Terrific New Collector's Edition of Dan O'Bannon's The Resurrected from Germany (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Update, update, holy crap - update! 8/28/15: The special edition this film should've gotten years ago has finally landed! It's a limited edition blu-ray/ DVD combo pack from OFDb Filmworks, with a plethora of extras from Red Shirt Pictures. The film's finally been released in its OAR, and its in HD. It's a pretty lavish set from Germany (so be prepared for Region B blu and region 2 DVD), and I just got my hands on it the other day, so let's take a look! Join me further down the page for a fresh comparison and look at all the new features.

Dear Lions Gate, you may not be aware, but among the many, many excellent cult catalog titles you have shut away in your vaults, is an fun, highly regarded HP Lovecraft adaptation that fans have been asking for called The Resurrected. It's written and directed by Dan O'Bannon, creator behind such cult classics as Return Of the Living Dead, Dark Star and co-writer of the original Alien. You've even got a lovely, HD master already made (we know, because it's streamed on Netflix). And all you would need to do, to make a lot of people very happy, boost your reputation and make a nice little profit is to release it on DVD and blu-ray, or sub-license it to a niche label like Scream Factory, Synapse, etc. who will happily do it for you. I could see wanting to do it yourself, or leasing it out and letting another company front all the risk and labor, but surely you'd want to do something more than just sitting on your vast catalog and watching them depreciate in value - especially with a hot.
The Resurrected is one of the most direct, faithful adaptations of Lovecraft on film, starring Chris Sarandon (who, by the way Lions Gate, starred in the also underestimated Fright Night, which wound up selling out its entire blu-ray run in only two days. Just sayin'.) as Charles Dexter Ward, whose wife hires a private detective (24's John Terry) to find out why he's disappeared to a remote cabin with a strange man. Mad science, gruesome murders and a sequence set in the 1700s stand between them and the monstrous answer. Impressive effects, music by the always reliable Richard Band and some atmospheric cinematography (though you wouldn't know it from the full screen version) add up to a quality horror flick just dying to be rediscovered by a broader audience. The Lurker In the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H.P. Lovecraft calls it, "the best serious Lovecraftian screen adaptation to date."
Admittedly, part of the difficulty The Resurrected has had finding its audience is that the film ran into some difficulty in post production. The producers at the time took the film away from O'Bannon, who said he felt it was his best work at the time, and re0cut it themselves. So it went through a couple titles (Shatterbrain and The Ancestor) and a final version O'Bannon wasn't so pleased with. And tragically, Dan O'Bannon has passed away, so it's too late to hope for his involvement in a special edition.

Happily, however, O'Bannon's director's cut already exists! It's already screened theatrically in the last couple years. So, while there's already a widescreen transfer of the old version available and waiting to be thrown onto DVD and blu - and that alone would make people very happy - the opportunity is absolutely there to pull a Nightbreed and come out with a great special edition introducing the previously unreleased director's cut along with the other version of the film. It could be a real event of a release.
Now, to be fair to Lions Gate, they did release The Resurrected on DVD at one point. It's ten years old now, long out of print, and a no completely frills fullscreen release without even a trailer, but that's substantially more than can be said for some other sought after Lions Gate titles, like Nightwish or Tale of a Vampire. At least there is a DVD to stave us off while we wait.
Netflix stream on top; Lions Gate DVD on bottom.
And credit where it's due, the DVD is at least open matte rather than pan & scan, so nothing's cropped away. Still, looking at the composition, there's no question that the widescreen version is the correct ratio, looking much more impressive in a nice 1.78:1. The boxy look of the film on DVD and cable is certainly a part of the for the negative reactions this film has gotten from casual viewers over the years. But again, it's long out of print, it's going for over $50 for a used copy on Amazon. So even if you've resigned yourself to this mediocre release as a place-holder, it's not even an obtainable option for most people.
So what do you say, Lions Gate? Are you ready to be a hero, just by doing us what you do, and getting your movies out to the people? Even if putting an elaborate restored director's cut special edition sounds like too much of a headache, all you have to do is open negotiations with one of the many niche labels out there who've been dying to tackle your back catalog for years. The back catalog you've got there, just gathering dust. Put these movies to work and get fans excited about Lions Gate again. Dan O'Bannon's The Resurrected would be an awesome place to start.
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Update 8/28/15 (cont):
Lions Gate's 2005 DVD on top; OFDb Filmworks' 2015 blu below.
What an improvement, and finally this film has a widescreen release. It's 1.78:1, and yeah the old full frame DVD was open matte, so we lose a lot of excess image at the top and bottom, but this is what it was composed for. This looks like a movie, not a cheap TV show. And we do actually pick up a little picture on each side. Granted, the new HD transfer doesn't look quite state of the art... I'm sure this is an old HD master the studio made ages ago, the same one used for the Netflix stream, as opposed to a fresh, state of the art 4k scan. It's a little soft and it doesn't look like we've got a natural look at the film grain yet. But it's a lot cleaner and clearer than the old standard def picture. To me it looks like a blu from six or seven years ago, which still trumps a DVD, especially a DVD as disappointing as the one we got from Lions Gate, which also has ghosting/interlaced framing issues.
Lions Gate DVD first, Netflix stream 2nd, OFDb DVD third & OFDb blu 4th.
Ah! It's Two Face! Turn around, Jane! No, yeah, that's actually just some ghosting I failed to mention in my first look at Lions Gate's DVD, and it's riddled with it. Getting a little more thorough, now, I've thrown the Netflix stream into the comparison mix, as well as the 2015 DVD from OFDb's combo pack. Interestingly, there's smidgen more vertical image on the blu than the Netflix stream. And of course, the image is sharper and more distinct on the blu, while the 2015 DVD is the same as the blu but just a little smudgier. Actually, they're a little more similar than they should be, but the dual layer blu still edges it out.

OFDb offers the film a new DTS-HD 2.0 track, plus both 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD mixes of the German dub. There are optional German subtitles, too.
So it's great to have a widescreen release of this film, finally, but where OFDb has really excelled is the extras. Now, this is a German disc, so there are a couple of things with only German audio. But most things, all the important stuff, is very English-friendly.

First up is an audio commentary (yes, in English) with the film's producers Mark Borde and Kenneth Raich, writer Brent V. Friedman, special effects artist Todd Masters and actor Robert Romanus (he played Lonnie).  Brent Friedman and Todd Masters also comes back for on-camera interviews, running 18 and 16 minutes respectively. This and all the other interviews are in English with optional/ removable German subtitles. The other interviews include star Chris Sarandon (16 mins), composer Richard Band (10 mins), and production designer Brent Thomas (8 mins). There's also a brief acceptance speech by Dan O'Bannon at the Chainsaw Awards, introduced by Bruce Campbell and Quentin Tarantino, and two trailers for the film. Finally and perhaps most excitingly of all, there's over 18 minutes of recovered footage of the director's cut from the workprint tape. As you'd expect, it's from fuzzy 4:3 tape, but it actually looks a lot cleaner than most workprints I've seen, looking essentially like a commercial VHS release. It's missing music cues, and there's the occasional "shot missing" card for big effects moments; but this is really the stuff fans have been wanting to see since final cut was first taken from O'Bannon back in 1991.
All of those features I just discussed are on the blu-ray and in HD. The second disc in this set is the DVD version of the blu. And the third disc is most of the extras that couldn't fit on the blu on DVD. So SD versions of the extras. It's worth noting, though, that there's an animated stills gallery with the behind-the-scenes photos and such that's only on the third DVD, and not on the blu. And for the German speakers among us, there are also two additional commentaries (one with a pair of German film critics, and one with two guys from Wicked-Vision Magazin), as well as a radio play of the original Lovecraft story. Oh, and there's a glossy, 80-page book included in this set, which is also all in German. But at least it makes the set look a little more lavish. There's a separate insert, too, with a note from the producers of the DVD and telling you the individual number of your limited copy (mine's 2040/5000).
This release is absolutely everything I was asking and hoping for when I wrote the original version of this post, and I'm over the moon with it in my collection now. Serious high def enthusiasts will probably be disappointed that this comes from the studio's older HD master as opposed to a cutting edge 4k scan, and admittedly this film really could look better. But in this case, that's really looking at the grey lining of a silver cloud. Because this package really delivers and you'd have to be crazy to be disinterested.

2 comments:

  1. There's a German Blu on the way with special features by Red Shirt Pictures -- if your German's any good, here's a link with details:

    http://www.ofdb.de/filmworks/2015/01/die-collectors-edition-von-the-resurrected-nimmt-gestalt-an/

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    1. Oh, wow - that's awesome! Ha ha What else should I wish for while it seems to be working? Or maybe I shouldn't push my luck...

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