Goddamn it, Don...
So, here's the deal: Our old pals Don May and Jerry Chandler purchased the rights to release Lamberto Bava's DEMONS/Demoni and DEMONS 2/Demoni 2, on Blu-ray through Synapse Films. For the time being they're only selling these two films as Limited Edition steelbook DVD+BD sets through their own website, and while they acknowledge that they might do a non-limited release later they currently aren't promising jack shit. They're planning to ship the finished product "by November", but promise they'll send them out as soon as they're ready, which - if Intruder was any indicator - may well be several weeks, maybe even a few months in advance.
It's not a typical pre-order, however. For one thing, they charge you NOW, now when the product is actually going to ship. Kind of unusual and... honestly, a bit of a dick move I think. Not sure if this is part of the grand plot to pre-pay Scanavo for the access to their delicious Steelbook technology or what, but it's something you can't exactly plan for - you either pay now, or pray it isn't sold out later. The other brow-raiser is the price tag: Each steelbook is $39.95 plus $6 shipping, which makes the whole set just under $92. For reference, anyone who pre-ordered the Arrow Video steelbook from last year literally paid less than half the price Don is asking for both films after the standard Amazon discount.
That said, not only is the packaging unique - both sides feature some amazing artwork, one an "all new" take by award winning horror specialist Wes Benscoter, the other a 'clean' version of the original poster art - but the Blu-rays themselves stand to deliver an improved presentation when compared to Arrow Video's frustrating attempts. Both will be presented on BD-50s with, presumably, moderate-to-high bitrates encodes, and the first film will feature both the "American" dub as featured on the Arrow Video BD, as well as the "European" dub (which had been featured on every prior DVD release I'm aware of). The English audio on Arrow's release was "blah" at best, and their excuse for not including the alternate dub was even worse; even members of their notoriously positive Cult Labs forum poked holes in their defense saying that it's "impossible" to sync an alternate track to a new print by one of the members doing it himself in less than half an hour.
The press release promises 'all new' HD transfers, but as we've already established talking with Don May himself, it's the same initial 2K scan Arrow Video created with Cinetecca di Bologna plus some additional color-correction. That said, I've got no qualms with that approach; Arrow Video's final transfers had 99 problems, but their scan of the OCN [Original Camera Negative] ain't one.
The discs also have a host of brand new, and - for now, at least - exclusive bonus material in the form of five new interviews each, including director Lamberto Bava, producer Dario Argento, genre writer/director staple Luigi Cozzi, composer Simon Bowsell and several others. You guys know me, I'm starting to think we've reached the point where there's not many new stories left to tell about 25 year old genre films, but I certainly can't blame Synapse for trying to fill these discs to the gills for those who never tire of heaving these people reminisce on their most beloved works. I don't think I've actually watched more than a curious minute or two of any of the bonus features on the Arrow Video set yet, so as you can imagine the presence of new extras leaves me nonplussed more than anything. Truth be told I'm surprised there's no new commentary or any material with the first film's co-star Garetta Garetta, who was more than happy to show up for the 35mm screening I saw at the New Beverly not long ago, but I can't say their inclusion would have nudged my wanting this one way or the other either.
Oh yes, you also get a replica ticket with the first set. Not quite as cool as the Japanese DVD box set including a mini-replica of the Black Sunday mask, I admit, but it was a nice little gesture to make that bitter price tag go down just a bit smoother.
Honestly... I'm not sure what to do. The tins look pretty great. I do love the first film, and Arrow Video's release - while a marked improvement over the Anchor Bay DVDs in several areas - are a mess when it comes to color grading, compression and the English audio track which was, arguably I suppose, the "original" language track. Owning several Synapse releases, I have no doubt that these will be the "Ultimate Edition" presentations I've been longing for since I first laid eyes on Arrow's middling transfer work. I don't intend for this to be any sort of popularity contest, but simply put, Don's work basically speaks for itself. If you own Frankenhooker, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Fairy in a Cage - heck, even that awesome 42nd Street Forever Blu-ray! - you already know that their work is consistently good, and that Synapse is more than capable of producing the finest presentation of the Demons films we're likely to ever see. Sick as I am of double-dipping films in general, much less from Blu-ray to Blu-ray, I want these sets, and damn the expense!
But still, $46 a piece? Christ, that makes even Twilight Time's $35 shipped price tag on titles like Christine seem pretty fair, and at least with those damnable things you aren't sitting there wondering if your somewhat sizeable price tag is going to be replaced a few months later by a reasonably-priced mass market version.
All we know for sure is that over 1/3 (or about 1,000 each) of these sets has already been bought by the public, and if these last more than a week I'll be shocked. Already I'm struggling to pull the trigger for one each - particularly when I remember what a damned slog Demons 2 is! - but the thought of doubling down and trying to flip a second set is borderline heart-breaking.