The Definitive Army of Darkness

Oh boy, here we go. It's about to get real now. I have recently landed the 5-disc Definitive Collection of Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness from Madman, the Australian DVD company. The set has 2 blu-rays and 3 DVDs, and no, it isn't the case where two of the DVDs are identical to two of blus, except for one being in standard def and one in high def. They're all different. What's more, Army of Darkness is infamous for being possibly the most frequently re-issued film on DVD and blu of all time; and I've got a bunch of other versions on hand. There are a ton of different cuts of the film, sets of extras, and quality of transfers. I've also got info on other releases, including an alternate Ultimate Edition from Germany. Now, the fact that each set has at least a little bit that the other doesn't tells me neither is quite fully definitive; but they've both got more Army of Darkness than even a serious fan will ever need.
Update 5/23/15 - 10/14/15: Hail to the king, baby! Scream Factory has just released the ultimate, most definitive Army of Darkness set yet! It's a 3 blu-ray set with 4 cuts of the film, an all new 4k scan and all new extras, as well as all the legacy stuff! It's been added to end of the comparisons below, so read on or just scroll all the way down to the new content.

Update 10/5/22: There's a new definitive king in town, but it's still from Scream Factory. This time they've taken the film to a whole new format: 4k Ultra HD, with their brand new, 4-disc Collector's Edition. To find it, just scroll wayyy down.
Notice some print damage (on her forehead) in this shot from the US blu-ray.
Army of Darkness, of course, is the third - and as of this writing, final - in the Evil Dead series of films, originally meant to be titled The Medieval Dead, and in some markets, unfortunately known as Captain Supermarket. The delightfully ludicrous ending of Evil Dead 2 seemed impossible to follow up, with our protagonist (Bruce Campbell, of course) having opened a portal to send the demons back to their time, centuries ago, but accidentally getting sucked in with them. So we begin with our character taken from a contemporary "cabin in the woods" horror film trapped in the 1300s with knights and kings, still battling the evil dead. Like Evil Dead 2 shifted the tone from the original Evil Dead to be more humorous and crazy, this one shifts the tone even further, to be a bizarre, darkly comic fantasy adventure. And it's one Hell of a good time.

Because it was a bigger, and less of a scary, film, the studio seemed to envision a broader audience for this film, selling it not just to Evil Dead fans, or horror fans in general, but to the mainstream market. And so they chose not to market it as Evil Dead 3, and meddled an awful lot in the creative process, resulting in a very short film with an alternate ending and all kinds of changes. Consequently, we have that version, a very different director's cut, and various alternate cuts with missing or additional scenes that were sold in different parts of the world. And it's also been incredibly popular in the home video market. So we've wound up with a whole ton of releases of this film. Anchor Bay in particular seemed to go completely hog wild releasing and re-releasing this and other Evil Dead films over and over. Some editions were completely redundant and unnecessary, but others had real, compelling reasons for fans to up- or side- grade. Which are which?

Well, let's compare twelve different versions of this film and start finding answers.
Anchor Bay's 1999 DVD, the director's cut. 1.64:1.
Anchor Bay's 1999 DVD, the theatrical cut. 1.66:1
Anchor Bay's 1999 DVD, full-screen version of the theatrical cut. 1.33:1.
These first three shots are all from Anchor Bay's original, limited edition 2-disc set from 1999. Now, this is not the first time the film had been released. Universal released a disc first in 1998. But it didn't have the director's cut, it didn't have any extras. This Anchor Bay set had plenty, and has kept a place in my collection right up to my getting the Definitive Collection. The transfer's not so hot, and curiously in an anamorphic 1.66 ratio (Sam Raimi may've had a hand in that decision, since he's a bit notorious with making creative decisions in the Evil Dead trilogy's early releases). It also has a full-screen version of the theatrical cut, which is pretty unique to this edition, and is at least interesting for being somewhat open matte and therefore showing us more picture in the top and bottom. But it's also pan & scan. Notice how it gives us the full right side of the picture, which even the widescreen director's cut transfer fails to do (it being tragically zoomed in on all four sides), but cutting more of the left side off.

This edition also has some great extras, including a commentary by Raimi, Campbell and Ivan Raimi (who joins the proceedings near the end). These guys always do great commentaries, and this is no exception. It's always fun, informative and insightful. And their commentary also carries over to four deleted scenes, which you can watch with the commentary or not. The scenes aren't featured in either cut of the film, and are quite worthwhile. There's also storyboards, the trailer, the original ending (which is already there on the director's cut, but here so you can watch it separately as well), and some bios. Oh, and perhaps most importantly (for reasons we'll come to later), a very good and fairly substantial 18 minute featurette called The Men Behind the Army, which is narrated by Bruce Campbell and focuses on the work of KNB Effects for the film. And while this film was technically "limited" to individually numbered copies, they made 30,000 of them (mine's #16229), so this version is still not too hard to find today.
Anchor Bay UK's 2003 DVD, 1.64:1
So, like I said, Anchor Bay took a lot of stabs at subsequently releasing this film, like the Boomstick Edition and the Bootleg Edition. Specifically, between 1999 and 2003, they put out four, not counting the original 2-disc set above. That's more than one new edition every year. And the differences were really minor, like one was released just because they added THX sound. Another was a single disc release, and then the Boomstick edition was just them going back to 2 discs again. So some had just the director's cut and some had both; but they all presented them in the same 1.66:1 transfers (technically, the director's cut is more like 1.64). And they all basically had the same extras... but only the original 2-disc set above has that Men Behind the Army feature. For whatever reason, that was an exclusive.

But if you read the caption, you already know the screenshot we're looking at here isn't from any of those four Anchor Bay releases, it's from an Anchor Bay UK's release. Specifically, it's the disc from their 4-disc Evil Dead Trilogy boxed set, brazenly labeled "The Definitive Evil Dead Collection." Their treatment of the film isn't any better: it's still the zoomed in, 1.64:1 transfer of the director's cut. It's got the same commentary and deleted scenes, and no Men Behind the Army (even though a previous, 2002 Anchor Bay UK release did include it). But it's a pretty compelling set because it has a bunch of exclusive extras that are only available in this set only to this day. Almost all of them pertain to the previous Evil Dead films, though, so I'll save those details for another post. But one exclusive doc, called The Living Love the Dead, does cover all three films, so a lot of talk is dedicated to part 3. It's pretty poor, though, and doesn't include anybody involved with the making of the film.
MGM's 2003 Hong Kong DVD, 1.79:1.
Yay! Now we're talking. Anchor Bay stopped putting out DVDs of Army (they were getting a lot of flack for it, plus the rights reverted), and it started coming out from other studios. And this official MGM Studios release in Hong Kong was the one to own! First of all, as you can see, it looks better than any of Anchor Bay's versions. And this isn't the theatrical cut, this is the director's cut. They've got that version without that ugly zoomed in effect. And it's got the most accurate aspect ratio to date. The box claims 1.85:1, but it's more like 1.79. That still trumps all the 1,66's, though, and the picture is so much cleaner and less compressed. Oh, and it's even a little bit more complete than the previous director's cuts, including a shot of Embeth Davidtz's dress being torn that Raimi decided to cut out from his cut for Anchor Bay (though it's in the theatrical cut). To be fair, I can see why he would want to cut it, and it's really not that important... but besides just being generally better for being more complete, the shot is valuable because it makes the subsequent wide shot, where her dress is visibly torn, make sense. In the past editions, the top of her dress just disappears from one shot to the next.

The MGM disc also has the commentary, the deleted scenes, the trailer, photo gallery and the alternate ending. In this case, that ending is the theatrical cut's supermarket ending, because this disc features the director's cut with the original ending. It's a first class DVD from MGM, that just didn't make it to the US because they didn't have the rights to put it out here.
Universal's 2009 DVD, 1.85:1.
Universal's 2009 blu-ray, 1.85:1.
So now we jump ahead six years. Army of Darkness releases were finally dead, even though the US never got anything like Hong Kong's MGM disc. But in 2009 we'd entered the blu-ray age, so it was time to bring Evil Dead 3 back. And who had it now? Universal. So they released the Screwhead Edition from a new HD transfer. I was a late adapter to blus, so I picked up their DVD edition back then. So now I've wound up with the DVD and blu versions of the Screwhead edition to compare, even though they were simultaneous separate releases, not a combo pack. So we get to look at both. And unsurprisingly, they're identical, except for one being in standard definition and one being HD. But even the DVD looks better than MGM's. And it's finally fully matted to the 1.85 OAR. Just one problem, though; Universal has only released the short, theatrical version. So, naturally horror fans have felt a little unfulfilled with this release, despite it still being the only blu-ray edition released in the USA.
Madman's 2013 DVD, director's cut, 1:64.1.
It has new extras, though, which made me a little happy. Only a little, because there really isn't much. The main thing is a new featurette called Creating the Deadites. This focuses on KNB's work for the film, very much in the same vein as The Men Behind the Army. In fact, a lot of the same anecdotes are told and footage is shown. They're different, though, and they do have some good, unique content, so fans will want to have both. But one is sort of like a remake of the other. And since it was recorded to fit the longer director's cut, the commentary is not on this version, and neither are the deleted scenes. Really, all the Screwhead edition has is the Deadites feature, the trailer, and the original (director's cut) ending, plus some bonus BD Live trailers and a silly "U-Control" thing which makes production photos pop up throughout the movie, if you have the blu-ray version.
Madman's 2013 blu, director's cut, 1.78:1.
Madman's 2013 blu, theatrical cut, 1.85:1.
Madman's 2013 DVD, theatrical cut, 1.66:1.
Madman's 2013 DVD, TV cut, 1.33:1.
And so we've come to the Definitive Collection, and it's pretty sweet. There's some odd stuff going on here, though. Two of the discs are the director's cut on blu and the director's cut on DVD. So you'd think they'd be the same transfer, just one in SD and one in HD, right? Nope. Totally different transfers, with the director's cut DVD going back to the old, zoomed in transfer of the old Anchor Bay discs. Weird, but I guess it's preferable to duplicate content... Basically, if you want the old 1.66:1 transfer of the theatrical cut, that's here, on the DVD. And if you want the 1.85 one from the Universal discs, that's here too, on the blu-ray. That's why this is a Definitive set, folks; you're getting all the options.
Madman's 2013 director's cut blu left; MGM's DVD right.
The director's cut blu-ray version - the one the majority of us are probably most concerned with - is 1.78:1, like the MGM DVD. And like the MGM DVD, it has the dress tearing scene intact. Now, cynically yet nervously, you may ask, is the new blu really just the MGM disc slapped onto a blu? Happily, no, this is a legit upgrade with an all new transfer of the director's cut. The image is cleaner, the colors are better, and it doesn't have all the SD pixelation it would have if they just took the DVD as their source, and that the MGM does have. This is the best the director's cut has ever looked.

Now, does it look as good as the theatrical version looked on the Screwhead blu? That's debatable, I suppose. The Screwhead edition seems sharper and has more vivid colors, but it also seems to have been tinkered with more in post, using maybe some edge enhancement and unsharpen mask. I'd say the Director's Cut is objectively better. I suspect the theatrical will please many fans, however, while leaving purists preferring the less doctored director's cut. But hey, this set's got the theatrical cut on blu, too; and it's exactly the same as the Screwhead disc. Like, literally, it's the same disc with a new label on it. So you don't have to choose.

This set also introduces the TV cut into the mix. It's full-screen and basically matches Anchor Bay's old full-screen framing, but with the brighter colors of the more modern transfers. It's got a little ghost framing going on, though; I guess it came from a PAL source. But it's a TV version, you kinda expect it to look crappy. Anyway, the TV cut is what it sounds like, with lots of language and stuff edited for television, and it's missing some things. But what makes it interesting and worth including, besides maybe the novelty of overdubbed lines being made clean, is the fact that it also includes some deleted scenes and footage not in the other cuts. And the scenes are in much higher quality here than they have been on past discs, when they were just deleted scenes, which had all kinds of marks, fading and print damage on them.
And extras? It's definitive, baby - it's got everything! Yes, the commentary is on the director's cut, and yes the deleted scenes are here with the optional commentary, too. Yes, Creating the Deadites is on here AND the elusive Men Behind the Army. The trailer, galleries, and even the silly U-Control feature from the Screwhead blu is on here. Oh, and there's more. There's a short, clip-heavy 'making of' documentary, and a series of interviews with Raimi, Campbell and producer Rob Tapert. The 'making of' only features clips from the film and clips of these interviews, though, so if you don't want to watch the same content twice in a row, I'd say just watch the interviews. There's more in the interviews that aren't in the 'making of,' too.

Also, the original ending is on here as a separate extra (even though it's also in the two director's cuts, of course), and there are additional trailers. Oh, and it's not listed on the back with all the other extras, but there's also a "Behind the Scenes" featurette made of footage shot during the making of the film. It's short but interesting and noteworthy, because it looked like that was one thing the German Ultimate Edition had that the Australian one here was missing. But, no, it's on here, too; they just forgot to list it.
Yeah, the German set. I don't have it, but I've read up on it, so I can explain the differences fairly well. The German set is from Koch Media and actually six discs. The two sets have mostly all the same stuff (yes, their director's cut also has the dress ripping shot), but there are discrepancies. Most notably, the German set has a whole additional cut of the film, known as the International cut, which is kind of a mix of the director's and theatrical cuts, but with some little details that make it unique as well. For me, I had to ask myself, how many times am I going to watch just slightly different versions of the same film? Another cut at this point is just overkill. But obviously some collectors won't feel that way at all and will want that sixth disc; and I totally understand 'em. The German set also has a very brief animated "tribute" extra, which apparently comes from the internet. And they have a nice (German only) booklet.

But it's not all Advantage Germany. The con to their set is that they're missing the Men Behind the Army feature. And their DVD transfers are identical to their blu-ray counterparts (besides the SD/HD difference, of course), so you lose out on the 1.66 and 1.64 transfers. I'm not sure how keen fans will be for those, especially in old standard def transfers. But if Raimi prefers the 1:66, that could be a good reason to hang onto those, plus it's definitely Raimi's choice to have the dress tearing scene out of the movie, so the director's cut DVD indulges that as well. So, technically, the Australian set has more versions (5) than the German set (4). The German set consists of 2 blus and 4 DVDs. So they have the same two editions on blu, and both their TV cuts are DVD only, as is Germany's unique International cut.

The story continues, though as Scream Factory has entered the race and kind of killed the debate over the most definitive of the foreign sets. Scream Factory's 2015 set is only 3-discs, but all three are blu-rays, giving us the three major cuts - Director's Cut, Theatrical and International - in HD, as well as another low-fi print of the TV cut. It's got fresh, new scans, all new extras and the old ones. It's still not 100% perfect, as we'll see; but it's easily the preferred option out of everything.
Scream Factory's 2015 blu, director's cut, 1.78:1.
Scream Factory's 2015 blu, international cut, 1.78:1.
Scream Factory's 2015 blu, theatrical cut, 1.78:1.
Scream Factory's 2015 blu, TV cut, 1.33:1.
Mmm, that's an all new 4k scan from the inter-positive on the international cut. And it mostly is on the theatrical cut, too. Scream seems to have used their 4k of the international cut for all of the footage that's identical in the theatrical cut (which is most of it, after all) and just used Universal's weaker transfer for the missing bits. That's why the two shots above look identical. And the director's cut looks similar to the previous director's cut blu-rays (which was quite good... in fact the best up until this new scan). The back of the case says that the director's cut is matted to 1.85:1; but actually it's at 1.78:1 just like the others. Well, except for the 1.33 TV cut, of course, which looks pretty much like it did on the Madman set except even softer.

Scream's director's cut is also a little lower in contrast than Madman's, which brings up the occasional hint of detail in the shadows that was crushed out of the older scan.
Scream's 4k scan left, Universal's theatrical print middle, and Madman's director's cut right.
Getting in close, you can see how this new scan looks even clearer and more defined than the best HD transfers before it. It has the stronger, warmer colors of the previous theatrical cut, though a bit more natural. And it's free of the edge effects and compression junk, giving it the best of both previously available worlds.
Scream Factory's 2015 blu, international cut, 1.78:1.
Scream Factory's 2015 blu, theatrical cut, 1.78:1.
Madman's 2013 blu, theatrical cut, 1.85:1.
Still, like I said, Scream's Theatrical cut does still use some footage from Universal's older master. So here we can see that difference in quality, even though this theatrical version does look better than the older theatrical blu-rays. But it's still splotchier, more contrast-y, over saturated and just less natural looking overall than the fresh scan of the international cut. It's also a bit over-cropped, zoomed in to miss a little info on all four sides compared to the new 4k. The 1.85:1 version has similar vertical cropping, without any on the sides. And the colors look a bit more natural, at least (Bruce's face is downright yellow on the older theatrical). ...By the way, considering this shot is in both the theatrical and international cuts, I'm not sure why they didn't use the 4k scan for this shot, too. But, whatever.

All three cuts have excellent, DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options (the TV cut just has 2.0), and they each (again, minus the TV version) have optional English subtitles.

And extras? Scream has added a brand new, feature-length (97+ minutes) documentary on the making of the film, interviewing pretty much all of the principle players. This far, far, far outshines any of the previous featurettes on any of the past editions. With that said, all those past featurettes are on here, too. Yes, The Men Behind the Army is included here. So is the Creating the Deadites one, the vintage 'making of,' the extended interviews, the deleted scenes with optional commentary, the alternate endings isolated, the audio commentary for the director's cut (that's an important one), plus the multiple trailers and galleries. Basically everything. And remember that short "behind the scenes" footage feature from a couple of the past releases? Well, Scream's blown that out to a 50+ minute collection of KNB's behind-the-scenes footage, which includes all of that plus infinitely more. So that's another pretty sizable addition.
shot #1 (left) missing from theatrical cut; shots #2-3 missing from international cut.
A few more important details: The director's cut on the Scream set is the more complete one with the dress tearing scene intact. That's great. Not so great, however, is that the theatrical and international cuts are missing a couple brief shots. I can't take credit for this discovery; it's been pointed out on the forums... but I can confirm that it is present on my retail copy. When Ash is being chased through the woods and comes upon the windmill, the shot where he jumps over a small stone wall is missing from the theatrical cut. And when he's fighting the mini-Ashes inside the windmill, two shots are missing from the international cut. To be honest, I did notice something was off with this scene, but since the mini-Ashes scene is so notorious for being poorly edited in the international cut, I just chalked the choppiness up to that. But apparently, the international cut's scene wasn't that poorly edited, and those two shots should be there. Well, Scream has said they'll address this soon, so we'll see.
Update 12/15/15: We've seen! Scream started a replacement program in November. If you bought the set, you can fill out this form on their website, send them proof of purchase in a separate email (yes, even if you're an international customer), and they'll mail you the corrected versions in a cardboard mailer and paper disc envelopes - good show, guys! All of the missing shots mentioned above have been restored. The triple screenshot above was taken from the replacement discs, so that's 100% confirmed. And you can tell the difference between the two discs by looking at the product number on the edge of the disc itself. The new versions have added "-V2" at the end, as shown in the picture above.

It's also worth mentioning that Scream's set has reversible cover art, however I actually kept the front one this time, as I actually like their new art - it doesn't have that cheap, independent comic book vibe like some in the past. It also has a slipcover and if you order it directly from Scream Factory, comes with a poster of the same image. And if you ordered it in October like I did, you also get a free set of horror movie drink coasters.

That had been the end of the story, but seven years later, Scream Factory have come back to this classic to take another stab at it, bringing it to the UHD era with a new 4k scan of the original camera negative.  And according to the packaging, it's been approved by Sam, DoP Bill Pope and editor Bob Murowski.  This one's a 4-disc set (1 UHD and 3 BDs), and includes all the alternate cuts and special features as the 2015 edition.  In fact, discs 3 & 4 are essentially unchanged except for the labels, because they're still using the previous transfers for the alternate cuts.  Only the theatrical cut has been updated, which is a little disappointing.  But at least they've used the scan for the 1080p blu as well as the UHD.  So let's take a look at those.
Scream Factory's 2022 blu, theatrical cut, 1.85:1.
Scream Factory's 2022 UHD, theatrical cut, 1.85:1.
Scream Factory's 2022 blu, theatrical cut, 1.85:1.
Scream Factory's 2022 UHD, theatrical cut, 1.85:1.
Interestingly, Scream seem to have changed their minds about the AR.  This time the theatrical cut's in 1.85:1, when it was 1.78:1 on the 2015 release.  It's crazy how much Sam & co. keeps changing it for this film.  But anyway, this new wider framing does reveal more on the sides, and even a sliver extra vertically.  But then again, that's basically just what Madman's 1.85 framing did.  Anyway, the colors now are at once more vibrant and life-like than ever.  For example, the bright highlights in the second set of shots look overexposed on the 2015 release compared even to the 2022 BD.  Fine detail is improved, though I have to say, even on the UHD, grain looks a little soft, especially in the first set of shots.  But there are certainly no compression issues or pixelation, and this it easily an attractive improvement over everything that came before it.

The audio options, subtitles and special features are all excellent but unchanged from the 2015 edition.  This one's released in a standard amaray case with a slipcover (and surprisingly non-reversible art) or a steelbook.  Pre-ordering direct from Shout also included a rolled 18"x24" poster and an enamel pin set.
Honestly, there's still room for yet another edition to come along and claim the "Definitive" crown... Especially if they could get some of the other cuts - at least the director's cut, even if it has to be a composite cut if the film elements for that version are unavailable - out on UHD.  But for now, Scream Factory's 2022 4-disc set is the absolute best on the market.

The Remaining Bergmans

Okay, so you've bought Criterion's big Ingmar Bergman's Cinema box, The BFI's Ingmar Bergman's Cinema and even Artificial Eye's Classic Bergman set.  But you're still hungry.  Ingmar Bergman's an unparalleled master and you know he's made plenty more films than those, so what else can you get your hands on and add to the collection?  Well, unfortunately, not a whole lot, despite the large number of films he's written and/ or directed that remain unavailable on home video.  There's Best Intentions and Faithless, which I've already covered, and then just three more.  And two of those are DVD-only.
In 1970, Bergman wrote an original feature length film for Swedish television called The Lie, directed by Jan Molander, and starring one of Bergman's greatest actors, Erland Josephson, about a middle class couple hopelessly trapped in a mass of deception.  If the made-for-TV aspect makes it sound less interesting, remember some of Bergman's most acclaimed and beloved works were made for Swedish television, like Fanny & Alexander and Scenes From a Marriage (both also with Josephson, by the way).  Sounds like something you'd like to see now, huh?  Well, tough noogies; you can't.  It's another on the very long list of Bergman films never released in an English-friendly capacity, or even really as a Swedish-only release, apart from its televised broadcast.
However in America, Bergman's same script was adapted into an English-language television film starring George Segal, Shirley Knight and Robert Culp.  Ah, but no, you can't get that one anywhere either.  BUT, also during that time the BBC adapted the very same screenplay for British television, starring Gemma Jones (Sense & Sensibility, The Devils) and Frank Finlay (Lifeforce, Dennis Potter's Casanova).  The performances are powerful and nuanced, the director seems to be making deliberate nods to Bergman as a director (like all those mirror shots), and the writing is some of Bergman's strongest.  Only the music seems out of place, like BBC library stock stuff; but even that's not bad, just incongruous. And this version of The Lie actually IS available.  And this version won a BAFTA, so we shouldn't feel too short-changed.  It's on blu-ray as part of the BFI's first volume of its Play for Today box sets from 2020.
2020 UK BFI BD.
According to the included booklet, the episodes in this box are broken into two categories: those shot on video and "sourced from the best existing tape materials preserved by the BBC" and those shot on film, which are "newly scanned at 2k resolution from the original 17mm A/B roll camera negatives."  Fortunately, The Lie is one of the latter, and looks fantastic.  It's presented in its original 1.33:1 and looks very grainy, something that never would've come through during its original airings.  But it's very clearly encoded and looks quite impressive.  There is no interlacing despite it being a vintage 70s British television program, because they went back to the original film elements.  The original mono track is presented in a strong, lossless LPCM track with optional English subtitles.

The only extras are an image gallery and an 80-page full-color booklet, and of course the other seven Play for Today episodes, which range from good to great.  There's one on the troubles in Ireland that struck me as much more compelling than Branagh's Belfast which came out around the same time as this set, and a creepy horror story called A Photograph.  So I can understand a Bergman fan being frustrated they can't just buy The Lie by itself, but the whole set is worth having in your collection.
Next up is a proper theatrical film (although there was an extended television version released afterwards) written and directed by Bergman: 1975's Face To Face.  Bergman and star Liv Ullmann were both nominated for Oscars for this picture, so again, it's not like it's all lesser work that's been neglected on blu.  This one's a pretty harrowing tale of mental illness, with Ullmann as a psychiatrist whose problems run as deep as her patients'.  She takes on a lover, Erland Josephson again, who proves to be a far more loving companion than her own husband, and Gunnar Bjornstrand appears as her aging grandfather.  This one's pretty dark, and relatable despite risking going over the top at more than one point.  And it includes some of the most believable and heart-wrenching dream sequences committed to cinema, making those famous Wild Strawberries bits feel like trivialities.
Face To Face is only available (English-friendly at any rate) as a 2011 barebones DVD from Olive Films, though at least it's anamorphic widescreen.  I remember some controversy when this was released, because people felt Olive acquiring the rights cut off Criterion from giving this a proper restoration, and possibly both cuts.  But of course it's pure speculation that they would've done that, and certainly getting this disc is better than the other possible alternative: nothing.  But that said, this sure could use a nice restoration.
2011 US Olive Films DVD.
Olive presents Face To Face in a rather fuzzy 1.78:1.  This is standard def, so the hints we get of film grain are about the most we could ask for, but it sure seems like this image could be sharper, even on DVD.  But the real problem is the sound.  It's a static-y mess that sounds like it's been Noise Gate'd, so it's silent between words, but whenever anybody speaks, it's a metallic mess, as if you're hearing them through a bad telephone connection; and when people make small, innocuous movements, it sometimes sounds like they're sitting on their lavaliers.  The subtitles are removable, and there are no extras, not even the trailer.
Finally, we end with the most underrated of the three, 2000's The Image Makers.  This is another made-for-Swedish-television project, and in this case really looks it.  It's all set in one room like a stage-play, which in fact it originally was, although the camera is certainly moving and cutting around.  This one's directed by Bergman (and he also directed the original theatrical production) but written by Per Olov Enquist (Pelle the Conqueror), although it really, really feels like a Bergman script, to the point where I suspect he at least had a hand in rewriting it for the screen, and perhaps rather liberally.  It's certainly an interesting coincidence that both this and Face To Face have an older person tell a middle-aged woman that "old age is Hell."
Anyway, it's the story of the making of the classic Swedish ghost movie, 1921's The Phantom Carriage.  The author of the original film arrives at the studio to see clips of the film Victor Sjöström and his cinematographer Julius Jaenzon have made of her work.  However, to complicate matters, Tora Teje, the actress having an affair with the director and who feels the leading part should have been hers, shows up at the same time and makes a scene.  It's on one hand a fascinating mediation on the ownership/ creation of art - how can the author, director, actor and photographer each feel the art projected on screen is their singular vision?  But it's also a powerful human drama where the making of The Phantom Carriage is really just the backdrop to a forceful study of love, heartbreak, infidelity and cruel fathers.  There's a cheap shot-on-video look to the film, amplified by the staginess of the setting, that signals The Image Makers as a forgettable lesser work.  But when you really settle into it, it's as moving and thoughtful a work as Bergman's greatest films.

But to date, this film has only been released on DVD in the UK by Tartan in 2008.
You may've also noticed that Tartan's release is a 2-disc double feature, and in fact the lead film isn't The Image Makers, but the original Phantom Carriage.  It works as a nice supplement to The Image Makers, but as a stand-alone disc, it's not too impressive.  It's somewhat window-boxed 1.32:1, interlaced, and barebones.  So in an age where Criterion has released an impressive special edition blu-ray, this really isn't a go-to disc for Phantom Carriage.  The reason to buy this set is The Image Makers.  But it's a damn good reason.
2008 UK Tartan DVD.
Thankfully, even though disc 1 is interlaced, The Image Makers' DVD is not.  It's 1.32:1 just like the The Phantom Carriage, and apart from a handful of clips from the 1921 film, looks like it was shot on video.  If it was shot on film, then this was definitely taken from a video master.  Either way, it looks bold and clear, and about as good as you could hope for from a master like this.  It would be interesting to see if an HD restoration from the original elements - whatever those may be - could do for this film; but I wouldn't expect much.  The sound is a clean mono track, the subtitles are removable, and the only extra is a fold-out insert with notes by David Thompson, director of Encountering Bergman.

Needless to say, all three of the releases covered above are must-haves for Bergman fans.  And hopefully some label or other will see fit to continue to plumb the depths of Bergman's incredible catalog.


Years ago, all of Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan's films got nice, special edition DVDs with commentaries and stuff. Even his rare, early films were packaged as part of The Essential Egoyan series and given a larger audience than they'd ever had before. The exception being Exotica (and I guess The Adjuster, too; but that's a post for another day), as it wound up being picked up by Miramax just as Egoyan was beginning to take off with international audiences... So it couldn't be included with the rest of his back catalog, but also wasn't a big enough hit like Sweet Hereafter and Felecia's Journey to get a special edition on its own rights. So we just had this generic, barebones release, with a photo of some lady who wasn't even in the movie on the cover, making it look like a softcore porn. And to this day, in the United States, that's still the best we've got.
Update 12/30/14 - 5/8/17: Less of an update and more of a complete article overhaul.  This was one my early posts, where I hadn't quite gotten into the swing of things.  And my Exotica article's gotta be up to snuff on DVDExotica, right?  So I'm replacing .jpg screenshots with .pngs, adding the original Miramax DVD and doing a little basic rewriting.

Update 2/24/20: Again, this being DVDExotica, I feel uniquely obligated to make this page as relevant as possible. And seeing as how there's two competing blu-rays for this title in the world, I couldn't leave this page sitting without both of them.  So here we go, the 2014 UK from Artificial Eye's Atom Egoyan Collection boxed set is now in the mix.

Update 9/26/22: Nominative determinism dictates that I update this post with Criterion's new 4k BD restoration of Exotica.  Plus, I really wanted to.
Like many of Egoyan's films, Exotica plays with the conventions of story structure, often showing scenes out of chronology, and cutting to different characters narratives without letting us know how they're going to link up. His films become mysteries, but not of the traditional whodunit murder variety. You're just pulled into slowly learning why these characters are behaving as they are and what moment they're heading to. Getting into the plot at all, then, feels pretty spoilerish, so I'll just set up the terrific cast of characters. Bruce Greenwood is an accountant who spends his days at an artsy strip club called Exotica, owned by a lovelorn Elias Koteas and Mia Kirshner, Egoyan's wife who's in every one of his films. Writer/ director Don McKellar plays a pet shop owner illegally smuggling exotic eggs into the country, and Sarah Polley comes in as a babysitter very similar to her character in Sweet Hereafter. Finally, Mia Kirshner stars as a dancer who performs as a schoolgirl in honor of a tragic secret they all share.
You don't hear much about it, but the film was finally able to be wrested away from Miramax's iron grasp for blu-rays first in Canada (Alliance Films, 2012) and then the UK (2013, then repackaged as part of Artificial Eye's The Atom Egoyan Collection in 2014). As Exotica is possibly my favorite Egoyan film (it's a tough call), the Canadian blu was a Day One pick-up for me. And to this day, there still has been barely any reviews or coverage of this disc, so that plus - you know; look at the name of the site we're on - put it on the short list to review here.  This is a combo pack, so we've got a DVD and blu to look at here, plus the original Miramax DVD from 1999.  And now, it's finally making its US HD debut thanks to Criterion, who've made a new 4k restoration, plus some new special features.
1) 1999 Miramax DVD; 2) 2012 Alliance DVD;
3) 2012 Alliance BD; 4) 2014 AE BD; 5) 2022 Criterion BD.

Woof at the Miramax DVD being non-anamorphic, but then again it is pretty ancient.  Also, look how wildly different the framing is.  I mean, yeah the Miramax is 1.85:1 (despite the case claiming 1.66:1) and the old blu-rays are 1.78:1, but the vertical shift is so far off.  Clearly, there are two film technicians in the world who strongly disagree with each other.  Alliance has Egoyan's signature of being director approved, but then so does Criterion (he's also credited as a supervisor along with DoP Paul Sarossy), and you can see that one's quite different, too. The colors on the DVD look way too purple, edge enhancement is visible and it's pretty soft and muddy even for standard def.  Compare that to foreign blus, which already look a lot better.  Grain is a little soft and the contrast is definitely on the flat side.  Oh and the brights flare out a little bit at times (look at the note over McKellar's shoulder above); but these are still huge, huge upgrades compared to the old DVD.
2014 AE BD inside; 2022 Criterion BD outside.
Criterion's transfer is back to 1.85:1, but as you can see, some shots are considerably reframed.  The above shot pulls back to reveal so much more, even though the previous shot of them in the car does not, that I kept thinking I was looking at the wrong frame.  And now, scanned in 4k from the OCN, Exotica looks so much more beautiful.  The brights no longer flare out, the encode is strong and specific, restoring its filmic look and replacing fuzziness with genuine grain.  Plus, the picture itself has been widened a bit, which does look more natural.  The image really draws you in much more than even the old blus could, and all the little detail really pops.

Every release features the stereo track, but the Alliance blu also includes a French dub (with both tracks in DTS-HD), as well as French and English subtitles.  And here's where Artificial Eye really comes up short, with no subtitles and worse yet: just the English stereo track in lossy Dolby Digital (despite promising LPCM on the case).  It's back to DTS-HD on the Criterion, and we get optional English subs again, too.
In terms of extras, the old Miramax DVD has absolutely nothing, but the two import blus each have one big, and unique, feature. The Artificial Eye disc has a 54 minute documentary entitled Formulas for Seduction: The Cinema of Atom Egoyan, which is pretty good though it's more a vague coverage of Egoyan's film career rather than being very Exotica-specific. It honestly could've been placed on any disc in the boxed set and just happens to have settled on this one. And it has been released before, on the US and Canadian DVD releases of Calendar. So there's a good chance you already own it. The Alliance disc, on the other hand, has an audio commentary with Egoyan and composer Mychael Danna. It's a good commentary but very soundtrack focused. Seriously, it's not a director's commentary with the composer occasionally chiming in about the score; they're both there to talk primarily about the music. Maybe not 100% of the time, but a great deal of it. I'd rate this commentary as excellent, but it really feels like it should be paired with a second commentary track with Egoyan talking about the rest of the film. As it is, you're left feeling like, "that's all?" Especially since it's the only feature for the work of a filmmaker we're used to having great extras for.  But nope, not even a trailer more.
There's still no trailer on the Criterion, but that's okay, because they've given us plenty of other treats.  First of all, they retain the Alliance commentary, so that's nice.  They also include a great new on-camera conversation between Egoyan and Sarah Polley (wait 'till you hear what the original conception of this film was!).  And there's an audio commentary of a film festival Q&A with Egoyan, Greenwood and a few others, which is quite good.  Often those festival press junkets just consist of insipid softball questions like, "in this film, your character dates a very handsome man.  Do you find your co-star as handsome as we do?"  But here it's all good questions and insightful answers.  Don't skip it.

And they give us several other Egoyan films: the feature-length Calendar and three short films: Peepshow, En Passant and Artaud Double Bill.  The first three are all already covered on my Atom Egoyan Collection page, which I've updated to include these new transfers.  But in brief, if you don't feel like clicking over, En Passant is a slight improvement in PQ, Calendar is a slight step backwards (and the audio is still lossy) and Peepshow is virtually indistinguishable from the previous discs.  Egoyan also gives us a new little interview about Calendar, which is nice if you don't have the more robust special features the DVD came with. 
The last short is making its home video debut here: Artaud Double Bill.  It's very brief, clocking in at three and a half minutes, originally commissioned as part of a larger anthology for the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.  It's about two friends who plan to go see Godard’s Vivre sa vie, but one of them decides to go see The Adjuster instead.  So they text each other from their respective screenings, and then the credits roll.  It's a bit shocking a film festival would endorse being on your phone in a movie theater, but you can see how mixing the forms of media (one of the girls films a bit of her movie to show the other girl what she's missing) would appeal to Egoyan all his early films.  So, you know, it's nothing amazing, but nice to help flesh out our Egoyan collections that much further.

Criterion's release also includes a fold-out insert with notes by Jason Wood of the BFI, who co-directed Formulas of Seduction.
Previously, I concluded this post by saying, "I wouldn't mind Criterion or somebody rolling up and blowing all of these options out of the water with a new, revelatory 4k scan and perhaps even more importantly at this stage, a heap of new extras."  And they pretty much have.  I do feel like they only came up with a couple new extras, and are trying to cover up that fact by throwing in Calendar, which really deserves its own separate, proper release.  I was hoping for a second, more comprehensive commentary, and interviews with more of the cast and crew.  But I can't be mad at what we've got.  This is a decidedly superior edition of Exotica, and we did get a couple nice, new bonuses.  Thanks, Criterion!