The Strange Oeuvre of Coffin Joe, Part 2

...Continued from Part 1.

Update 2/12/24: As covered in Part 4, Arrow has just released a boxed set of HD restorations of many of Marins' films called Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe, so I'm updating these comparisons with their new blu-ray versions.

The Strange World of Coffin Joe
(1968) was actually made and released before Awakening Of the Beast, and in some ways feels at least a bit more like a proper Coffin Joe film, so it's a little odd they chose Awakenings over this for the Fantoma set. At least it's another horror film. But I suppose the strongest argument against its inclusion was that, despite the film's title, Coffin Joe the character doesn't really appear in this film at all. Marins is in it, though, as a diabolical villain who does some pretty similar things to his victims; but he's without the signature top hat, and no longer on the same mission to sire an heir.
The Strange World is an anthology film, no doubt inspired by the Amicus anthologies which had already started in the 60s. We have three stories presented here. The first is about a doll maker who's robbed a gang of hooligans, but has a sinister secret that makes them regret their act. Next is a weird story with no dialogue about a balloon dealer who falls for a girl and isn't deterred in making love to her even after seeing her get murdered. And the third and final entry is the one to finally bring Marins on screen, as a professor who kidnaps a fellow professor and his wife, performing experiments on them to prove a twisted theory. All together, it's really not as compelling as the original Coffin Joe films, but horror anthologies are always fun, and it is satisfying to have Marins back delivering his mad monologues for the final act.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2012 Cinemagia DVD; 3) 2024 Arrow BD.
We're down to comparing three discs: Cinemagia, Anchor Bay and Arrow. And in this case, they're all framed as fullscreen, with the BD just shifting to the usual 1.37 from 1.30, revealing more on the right-hand side in particular.  The two DVDs seem to be a dead even match in terms of clarity and detail. Like Awakening, Anchor Bay has a slight yellowish tint, but it's not downright yellow as the first two films were.  But if you're looking at the screenshots, you don't even need me to tell you that Arrow's new 4k scan (taken from the 35mm interpositive and a print) blow the old transfers away.  It's like night and day, the way shading and detail are restored.

Of course, Arrow's audio is lossless and Anchor Bay's subtitles are still burnt in. The latter's a slight drag, although I doubt many of us are going to watch this with the subtitles off anyway.
If you've been reading along since Part 1 of my Coffin Joe coverage, you probably already know what to expect in terms of extras. Absolutely nothing from Anchor Bay, and a whole heap of terrific-sounding but untranslated extras from Cinemagia. And you'd be right. Specially, the list of Cimemagia's extras are: another intro, another commentary, a second commentary this time, four more audio recordings, an extracted fourth segment made for this anthology that runs 31 minutes(!), audio commentary for that fourth segment, 7 interviews, an on-camera radio interview with Marins, a making of doc and outtakes about the Coffin Joe claymation piece, another interview with Marins, another episode of Who's Afraid, five more galleries, the website piece and a bunch of trailers.

Arrow brings over just one of the commentaries for us, but that's still one more than we've ever had before.  Another really interesting extra on this disc is an alternate ending.  Censors pressured Marins to create a happy ending where the villain is punished, which played in theaters in Brazil.  Well, now we get that as an extra, with or without commentary by Marins.  Besides that, there's the trailer and two more expert visual essays, which I discuss in Part 4.
We really leave horror behind now for 1971's End of Man.  We also leave black and white behind as Marins enters the (mostly) full color world as a mysterious, nameless and naked man who walks out of the ocean and might just be the second coming. He basically walks around being completely passive, and everybody's reactions to him wind up drastically changing their lives. And he winds up attracting followers. It's kind of a religious allegory played for broad laughs, with a soundtrack that plays muzack versions of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." It's playful, Marins is in a lighter mood walking around in a red robe and turban, and people looking for sex and nudity will find some; but I still found it to be a heavy-handed slog to sit through.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2012 Cinemagia DVD; 3) 2024 Arrow BD.
I originally wrote that my opinion of this film probably wasn't helped by the fact that the transfers look muddy, soft and desaturated. It looks better now in HD, but I'm not sure I like the movie much better. Both DVDs have certain (but different) interlaced/ ghosting frames, and they're both fullframe at 1.30:1.  Judging by the head room in many shots, I'd guess this was at least supposed to be matted to 1.66:1, but Arrow is sticking with 1.37:1. Anchor Bay again has that slight yellow tint to it, and the subtitles are burnt in as always. Otherwise I can't see either DVD being any better than the other; detail and sharpness seem to be equal. But Arrow's 4k from original 35mm negative is so much more attractive, with strong contrast and bold colors.  It's way sharper and clearer, and of course the audio is lossless.  Grain is a little soft, but I wouldn't hold my breath for a UHD.  Then again, I never would've believed there would be an End Of Man blu-ray either, yet here we are.
How does Cinemagia top Anchor Bay's barren feature collection of nothing this time? Let's look at what hasn't been translated this time. An original Coffin Joe intro, an audio commentary, four more audio recordings, a 50 minute "autobiography" film by Marins, clips from two films Marins didn't make that he appears in, 6 interviews, an interview with his webmaster (I think), a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of their audio commentaries, a music video by Liz Vamp, another Marins interview, another episode of Who's Afraid, their website thing (oh, and I'm certain they're all different now), and a bunch of trailers and stills galleries. Oh, how I wish I could understand what they were saying... Arrow's collection we can understand: another commentary (yay!) and the trailer.
Thank goodness, Coffin Joe returns in Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind (1978). This is kind of a fun "meta" horror, along the lines of Wes Craven's New Nightmare but obviously decades earlier. A doctor is haunted by nightmarish visions of Coffin Joe. His colleagues can't cure him, so they enlist Marins, playing himself, the director of the Coffin Joe movies, to help. This is the first full-length Coffin Joe film since This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, ten years earlier. But it loses a little of its punch by not having Joe as the protagonist this time around. And, like Cat In the Brain, Marins cheats by using clips from his past films as the nightmares the doctor is having. It's definitely a bit of a clip show episode, but at least Joe's back.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2012 Cinemagia DVD; 3) 2024 Arrow BD.
More soft, muddy transfers with the same 1.28:1 framing. Anchor Bay looks yellowish again, and this time noticeably brighter as well. Blacks might be getting a bit crushed, but I still prefer Cinemagia. And again, AB's subtitles are burnt in. But none of that matters now.  Arrow's new 4k scan comes from the original 35mm negative and looks beautiful, worlds away from what we had before.  The colors are strong and corrected to look much more realistic, the framing has been tweaked to 1.37:1 revealing more around the edges, the audio's lossless and we have a clear, genuinely HD image that's just a whole different viewing experience from the fuzzy old DVDs.
Say it with me, gang: Anchor Bay has nothing; Cinemagia has a wealth of un-dubbed or subtitled extras. Specifically, Cinemagia has: a new intro, an audio commentary, 4 more recordings, a 40 minute documentary about Marins from 1978 called Horror Palace Hotel, 3 clips of films Marins presumably worked on, 7 interviews, a clip of Marins appearing at a rock performance, another interview with Marins, another episode of Who's Afraid, another website clip, more trailers and more galleries.  And Arrow has another commentary, the trailer and two more visual essays by experts, including one who puts in the extra effort to dress up as Coffin Joe and dramatically light his room, which I do appreciate.  But they're not film specific, and Arrow puts two films on each disc, so it's hard to even say which films to credit the experts' pieces to.  So really, just refer to Part 4 for a proper break down of those.
The year before Hallucinations, Marins made 1977's Hellish Flesh. This wasn't included in the other set because it was an Anchor Bay exclusive, at least before Arrow came into the picture. I knew I bought AB's box for a reason... Well, Hellish Flesh is not a Coffin Joe movie, but it is a horror film with Marins as the bad guy. He's a scientist who spends to much time at the lab, so his wife cheats on him. She and her lover plot to kill him by burning down the lab (and throwing acid in his face for good measure), but the scientist survives, as a disfigured madman now out for revenge. This is a real, classical-style horror tale; a throwback. That works in its favor compared to some of his weaker, less entertaining films like End of Man, but the fact that its more conventional means it doesn't rise to the heights of his greatest works either.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2024 Arrow BD.
We finally have something to compare this full-frame transfer to.  The DVD already looked a little better than the last couple films we saw (though the subtitles are as burnt in as ever).  Perhaps they had the negatives for this one.  Arrow certainly did.  We go from 1.29:1 to 1.37:1, revealing more picture horizontally and vertically.  Damage is cleaned up, washed colors and shadows are boldened, the audio is clearer and fine detail is a heap crisper.  Grain is strong and filmic... you really feel the 4k master on this one. 

As ever, Anchor Bay had no extras, and since Cinemagia didn't feature this film, there's nothing for Arrow to port over or not port over.  So no commentary, unfortunately.  We just get the trailer and the visual essays if we're counting those.
Hellish Flesh wasn't the only Anchor Bay set exclusive. Even before that film, Marins directed 1976's Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures. Despite what you might gather from the title, this is actually a Coffin Joe film, although his character isn't quite as prominent as in the main trilogy. We get a hell of a colorful, wacked out introduction of exotic characters bringing Coffin Joe back from the dead. After the credits, the film is a bit more grounded as a variety of strangers arrive to stay the night at a hostel run by Marins, not quite in Coffin Joe form. Things get weird, time stops, and they each have their own little narrative a la Tales From the Crypt. There are some goofy "naked pleasures" on hand - it does live up to that promise - but it's definitely more of a horror film than anything else.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2024 Arrow BD.
More fullscreen interlacing frames and burnt in subtitles on the DVD.  And another huge 4k fix from the original 35mm negative on the BD.  We go from 1.29 to 1.37 and the colors are corrected, though they weren't as bad on this DVD as many of their others.  Still, Arrow gives us another strong improvement, from the fundamentals like fixing the interlacing and displaying more picture on the sides, to giving us another sharp, naturally filmic image with actual grain and LPCM audio.

Anchor Bay gave it no extras but Arrow unearthed the trailer and added a bunch of odds and ends I'll save for Part 4.
The Strange World of Jose Mojica Marins (2001) is a new (at the time - now it's twenty-three years old. Where does the time go?) documentary about our hero. Not to be confused with The Universe of Mojica Marins, this is a more substantial, 65 minute doc that had been exclusive to the Anchor Bay set. But now it's also available on the Arrow set.  So while you have to hang onto your Fantoma, Cinemagia, Mondo Macabro and Synapse DVDs for their exclusive extras, you can at least safely chuck your Anchor Bay box.  Strange World is a cool overview of his life and career. We see Marins at home, talking about his childhood and his life as a filmmaker. For such an interesting person, this kind of documentary is essential. It's full-frame in both sets (Arrow tweaks it just slightly from 1.31 to 1.34), and doesn't look much improved visually, since a lot of it is pretty rough vintage clips and early digital footage; but the subtitles are only burnt in on the AB, and Arrow did also fix the interlacing, so it is an actual step up.
Finally, we have Embodiment of Evil (2009), Marins' comeback film where he finally completes the Coffin Joe trilogy. He has a surprisingly big budget and great technical look here, and the story is everything you would want it to be. Marins hasn't lost his touch, and Joe hasn't missed a step in his quest for a woman to give him a son. The fact Joe looks older and Brazil looks modern is easily explained by the fact that Joe has been sitting in prison for the last 40 years (which makes sense, given what he did in those past movies). I don't know how young horror fans would feel stumbling upon this film if they'd never seen the original Coffin Joe films; but for longtime fans, it's a real crowd pleaser. If you've seen his past films but avoided this one because you anticipated a big let down, I'd say it's safe, you should check it out.

This was originally released by Anchor Bay in 2009, on DVD and BD. At the time, I was just buying DVDs, so that's the first one I have here.  Then, Synapse released it as a BD/ DVD combo pack in 2011, which they also reissued on DVD as part of their 2017 Coffin Joe Trilogy set.  It's the exact same DVD from 2011. But Arrow's new 2024 has a noticeably different appearance.
1) 2009 Anchor Bay DVD; 2) 2011 Synapse DVD;
3) 2011 Synapse BD; 4) 2024 Arrow BD.
Anchor Bay's DVD is interlaced (I understand their BD is, too, though I haven't seen it to confirm), likely from a hasty NTSC to PAL conversion. It's also worth noting that Synapse's blu-ray is a dual-layer disc, while AB's is single. Synapse went back to the camera negative (it says so right on the back of the box) to strike a new transfer of Embodiment, and it's certainly quite noticeable. The framing's the same, but the colors are more natural on the Synapse disc, and the Anchor Bay is decidedly darker and smudgier. To be fair, though, I think the Syanpse disc could stand to be a shade darker.

And we got maybe two or three shades darker on Arrow's new blu.  Arrow has just sourced the original 2k digital intermediate, not taken a new 4k scan of the neg, but when you get in close, it definitely displays stronger grain.  It's certainly got more contrast.  So some of this boils down to personal taste as to which look is better, but I'd say Arrow's given it a tiny boost at least.  Oh, and every disc preserves the dual 2.0 and 5.1 audio options, both lossless on the blus, with optional English subtitles.
Coffin Joe, as seen in one of his many exclusive Cinemagia intros.
AB and Synapse mostly share the same extras (an enjoyable 30+ minute 'making of' and the trailer), except Synapse one-ups AB with an additional 14 minute featurette on the film's premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, where Coffin Joe speaks to a very large, enthusiastic crowd. The sound quality makes it a little hard to make out some of the words, but you certainly don't miss the showmanship as Marins is carried out in a large coffin by two burly men surrounded by... creatively dressed women.

Arrow has all of the above, plus plenty more, including another audio commentary by the producer and screenwriter, several deleted scenes with commentary, which include some interesting and graphic excised bits, and an "experimental" making of, which is actually kind of tough to watch... sort of taking the making of stuff and turning it into a music video.  There are also two very brief (as in, like, two minutes each) featurettes on the special effects and storyboards, and two lengthy interviews with the co-writer, one is a long zoom chat with a festival host that runs for almost 90 minutes.  And the other is split into two parts, in much better picture quality, where he talks about how he met Marins and his experiences working with him.  All together, I'd say Embodiment finally has a full-on special edition disc.
There are plenty more Marins films out in the world, even with Coffin Joe in them, but these are most of the biggest.  There's tons of TV work, and apparently porn... but there's more quality stuff, too.  And there's even a bit more on disc.  That's right; the story doesn't end here.  Read on for Part 3.

For more info on Arrow's blu-ray box set specifically, you can jump ahead to Part 4.  And if anybody sees fit to restore and release more of the man's work, best believe I'll be waiting to create a Part 5.

Northanger Abbey 2007, The "UK Edition"

You sort of expect to have to dig through cut and censored prints of foreign horror movies on DVD; but you don't expect it to be just as bad collecting Masterpiece Theaters!

Northanger Abbey is the most under-adapted Jane Austen novel. There's pretty much only this version and the 1980s BBC one starring Peter Firth. Neither are definitive; both have their pros and cons and don't quite capture the entirety of the novel... so I'd recommend the pair of them about equally, and even together. A big part of the reason is because Austen was making a lot of direct references to - no, more than reference, almost parody of - contemporary literature. Of her day. Of course, with some smart alterations by a clever screenwriter, changes can be made that help bridge modern viewers to the story. But that requires us to step further away from Austen's writing, and the top quality thereof; because only a very small selection of audiences today could really appreciate all of the humor and implications of the novel as written.
You see, the lead character Catherine (Felicity Jones) reads a lot of novels. Far too many novels, according to everyone around her; but she's hopelessly caught up in her gothic romances. She has extensive daydreams and fantasies, which really set this one apart from Austen's other novels, to the point where she's neglectful of the real world. And when she's invited for an extended stay in a medieval country house, things finally get out of hand for her.

This version is written by Andrew Davies, who's pretty much the reigning king of adapting classic novels for British television, responsible for amazing versions of Vanity Fair, Bleak House, The Way We Live Now, He Knew He Was Right, Wives & Daughters, and of course the more modern House of Cards series. He's also been quite successful with Jane Austen, including the penultimate Pride & Prejudice version starring Colin Firth. Granted, he may have had a few missteps (I remember his modern retelling of Othello being a little goofy; but then again it seems to have quite good reviews, so maybe I need to revisit it), but this is not one of them. It's no P&P 1995, but it's still very good.
So let's talk about cut versions. As you might imagine, this modern version of Northanger does take the opportunity to spice up Catherine's fantasies a bit in the sexiness department. That ruffled a few purists' feathers, but that's not why this movie was cut. Did yo know, it's actually relatively common for Masterpiece Theater to cut down their British imports for broadcast? Yeah, so what you see on PBS is not always 100% of what people got to see aired in the UK. They just get out their scissors and trim things down a bit. Oftentimes, those cuts have been reinstated when it was time to release the DVDs... but not always.
In 2008, when WGBH released this on DVD, it ran a just under 85 minutes. Uncut, the movie runs just over 93 minutes. That's almost 10 minutes missing from an already short movie. And it's not just a PAL/ NTSC timing thing; lots of scenes were cut. A fantasy sequence, yes, but also conversations, small shots and moments. Fortunately, word got around and fans complained. So when they decided to release this on blu ion 2011, they came out with the "Original UK Edition" stamped on the front cover.

Update 5/23/15: Let's get real about this comparison! I've got the old, cut DVD here with me now, so let's look at precisely what was cut, and also hold up some screenshots to see exactly how different the SD and HD transfers are. We're not gonna settle for second best here at DVDExotica!

Note: the following time-coded section, explaining all of the cuts, is pretty spoiler heavy. Skip to the end of it if you wish to avoid spoilers.

When Mr. and Mrs. Allen talk about taking Catherine out into society for the first time, the cut version ends with Mr. Allen saying, "I entertain high hopes of our arriving at the rooms before midnight," and we cut to the carriages. But in the full version, the scene continues with Mrs. Allen saying, "how he teases us, Catherine. Midnight indeed." and Catherine smiling.

At the crowded ball, when Mr. Allen abandons the ladies for the card room, Mrs. Allen suggests, "perhaps we should cut to the tea room," Catherine nods, and we see a brief shot of dancing. The DVD then cuts to the introduction of our leading man, Henry, literally bumping into Mrs. Allen and then having a small chat. This actually skips over a whole scene, which continues follows the brief shot of dancing to Mrs. Allen and Catherine .comically spotting two empty seats, then running and pushing past a crowd of people to get to them before they're taken. The pair then have a substantial dialogue scene about how uncomfortable it is to be in society with nobody to introduce them. Starting to receive awkward looks, they conclude that they are unwelcome, stand up and make an embarrassed retreat from the room. Then they bump into Henry on their way out, and we're finally back in sync with the DVD. This isn't just an amusing scene onto itself, but adds some weight to the following scene, when Henry introduces them to the party and they are now made to feel welcome there. He didn't just show up and charm them, he rescued them from a social disaster. There's also a reference to this moment at the end of the movie, which only makes sense if you've seen the full version.

15.45: After leaving the dance, the DVD cuts to Catherine writing in her room, but the blu has an another scene first, where Catherine and Mrs. Allen tell Mr. Allen about Henry. Mr. Allen warns Catherine about the danger of "attracting all manner of scoundrels and adventurers." They then have a lengthy discussion of Henry, both comical and expositional; and it's here Catherine first hears of Northanger Abbey. "Is it haunted," she asks. "No doubt. These abbeys usually are," Mr. Allen replies. This is a pretty key scene, and it's hard to believe PBS thought it expendable. Trimming the button off the "arriving before midnight" scene is one thing - and I gather PBS's editor saw an opportunity for a site gag by cutting from Catherine asking Henry, "well, who's to say I keep a journal?" at the dance to a close-up of her furiously scribbling away in said journal - but it's a bit like cutting the part where Luke learns about the Force from Star Wars.

27.23: During the dialogue on the staircase, where Catherine is told Henry and his sister will not be keeping their promise to take her out, her friend says, "in this false world, people often make promises they have no intention of keeping." In the DVD, we then cut to Catherine saying, "but what if they come after all?" But in the blu-ray, her friend has more dialogue, saying, "remember, we are your true friends. We keep our promises," before cutting back to Catherine's line. It's a short moment, but, but not an unimportant bit of manipulation, considering they're actually the ones deceiving her.

39.39: After Catherine and Henry finally have their walk in the woods, and he asks her to keep his sister's meeting with a mysterious man a secret from their father, the DVD cuts to Catherine talking to her friend, skipping the following from the full-length version: first, a shot of a horse-drawn carriage racing at night. Then we find Catherine in a bath, and her voice-over narrates the further adventures of the monk receiving a magic talisman than will grant him access to a lady's bedchamber. We then enter her dream, where her bath is out in the woods, and Henry arrives in full preacher garb, helping her out, naked (though, for the record, nothing R-rated is ever in frame). She then awakens to her name being shouted. Finally, we see her friends walking through town towards her house, and that then cuts to the scene of them in her room as seen in the DVD.

This is the missing scene most people notice first, since it's easier to remember whether or not you saw Catherine naked in a bathtub in the woods rather than if you saw the extra lines of dialogue about whether they'd be late to the party. And it's probably the scene a lot of Austen fans mind losing the least, since nudity (even with nothing really shown, like here) and such overt sexual tension doesn't really feel faithful to Austen's sensibilities for the times she was writing in. I imagine the filmmakers would argue it's more like "if Austen had written it for today's audiences," but it's questionable at best. It's more a shame to lose that very funny voice-over about the monk that leads into the scene, however.

47.29: In the carriage, when Catherine is discussing with her friend why she danced with Henry's brother after just becoming engaged, her friend says, "he is the eldest son, you know,, the heir to Northanger Abbey. Not that that weighs anything with me; I'm in love with the best man in the whole world."The DVD then cuts to Catherine running dramatically down a stone corridor during a stormy night. But the complete version continues on in the carriage, with them further discussing the brother, "do you think he's handsome?" And Catherine asks the key question of the story, "then, how is one to know what to believe?" The carriage arrives, and then we cut to the stormy corridor scene.

50.45: After Catherine's friend tells her she has to wait two years to marry because her fiance has yet to come into his money, the DVD cuts to Catherine talking to Henry and his sister on a stairwell. But the extended version first cuts to a scene Catherine and Henry's sister walking through the woods discussing the two year delay, which turns into a conversation about "how many of us marry for love" and how Catherine's naive upbringing could indeed be dangerous for her. And Catherine confesses that she doesn't feel as pure of heart as people think her to be, for she has her terrible dreams. And then we cut to the staircase scene.

When the carriage arrives to take Catherine to Northanger Abbey, the extended version has a scene of Catherine saying goodbye to the Allens. A nice touch: when Mr. Allen says, "I should be sharp about it. These great folks don't like to be kept waiting," we see the captain outside pacing in frustration before Catherine bursts out the door. The US cut just cuts from the carriage arriving to Catherine coming outside.

59.09: After Catherine and Mr. Tilding's dialogue in the carriage as he takes her to Northanger Abbey, the US version cuts to them inside. The UK version shows their servants coming to meet them and help them out of the carriage. Honestly, this is the most painless of the trims.

1.01.32: The UK version has a shot of Mr. Tilney looking frustrated at how long Catherine is taking to come to dinner. We then see the ladies rushing through the house (being such a massive house, it's a long way to go) and finally arriving and apologizing. Mr. Tilney angrily shouts to his servants, "dinner to be on the table directly!" before leading Catherine to the table, where the US version begins. In short, the US version just cuts everything that's imposing and dramatic out of the Catherine's situation, and just gets right to the dialogue.

1.08.45: After Mr. Tilney's carriage rides off, the UK version gives us an exclusive scene of Henry and his sister taking Catherine apple pickings on the grounds, which the US version has excised. Hardly a critical loss, but it does sew some "when the cat's away" seeds (a la Mansfield Park), which of course lead to Catherine getting into so much trouble a short while later, and it's probably good to have a reminder of how well Catherine and Henry get along when things aren't as dark as the Abbey tends to cast them.

1.28.21: When Catherine admits to the the Allens that she may be as much to blame for being exiled from Northanger Abbey as any of the Tilneys, the US version cuts to her little cousins asking her if the abbey was scary. But the full-length version first has a scene of Catherine burning her novel in her room. It may be a bit of a heavy-handed moment, but it also seems to be a pretty key moment, and so near the ending, for PBS to callously cut it.

1.33.24: A single line is taken out of one of the very final scenes. Cuts so deep into the finale feel particularly presumptuous of PBS, though it is a rather fleeting moment. When Henry is confessing to Mrs. Allen, she says, "You had no part in what happened, Mr. Tilney. And Catherine is as you see her: no harm done. Any friends of our children are welcome here." To which he replies, "oh, very good." At least in the US cut. In the UK cut, Mrs. Allen says, "shall we agree to talk no more about it?" And that's when he replies, "oh, very good." So nothing earth moving, but the longer version does make Mr. Tilney more gracious, and the moment overall feels more natural in its complete form. It's also a strange cut, since PBS gained hardly any time at all, since the line goes by so fast. If they needed just an extra half second of commercial time, surely they could've just trimmed a few frames off an establishing shot instead?

All of these cuts just feel very meddling. And while most aren't too destructive, it's certainly a better film in its complete form. Enough so that I think any Austen fans who were initially disappointed by this film during its initial Masterpiece Theater broadcast or the DVD ought to make sure they've seen the complete cut before dismissing it. Nothing so huge was cut that you could no longer follow the plot, but anyone Austen reader knows that everything hinges on delicate moments.
2011 blu-ray on top; 2008 DVD below.
2011 blu-ray right; 2008 DVD left.
2011 blu-ray on top; 2008 DVD below.
And comparing screenshots, we can see there is definitely more detail and a clearer, more streamlined look to the blu-ray. This is pretty much what you'd expect from a blu-ray upgrade. But what I wasn't expecting to find was the weird PAL/ NTSC issues the DVD had. It's of course an NTSC disc, but it plays at PAL speed, considerably faster than the blu. And as you can see in the second pair of shots, it also has ghosting frames from the conversion. It's very noticeable in motion whenever the camera pans horizontally, it has a very herky-jerky look. Although I guess this is hardly the first UK show to have that problem on a US disc. But it's just one more factor that makes the blu-ray a more valuable improvement. It has the complete cut of the film, boosts it to HD and it corrects a bad PAL conversion job.

I'm not sure they would have even selected this title for a blu-ray release if it wasn't for the fact that this doubled as an opportunity to appease fans miffed about the cuts. So thankfully, this actually lead to us getting the full, uncut version and a nice upgrade to HD. ...Still no extras unfortunately, except for a Downtown Abbey commercial at the start of the disc and optional subtitles (the DVD at least had closed captions). The back of the box says this is 1080i, not p (because it was probably telecined that way for TV). Overall the image looks quite attractive, not interlaced, with a lot of intentional soft focus.
All in all, its a nice transfer of a nice movie, and an essential upgrade for anyone who bought the 84 minute DVD. There is also a blu-ray release in the UK, but it's only available as part of a set containing the ITV's other two Austen adaptations from the same period, and their Mansfield Park wasn't so hot. There's no extras on that one either, but it does purport to be 1080p so if anyone wants to splurge, they might find a minor improvement. But I imagine they're going to be pretty close. Recommended.