Gremlins Diamond Luxe Edition (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Warner Bros originally released Gremlins as a no-frills DVD in 1999, again in 2001 and finally as a special edition in 2002. That was a pretty strong special edition with a nice transfer, two commentaries, deleted scenes and a few more bits and bobs. But it still felt like it was missing something compared to most special editions. The commentaries were great, but there really wasn't any interviews or documentary features. Still, it was a pretty great disc for Gremlins lovers, and when it came time to port it over to blu-ray in 2009 as the 25th Anniversary Edition, they pretty much ported it over to HD without any changes. It already had a solid transfer, so it still looked pretty good - now obviously in 1080p - and the extras were just the same ones carried over. But last month (just squeezing in on time for the film's 30th anniversary), they've finally re-released it as part of their new Diamond Luxe Edition line.
It's not surprising that this keeps getting reissued, as Gremlins is one of the early summer blockbusters, produced by Steven Speilberg, no less. Joe Dante brings us his always welcome combination of horror, nostalgia and yucks in this tale of a Rockwell-esque small town that gets overrun with gremlins. As Dante says in the extras, the film starts off almost like Son of E.T., with affable Zach Galligan getting a magical, cuddly pet for Christmas from his father who was passing through Chinatown.  But it takes a turn for the dark when that pet winds up giving birth to an army of nasty, little green monsters who delight in causing mayhem and murder. Hoyt Axton, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Keye Luke, Judge Rheinhold and Corey Feldman co-star in this wild ride that's almost fun for the whole family. This and the other film Speilberg made that year, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, were key films in the MPAA's decision to create the PG-13 rating.
The scuttlebutt of this two disc set is that disc 1 is exactly the same as the 2009 blu-ray. No new scan, no improvements in the transfer, even the menus are identical. It's the same disc in new packaging. Nice packaging, mind you... My scan here doesn't do it justice, since it's a cool metallic packaging. Gizmo's shadow that just looks like a solid dark gray is actually reflective like a mirror and the logo looks much redder when it's reflecting light. So in terms of disc 1 (don't worry, we'll come to disc 2) it's another case of the ol' double-dip.
That has a lot less of a sting, though, if you're like me and never picked up the past blu-ray, in part because of its lack of new features. Now, with disc 2, it's become more of an enticing upgrade. And it is still as much of an upgrade, after all, as the 2009 blu was. ...Just how much of an upgrade was that? Well, let's have a look!
DVD on top; blu-ray below.
Now, for the record, I'm using the 2002 special edition DVD. Their initial release was widescreen, too; but Warner Bros gave it an upgraded transfer when they brought it back for the subsequent DVD.  So, we're looking at the blu-ray as compared to the second, superior DVD version. I think that's more valuable.
DVD on top; blu-ray below.
DVD on top; blu-ray below.
It's not a huge difference, is it? To be fair, I think that says more about the quality of the 2002, improved DVD transfer than a problem with the blu-ray. It's a damn good looking DVD. But you can see why fans online were hoping for more from the Diamond Luxe. The first thing you'll notice is that the colors are warmer and more saturated. You can also see a sliver more picture information along the bottom and on each side. That's definitely nice, but is there much additional detail or any real value in the boost to HD?
DVD on top; blu-ray below.
DVD on top; blu-ray below.
Yup, this time the colors are duller on the blu.
Well, I'm really not seeing any new detail. Looking up close, though, you can see that the DVD is a little splotchier and messier where the film grain is more controlled on the blu. That's the benefit of the HD for sure. The DVD even looks like its grain may've been smoothed out a bit, but maybe that's just the standard def resolution not even picking it up. But as for what you're really going to notice in motion as you watch the film? I think it's more the stronger colors than anything. It is an upgrade, but not a big deal. I'd prioritize replacing other DVDs in your collection before this one, transfer-wise.
But there is a whole, new second disc. Warner has gone to the trouble to bring us some nice, new extras to round out the package, with a nice blend of all new interviews and more vintage footage from the time of the featurette included on all the past discs.

The first doc is a half hour long and brings in a lot of the key, missing people from the old extras. We finally get to hear from Steven Speilberg and writer Chris Columbus, as well as producers Frank Marshall and producer Michael Finnel. It's impressive they got Speilberg in for this, and Columbus has a lot of interesting insight. And a documentary on a Dante film without Joe Dante himself just wouldn't be right, so he's back, and so is Zach Galligan. These two do repeat a couple of anecdotes from the commentaries, but overall it's a really nice piece.

The second feature comes in just a little under twenty minutes and focuses on the special effects, especially the design and puppetry of the creatures. Pretty much everybody from the last doc is back again, but they've also added effects man Chris Walas and Howie Mandell, who voiced Gizmo. Both docs focus on the new interviews, but also include a nice helping of behind-the-scenes footage - it's fun to see all the crewmen operating Gizmo through a huge mess of controls and cables running through Galligan's clothes that was always just out of frame in the final film.
There's a final third featurette, which is just about five minutes long, but focuses on Hoyt Axton. It's all vintage footage of him clowning around on the set and talking about his music. It's fun, and all three of these new extras make you wonder why, if they had all this great footage, they never included it on past editions. Oh, and there's a weird pair of digital comics, where sections of the plot are retold through drawings and sound effects. I think they're based on old tie-in children's books and records that came out back in the 80s, so that's a bit of extra fun for the super dedicated fan.

So it's not the super ultimate edition that everybody wanted. But some genuine care was put into the new extras, giving us some quality material in attractive packaging. It is, therefore, the best Gremlins release out there, even if the transfer is a dead tie with the previous blu. If you're like me, in that you have yet to pick up the 2009 blu, then I definitely recommend this set. It's the one to own. But if you've already got the past disc, then I'd say only go for it if you're a hardcore Gremlins fan. This is one of their tent-pole titles, like Ghostbusters for Sony; and Warner Bros seems to inch forward every couple years with an incrementally improved version. So you already know if you're the collector who has to get every single one as they arrive. But for most of us, the thing to do is let a couple pass by each time and wait for the next one.

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