Kooky Cozzi Paganini Horror!

If you like your stylish Italian horror flicks cheap, silly and weird, then you should already have this movie!  But if you haven't been collecting horror DVDs over a decade ago, you probably missed out on Luigi Cozzi's Paganini Horror. But unless you're hung up on your movies being, you know, good by some kind of objective or reasonable standard like a normal person, in which case you'll probably absolutely hate this movie. But assuming you're not one of those people, then I'm here to tell ya, this German import's worth tracking down.
If you're not familiar with this one, the plot is real simple. A guy buys a long lost score by the famous composer Niccolo Paganini from Donald Pleasance, who's also the devil or something along those lines. He gives it to his girlfriend, an aspiring rockstar, to turn into a modern pop song with her band.  Their manager, Daria Nicolodi, who also might be evil, wants them to shoot their music video in an old mansion that's stuck in a time loop, where some little girl once killed her mother just like Paganini killed his bride and used her intestines to string his violin as part of his pact with the devil.  Plus, Paganini will be summoned in the flesh when the band plays his song, or maybe he's just a masked slasher, but either way his victims come back as ghosts and hmm, okay.  Maybe the plot's not so simple, or even quite comprehensible if you really stop to think about it.  But why would you do that?
It's a fun, attractive and charmingly daft little horror movie about a famous violinist come back from the dead to chase young people around a colorful music video set.  It's attractively shot, Paganini has a violin with a knife that shoots out of it, there are a couple gnarly kills, everybody's running around in silly costumes, the music is upbeat and catchy - including a couple, full blown pop rock performances - and they've got some great location photography.  On the other hand, the whole production is clearly low budget, and set pieces often look very cheap and the impressive casting of Pleasance is wasted with some bland third party dubbing (on the Italian and English audio tracks) and not terribly interesting dialogue (come on, he's the devil!).  Plus, the story really is a mess.  It's co-written by three people, including Nicolodi, which should put this on par with Suspiria, right?  Yeah, no.
So, the cult German label put this out twice on DVD in the early 2000s; all the cool sites like Xploited and Diabolik used to have this in spades.  But now its long OOP.  The first version was a 2-disc set, with the uncut widescreen version and a slightly trimmed 4:3 Italian television cut.  The second disc with the TV cut doesn't have English language options, though, and there are many differences between the two versions except some blood has been trimmed and the picture's open matte.  So I just got the single disc edition, which is completely English friendly, and also happens to be a fully loaded special edition.  It's pretty awesome, except for one little thing (which is just as true of the 2-disc set), as you'll soon see.
2003 X-Rated DVD
...It's non-anamorphic.  It's not interlaced, taken from film elements (occasional flecks and dust pop up; but for the most part it's pretty clean) and in the director's presumably preferred 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  But yeah, it looks awfully compressed and low on detail in that tiny window.  The non-anamorphic presentation is a real bummer, because this is a film that relies a lot on its look.  An HD presentation would be most welcome (hint, hint).

Audio-wise, they provide the English, Italian and German dub, which is great because you get to hear the alternate voices.  Unfortunately, the only subtitles on-hand are in German, so us English speakers will have to stick to the English track unless you're multilingual.  All the audio tracks are the original mono in 2.0.
And did I say this was a packed special edition? Yes!  Let's start out with a very informative audio commentary by director Luigi Cozzi.  He also provides an hour-long on-camera interview.  Plus, there's a brief clip of him speaking at a film festival.  So you really get his full story across all of that.  There's also a short video clip of him recording the commentary, for a little peek behind the curtain.  But then you have probably the most important extras of all: the deleted scenes.  Some of the deleted scenes aren't much, but some are really out there, because contrary to his producers, Cozzi wanted this to be a sci-fi film; so some of these scenes are pretty freakin' weird and out of left field.  This release also comes in a very cool looking "hardbox," which is essentially an oversized clamshell case, like those classic horror VHS boxes from the 80s.

If you did get that 2-disc version, the only additional extras you'd receive are a couple trailers and a small photo gallery.  All the extras of substance are on the single-disc version.
Paganini Horror seems like an ideal candidate for a label like 88 Films, but there has never been an American or UK release of this all throughout the DVD years, so I'm guessing there might be a rights snafu.  So I'm not holding my breath for an HD upgrade.  In the meantime, though, despite the huge bummer of this disc being non-anamorphic, it is a pretty great special edition of a neat, little film.  So this is definitely an off-beat piece of DVD exotica I'd recommend.

The Essential Pride and Prejudice (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Being one of the most read and beloved books in the English language, it's no surprise that there have been a few efforts to bring Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to the screen.  There's an entertaining early attempt in 1940, a particularly faithful BBC miniseries in 1982 that I really own and need to revisit one day soon, and of course that Keira Knightley movie, which was an okay abridgement, though I felt they kind of dropped the ball with Mr. Darcy.  But really, there's little reason to keep taking additional shots at it, because the great Andrew Davies got it as right as anyone could ever expect to in 1995.  It's both my personally held opinion and a fairly wide consensus that this is the definitive Pride and Prejudice, and now it's got a pretty definitive blu-ray presentation to suit it.
This was a pretty massive effort for the BBC at the time; moving their traditional first class literary adaptations out of the sound-stages and mounting a full, Hollywood-level production on locations, and shooting on film rather than video.  Lavish estates, large horse-drawn carriages, and a smart, memorable score lay the stage for their largest undertaking yet.  Like the 1982 series, this adaptation was also made for British television in six hour-long episodes, which is pretty essential for telling the story.  Most full-length novels are too long for single films, but this Austen classic is particularly filled with plot turns and new characters, all of which need time to develop and flourish to truly work their effect. And here, it all pays off.  Colin Firth was already an established, notable actor in 1995, probably best known for playing the titular role in Valmont, but it's his turn here as Mr. Darcy that really set him for life.  He and the literary character will forever be associated, like Christopher Reeves is to Superman.  Jennifer Ehle also seems born to play her leading role of Elizabeth Bennet, and the supporting cast is full of terrific English character actors like Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Alison Steadman, Susannah Harker from House of Cards, Crispin Bonham-Carter (yes, they're cousins), the familiar face of Benjamin Whitrow and Absolutely Fabulous's Julia Sawalha.
I don't say the series is quite flawless.  Some of the comedy, particularly by Alison Steadman, is played pretty big, and in the first episode particularly, probably too far over the top.  I suspect they wanted to assure viewers that this would not be some dry, historical school lesson, but an entertainment modern audiences could relate to... but they might've gone a little too far.  Still, by the time you hit episode four, you're smiling every time Steadman enters the frame.  And yes, this version does take a few liberties with the novel.  But almost any criticism you might have at the outset is washed away by how appealing the production is, and how smart the combined writing of Austen and Davies.  Like Firth, Davies was already a success in his field, but this is the one that made him a Masterpiece Theater rock star.
And as the most universally beloved Austen adaptation, this has been released on home video dozens and dozens of times.  Even just in the US, it's been issued and reissued on DVD many times, starting with Image's 1998 release.  That was a fullscreen "chop off the sides, not open matte" affair, which looked like a VHS tape had been crudely digitized.  Then in 2001 came the 2001 Special Edition from A&E, which proclaimed itself the "First Ever Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) Presentation in the U.S."  We'll see in a moment how they didn't quite get that right, but it was still a big improvement over the awful Image disc.  The same Special Edition version was packaged inside a large A&E Literary Classics: The Romance Collection boxed set in 2002, but was more notably released with a book on the making of the series and a third disc of extras in 2006 as the 10th Anniversary Collector's Set.  Then, in 2010, there was a new restored edition, on both DVD and blu-ray.  And most recently, A&E and Lions Gate have come out with a second blu-ray version, The Keepsake Edition, with all new special features!

Now, for all of those releases, certainly each disc will have its slightly individual encodes, but there are essentially four transfers that pop up on any of these discs.  The Image fullscreen version, which I got rid of long ago, so you'll just have to trust my embittered memory of poor that was, the Special Edition version that brought the film to widescreen, the DVD remaster and the HD blu-ray (both blus are essentially the same, in terms of picture quality). Specifically, the discs I have on-hand that we'll be comparing are the 2001 Special Edition, the 2010 restored DVD and the 2014 Keepsake Edition:
top: 2001 DVD, mid: 2010 DVD, bottom: 2014 blu.
So where to begin?  Well, okay, the "First Ever Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) Presentation in the U.S." is not actually in 2.35:1, and neither is any other release.  I highly doubt the film was ever intended to be framed that way.  Instead, it and all the subsequent releases are in 1.78:1, which looks quite correct, although the blu does lose a pinch of information along the top and right-hand edges.  The Special Edition is indeed anamorphic, but has a terrible interlacing problem.  Even when compared to other interlaced discs, it looks bad.  It's like they took an interlaced transfer, and interlaced it again (in fact, I seriously suspect that could be what happened, with them brutishly importing PAL transfers to the US).  It's also undergone boosted contrast, clarification and other destructive tweaking.
left: 2001 DVD, mid: 2010 DVD, right: 2014 blu.
The 2010 DVD thankfully does away with most of that.  It's still interlaced, but not as badly, and it doesn't have most of the extra tweaks.  Consequently, it does look a little soft, but its colors, detail and motion (particularly the horizontal panning) looks much more fluid.  It's like they've gone back a generation or two, and it's all the better for it.  Still, it's downright bizarre that this came out in conjunction with the first blu-ray edition, as the blu-rays feature a much more attractive restoration taken from the original negatives.  For all its improvements, it's still taken clearly from a black crushing print.  That, or they "tweaked" it in an unfortunate, destructive way.  But the blu?  Wow.  The series was shot on 16mm, so expect a high grain-to-detail ratio, but it's such a vast leap forward in quality and naturalism.  Really, if you only own this one on DVD, this is a title you'll really want to upgrade.

The blu-rays feature a solid uncompressed LPCM audio track.  English subtitles are also included, which are a welcome site, as all the older DVDs lacked them.
Now, the story with the extras is as complicated and confusing as anything else with this series' DVD history, so let's just take it chronologically.  The Image DVD was barebones; that's simple enough.  And the 2001 Special Edition earned it's title with the inclusion of one, pretty great, 23 minute featurette simply titled The Making Of...  It also included a nice 8-page booklet with quotes from the cast and crew and an attractive slipbox.  The 10th Anniversary, then, added a pretty great, new hour-long retrospective feature as its main attraction, called Lasting Impressions, where most of the cast and crew (bar Firth and Ehle) reminisce on the filming and success of the series.  They also include the episode of A&E's Biography about Jane Austen, which has also been released on DVD on its own, plus a short "walk about" featurette with actors Lucy Briers and Adrian Lucas.  They're affable enough, but the walk's a bit of a wash, as they revisit one of the film's locations but have nothing of substance to say to one another.

Now, in 2010, the restored DVD and the initial blu-ray feature the same extras.  Specifically, they have the Lasting Impressions, the walk about, and two new features.  One is an excellent half-hour featurette that interviews much of the cast and crew but manages not to be terribly redundant in conjunction with the other extras (across all extras for this film, only a handful anecdotes get repeated), called Pride and Prejudice: A Turning Point for Period Drama.  And there's also a brief but informative (thankfully, he doesn't talk down to us) about the restoration process, which any reader of this site should appreciate.
2001's The Making Of...
The new Keepsake Edition, then, features all of the extras from the 2010 releases: Lasting Impressions, Turning Point, the walk about and the restoration featurette.  Plus, it has four new featurettes, which are all quite good.  The main one is The Definitive Pride and Prejudice, an overall history of the miniseries, starting with Austen and the novel itself, and interviewing many of the key players.  The following three, then, are essentially further interviews from the same time, on more specific subjects (though a few interviewees only show up in these later featurettes: Love or Money? Courtship and Marriage In Pride and Prejudice, The Music Of Pride and Prejudice and Lifestyles of the Wealthy in Early 19th Century England.  Those are all about ten minutes each and more focused on the show then some of the historical titles suggest.

I believe the idea of this Keepsake is to be a definitive edition, hence rounding up all previous extras as well as including new ones, but unfortunately they missed the original making of from the 2001 Special Edition.  And that one was quite interesting as it was filmed around the time of production, so not only are the interviewees noticeably younger, but they have a lot of great behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews all of the other extras lack.  I suspect they left it off because it's fullscreen and they only had an interlaced, standard def copy that would look pretty poor on their otherwise beautiful blu-ray, but it's still a disappointment.  Also, rather stupidly, they only list four of the 8 special features on the back of the box, making it seem like they've just repackaged the previous blu, rather than coming up with some good, new content. It also includes several bonus trailers, which annoying all play on start-up, and comes in a nice slipcover.
So, there's not much debate over which is the release to get; the Keepsake Edition has the terrific HD negative restoration and the most and best special features by far, with no detriment to recommend a previous release, except the disappointing absence of the original Making Of...  The Keepsake Edition should be more than enough to satisfy casual fans, though, as that's already a couple solid hours of extras.  And happily, more dedicated fans can pick up the old Special Edition super cheap (as in under $2) online, so you can easily make compile a more complete special edition for yourself anyway.

You're So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)


Just released this December, we have You're So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night, an almost four hour documentary on both Fright Night and Fright Night 2 from the UK outfit who also made Leviathan, the Hellraiser 1 & 2 doc.  It's another Kickstarter-funded project, and the first 1000 copies are a pretty swagged out blu-ray/ DVD combo pack with a comic book and everything, which I believe is still available as of this writing; and you can bet we're going to break down every little aspect of this pretty terrific 3-disc set.  But for starters, let's just take a look at the documentary itself.
Fright Night is a really popular cult film.  I mean, it's even pretty big as just an 80s mainstream film.  So it's pretty surprising that this film has always been barebones until Twilight Time's 30th Anniversary Edition finally created a special edition of it last year.  I mean, the filmmakers had even leaked audio commentaries they made for the film themselves online and they couldn't get Sony to include any extras until then.  So we were really starved for content.  And now, following the healthy but somewhat limited collection of features from Twilight Time (covered here), with this all-inclusive, completist documentary, I'd say fans have finally gotten what we've been waiting decades for.
And personally, I've been even more excited for this documentary's coverage of Fright Night 2, because that hasn't had any kind of behind-the-scenes coverage until now.  And this doc really gives this film the respect of equivalent coverage.  I mean, it's maybe 55%/ 45% between the two films.  They do briefly address the remake as well, but they don't talk to anyone from that version (except they do get Chris Sarandon to discuss his cameo), and oddly they make no mention of 2013's Fright Night 2, almost as if they didn't even know it existed ...which, given all the impact it had, is possible.  But really, for these two films, coverage is thoroughly extensive.  Everybody alive who worked on either film is included, even actors who played minor roles like the cop in part 1 and the mental patient in part 2.  Only Traci Lind stands out as a conspicuous absence, but given she hasn't acted since 1997, I guess she wasn't so easy to find.
But given they're covering two films and talking to so many people, the pacing for this 350 minute doc actually feels pretty brisk.  We're constantly cutting in and out of interviews, showing clips and behind-the-scenes photos; time really flies as you watch it.  well, except for certain scenes.  Look, I respect that the filmmakers decided to put in the time and budget to create a real production beyond simply your standard talking heads doc, and they added some little animations which are cute.  But they also produced these long scenes with a new actor playing the character of "Peter Vincent" introducing each segment of the doc in a comical way, and they're... a little bit excruciating.  It's so hammy and over the top, I can't imagine Roddy McDowell would be flattered by the interpretation, and it's pretty much the same joke over and over again in every scene: he's vain.  You could easily cut these and maybe a few other little trims and bring this documentary to under three hours.  But, with that said, they're utterly worth sitting through, because everything else about this doc is terrific.  It's well shot, full of terrific, good humored anecdotes and insight by everybody from Steve Johnson to Amanda Bearse.  Everything you're hoping for is in this film and it looks great.
2016 Cult Screenings DVD on top; blu-ray below.
So yes, this is a combo pack, meaning disc 2 is a DVD copy of disc 1.  Naturally, they're the same except for one being in SD and one in HD; but I have to say, they DVD copy looks even a little softer than I would expect a compressed DVD version of a blu to look, I guess because of the film's length.  So the benefit of the blu-ray is just that incremental bit more here.  Overall, the picture looks quite strong.  It's primarily presented in 1.78:1, but shifts to accommodate the film clips' original aspect ratios.  The footage from both the Fright Night films is taken from strong, 2.35 HD sources.  They maybe look a little softer than their official blu-ray releases, and there's a tiny issue of duplicate frames in the film clips; but considering this is insert footage for a doc rather than an official release of the films, there's absolutely nothing to complain about.

There are no subtitles or audio options, just your single AC3 English audio track, which sounds pretty clear.  There's clearly a lot of room tone and hiss in a lot of the interview recordings, which they attempt to cover with music, but is still noticeable.  It's not distracting, and I'd say an issue more to do with the filmmaking itself than the blu-ray presentation, but you'd think a little run through Soundtrack Pro could've fixed it.  Oh well.
There's absolutely nothing else on discs 1 & 2 besides the movie itself, which is entirely appropriate given its length, but disc 3 is a whole 2 hours or so worth of additional features, some of which you should really check out.  There's also a little more than was listed on the official website, which was a nice surprise.  Let's look at it piece by piece:
  • What Is Fright Night? A brief collection of interview outtakes where every interview subject is briefly asked the titular question.  This is probably a scrapped opening to the film, which is just as well, since no one watching this wouldn't be familiar.  Not bad, but you're not missing much if you skip it. 
  • Writing Horror: Tom Holland The first two or three minutes are completely redundant clips from the film, but after that we get some interesting interview clips about Holland as a writer that are worth checking out.
  • From Apes To Bats: Roddy McDowall A really nice retrospective on McDowall from everyone in the film.  I could see, pacing wise, why this wouldn't fit in the film itself, but it's great to have as an extra.
  • Tom Holland and Amanda Bearse Talk Fright Night This is a pretty long and in-depth talk between the two. Holland repeats a few stories (expect to hear about his dinner with Vincent Price several times in this set), but also gets into a lot of different areas, including how he had to threaten to sue the producers of the remake in order to get characters and story by credit.
  • Round Table Discussion with Tom Holland, William Ragsdale and Stephen Geoffreys Not as good as the one with Bearse, but along the same lines and with some good new moments.  Worth checking out.
  • A Beautiful Darkness Just a fun little clip where Julie Carmen shows us all the cool costumes she kept from Fright Night 2.  Short, so definitely worth the watch.
  • Full-Extended Peter Vincent Segments ...As in the new actor they hired to do the impersonation of Roddy McDowall's character. It's 30 minutes long and sorry, but you couldn't pay me to watch this.
  • Peter Vincent Host Behind the Scenes A short, amusing little look at the fake Vincent segments.  Obviously I'm not a fan of those, but this was cute, watching him get into the make-up etc.
  • The Peter Vincent Trailers Something shot exclusively for the bonus disc, these are fake movie trailers for the movies the character of Peter Vincent would've made, created with their imposter PV, of course, and a bunch of other actors in front of green screen.  I'm surprised they went to the trouble of making these.
  • Peter Vincent Trailer Outtakes Self-explanatory.  If you were amused by the trailers, you'll probably get a kick out of these.  But if you found it all annoying, skip this too.
  • An Interview With David Madison The director of an obscure, indie horror flick called Mr. Hush starring Stephen Geoffreys talks about how much of an inspiration Fright Night was to him. I'd never heard of Mr. Hush, and from the clips they show it looks cheap and awful, but it's worth watching just to see the clips of Geoffreys playing a vampire again.
  • Weekend of Hell With Amanda and Stephen This is like a 30 minute convention panel with a host and some audience Q&A. Sound and picture quality isn't the best, and a lot of the anecdotes are repeated from the movie. Worth watching if you're still hungry for more, but nothing essential.
  • Rob Cantrell Interview This is actually a terrific inclusion.  Cantrell is one of the effects artists on the original Fright Night who committed suicide in 1985.  This is an audio recording he made for his friend, telling his story. It's very personal, and talks as much about the death of his brother and a car accident he was in than anything else, but he also talks about his career as an effects artist and is very candid about some of the people he worked with. I'm surprised they didn't work this into the film itself, but it's great that it's here.
  • Photo Galleries A healthy collection of stills and behind-the-scenes photos from both movies.
  • Official Trailer
Apart from all that, this limited edition includes an 8-page comic (though there's really not much of a story to it) and an exclusive slip cover.  Pre-orders also included a large poster for one of the fake Peter Vincent films they made a trailer for on the bonus disc.
This has all been a lot of words to say that this is a wonderful documentary that all Fright Night fans should see.  You might even come out of it as a bigger fan of Fright Night 2.  At least a little bit.  And the bonus disc has some terrific stuff on it, so don't just settle for seeing the film by itself.  The UK release of Fright Night from Eureka includes a 2-hour cut of this film (which I'd guess means they just chopped off the Fright Night 2 half); but if you love Fright Night, you'll still want this blu-ray.  I'm not sure if there's going to be a non-limited edition down the road without the bonus disc, or if once this 1000 sell out, it's all gone. But for now, the limited edition is still available with everything except the pre-order poster.  Oh, and yes, it's region free by the way.

Controversial Blus: Don't Go In the House (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Scorpion announced their blu-ray edition a good while ago. 1980's Don't Go In the House isn't an A-list horror title, but it's a solid genre flick with a respectable following, and this was going to be a fresh HD transfer with some new extras.  It got pushed back a few times, but before fans could get too grumpy about it, the label announced a pretty awesome reason for it: they uncovered long forgotten, presumed forever lost, footage of a longer cut of the film.  And not just padding with two babysitters bickering over who gets to borrow a blouse to pad out the running time like Halloween's TV cut or something, these were apparently big, juicy scenes.  So now we're really excited for this release!  Even those of us who thought we might've been fine just hanging onto our Shriek Show DVDs figured apparently we'll have to upgrade after all.  But now that it's here, well, it's flawed, and it's got some fans upset and disappointed.  It's totally the sort of thing that would prompt a replacement program from Scream Factory or Arrow, but Scorpion's a smaller company, so we'll probably just have to live with it.  Just what's the deal?  Is it still worth getting anyway?  Well, let's have a look.
Don't Go In the House is a pretty generic horror movie title, coming out right around the same time as Don't Go In the Woods, Don't Look In the Basement, and Don't Go In the Attic.  You have every reason not to remember if you've seen this movie when you hear the title, but I can clear it up for you real quick: it's the slasher movie where the killer (Dan Grimaldi of The Sopranos)'s weapon of choice is a flamethrower.  There ain't a lot of those!  So I trust that's cleared that up.

It's also actually a pretty good flick.  I put off seeing it for a long time, because it just seemed like the sort of cheap, trashy slasher I wouldn't get much out of.  But when I finally got around to the point where I was really searching just to find any 80s horror movie I hadn't already seen, Don't Go In the House's number came up, and I was actually pretty impressed.  It's definitely got fuller production values than I would've expected, including some great locations and impressive fire effects.  It's got some strong performances by actors who clearly cared about their craft and were putting in the work to make something really worthwhile.  There are also a few minor roles with problematic acting, including a priest who's every line has clearly been overdubbed.  But for the most part, it's all engrossing and effective.  The music's good (holy cow, that disco song's catchier than the one in House On the Edge Of the Park!) And the story has a bunch of great moments where it goes to smart and interesting places you wouldn't have expected.  No spoilers, but for me it was the nightclub scene that really turned this from a movie I'd rented to a film I had to have in my collection.  If Martin Scorsese had made a horror film early in his career, I feel like this is what he would've come up with.
So how about those new scenes?  Yeah, they're substantial. Almost ten minutes worth in big chunks.   There's a big scene with Dan Grimaldi laying a major monologue down the burnt corpses of his victims he keeps in his room, even giving one a big, wet kiss.  There's a big scene with that dubbed priest, and more of the first killing.  In a way, you can see the reason for cutting a lot of it: are audiences going to sit for long, dramatic speeches while waiting for their exploitation?  And yeah, the cuts probably do help the pace for people who aren't enjoying this film much anyway.  But if you appreciate this film, you'll appreciate it even more with the scenes restored.  They really flesh it out, and I don't even think they should've been stuck on the disc as "deleted scenes," because once you've seen the movie with them, they really feel absent from the shorter, theatrical cut.  It's just a better film with them in.
This man's been struck by Boogie Lightning
For the longest time, this film used to only be available on a DVD in a fullscreen, edited version from a label so generic, their name was DVD, LTD.  But in 2005, Shriek Show did right by the film, releasing it as an uncut, widescreen special edition.  They reissued it in a triple pack called Grindhouse Psychos Triple Feature with Cop Killers and Tenement in 2008, and Arrow released it in the UK in 2012, minus the extras.  Subkultur released it in HD for the first time in Germany last year, but now Scorpion's given it a brand new scan, and like I say, those new scenes.
2005 Shriek Show DVD on top; 2016 Scorpion blu-ray bottom.
The Shriek Show DVD was pretty good for a DVD; the only really problem is that it was interlaced.  Naturally, that's been corrected on the blu-ray.   Both releases are in 1.78:1, but you'll notice the actual framing is quite different.  Shriek Show has more picture on the left, and Scorpion has more on the right, and it's different vertically, too.  You could really hash it out shot by shot, but overall I'd say I prefer Scorpion's framing.  A little bit more on that in the extras talk.  The DVD has a natural softness to it from the SD compression, which the HD clears up nicely.  Scorpion's blu has really nice, subtle grain and though there's a little damage to the film elements carried over, it's nothing that pulls you out of the film or gets annoying.  Overall, Scorpion's transfer is pretty terrific.

The audio is a whole other ball of wax.  I guess I'll start by saying that Scorpion's DTS-HD track is both pretty full in general, but also pretty full of pops and hisses.  However, the Shriek Show is also like that.  The Scorpion does have more pops (that recur regularly, like it's from a damaged reel), but the hiss and general issues seem to be mostly tied to the film itself.  The audio commentary mentions this, and the overdubbing knocks some of the sync off.  There's one scene in a store, where a clerk calls out to another employee, and you can't hear what he's saying after the first word or two, but the sentence is clear on the old DVD.  But that's a rare exception.  It's not too distracting, but definitely feels like you're watching an old, worn movie.
So why's this blu controversial?  Well, another problem with the audio is that it's a censored TV track.  All the curse words have been replaced.  Admittedly, this movie isn't as full of curse words as a lot, so most scenes get away unscathed, but a long argument towards the beginning of the film where Grimaldi's character is repeatedly accused of being a faggot has a whole new, altered meaning.  Still, if you're not already familiar with the film, you won't notice most of them.  Only one really sounds like something's wrong, where a girl in a car calls a guy an ass____, and the sound clearly cuts right out during the second syllable.  Still, if you didn't know better, you'd probably think it was a drop out, like the line in the store, rather than a cleansing.  So don't get me wrong, the film is visually uncut, with all the violence and nudity intact.  It's just the language that's been cleaned up with this alternate audio track.  But it's a shame, because otherwise this was easily the definitive version of the film.
Shriek Show came pretty nice with extras.  They got star Dan Grimaldi in for an on-camera interview and an audio commentary.  And he gives a really good commentary, well informed and with a lot of memories to share.  The interview does have some repeated anecdotes, but also enough unique parts to make ti worth watching, too.  Besides that, there's the trailer, some bonus trailers, and a featurette that shows a couple scenes in open matte, revealing some extra nudity and bits.

Scorpion carries over all of those Shriek Show extras except the open matte bit.  That's fine, though, because Scorpion's framing includes the full frontal nudity that Shriek Show cropped out anyway, so there wouldn't be much point to them including it.  By the way, you can hear the original curses in the background of the audio commentary, and yes, the commentary goes silent during the added scenes.  They've also got some brand new extras, including an interview with co-star Robert Osth and a cool tour of the titular house, which is now a bit of a historical/ tourist attraction.  Those are both quite good.  Then there's another featurette on the house, where the guy who runs it explains how he thinks it's haunted and that he's a ghost hunter with an ebook you can buy.  That's a bit silly.  But over-all, it's a nice, fuller special edition now.  Oh, and it has reversible artwork, too.
So, this may not be the perfectly definitive version we anticipated, but it's still the best version available by far.  I've seen people saying they'll be getting both blus (this and Subkultur's, which by the way, has a unique interview with the director as an extra, but not the new Scorpion stuff), but unless you're going to edit together a composite cut for yourself, I wouldn't bother.  This is the one.  At least until 88 Films, Umbrella or somebody release the film in another market with the Scorpion transfer and the unedited sound.  I could definitely see that happening, so if you're not a big fan of this film anyway, you may want to wait and see.  But for now, Scorpion's blu does so much right that I give it a strong recommendation despite its problems, which is basically just the one issue; and it really shouldn't be enough to spoil the film for you.

Doomed! The Story of Roger Corman's The Fantastic Four, Finally Told!

Here's another fun entry in the burgeoning genre of documentaries about films that have never been released.  If you enjoyed Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau or especially The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened?, then Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman's The Fantastic Four will be right up your alley.  And I don't just say that because they all have absurdly overlong titles; it's another fascinating look into Hollywood's what might have been.  Of course, in Lost Soul's case it's a film that was released, just drastically altered, and in The Death of Superman's, it's a film that was never filmed at all.  But perhaps most frustratingly of all is the Doomed case of the original 1993 Fantastic Four film, which was 100% completed, but the studios just refused to release it!
If you're a fan of superhero movies (and it appears the whole world is these days), you're probably already familiar with the premise.  Constantin Film owned the film rights to Marvel's Fantastic Four comic book series, but they were running out.  They had to at least start filming before the end of the year or the rights would revert back to the publisher.  So, they contacted Roger Corman and hastily put together a super low budget token production simply so they could hang onto the rights to make a future movie down the road.  And yes, we have Constantin to thank for all three of the infamous Fox Fantastic Four films we've had since.  Yay?  But here's the thing.  The people who were assembled to go through the motions of making this faux film were never told it was a sham, so they actually tried their best and completed the entire movie.
So instead of three crappy Fantastic Four movies, there's four!  Yay?  But here's the thing.  Everything wrong with the original Fantastic Four is justifiable.  It was made in practically no time at all with zero budget, resulting in laughable effects, sound problems etc.  The other films enjoyed all the benefits of a major studio, budget, name actors, etc.  Those movies are only crap because they're cynical cash-grabs made by soulless corporations.  So despite all its flaws, and they're many, the original version is actually the most fun.  It certainly doesn't hurt that it's by far the most faithful to the comics.  I mean, this is the only Dr. Doom that actually looks like Dr. Doom.  Their Thing actually looks pretty impressive, the score is full, and the story's ambitious.  I don't know that I can say there was ever a good Fantastic Four, but the first is easily the most enjoyable rewatch.
Of course, how good the Fantastic Four movie is or isn't has no real bearing on how good the documentary is.  But fortunately, it's quite good.  You don't even have to care about superhero movies to get into it, though it certainly helps, because then the Fantastic Four is apt to be one you've always wondered about, and this movie has the answers.  Just about the entire cast is reunited here, including the entire Four and Doom himself, the director, editor, effects artist, Corman himself and even Lloyd Kaufman.  And if you're wondering what the president of Tromaville has to do with anything, well, watch the movie.  This is essentially a talking heads movie, with a light smattering of behind the scenes shots, photos and clips from the movie.  It's not going to win awards for elevating the art of documentary filmmaking, but apart from a little errant room tone I suppose you could take them to task for if you're feeling hypercritical, it's slick looking, strongly crafted, and pretty much exactly what you're looking for when you go into a picture like this.
Doomed is available through Uncork'd Entertainment on both DVD and blu-ray; we're looking at the latter.  But unfortunately, we're talking MOD DV-Rs and BD-Rs through Amazon, which means the usual issues of dodgy playback depending on your device.  Interestingly, the last BD-R I reviewed played properly in my Pioneer, but not my Seiki or PC, and this one played on my PC and Seiki, but not my Pioneer.  BD-Rs, go figure.  That aside, though, it looks and sounds pretty great.  It's a solid, HD image and presented in 1.78:1.  Of course, both the ratio and picture quality sometimes shifts for archival footage; but overall it looks great.  The audio's in clean AC3 stereo, with no subtitles or additional language options; but I can't say I was expecting them.
BD-R releases tend to be barebones, but happily that's not the case here.  We get a decent selection of bonus features.  We get a cast and crew panel that puts the almost the full line-up in front of a live audience.  Then there are brief extended clips and outtakes from some of the interviews, and an extended interview I'd particularly recommend checking out: Roger Corman's.  The first couple of minutes are basically his footage from the film just slightly extended, but after that he gets into a lot of new, interesting stuff.  There's a very short (2 minutes) featurette visiting a couple of the film's locations, some extended talk with Joseph Culp who played Dr. Doom, a television interview with the director of this doc, and a long extended interview with Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, who delves into the history of Marvel, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby and the Fantastic Four comic.  Oh, and there's the trailer (for the doc, not the FF movie).

Now, there was a little bit of a debacle with this release.  Like some other films we've looked at, this was started with crowd-funding, and some of the film's biggest supporters had pre-ordered this movie years ago.  Several years.  And it kept getting delayed and pushed back, which is kind of expected; but it wound up being sold to general audiences through Amazon for over a month before it even started shipping to the original pre-orderers.  That blows; but they made up for it with an exclusive Bonus Disc[pictured left].  Instead of the longest supporters being treated the worst, which was almost the case, they were treated the best, and it's a happy ending.

So what's on this bonus disc?  Some good stuff.  There's another interview with the director, but this one is much better than the one on the main disc, as he gets more interesting questions from both the host and audience.  And there are a bunch of additional outtakes and extensions of the film's interviews... not all of which are so essential.  Michael Bailey Smith has a good story about the FF remake that they left out of Doomed for some reason, but he also told it on the cast and crew panel on disc 1.  Others just feel like leftover scraps.  There's a great one with the director (of the FF movie, not the doc), however, where he talks about how he teamed up with Stan Lee again to create an unmade TV series based on Marvel's Femizon characters.  It's short, but you'll want to watch it.  All together, it's maybe 30-40 minutes of extra material.  If you missed out, there's no reason to tear up the Heavens and the Earth trying to hunt down a copy, but if you got, you should be happy.
Of course I'm disappointed this is a BD-R instead of a properly pressed blu-ray, but as a scrappy, independent documentary you can't really hold it against them.  And at least Amazon tends to sell their BD-Rs a little cheaper than the real deals now.  This is a pretty good release of a solid documentary that should satisfy everyone interested in the subject matter.  It's even got a healthy dose of special features.  I'm happy with it.