Sunday, April 19, 2015

And You Will Watch In Terror! THE BEYOND Blu-ray Comparison


As Bob Murawski himself was has pointed out, the Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray release of Lucio Fulci's  THE BEYOND/...E tu Vivrai nel Terrore! L'aldilà is a release several years in the making. There's a lot to talk about this time around, and it's been a damn long while since I've gone blow-by-blow on a comparison for a title so in need of one, so let's get the history out of the way as soon as possible.

Odds are there's little I could possibly say about the film that hasn't been said already; for better or worse, Quentin Tarantino re-introduced the film to American audiences - who back then only knew it as an edited feature known as "7 Doors of Death" - at the end of the 1990s by doing theatrical runs of Grindhouse Releasing's restored, uncensored director's cut in a joint venture with Rolling Thunder Pictures. Grindhouse Releasing teamed up with Anchor Bay to release a restored DVD in 2000, with various re-releases in the years that followed, all based on the same telecine materials. It has seen numerous DVD releases in Europe and Asia with varying degrees of quality, but by all reasonable accounts it seems that Grindhouse and Anchor Bay were responsible for the definitive SD presentation some15 years ago.

UK distributors Arrow Video released the title on Blu-ray in 2011, but the initial release was criticized from top to bottom, and rightly so: The opening titles, always meant to be a golden-sepia the color of a faded photograph, were presented in stark black-and-white. The English audio would slip in and out of sync, and some shots - even one of the film's most iconic gore set pieces! -  were repeated to fill in the gaps. The feature and numerous HD bonus features were all crammed onto a single-layer disc, despite the packaging promising a BD-50. The whole thing was such a mess that Arrow Video eventually offered replacements, and while it did correct some of the color grading issues and gave consumers the promised dual-layer presentation, it also came with added DVNR, and didn't fix any of the audio flubs in the process. It was a modest improvement, to be sure, but to say both discs are somewhat disappointing would be perfectly reasonable.

Grindhouse Releasing has done some really impressive work with rarely-seen on video titles like The Swimmer, An American Hippie In Israel and Carnage... but, for Cannibal Holocaust, they seemed content to use a dated, middling quality transfer, the bulk of which is likely older than Grindhouse's DVD dating back several years now. Company head Bob Murawski has also stated in no uncertain terms that both Fulci's Cat in the Brain and Juan Piquer Simon's Pieces would be new 4K scans... but there was no mention of the materials or the scanning processed being used for The Beyond, which was also true of Cannibal Holocaust, and served as something of a red flag for me.

Bob has also said that, while he intends to release all of the titles he currently holds the rights to on Blu-ray in the coming year or so, he's also said that he's not interested in acquiring any new titles going forward, effectively ending the company's 19 year run. This business was always a pet project between professional film editor Bob Murawski and the now-late Sage Stallone, and with one-half of the company's leading men no longer in the picture, I can't help but think Murawski's honesty is honorable enough.

It was with this in mind that I kept my expectations firmly in check. Grindhouse Releasing has a 35mm print they play on a somewhat regular basis, but with the Arrow transfer having supposedly have been made from the original negative, there would likely be some advantages to using what HD source was waiting in Europe. I also seem to remember the Anchor Bay DVD proudly proclaiming that the title was "Mastered in High Definition", but I know from experience that not only is that claim rarely bullet-proof on older titles, but it's entirely possible that ancient HD masters are little better than a proper SD master minted a few years later on better equipment.

It's with disappointed that I acknowledge that Grindhouse used the pre-existing 2011 master... but the good news is that the results are at least somewhat better than expected.


RANDOM SCREENSHOT COMPARISONS
(Arrow Video Replacement Top - Grindhouse Releasing Bottom)





























All screenshots were taken by ripping the entire disc to my HDD, decoding the main video M2TS file with DGAVCDec loading the resulting DGA proxy file into AVISynth, loading said script into VirtualDub,  using the "snapshot source frame" option, dumping the raw bitmap data into MS Paint (because why the fuck not?), and then exporting a 1920:1080 PNG. In other words, these screenshots are 100% identical to the disc. No hardware acceleration here, folks!

HORROR NERD STUFF:
IS IT CUT, OR COMPLETE?

There's been rumor swirling around that the Arrow Video presentation was cut by about 8 seconds - I've never seen details of where those cuts are supposed to be, but decided there'd be a pretty quick way to figure out if there was any truth to it. To simplify the process, I cut off the "Grindhouse Releasing Presents" title card on the US release and edited my scripts so that both transfers started on exactly the same frame, using the position of the flames on the hotel in the opening shot as a reference point. In other words, both films are starting at the same frame, no question 'bout it.

Having done this, I jumped to the final hard cut of the film - that is, the shot from our heroes starring into the titular Beyond before the optical effects kick in. At this point we get a total runtime of 1:25:42.095 for the Arrow Video BD, and 1:25:46.600 on the Grindhouse Releasing BD. So, in theory, if the Arrow Video release was cut it would be missing a bit less than 4 seconds, not the 8 rumored... right?

Well, to be safe I did another test: Despite starting these two samples at the exact same frame, the first frame of "full color" (the Book of Eibon bursting into flames) kicks in on the Arrow Video BD at 0:06:59.711, while it shows up in the Grindhouse presentation at 0:06:58.75 - meaning the opening sequence of the Arrow Video master is slightly longer, which makes very little sense if the Arrow Video master is the shorter of the two!

(Having made my point, going forward I'll only reference the on-disc timecodes forward, just to make it easy to play along at home.)

Honestly, I don't notice any obvious jump-cuts or looped frames in the opening, so I can only assume this is the result of Arrow Video having tried - in vain, I know - to edit the raw footage of the Italian negative to match the English audio materials, rather than edit the audio materials themselves to match the English dub, as any more sensible studio would have fone. This is also the only conceivable explanation as to why the Arrow Video version re-plays nearly a second of Joe the Plumber getting his eye torn out of its socket at  00:18:25 on the Arrow Re-release (00:18:43 on the Grindhouse disc). So there's no "missing scenes" or anything of that nature on the Arrow Video release, just little trims and looped shots here and there that ultimately add up to a whole lot of nothing, but might annoy those who have watched the film countless times before.

In short, both prints are slightly different, but in all but one case those differences are so goddamn slight I can't even spot most of them, nor will I be able to figure them out without wasting hours on end counting frames. With the general funkiness of Arrow's presentation being well known, I think it's safe to say that while neither release is "cut", the Grindhouse presentation is the more accurate of the two. If anyone else has noticed any oddities - on either version - I'm more than happy to update this section, but for the time being I'm willing to chalk less than 4 seconds up to what would have been Arrow's usual incompetence circa 2011. Now, I'd say Grindhouse and Arrow are equals... my, how times change.

VIDEO NERD STUFF:
AVC ENCODE

When Arrow Video announced the rights to The Beyond in early 2011, they claimed that it would be a new transfer from the camera negative, a common enough promise from Italian genre licensors, and one I typically think there's at least some truth to. Unfortunately, Arrow's initial BD was a mess with boosted shadows, wonky color grading and terrible compression. When fans reailized that the package promised a dual-layered BD-50 and the actual release was a single layer BD-25, Arrow finally admitted fault and promised to fix the prior mistakes. The second release was an improvement, to be sure, but it was still pretty disappointing in the long run.

Grindhouse's presentation is a single-layer disc that clocks in at about 24.8 gigs, packing the single layer nearly to bursting, and boasts an average bitrate of 23,158 kb/s. Some may call foul on the average not being maxed out, but in terms of actual visible compression issues, I have no real complaints; there's little in the way of banding and grain structure maintains a surprisingly coarse texture from start to finish, which is more than we can say for the Arrow presentation, which clocks in at an even higher 27,999 kb/s. Remember kids, it's not all about the raw number of blocks with AVC - it's how you use those blocks to avoid visible artifacting. To put this another way, while a higher bitrate rarely makes a transfer look worse, I'm not convinced that this particular master would look magically different at even 30,000 kb/s. As always, Grindhouse Releasing has done a fine job compression difficult source material, and while part of me feels that BD-50 should be standard on all commercial releases running over an hour, if more BD-25s looked like this, I doubt I'd feel that way to begin with.

CRT VS CCD:
AN ITALIAN CLASSIC?

But the technical merits of an encode don't mean squat if the master it's supporting is crap, and that's where the Grindhouse release falls just a little flatter than I had hoped. While it's not been confirmed which film lab in Italy did the telecine work - it doesn't really look like LVR's usual output and I'd expect better from Technicolor Rome or Cinetecca, so perhaps it was Agustus Color? - it's no doubt the result of a CRT scanner, which has a certain... let's call it "quality" that I'm not a fan of. For lack of a clearer way to explain it, CRT scanners produce a noisy image without a lot of fine detail; it does (or it can) look like a "grainy" image, but having seen 35mm prints of vintage films like this, even theatrical prints looked softer and more nuanced than, say, the shot of David Warbeck in his car from up above.

The biggest question, of course, is "why"? Why use CRT scanners, when more modern CCD based alternatives exist? Well, there was a time when CCD scanners were expensive, unproven technology and CRTs were both familiar and readily available, so it'd make sense for a film lab looking to upgrade to HD ten or fifteen years ago to stick with the tech they already knew how to work with. Another issue is the very nature of the beast; having had the good fortune to speak to a colorist on the issue a few years ago, he told me that some film makers actually like the diffuse, noisy quality of CRT scanners, saying they felt that other options appeared "too soft" and compared the difference in texture and contrast captured by the different technologies to the difference between people who prefer CD over vinyl. I may not entirely agree with that assessment, but knowing everyone has their own fetishes, I can see why people who love the idea of "film grain" and have been looking at CRT scans for years would come to that conclusion.

In fact, the reason CCD has replaced most CRT scanners has less to do with the actual quality, and more to do with the fact that CRT scanners are goddamn expensive to upkeep! Not only are their separate tube pieces for each of the 'guns' - for red, green, and blue respectively - but they need to be kept replaced and properly aligned, which could lead to one gun having worn out and producing funky results, which would (at minimum!) require an expensive visit from a technician to minimize the difference. By comparison, CCD scanners basically have a single flash bulb that can be replaced with a screwdriver. No fuss, no unpredictable behavior, just clean scans all day, every day.

There's also a difference between a "scan" and a "telecine". They can occur on the same hardware, but the latter is a real-time affair that basically plays the film out like a projector and converts every frame to tape as it goes through. The results can be very nice indeed, but because of the constantly moving nature of the process, the results will never be quite as high quality as a proper scan, which lays the print flat and does a slow-exposure to make sure every detail is captured in the highest quality possible. How much of an impact that makes, however, depends on a lot of things, and some of those differences only matter if you're doing extensive color correction or damage repair anyway. So before anyone assumes I simply hand-waive this stuff off as broken out of the gate; not all CRT scans are inherently bad, and not all CCD scans are inherently good. We've made great leaps in technology for the latter in recent years, and poor color grading or heavy processing can take a superior scan and still make a worse final product.

That said, I'm a firm believer that CCD is "better" in every way that's worth noting, but that's just, like, my opinion, man.

...GO ON...

So why bring it up at all? Well, it so happens that numerous Italian genre films were all being made on the same piece of hardware - the Cintel DSX, if I remember - and they ranged from "noisy but okay" to "utter, absolute shite". So yes, we're dealing with a less than ideal HD master minted no less than 4 years ago. But that out of the way how bad is it? If we were to compare this to the usual suspects - that is, other Italian genre releases - it's on the better end of the list. No, it's nowhere near as good as Arrow Video's 2K restoration of Fulci's own Zombi 2,  Argento's 4 Flies on Gray Velvet, Synapse's corrected presentation of Demons or Midnight Legacy's proof of concept Alien 2: On Earth, but it stands head and shoulders over the vast majority of transfers from Blue Underground and LVR, which - for a damned long time - were about the only point of comparison we had to draw from.

To compare this to Grindhouse's own output, it's certainly better and more natural looking than the majority of Cannibal Holocaust, but it's also not as good as any of their other titles. To make a broader comparison, it's certainly no worse than The New York Ripper or Bird with Crystal Plumage, and if you thought the Blue Underground presentations of those were "good enough", as I myself do for the most part, you'll likely have no complaints. It's worlds better than garbage like Arrow's sand-blasted initial release of Tenebrae or Blue Underground's smudgy City of the Living Dead, and if you're looking for the best video presentation of The Beyond to date, this is it still by a country mile. The odds of some crazy new 4K scan beating this for several years are slim, to say the least.

Another consideration worth exploring is the way in which it was shot. As with the majority of Lucio Fulci's films it was shot using the Techniscope process, which - in plain English - is a 2-perf format that uses half as much film as a typical 4-perf anamorphic process. It's basically the Italian version of Super35, and as such had to be blown up to 4-perf for distribution, which means it has roughly half the vertical resolution of a 'proper' 4-perf anamorphic film. However, techniscope used spherical lenses which have tighter control over deep focus and none of the typical anamorphic distortion issues, so while the process is certainly "cheaper" than typical Hollywood alternatives, it isn't by default any "worse", particularly not in terms of Blu-ray where resolution is locked to 1920:804 for a constant 2.39:1 image. Don't get me wrong, I do love anamorphic photography, but I do want to dispel any nonsense about The Beyond, or indeed any of these lovely 1970s and 1980s Italian Techniscope films being "too cheap" to look good. Remember, Robinson Curusoe on Mars was shot using Techniscope and it was still high enough quality that Criterion scanned a 35mm IP at 4K and got an incredible looking Blu-ray out of it. And that was shot in the 60s. So everyone can shut up about "cheap" grainly film stock, unless you're actually discussing how it changed photo-chemically in the mid-1980s, and how it was less "cheap" and more "it had to be exposed completely differently for the same results, so it looked super grainy until DPs figured out how to work with it".

For those unaware, the credits are presented in Italian. This isn't a complaint so much as a clarification, though I am suspicious of the full title - that is, "...E tu Vivrai nel Terrore! L'aldilà", or '...And You Will Live In Terror! The Beyond' - was ever used theatrically in the 80s. They look like genuine optical titles, at least, so if they're fake at least they've done an above-average job of it.

MY KINDA NERD STUFF:
DIGITAL PROCESSING

Perhaps the most damning artifact on display is actually not the diffuse grain structure, but the edge-sharpening halos that were likely applied during telecine; Grindhouse cropped the edges of the matte bars out to hide the most obvious offenders, but door jams, signs, actors in bright sunlight and other high-contrast edges still have a funky, warped false-contour that gives the cheap illusion of a "sharper picture". I'd call it edge enhancement, but it seems to have been applied more to horizontal surfaces than vertical, so it looks 'different' than you may expect. Thankfully the lab used a "smart" algorithm that only targets consistent, hard edges, and doesn't simply contour the grain/noise as so many lesser filters tend to.

While Arrow was content to use a DVNR algorithm to blur and smooth over the more obnoxious layer of diffuse noise, Grindhouse seems to have left everything exactly as-is, favoring gritty fidelity over plasticine consistency. Fulci's usual affinity for soft-focus, gauzy photography is kept to only specific scenes here, so the film doesn't fall apart on Arrow's release nearly as often as it could have if it were, say, The Psychic. Grindhouse is the real winner in this regard, though sadly, that means you can finally see just how icky the underlying image could be on the raw scan.

Another major improvement over Arrow is in dirt and scratch removal. If fact, you can see small black and white specs on most of these screenshots on the Arrow presentation missing completely from the Grindhouse release. This is the sort of filtering that doesn't stand out, because they've done a fine job of it; an A/B comparison between the source and the finished product is like night and day, but simply watching the Grindhouse disc gives you the impression that the negative was simply clean to begin with. There's still a small level of "sparkle" - small white blobs and minor scratches that dance around from time to time, particularly on sudden movement - but it's never particularly distracting, and may be one of the more impressively naturalistic restorations of a "cheaper" catalog title in recent memory. Anyone expecting a Fulci film from 1981 to look sparkling clean was a fool, anyway.

The largest improvement, however, might just be color grading. The Arrow transfer often leans towards yellow midtones, boosted gamma and a bright, day-lit look, even during scenes that were clearly supposed to be day-for-night shots. The Grindhouse transfer is "darker" broadly speaking, but it's not simply darker as a matter of course; whole scenes have been adjusted separately for a desired "look" that appears to be in line with the Grindhouse 35mm elements we've seen on DVD and various theatrical road-shows over the last decade and a half, and while I don't know for sure if Sergio Salvati had any direct input on those transfers, he did give an interview in Blackest Heart Media's graphic novel adaptation confirming that the opening titles were supposed to be the color of a faded color photograph, not the simplistic black-and-white grading of the initial Arrow Video transfer*, which leaves me to assume that Grindhouse has a far closer idea of what the film is probably "supposed" to look like. I prefer the grading by a wide margin, at the very least, and I can't imagine anyone who sees the shot of David Warbeck walking away from a hospital with its lights on in the middle of the afternoon would assume this is somehow the way the scene is supposed to look.

NOT MY NERD STUFF:
AUDIO MASTERING

Okay, so this is the big bug-bear we've got to poke around with harder than expected. As you all know by now, I'm not much of an "audio guy". I can listen to a track and tell you if it's shit, if it's out of sync, if it's been filtered hard, but... I'm not the guy to ask if it's warm or cool. Or if it's within R128 spec. I mean I can probably guess if it's "okay" or "shit", but the finer points after that are so much gobbledygook to me.

...huh. I guess that's what talking to me about video issues must feel like for other people.

Anyway, there's been a lot of discussions, accusations and questions swirling around the "original mono" track. The 5.1 mix is actually not in dispute - it sounds more or less exactly as expected, a higher fidelity copy of the Dolby track from the old Anchor Bay DVD, and that's not a bad thing. As is often the case the 5.1 version has been subjected to a wide range of audio filtering, meaning there's very little hiss, but a certain 'underwater' quality that muffles and warps the sound as a side-effect. This is audio based noise reduction, and is - give or take - the aural equivalent to pasty, smeared left-overs after a video grain removal pass has gone terribly wrong.

I'll also give that 5.1 mix due credit - whoever did the mix paid close attention to the action on screen: The stereo panning at about 00:11:27 on the Grindhouse disc as the camera whips around to show the hotel buzzer slowly centered is perfection, and the scene at 00:09:38 where the contractor is bleeding out on the hotel couch only lets the sounds coming from the off-screen doorway emanate from the left side of the sound field. Most 5.1 mixes of old mono films aren't just pointless, they're actively lazy, letting the dialogue play out as mono and the music play out as stereo, with little attention paid beyond an explosion here or an echo there. Grindhouse's 5.1 mix has always been top notch, and neither Arrow nor Grindhouse have anything to feel ashamed of for it on Blu-ray.

The mono track on the Grindhouse disc, however, has gotten a bit of criticism for "pops" and other distortions in the high-end. Blu-ray.com member Irongod2112 has LISTED several instances, and on my trusty pair of MDR-V600 that's all but fallen apart from years of impure love, I can confirm that they're all here. The audio just sort of 'blips' out on the high end, not a full blown dropout but a distortion that covers much of the soundwave none the less.

Again, this isn't really my ream of expertise, so I'm more than willing to discuss this with anyone who feels they're more qualified to go over why these distortions exist - and how they could have been fixed without temporal digital processing/tedious looping that might not sound much better - I'm all ears.

What I don't agree with, however, is the notion that these are so dramatic that they're worth replacing the disc for. Much like the gritty scanner noise and occasional filmic scars that flow through the video presentation, these pops - while technically fixable, I have no doubt - are merely a broader sign of how little the original mono track has been molested. Minor distortions, especially on the high end, are to be expected of a post-dubbed Italian mix from this era. Remember that phrase I used earlier, "gritty fidelity over plasticine consistency"? That's exactly what we're dealing with on the sound side, as well. The original mono mix has been transferred in the best condition it can without getting a massive, rounded face-lift to remove minor flutters, clicks and inconsistencies that have always marred the masters, prior versions were simply so bereft of their analogue noise that you'd never have noticed before. An ideal spot to compare the mono track to the 5.1 mix might be 00:26:03, as Joe's wife and daughter walk down the silent hallway of the hospital; the mono track may have an omnipresent hiss in the high ends here, but the sound effects of the shoes clapping on the hard floor are notably more distinct as a result - the 5.1 remix may be completely clean of all analogue distortions, but the "thud" of the closing door at the end of the shot is positively hollow by comparison. When it cuts back from the hospital to the inside of the mortuary at 00:27:42, the mono track murmurs with subtle mechanical life, while the heavily filtered remix has been so cautiously scrubbed of hiss that it sounds very sterile.

The difference between them could easily be compared to a smoothed over CD remaster and a vintage vinyl recording. and I, personally, think the option of having both - a carefully restored and active 5.1 mix, as well as an accurate, organic presentation of the legit theatrical mix - is the absolute best case scenario anyone could ask for. One need only compare it to the "restored" mono track on the Arrow Video release - which sounds as clean and filtered as the 5.1 mix, but without any of the added "depth", or whatever proper audiophile terminology I'm looking for, of the "raw" Grindhouse track.

As is often enough the case, the Italian track doesn't sound quite as nice as the English mix - neither the 5.1 mix nor the English mono - coming across as somewhat flat and tinny by comparison, despite being just as full of analogue distortions as its English cousin. If I had to guess I'd say this was the optical track from a vaulted Italian print, while the English track is likely a newly transferred archival master - something magnetic, presumably? In any case, the film was shot primarily with actors speaking English, so unless you speak Italian I can't imagine the track being anything but a brief curiosity.

One other thing to note; the mono mix is fucking LOUD compared to the 5.1 mix, which may in part be why its distortions are so obvious. If I had to guess, I'd say this was down to the 5.1 mix having been made specifically for theatrical distribution using Dolby Digital as a codec, which is typically set to have a dialnorm rating of -27db... or, about 4db softer than a "reference" studio master. For a quick example of how drastically different the volume can be, jump to 00:52:19 as the pipe-cleaner spiders start eating the hapless bastard's face; the high pitched squealing and nails-on-chalkboard screeching are practically toe-curling on the mono track, but have a somewhat muffled quality on the remix by direct comparison.

Whether you want the original mono mix or the 5.1 surround remix, you're getting the best presentation here you could ask for. Much like the video presentation, it's not perfect, but it's damned good.

BONUS FEATURES
AND PACKAGING

Afraid I'll leave other reviewers to talk about this; suffice to say the overwhelming majority of the healthy selection of commentaries, interviews, image galleries and trailers from Grindhouse's previous DVD release have made the jump here, which was already several hours worth of content. I'm disappointed that the "full color" version of the original title sequence - hidden on the first disc as one of many, many easter eggs - is the old SD version from the DVD rather than the "raw" scan of the camera negative they showed off on their facebook page a while back, but hey, at least it's there in some form.

Fulci films are always a tough one to do extras for because the somewhat infamously petulant director passed away in 1996, before his work - along with several other prominent Italian directors of the 1970s and 80s who's work was often written off as cheap schlock - would be reappraised by an audience with a greater understanding of the trends, limitations, and unique style that makes the works of directors like Fulci, Martino, Margharetti and Castellari so fascianting to this day, even if most of their works were shrugged off at the time as cheap Hollywood knock-offs. They were, make no mistake, but so many of them - particularly a large number of Fulci's own films - managed to be far more than the sum of their parts. At the time a lot of wounds and rivalries were still fresh, so it took a few years without Fulci for those who knew him best to say anything particularly nice about him. A pity, perhaps, but it's slowly changed in the nearly 20 years since he left this mortal coil, with perhaps the most notable example being the two-part epic PAURA: LUCIO FULCI REMEMBERED, the raw footage of which - I do suspect - makes up a substantial runtime of what we're about to discuss.

It's with this in mind that I'm stunned to find an entire second disc of interviews, which - looking at the runtimes alone - appear to clock in at over 4 hours, with the lion's share of them being recent, HD affairs. Jesus Christ, I don't know if I should laugh or cry! As you can imagine a lot of these interviews have little to do with The Beyond specifically and are more long-form anecdotes about his career, but honestly, if any Fulciphile can sit through this and walk away somehow unsatisfied... shit, I don't even know what to tell you.

I don't usually make a big stink about packaging, but Grindhouse has always produced very handsome presentations and this is certainly no exception. Housed in a clear, Criterion Collection style double case, the set includes a 10 page booklet and a glow-in-the-dark embossed slipcover. The original soundtrack is included in a thin cardboard sleeve, and there's an additional thin bit of cardboard in the slipcase to keep everything from getting crushed in transit. It's one of the nicest packages I've seen in quite some time, and I can only assume later pressings will likely forego the fantastic Fabio Frizzi OST and the slipcase. The former was absolutely a deal-closer for me; with all due respect to the latter, Grindhouse's "original" artwork has always been my least favorite for the film, and I'm just a little sad that we don't get the bizarre American 7 DOORS OF DEATH poster as a reverse-sleeve image. (At least the booklet has the Italian poster art.) But I've always adored Frizzi's score for this, and indeed the rest of the Fulci zombie-themed films that were all expansions of his new theme for the 70s re-release of the original Godzilla.

AND YOU WILL LIVE IN TERROR?

While I had trouble recommending Grindhouse's Cannibal Holocaust BD to all but the most dedicated fans, this one seems a no-brainer: There's no better presentation out there, and it's full to bursting with bonus content and limited goodies. Highly recommended for fans, even if - like me - you purchased the Grindhouse disc 5 years ago. One could argue that the UK release has its own unique interviews, but Grindhouse interviewed most of the same people anew, so the only real defense for the UK import left was that limited window-box packaging, which has been replaced since by a more expensive steelbook.

Friends, it's never been a better time to be a fan of Italian cult films. Fulci's own A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN is getting a Blu-ray this summer, with Fulci's goofy, action packed train wreck ZOMBI 3 having just recently been announced by 88 Films for a UK release. Grindhouse Releasing themselves are going to release the amazingly nasty CANNIBAL FEROX next month, and Fulci's own CAT IN THE BRAIN will be one of their final titles - and that's not including German imports of THE PSYCHIC, or UK releases of ANTHROPOPHAGOUS and BLASFIGHTER in the near future. It's only gonna get better from here, friends, and I personally can't wait to revisit the lot of them.

I had hoped that The Beyond, arguably Fulci's most profoundly bizarre work would be considered important enough to be worth a new 4K scan. This may not be the presentation it could have been had they treated a new transfer as priority over bonus content, but for what it is, I just can't find it in me to complain.

12 comments:

jERII said...

HOLEEEFOOOK. Baja Blast is back in stores!

Anonymous said...

You're CRT VS CCD explanation was very informative and interesting! Thanks for that, learn something new every day. I'm happy with GR's work, though truth be told I only have a few BDs from them.

Dude, BTW the OG Vampire Hunter D is coming to blu-ray this summer, based on the HD master Yamtao created in Italy IIRC.

This is the most gnarlacious news, on the other hand though, what's up with Bloodlust? Does that even warrant a Blu-ray since there aren't any proper HD master restored for it? I'm not sure to get excited about that one or nervous, still kinda' confused but whatevs.

Also, what's up with Mr. Baja above? lol is that true :')

Kriztoffer Swank said...

I can confirm that Baja Blast is in stores as 12-packs and that it is delicious.

Have yet to watch my copy of GR's Beyond but the screencaps certainly look less filtered with better color correction. I do really dig the theatrical re-release poster art and that it glows in the dark (I'm five), but hate how it's cropped and all the background shit is rearranged or possibly even redrawn. It looks so much more gorgeous on the Anchor Bay tin, especially since the melty zombie thing is fully in frame.

https://scontent.cdninstagram.com/hphotos-xap1/t51.2885-15/10560945_1818306085060597_353959695_n.jpg

I'd say it's never been more exciting to be a fan of not just Italian genre film but genre film and anime in general. Muthafukken Sinful Dwarf of all things nasty is going to have all its grime in glorious 1080p before long, and both Vampire Hunter Deez are coming to Blu-ray (hopefully in prime condition in regard to their encodes and masters used).

Just...please somebody do John Carpenter's The Thing some justice, will ya?

Kentai 拳態 said...

jERII: Shit, man. If it ain't that awesome Keylime flavor they made last election, I ain't biting.

Anon: I figure I'll have some people reading this who haven't seen my years-old ranting on the subject, and thought it'd be a good primer. It's nice that I can finally point to Caps-A-Holic as my "See? SEE?!" counterpoint, rather than the ol' theoretical "Well, this COULD have looked nicer if..." I'd otherwise have to sift through.

Sentai's VAMPIRE HUNTER D ('85) Blu-ray is exciting news indeed! I'm disappointed they aren't doing a new master, as Yamato's HD scan - while the best 4:3 presentation I've seen by a wide margin - still had some pretty nasty black crush going on, as well as a combination of print damage and DSR artifacts the OVA Films transfer was OCD enough to avoid. It's actually infuriating; the OVA Films master is better than Yamato's in every way, except for that goddamn cropped faux-widescreen bullshit. This flick just can't fucking win!

Kriz: The "full" Grindhouse Releasing cover art is certainly an improvement over the werid cropped version we got on the BD slip, but I've never especially liked it. It isn't bad, even, but the Italian, German and even the goofy-ass American posters are so gorgeous in their own right that the re-release art - while pretty cool on its own - just doesn't quite thrill me.

Having seen a 35mm print of The Thing a year or two back, I can tell you that the BD is better than everyone seems convinced it is. Yes, it has some unfortunate DSR artifacts, but otherwise I'm perfectly satisfied with the Universal BD. Unless we're talking a new 4K scan of the OCN, it ain't getting much better than it looks right now, especially not if Escape From New York is any indicator...

Anonymous said...

lol so Baja really is back, I gots to get my sweet nectar from the gods pretty soon then.

Re VHD (85' version), I hope it at least looks better than Sentai's BD release of Ninja Scroll, could've been handled a lot better.

Also, isn't the BD of The Thing missing pong pong balls and other tiny details that can still be seen on the HD DVD?

Kriztoffer Swank said...

The US BD for Ninja Scroll looks practically identical to the JP one save for a slight gamma tweak, so any issues with it must be baked in the master.

The Thing BD isn't an atrocity but it doesn't have some scratch repair muck-ups. Missing ping pong balls, helicopter blades, snow... It's a mess; there's shit missing in practically every screengrab on caps-a-holic. It's also just about devoid of any grain. If any movie deserves a new 4K master, it's this one.

Kriztoffer Swank said...

*DOES have some scratch repair muck-ups

Anonymous said...

Hmm really? I thought they just raised the brightness with banding on the US release, the caps I saw of the JP BD looked quite different:
- http://www.kentaiblog.com/2012/12/ninja-troll.html

(I had a hard time finding the caps for this btw cause the name was listed as "Ninja Troll" lol)

And yep, the scratch repair on The Thing is foul play, wheres my ping pong ball at?

Anonymous said...

Fucking yellow subtitles. :(

https://twitter.com/ashuraou/status/594674051068665856

Anonymous said...

Another anon mentioned Bloodlust, but no replies.

Discotek Media apparently has the rights to Bloodlust and have mentioned it here back at the beginning of February for both DVD and Blu-Ray:
https://www.facebook.com/147168055312297/photos/a.196378827057886.55668.147168055312297/1025494617479632/?type=1

No word since that post. I imagine it will probably be 3rd quarter before they have it completed, if not later. Will likely see some kind of details by July. Watch that be an upscale. I don't trust anyone with that and not getting a dime until I see screen caps.

Anonymous said...

Considering no HD telecine has been performed on Bloodlust, I can't say I'd be surprised. lol

Kentai 拳態 said...

And now, my anonymous friends, you can see why a proper Vampire Hunter D themed reply took so damn long.