Paul Bartel's Scenes From the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills in 4K

So Eating Raoul's received a rank in the glorious pantheon of the Criterion Collection. It even included the early short films: Naughty Nurse and Secret Cinema as extras. Shout Factory made a loaded special edition of Death Race 2000, Blue Underground handled Cannonball, Anchor Bay put together some nice packages for Lust In the Dust and Not for Publication. Warner Bros and MGM put out respectable, if not special, editions of The Longshot and Private Parts. Except for the very rare Shelf Life (which I'm also interested in), it seems like all of Paul Bartel's cult classics are accounted for on DVD in some good quality, fan-accessible releases. Except, it would seem, for one of his biggest and most infamous: Scenes From the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills. But I'm happy to report that, after some serious international poking around, I've found one.

Update 6/19/15 - 6/26/20: Wow, I really wasn't expecting this one to get the 4k treatment, but it's coming next week!  A brand new restoration on blu courtesy of Kino, who, by the way, are doing the same for Not For Publication at the same time.
Scenes, which naughtily takes its title from the very earnest and "important" political documentary Scenes From the Class Struggle in Portugal, is Bartel's most out there social satire. Not at all attempting to be naturalistic or provide nice, appealing characters; I can see many viewers, not familiar with Bartel, really disliking this. But if you're a fan, this is the goldmine. First of all, yes, it reunites cinema's most perfect perpetual couple since Cassavettes and Rowland, Bartel and Mary Woronov. They're not married in this one, so they don't combine their chemistry quite the way they did in films like Raoul, Mortuary Academy or even Chopping Mall. But they both have nice, sizable roles to play, which is all you need for a great time. And it's not just them; Bartel has assembled his greatest cast ever in this, including regulars and newcomers Robert Beltran (Raoul), Wallace Shawn, Ed Begley Jr., Jacqueline Bisset, Ray Sharkey, Arnetia Walker and even Paul Mazursky as a ghost.
Granted, the target of this satire - the shallow rich of Beverly Hills - is easy and played out. Especially since this came out shortly after Down and Out In Beverly Hills and the same year as Troop Beverly Hills, I don't think this was going to grab mainstream audiences. But if you're in the mood for a black, cynical yet campy and frisky romp with Troupe Bartel, then you need this movie in your life.
For a long time, fans have been living with old, VHS-sourced, full-screen crap DVDs of this film, imported from countries like Germany, and I think Spain. But in 2010, this was issued again, with the translated title Scene di lotta di classe a Beverly Hills in Italy from Passworld Pictures, and holy cow - it's got a clean, high quality, anamorphic widescreen transfer!  Honestly, I thought this was the best we'd get, and I was pretty happy with it.  But oh boy, next Tuesday, Kino is issuing it on blu with a brand new 4k restoration, and a couple new features to boot.
2010 IT Passworld DVD top; 2020 US Kino BD bottom.
Even on the blu, the image is a bit soft? I wrote before that, "much of the grain is evident, so this may well've been shot on cheaper film stock; but I'm sure the lines and detail should be stronger than this."  And that's borne out. Passworld seems to have gone back to some kind of film elements (from a print, I'd guess, since there are some minor but frequent flecks and scratches) to restore this film to its OAR for home video... the back of the case sells itself short as being 1.85:1 in 4:3; but luckily that's wrong, it's actually anamorphic 1.87:1.  Kino tweaks that to 1.85:1, which shifts the image slightly to the left and down.  Far more importantly, Kino's HD transfer clarifies the picture beautifully.  The grain looked authentic on the DVD, but now it's distinct and film-like, we can make out detail that was previously washed away.  The colors are more distinct now, too, cleaning up a light green hue that hung over Passworld's release.  One slight down-side, detail in the shadows has been crushed a bit on the blu, despite having slightly elevated black levels.  But there's no question that Kino's blu is a more attractive and life-like presentation.

And yes, Password's DVD has the original English stereo track, in addition to its two Italian tracks. The biggest drawback is that it also forces Italian subtitles whenever you play the English track.  Well, of course Kino clears that all up.  It now gives us the English stereo track in lossless DTS-HD, and gets rid of those pesky subs.  Optional English subtitles would've been nice in their place, but there's none.  C'est la vie.
Unfortunately, the DVD had zero extras. I mean, I wouldn't have expected much from a random import. But at least the trailer would've been nice, especially since it's a very amusing one with original dialogue from Bartel, as himself, directly addressing the audience.  It's one of those rare trailers, like Bananas or Real Life, that's essential viewing in its own right.

And happily, Kino has that trailer.  And what's more, it's not just the lo-fi rip that's been floating around youtube; it looks like they restored that from original film elements.  That's not all either, because they've also conducted a brand new, on-camera interview with Robert Beltran.  That doesn't exactly turn this into a loaded special edition, but it definitely adds up to a fuller, more rewarding package overall.  They've also included the trailer for their concurrent restoration of Not For Publication and another Jacqueline Bisset feature, The Mephisto Waltz.
So I was already surprisingly satisfied with Passworld's DVD, but I'm really pleased with Kino's BD.  The only thing that's missing now is the original Class Struggle In Portugal... In a very weird way, they do make a fitting, if perverse, double feature.  Of course, I wouldn't hold my breath for that.  But then again, I wouldn't have held my breath for a 4k restoration of Scenes From the Class Struggle In Beverly Hills on blu, and yet here we are.  Maybe we should all take this as a lesson to be a little more optimistic.

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