Saturday, September 21, 2013

Let Me Show You The Dance Of My People


Heroes of Cosplay  Season 2 has really let their standards slip...


If you know what the Hell it is I'm looking at... please, never, ever tell me. I'd like to go to my grave thinking that what I'm seeing is the afterbirth of the greatest fanfiction the Internet Hive Mind ever subconsciously vomited all over itself, with Bath Salts Sailor Moon and Black Man Wonder Woman having a Breakin' style dance-off... for the fate of all mankind.

I haven't been this amazingly confused since... fuck, I honestly don't even know. Since Mister Meatloaf, perhaps?

Also, is slamming your ass on the floor like you slipped on an invisible banana peel really en vouge? I'm not even being a dick asking that, I'm legitimately not sure what the kids are into these days.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bruno Underground

Despite Bill Lustig's label Blue Underground having largely vanished off the face of the Earth after their underwhelming KILLER NUN release a year ago, after which they've mostly been doing dirt-cheap 3-packs of old catalog DVD titles.

Despite the frustration I've never been to shy to show over the quality on their Italian cult titles, I don't wish any ill tidings on Bill or his company. Blue Underground's QC is among the best in the business, and their focus has, largely, been on complete presentations of high quality titles. I like their business model. I like a lot of the titles they do. I like everything about the thought process behind those releases... it just so happens that the bulk of their catalog I was into - namely, the Euro Horror releases of an Argento and Fulci obsessed nature - happened to be sourced almost entirely from ugly HD masters created by LVR Video and Post in Rome. BU trusted their contacts to hook them up with high quality transfers from - in many cases - the original camera negatives, and in the end... well, if you can look at the comparisons between the Blue Underground release of ZOMBI 2 and Arrow Video's "proper" restoration and not see why I've been upset, I really have nothing to add at this point.

 This is a thing? Oh boy...

They've ever so slowly been building back up for a Blu-ray comeback, announcing the dreadfully boring infamous publicity-stunt-sold-as-a-movie SNUFF with new bonus features, including... an interview with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refen, for some goddamn reason. They've also announced MANIAC COP 2 and MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE - both directed by Lustig, no less - which is all well and good, but still doesn't thrill me as hard as I'd hoped.

These should all presumably be out before the year's end, though so far only Snuff has a firm date of October 22nd. I'd warn you against buying it, but anyone buying this flick blind deserves exactly what they get.

And then, out of the blue, this was announced as "coming in 2014" on BU's facebook page...


Don't let the title fool you - despite the name on this lovely one-sheet bearing an uncanny resemblance to a certain movie directed by Antonio "Anthony Dawson" Margheretti (starring John Saxon and released in Italy as "Apocalypse Domani" of all things), this is actually a poster for Bruno Mattei's 1980 Dawn of the Dead ripoff best known as HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD. It was released under the brilliantly silly title 'Zombie Creeping Flesh' in the United Kingdom, and 'Night of the Zombies' in the US before a closer approximation of the original Italian title (Virus - L'inferno dei Morti Viventi) became it's standard title on DVD in the late 90s.

I always think that I don't like this movie, but that's not entirely true. Yeah, the first third is basically "Dawn of the Dead in Africa" and it even goes as far as to re-use Goblin tracks from Romero's far superior film verbatim,  but once it finds its own identity it becomes kind of awesome in its own right. The problem with the film isn't that it's bad, merely that the two things it's trying to do - jungle exploitation nonsense, and frentic undead overload - are done so much better in Mountain of the Cannibal God and Nightmare City (respectively) that you walk away feeling like you've somehow already seen this movie. The final gag is one for the ages, and there's several lovable set pieces along the way, but I suppose how you interpret the scene of the virtually empty UN Building will sum up how you react to the film at large; you're either looking at the most surreal and unsettling moment in a drama that concerns mankind's demise, or you're watching a dumbass B-movie that forgot to hire extras for its emotional sucker punch. I tend to think it's a little of both, and such is the magic and wonder of Bruno Mattei, when you get right down to it.

Thankfully, BU wasn't done with the BM madness just yet...


Confused? Well, if you're a biker movie aficionado and you grew up in Germany, it's going to be even worse; "The Riffs" was the name given to Enzo G. Castellari's awesome Walter Hill knock off, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, so its inevitable sequel - Escape from the Bronx - naturally became The Riffs II. So what the hell is this?

The subtitle here might help give a little more context to the fact that this is actually ... ah, y'know what? Fuck it, here's the trailer!




I honestly can't believe it myself, but none fucking other than Bruno Mattei's RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR is getting a Blu-ray sometime in 2014. SUCK IT, LITERALLY EVERYTHING ELSE!

Look, I know it's a retarded movie that I shouldn't be anywhere near this excited about, but it has the single greatest "Fuck it, I've already got your money - what are you gonna do about it?" ending ever conceived. It's just that diabolical. Fans of Bruno Mattei - and of awesomely mind-melting garbage cinema in general - are urged to pick this up day one, if for no other reason that somebody is still releasing these gems.

Unfortunately, the big question on my mind is "How will they look?" - and thus far, we've got no reason to assume that BU will be getting materials any better than they ever have. To be fair, even if you can accept LVR's horrendously noisy "look", the fact that the quality of the scan itself would vary wildly from film to film - with, for example, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage looking dramatically better than The Cat O' Nine Tails, despite both being of a similar vintage and using virtually the same photographic process and style -  to the point where your Blue Underground title could look "Pretty good, not quite perfect." to "Jesus Christ, this hurts to watch".

The other question mark hanging over this whole endeavor is "Why now?" BU had more or less retreaded right into a figurative underground, slinging cheap DVD packs and releasing absolutely nothing new over the last year. The presence of these two features suggests there's still a market for these movies in HD - small though it probably is these days - so why did Bill Lustig and pals wait so long to announce them? Sad a thought as this might be, I wouldn't be surprised if it's taken this long for the licensors - that is, the companies in Italy who own both the rights and the film materials to these titles - to acknowledge how shitty the market for these titles really are, and have dropped their asking prices to match. Selling 3,000 copies of a title isn't going to make anyone rich, but there's a big difference between selling 3,000 copies of a film you paid $5,000 for and a film you paid $25,000 for. If Lustig has finally found a way to make this business viable once more, I'll happily throw more money to get my fix for vintage Euro Horror garbage in 1080p.

With all of this in mind, I'll be looking very closely at these releases next year. I don't expect a miracle, but if they wind up looking better than the DVD without any excessive noise issues to complain over, I think I'll be happy enough.

 

While we're on the subject of "How The Hell Is THIS Coming Out On BD Holy Shit!!", Umberto Lenzi's fantastically bad 1980 "birth of running zombies" train-wreck NIGHTMARE CITY (Incubo Sulla Cittá Contaminata) is also getting a new Blu-ray from Raro Video in October, and then a likely more extras-packed release from Arrow Video sometime next year. I couldn't care less what new interviews they trot out for this one - the film speaks for itself! - but from the looks of Raro's entire Blu-ray output up to this point, steel yourself for yet another flawed LVR transfer...

Hey, as Public Enemy once so perfectly said, bring the noise.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tuesday the 17th


Haven't said much about Warner Bros. upcoming FRIDAY THE 13th: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION Blu-ray box for a couple reasons - it's a little late in the game to have me legitimately excited, I've already bought the first 3 films, there's so goddamn much content that posting anything before a couple people had theirs and could confirm what is and isn't in it would be pointless, et cetra.

But honestly, the big reason is that if you're a big fan, you already know everything I'm about to say, and you were going to keep your pre-order no matter what was wrong with the damned thing. The other thing is that, seeing as how I'm trying to weigh my purchases of silly things right now, I'm not beating down the postman for my copy, and getting into a thing about it seems a bit... unfair, I guess. I do love roughly half the Jason movies, I'm a bit sad to say, but I've also watched and bought them enough over the last 20 years that if I wait another few months for these, I don't think Warner Brothers is going to take it too personally.

So, here's the basic rundown for those who - like me - still want it in general, but not hard enough to punch their own mother in the tit for it:

Discs 1-3 are direct copies of the old Paramount discs - BD50s packed with bonus features, as they all should be. Despite Warner having a firm "NO UNRATED RELEASES!" policy, part 1 is still the uncut version, mostly because it's 2013 and the MPAA clearly doesn't give a shit about Kevin Bacon getting stabbed through the windpipe this late in the game.

Disc 4 is a stand-alone disc that could easily have stood next to the original Paramount trio, and is most notable for including raw workprint footage in 1080p. This is evidently the only F13 film to have actual 35mm elements for the missing footage, so while it's sad to not see it integrated back into the film proper, I guess it otherwise maintains consistency with parts 2-8.

Disc 5 and Disc 6 are both double features covering "A New Beginning" to "Jason Takes Manhattan" and everything in between. Despite lowering the bitrate slightly to fit two 90 minute films and bonus features per disc, so far screenshots and a handful of trustworthy reviewers suggest that everything looks roughly equal to the stacked dual-layer single discs the first cycle of films got. I can understand people being wary at the thought of double feature discs, but how you encode something is so much more important on BD what numbers you've set the bitrates to that it's possible to double the bandwidth and still produce a worse looking transfer.

Disc 7, however, is where it gets disappointing. Not just because it's the one that includes "Jason Goes to Hell" in general, but because Jason Goes to Hell is the R-rated theatrical cut, not the unrated version that's been on video for two decades. Were it a situation like the original film - less than 10 seconds without any major impact to the experience - I'd still be miffed, but would agree that it was a minor loss. However, JGTH is bloody as fuck in its unrated glory, and jettisoning the uncut version means the commentary track went right in the garbage with it. There's also a thing on there about zombies in space? So not caring at this point...

Disc 8 is Freddy vs Jason, which I've always figured was about as good a flick as you were likely to get from the premise. Both icons of 80s murder fantasy are given a fair shake, both have a sensible (if not "smart") reason to throw down, and Ronnie Yu managed to create a film that has a lot more visual flair and atmosphere than it frankly deserved. It's the ultimate fanboy film, so of course fanboys can't stand it. Screw all you guys, I still like this dumb movie.

Disc 9 is the Marcus Nispel remake of the first several F13 movies, and while I'd argue it's a hell of a lot more watchable than the original (seriously, that first film is dull as dirt), it's ultimately a slow, trifling and totally uninteresting film that mistakes developing a literal avatar of slaughter as taking the franchise in a bold, new direction. Mamma's Boy Jason could have been interesting, but the rest of the film needed to be exciting and visceral to make it work and juxtapose on the character development of the killer being the core goodies on offer - the "Killer Cut" is just shy of 2 hours, yet it has a lower total body count than any of the films after "3D". I don't despise the film or anything, it's not half as bad as Jackie Earle Hayley taking a giant dump all over Kreuger's legacy, but it sadly doesn't find anything GOOD to do with the concept either. It's not horrible, it's just not interesting, and that might be worse than if the film had been a train wreck of some sort.

Disc 10 is the very same "Killer Extras" bonus DVD that the 8 film DVD box set released a few years back included. Cheap, lazy fuckers. Then again Warner Brothers purchased this from Paramount largely so they could throw in the New Line movies (which they already owned distribution rights to), so expecting them to produce more content when Paramount has already made more bonus features than most fans would ever be pressed to watch seems slightly unreasonable to ask for.



Besides, if you're in the mood for some serious Jason love you can just throw thirty bucks at CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES, which runs over 6 hours long. That's BEFORE you factor in the bonus disc only being sold from the producers themselves (which may or may not still be available?), which ups that by another 4+ hours. It's from the same guys that made Never Sleep Again, and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone complaining about that thoroughly exhaustive study of Robert Englund's permanent mark on the pop-cultural landscape.

Look, I personally don't need over 10 hours of a Friday the 13th themed Documentary to die happy either, but man, if you do are you in for a treat!

A commentary or two got lost in the shuffle, as did some "vintage" featurettes, I think - it's really, really hard to keep track of how much crap is in this behemoth of a box set - but really the only black mark on this set appears to be the fact that only the censored version of Jason Goes to Hell has been included. Mind you, JGTH is a pile of nonsensical crap anyway (even by Jason movie standards), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give anyone willing to hand you $130 for a box set the nicer version of it regardless.

The whole thing is packaged in a a tin that reminds me of those 'Public Domain' WWII documentary sets you find at CVS, with the discs themselves in a flimsy looking cardboard "book", requiring you to slip the discs out of the pages. It's similar to the James Bond or Universal Monsters box sets, but - evidently - much more shit about it all due to the materials used. We're already seeing people reporting massive, disc-breaking scratches, but I think I see those for every type of unusual packaging ever made; maybe the packaging is shit, maybe it's an isolated issue, I have no idea. I just feel like maybe including a separate booklet and a small multi-case, like the recent Anniversary Edition of Blade Runner, might be the smartest thing to do in these situations. Then again, $130 for 12 movies and a bonus disc? Shit, they could have packaged this inside of a half eaten Big Mac and I guess we'd still have no right to complain too hard

The censored version of JGTH aside, it sounds like the set gives you everything you could realistically ask for; high quality transfers, lossless audio, a mountain of (older) bonus features and quite literally every core movie ever made with Jason Vorhees stabbing the shit out of vapid teenagers. It's on Amazon for just shy of $95, which means realistically you're paying less than $8 a film here. I can't say the set is flawless, or that it's so incredible I'm going to rush out to Fry's right this second and pick it up, but I can say that it sounds like Warner and Paramount have done what they could to make it worth the price tag they're asking.

Jason fanatics, your High Def day has come - just hold on to your JTGH DVD and the "Crystal Lake to Manhattan" box for all of the bonus features. Everybody else? Wait and see if Warner will do cheap single-disc releases down the line so you can skip the parts of the franchise you just don't give a damn about.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Addendum of the Dead

UPDATE: Good ol' Gary Tooze at DVDBeaver has posted a comparison between the Arrow Video 2010 BD and the new Scream Factory release.

Assuming this comparison is legit (and by and large, I do) it basically confirms everything I've said up to this point: The contrast is boosted pretty hard, the framing is tighter, but the grain is a lot more natural and resolution is at least slightly more improved than previous comparisons had suggested. Flesh tones look a bit more red than I'd assume is "accurate" to the original photography, but man, does it ever make that syrupy red blood pop.

Better than any previous release? You bet. Perfect? No, not quite. Take it or leave it, this is the first new transfer we've gotten for this film in almost a decade; the odds of it improving much more beyond this until marketing hooplah convinces us there's a reason to buy 4K hardware are slim to none.

So! Barring any new actual content on my end, here, have a Thai poster.


 You've earned it.


Not that anyone should ever consider the Kentai Blog any sort of paragon of journalistic integrity - I've long thought of it as more a combination "video review, pornography dump, performance art piece" - but the more I thought about Scream Factory's DAY OF THE DEAD "New HD Transfer", the more it just didn't make sense to me.

Don't get me wrong, it certainly seems to look better than all previous HD releases, but there were some obvious limitations and oddities I just couldn't understand. While the jaded asshole I've long since been assumed that meant we were looking at a decade-old tape master with some minor tweaks, the more I compared it to similar 80s genre titles I've been largely satisfied with on Blu-ray, the more I figured I was missing something. "New Scan", you say? Yeah, I'll buy that... the question is what kind of new scan, and a new scan of what, specifically?

So I messaged Cliff MacMillan to get some answers. 'Cause why the hell not? I asked him what film materials were used and when the new transfer was made, due to its resemblance to Anchor Bay's old "Divimax" master, and was pleasantly surprised to find that he had this to say in reply:

It probably was the same IP.
It was done earlier this year and I oversaw the transfer.

So, there we have it; the "look" of the transfer likely has far more to do with the 35mm Interpositive itself than it does the telecine process. I'm a little surprised by this answer by the simple fact that I can't imagine a 10 year old IP being preferable elements to work from than the original negative, much less that it would be considered when your marketing sizzle is "New 35mm Transfer".

If the same 35mm IP was used, as Cliff assumes was the case, that would at least help explain similarities in both optical focus and contrast values; I was making the mistake of assuming this was supposed to be a new transfer from the negative, since I have trouble wrapping my head around exactly why anyone would make a new HD scan of an old 35mm print... then again I'm reminded of the horror I felt when Frank Henenlotter said he compared the (incomplete) 16mm negative for Basket Case compared to the (complete) 35mm Internegative, and decided to go with the latter, claiming that the difference between the two just wasn't worth worrying about.

I asked for more details - a 2K DI versus a real-time 1080p HD Telecine, and why the OCN wasn't used. Again, I got a reply that, if nothing else, clarified some questions that have been rumbling around in the ol' noggin:

We used the element available to us. Yes, it's an HD transfer.

And... there we have it. What we're seeing is a real-time 1080p scan of the 2004 Interpositive, and the OCN was (presumably) not available to scan in the first place. George A. Romero's Day of the Dead looks as good as it's going to for the time being, and while I have little doubt that Day of the Dead could look better still, I'm satisfied that Shout Factory did what they could with what they were offered.

Thanks for clearing my bitter skepticism up, Cliff!

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Masters of the Dead

Now somehow featuring zombies vs alligators?! SOLD!

So by the time you read this, most of the pre-ordered copies of Scream Factory's new DAY OF THE DEAD release will likely be in-route to their new homes. From the start I was skeptical of their promise of a "New 35mm Film Transfer", since... well, for one thing I'm a paranoid twat, and the last time I remember someone promising me 'New HD Masters' and 'Straight From Film' was Media Blasters (on ICHI THE KILLER and BERSERK REMASTERED respectively), and by now, we all know how well that turned out.

I don't have the Scream Factory disc yet, and the comparisons we've seen thus far have been pretty minimal... to whit, I'm going to repost the most interesting A/B shot that's surfaced yet. These were taken by Tyler Foster, who has since posted his full review on DVD TALK for the disc in question, though these caps were actually made as part of a larger discussion on the Blu-ray.com forum between him, myself, and several other Romero fanboys:

DAY OF THE DEAD ('85) - ARROW VIDEO 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

DAY OF THE DEAD ('85) - SCREAM FACTORY COLLECTOR'S EDITION

Let's not mince words here: Shout Factory's 2013 Collector's Edition destroys both the Anchor Bay BD from 2007, and the similarly unimpressive Arrow Video UK import [pictured] from 2010. Also, the only audio mix is the "original" uncensored English Stereo mix in PCM - no 5.1 surround sound here, but as Anchor Bay's 2004 revamp included several censored lines from the TV master, most long term Dead fans could care less.

I also have little doubt that if you have a raging Day of the Dead boner that only a newly produced 85 minute retrospective can possibly soothe, that's probably worth the price tag on Shout Factory's new fancy-pants Collector's Edition alone. The older (by which I mean "busier") I get, the less stoked I am to hear Tom Savini re-tell the same old stories he's told before in various horror rags and video interviews through the 90s, but hey, if that's still something that gets your blood boiling, I won't fault you for it. Arrow Video produced "The Many Days of the Dead" already filling the void for a feature length retrospective, but by all counts the new Red Shirt Pictures' The World's End: The Legacy of Day of the Dead is likely every bit its equal, and now in HD to boot.

Based on everything early reviews have had to say - keep in mind, I don't have the disc on hand, and this is all from second hand images and related commentary - this appears to be a pretty decent upgrade and clearly a worthy double-dip for anyone who wants to get their totally dour apocalypse on.

That said, the improvements aren't as show-stopping as I had hoped they would be. Anyone expecting a dramatic improvement like Wild Side's new scan of Dario Argento's TENEBRAE or Arrow Video's jaw-dropping restoration on ZOMBI 2, or even the slightly less cultish beauty of THE TERMINATOR - or even ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, if you wanna get all classy about it. In every instance I can remember, a "New Scan" has always been assumed to be a positive thing specifically because the older HD master wasn't all that great, and the new scan is being presented as the means to create a better presentation. All of these have a shock and awe in added resolution and clarity that, with all due respect, the Scream Factory release just does not seem to possess.

To be fair, the color correction alone on Scream Factory's new release is worthy of praise... but the fact is the 9 year old "Divimax" master could have looked dramatically different had they boosted the contrast to the breaking point, as Shout Factory has seen fit to do for their release. Case in point:


Oh, snap! Kentai's playing with Photoshop again...

It's not quite an exact match to the Scream Factory disc, no - but for a 5 minute experiment, it does the job. It's worth noting that the Scream Factory remaster has pushed the contrast hard - using the above example as a template, I'd say they stretched the contrast by a good 25%, which has turned every miner's cap lamp and shiny button into a glowing white orb of hellfire from which no highlight detail will ever escape. Yes, overall it's an improvement, but the harsh clipping on reflections suggests that the nature of these changes have far more to do with the digital domain than the prints used, and that's... odd, to say the least.

Of course, the Scream Factory presentation also has both increased grain and film damage not present on the old Anchor Bay/Arrow master, which should suggest a new scan, right? It can, and I'll freely admit may, but... well, a dirty little thought occurred to me; it's not uncommon for studios to make various back up masters with less levels of clean-up, mostly so they can go back and fix certain shots if the automated grain-removal and scratch-removal process geeks the hell out. What if the "New Scan" we're seeing is actually just the raw, unmolested HD scan Anchor Bay organized back in 2004 with the added boon of some heavy-handed color correction?

That would, if nothing else, explain why the new, super grainy transfer doesn't appear to have any actual increase in resolution; call me crazy, but when I go back and fourth between the Arrow Video and Scream Factory transfers I'm reminded of the difference between the older HD DVD transfer of Carpenter's THE THING and the much-ballyhooed Blu-ray transfer, which was literally the exact same master but with some automatic digital scratch repair (DSR) filters thrown-on as an afterthought. Everyone complained about the "Grain Removal" artifacts without even fully understanding what they were looking at; clearly the difference in grain levels are a bit more pronounced on Day of the Dead, but the actual result of a similarly sharp, high resolution image with muted grain and less in the way of analog film damage is quite similar.

More frustratingly I've asked Cliff MacMillan - or "cmac", on the Blu-ray.com forum - if he could share any info on the Day of the Dead master. When it was made, what elements were used, literally anything at all. So far, he's not said a damned word. Keep in mind that when accusations of PHANTASM II being an SD upscale were brought up, he was quick to defend that as untrue... then again, he also claimed that the BRUCEE LEE: THE LEGACY box set was taken from HD masters, and stuck with that story even - as of just this week - Shout Factory claims that "More Changes" are coming to the controversial and now indefinitely delayed release, so it's difficult to gauge just how seriously we should take any material claims at this point.

I'm also, for the record, convinced that GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, ALICE COOPER - another Shout Factory title - was an upscale, but nobody noticed because A) It was a fly-on-the-wall 16mm "Band Movie" that was always destined to look like blurry ass no matter what resolution it was scanned at, and B) It's friggin' Alice Cooper, The Band: The Movie from 1974. Hell, we have better odds of seeing Alice Cooper's goofy Italian-Howling-knock-off Monster Dog getting a theatrical re-release than this cheesy slice of nonsense getting a new master, HD or otherwise...

Put this on a properly mastered Blu-ray, and I'll pay the label in handjobs.

Back to Day of the Dead: Are we looking at a new HD scan, or a dramatic re-working of the "old" Divimax materials? I'm honestly not sure either way, and with that in mind I'm erring on the side of caution, and assuming that Shout Factory really did do a new scan... even if part of me still isn't convinced. Regardless, it's easy enough for a master from any period to not look as good as it probably should, and as there's nothing about the screenshots kicking around - most notably the wide selection in Ian Jane's REVIEW AT ROCK! SHOCK! POP! that sticks out as any sort of "smoking gun", I'm just going to play it safe and take Scream Factory's word as truth. For now.

I certainly have questions about why this release looks only kind of good instead of really good, I can't provide any more answers without a bone being tossed my way. Based solely on the images and commentary various pre-release criticism has left us with this is probably still worth purchasing for Romerophiles, just don't go in expecting any miracles.

I've actually been mulling over why the release might look the way it does, and in the process I've tried to reconcile how different films from roughly the same period and budget (by which I mean "80s" and "low") tend to look. It's well established that the early 1980s ushered in an age of fast-speed film stock as the norm for most Hollywood productions, which means that noisier, grainier images are basically to be expected. That said, films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Street Trash and The Terminator all look like they were shot yesterday, while Evil Dead II, Night of the Creeps and Hardware all look substantially grittier, darker and generally a bit nasty around the edges... perhaps not so unlike the Shout Factory release of Day of the Dead. What separates these former three titles from the last three, if not budget and cinematic stylings? Are we seeing the difference between the original negative and a master positive? Perhaps just the difference between real-time 1080p scans versus the more expensive, but higher quality 2K scans? Without knowing more info that are held solely by the film labs themselves, I'm afraid all we can do is guess...


That said, there is one thing I know for certainty, and... to be honest, it has me just a bit more excited.


Happinet Japan has just announced a 35th Anniversary Edition of Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD, which is set to include all three "official" cuts of the movie - the legendary 1979 American Theatrical cut, the 1978 Dario Argento produced European cut (aka "ZOMBIE"), and the 139 minute Cannes cut, which Japan released as the "Director's Cut" and everywhere else calls the "Extended Cut", since Romero claims the US theatrical version is his favorite version of the film. Happinet has also promised a "New 2013 HD Master", and with the Extended Cut having never found its way onto Blu-ray before, I tend to trust that there's some truth to this claim.

The 35th Anniversay Edition box set - which includes all three versions in the shiny package above - is on pre-order for 13,500 yen (about $136.25 currently). On the other hand, if all you want is one particular cut, you can get each version as a separate disc for 4,700 yen ($47.44) each. All films include the original English dialog in both 5.1 and mono, plus various Japanese dub and subtitle options that won't be of much use to the average non-Nipponese viewer. I'm a little disappointed there's been no mention of the original Japanese exclusive opening, which was created by Herald Films and goes something like this:


In the year 19XX...
While it's entirely possible that the upgrade from the ol' Divimax master will once again be only a marginal improvement, at least it'll mop the floor with the only previous HD master for ARGENTO'S "ZOMBIE" CUT, and with the original 139 minute cut never having gotten a Blu-ray release before, there'll be plenty of reason to celebrate - well, short of these "New HD Masters" being shite upscales or something. Bonus features appear to be limited to a handful of trailers and TV spots, but if you've ever owned either the Anchor Bay Ultimate Edition DVD - or Arrow Video's Blu-ray/DVD box set equivalent and somehow still aren't satisfied... I dunno, man. They make pills for that, I'm sure. The only thing missing here to make this the final release anyone could possibly need is the 155 minute "Final Cut" originally cobbled together for the German video market, and with this release not having bothered, it seems that the decent Extended Mall Hours fanedit is the closest thing to a proper English language "version integrale" we're ever going to see. Ah, well.

I'll keep an eye out for more info on the DAWN OF THE DEAD 35th ANNIVERSARY EDITION, and update you on this is worth the only somewhat high entrance fee.