Blu Exotica, Atom Egoyan's Canadian Exclusive (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Years ago, all of Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan's films got nice, special edition DVDs with commentaries and stuff. Even his rare, early films were packaged as part of The Essential Egoyan series and given a larger audience than they'd ever had before. The exception being Exotica (and I guess The Adjuster, too; but that's a post for another day), as it wound up being part picked up by Miramax just as Egoyan was beginning to take off with international audiences... So it couldn't be picked up for special editions like the rest of his back catalog, but also wasn't a big enough hit like Sweet Hereafter and Felecia's Journey to get a special edition on its own rights. So we just had this generic, barebones release, with a photo of some lady who wasn't even in the movie on the cover, making it look like a softcore porn. And to this day, in the United States, that's still the best we've got.
Nice shot, but needs a floating DVD on stage with her.
Update 12/30/14 - 5/8/17: Less of an update and more of a complete article overhaul.  This was one mf my early posts, where I hadn't quite gotten into the swing of things.  And my Exotica article's gotta be up to snuff on DVDExotica, right?  So I'm replacing .jpg screenshots with .pngs, adding the original Miramax DVD and the DVD from the combo-pack (can't imagine why I left that one out in the first place!), and even a little basic re-writing.
Like many of Egoyan's films, Exotica plays with the conventions of story structure, often showing scenes out of chronology, and cutting to different characters narratives without letting us know how they're going to link up. His films become mysteries, but not of the traditional whodunit murder variety. You're just pulled into slowly learning why these characters are behaving as they are and what moment they're heading to. Getting into the plot at all, then, feels pretty spoilerish, so I'll just set up the terrific cast of characters. Bruce Greenwood is an accountant who spends his days at an artsy strip club called Exotica, owned by a lovelorn Elias Koteas and Mia Kirshner, Egoyan's wife who's in every one of his films. Writer/ director Don McKellar plays a pet shop owner illegally smuggling exotic eggs into the country, and Sarah Polley comes in as a babysitter very similar to her character in Sweet Hereafter. Finally, Mia Kirshner stars as a dancer who performs as a schoolgirl in honor of a tragic secret they all share.
You don't hear much about it, but the film was finally able to be wrested away from Miramax's iron grasp for blu-rays first in Canada (Alliance Films, 2012) and then the UK (2013, as part of Artificial Eye's The Egoyan Collection). As Exotica is possibly my favorite Egoyan film (it's a tough call), the Canadian blu was a Day One pick-up for me. And to this day, there still has been barely any reviews or coverage of this disc, so that plus - you know; look at the name of the site we're on - put it on the short list to review here.  This is a combo pack, so we've got a DVD and blu to look at here, plus the original Miramax DVD from 1999.
1999 Miramax DVD on top; 2012 Alliance DVD mid; 2012 Alliance blu-ray bottom.
Woof at the Miramax DVD being non-anamorphic, but then again it is pretty ancient.  Also, look how wildly different the framing is.  I mean, yeah the Miramax is 1.85:1 (despite the case claiming 1.66:1) and the Alliance are 1.78:1, but the vertical shift is so far off.  Clearly, there are two film technicians in the world who strongly disagree with each other.  However, as the new transfer has Egoyan's signature of being director approved, I'm going to assume Alliance is the one that got it right. The colors on the DVD look way too purple, edge enhancement is visible and it's pretty soft and muddy even for standard def.  Compare that to the blu, which is looking pretty great.  Grain is a little soft and the contrast is definitely on the flat side.  Oh and the brights flare out a little bit at times (look at the note over McKellar's shoulder above); but this is still a huge, huge upgrade compared to the old DVD.  And, for the record, I've seen screenshots of the Artificial Eye, which seems to have borrowed the same transfer and looks nearly identical.

Every release features the stereo track, but the Alliance blu also includes a French dub (with both tracks in DTS-HD), as well as French and English subtitles.  For the record, Artificial Eye has no subtitles and just the English stereo track in lossy Dolby Digital.
In terms of extras, the old Miramax DVD has absolutely nothing, but each blu has one big, and unique, feature. The Artificial Eye disc has a 54 minute documentary entitled Formulas for Seduction: The Cinema of Atom Egoyan, which sounds good but from the description, more a vague coverage of Egoyan's film career rather than being very Exotica-specific. The Alliance disc, on the other hand, has an audio commentary with Egoyan and composer Mychael Danna. It's a good commentary but very soundtrack focused. It's not a director's commentary with the composer occasionally chiming in about the score; they're both there to talk primarily about the music. Not 100% of the time, but a great deal of it. I'd rate this commentary as excellent, but it really feels like it should be paired with a second commentary track with Egoyan talking about the rest of the film. As it is, it leaves you feeling like, "that's all?" Especially since it's the only feature for the work of a filmmaker we're used to having great extras for.  But nope, not even a trailer more.
Exotica has been issued as a blu-ray/ DVD combo pack (Artificial Eye also made both blu and DVD counterparts, but sells them separately), with reversible French/ English cover art, and comes in a nice slip cover. I'm very pleased with this disc and the fact that it's NTSC and Region A (region 1 for the DVD) may make it accessible enough for some American fans. But I wouldn't mind Criterion or somebody rolling up and blowing everything out of the water with a new, revelatory 4k scan and perhaps even more importantly at this stage, a heap of new extras. Until that day, though, I figure fans ought to at least know about this sweet import.

Code Red's the Redeemer Vs Code Red's the Redeemer (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

In 2010, Code Red released The Redeemer: Son of Satan on DVD. And in 2014 he released it again on blu-ray, in a limited run of 1,000 copies. These copies differ in a lot more than the simple fact that one is in standard def and the other in HD. Is one better than the other? Is the blu-ray worth up the upgrade if you already bought the DVD? Let's take a look.

The Redeemer (a.k.a. Class Reunion Massacre) is a weird precursor to slasher genre from 1978. A supernatural boy rises out a lake, hops a ride on a bus, and possesses a priest. I think. It's not exactly 100% clear what's supposed to be taking place, but that's a rough idea. Anyway, at the same time, a bunch of former classmates (each loosely representing one of the seven deadly sins) now living very distinct, disparate lives, receive invitations to a class reunion at their old school. But when they arrive, no one else is there except for that priest, flamboyantly played by T.G. Finkbinder, who has a penchant for disguises, giant creepy puppets and murdering sinners. The film has some bad acting, a real low budget feel, very 70s look, shifting tones and some cornball melodrama. But once the mayhem starts, it gets pretty entertaining and some sequences are surprisingly effective. It's like a less professional Slaughter High with a supernatural bent.
(this screenshot comes from backwoodshorror.blogspot.com)
The fact that Code Red's DVD uses a 35mm print makes it a huge step up in quality from the old VHS and past public domain Class Reunion Massacre DVDs sourced from said tape. I don't have the old Class Reunion disc, so I borrowed the upper screenshot from a review on backwoodshorror.blogspot.com for the comparison (it's a very fun review of the film, and very different from the one I'm writing - I recommend you pop over give it a read). It's small so the quality may not be a 100% fair representation of the quality; but it should give you a good idea. It is worth noting that it appears to be open matte, so it actually has more visual information on the top and bottom. But the Code Red is framed in its proper aspect ratio and clearly of higher quality. The color timing is notably different, too; but let's put a pin in that. Color timing is going to be a big point later on in this review.
The preceding message that appears on the screen once you hit play on the film, though: said 35mm print is very beat up and worn. (Also, maybe Desert Island Films should stop selling their DV-R on Amazon?)
There's tons of scratches, splotches, pops in the soundtrack and even green chemical burns, plus little skips and jumps throughout the film due to damage There's at least one vertical green line through almost every shot in the picture. This is a perfect example of one of Code Red's "grindhouse prints," but it's all they had, so what're you gonna do?  It's certainly a lot better than the past, low-def options.

So, low def, standard def... let's get to high def!

Since Code Red has a proper film print, albeit one that appears to have been stepped and beat on, there's image information there to be nicely enhanced by this new 1080p encode. So, right away, a healthy, natural upgrade, especially for those of you with nice, big TVs. But is that the only difference? Why no, my friend, it's not. Time to delve!
blu on the left; DVD on the right
Right from the opening shot there, differences are clear. Remember how I said we'd come back to color timing? Well, the DVD is looking pretty sickly yellowish/green there on the right, isn't it? The scratch damage is the same here and throughout most of the picture, so it's the same print. But you can see we've got a little extra picture on the sides where the black bars are on the DVD. But really, the significant improvement is in the color. Have a look:
again, blu on left; DVD on right.
What color do reckon is accurate for that swimming pool water? Blue or lagoon green? One of the multiple issues with the DVD is that the print had clearly faded and turned colors. This blu does a good job of restoring and bringing it back. Even in subtler scenes, it's still noticeable:
Occasionally, however, you can say the DVD has an edge over the blu. Blacks are crushed to the point where we lose actually lose information in these shots:
her eyes and hair alongside her neck
the trees in the upper left
But that's a very minor quibble. For the most part, it's an east victory for the blu-ray. HD, colors, framing. It's just a superior presentation of the same print.
Except, what's this? How did they get out of sync there? It's because the blu-ray has also been upgraded to include an extra gore shot that was missing from the DVD! It was originally shaved because of print damage, but since Code Red has multiple (damaged) prints - they've said publicly that the DVD was made using the best out of four prints - they were able to take it from another one and edit it seamlessly into this disc. There's also an additional reaction shot that's only on the blu of the group looking at her body. It's just a few quick seconds, but still: more complete - yeah!
Also, a lot of viewers may be turning the film off already by this point, but the closing credits have been improved. It's even more noticeable in motion than from my screenshots here. And they've been re-framed a little tighter, which is clearly correct, because the DVD credits clearly fail the illusion of the words disappearing off the top of the screen. haha Also taken from another print, the blu-ray's credits have less scratches and spots on them and are noticeably less shaky. I'm sure we're low on the totem pole of people's concerns at this point, but higher quality closing credits are still better than lower ones. Clearly, more care has been put into this newer edition.
There's just one little disappointment. The DVD had just one minor extra, to quote the back of the box, "the original theatrical trailer taken from an old 1981 3/4 inch tape." There was some bad-ass narration and it gave you a glimpse of the full-screen image. But it was left off of the blu-ray. Why? Well, this was very beginning of Code Red's forays into blu-ray, and they seemed to be  learning the technology as they went. Their first two blu-rays were this and Voices From Beyond, both of which didn't even have menus. Their later ones all do, so I suspect if this had been released later in the year, the trailer would've been on there. But, oh well. It's just a trailer. The DVD also opened with a trailer for Family Honor, and included bonus Code Red trailers for Nightmare, The Visitor, The Carrier, Horror High and Slithis.
Do the finger prints reveal the killer!?
So depending how big you are into this film (it's pretty poor in a lot of respects, after all, so not everyone's going to be a fan), the blu-ray may or may not be worth it. But it's definitely an upgrade, in a lot more respects than I think people even realize. So extra credit to Code Red for putting in the extra effort on this one. Hopefully viewers appreciate it.

P.S. - I realize almost 50% of DVDExotica's content so far has consisted of Code Red releases. That's not the plan, and I think you can expect things to balance themselves out over time. But with that said, you can definitely expect more Code Red titles to be covered here, 'cause their releases are right up our alley. 😎

Rabid Grannies - Has the World Gone Crazy?

Rabid Grannies is a fun little horror comedy. It lives up to its title, which is a lot more than you'd expect. A snobbish, aristocratic family gathers together for a holiday celebration (yes, this is a Christmas movie!). Turns out they've made a little enemy, though, who just so happens to be a witch. She sends the family a gift which, when opened, turns the films two matriarchs into demons. So the rest of the family must run and fight for their lives as the grannies dispatch of them in supernatural and very gruesome ways. This film's got some really nice production values, a great location, quality special effects and a big cast. The acting gets a bad rap, because this film is dubbed... and it doesn't help that everybody is playing it broad for the satire. But it's actually a pretty strong cast and a genuinely amusing script with more great kills than you can shake a stick at.

Unfortunately, it's had a tough road on DVD.  Troma released it in the US, but heavily edited and with an ugly. full-frame. It was released by Eurpoean/ Japan Shock on identical Holland and Japan discs, widescreen and uncut, but with conspicuous, unremovable subtitles burnt into the image, and still a murky, unimpressive picture. So in 2012, I was really excited to hear that the film's original producer Johan Vandewoestijne (a.k.a. James Desert) was releasing it via his company Zeno Pictures, as a 25th Anniversary Special Edition. A loaded, 2-disc cut with a new edit of the film. Wait, what?

Here's what they said, "In the original version, the horror starts after 36 minutes. Now we made a re-edit and everything that what we called ballast is thrown out. So now the horror starts after 12 minutes. All the original gory scenes remained. We made new credits  EVERY SINGLE shot was resized to a scope version. But we made sure that during the resizing 'no heads' were cut off." Uhh, not so sure about this "re-edit" notion... But fortunately the set also includes the original cut on the other disc, so everybody wins, right?

Holy cow.

Let's start with disc 1. The discs are only labeled "Disc 1" and "Disc 2," so you have to put them in your player to find out which version of the film you're going to watch. But, that's a piffling, nitpicky criticism, no time to get bogged down in little issues like that. We've got to get to Disc 1, let's see which version it is.
Why, it's the old European Shock disc. I sure didn't see that one comin'. Literally, it's the same disc, with the same menus, features and even Shock's company logo at the start.
One of many shots only in the uncut version.
Now, previous to this edition, as I said, the Shock DVDs were at least the best way to go for this film. Soft and non-anamorphic with huge Dutch subtitles burned into the picture. But at least it's widescreen and uncut, and a lot better looking than the muddy Troma VHS-sourced presentation. And so Disc 1 is literally, exactly what we've had before.
And it even has a couple little extras, taken from the Troma disc. There's a very brief, three minute interview with producer Vandewoestijne full of Troma graphics and weirdo edits... but at least he's talking about the movie. And there's also an interview with the "Original R. Grannies." That sounds promising until you find out it's actually not an interview with the original rabid grannies stars at all. It's a silly 2 minute interview skit with a random woman Troma hired to pretend to be a rabid granny. There's also Troma's VHS trailer and a junky photo gallery.

You might recall that Troma's disc had an audio commentary as well, by writer/ director Emmanuel Kervyn. Well, that was never on the Shock discs and it's not here either. Part or all of the issue there is surely that the commentary was recorded for the heavily censored shorter cut (not to be confused with the new, even shorter cut made for this 25th Anniversary), so it wouldn't sync up here. Troma included the gore footage only as deleted scenes outside of the main film. But for this big, special 2-disc set; it would've been nice if they squeezed the commentary in somewhere.

So anyway, that was weird. They just gave us the Japan Shock disc. Okay. Now onto Disc 2 - Time for that amazing new cut of the film that's going to look amazing! A brand new transfer, now in "scope," boy oh boy oh boy....
To be fair, cut off heads like this are not the norm.
Oh yeah, now we're cookin'. It's, uh... wow. Where to start? Well, to start with, they certainly didn't go back to original film elements. No, this transfer was made using... the Shock disc transfer from Disc 1. They up-scaled it, so it's anamorphic now. But there's no additional detail or anything, because it's just Disc 1 ripped and encoded an additional time to make it 16x9.

'So, they literally didn't do anything to it? It's just disc 1 made anamorphic?' Oh, no, no. They certainly did... things to it. They cut about twenty-two minutes out of it, for a start. Yeah, the back of the box and the advertising all call this new cut 75 minutes, but it actually only runs for 66. Tighter pacing? I guess, but you'd have to really dislike the original to think it's a better film in this cut. Literally an entire third has been removed, often in big chunks. Sure, there's films I dislike and think the only way to make it better would be to make it shorter and shorter; but I generally don't buy those movies on DVD. Who is this set being marketed to? "If you hate Rabid Grannies, you'll hate this less. Only $25!"

They also tweaked the colors, often heavily tinting a scene to be a certain color. And they upped the contrast and generally tinkered around with it in an editing program like Final Cut. You could argue that aspect of things looks better. Maybe, in some shots (we'll come back to this). The boosted contrast at least makes the blacks blacker, and to be fair, they didn't do a bad job with the new colors. Some shots look downright nice. It's not faithful or respectful of the original film; but it's not terrible work in that department.

But the framing! Oh, let's talk about the framing! Yes, it's in "scope" now, roughly 2:35.1. Of course the film wasn't shot to be screened in that ratio, so why is it now? I guess the producer (Kervyn was not involved with this release) just thought it looked better in scope, right? Actually, no. The real reason is obvious once you look at these discs. This print was taken from the Shock disc, right? And the shock disc had huge, burnt in subtitles, right? Apparently, Vandewoestijne had no access to any film materials the rest of us in the general public have - the existing DVD. So to get rid of those big subtitles, he cut the bottom of the picture off!
Shock version on the left; new "scope" version on the right.
They cut off practically a third of the picture, mostly from the bottom and some from the top, just to hide the subtitles they couldn't get rid of. I mean, I guess you have to give the guy a little credit just for having the gal. It's in "Scope!" You'll have to travel far and wide to find a movie mistreated worse than this one is here. ...And does the new colorization really look better? Sure, the Shock disc is faded; but where did their eyes go? You can't see their faces in this new "improved" version.

And the new credits they speak of are pretty immaterial... the original and new ones are both just simple white text against a plain black background. The new credits are just made to replace the lower quality of the original transfer (video shakiness and blurriness), and most of the credits have simply been removed entirely from the new version.
To add frustration to the fire, Disc 2 features a new, 37 minute "Behind the Movie" documentary. But there is no English audio or subtitling. Ahh! It looks really interesting (even though they stretch their behind the scenes VHS footage from 4:3 to 16x9); but I guess I'll never know. Oh well. As a fan of Rabid Grannies, I would actually have loved to watch that.

Amazingly, this film has gotten good reviews and praise from various sources. Frankly, I'm shocked (pun intended - I'm here all week!). If you're looking to own this film on DVD, though; I guess it's literally no worse than the previous Shock disc. Since it actually contains the original Shock disc. If you can speak Dutch, then that new extra will be a real nice bonus; otherwise they're interchangeable, as the 2nd disc adds no value. You may also want to pick up the Troma disc, too; for the commentary. But this film minus the violence is really spoiled experience, so I'd only recommend that disc if you've already got one of the others.

Plus, this set seems to prove that Vandewoestijne does not have the original masters, so there's not much hope in holding out for anything better.
_______________
Update 1/12/13: I decided, since comparing this set to the Troma disc was such an integral part of this review, and since I do own the Troma disc for the commentary anyway, I ought to come back and give it a proper comparison. So let's have a look:
Shock version on the left; Troma disc on the right.
As you can see, and as we already knew, the Shock disc is widescreen and the Troma disc is fullscreen. Troma's disc is not open matte; it's clearly chopped off on both sides. I've matched the two images up vertically to show how they're also framed slightly differently, with a little more information on the bottom on the Shock disc, and more on the top with Troma. Image quality wise they're different, with the Shock version clearer, warmer and more distinct; but it's not a huge gap - both would benefit greatly from a restoration, and both handily trump the scope version. It's nice that the subtitles aren't burnt into the Troma disc... that might almost make it preferable to the Shock disc (that will ultimately boil down to personal opinion of the viewer). But of course the real Achilles' heel of the Troma disc is that it's cut, which really slices the fun out of this movie.

As I mentioned above, The Troma disc does include the Desert interview, fake rabid granny skit and, trailer and photo gallery that were ported over to the Shock disc, and it has that commentary. The commentary is actually pretty good... He comes off a little self conscious and schticky at first, and he does sometimes explain what is obviously transpiring on-screen. But once he picks up his momentum, he does wind up getting pretty informative and entertaining. There's also a very brief introduction by Lloyd Kaufman, where he talks about how the filmmakers originally contacted Troma and got them to distribute the film. Deleted scenes of the missing gore footage is included (twice! Both as individual clips and as one long montage), but without the audio... and obviously seeing them outside of the film isn't an effective substitute for seeing the movie uncut. Anyway, there's also a big load of Troma shovelware features that have nothing to do with Rabid Grannies. Curiously, even the interview with Dario Argento from their Stendhal Syndrome disc is on here.

So, like I'd concluded before; this disc is only of value in conjunction with a proper, uncut and widescreen Shock disc. But if you're a bigger fan of this film, it can typically be found very cheap and makes a nice companion piece just for the extras.

The Decline of Western Civilization 2: Actually On DVD

Fans have been patiently waiting for years and even decades now for the Decline of Western Civilization movies to come out on DVD. The first one came out on laserdisc, but that's been it since their original VHS debuts. The filmmaker has had a website up for years and years saying that DVDs were coming soon; but it hasn't happened, likely due to issues licensing all the music. But actually, one of the series has actually been out on DVD for a couple years now... in Thailand. And I know what many of you are thinking: don't tell us about bootlegs; these have been some of the most booted flicks in film history. We all know about 'em; hell, most of us fans have already got 'em. But no, I actually think this might be legit.
 
The Decline of Western Civilization 2: is a bit of a departure from the trilogy, which otherwise focus on the underground punk rock scene. This one turns its attention to the hair bands of the 80s, giving equal interview time to the biggest acts like Aerosmith, Ozzy Ozbourne and Alice Cooper, to local bands, groupies and fans you've never heard of, but who make quite a statement. This seems to have become the most popular in the series, thanks largely to its long run on the Independent Film Channel... and because it's damn funny. The other two films are more geared towards genuine pock rock fans, but this film is equally as enjoyable if you love heavy metal, hate it, or are completely indifferent.

The packaging certainly looks legit. It's leaps and bounds more genuine looking than your average scan of the VHS cover slightly blurry and resized to wrap around a DVD. From its copyright info to corporate logos and websites that link to actual Thailand DVD companies, and even that little authenticating hologram sticker. If some bootlegger's just trying to trick us with this cover, then kudos to his graphic design skills. How about its functioning UPC code? That's pretty slick.
DVD on the left, bootleg from "ImLivingInThe80s" on the right.
And the contents of the disc hold up to scrutiny just as well. The corporate logos that play at the start, copyright notice and the fact that this is a pressed disc, not a DV-R. And more importantly, I've seen multiple boots and rips of this movie, and this looks better than all of them. The image is clearer and sharper... and has superior framing with more visual information on the bottom and right (though the boot actually has a bit more along the top). Yeah, it's full-frame; but the composition at least looks like they were framed for the square with TV in mind besides just the theatrical matting. It actually looks pretty good.
_______________

Update 7/3/15: But it looks even better in widescreen! Shortly after this post, Shout Factory announced a boxed set of the entire Decline trilogy on blu, and now it's arrived. I'll be making a whole separate post on the entire trilogy [it's now up here], but in the meantime, here's a matching comparison of the new blu, vs. the bootleg and Onpa DVD shown above.
The blu-ray, which uses a new 2k scan of an original film print, naturally looks heaps better. It's matted down to about 1.78:1 (there's literally 2 pixels worth of letterboxing along the top), losing info tops and bottoms rather than gaining anything on the sides; but OAR trumps everything. Plus, of course, detail and clarity of the image are far ahead of even the legit DVD. It's got some flecks and scratches especially right at the beginning; but it's minor and almost adds more to the movie's true film like quality than detracts. And interestingly, the colors are actually closer to the bootleg than the Onpa's warmer disc. Honestly, watching Shout's blu feels like finally discovering, ah, this is how the movie should've always looked.

The blu has DTS-HD stereo and 5.1 mixes, which are a nice improvement as well. Audio's pretty important for a music documentary, after all. And there's an impressive collection of extras, including an audio commentary N'Adir Priest and Penelope Spheeris, as well as extended interviews (which average 15-20 minutes each) with seven of the different bands seen in the film, plus the theatrical trailer. Interestingly, the case also mentions "Tawn Mastrey interviews Penelope Spheeris," but that doesn't appear anywhere on this disc that I could find. And I spent some time poking around in case it was hidden like an easter egg, but nope.

Now, that's specifically what's on the Decline II blu. But as of this writing, the blu is only available in a boxed set with the entire trilogy. And that box has a fourth, bonus disc (also blu-ray), with additional extras pertaining to each film. Right now the set is the only way to get this (and I do recommend the whole set), but it's quite possible these discs will be sold individually down the road.  And this film stands out enough from the other two films that I could see some audiences only being interested in this particular one. So the above extras are all that's on the individual disc, but the bonus disc also features a lot of good stuff, but it's far less likely to be available apart from the rest of the trilogy. Specifically, we get another 79 minutes worth of extended interviews with bands from the film, a 7 minute featurette called Decline II: Cruising the Strip, a panel discussion on the film held at the LA Museum of Modern Art, plus a whole bunch of interviews and stuff that relate to other two films, but also the trilogy as a whole. And there's a nice 36-page booklet with an entire section devoted just to Decline II.

So yeah, a full review of the trilogy is on its way [it's now up here], with comparisons to all three film's old bootlegs, the original laserdisc and everything. But for anyone anyone interested in just Part 2, that's the scoop. Brilliant upgrade.
_______________
And this disc has a 5.1 Dolby audio track! For a music documentary, that alone is a big reason to upgrade from your boot. It also has optional/ removable English subtitles, Thai subtitles and a 5.1 Thai dub. Bootleggers made an entire new audio presentation to dub this film into Thai? Nope, that's it - that discussion is over. There's no way this is a bootleg. Perhaps New Line didn't have to clear the audio rights in Thailand so they just released it there? Regardless, this not only appears to be a fully legit DVD, but also a high quality release and a worthwhile upgrade from whatever
Naturally, there are no real extras; but there are bonus trailers for The Chippendales Murders and Marines, both in English. It looks good, sounds great, and I recommend dipping occasionally into the Korean audio track for an extra smile. Not to mention it's the first flat-out legit release of the film. I'll still be on board if declinemovies.com ever comes through; but in the meantime this is too sweet to pass up.

Psycho From Texas and Friends, Courtesy Of Code Red

It's time for another new release from Code Red... Six Pack Volume Three. This is a pretty random 2-disc, limited to 500 copies, set featuring six films with essentially no connection to each other, not even genre. I believe the idea behind these is just that they're titles Code Red got the rights to release but doesn't feel they'll sell well enough to market them individually, so they just wrap 'em up together, don't assemble extras or anything, and just sell them for the price of one title. The description on the back of the box says, "Six duds in one big set, surely you must like one of them. LOL." And you know what? I do.

It also says that every single title here has "all new 16x9 transfers," which is true and a big selling point here. We've got some compelling widescreen transfers sourced from film prints, not crap VHS like a lot of these titles' past budget/bootleg DVDs. These are un-restored "grindhouse prints," mind you; but that can still be a huge improvement. But unlike, say, Code Red's Spaghetti Cinema DVD, released at the same time, these aren't just called 16x9 transfers because they're widescreen anamorphic... They're all exactly 1..77:1, or the exact aspect ratio of a widescreen TV. I suspect not all six of these films were originally filmed or meant to be screened in 1.77:1, so we may not seeing them all in their perfect OAR. Granted, it's disappointing but not uncommon for even the major studios to cheat/crop a 1.85:1 film into a 1.77:1 picture for the "no black bars" crowd, but one or two of these titles seem more forced into that ratio than others. But let's break it down and look at every single film individually.
The Sins of Adam and Eve (1969) is a movie I had absolutely zero interest in when this set was announced, but I have to admit made for a pretty engaging time capsule. Making its DVD debut here, Sins was apparently a hit back in its day, literally telling the biblical story of Adam and Eve reasonably faithfully. George Rivers and Candy Wilson are the only two people on-screen for the entire film, and they never speak because they hadn't invented language yet. There is narration, however, and eventually the snake speaks, of course. And Adam and Eve do manage to invent their names amidst their grunting.  The constant nudity was surely a bigger selling point back in the 60s, but today it holds up as far as it does thanks to the care that was put into the crafting of this film. Eden looks as convincing an Eden as any big budget production would deliver today, the animals aren't all stock footage; in fact the stars do some brave interacting with them considering they're naked and all. And the dramatic moments, like the flaming swords driving them out of Eden (spoiler for atheists I guess? haha), were pretty cool. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of story for a full-length film, and you're stuck with a lot of old fashioned battle-of-the-sexes scenes played out by mutes (we learn things like: girls like to be assured they're pretty), but thanks to running just 70 minutes, it manages not to drag.
The print is clearly worn and damaged, but still very watchable. The framing looks fine, the print damage is present but not too distracting, except for one or two brief moments where it jump cuts over damaged footage. The picture is faded but still colorful... though one can imagine how impressive a big budget restoration would look. The most notable flaw of this transfer are the red splotches that fly across the screen through most of the film. It's evident enough in the screenshot above, but seeing it in motion really puts it in the forefront. Still... it all almost adds more charm to this particular film than does it any harm.

It should be noted that this is the shorter, American cut of the film. In other countries, the film opens with Adam and Eve wandering round the Earth lost, scared and clothed; and then eventually gets to answering "how did they get here?" The US cut basically starts after all that, with its own introduction involving narration and stock footage. There might be other trims, too; but frankly the less aimless wandering the better; so I'm happy with this cut. And I don't think an English language version of that cut was ever made (I may be wrong), so there's really nothing to complain about here.
Hellhounds of Alaska (1973) is a German-produced Western starring Doug McClure. It's a very traditional western, with a story we've seen plenty of times before and full of a lot of Hollywoodisms. But it's well done enough, and will please Western fans who don't need every one they watch to be a masterpiece. Bandits rob a station wagon, but unwittingly also wind up capturing the hero's young boy charge, raising the stakes higher than anybody expected. The townsfolk also take the law into their own hands when they feel the sheriff isn't doing enough to create a bigger mess. Oh, and there's an African American stranger who rolls into town who turns out to be the world's greatest boxer just waiting to be enlisted as a sidekick. The title is misleading, since there are no literal or even figurative hellhounds in this film at all. There is one very nice dog, though, who goes to Lassie-style lengths to save his master, but that's it. There's a prospecting subplot to draw in a little American Indian action, a lonely old man who forgot how to speak, an over-the-top town drunk subtly named Captain Brandy and a beautiful blonde who spends her days running a saloon until somebody comes along to make her his love interest.
The film looks a little soft but it's generally fine. There are visible scratches on the print, but nothing egregious. The film has nice production values and landscapes that come across well in this presentation. The screenshots above tell the whole story.
I'd never heard of Gums (1976) until this DVD was announced (although it had been previously released just two years ago), but when I looked it up, some promising reviews of zany insanity had me looking forward to seeing this one. It didn't live up to my hopes or expectations, but in retrospect, I'm kinda glad I watched it.

Gums is an old pornographic parody of Jaws, basically, with a mermaid who gives literally killer blowjobs instead of a shark. It features some amusing moments: Robert Shaw's Quint is mirrored here by The Burbs' Brother Theodore playing a wildly over-the-top Nazi, and at one point the actors are replaced by puppets. But the problem is that most of the film just isn't funny; it's just trying to be outrageous by throwing in sex references. Their boat is named the SS Cunnilingus. There's no joke there, it's just supposed to be funny because they said cunnilingus. The character humor consistently just boils down to: (s)he's really horny! The secretary wants to blow her boss because she's really horny! When the mayor visits, she wants to blow him because she's really horny! When she hears about the mermaid she goes to beach and waits for her because she's really horny! A very short movie starts to feel pretty long after enough repetition of that gag.

Most of the sex is fake and played for silliness; but there is real hardcore footage. Most of that (you still see plenty of uncensored penises and boobs) are covered up by large cartoonish graphics imposed over the film. This film does exist uncensored so you can see the X-rated footage - the film wasn't always like that - but the edited version might be more fitting for contemporary audiences looking for laughs anyway. To be honest, Gums is downright confusing. I mean, not plot-wise, it's very simple, not to mention closely following a story we'd already seen in Jaws. It's just confusing in intent. They clearly spent a lot on this, filing in both Florida and New York, with a big cast in lots of locations. But its too X-rated to really play outside anyplace but a porn theater. And yet there's not enough sex (especially of the actually sexy kind, as opposed to a guy in scuba gear humping a blow-up doll), and too much in between, for it to really satisfy porn audiences. It was a little mind blowing to get to the closing credits and see that this film had three screenwriters.
The picture again is soft but mostly fine until you get some shots where a lot seems to be cut off the bottom. This film is unprofessional enough that I can almost believe it was just made this way; but I suspect something's just off with the framing on this disc. Like, surely the full word "Spoey!" is meant to be visible in this next shot, right?
And if "Cocka Doodle Doo" is meant to be read in the next shot, then a LOT must be missing from the bottom, huh?
And not only is the bottom a little cut off in this next shot, but it looks like a whole other bubble is cut off on the left side of the frame in this next shot...
Could some full-frame television transfer with already cropped sides have just been further cropped vertically to give it a fake widescreen ratio? I don't know; it doesn't sound like something Code Red would do; but maybe the distributor who gave him the source material. To be fair, you only really notice the problem in these style shots. Often the framing looks pretty natural, so who knows? It's just one more out of the million questions this weirdo movie raises in the viewer. If ever a film cried out for a director's commentary, this one is it.
_______________

UPDATE 12/31/14: Someone just sent me a rip of the old, 1980 UK VHS release of this film from Mountain (thanks, Marc!), which sheds some light on the framing issued I described above. I've made some screenshot comparisons to illustrate:
DVD on left, VHS rip on right
First, yes, we were originally meant to see the full graphics along the bottom. Actually, this one is still a little cut off... So maybe the filmmakers made it cut off a bit like that, or maybe even the VHS transfer is cropped a little vertically. By the way, it turns out that other caption I showed above said "Sooey," not "Spoey." I was thinking they meant "spew," like... well, never mind. Anyway, there's considerably more information on the top and bottom, and the DVD has only a bit of additional picture on the right-hand side.
Even shots that looked more like maybe they'd been composed correctly in the DVD, we see still had plenty more vertical information. Still, that's a lot of head room, so I guess we're looking at the full image on the tape that they would have intended to be matted to a widescreen image for theaters. And the cropping is just due to the matting being misaligned for the DVD? You might also notice that the VHS image on the right is a bit stretched horizontally. In other words, look at the sheriff's head (standing on the right with the badge), for example. It's wider on the VHS and skinnier and narrower on the DVD. That difference is probably what accounts for the additional picture on the right edge of the screen.
That part of the graphic on the left is still mysterious; and makes me feel like we're missing something important off to the left. At any rate, we now know at least part of the issues with the presentation here are due to the DVD's framing and not just the filmmaking. Most buyers will probably just be casually viewing this film for the novelty anyway, so I don't think it's anything to get up in arms over. But it does show further that this 6-pack generally has framing issues.
_______________
Boogievision (1977 - holy crap, as recent as that?) is a novelty film without enough novelty to spread across the entire film's running time.  It's got little animated moments, fake (but painfully unfunny) commercials, copious nudity and a silly but enjoyable performance by Bert Belant as a fatherly sleazeball. but for all of that, the film has a rather pedestrian plot about an aspiring young filmmaker who winds up getting a job filming "nudies" for a sleazy producer. He wants to keep his artistic integrity, so what will he do? Spoiler: mostly complain.
Media Blasters once released this as part of one of their Rareflix Triple Feature sets; but their it was fullscreen. Code Red presents this film in a new, widescreen transfer from a 35mm print that's probably the best looking in this six-pack. It's a bit scratched and worn at places, mostly the opening credits and reel changes, but for the most part looks surprisingly good. Maybe a little green at places, but it's a real upgrade.

Apparently, there is a slightly longer director's cut out there that runs 84 minutes, but this isn't it (running time here: 79 mins). Well, you've just seen the a film condemning nudies, now watch a nudie!
Code Red found a lost film with 1966's Bad Boys for the Girls, so I guess this one has historical value. Because it certainly doesn't have artistic or entertainment value - zing! Writer/director William F. McGaha is known for making an infamous cult biker film called JC, which asks the bold question, what if Jesus Christ was a biker? Well, it had viewers wondering what else had the guy ever done, and Code Red dug up an answer for 'em: Bad Boys for Girls.

It's one of those movies with no synced sound. The characters never speak, except when one of the narrators briefly takes a stab at doing a character's voice. The plot is simple enough: a bachelor is sick and tired of every sexy woman he meets throwing himself at him. His married best friend has the same problem with his sex-crazed wife. So they go on vacation together to escape all women, but the wife follows them and they also encounter some more beautiful women who all throw themselves at them. But they never have sex or anything, they just chase each other and play games like Strip Hide and Seek. So much time is spent just observing them go fishing and camping you just feel like you're watching somebody's home movies, although the narrators try to spice things up by speaking in false, goofy voices, like a Senator Claghorn impersonation.
The framing looks tight to me, around the bottom, even on the film's opening title card. The print is very scratched and turned quite pink. But we're probably just lucky to see this film at all. If you should ever care to sit through this at all, that is.
We save the best for last. Some of the others were amusing, but Psycho From Texas (1975) is the one movie I can see a lot of people buying this movie for. Psycho is a dark, dark movie that starts off as a slasher, veers off into being an action movie and crime thriller, and comes back to being a horror movie by the end. Yeah, the budget limitations show and some of the acting by supporting characters is downright amateur level; but you won't quickly forget John King III as the cruel Wheeler, and anyone who considers themselves a Linnea Quigley fan needs to see her disturbing film debut. It's also got an amazing theme song.
Psycho makes its long-awaited DVD debut here and it's great to see it from a 35mm print rather than some VHS rip. Yeah, it's a bit faded and scratched... there's a quick jump cut or two from film damage, and again the framing seems a little tight at points. But fans should be very pleased with this one. This is absolutely the film that makes the set for me, or as Code Red put it, the one dud I liked.

There are no extras on any of these films, but that's the nature of the six-pack. Each disc does open with a trailer for Brotherhood of Death, but that's it. Still, I'm very happy with this set and recommend it. You don't have to be gaga over all six titles to make it worthwhile, after all.