Tuesday, April 5

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) DVD Comparison - Paramount US vs. Echo Bridge US vs. Anchor Bay UK

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I wonder if Paramount has any legal grounds with Echo Bridge's release. Not because their fresh disc looks awful, that's undeniable, but the rights might still be in Paramount's stable. According to the IMDB, distribution only resided with Dimension/Miramax theatrically. Paramount had copyrights for VHS, LD, and their 2006 DVD. That disc is now out-of-print; however, that doesn't necessarily mean the giant gave up distribution. The six sequels after Hell on Earth are indeed handled by Dimension. Further complicating matters, with the Weinstein brothers' exit from Miramax, all Dimension property released before October 1, 2005 are retained by Miramax. Although does that mean both theatrically and home video regardless of other partner companies like Paramount?

Whatever the case, Hell on Earth has befallen a cruel fate. As stated before, it's obvious Echo Bridge jacked their transfer from a piss-poor bootleg DVD from the long gone Top Ten Media (see a list of their releases here). Trolling through swap meets, Top Ten's discs can still be found and I have some of them. The replication of these discs was so terrible most have very labored playback if they spin up at all. Their Hell on Earth DVD was an unauthorized rip from Paramount's unmatted full frame LaserDisc. The picture exhibits bad dot crawl (see explaination here) indicative of the LD's composite video stream being captured from an entry-level player like a weak comb filter. Not only does Echo Bridge's disc also show dot crawl in spades; there's bad line combing, compression artifacts, and the picture is horizontally stretched to fill a "fake" anamorphic widescreen frame. Notice how there's a bit more picture on the top and bottom of their captures. Full frame stretched to widescreen; could this presentation be any worse?

No idea as to why Echo Bridge chose to do this, but it interesting to note while their disc carries the retro Dimension: A Division of Miramax Films fanfare, both the Paramount and Anchor Bay UK discs carry no such logo. Maybe it was all a manner of Echo Bridge finding a presentation with the Miramax logo to justify this release? Either way, if this lousy studio has the balls to debut this on Blu-ray using this transfer, it'll easily be the worst looking title in the format's history. Hell, they would have to considering the original film elements are probably in a Paramount Pictures vault somewhere...

Thankfully, both the Paramount and Anchor Bay are very solid. They're quite similar to each other in terms of image quality, but Anchor Bay's disc is unrated running about four minutes longer. The Paramount includes the theatrical trailer and Clive Barker: The Art of Horror featurette (originally a bonus VHS with rentals of the film at Blockbuster). The Anchor Bay UK features a commentary with Anthony Hickox and Doug Bradley, recent and past interviews, theatrical trailer, and a poster gallery. Both releases are currently out-of-print, so it might taken some diligence to find copies now.

(Paramount 1st / Echo Bridge 2nd / Anchor Bay UK 3rd, saved as uncompressed .pngs, click for full size)
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8 comments:

Toxaemia said...

I actually had a copy of the bootleg years ago. While I was attempting to take it out of the case to watch it, the DVD snapped right in half.

It really is a shame. I really dig this movie! Thankfully there are still used copies of the Paramount release still floating around :P

Jayson said...

I have the Top Ten Media DVD somewhere, I'll try to find it and match the captures. Dunno if it'll even play though...

Jayson said...

I've noticed some forums are linking to this entry and some believe one or more of these captures are from Blu-ray. No, all three are DVD. Two NTSC U.S. discs and one PAL U.K. disc.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the reason it looks like a full screen presentation is because it is one. It's not some kind of anamorphic transfer that Echo Bridge faked; it's a full screen movie. Seriously, do you just have nothing else to bitch about so you have to go and make stuff up? I have that disc, and it looks fine on my 4x3 TV. Comparing an artificially stretched 4x3 feature to a pair of actual 16x9 features is a dubious at best, and an outright lie if you don't indicate that you're comparing apples to Studebakers. Way to go, Captain Observant.

Jayson said...

How am I lying about or twisting around, or making up anything? It only shows how incredibly uncaring Echo Bridge is that they'd stretch an open matte full frame presentation to a "fake" widescreen. The film is a widescreen film, it's just that the soft matte was taken off to reveal the 4x3 ratio for ancient 4x3 displays, like the LaserDisc or VHS. It's intended to be framed at 1.85:1 academy flat.

This is a widely done practice with many 1.85:1 films back in the day. Now with 16x9 displays, there's no need to take the matte bars off.

Starmummy said...

Why is it always the anonymous ones that leave the bitchy comments? Keep up the good work Jayson. It is great that you are exposing EB's excrement for what it really is.

Darsh said...

Thank you very much for this post. I had this DVD in my hand today and was just about to buy it when I saw the Echo Bridge logo and remembered your warning. You saved me $5! Thank you!

Tom said...

Shoot. I recently ordered this off Walmart.com because it advertised widescreen, but since the box did not say widescreen I was hesitant to open it. Kmart had a three pack of 3, 4 and 5 but their box clearly stated 3 was full frame but I took that back when I saw I could get 3 in widescreen from Walmart.com, but I digress.

While checking online to see if what I got was full frame or not I stumbled upon your post. Now I am thinking I should see about returning it. Thanks for the information about Echo Bridge. It is sad that real retailers are selling it.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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