Monday, November 04, 2013

Topsy Turvy Blu-ray Slurrey

Just a quick label recap, because shit is now completely bananas:

* Arrow Video have turned their production end inside-out, hiring David "Lyris" MacKenzie as their mastering guru, and having James White oversee new film work where applicable. For reference, these were the guys who were crafting materials for BFI and Mondo Vision until Arrow Video head-hunted the both of them. I don't know Mr. White personally, but his interview for the Zombie Flesh-Eaters/Zombi 2 restoration speaks for itself, as far as I'm concerned. What you need to know is he's the guy you call when you have 80 year old film elements that have been vigoriously fucked by time itself... and now he's working on Lucio Fulci movies. Fuck. Yeah.

I couldn't be happier that these are the guys who are backing the "New and Improved" Arrow Video who made great strides about a year ago to re-invent themselves, and now sit atop the pile of genre film studios churning out both some of the most interesting titles, and the best presentations thereof available even when they'e surfaced in the US (or elsewhere, for that matter).

If you need proof that they're done fucking around, while Twilight Time was content to use an aged HD scan for Brian DePalma's THE FURY, Arrow Video created a new 2K scan of the original negative, and included the isolated score, which was the one constant Twilight Time had always given us, but failed to do so for this particular film. ThI'm thrilled to see them taking the initiative here, I'm just a little bummed it wasn't for, y'know, Carrie. Different strokes, I guess, and I'm sure that dreadful looking remake with Hit Girl miscast as all fuck in the lead put that out of the reach of many an otherwise interested suitor.

And if you're concerned about their past sins (as anyone who's bought from them would be!), it's comforting to see that one of their very last titles for the year is a remastered version of Dario Argento's TENEBRAE using the superior Wild Side materials, plus all of the exclusive bonus material Arrow created for the title's butt-ugly previous edition. Yeah, it kind of stinks that they're doing 4,000 exclusive tins for Zavvi with no release in sight, but hey, that's kind of a thing British studios do these days. Comes out December 16th, and odds are even with shipping from the UK it'll cost half of whatever Synapse's inevitable limited edition does next year.

* Speaking of which, Synapse Films is putting the finishing touches on Lamberto Bava's DEMONS and DEMONS 2: THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES, which should ship in the next week or so. Both titles have been extensively color corrected, had major audio overhauls, new bonus features and are being sold in limited edition steelbooks, limited to 3,000 copies each. The latter film especially is almost criminally overpriced at just shy of $46 shipped, but at least early reviews are nothing short of glowing.

Expensive? Hell yes, particularly with the (heavily flawed) Arrow two-pack selling for a third the price? You bet. But fuck it, I've already put in my order, and if you love these films even half as much as I do you probably have, too. The sad part is I think Demons 2 is kind of a steaming pile, but bought it as a sign of good faith that Synapse will keep the Euro-Horror flowing, no matter the cost.

Looks like I had little to worry about; not only does Synapse already have the HD materials for Dario Argento's TENEBRAE and PHENOMENA, but just this week - on Halloween, no less! - Don May announced the realization of his dream: The rights, and access to the original camera negative of, SUSPIRIA. I'm fully expecting all three of these titles to follow in the expensive, exclusive footsteps of the Demons films, but details won't be announced for a while yet, with Suspiria not due until presumably 2015.

* Grindhouse Releasing has stepped up from a mostly impressive legacy of DVDs and plowing ahead with Blu-ray releases for the obscure British thriller CORRUPTION, which looks to be a hell of a release (though I've not yet seen it myself, an issue I hope to fix soon enough).

They're also giving us THE BIG GUNDOWN for the first time on North American home video on December 10th, including two cuts of the film, new interviews and a soundtrack CD. It's a $40 Limited Edition of 3,000 units, and I have a feeling it'll disappear a lot faster than the 2,000 units pressed for AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL. According to Grindhouse, work on a CANNIBAL FEROX Blu-ray is already underway, and personally I couldn't be happier for it.

* Drafthouse Films are still alive and kicking, apparently, having announced my favorite Abel Ferrara film, MS. 45 (aka ANGEL OF VENGEANCE). They've already confirmed it'll be pulled from the original, uncut camera negative.

I'm sure there's new material to be had here, but if Bad Lieutenant is any indication, Ferrara may no longer be shooting up minutes before walking into a recording session. You'd think that would be a good thing, but go watch his commentaries on Driller Killer or King of New York, and compare them to how... normal everything on the more recent suppliments are.

* Surprising basically everyone, Code Red has finally stepped forward with not one, but two Blu-ray pre-orders! Exactly how this works is a little vague, but as far as I can tell you put in your order now, and they eMail you when they're ready to ship. Hey, considering how crazy Code Red is as a company already, let's just be happy we don't have to drop unmarked bills off at an unmarked mailbox in the middle of nowhere.

JUST BEFORE DAWN is a title that's had all sorts of vague legal issues leading up to this, but it looks like things are good enough that it can be pre-ordered for $27 plus shipping. Limit to two copies per customer, and while this is promised to be a "Limited Edition", there's been no real indicator as to how many copies will be pressed.

The bad news is that director Jeff Lieberman's audio commentary and the hour long making-of featurette included on the old Media Blasters DVD will not be included. The good news is that this will be the first ever release pulled from the uncut internegative, and that an additional "international" version will be included as well. The Media Blasters DVD was sourced from a theatrical print and was actually missing gore when compared to the old Paragon VHS release, so including not one, but two more complete prints is certainly a bonus.

VOICES FROM BEYOND is an even bigger surprise since... Jesus Christ, have you seen anything Lucio Fulci made after... I dunno, maybe Murder Rock? Or Zombi 3, if we're going by the official credits and not assuming it's a Bruno Mattei flick with a handful of Fulci inserts? Not everyone can be at the top of their game forever, I understand that, but few fell as hard - or as far - as Fulci, from amazingly great films like Lizard in a Woman's Skin and Four of the Apocalypse, to increasingly fun schlock like The Beyond and House by the Cemetery, to... shit like this and The Ghosts of Sodom and-- cripes, do we have to talk about House of Clocks? My point is that Fulci has made some incredible films, and I can think of literally 10 of them I thought we'd see on Blu-ray before this one. That's not a complaint, exactly - hell, I'm planning to pick this up just as a sign of good faith so Code Red can keep pushing forward with HD releases.

Relative quality of the title aside, the price is right at $20 plus shipping and fondling charges, and it's limited to 1,000 copies and a limit of 1 per customer - so at least there will be no Twilight Time styled scalping shenanigans here. Honestly, anyone who actually wants a copy of Voices from Beyond couldn't ask for anything more, and they can be pre-ordered at the Code Red webstore now.

A word of caution: With this being limited to a mere thousand units, odds are good that these could be BD-R releases. Can't say I've had any problems with the Albert Pyun "CA" disc or my signed copy of Dear God No!, but it's something to factor in, I, guess.

* And hey, Remember how Jeff Leiberman released REMOTE CONTROL on Blu-ray all by himself? Nah, nobody did. Sorry Jeff, but these days you need a banner ad and some sweet, sweet screener reviews to move more than a hundred copies of anything.

If it's thus far slipped through the cracks of your collection, but you're into 25 year old retro sci-fi movies about alien brain control, there's still hope! Jeff Lieberman dropped the price on the damn thing by $10, but in doing so stopped hand-signing and hand-numbering the copies in the process. Sadly, I have little doubt that this means Jeff was unable to move the thousand copies at the original $35 + shipping asking price... but hey, give the guy a break if it's something you remember, or wish you had seen to remember.

To recap: Arrow Video went from being a pile of shit to the shit, Code Red finally made good on their threat to release a Blu-ray or two, Synapse Films is becoming the Euro Horror Criterion Collection, and both Drafthouse and Grindhouse are putting their foot down on titles that I actually care about.

Goddamn, it's a great time to be re-buying movies on Blu-ray.


Kriztoffer Swank said...

I had heard mention that Mackenzie was doing encoding at Arrow. Good for him; his learnin' has surely paid off. If John K. ever is allowed to do proper uncut DVDs for [i]Ren & Stimpy[/i], I hope Lyris is involved. (His unreleased color correcting and timestamp removal on one scene was really nice.)

Nicholous said...

I got Remote Control at the original price (meh) as a blind buy since I like Lieberman's work. i reeeeally enjoyed it and am surprised I made it this long having never heard of it. I really love that small subgenre of '80s films featuring VCRs/TVs that will kill you.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, Grindhouse Releasing will get around to "Cannibal Holocaust" on blu ray. I'm not the biggest "Ferox" fan, but the audio commentary on the laserdisc is still one of the funniest, entertaining, and flat out bizarre things I've heard.

Kentai 拳態 said...

Kriz: Lyris is a great guy, dedicated and transparent in a way that far, far too few people who do this sort of thing for a living are. They've made a wise choice having him oversee the final mastering of every project, as even fantastic masters can turn to smudgy, banded crap if abused at the encoding stage.

Nicholous: I'm a little sad to say that I discovered it was for sale when my finances were in a bit of a pinch, which put it in the "Soon, but not today!" pile with, I dunno, about a thousand other titles.

Ironically enough, my junker of a car has juuuuuuuuust tried to die on the ride home from work, so... yeah, I'm afraid even that 50% off B&N Criterion sale may have to fuck off. I'll see what happens there.

Anon: I do love HOLOCAUST, but the existing HD masters are so gnarly - and the EC Ultrabit DVD so "good enough" - that at this point I'm much more curious to see what FEROX would look like on Blu-ray. That said, I'd pick them both up in a damned heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for this write-up--a real service for those of us trying to keep track, and had I not read it, I might have missed out on *Just Before Dawn*. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I just received "Just Before Dawn" blu ray. It's the best this title has ever looked, but whoever did the compression needs some serious lessons. I noticed artifacting during night time scenes as well as a couple of daylight scenes. Low bit rates can never be a good thing. Please do a review of this.

Kentai 拳態 said...

Anonymous: Already ordered my copies of JUST BEFORE DAWN and VOICES FROM BEYOND. Can't promise *when* I'll have a review up, but I'm so damned curious I think that was inevitable.

What I do know is that they've crammed roughly 200 minutes on what's bound to be a single BD-25, and that's... basically asking for some butt-ugly compression issues. Even if they have pro's working AVC magic, there reaches a point where you can't make something look any better without more bandwidth.

I'm never thrilled at the prospect of 2 movies on a BD-25, but I'm... accepting, I guess, when it's one of those shitty $6 double-features in the Best Buy bargain bin. For a $30 release of a cult film already missing its DVD bonus features? Yeah, this is probably gonna be one of those reviews...

Kevin P. ( said...

Ordered the two Code Red blus as well - couldn't resist, and I figure if they're crap then their "limited edition" status should make them easy enough to recoup on in the future. I'll try to post about them as well once I have them in, but I've been running on a delay for the last half year or so.

And here here to the commendation for Arrow! They've made a hell of a turnaround in the last year, and I'm happy to say they've regained my confidence. After the throttling I gave their THE BEYOND I really need to get around to reviewing ZOMBIE or BLACK SUNDAY... If they hadn't already earned my trust back with those two, the announcement of BLIND WOMAN'S CURSE on blu-ray would have. Classic Teruo Ishii on Blu-ray? I'll take five.

Anonymous said...

OT, but does anybody know if the recently released (11/15/13) German Blu-ray of the original *Black Christmas* is anything other than a recycling of the transfer from the R1 Blu-ray?