The Company of Wolves, Fully Realized

I'm a bit hot and cold when it comes to the films of Neil Jordan... I mean, the guy wrote a "woman has visions through the eyes of a serial killer" script in the nineties. But I love me some Company of Wolves. What a wild, fun, beautiful, creative meditation on the movie monster staple: the werewolf. Unfortunately, it's only available on a barebones, non-anamorphic DVD from well over a decade ago. How could such a distinct and highly regarded film by a highly successful filmmaker be left in home video obscurity by a label called "Hen's Tooth Video?" I mean, this is a horror movie that was nominated for four BAFTAs; how often do you see that? What's it gonna take to get this film the respect it deserves? Oh wait, it has been treated right. There's a special edition blu-ray... only available in the UK.

Update 10/20/15 - 12/27/22: So much for "UK only."  Heck, so much for "blu-ray."  Scream Factory has issued this film the special edition 4k UHD (and yes, there's a BD, too) it's always deserved.
If you haven't seen it, The Company of Wolves is kind of a mash-up of several werewolf stories. Heavy on the Little Red Riding Hood, the plot waves in and out through different werewolf tales, mostly in a sort of fairy-tale period setting. It's got a terrific cast including Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Terrance Stamp, Jordan regular Stephen Rea and the guy from Waiting for God. It's a perfect little storm of smart performances, stylish photography, lavish sets, and still delivering the gruesome goods for horror fans. Maybe the story's a bit confusing in the way it drifts dream-like from one situation to another, and there is the occasional moment of down-right abstract symbolism; but there's enough entertainment here for even the most art-phobic juvenile to let the medicine go down.
So yeah, you'd think every specialty label from Anchor Bay to Criterion would have had this film in their sites, but nope. Just the 2002 Hen's Tooth DVD. Over in the UK however, ITV maybe hasn't quite given it the ultimate Arrow boxed set with 3 discs and a 60-page book on a satin pillow, but in 2007, they managed to scare up a nice, HD transfer and the director's involvement in the extras department. You really can't complain about any release that at least makes it that far. But... you can replace it.  And now that Scream Factory has released this as a UHD/ BD combo with a new 4k restoration and all new special features, that's just what I'm doing.
1) Hen's Tooth DVD; 2) ITV BD; 3) SF BD; 4) SF UHD.

I mentioned that the old DVD was non-anamorphic, so I left the black around it in the first shot to show how that looks on a widescreen TV. To be fair, though, the Hen's Tooth transfer wasn't too bad for an older DVD apart from that. At least it's widescreen. And in fact, the framing is pretty close: 1.73:1 compared to ITV's 1.78:1. It's missing a little picture on three sides: top, bottom and left, with a little extra on the right. Hen's Tooth DVD is also much more yellow, with ITV leaning red.  But now we've got Scream Factory presenting us a fresh 4k scan of the original camera negative, matted down to 1.85:1, so everything that came before is obsolete.  The colors are just slightly warmer and deeper, with fine detail and grain rendered clearly (especially on the UHD), where it was splotchy and inconsistent on the old ITV.

ITV's blu-ray's audio isn't quite lossless either, unfortunately; but it's still an okay 2.0 mix, actually pretty similar to the US DVD. And ITV got the edge for including optional English HoH subtitles. But now Scream Factory is here, finally giving us the 2.0 in lossless DTS-HD, while still providing the subs.
Hen's Tooth DVD was basically extras-less, but they did at least manage to include two trailers (one of which is rather long, and must've been some kind of special one made for promoters or something) and a little photo gallery. The bare minimum at least. But ITV came to play, with an audio commentary by Neil Jordan himself. It's quite informative and engaging, and covers pretty much everything you'd hope he'd address. I was slightly disappointed to see they didn't include the trailer, but stood up against the commentary, who cares?

Not that we have to choose anymore anyway.  I was relieved to see SF have retained Jordan's commentary, plus the trailer and gallery, too.  And they've cooked up some more goodies.  Second is an all new, quite excellent audio commentary with producer Chris Brown, sculptor Dick Budden, Angela Carter's biographer and co-stars Micha Bergese & Kathryn Pogson.  The moderator also reads excerpts from some print interviews with art director Anton Furst.  It's more than a little patched together, with uneven volume levels and a few lines that were presumably meant to be cut out but forgotten; but I'd rather have a consistently engaging heavily edited piece than a dragging free-for-all any day.  We also get a short but engaging on-camera interview with actress Georgia Slowe, and a fuller, audio-only interview with composer George Fenton.  There's a TV spot, too; and Scream's release comes with a slipcover and reversible artwork, plus a rolled 18"x24" poster if you pre-ordered it direct from Shout.
The Company of Wolves is a surprisingly great little werewolf film that's been a bit neglected.  But no more.  ITV's blu-ray was a nice little stop-gap, but now there's only one release that belongs in your collection, and it's Scream Factory's.

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