your write-up, so thanks!). But I don't want to out-and-out *waste* money on certifiably shitty releases ... any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Kentai 拳態 said...

Hey there, Anonymous!

First off, thanks for your kind words. It's always nice to hear that a reader's getting something from this site.

As for Fulci's "Trilogy of Death", the short version is that while the current HD masters we have are no great shakes, they're still preferable to any of the previous DVD transfers... even if exactly how preferable varies from mild to moderate.

Whenever applicable, I'd recommend the Blue Underground transfers, for the simple fact that - up until their ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS disc - Arrow Video has always had lousy compression. You can check out some comparisons between the two for COTLD and HBTC - as you can see, the masters themselves are nigh identical, but the grain is consistently sharp and stable on the BU encode where it... isn't, on the Arrow Video equivalents. How obvious these deficiencies are vary from scene to scene, and some people just don't notice poor compression, but if you're interested in the best looking release available, stick with Blue Underground. Even at their worst, they're topping Arrow's best.

To be fair, Arrow Video always packs on more bonus features than Blue Underground, but with only a few exceptions BU's "smaller" featurettes are cobbled from the same lengthy interviews Arrow Video presents in their entirety, and the older I get, the less convinced I am that any actor or make-up artist has more than a few lively anecdotes about a film he worked on thirty years ago. The one thing I WILL grant Arrow Video is that their packaging is some of the best in the industry... or was, until they decided that a cardboard slip was too expensive and regulated to a Limited Edition item. I'll not fault them for it, but it does - going forward, especially - make Arrow Video that much harder to recommend over literally anyone else doing the same feature in North America.

THE BEYOND is currently only available in the UK. The transfer is a marginal upgrade from the US DVD, but - like all of these noisy, middling HD scans - they're the best release we've had yet, and their deficiencies aren't of "The DVD Looked Better!" variety, just the "This Should Look Better Than It Does!" sort. Even a middle of the road Blu-ray will almost always be a superior experience over a stunning DVD, and the Fulci BDs are, for better or worse, no exception. (Just try not to spend a fortune on them.)

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the reply! I hear you when it comes to the "This Should Look Better Than It Does!" dilemma. I'm well-familiar with it re: all the Argento Blus. I find the situation with Four Flies especially a pisser, as I'm very happy with the look of what seem like corrected gamma levels on the Koch (or corrected "something" levels--I'm no tech expert by any stretch of the imagination, I just know that I prefer its look to the Shameless version). So happy that I'd be ready to unload my Shameless Blu ... except for the wonkiness with Koch's extra inferior footage and an English track that is *okay*, but not really that great.

The Suspiria Blus are a mess too of course (I own the French and UK, but am not particularly happy with either). The only Argento Blu that I'm unapologetically wild about is the Wild Side Tenebrae. Even with the forced subs, the image is just too satisfying to care ... if only all the Italian stuff could be handled so well. (And if only Camera Obscura could be given a budget to release more titles, and on Blu!)

Again, many thanks for the advice. I'll start with the two BU releases and go from there. Maybe the "new and improved" Arrow will wow us with some more new (and properly done) scans in the upcoming year ... or maybe not.


Kentai 拳態 said...

With Arrow Video having likely paid the bill (twice!) for THE BEYOND themselves, I'm not going to hold my breath for them taking another whack at it. Even the exchange disc is pretty awful, but properly explaining why would take a bit of effort... screenshots are a start, but I swear it loops footage to try and "fix" scenes that are already woefully out of sync. It's just weird, and frankly I'm surprised more people haven't been upset by it.

Still, as underwhelming as COTLD/HBTC might be, transfer wise, they're still a notable upgrade from the crumby VHS and DVD releases I'd been long familiar with. If you've seen the HD masters for BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, TWO EVIL EYES, DEEP RED and THE NEW YORK RIPPER, you pretty much know exactly what you're in for: A shitty scan of a great film element.

HBTC has some DVNR as well as the usual noise issues, but it's nowhere near as offensive as it was on TORSO or STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER. Those were just... eugh. The screenshots didn't look half bad, but in motion it was like watching the movie play under a frozen layer of static.

And yes indeed, the gamma setting on the Shameless release of 4 FLIES ON GRAY VELVET is what seems to be off. It's almost hard to blame them; Apple Quicktime formats (which are basically the standard in post-production work) are supposed to store the proper gamma setting, but virtually every program will interpret it differently.

If I can ever get my hands on the Koch Media release of FLIES I'm liable to cut the two versions together myself... we're so close to a "perfect" release I can taste the damned thing!

Pooch said...

Hi Kentai,

Just wanted to say that it's nice to see someone else giving Arrow a hard time, over their errors, mistakes, fuck-up's, or whatever else you want to refer to it as.

I run a British-based film blog, over at:


Your blog is far superior to mine, but I like to think that you and I are different enough to be able to co-exist. (I aim to do text-heavy stuff that's 2500-4000 words in length.)

Keep up the great work!