Saturday, April 30

Death Faces (Death Faces IV) (1988) - 1988 Deluxe Movie Videos VHS

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Fresh from the mailbox comes this dreadful Faces of Death rip-off. The clips are tepid stock footage that could play on daytime History Channel nowadays with unintentionally stupid narration. The only thing notable is the cover which is the size of a Thorn EMI hard case for clamshell hounds (like myself). The cassette and shockumentary itself has "Death Faces IV" as the title. To date, this is the sole installment...thankfully.        

The Second Picture in Google's Image Search for "Horror VHS"

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...is an old photo of my collection. These were found before I began actually digging through boxes. Cool!

Friday, April 29

My advice for this weekend?

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Skip that PG-13 mutilation of the comic that looks like a teenybopper rendition of Hellboy starring whoever directed by whomever and watch this final milestone of Italian Horror instead...

Thursday, April 28

N.P.Y. Video's Cry Onion and how it finally landed into my hands...a decade late.

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Here's a selection from my horde that has one of the more interesting stories attached to it. A good decade or so before I started seriously collecting any magnetic tape-based formats, I came across a copy of NPY Video's Canadian clamshell of Cry Onion at a local swap meet that has sadly since closed. I distinctly remembered the tape not so much for its goofy cover but for the sticker on the case. It was a rental from the mom and pop video store (and pharmacy) of my childhood, Independence Drug, that had even then been railroaded by Blockbuster into a shadow of its former self. The building is a vacant lot present day...

But that tape wasn't destined to been mine upon getting giddy seeing the names of Enzo G. Castellari and Franco Nero. No, before I could even ask, I heard a voice loudly bark "They're SOLD." There he was, Mr. Asshole buying the whole lot. I've talked about Mr. Asshole, proprietor of Videoland, before with The Deep End of Horror and the A-Hole Video Dealer. Most of this entry detailing dealer annoyances is also modeled from encounters with this rude prick. Certainly one of the most disrespectful human beings I've ever had the unfortunate luck to met with ludicrously expensive prices on even the most average videos ($13 for Fried Green Tomatoes...huh?).

Flash forward to about two years ago. Mr. Asshole's "Videoland" at a nearby swap meet had disappeared. A new dealer of little odds-and-ends had taken his place...along with boxes of attic tar dusted tapes. I struck up a good rapport with the guy, who was about 378% kinder than who he replaced, and never questioned where his collection was accumulated until I saw "it". There was NPY's Cry Onion; the same copy I lost out to Mr. Asshole years prior. Only with the rental sticker halfheartedly torn off in half.

I inquired about origins of the apple crates of tapes. Apparently, Mr. Asshole had lived in an apartment of sorts in the unseen second story of the swap meet's ex-department store building. The trinket seller moved in and Mr. Asshole left stacks of tapes...everywhere. Cry Onion and a bunch of other great tapes were the ones that know-it-all deemed worthless. I had no idea what happened to Mr. Asshole until he recently surfaced again at another swap meet. Looking through his tapes, while his multiple cameras looked at me, nothing really interesting or of value caught my eye. Years later, I ended up with some gems of his collection that he willingly let slip through his fingers. That's what you get for being an asshole...
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Wednesday, April 27

Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970) - 1986 Super Video Inc. VHS

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Classic example of far better artwork than content from one of the great rare distributors of the '80s...

Tuesday, April 26

Impressions of Second Sight's new British DVD of Warlock (1989)

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Just to recap how I felt about Steve Miner's Warlock, here's an excerpt of my previous thoughts: "Warlock only dips its toes into the horror genre while primarily focusing on the more fantastic aspects of sorcery and mythology surrounding its battling characters from long ago...every twist feels like a bloom of creativity instead of posturing hyperbole or plot convenience...these little touches act as great propellant to keep watching and the lack of grisly violence is more than made up for by Julian Sands's ruthlessly menacing performance...far more I expected going in and easily outclasses similar films like Necronomicon: Book of Dead (1993) or even Wishmaster (1997). Definitely one to either revisit or see for the first time like myself."

So I was pretty excited to see Warlock finally released on DVD outside of the States. To my knowledge, until now the film has only seen a disc release in its native country. Unforunately, Second Sight's debut is two steps forward and one back. The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced, progressive, boasts strong color, and shows very little damage. On the other hand, Trimark's U.S. DVD was taken from an old unmatted full frame video master that was quite dark. Essentially a slightly better-than-LaserDisc transfer.

There's a 20th Century Fox logo on the Second Sight's back cover and on the opening of the film. I'm assuming Second Sight got the source tape from the giant studio. Fox probably isn't too invested in Warlock, so I have to again assume Second Sight are responsible for the issue that plagues this new transfer--digital noise reduction. Its typical smoothed over appearance and smeary edges remain throughout the duration.

It's certainly not the worst example I've seen on the standard def format, but it's sad to see still applied in 2011. Finer textures, like hair and clothing, tend to clump together in a silky mass. As par the course with noise reduction, image "lag" intensifies with how intense the motion is on-screen. Grain structure is, of course, gone along with fine detail even in close-ups. The disc is only single-layer and I can only believe the distributor lazily applied the DNR to ease any compression problems (which pop up anyway). Yes, this presentation does look better than Trimark's DVD; however, it's still not up to snuff. Even if some blocking occurred, Second Sight should have just thrown Warlock onto disc untouched, it would have looked noticeably better.

As for supplements, there are exactly zero (unlike the Trimark's trailer) along with only Dolby stereo audio (like the Trimark). The Second Sight still might be worth picking up if you're a big fan, but wait until the disc drops in price. Given how basic the whole thing is, that's bound to occur soon.

(direct disc captures, saved as uncompressed .pngs, click for full size)


Monday, April 25

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (1989) - 1991 Vestron Video VHS

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Merely because this one's in such great shape, white slipboxes usually don't fare well with time...

Sunday, April 24

Some quick thoughts on Husk (2011)

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A group of friends find themselves stranded next to an expansive cornfield with their dead crow-plastered ride stuck in a ditch. In the minor accident, one of the early-twenty-somethings simply vanishes as the remaining set out to find him. Spotting a rundown farmhouse in the distance, they split up, and two finally reach the dilapidated ruins to find their lost friend...only a bit dead looking and in a trance sewing a burlap mask. Night falls and something deadly resides within the boundaries of the corn...

(spoilerish throughout)Writer/director Brett Simmons' 2005 short turned feature debut, Husk, is one of the latest in a long line of decent programmers akin to a festering TV dinner of horror. A variety of familiar ideas with steady enough pace and budget to make an innocuous eighty minute sitdown. For some that isn't acceptable while others might complain about how the concept is similar to a host of other horrors. In reality, it's another entry in one of the genre's microbrews, scarecrow terror, told in the modern chairjump-before-atmosphere trend.

Given the brisk duration, Simmons gladly spends little time on the simple set-up before flashes of hay-stuffed figures appear in the night; slicing up the living and literally roping them in for the kill. The mythology surrounding the scarecrow is well-established in flashbacks experienced by one of the victims. Born from a horrible act of sibling murder, some ethereal mumbo-jumbo has given rise to the murderer becoming an equally bloodthirsty scarecrow on the abandoned property his family once inhabited decades ago. The nail-handed strawman can possess his latest kill to become another mad scarecrow by sewing up their own mask and driving spikes in their hands.

Within the ramshackle house, this ritualistic trance is performed by the victim at a sewing machine. Afterward, the zombie can go about dispatching until it's destroyed and another takes its place. At least that's how I took Simmons' delivery of the present day happenings. It's all somewhat unclear since who is the undead minion and who is the "original" scarecrow is lost in the chaos until the climax. There's also the question of why didn't those alive just bash the sewing machine into rubble, especially after seeing the rite completed several times with each victim. Oh well, the harmless Husk is still worth a rental for those who enjoy scarecrow mayhem despite Dark Night of the Scarecrow's throne remaining unchallenged.

Saturday, April 23

Be on the lookout for these kick ass "locking" VHS cases...

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Picked up another one of these this morning at a swap meet. I'm unsure who originally made these cassette storage cases, but they're great for stray yet valuable tapes and I always keep an eye for them. They open by pushing in two wire-taught "buttons" on the spine that assuringly snap secure upon closure. Might take a minute to get open before getting the method down.

The cassette rests on two plastic reels and barely rattles when locked in. Also the top lid of the tape, the most delicate part, faces into the case for the best protection as opposed to many cases that force the "lid end" to sit along the opening. I wouldn't recommend it, but you could probably drop one of these cases out of moving car with the tape inside surviving intact afterward.

This morning's case housed an abused copy of Goodfellas which was chucked after purchase. These cases are worth a buck alone regardless of what they contain. Included in the pic is a "normal" and flimsier transparent case for comparison. Also I hope you like the new layout of BoGD.       

I can finally support this whole Rebecca Black thing...

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Thursday, April 21

Joe Bob Briggs Presents: Blood Feast (1963) - 1990 Shock Films VHS

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Click on over to The Scandy Factory's Gallery for a scan of the later Strand Home Video tape. Part of "The Sleaziest Movies in the History of the World" series hosted by Mr. Schlock Encyclopedia himself, Joe Bob Briggs. Highly doubt there's over three hundred in this series; don't send your children to college without the complete set!


Tuesday, April 19

Some quick thoughts on The Roost (2005)

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After a freak car accident grounds four friends in the countryside boonies, they run afoul of vicious crimson-sucking bats in a nearby barn. Finding the entire property abandoned (at first), they can only pray for dawn's break...and try to fed off the re-animated victims of the nocturnal fang...

One gets the feeling a good portion of those that have dismissed Ti West's The Roost may have done so out of seeing the filmmaker's first "feature" without the proper mindset. Stripping away the superfluous late night creature feature segments featuring Tom Noonan as host and hokey credit sequences, this shot-on-16mm "film" is more akin to a short subject that hovers just over a hour.

When looking at West's work in this light, Roost becomes an impressive rustic slice of atmospheric, low-budget horror, but it's a considerable disappointment if expecting an everyday feature-length effort. Paramount's DVD cover also doesn't help by making the film appear a cross between From Dusk Till Dawn and the Lou Diamond Phillips bomb Bats. The original theatrical posters, seen here, do a much better job at selling what West intended.

Is this spooky "lo-fi" sell accomplished? Not quite. The late night television horror feature bookends feel tacked on with Noonan's uninspired delivery seeming more a courtesy than anything serious unlike his patented chilly soft-spoken turn in West's later House of the Devil. Actually, Roost is less a wannabe midnight horror staple than it is one of the best "living" homages to Sam Raimi's low-budget terror criterion The Evil Dead.

That's to not say that West rips off the 1981 classic, instead The Roost synthesizes its sensibilities while wearing the influence on its sleeve with honor. Like Ashley's first tango with demons, West's constant construction of building dread and cold nighttime desolation takes priority over the actual (CGI-crafted) winged threat. Demons or bats or maniacal persons possessed by said demons or bats is one thing, but the fear of the unknown beyond is universal, omnipresent, and everlasting.

This is Roost's greatest strength and also its greatest weakness. Unlike Raimi's feature-length debut, there is no transcendence into a lasting, rousing experience. Everything is bottlenecked by its single-mindedness, but what West accomplishes here is admirably done despite the pinpoint focus forced by clock and monetary constraint. Just keep in mind Roost feels like a one-page draft with pencil marks in margins that all speak to larger unseen ideas and the 80 minutes becomes much more fulfilling in an earnest sense. It might be interesting to see West eventually revisit this concept with a fleshed out take; the young filmmaker has certainly proved a scare conjurer with House of the Devil and it would be serendipitous for his mainstream break to occur with what originally placed him on the map to genre fans.

Monday, April 18

The Best $5 Horror Multi-Pack at Wal Mart Thus Far...

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Just picked up this dirt cheap Universal Studios horror DVD set during one of my many ritualistic runs to Wal Mart. You can't beat Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse, Phantasm II, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and Sssssss for five bucks in-store. The set is comprised of two dual-layer discs with two features per disc. Since Universal aren't a bunch of money hungry bastards like Echo Bridge's disasters, the result of fitting two flicks per disc is indistinguishable between their prior standalone releases. Progressive anamorphic widescreen transfers with no signs of compression issues. The theatrical trailers have been dropped and the Dolby 2.0 tracks have remained, but hey, it's only one Lincoln note. In contrast, I walked into Sam's Club and found a weak two feature Universal western movie set, Into the Badlands and Dead Man's Revenge, for $10. Or you could instead pick up Echo Bridge's The Prophecy trilogy crushed onto one disc for $13. So swallow your pride and beat your feet to Wal Mart...

(direct disc captures, saved as uncompressed .pngs, click for full size)

Sunday, April 17

Powerforce (Shen tan guang tou mei) (1982) - 1983 Independent United Distributors (IUD) VHS

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What I'm about to say is going to sound ridiculous. It's tapes like this one that keep me collecting. It's early, obscure in both feature and distributor, and boasts a wild cover that desperately begs you to save it from an eventual dumpster toss. The situation I found this in also illustrates a truth about mining for tapes at swap meets. The seller had about twenty large boxes packed with cassettes spine out (thank you!), and amongst all of them, this was the only real keeper. Literally the most off-beat and beat-up VHS of his entire collection. More often-than-not, it all comes to that one tape that made the search worth it. I haven't checked out Powerforce yet, but check out these reviews over at MONDO 70, City on Fire, and This Coleslaw Makes Me Sick.

Saturday, April 16

Alien (1979) - 1980 Magnetic Video Corporation VHS (MAG1 Cassette)

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This first ever release of Ridley Scott's classic is hard-to-find in two regards. The tape is just over thirty years old from the first distributor of home video cassettes in North America. There's also the matter of sheer title abundance. 20th Century Fox eventually broke away from Magnetic Video, which closed shop in 1984, and went on to release Alien on various formats to millions of sales. It's easy to find a copy, but not nearly as easy to locate this 1980 cassette from when sky high retail prices for movies essentially created a video rental-only monopoly. I can partner this one up with Magnetic's 1981 LaserDisc.

Friday, April 15

Doctor Bloodbath (Horror Hospital) (1973) - 1988 Bingo Video Inc. VHS

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Bingo Video was a super shitty fly-by-nighter, but did they ever smash it outta the park with this batshit cover. Lurid re-titling, scrawled title font, attention-grabbing colors, shocked naked chick clutching her topside delicate bits, severed girl heads with googly eyes, bloody scalpel, insane doctor with bad teeth, and a tagline that's familiar to regulars of this blog. This one just screams the glory days of VHS rental. Unfortunately the SP-speed tape looks and plays like an EPer. Bad tracking lines, terrible picture quality, and after a few minutes the whole thing simply cuts out. Still, this artwork is a towering achievement...

Thursday, April 14

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (ファンタズムIII) (1994) - TJC Video Japan VHS

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My vote for most consistently satisfying horror franchise outside of Romero's Dead series. The Phantasms show how bold, creative, and confident genre storytelling can be when a filmmaker's vision yields very little to compromise. Don Coscarelli might have an inadvertent stroke of genius in building The Tall Man's mythos in regards to his sequels. Instead of needing to go larger with each subsequent entry, Coscarelli can adapt the storyline to smaller budgets since there isn't a need for extensive location shooting or dressing. There's always the next town, mortuary, cemetery, or headstone for this core of characters to battle over. Of course, most would love to see a large scale Phantasm sequel, but I'd be happy with something more metaphysical like Oblivion and maybe even sentimental (like Bubba Ho-tep) that would finally close out the series. Please?

Tuesday, April 12

Rituals (1977) - 1987 Embassy Home Entertainment VHS...plus new word on Code Red's DVD

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Retro Slashers has word of Code Red's long-delayed DVD of Peter Carter's brutal Deliverance riff, Rituals, finally appearing in the flesh. Maybe I can finally retire this too dark presentation from Embassy. Notice the "666" rental sticker on the spine! Hail Holbrook!

Monday, April 11

The Haunting in Connecticut? Eeh, it's worth the six bucks...

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Peter Cornwell's The Haunting in Connecticut is hard to avoid. After doing solid box office, Lionsgate seems to be throwing this spooker into multi-feature packs left-and-right along with granting substantial price drops to its standalone releases. This threw me off, and with believing this "dumping" was a sign of the flick's quality, I didn't place much priority in seeing it until last night. I'm unsure as to why I often do that; however, as usual it was best to judge for myself...

Centered on a teenage cancer patient, Matt (Kyle Gallner), and family moving into an old home and subsequently falling prey to paranormal rumblings; Haunting is best described as a reflection of the ongoing state of mainstream frights. The first hour is a well measured, suspenseful slow burn. An experimental medical treatment, which might cause hallucinations, is being used on the ill teen and writers Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe take obvious pains to make the viewer second guess whether Matt is merely delusional or a more sinister presence is taking hold of his weakened state. With the boy's room choice being a gloomy basement; there's all sorts of chances for ghastly shadows, creepy sounds, and a wall of doors off to one side that seem concreted shut. In a waking nightmare Matt gains access to what's beyond the facade and discovers a long forgotten embalming room. Naturally, the family was never told of the home's former life as a mortuary and Matt's visions intensify.

Sounds like a good ol' ghostly cracker of psychological horror, right? Here's where you can liken Haunting to the modern approach to this brand of horror in microcosm. After that first hour is up, this taunt build is cast away for a mountain of slambam cliché to wake up those bored with its arguably superior initial path. This tonal shift is palpable as the creaky house's past of necromancy, seance, and ectoplasmic vomit is broken wide open. A priest also stricken with cancer (the ever dependable Elias Koteas) comes in with all the answers and soon there's doors slamming uncontrollably, room rampaging phantom birds, and lights flickering from bulb-less sockets. The evil has fully awakened! And now only Matt can free both himself and a not-so-bad entity that has attached itself to the teen in order to rid the house of its demons. Hellfire! Mummified remains! Tribal tattooing that suddenly disappears! Burn victims! The Shining! The Changeling! Stir of Echoes! Unrealistic Happy Ending (after several false endings)!

The last half is overkill that beguiles any assurance to the opening claim of Cornwell's first stab at horror filmmaking being based on a true story. Although you're likely to forget that by the conclusion, just like how Haunting either contradicts or conveniently forgets a number of potentially interesting subplots and ideas seen in its first half. Despite this half-and-half nature, I'm not going to hold anything aganist this one. It's a bit of everything done well enough to warrant a look. Maybe a good starting point to ease newcomers toward more consistent examples of psychological horror. Haunting's unrated Blu-ray is worth the measly six dollar tag currently at Wal Mart as part of a Lionsgate format promotion. Just don't expect to be totally satisfied regardless of whether you're a casual or veteran horror fan.  
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Saturday, April 9

History repeats itself with Children of the Corn II & III

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Echo Bridge's new double feature of Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992) and Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995) parallels their Hellraiser III & IV release. Both features on one disc, horrible compression, and the first film taken from a Top Ten Media bootleg stretched to widescreen from full frame. Granted, Final Sacrifice looks better than Hell on Earth, but again it's proof Miramax screwed over their own catalog...

Friday, April 8

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) - 1986 MEDIA Home Entertainment VHS

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Revisiting this maligned sequel after years, Freddy's Revenge would have made an excellent later sequel. The concept of Krueger needing a teenager fresh to Elm Street to possess in order to break into reality is refreshing. Kevin Yagher's Freddy burn make-up retains that raw fleshly pain seen in Craven's film instead of looking more like a mask as the series worn on. Even the near-total deviation from the original dream-based mythos is bold and interesting. The thing is considering all these aspects and this being the initial follow-up; its quite the disappointment.

Although in hindsight of the series, this imperfect tangent of barely contained homoerotism and thrown lawn furniture is better than Freddy's increased stand-up stylings in the rest. MEDIA's tape isn't rare, but it is rarer than the early-'90s Video Treasures EP-speed version with the same cover art.   

Thursday, April 7

Wednesday, April 6

DEVIL STORY (1985) is coming to DVD! Throw some dough on your face and terrorize the French countryside!

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Despite preferring N.G. Mount's paper-mâché negative-zero budget slasher freakout Ogroff: Mad Mutilator (become vaguely interested here), it's nice to finally see Bernard Launois's Devil Story, Il était une fois le diable (read my thoughts here) come to digital platter in its native country of France...eventually. I remember reading rumbling about this release back when I originally wrote-up that critique last February. Hopefully with any luck we'll see Ogroff and maybe Sexandroide limp with Devil Story's Nazi zombie with a shotgun on DVD sooner rather than later. Translated from Sheep Tapes:

"After a little silence online, Sheep Tapes and Nanarland are pleased to announce that Devil Story, Il était une fois le diable is coming to DVD soon!

"Soon" is not very accurate, and unfortunately due to some mishap of a technical nature, we cannot provide a specific release date yet. The DVD should be here by mid-May at the latest! Hoping that the date could be provided by that time.

We will keep informed as soon as possible to the date of delivery of the DVD! Pre-orders on the Internet will be open very soon, as soon as the exact release date is determined."
  • Region 2 PAL 
  • 4x3 Full Frame OR 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen? (unsure right now)
  • French and English audio tracks
  • Select Scene Audio Commentary with Director Bernard Launois
  • Once Upon a Time Devil Story: 32 Minute Documentary with Bernard Launois, Véronique Renaud, Jean-François Rauger, Rurik Salé, Christophe Lemaire, Frank Henenlotter, Frederic Thibaut, Emmanuel Rossi
  • Hollywood Devil Story: The Forbidden History (parody documentary)
  • SoundScape Eccentric Night 2010 footage
  • The Filming of Devil Story: As seen on France 3 Normandie TV
  • Theatrical Trailer, "Ethnology and Horse of the Devil", and other surprises!

Tuesday, April 5

Another "Horrifying" Echo Bridge Victim: Halloween: H20 (1998)

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The hits keep comin'! Echo Bridge looks to have "hobbled" Steve Miner's Halloween: H20 to 1.78:1 from its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The film was shot Super35 which is meant to give filmmakers more freedom in frame composition. This is done by capturing a larger square area onto film and then being able to move the matte around in post-production to achieve the desired widescreen presentation. So theoretically H20 isn't "cropped", but more incorrectly framed to what was intended.

I haven't seen this Blu-ray (like hell I'm buying it now), but being at such a ratio most likely means the HD master is an existing one created who-knows-when for cable broadcasts (perhaps at 1080i). So it wouldn't be surprising if the picture quality is underwhelming since it wasn't expressly created for this Blu-ray. Also EB dropped the supplements and 5.1 surround audio. Keep those DVDs and wait for eventual Blu-ray imports...

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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Sunday, April 3

One Fine Mess: Miramax/Echo Bridge Distribution Switch: Early From Dusk Till Dawn & Hellraiser 3/4 DVD Report...

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Talk about shit and fall back in it. As you may or may not know, the ever-ailing Miramax recently struck a distro deal with Echo Bridge Entertainment for the upstart to distribute 251 titles in Miramax's catalog on DVD and Blu-ray. Upon hearing this, flags immediately went up in my head. If you're ever browsed the DVD section at Wal Mart; or more over the $5 bargain bin, you're probably already aware of Echo Bridge. They're essentially the new mainstream cheapskate distributor pushing mostly mediocre SOV numbers at cheap prices. There's nothing wrong with this, but I couldn't shake the feeling they'd screw up and penny-pinch. I was unfortunately right. If these releases are indicative of what to expect from Echo Bridge, thank you Miramax for selling out to the lowest common denominator.

Domestically, Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn has never been given its proper due on home video. Released by Miramax in the stone age of DVD, the studio never saw fit to make their releases anamorphic for 16x9 displays. At least their 2-disc Collector's Edition had a wealth of supplements. Commentary from Rodriguez and Tarantino, making-of featurettes (some w/ commentary), deleted scenes (w/ commentary), music videos, TV spots/trailers, and the second disc devoted to the feature-length documentary Full Tilt Boogie. True to the phrase, special edition treatment...

Besides the inclusion of Full Tilt, there's absolutely ZERO supplements on Echo Bridge's DVD. They even crammed both features onto one disc. That's 209 minutes of video on one dual-layer DVD. If it couldn't get any worse, we get compression artifacts--tons of 'em. Granted, both widescreen features are 16x9-enhanced this time and from colorful new masters (without the reddish hue of the Miramax discs), but the MPEG-2 blocking is ridiculous. We're talking garbage expected over a decade ago from bargain basement fly-by-nighters.

To compound this mess, they opened the presentation up from its theatrical 2.35:1 framing to 1.78:1. Now, Rodriguez has stated he prefers the "full frame" HD ratio, he even opened the scope Once Upon a Time In Mexico to 1.78:1 for home video. Although I seriously doubt the filmmaker had any input on this re-release. Basically Echo Bridge took the master of the recent Canadian Alliance Blu-ray, also framed at 1.78:1, and ported it to a shitty DVD...oh yeah, not to mention the only audio track--glorious Dolby Stereo. What is this, 1997? No wait, the LaserDisc had uncompressed DTS 5.1 audio. You can't even attempt to compete with a LaserDisc, Echo Bridge?!? 

The pain continues with the Hellraiser 3 & 4 double feature. Same deal with the transfer/sound/no supplement options, but here's where things get strange. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth has always been released by Paramount Pictures on VHS, LD, and DVD. There was a dubious full screen bootleg DVD from "Top Ten Media" released before Paramount's solid disc...but guess what? Echo Bridge utilized that bootleg's garbage transfer (taken from a poor-looking LaserDisc) and horizontally stretched the image to fit into a 1.78:1 frame. The film is the R-Rated version just like the out-of-print Paramount DVD--just vastly worse looking with no extras. On the brighter side, Hellraiser: Bloodline's transfer is quite serviceable and anamorphic for the first time ever. Still the butchered Alan Smithee/Dimension fuckjob version though. Despite being cheap, avoid these Echo Bridge discs at all costs. Like Jacob Fuller said, "Don't be a fool." Keep the old Miramax From Dusk CE (or buy the Canadian Blu-ray or import one of the 16x9 DTS 5.1 discs), Paramount HR:III, and Miramax HR:IV DVDs. Well, only recommended if you're a fan of Bloodline, that is...

(direct disc captures, two for each flick, saved as uncompressed .pngs, click for full size, fuckin' hell...)
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...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
Basement of Ghoulish Decadence, Basement of Ghoulish Archive, and all original material Copyright © 2009-present by Jayson Kennedy. All rights reserved.