.I threw in Universal's recent DVD of Phantasm II last night and figured I'd put together a quick picture quality comparison between these three releases. First off, Universal's U.S. presentation is perfectly acceptable after such a long wait for its stateside DVD release. The transfer is anamorphic, progressively encoded, and has a healthy bitrate. Detail is consistently strong, but Coscarelli shot slightly diffuse, so it's not usually tack sharp. The contrast is brighter and color cast is much different (reddish leaning) from Anchor Bay's U.K. presentation. The British disc is more muted looking. The U.S. disc's shadow detail is crushed by comparison, so the darker portions of the picture are inky and have a quick roll-off in absolute black. While this isn't the most desirable thing; I'd rather have deep blacks than shallow, grey blacks. It's just a shame the Universal disc has no extras aside from the film's theatrical trailer. As an aside, the spine's design is nicely similar to Anchor Bay's U.S. discs of Parts 1, 3, and 4.
I've had the British Anchor Bay box set for awhile and the Phantasm II transfer is the strongest out of the four-film set. As stated, the picture is more desaturated, but at the same time more consistent. Detail is just as strong as the U.S. presentation, if not a little better. Shadow detail is also noticeably better and the transfer is anamorphic and progressive. Be careful of Anchor Bay's individual release; their "Horror Classics" line of re-releases lack all of the extras of the studio's prior SE discs, including Phantasm II. The overall extra features of this box set are great with this film featuring a commentary by Coscarelli, Scrimm, and Bannister. As another aside, the initial British Moonstone DVD release is from an old crappy video master and their Part 3 disc is edited--ignore them.
The Austrian XT Video box set is a shady unauthorized release limited to 2,000 copies. It's not really worth even speaking of the picture quality, as it's terrible. The source looks like a Laserdisc shoehorned into an anamorphic DVD presentation. Hazy, digital-looking, undetailed, and just bad. Here's a capture that matches the third set below since the real competition is between the U.S. and U.K. presentations. Though the ace up this set's sleeve is its supplemental material. Concerning Phantasm II, this set has a two-hour making-of documentary, an hour of footage from the Phantasmania Convention, a half an hour from a Fangoria Convention, and extremely rough looking workprint version with 11 more minutes not seen in the theatrical cut (see capture here)--all in English.
The British Anchor Bay set is preferable for the best transfer and extras, but the U.S. Universal transfer is just a sliver below the Anchor Bay for those unfortunately region landlocked. If you can find it, the Austrian XT Video set is for diehard fans for its unique extras. Of course, if you're a Phantasm fanatic, only all three releases will do.
TOP: Universal Studios - R1/NTSC/U.S. | BOTTOM: Anchor Bay - R2/PAL/U.K.