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.

The Movie Scream Factory Let Slip Through Their Fingers: The Falling

Okay, you guys have probably never seen The Falling (perhaps better known as Alien Predators), right? I saw just about everything in the 80s, and I never saw this. I didn't catch it until a couple years ago, when I was on a jag of tracking down and watching all the 80s horror flicks I missed in my youth. And I don't know what I expected from The Falling... I think some sort of cheap, passionless knock-off, like Carnosaur crossed with Forbidden World, at best maybe a peer of Inseminoid. Can't say I'm a fan of that stuff, zero heart and stock characters boring you for 80 minutes of mindless exposition and keeping you on the hook with the promise of lame kills by a cheesy rubber suited monster. But you know, you gotta sift through a lot of dirt to find the golden nuggets, and like I said, I was determined to burn through every 80s horror flick, bar none, to discover something good. And I did!
The Falling (terrible title, by the way) is a little bit weird, a little bit funny... a little crazy and even a little action-y. I really like it. Far from the kind of film I described above, this is everything you want from an 80s horror. It's like Night Of the Creeps or Fright Night. I mean, those are two major highlights of the genre, and admittedly it's not quite as polished or engaging as those. There's no delightful Roddy McDowall or Tom Atkins level character... although The Falling does take one or two stabs at it, and come up with a couple characters - these two government/scientist guys - that don't reach those heights but are still pretty fun. Dude in the beard definitely makes you want to see more scenes with him, and the three young leads are all pretty good and likeable. The jokier sidekick guy is no Evil Eddie, but he's definitely a more enjoyable character than most generic horror dudes.
And damn it, this film delivers. You want great rubber effects? This film's got 'em. You want genuinely funny gags and moments? They're here. Gore? Yup, some pretty gross stuff. Creepy atmospheric points, including a creepy killer in a clown mask? Uh-huh. Stunts, including car chases, explosions and a menacing truck right out of Duel or Maximum Overdrive? Exotic foreign locales, colorful lighting, high production values, a rocking soundtrack, space aliens, conspiracy and a really ambitious, unpredictable plot? This film has it all, and yet nobody had ever released it on DVD! There wasn't even been a cheap, barebones fullframe DVD on the greyer side of the market, much less any fancy special edition blu-rays like the kind Scream Factory puts out.
And there could have been! In 2012, Scream Factory made a deal with MGM, and if you've noticed, they've been releasing tons of their back catalog titles ever since. And The Falling just so happens to be one of their titles, rotting away in their vaults, waiting to be re-discovered. And they even had a widescreen HD master, I know, because they gave it to Netflix to stream (it may not be there anymore' I quit Netflix last year). All Scream had to do was scoop it up off the floor, and I requested it whenever the question came up; but everybody ignored it, because hardly anybody's seen or remembers this movie. So, okay, they didn't release it in their first couple batches... okay, year two, and still no Alien Predators. Every announcement they made I checked for The Falling and then thought, alright, it'll be in their next one. It's a total freebie, and a great "never before on blu or DVD option." I understand, they want to focus on the big money makers first. But now, I guess it's official that the door's closed on this movie, because MGM has finally put it out as a generic MOD DV-R on Amazon. And I'm probably the only guy who bought a copy.
But order it I did, because I absolutely need this film in my collection. And I grabbed that Netflix stream, too; because I wasn't sure I'd ever get a second chance at it. So let me push past my disappointment, and see what we did get.
Netflix stream on top; MGM DV-R on bottom.
It's the same, slightly letterboxed 1.85:1 transfer. There's more detail on the DV-R, although it's possible my stream capturing wasn't 100% perfect, so it may not be a totally fair comparison. But the point is, we didn't lose any ground on this DV-R. There's definitely compression issues - a lot of benefit that could be found in presenting this in HD. But for a single layer, made on demand DVD like this (4 gigs, ladies and gentlemen!), it looks as good as you could hope.

And of course it's barebones, including a fairly generic menu and no extras. Not even a trailer. The chapters are even at arbitrary 10 minute intervals. Oh well. Good uncut movie, widescreen and clear. That's better treatment than some other titles I've covered, and I am actually glad to finally have this in my collection after decades of nothing at all. It just sucks to think what might've been if a couple more people knew about this movie.
Judged simply as what it is: an MOD release, this is actually pretty great. Like, if I were to rank the coolest genre DV-Rs out there, this would be somewhere in the top ten. And I suppose all hope isn't necessarily lost for a SF blu. They've released other films that had fairly recent, previous US releases in the past. There's even a very similar case where they released a pretty awesome special edition of New Year's Evil earlier this year after MGM released it as a MOD in 2012. So I'll try to think of this as a first step rather than last gasp, and enjoy this presentation in the meantime. Like I said, there are more films even worse in need now. But if anyone wants to give Scream Factory a little kick in The Falling's direction, by all means please do.  ;)

Ken Russell's Gothic

Now here's a Ken Russell film you don't have to be a completist to enjoy. Though from his later, and most would say lesser, period, Gothic actually holds up quite well. I think it would probably be better appreciated by audiences today, in fact, than it was originally received in the 80s. It's certainly one of his wilder movies, so there's no risk of being bored at the very least. Russell lets loose with extreme, over the top imagery, this time specifically within the realm of - as its title implies - classic gothic literature and art, oftentimes replicating famous paintings of the 18th and 19th century. Imagine Northanger Abbey on acid, with a orchestral score by Thomas Dolby. It's had a tortured history on DVD though, with only a late-coming import version even being in the correct aspect ratio. Allow me to point you in its direction.
Gothic tells the story of the famous, real summer of 1816, when Mary Shelley (Natasha Richardson), Percy Shelley (Julian Sands) and Claire Clairmont (Miriam Cyr) visited Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne) and his physician (Timothy Spall) at his villa in Switzerland, and two classic novels, Frankenstein and Dracula, were conceived. If this premise sounds familiar, it's because two different films: Rowing With the Wind, starring Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley and Haunted Summer, starring Eric Stoltz, Laura Dern and Alex Winter, both remade the same story in 1988. But 1986's Gothic came first and remains infinitely more memorable. Not a lot of detail is known for sure about what went on in that villa, so of course Russell is left to speculate and extrapolate; and he of course came up with the most colorful and feverish supposition of the three films. But on the other hand, the film is largely interior, showing us the visions they concocted in their minds, and strictly in terms of plot events, very little happens besides "they got inebriated and held a seance." It's a story of mass hallucination and collective imagination, depicting the birth of only fictional characters and artistic inspiration. And there aren't many filmmakers as suited to that sort of ambitious task as Ken Russell.
This is one of those films I picked up a couple of times over the years. I first had the original 2000 DVD from Artisan, which was full frame and barebones, so I was immediately on the look out for an upgrade. I optimistically and naively bought the 2001 DVD from Front Row, hoping for something better, but it was possibly even worse. In 2002, Artisan reissued the film with a slightly improved, but still fullscreen and barebones disc. Then word finally came in 2003 of an upcoming import that was widescreen and anamorphic from MGM itself, which was free to release it overseas where it hadn't already been licensed by these cheaper companies. Now, I've long since sold off my 2000 Artisan and Front Row discs, but in addition to the Artisan re-release and MGM, I just so happen to have a 2005 Mill Creek DVD from their Chilling Classics collection [right], which is as at least ugly as any that came before it.
2002 Artisan DVD on top; 2003 2005 Mill Creek DVD middle; 2003 MGM DVD bottom.
Wow, now that is a huge difference. To be fair, while fullscreen, Artisan's 2002 re-release is clearly better than Mill Creek's transfer here, but it still pales in comparison to MGM's lovely widescreen (slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1) picture. Sure, the fullscreen version is largely open matte - and Artisan's fullscreen is slightly superior to Mill Creek's with a little extra info on all four sides - so it has more picture.  But look at it; it's just a sea of empty head-space. "Oh look, 20% more blank ceiling... but it's so dark, you can't make it out anyway!" The film looks far, far superior in its proper framing, and this is a film where image is hugely important. Plus, despite having less picture on the top and bottom, MGM's disc still manages to find a good chunk of horizontal information unique to their transfer. It's just so much better in every way. As you can see, Mill Creek's DVD is also plagued with interlacing and some kind of awful edge enhancement, which Artisan's and MGM's discs are not.  But both Mill Creek and Artisan appear drained of color and so dark and murky, with Mill Creek apparently cranking some sort of clarify tool just so you can make out what's going on in the picture.
MGM's European DVD also comes with a host of language options, including the original English plus German, French, Spanish and Italian dubs, as well as English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and Greek subtitles. Mill Creek's DVD of course has none of that, and neither did Artisan's or Front Row's. To their slight credit, Artisan's older disc at least had the trailer, which none of the other editions do, including MGM's or Artisan's own reissue. The reissue does have an amusing animated menu, though, I must say.  But we have yet to get beyond the barebones Gothic release, and unfortunately we've wasted so much time now, it's no longer possible to secure a Ken Russell commentary.
MGM's Gothic was top of the line in 2003, and it's still vastly superior to all its competitors. But looking at it today, up close, I can't help but notice how much better it could look now in HD. This film would make for a stunning blu-ray release, and even though Russell's no longer with us, there's still plenty of people who worked on and appeared in this film to create a nice special edition. This would look perfectly at home in the Criterion Collection, or as a classy yet horrifying title from Scream Factory. People need to just get past the unfortunate stigma of Ken Russell's 80's direct-to-video period and see this film for the dark vision it is. Guys, this is not Dog Boys; let's get our priorities back in order and get this out in high definition. And if you need to convince anybody, show them this MGM DVD from the UK.

Salo: 120 Days of Sodom - Contentious, Complicated and Cut? (DVD/ Blu-Ray Comparison)

America, your DVD and blu-ray copies of Salo: 120 Days of Sodom are cut!!  ...Well, arguably. The original 1998 Criterion DVD of Pier Pasolini's infamous Salo was one of the earliest DVDs to go quickly out of print and start going for really big bucks on the collectors' market. So much so that there became various bootlegs of it, and even they went up in value, among fans who knew them to be bootlegs! The fervor died down when the film was not only reissued on DVD in another region in 2001, but especially so when it turned out that foreign disc, from the BFI in the UK, was a little bit longer, including a scene missing from Criterion's DVD. Suddenly that was the one for the really plugged in film lovers to own. And so when Criterion remastered and issued their new DVD version in 2008, followed by a blu-ray version of that in 2011, I was surprised and disappointed that they were still missing that scene. Fortunately, BFI had already released their own blu-ray, so I guessed that was the definitive version and picked it up. But was I right?
I mean, this is assuming Salo's even a film you would want to own in any variant. As an adaptation of Marquis de Sade's infamous despite being incomplete novel, 120 Days of Sodom, it's surprisingly faithful. Pasolini's film version has been famously transposed to the period of Mussolini's rule in Salo, Italy (hence the addition to the title) as a commentary on fascism. Briefly, it's about a small group of male aristocracy and their madams who bring a collection of kidnapped teenagers to an isolated mansion to have a months-long orgy, where they explore the ultimate extremes of decadence. I'd always sort of assumed it was very loosely based on the novel, repurposing the general premise to tackle Pasolini's take on the Nazi regime and the more general, human psychology that would allow fascism to rise in any general situation. And that layer's certainly in there; but when I looked into the original writings, I was surprised to see how much this is really a faithful retelling, allowing for the usual shorthand and alterations any filmmaker tends to make when creating a cinematic translation, of what was already on the page, just updated to a new setting and time. Of course characters and details have changed, things were left out, etc; but I think it's interesting, because I've always found the basic "this is a film that shows you why fascism is bad" to be very minimizing, and the arguments both for and against respecting de Sade's work apply fairly equally to the film.
So okay, let's assume now that you do value this cinematic work. I'm not saying necessarily that you should, although there's certainly some undeniable attractive cinematography on hand - which, by the way, could probably be equated to the skillfulness of de Sade's descriptive prose, with the same role in the arguments for preserving his writings - so I'd say it really can't be completely dismissed as a work of art with value. But for the sake of this discussion, you think it's a compelling drama, worth having as the director intended. So you want the longer version that's not missing his scene, right?
The scene in question.
It's actually a fairly short scene, and considering how infamously shocking Salo is in terms of sex, violence and sexual violence, it's surprisingly tame. After the forced wedding (a bit of blasphemy that was probably more meaningful to de Sade than Pasolini), one of the men reads a brief poetry to the guests on a stairway, one of a couple scenes where similar poetry are read. It certainly wasn't removed by censors. And it's been argued that perhaps Pasolini didn't want it in his final cut at all, which is presumably why Criterion didn't reinstate it for their reissue. We'll never really know, because Pasolini was killed while he was working on his final cut. The film had already screened publicly in different international markets, but he'd said the version he was preparing was to be his definitive version. Just before writing this post, I read an argument against the scene's inclusion, basically boiling down to the fact that there's no clear evidence Pasolini wanted it in the film (apart from the fact that he filmed it in the first place), and if he had, it would've been in the version master Criterion had. But it seems like you could make the same exact argument for the opposite: there's no clear evidence Pasolini that he wanted it out of the film, and if he had, it wouldn't've been in the print the British Film Institute has.

So for me, it boils down to this: first, it's a good scene. It's brief, certainly not essential to the plot... but then very little in this film is. It's more a succession of events leading to a forgone conclusion, a character study of multiple characters that can be broadened out a study of human nature at large, rather than an intricate story of plot turns and exposition. And this is just one more layer, an extra turn of the screw. I really don't feel it hurts the pacing of the film, and I've never heard anyone argue that it should be left out because it was of sub-par quality. So, even though there's a risk of it being excess, and beyond the scope of Pasolini's preferred cut... since we'll never know, I'd rather have it in there as a more complete work. And if nothing else, it's an important piece of Salo's history now, so Criterion should've at least included it as a deleted scene, if not use branching to allow us to choose whether to watch it with or without the scene. Surely, nobody's best answer for how to deal with this scene would be to completely leave it out like it never existed.

Of course, there are plenty of other factors to consider when looking at the competing releases of this film.
BFI's 2001 DVD on top; their 2008 blu-ray second,
their 2008 DVD third and Criterion's 2011 blu-ray on bottom.
We start with BFI's old DVD (I haven't got the original Criterion DVD, because like I said, it was going for hundreds of dollars), which is soft, crushed, and non-anamorphic, as was Criterion's old DVD. I think it's fair to use the word "revelation" when describing the BFI's new HD master, taken from the original 35mm film elements. There's so much more detail and clarity. But scroll back up to that shot I posted of the scene missing from Criterion's releases. That's also taken from the 2008 blu, but it looks a bit different, flatter. That's because it's taken from a print - the same print that was used for the entirety of their 2001 DVD. So it's not a perfect match, but it's pretty close; and most viewers probably wouldn't notice the shift in quality if they weren't looking out for it.

But as huge of an improvement as it was, BFI's blu is far from perfect. There's some edge enhancement or unsharpen mask used on their version that gives it a dodgy, digital look. Criterion's blu, which is a fresher 2k scan of a 35mm interpositive, is a more natural improvement on that. It's still not perfect - are scans from Italian labs ever? - with some of that edge/ unsharpening effect still present, but it does seem a little milder, and its warmer color timing is a little more pleasing, too. Is it a big enough improvement to make it worth double-dipping if you already have the BFI blu? Does it make worth picking a cut of the film missing the mysterious scene? You'll have to make that call for yourself, but all things being equal, I'd say the Criterion has the best PQ, with both blu-rays being leagues ahead of the old DVDs.

BFI's set is also a combo-pack, by the way. So the second shot in the comparison sets is the standard def version of the 2008's blu-ray transfer. Naturally, it mirrors the blu but splotchier and a little softer. It's also worth noting that BFI's 2008 release, on both their DVD and blu, give you the option to play either the English or Italian version. This not only determines which audio track you hear, but plays an alternate set of opening credits written in whichever language you've selected. Criterion only includes the Italian version of the opening credits. Both discs offer excellent, mono audio tracks in both languages with optional English subtitles, with slightly different translations.
Oh boy, and the extras just complicate things further. None of the old DVDs have any, so that's simple enough, but the dueling blu-rays have a lot of different extras, with some overlap:
  • Ostia: The Death of Pasolini - A music video by a band called Coil, the only extra, besides the trailer, in HD in the BFI set, as everything else is on the bonus DVD, not the blu-ray.
  • Open Your Eyes - A vintage 21+ minute featurette full of on-set footage from the filming of Salo. Fans are gonna want this for sure.
  • Walking With Pasolini - Another 21+ minute featurette, where several experts, including Noam Chomsky, talk about Pasolini and his work.
  • Ostia - A short film from 1988 dramatizing Pasolini's death.
  • Ostia commentary - A commentary track on the short film by its director.
  • Whoever Tells the Truth Shall Die - A fairly well known, roughly hour long documentary on Pasolini and is work from 1981. It's previously been released as its own DVD, where it actually has an audio commentary.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Booklet - I mean, they're different, but both have substantial booklets.
  • Fade to Black - A 23+ minute featurette where filmmaker Mark Kermode talks about Pasolini's work and murder, with multiple interviews including Catherine Breillat and Bernardo Bertolucci.
  • Salo: Yesterday and Today - Kind of Criterion's version of Open Your Eyes, as it's a vintage doc with old interviews and on-set footage from the filming of Salo.
  • The End of Salo - An excellent 40 minute featurette on Salo comprised of interviews with the cast and crew, including uncredited writer Pupi Avati, on the making of the film.
  • Interview with Dante Ferretti - 11+ minutes with Salo's production designer.
  • Interview with Jean-Pierre Gorin - Over 27 minutes with one one of Pasolini's filmmaking peers from the 70s.
[red = BFI, blue = Criterion, purple = on both]
It's tough to say which set of extras is preferable. BFI has a little more, but some of it's oddball (like the music video) or in the case of Whoever Tells the Truth, previously available elsewhere. And since the separate release has its own commentary, you may still feel the need to pick up that disc anyway. Criterion has a lot of nice, new content and tends to focus a little more on Salo than just Pasolini in general. There's enough unique material to compel many collectors to get both releases, I'm sure; but there's overlap in doing that - not just in the fact that they both have Fade To Black, but some of the archival content gets redundant as well. Overall, BFI's set is more of a collection of interesting, pre-existing film that relates to Salo, whereas Criterion's is more like a fresh extras package created for Salo. So which of those two is more satisfying will probably come down to personal taste. Purists might fan the pre-existing films more legitimate, others will find Criterion's direct interviews more engaging. There are no easy choices with this flick, which I suppose is fitting.
In the end, both Salo blu-rays are pretty great, and clearly warrant upgrading from any of those old DVDs you might have. But both are also imperfect and rather unique. There's no definitive release here. I've laid it all out now so you can decide which release is for you... assuming this in many ways offensive and distasteful film is for you at all. We're talking about the actual Marquis de Sade, after all! But if it is, and you're the type of person to sometimes buy more than one edition of the same film, this might be one of those times.