Mildly Controversial Blus: The Abominable Snowman

Here's a recent release that I resisted purchasing at first because I'd already read about its issues.  But as I dwelled on it, I thought it'd be ideal to cover on this site, and after all, the government sent us all those checks with the specific intent that we use it to stimulate the economy.  So I ordered Scream Factory's new release of the 1957 Hammer chiller The Abominable Snowman on blu-ray - 'twas my patriotic duty!
If you know me well, you know this Hammer flick's of particular interest to me because it's written by Nigel Kneale.  It's a remake of his BBC teleplay The Creature, which to my great dismay as been completely lost - no known recording exists.  But unlike a couple of Hammer's most famous Kneale remakes, The Creature wasn't much longer than their film, so not much material was lost.  The original Quatermass stories were serials, which had to be drastically cut down into a single feature-length screenplay.  And in the case of the original Quatermass, it was also unnecessarily dumbed down... SPOILERS FOR QUATERMASS, the story of the world's first men into space returning with a virus which turns out to be be a parasite that turns them into a destructive monster: when the monster became so indestructibly large it consumes Westminster Abbey, Prof Quatermass walks into the alien itself and addresses the remaining humanity of his fellow scientists it had absorbed.  He convinces them that the toll of life is too great and the creature takes its own life.  Whereas in the film, he goes, "maybe electricity is its weakness!"  And so some soldiers zaps it, causing it to die.  ...I don't hate the movie, but it's definitely a lesser work. /END OF SPOILERS
Here, while some passages have been lost and changes were made (most of which Kneale has expressed approval of), it's largely faithful to the original screenplay.  They've even kept the original star, Peter Cushing, who had already worked with Kneale in their excellent adaptation of 1984.  You may recall Kneale had some rather famous objections to the actor they had play Quatermass as well, so it's great to see everyone on the same page here, and consequently, this work feels much smoother and more cohesive.  Forrest Tucker replaces Stanley Baker as Cushing's co-star because they needed an American, and I wish, wish, wish we could see somehow Baker's original performance, but Tucker's a professional who knows how to portray his brash explorer.
Don't let the lurid posters fool you; this is more a work of science fiction than horror.  Yes, there are some suspenseful moments where the creature is lurking outside of the explorers' camp.  But at the end of the day, this film is more interested in the philosophical exploration of ideas than thrills or kills.  That said, though, the production values are surprisingly high.  Obviously most of this was shot on a sound-stage, but the sets are first class and there was a lot of real, original mountain climbing footage created for this film, as opposed to the generic stock inserts you'd expect from its B-movie peers.  These guys really went out and filmed in remote snowy mountain ranges, seriously elevating the production.  And apart from one obviously rubber glove moment, the creature itself looks pretty great, too.
Anchor Bay gave this film its American debut on DVD back in 2000 as part of their Hammer Collection.  They repackaged it once or twice, but that's been it for this film until December 2019, when Scream Factory got a hold of it and put it out on blu.  There were a few import editions in between, including a Japanese blu (Happinet, 2014), but for the most part, it's been just these two discs.
1) 2000 AB DVD; 2) 2019 SF BD (short cut); 3) 2019 SF BD (long cut).
This is a really attractive transfer.  It's a big leap forward from the DVD, which was already quite good, especially for such an old release.  The ratio is roughly the same, shifting from 2.32:1 to 2.34:1, partially because the DVD is very slightly windowboxed, though the blu also pulls out to reveal slightly more around all four sides.  Besides the standard compression you can't avoid with SD, the DVD does feature some edge enhancement that the BD handsomely cleans up.  It also has a broader range... you can see how around the lamp and the areas of brightest snow where it's flared out on the DVD, but more natural detail on the blu.  And the film grain is clear and distinct.  There are some flecks and other signs of light film damage throughout, but overall it's a beautiful restoration.

All versions here feature the original mono track, in DTS-HD on the blu.  The complete version also includes optional English subtitles, which the short cut and DVD omit.

...But wait a minute.  What's going on with that second shot?  It's in SD on the extended blu-ray cut, but in HD on the shorter cut?
Well, their official release page tells us that, "usable film elements of the complete film no longer exist; approximately five minutes of the film have been upconverted to high definition from a standard definition source."  Okay.  A composite cut in and of itself isn't what makes this release particularly controversial.  Of course, ideally, we'd all love have the complete uncut version of the film in perfect HD quality, but if it can't be helped, a composite cut is the next best thing.  And Scream Factory have also included the shorter version, without the inserts, for those who can't abide the shifts in quality (although I think you're crazy, personally, if you prioritize that over seeing the absolute complete work).  The controversy mostly stems in a find I can't take credit for, but seems to have been initially discovered by user jimqk on the forums.  The longer cut is 1:30:05, and the shorter cut is 1:25:05.  So ((beep, bleep, beep))... that would mean the extended cut has exactly five minutes of SD footage, right?  Well, not exactly, which is the issue.  Also, for a brief second or two (at 1:02:09), the short version even includes a brief moment of SD footage.  But it's the use of SD footage in the extended cut that's the off-putting part.

To be fair, it's not an uncommon practice to leave a little extra SD footage even where a bit more HD footage is available to cover the jump.  In other words, only switching footage on a cut so you don't see the obvious shift in quality right in the middle of a standing shot.  Some people might prefer it the other way around, but it's a judgement call, and you can at least see the reasoning either way.  But that's not what happens here.  The entire, lengthy scene plays all the way through in the shorter cut, from the beginning of the shot to the end; and yet for some reason they swap it out for the SD composite footage in the longer cut anyway.  Is their some obscure reason they made that decision, or is it just a mistake because they were rushing through this edit?  I don't know, but it's a full minute-long stretch we're talking about here that was apparently available in HD, but we got in SD anyway.
Anyway, if you can get past that, the special features should cheer you back up.  Starting with the DVD, we get a terrific audio commentary by director Val Guest and Nigel Kneale.  They were recorded separately and edited together, but still offer a treasure trove of exciting insight for fans.  Also included is a vintage episode of The World of Hammer, focusing on Peter Cushing.  It's basically just a clip show of all of Cushing's Hammer roles, and they like to show the films' climaxes, so beware spoilers abound!  There's actually no original footage to it at all, but they do score a few points by getting Oliver Reed to narrate.  The DVD also has the original theatrical trailer and an insert.

Scream Factory carries all of that over (except the insert), and also adds some exciting stuff of their own.  A new expert audio commentary and on-camera interview are both quite good, but unfortunately, they tell almost all the same facts and details in nearly the exact same way.  So I wouldn't bother watching both.  Personally, I'd opt for the interview, just because it's more efficient, but it's nice to have the choice.  They also add the Trailers From Hell episode, done by Joe Dante himself, and a stills gallery.
So ultimately, I'm not too fussed over the issues with this disc (hence the "mildly" of the title), though it is curious.  Oh, and that Japanese blu?  It's just the shorter cut, plus it's interlaced and barebones, so that's really not a viable contender.  If you want the complete version of the film on blu, this is it.  But even if Indicator or another label does wind up releasing this cut with that stretch of HD footage instead of the SD, I don't think I'd bother replacing just for that.  Watching this on TV, yes, you definitely do see the shifts in quality, but it's not much more distracting than the other flashes of film damage.  And barring discovery of the lost film, The Abominable Snowman's always going to be a composite cut no matter who releases it.  Scream's put together a pretty sweet package, with an attractive transfer and some great extras.  I'm happy with mine.

A Farewell To Twilight Time: Titus

We've known it was coming since 2019, but Twilight Time has officially announced that they're closing down for good.  Their policy of releasing strictly limited, and generally pricier, editions of all their films has rather famously rubbed some collectors the wrong way.  But in these days of dissolving physical media, nobody likes to see another label go.  Especially since they've released quite a number of first class DVDs and blus, some of which are still the going definitive editions for some of the best movies to this day.  So I thought I'd see them off with a look at one final must-have Twilight Time title from their extensive collection.
Julie Taymor is a name that inspires remarks of admiration and derision in almost equal strength.  She's either a visionary director who you hold in extreme regard for bringing her unique and celebrated Lion King to Broadway, or she's the awful woman who ruined SpiderMan, turning his Broadway debut into an infamous fiasco that will live on as a cautionary tale for decades to come.  Say what you want, Taymor is an artist who swings big and makes bold choices.  When she hits a home-run, it's a triumph, but unlike the real masters of cinema (a la Tarkovsky, Kurosawa, etc) she doesn't have the consistent sensibilities to make even her missed ambitions commanding works.  You never know what you're going to get, which at least keeps things interesting.  Her upcoming biopic, The Glorias, has been getting some discouraging reviews, and it may well turn out to be a dud; but I'm still looking forward to seeing it and finding out for myself.
Because Taymor proved she had masterpiece material right from her first feature (though you should also look into her award winning TV films she made earlier in her career), Titus.  I've heard this film described as confusing, but that's really only if you don't know what you're getting into.  This is no Mulholland Drive head scratcher; it's a straight-forward, faithful adaptation of one of Shakespeare's earliest works, Titus Andronicus, based on the staged production she'd been running of it for years in NYC.  What I suppose throws people off is that her idea that the powerful temptations and destructive powers of violence that Shakepseare has written about are so timeless and universal, she places it in an out-of-time sort of universe where soldiers will carry lances on horseback in one scene and ride tanks in another.  But if you just jump into the movie blind, the opening scene starts with a young child in a 1950's style kitchen being grabbed by a soldier and carried out into an ancient Roman coliseum.  So if nobody told you, "hey, we're just watching Titus Andronicus here," it can feel like a scene out of Time Bandits and you'll spend a while wondering what kind of artsy fantasy story is unfolding here.  But once you accept that this kid isn't from another time or dimension, and he's just one of Titus's sons who's been waiting for his father to return home from battle, you'll see that, even for a Shakespeare play, this plot is surprisingly simple and direct.
It's a singular, gritty tale of revenge and murder.  Titus is played to delicious excess by Anthony Hopkins, and I'm sure his notoriety for his role of Hannibal Lector was no coincidence to his casting here.  In fact, certainly Taymor excels in her creative production design and costuming (for which it received an Academy Award nomination) as you'd expect from her.  But the performances are stunning.  Alan Cumming and Jessica Lange are perfectly cast villains, with Velvet Goldmine's Jonathan Rhys Meyers as an unforgettable murderous prince.  Harry Lennix is the only carry over from the original stage production, but thank god for him, because he's really the (bleak) heart and soul of the piece. Taymor's Titus is one of those rare, essentially definitive adaptations that really closes the book on future versions, like Andrew Davies' Pride & Prejudice.  They nailed it.
Fox released Titus as a new release on DVD in 2000.  It was a pretty impressive 2-disc set, which is good, because it was pretty much our only option.  It didn't hit blu-ray until 2014, when Twilight Time finally issued it in the HD format.  Limited to 3000 copies, and now out of print and hard to find, it's still the only blu-ray option out there anywhere in the world.  So you can see at once both why people are fans of Twilight Time getting releases like this out there, and annoyed by the strict availability.
2000 Fox DVD top; 2014 Twilight Time BD bottom.
Interestingly, the aspect ratio shifts slightly from 2.36:1 to 2.31, with the blu shaving a slim slice of information along the top and left edges.  I actually would've guessed the opposite, since the DVD has a slight pillar-boxing effect going on in the left-hand side overscan area.  Anyway, it's all just slivers you'd never notice outside of a direct comparison like this.  What you will notice is the fresh sharpness of the HD transfer.  The DVD is unattractively soft along all its edges, smoothing away grain and fine detail alike.  And more offensively, it's guilty of unwanted haloing by way of edge enhancement.  The blu is free of most of that and much clearer, though admittedly there is a bit of a digital look to the film grain when you get in close, betraying an older master.  But it's still leagues ahead of the DVD and overall rather good even by BD standards.  It's just not a fresh 2 or 4k.  Otherwise, you can tell this is from the same source, with identical color timing and even the same film damage (note the white speck that occurs in the exact same spot in both of the upper frames).

Both discs gave us the choice of a stereo or 5.1 mix with optional English subtitles.  But the DVD also included Spanish subtitles, and the blu, of course, bumps both audio options up to lossless DTS-HD.
We got a lot to work with, extras-wise.  Like I said, Fox had given us a 2-disc set.  And even before you got to the second disc, you had three audio commentaries on the first disc.  There's a really good one with Taymor, a fun one with Hopkins and Lennix, although that one is plagued with a lot of silent stretches and awkward editing, and a music one, which is partially an interview with the composer, and partially an isolated music track.  Then, probably the best extra is the 49 minute behind-the-scenes documentary.  That's supplemented by a brief addendum featurette that talks specifically about the "penny arcade nightmares," the colorful phrase Taymor uses for the handful of dreamlike sequences that occur in the film.  There's also a Q&A session with Taymor, though that mostly repeats what we've heard in the previous extras, plus six trailers and TV spots, a couple stills galleries and a six-page booklet.

Happily, Twilight Time carries all of the Fox extras onto their blu.  They also include their own isolated score track, in addition to the one from the DVD, that plays the score without the composer commentary and plays in DTS-HD.  They've also replaced the booklet with their own, featuring notes by Julie Kirgo.
So yeah, it is annoying that it's now out of print and hard to find.  It was already an expensive release when Twilight Time put it out at the time, and it's only gonna cost you more now.  That's always been the downside of Twilight Time.  But it's a fantastic film you should definitely have on your shelf, and it's thanks to Twilight Time that we got it on blu.  They did a first class job of it as always, and my collection's definitely better of thanks to them.  So Twilight Time, I'll miss ya!

A Pair of 88s #2: Castle Freak

As we've recently lost Stuart Gordon, there's really been no question in my mind that the second 88 Films release we'd look at would be his underrated Castle Freak. While it's certain that Re-Animator was his quintessential masterpiece, Gordon was no one hit wonder, and he leaves behind a body of work with a lot of fascinating curiosities worth exploring, including this Full Moon direct-to-video frightener from 1995.  And like our last comparison, it's another film that was released on blu-ray in both the US and UK, but 88's import is, I daresay, objectively better.
Like From Beyond, Gordon and screenwriter Dennis Paoli have again taken a very short HP Lovecraft ("The Outsider"), that managed to fill about two minutes of screentime, and fleshed out an entire feature around it.  This time it's a particularly pulpy one about a couple (Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, together again) and their blind teenage daughter who find out they've inherited a Romanian castle.  But nobody told them it comes with a tenant, one who's been chained up in the basement for over forty years.  And he's not ready to receive guests.

It's worth noting that there were both R (which trims some graphic sex and violence) and unrated versions (a.k.a. the director's cut) originally released on VHS.  But practically every version released on disc has been the unrated version, so I wouldn't worry about getting stuck with a censored cut no matter which edition you wind up going with.
On the one hand, this is a shorter schedule, lower budget film compared to Stuart's previous Lovecrafts, and it shows.  If you're expecting the third chapter, you're going to be disappointed.  The plot's simpler and more ham-fisted, although there are a few clever plot twists involving secondary characters in the later acts.  And Combs' jittery wrestling with guilt and alcoholism is fun here, but he doesn't deliver a performance on the level of his more famous roles.  On the other hand, compared to Full Moon's slate that year, none of their other projects were even playing in Gordon's league.  It doesn't hurt that one of the reasons this film got off the ground is because Charles Band bought a real castle, and that lends some impressively authentic production values you won't sure see in Full Moon's DTV competition.  The titular freak is a fantastic full-body make-up, especially for its time.  Even major studio horror fare didn't look as good as Castle Freak's.  And Richard Band's rich orchestrations have always been Full Moon's secret weapon.  So it might be a second tier flick, but it's one of the very best examples of the second tier.
Full Moon first pressed Castle Freak on DVD back in 1997; it was practically a new release that had just come out on VHS in 1995 and laserdisc in 1997.   They reissued it a few times, including an interesting little Stuart Gordon Box Set in 2006, but it's always been the same fullscreen disc.  At least until the HD era.  In 2012, 88 Films released a new, remastered widescreen edition on DVD.  And in 2013, that same transfer was used for a Full Moon blu in the US and an 88 Films blu in the UK, both with additional goodies.
1) 1997 US Full Moon DVD; 2) 2012 UK 88 DVD; 3) 2013 UK 88 BD.
Full Moon's full screen DVD is 1.31:1, while both 88 releases matte it down to 1.85:1.  Yes, it's a complete open/ closed matte situation, with the widescreen transfers gaining just slivers on the side.  You can tell by the matching film damage that the two 88 discs were taken from the same film source, unlike the Full Moon DVD, which is free of that damage.  It's also a much softer, flatter image, though, and it's a bit green; so you'd be mad to choose it over one of the newer transfers.  Well, unless you prefer the fullscreen aspect ratio.  As a direct-to-video in the mid 90s, this film was originally released that way and is very arguably the true OAR.  On the other hand, the film was shot on 35mm and apparently played in a handful of foreign festivals back at the time of its release, so it's probable it was shot with both ARs in mind, and quite possibly with with 1.85:1 as the director's preference.  Certainly, the fullscreen looks boxier and less attractive to my eye.

Anyway, looking closer at the two 88's, while they're in the same AR and taken from the same source, it's not just a case of the same transfer slapped on SD and HD discs.  The DVD is zoomed in a little tighter, meaning the blu-ray reveals more around the edges.  In terms of color timing, contrast, etc, it's all the same though.  Of course, the blu is sharper and clearer, being in HD and all.  Edges and film grain that are smoothed over on the DVD are crisp on the blu, although that's not to say that the film grain is perfectly captured.  It's sporadic and has a pixelated feel.  The film could definitely benefit from a fresher 4k scan.  But we have isn't bad, and easily preferable to the DVDs.

In terms of audio, both DVDs offer a clean stereo mix with no subtitles.  The blu-ray doesn't have any subs either, but it bumps the track up to LPCM and also adds a new 5.1 mix in DTS-HD.  This is one area where 88 becomes the clear choice over the Full Moon blu-ray, because while it also has both tracks (and no subs either), both of its audio mixes are lossy.
In terms of extras, both DVDs are essentially the same.  They include the trailer and the original "Videozone" featurette, which was a making of promo that used to be included at the end of every Full Moon VHS release.  As I recall, the original they used to consist of a lot of ads and promos, but the DVDs have cut it down to just the nine minute behind-the-scenes 'making of' portion.  At under ten minutes, it's not the deep documentary dive we'd all like, but it's a nice little featurette and very welcome.  Besides that, both DVDs include a heap of promo trailers and commercials.

The blu-rays add a little more.  Both include a brief but rewarding interview with Stuart Gordon himself.  They seem to have cornered him in a hotel for a festival or something, so he doesn't get as expansive as we'd like, but it's a very welcome addition.  Now the Full Moon blu does have one exclusive in addition to this: an interview with Gordon, Crampton and Combs by none other than William Shatner.  But I've seen it on youtube, and it's fairly short and very superfluous, with Shatner more concerned with whether the trio believe in ghosts than any of the ideas behind their film.  Meanwhile, 88 has a whole other film as an exclusive on their disc.
The Evil Clergyman is a 1988 short (roughly half hour) HP Lovecraft film starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Re-Animator's David Gale and David Warner.  It's written by Dennis Paoli and directed by Charles Band.  It was originally intended to be part of an anthology feature film called Pulse Pounders, which was shot but never released, and the original film elements were apparently lost.  But around 2012, Band found a workprint VHS tape, missing a final audio mix.  So he restored it from the tape, adding new sound effects and a fresh (and slightly overblown, I'd guess in an attempt to wash over the poor sound quality of the tape) score by Richard Band.  As you can imagine, the tape-based transfer isn't the close to how this film was meant to be seen, but it's all we've got.  And after decades of only knowing of it as a legendary lost film, it's pretty great.  Especially since the story itself is pretty wild and terrific.  Yeah, Band's direction is flat - imagine if Gordon had been at the helm - but if you liked Castle Freak, you're sure to get a kick out of Clergyman.  Full Moon released it as a stand-alone DVD [left] here in the states.  But in the UK, it was a bonus on 88's Castle Freak BD (for the record, it's not on their 2012 DVD).
1) 2012 US Full Moon DVD; 2) 2013 UK 88 BD.
As this was taken from a VHS tape, and a low-quality one at that, you can imagine that getting this in HD on the blu isn't a huge advantage.  But it kind of is, because the US DVD kinda botched it.  They released it as a non-anamorphic, horizontally stretched 1.57:1 transfer.  88 Gives it a fuller, and un-squashed 1.41:1 transfer that's at least somewhat less ugly.  Otherwise, it's the same master.  Even though it's taken from a videotape, there's also plenty of film damage that made it to the tape, but honestly it's not at all distracting considering far greater flaws of the tape source.  The audio is lossy on both discs.  Just keep reminding yourself, we're lucky to be looking at we've got, at least until Band discovers the original negatives in a box a few years from now.

The Evil Clergyman had a very brief featurette interviewing the Combs, Crampton and the Bands at a film festival.  It's not much, but it's better than nothing.  They also include a short look at another segment from Pulse Pounders (a mini-sequel to the film Trancers), which was later released in the same style as The Evil Clergyman.  Happily, 88's blu-ray includes these extras from the Clergyman DVD, too.  They also throw on a trailer for Gordon's other Full Moon film, The Pit and The Pendulum.  And their release includes reversible artwork.
So yeah, Castle Freak is a cool little movie, and the lossless audio already makes this the preferred presentation.  But the inclusion of the surprisingly entertaining Evil Clergyman and its extras to boot?  Now it's a real must-have.  Even if you've already got the US blu, I'd say it's worth the trouble to replace it.

A Pair of 88s #1: The Last Horror Film

Suckers to the side, I know you hate my 88's!  But now might be the time to get yours.  As we're all stuck home on lockdown looking for films to keep us occupied, what better time to look back at our favorite cult labels and see if there's anything we missed?  And going back over my list, I see there are still a couple noteworthy labels I haven't made "Pair" posts for, and a couple Exotica-worthy titles from said label just dying to be covered.  In fact, 88 Films' blu-ray release of 1982's The Last Horror Film is a disc I've been meaning to cover since I started this site in 2014.  And hey, it's not like I have anywhere else to be today, so I guess the stars have finally aligned.
Not to be confused with 2003's The Last Horror Movie, which is sort of a Man Bites Dog/ Henry: Portrait Of a Serial Killer found footage flick from Fangoria about a killer making a horror snuff flick... The Last Horror Film is a more interesting, and distinctly original, piece of work.  It stars Joe Spinell as another loner psychotic, and forms a perfect trilogy with Maniac and The Undertaker.  In fact, it's a better picture than The Undertaker, and possibly even Maniac, depending on your attitude.  Maniac is a more of a controlled, cohesive character study of a disturbed killer, whereas Last is a wilder, unrestrained exhibition of Spinell's own unloosed psyche.  To put it in form of an analogy, Maniac is to Kubrick as Last is to Fulci.  So, okay, it might be hard to argue this is a legitimate better film, but it could well be a lot of peoples' favorite.
Last reunites Spinell with his Maniac co-star Caroline Munro, who instead of being the strangely genuine love interest of a deranged killer, is the perhaps more straight-forward, unwitting object of his obsessions.  But that's about the only straight-forward aspect of this affair.  See, Spinell is of course a down-on-his-luck madman again, but this time he's also an aspiring movie producer.  And Munro is a Hollywood star.  So he follows her to the Cannes Film Festival, intent on creating a horror film with her as the star, whether she consents or not.  And what really makes The Last Horror Film The Last Horror Film is that this completely independent film production really went to the 1981 Cannes Film Festival and stole all kinds of footage, guerilla style, right in the middle of their biggest events and regalia.  In a signature moment, Munro across a red carpet of reports and film stars, wearing only a towel and being pursued by a crazed Spinell.
And if you know your Maniac, you're familiar with how Spinell and his best friend - also on hand here - lifted the movie camera from the production at night to film their own improved scenes, which turned out to be quite compelling.  Well, that's like half of this movie.  We get everything from Spinell's vivid hallucinations of grisly murder to his daydreams of cross-dressing in a local nightclub.  We get movies within movies and Spinell's mother charmingly playing herself.  We're shown over-the-top extravagant production values set against cheap-looking, home video-like set pieces.  Vampires!  Strippers!  Airplanes!  Bubble baths!  Classic cars!  Castles!  Paddleboats!  Robin Leach!  Death by jacuzzi!  It's all here, and it all makes sense... at least in Spinell's mind.
Troma has the rights to this film, but it's important to note that this isn't a Troma production.  They didn't make this film anymore than they made The Stendhal Syndrome or My Dinner With Andre.  They're just the distributors; so don't expect anything along the lines of Nuke 'Em High or Sgt. Kabukiman cameos.  Thank goodness.  But that means, since 2000, they've been issuing it around the world on open matte fullscreen DVDs, usually under the alternate title: Fanatic.  In 2009, they made a bit of a special edition of it, and in 2015, they released it on blu.  But there's an even better edition, thanks to 88 Films.
2014 UK 88 BD.
88 Films presents this film in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio... which, to be fair, Troma's blu also does.  I'm going to outline all the advantages 88's release has offer Troma's, but PQ isn't particularly one of them.  Now, I don't have Troma's blu, so I can't do any down-to-the-pixel comparisons, but by and large, they seem to be made of the same transfer.  And it's... pretty good.  Taken from the original negative, it looks filmic and is certainly a revelation compared to the old, junky fullscreen discs that came before it.  But a lot of it's faded and a bit green.  This applies to some shots more than others, which perhaps betrays different film stock used during the original creation of the film, or just varying shooting conditions.  But it's the kind of thing a fancy, color correcting restoration would fix.  Grain is also a bit light.  There's no doubt that this could look even better than it does, but it's certainly a more than passable presentation in its own right.  Except, you know, for the composite footage.
regular footage top; composited insert footage bottom.
Surely, the biggest factor that sets 88's blu-ray apart from its Troma counterpart is that it's uncut.  Troma's edition is missing some of key footage that apparently has been removed from the source materials.  To compensate, 88 has edited in workprint footage, also matted to 1.85, to make a composite cut which runs about a minute longer, where a couple of kills are considerably more graphic.  You'll definitely notice the picture quality shift from full color filmstock to almost monochromatically blue VHS tape quality.  But between that flaw and watching a censored version, it's really not a consideration; 88 is the only way to go.  And honestly, between the steady shots, the run and gun in Cannes shots, the film-within-a-film shots and the hazy dream sequences, the insert shots don't feel as out of place as they might in any other film.

Audio-wise, we're given the original mono track in LPCM.  That's one more point in 88's favor, since Troma's audio is lossy.  Neither release includes subtitles, however.
And 88 wins again in the special features, although it's a closer race than you might guess.  Troma did actually cook up some worthwhile extras for this film.  First of all, Lloyd Kaufman gets into the spirit of things by filming his intro at Sundance.  That's amusing, though as you might guess, it runs a little light on substance.  But then they provide an audio commentary with Joe's friend and associate producer Luke Walter.  It's moderated by a kid from Troma, who detracts about as often as he contributes, but Luke has a lot to share, having frequently been on set and involved closely with the filmmaking, including enabling Spinell's indulgent forays.  It's a fun track with Luke pointing out who was an unwitting extra and who was an actual actor, telling risque personal anecdotes, etc.  They also have the trailer and that Mister Robbie promo clip Spinell made hoping to get Maniac 2 financed.  It makes more sense as an extra on Maniac, which it also is, but it's cool here, too, since these films are son closely tied together.

Anyway, all of the above are on both the Troma and 88 blus.  But both discs have exclusives.  Troma's exclusive, however, are all Troma-specific junk that has nothing to do with The Last Horror Film.  There's something about TromaDance and a short film called The Return Of Dolphin Man...  Unless you're a big Troma fan, you won't care.  But you will be interested in 88's stuff.  Well, most of it anyway.
First up is a short, nostalgic documentary called My Best Maniac (surely a play on My Best Fiend) where Walter takes us on a tour through Spinell's hometown.  He talks a little about the film, particularly an anecdote up front, but it's mostly a tribute to Spinell as a person, ending with a stop at his grave.  Then there's a short but great interview with William Lustig who shares with us what he knew about this crazy project, including how he was asked at one point to take over the direction (he declined).  After that, it boils down to odds and ends.  There's a promising sounding "Caroline Munro Q&A," but it turns out to just be a short clip with no connection to this movie.  She's actually being interviewed about Slaughter High and doesn't even bring up this film in passing.  I mean, it's still better than nothing I suppose, but what a let down.  Besides that, there's a long reel of bonus trailers, and that's about it.  The sleeve has reversible artwork, which is cool.
So yeah, The Last Horror Film is a must for any horror fan's collection, especially if you love Maniac, and extra especially if you've already sprung for The Undertaker.  There's no question 88's blu is the way to go either (uncut, lossless audio, the best special features). And yes, it's a region free release, so go ahead and import it even if your player's locked.  And I'll see if I can come up with another 88 Films release that's just as good for the next post.  'Till then!