The One and Only Silent Night, Deadly Night (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Silent Night, Deadly Night is one of the most famous and infamous slasher films out there. I mean, under Friday the 13th and Halloween, but it's pretty much right at the top of the tier under those. The fact that it spawned four sequels and a remake surely helped, but the fact that it wound up generating such a huge controversy that it got pulled out of the theaters is probably a bigger reason. But it's not just the film that's been controversial over the years, the recent blu-ray release from Anchor Bay has generated a lot of ire among collectors for its own reasons.

Update 4/28/15 - 12/8/17: Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays! Updating with the brand spankin' new, Scream Factory 2-disc blu-ray Collector's Edition. Oh, and Code Red Catch-Up isn't actually finished.  I just got busy this week and then had to do this update.  But I've got 3 more CR's sitting here on my desk, ready to go after this post. 🎅
The iconic imagery of a killer Santa Claus is a huge part of this movie's success, which is interesting because it's far from the Christmas themed horror movie... or even the first one to specifically feature a killer in a Santa suit.  Black Christmas, To All a Good Night, the classic segment from Tales From the Crypt, and even the similarly titled Silent Night, Bloody Night all precede it; and Don't Open Till Christmas was playing in theaters the very same year. But I guess this one's television ads played before the wrong angsty parents, because they protested and got the film pulled. Curiously, longtime Hollywood star Mickey Rooney got on board with the movement, saying, "How dare they! ...The scum who made that movie should be run out of town."1 But then he later wound up starring in Silent Night, Deadly Night part 5.

At any rate, it's a pretty good, little movie. It is also a very pure slasher film, in that it follows all the "rules" and stays very true to the elements of a traditional 80s slasher film. It's got a simple but effective concept, good lines, a nice look, some creative kills and Linnea Quigley, But one thing it does a little different than the norm is follow the killer for the entire film, rather than giving us the standard "good girl" protagonist. Eventually, our heroes turn out to be a pair of nuns who've known the killer since he was a little boy, including the very stern and downright frightening Mother Superior, excellently played by Lilyan Chauvin. Most of the film plays it pretty safe, and while well executed, doesn't try to stand out from its peers; and in the long run it's a little too much of a generic slasher to be really great. But the fact that it's so well crafted from at least some of the performances to the music that have kept it popular among horror fans for decades.
So Anchor Bay, when they were the reigning kings of horror DVDs, first released Silent Night, Deadly Night as a double-sided "flipper" disc with Part 2 in 2003. They later reissued it as a 2-disc set, and Arrow released it in the UK. All of these releases were a little disappointing, though, because they were light on extras compared to how beloved and anticipated this particular film has always been, and because the transfer (all the releases had the same one) was based on an edited print, with most of the violence reinstated from a much lower quality source. It was murky and grungy, but it was the best they could do. So when Anchor Bay announced an uncut blu-ray special edition taken from a high quality source, people got excited. But... they never technically said it wasn't going to be another composite cut, which it was.And then when Scream Factory announced their uncut blu-ray special edition taken from an brand new 4k scan done by Sony with the original camera negative, people got excited again. But... they never technically said it wasn't going to be another composite cut either, and, well:
At this point, just don't get your hopes up about a restored uncut Silent Night until you're watching that footage with your own eyes.  But Scream have done something a little interesting here and decided to give us two discs with both cuts.  That way, you can watch the edited Theatrical cut in 100% 4k quality without the seams and dupey inserts.  But the theatrical cut is really gutted.  It's about six minutes difference, and frankly, more than half of the movie's highlights.  So if you really wanna watch the theatrical cut, you do you.  But for me and most fans, Silent Night, Deadly Night is still a composite cut.

So, not only have fans been bummed by that; but it didn't look like Anchor Bay used a new scan or anything. People were calling it an upconvert on pretty much all the major forums. But is it? I've got the original 2003 DVD, as well as the 2014 blu-ray, so we can have a proper comparison. But in 2017, that's a much less exciting question, because there's no question Scream Factory's blu is an even newer transfer.
1) Anchor Bay 2003 DVD, 2) Anchor Bay 2014 blu,
3) Scream Factory 2017 theatrical blu, 4) Scream Factory 2017 uncut blu.
^Uncut. There's no theatrical shot of this scene, 'cause it's not in the theatrical cut.
So, right off the bat, the two Anchor Bays are a little different. When I first watched them separately on my TV after seeing all the online flack, I wasn't so sure. But seeing them right up against each other, I'm relieved to say that this isn't an upconvert. In other words, Anchor Bay didn't just take the files they made the DVD with and slap them onto a blu-ray disc. It's not a lovingly restored new scan, but someone's done something to try and make it look a little better, at least. And it's visibly not an upconvert, so we've really gotta stop throwing that accusation around.  

The main difference you'll note is the color. In the top shot, the whites and reds look crisper on the blu, while the DVD's still a bit green.  But the difference is especially apparent in the low quality composite footage.  Look how Anchor Bay nicely white balanced that second shot. Sure, it still looks like the kind of crap that you should never find on a blu-ray; but it looks better than the DVD.  Scream Factory mentions that they spent time matching the colors of the inserts to match the rest of the film, and I don't disbelieve them.  But Anchor Bay already did that for their blu, and Scream seems to have just essentially replicated their work.
AB 2003 DVD left, AB 2014 blu center, SF uncut blu right.
But where does Scream Factory's new disc stand out?  In all of the 79 other minutes!  Va-va-va-voom!  AB's blu was a mild upgrade on their DVD, they dialed down those nasty compression splotches and all; but wow, Scream is playing in a whole other ballpark.  The 1.85:1 framing is basically the same, but otherwise, it's like a brand new film with so much more photo realism than we've see before.  I mean, that close-up speaks for itself.  And yeah, the uncut and theatrical are essentially identical (except for those dang inserts, of course).

Maybe the only reason I can think of to hang onto the AB blu-ray is if you're a big surround mix lover, because the bumped the DVD's old mono track up to a Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  But frankly, it wasn't much.  It was still kind of flat and basically like the movie's always sounded.  Scream Factory has dumped the 5.1 and gone back to a purist DTS-HD mono (in 2.0, of course).  But I'm a little surprised they didn't throw in both for those fans who've gotta have that 5.1; but I don't miss it and I'm glad to have the mono back, now in HD, the best audio option yet.  Oh, and both blus do have optional subs (AB even has Spanish, too).
But if you're on the fence about double-dipping with the same old SD insert footage, consider the extras. Like I said, the DVDs came up short: essentially just an audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. It was good, but just one non-video interview. Well, there was also an insert/ booklet with notes, a stills gallery and "Santa's Stocking of Outrage" which sounds awesome but was really just another gallery, this time of quotes from protestors. Even the trailer or the notorious TV commercial would've been nice, but nope.  Just coal in that stocking.

Now, the AB blu-ray still wasn't the loaded special edition fans want, but in addition to porting over all the DVD extras, they did get an audio commentary. It features writer Michael Hickey, composer Perry Botkin, editor/ second unit director Michael Spence and co-executive producer Scott J. Schneid. And it's pretty good. I saw some people knock it, but I think they were just salty over their other disappointments with the disc. It's not one of the great commentaries like the ones by John Carpenter or Bruce Campbell; but between the four of them they keep it pretty lively and informative.
 
But count on Scream Factory to seize the special features day!  Yes, they have all the old extras from both the DVD and the newer AB commentary.  Even that dumb "Santa's Stocking of Outrage." But oh yeah, also a whole bunch of new stuff.  We have a brand new commentary by Billy himself, Robert Brian Wilson, along with producer Schneid, back for more.  Then all those guys - Hickey, Schneid, Spence, Botkin and Wilson come back for a great little 45 minute documentary, with co-producer Dennis Whitehead, too.  My only complaint is that some of these do incorporate some repetition.

You know what's less repetitious, though?  All the other new extras with different people.  How about a 20+ minute on-camera interview with Linnea Quigley?  Okay, it looks like it was shot with a cellphone before cellphone cameras were invented.  But still, it's great to finally get her on disc with this film.  And I love when they go back and track down the old locations now.  This one's no Horror's Hallowed Ground, but it's still a treat.  And finally - finally! - the infamous TV ads that cause all the uproar are here.  In fact, we get the theatrical trailer, two TV spots, a radio ad and even a VHS trailer.  Plus Scream's set comes in a slip cover, and I usually hate their comic book style revisionist artwork, but this is one of their best.  But of course I prefer the reversible cover with the original art that we also get.  Oh, and if you ordered the "deluxe" version directly from Scream's site, you didn't just get an 18"x24" poster (they roll them now!) but an 8" Billy figure - holy crap!  I didn't spring for it, but that's pretty wild.
But no matter how awesome any blu-ray upgrade of SNDN is, we still have to hang onto our DVDs. Why? Because the Anchor Bay releases that include Part 2 are the only available releases of Part 2. Well, at least in English speaking countries... I think Germany and Holland might have stand-alone DVDs. But for most of us, even if we've upgraded to the blu for the original film, we'll be holding onto our DVDs for the sequel.

I mean, not that the film's any good really. An unbelievable bulk of the film - a good, solid half! - is just footage from Part 1. It basically goes through the entire first film again, using the exact same film, from beginning to end. The only difference is that this time, we keep cutting away every so often to Ricky, the younger brother of the killer in the first film, who's now grown up and recounting the tale to a psychiatrist. Finally, at the end, he gets out and goes on a killing rampage just like his big brother. And none of that new story is anywhere near the quality of the original. But at least it's a direct continuation of the story, unlike subsequent films, which wound up being pretty disconnected.
Yes, this IS a screencap from Part 2. I told ya, a huge, huge chunk of it is just footage from Part 1.
Like the first one, it's an anamorphic widescreen image, slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1. So that's good news. Parts 3-5 have still only been released fullscreen. And Part 2 actually has better extras than the first one. It's got the trailer, a stills gallery, and best of all, an audio commentary by writer/ director Lee Harry, co-writer Joseph H. Earle and actor James Newman. They're actually quite plugged into their movie, even though so much of it isn't theirs. I daresay, in fact, I'd rather watch the movie with the commentary on than off anytime.
Silent Night, Deadly Night may not be the best yuletide horror movie ever (Christmas Evil, anyone?), but it's one of the most popular, and it sure is fun to watch with the family gathered together on Christmas Eve night. And while it's sad to see the coolest, unrated shots still relegated to low quality inserts, it's a delight and a relief that this film has finally gotten the special edition it deserves.


1Schanie, A. (2010) Movie Confidential: Sex, Scandal, Murder and Mayhem In the Film Industry. Clerisy Press, p 108.

Julie Darling: Code Red Catch-Up, Part 4 (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

How do I keep bringing up Julie Darling without actually covering Julie Darling?  Shame on me.  Well, that's about to change because here we go with another messed up Bad Seed story.  There has been take after take of The Bad Seed premise, even an official made-for-TV Bad Seed remake in 1985.  But most of those are pretty bland and generic.  Me, I'm a fan of the more off-book indie interpretations with some edge to them.  And that's Julie Darling, alright.  The Bad Seed with edge.
The opening credits play over our precocious little angel's pet boa constrictor slithers around the house.  Her mother hates it and brings in a handy-man to get rid of it.  So when the handy-man breaks into the house later to rape her mom, Julie gets her gun... but then decides maybe she'd rather just let things play out, and sure enough mommy croaks.  But if she had issues with her mom, Julie really can't stand her new stepmother, The Howling II's Sybil Danning.  But what are the odds that handy-man will break in and inadvertently solve all her problems a second time?  Pretty slim... at least without a little encouragement and a lot of clever planning.
There's a real taste of Richard III in Julie Darling, where we're invited to delight in just how far our wicked protagonist is prepared to go to get what she wants, using the people around her like pieces on a chessboard.  It's also another "only in the 70s," non-PC affair, where about half of the supporting characters are hookers and pimps, and the other half are kids.  The fact that it's oddly foreign may have something to do with that, too, being a Canadian and German co-production.  Most of the cast is speaking English, but Julie's best friend is very clearly dubbed.  So to call this one a bit strange is certainly an understatement, but it's also rather good.  Most of the acting - with the unfortunate exception of the woman playing Julie's mother - is rather good, and the story is smart and ambitious.  The girl playing Julie is spot on, Oscar nominee Anthony Franciosa plays her father and even Sybil Danning gives a nice, grounded performance.  Great locations and a minimal but effective score help seal the deal.
Outside of a couple no frills, full frame overseas disc, Code Red is the only company to give this a legit release.  They're far from the only domestic company to give it a release, there's a whole sea of weird, junky bootlegs on Amazon and other sites.  But Code Red is the first to give it a legit release here in the states.  Even better, their 2010 DVD is also a nice, loaded special edition.  And just this year they upgraded that to a special blu-ray edition.
Code Red 2010 US DVD top; Code Red 2017 US blu-ray bottom.
As you can immediately tell, Code Red's blu is an all transfer.  Specifically, it's a 2k scan of the original 35mm interpositive.  The DVD was taken from the same source - every scratch and fleck of dirt is identical across the two discs.  It's mostly pretty sparse, but a yellow vertical line does like to run through a lot of the picture, as you can see through Sybil in the shot above.  But this new scan is still a big improvement.  The blu is a lot clearer, with the blu being even softer than your standard DVD/ blu SD/ HD distinction.  It's a really marked boost in image sharpness.  The only thing even more noticeable than than is all new color correction, which makes a world of difference.  Colors are much more robust and distinct, and they're also decidedly more natural, with white walls looking white instead of pink or orange, and just in general like a tinting haze has been lifted from the screen.
Both discs feature nearly identical 1.78:1 framing.  There are tiny shifts vertically and horizontally, but you'd never catch it outside of a direct comparison like this.  But for whatever reason - and this is true of both the DVD and the blu - the opening credits are slightly pillar-boxed for a taller 1.67:1 aspect ratio.  Feel free to speculate on why that is.  Is the film supposed to be in 1.66, and Code Red just likes producing 1.78:1 transfers?  Working my way through the Code Red catalog, there seems to be something to that...  Or were the opening credits shot with different equipment, and it's some kind of weird quirk of the original film?  Only an insider could tell us for sure; but apart from the visible shift when the credits end, neither framing ever looks wrong or troubled.  So if it's a screw up, it's far from a disaster of any kind.

Both discs just give us the original mono, which is just fine.  I'm not a fan of revisionist "upgrade" mixes.  There's a little bit of natural hiss throughout and a few crackles that match damage on screen.  But the music and dialogue is robust and easy to discern.  And as you should expect by now from Code Red, there are no subtitle options.
Extra features are the same across both discs, but fairly substantial.  Basically, Isabelle Mejias (who plays Julie) and Sybil Danning each give us separate intros to the film, audio commentaries and on-camera interviews.  And boy oh boy, does Isabelle not like this film, and she really wants to make sure we know it.  It can be a little frustrating for fans of the film, who are after all, probably the only people who'll be watching these extras.  But once you get past that, she is a good sport, forthcoming and informative, and even pretty funny.  Sybil Danning is more of an all-around good sport, and as is the case with many Code Red special features, when they start to run out of things to say about Julie Darling, the moderators grill them about their entire filmographies.  There's lots of great content here from both women, but over two commentaries and two interviews, it starts to get a little dry and redundant.  I wish they would've edited them together or something to turn them into a single commentary and featurette, which would've been a lot tighter and more fun.  But as it is, it's still a lot of great stuff, and any serious fan who grew up with Julie Darling will lap it all up.

Apart from that, both releases just have different sets of Code Red bonus trailers.
So if you own any of those cheap imports or bootlegs, Code Red's DVD is definitely worth upgrading to.  And if you own the Code Red DVD, the blu is also worth upgrading to.  Yes, double-dipping is a pain, but these releases earn it.  Great extras, strong improvements in picture quality.  I came in with some fairly high expectations and was still impressed.

Revel In Rivals, Code Red Catch-Up Part 3

Here's a twisted little flick I doubt many appreciate: 1972's Rivals (not to be confused with 1981's Rivals, 2000's Rivals, 2008's Rivals or the dozen or so other listings the IMDB has for the title "Rivals").  This Rivals is another one of those "not quite horror, but definitely horror adjacent flicks.  This is a smart, twisted dramatic thriller for that select audience that liked Julie Darling or the recent Better Watch Out.  It stars child actor Scott Jacoby, and I like to think it forms a dark trilogy with his other films Bad Ronald and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, just like The Last House On the Left, House On the Edge Of the Park and Hitch Hike make up a disturbing David Hess trilogy.
Jacoby lives with his mom, Joan Hackett (nominated for an Academy Award for Only When I Laugh, but as far as I'm concerned, most memorable in the final, amazing segment of Dead Of Night, Bobby), in New York City.  Everything seems great, he enjoys making movies with his friends and despite being just 10 years-old has stepped into the responsibilities of being "the man of the house."  That position is threatened when Robert Klein starts courting Joan, but she assures him he just has to win her son over.  Well, we've all seen enough Bad Seed variants to know how well that's going to go.  But like I said, this isn't exactly horror.  Don't expect a lot of social workers to be pushed out of windows or nosy neighbors to get slashed with a knife.  This is a more serious, psychological film.  Better Watch Out was all about surprising you with shocking plot twists around each corner and drawing you into the classic, Hitchcock game of "how will the killer get away with his crime?"  Rivals is more about making you ask, "jeez, what is lurking in that kid's mind?"
The performances are top notch and go a long way to carrying this film, particularly Jacoby.  This film's written and directed by Krishna Shah, the man who brought us Hardrock Zombies; but this film couldn't be more different.  It's serious, dramatically compelling and features some weird, creepy imagery.  The fact that it has the scrappy, low budget feel of a first-time filmmaker straight out of film school tackling very adult topics most Hollywood films would be afraid to touch (it's definitely an "only in the 70s" kinda movie) only makes things feel more off-beat and unsettling.  Return Of the Living Dead's James Karen co-stars and it's chock-full of great New York City locations.  The score is very scattershot, sometimes great, sometimes terrible, even bursting out into a nearly full-blown musical number at one point.  Shah seems to be experimenting with every scene, and it mostly works.  I think it's kinda great, but I certainly wouldn't fire it up on a first date.
Unsurprisingly, Rivals hasn't had a lavish history on home video.  I was excited to see Code Red gave it a chance when they released it on DVD in 2010, because I doubt anybody else would've touched it except maybe some cheap budget label throwing it in a box of 50 generic dramas or something.  With Code Red, I knew I was going to get a nice, widescreen presentation taken from original film elements.  And that's great, because this seems to be the only disc of the film available anywhere in the world.
Code Red US 2010 DVD.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen at 1.78:1, though there is a little shifting dead space in what would've been the overscan areas.  This seems to be taken from a film print, and seems fairly soft and faded, which is probably down to the original elements.  There's a little print damage, but not much.  I bet a 4k scan of the original negatives would look world different, but this meets reasonable expectations fairly well.  The only real disappointment, as you can see above, is the interlacing problem.  That's a distinct flaw, and it's double- not single-frame, so even casual viewers who don't usually notice interlacing will probably be annoyed, especially whenever the camera pans horizontally.  It makes you pine for an upgrade, but I have a feeling this is one of the DVD titles Code Red has never been able to shift out of its warehouses, which is a shame.
The audio is the original mono, presented with a little hiss and some pops, but nothing you wouldn't expect to hear in sync with this film.  There are no subtitle options of any kind.  This is a very no frills release for Code Red, no bonus trailers or even a menu.  You put the disc in and it starts playing the movie, and hitting the "menu" button does nothing.  But if you let the disc keep playing after the film, you do get the film's original trailer, which I imagine is pretty rare given the film, so that's a nice little treat at least.
Look, I can't express how "not for everybody" this one is, but if you're reading this thinking it sounds like the kind of movie you'd be interested in than, yes, Rivals will probably live up to and even exceed your expectations.  This is very much a cult film, but one with artier and more serious aspirations than most.  You won't find many others like it.

I Drink Your Stigma: Code Red Catch-Up, Part 2 (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

I Drink Your Blood is a screwy, demented horror romp I dig more and more each time I revisit it.  It might be a bad movie, but it's also a great movie.  And if you're anything like me (and I hate to tell you, but if you've found yourself on this site, it's almost certainly too late to pull out of it now), you want to find more, some other film that taps all the same veins.  And what better place to search than the filmography the same writer/ director, David E. Durston?  Durston was a television writer in the 1950s, who graduated(?) into filming his own independent films in the 60s and 70s, including I Drink Your Blood, and another film very much like it almost immediately after: Stigma.
A lot of break-out filmmakers wind up imitating their initial successes.  Think of David Cronenberg following up Shivers with Rabid, or George Romero presenting The Crazies like a re-imagining of Night Of the Living Dead.  In fact, there's a lot of influence from all four of those films in Durston's Blood and Stigma pairing.  Really, Stigma just has one key detail that separates it out from the pack: it's not a horror movie.  There are a few moments laid out to instill tension or unease, and plenty designed to shock.  And, just by virtue of retreading so much of I Drink Your Blood's structure, it retains some of the trappings of a horror film.  But really, this is not a scary film - or a film trying and failing to be scary - and it's not a body count film.  It's absolutely an exploitation film, and I stand by my claim that if you really like I Drink Your Blood you're bound to like Stigma.  Just don't come in expecting horror or you're honestly going to bummed out.
So, if it's not horror, what is it?  Well, again like Blood, it's a genre-bending "something of everything" kind of flick.  It often gets lumped in with blaxploitation films, and it's certainly got some of that.  Philip Michael Thomas, Tubbs of Miami Vice, is a big city doctor who takes over a practice in a small, racist town, where everybody, including a very Boss Hog-like sheriff, is against him.  So there's a lot of that element.  But nearly as soon as he arrives, a powerful strain of syphilis breaks out, and much like the rabies in Blood, it starts making everybody in town go crazy... just a little less homicidal.  So Thomas has to investigate, who's spreading it and who's covering it up?  The crazy old lighthouse keeper?  The veteran just back home from the war?  The madam and her brothel?  The crooked cops or the hippy teens with their unbridled free love?  So that gives us sexploitation, action, melodrama... the film even stops to show us an educational film strip with gross-out medical photos.  Several members of the supporting cast of Blood and all of the wacky sensibilities Durston displayed in that film are on hand here, just with less of a violent edge.
Stigma used to be relegated to cheap, fullscreen DVD compilation packs of public domain, blaxploitation flicks from labels like Brentwood, Platinum and Echo Bridge.  But Code Red did it right in 2011 with a special edition DVD sporting a brand new, high def master from the original CRI, as well as some very cool extras.  Then, this time last year, Code Red did it even righter with a blu-ray upgrade sporting an even new 2k scan of the original CRI.  Just how much righter?
2011 US Code Red DVD on top; 2016 US Code Red blu-ray underneath.
With the way the descriptions were worded, and the fact that they both came from the same source, I was expecting a nearly identical transfer of the DVD on the blu-ray with just that subtle boost in clarity that comes naturally with HD.  You know, like Trick Or Treats.  Especially since - also like Trick Or Treats - Code Red's DVD was quite good, and not exactly in need of extensive repairs like a lot of DVD upgrades we tend to see here.  But no, Code Red has done more here, taking the opportunity to further improve the already strong PQ.  First of all, both editions are presented in strong, anamorphic 1.78:1 ratios.  But that doesn't mean the framing is identical.  It's actually shifted vertically, and comparing the two, the blu looks much more correct, with the DVD cropping very tightly along the bottom.
^See how the DVD crops chins and blows out the reds of skin tones?
The colors, which again already looked pretty well corrected, have been further improved on the blu, toning down areas that looked just a little over-saturated before, and making skin tones more authentic.  Plus, of course, it's that extra sharpness and clarity that comes with HD replacing SD.  In short, the DVD wasn't exactly calling out for any fixes, but it got some good ones anyway.

Audio-wise, things aren't too different, but it sounds like the background hiss on the DVD has been reduced for the blu.  Both disc's tracks are reasonably clean and robust, though.  And of course, neither have subtitle options.
But one of the most exciting aspects of Code Red's restoration of Stigma is the fact he's given it a special edition in collaboration with David Durston.  If you watched either of Grindhouse's I Drink Your Blood releases, you know that he's quite a character.  And while he doesn't go quite so far as to sing an impromptu song about thrilling audiences as a horror director, he certainly comes off as a charmingly eccentric personality here, helpfully explaining things like, "you are born with so many female hormones, and so many male hormones.  And if it's a little over the top on the female hormones, you become a homosexual."  He provides a very fun and genuinely informative on-camera interview that's just under twenty minutes long, and a fun audio commentary track where he chuckles along with moderator Jeff McKay.  The DVD also included two trailers, a TV spot, and some bonus trailers.  The blu-ray retained everything except one of the trailers, the TV spot and the bonus trailers (despite still listing them on the back of the case).  It's no crushing loss, but it seems like an arbitrary disappointment to drop off the TV spot and second trailer.  What for?  Oh well.  It's a minor nitpick; we're just talking about secondary trailers.
Stigma is certainly not for everybody, including horror purists.  It's downright goofy and you can find its picture in the dictionary next to the word "dated."  But there's an audience out there for this picture, and they should really know about it.  And in particular, they should know about the excellent treatment Code Red's given it.

Code Red Catch-Up, Part 1: Demon Witch Child!!! And Some Other Piece of Crap

So, ever since I first did a "Catch-Up" series on this site, I knew it was only a matter of time until Code Red's.  There's just all these great, older Code Red releases that need covering on here: great but overlooked DVD-only horrors and yes, a couple more DVD/ blu-ray comparisons.  And we start out with one of my favorite horror DVD, which I can't believe isn't better known and in more fans' collections.  I mean, don't get me wrong; I completely understand why it isn't in most peoples' collections and isn't regarded alongside mainstream horror classics like A Nightmare On Elm St or The Omen.  We're talking crazy, cult, obscure 70's insanity, not slick, streamlined, and glossy high production values.  This is for a select audience only.  But that select audience should be all over this disc.
Oh, but this is a double-feature.  And before we get to the neglected masterpiece, let's get the other film out of the way first, the "piece of crap" from this post's title.  It's a little film called The Possessed.  Actually, both films have been called The Possessed.  That's why they're paired up on the same disc: because, at some point in time, both films had been released under the title The Possessed.  Otherwise, they have nothing in common.

This The Possessed - on-screen title: Help Me... I'm Possessed - is an American film from 1974.  Screenwriter Bill Green also stars as a doctor of a sanitarium/ castle somewhere in Southern California.  He has a hunchbacked assistant, a mad woman for a sister and a new bride who begins to suspect unorthodox things are going on behind closed doors.  Patients are tortured and killed, and an unseen monster chases a nurse through the woods.  But things aren't nearly as interesting as that description makes it sound.  It's mostly long, droll scenes of conversations as characters stand around in front of a static camera.  It's just tongue-in-cheek enough that there's nothing to get invested in, but utterly fails in its attempts at humor with dialogue like, "who are you?"  "I'm fine.  How are you?"
I have to admit... I do love this location.
The police come and just... mill about the grounds aimlessly.  The premise and marketing promise sleaze and shocks, but that mostly just amounts to women in their bras pretending to be dead and a rubber leg or two.  It's absolutely Mystery Science Theater fodder-level (Season 12 show runners, take note), and deserves a little credit for trying to be an 'everything and the kitchen sink' movie where you never know what's coming around the next corner - mad scientist, hunchback, lunatic or off-camera monster?  But it's all just so flat and lifeless in execution, the fun the premise could offer just makes the film all the more disappointing.  If you're in the absolute right mood, and very patient, you might be slightly amused, in a laughing at it as opposed to with it kind of way.  But it's definitely not the reason to add this DVD to your collection.

Although, if you are interested in The Possessed, this Code Red double-feature does appear to be its only release on disc ever.  And since Code Red got their hands on it instead of some generic public domain company like Platinum, Alpha, Mill Creek, etc, this is a widescreen presentation taken from a film print instead of a fullscreen dupe of a VHS tape.
2013 Code Red DVD.
...Of course, it's not a pristine, or in any way cleaned or remastered film print.  This is another one of Code Red's patented "grindhouse" experiences, where the print is covered in dirt and chemicals, with green spots and lines everywhere.  It's also got a faded, washed out and soft look.  But it's still 100% more authentic and satisfying than any of VHS dub.  It's 1.78:1 (or more like 1.76 with the dead space in the overscan area's edges) anamorphic, progressive, and the mono audio, well, it matches the print.  There's a bassline soft hiss that isn't too distracting, with plenty of pops, but surprisingly robust library music and clear dialogue.  Of course there are no subtitles or alternate audio tracks.
But the real gem is 1976's The Possessed - on-screen title: Demon Witch Child - a delightful killer kid film from Spain.  This one's written and directed by none other than Amando de Ossorio, the man behind The Blind Dead and Lorelei's Grasp.  But Demon Witch Child may have actually usurped all his other work as my favorite de Ossorio film.  It's just so much fun.  If you appreciated Cathy's Curse, oh boy, this is like its equally nutty prequel.

The premise is perfectly simple: the local police bust up a coven of witches, so their leader takes revenge by possessing the chief's daughter.  It's starts off in some predictable Exorcist rip-off territory - not that that's a bad thing - with the girl floating out of her bed and a priest being brought in to chase the evil out of her.  But she quickly transforms into a delightful, balding foul-mouthed witch child, using her powers to wreak havoc on everyone in her life.  She laughs maniacally as she displays all kinds of fun magical powers and goes pretty psycho in some pretty edgy ways that I'm super tempted to spoil right now, but I won't.
Meanwhile, everyone's trudging around in super 70's earth tones, and there's a melodramatic subplot where the priest's ex-girlfriend has become a prostitute.  The local townspeople form a mob and dig up graves, the bad-ass police captain, the parents, the priest and an ace reporter are all following separate paths to find the truth, and the witch cult comes back to help their crazy little girl kidnap a baby.

Admittedly, the pacing drags at points, with dubbed dialogue and scenes which can only be honestly described as bad writing.  The score is also clunky, though it concludes with a pretty dramatic, rousing number, that reminded me of Frizzi's main theme for The Beyond.  And Code Red clearly agrees with me, because it's the music they use for the DVD menu.  There's also a weird aspect to this presentation where the first minute of footage repeats with alternate credits over it.  I'm sure it wasn't meant to be shown twice in a row, but it is here.
This print's been badly damaged, but we've got the fingerprint of the man responsible!
This time Code Red's disc isn't the only release of Demon Witch Child.  It was included in one of those no frills budget packs of multiple films called Grindhouse Experience: 20 Film Feature Collection from 2007.  But that's reportedly another one of those 4:3 VHS-sourced editions.  Meanwhile here, just like the other The Possessed, we've got another, much more satisfying anamorphic widescreen transfer of a film print.
2013 Code Red DVD.
And I mean really just like the other The Possessed.  I could pretty much copy the entire paragraph I wrote about that transfer and it would apply equally to this one.  1.78:1 anamorphic, progressive transfer, with slivers of pillar-boxing down the sides making it more accurately 1.76:1.  Tinted and drained colors with washed exposure, and yes, plenty more green chemical damage all over the place.  This film certainly has better cinematography, but in terms of its presentation, it almost looks like the same film.

The mono audio's about the same, too; except the crackly hiss and pops just a little bit worse.  A word or two are dropped when damage causes the film to be spliced, but for the most part, it's fine once you get used to it.  Again, it fits naturally with the condition of the print.  We still only get the English dub (and no subtitle option), but considering the tone of the film, that's not as damaging as it would be with something more serious and delicate like Zeder
There's basically nothing by way of special features here; we don't even get the films' trailers.  We just get the traditional Family Honor trailer on start up and a couple of Code Red bonus trailers.  They are what they are: direct, unrestored standard def transfers scanned from a pair of beat up old film prints.  But they sure beat the video-tape crapola that came before 'em.  This disc is a real treat.  Well, half of it is, anyway.