Zombi 3 Is Triumphant In HD from 88 Films (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Here's a release that just kept getting better and better: 88 Film's brand new blu-ray of Lucio Fulci's (maybe) Zombi 3. When they first announced it, it was pretty light on extras, but I was still interested in upgrading it to HD, especially since what had long been best release of this film, the Shriek Show DVD, only had the opening sequence via a composite from some old Japanese laserdisc source and looked like crud. But when pre-orders went up, it was announced that 88's elements didn't include that prologue, and they'd have to use the same low quality footage for that scene. That was pretty disappointing, but to try and make up for it, they added that anyone ordering this direct from their site would get an exclusive slipcover and a bonus disc of Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered Vol. 1. Right on. But then the release date got pushed back, because... 35mm footage of the opening sequence was found at the eleventh hour! Oh hey, and guess what? This release turns out to have more last minute extras than they'd announced, turning this into a pretty fleshed out special edition.
I put "maybe" after Fulci's name, because this is famously Fulci's last film [Correction: no, it wasn't. Duh! As was smartly pointed out to me on Twitter, this wasn't even his next to last film... Fulci was suffering health problems during this production, but he did return to make several more films after this, including one I already covered on this site; so that was a careless thing for me to write], which he didn't finish before passing; and it's always been a mystery how much of the film did he actually complete, vs how much was ghost directed by Bruno Mattei and/ or Claudio Fragasso. Regardless of who's responsible for how much, though, it's definitely a lesser Fulci horror film that does feel closer to some of Mattei's goofier zombie flicks than Fulci's. It's got plenty of zombie action, guts, explosions, helicopters, zombie birds and flying heads, though, so as long as you're up for a campier zombie experience, and are prepared for this to not be up to the same level of quality as Zombie, you're still in for a good time here.
So Zombi 3 more or less debuted on DVD in 2002 from Shriek Show... There had been a lower quality Japanese DVD and a "Red Edition" from Laser Paradise with no English language options the year before in 2001. There have been plenty of international DVD releases since - some cut, some uncut - but none of which improved on the Shriek Show disc. All these years later, 88 Films is giving Zombi 3 it's blu-ray debut. How much better can it look? Let's find out!
2003 Shriek Show DVD on top; 2015 88 Films blu-ray bottom.
Well, the prologue is so much better - so happy to see this! Shriek Show's footage looks even worse in motion, with it's weird digital noise moving all over the image. They sort of got away with it, since the opening sequence is shot so dark and mono-chromatically, but anyone trying to watch it in HD would've cried. Now it looks smooth, clean and clear. Finally. Now, how about the rest of the movie?
2003 Shriek Show DVD on top; 2015 88 Films blu-ray bottom.
So much better! I was expecting a big improvement on the opening scene, but not so much everywhere else. Part of it seems to be that SS maybe took other scenes from the same lower quality source as the opening? Because the quality seems to dip in and out, while of course remaining constant on 88's blu. Another part of it is definitely that Shriek Show's disc is interlaced, in every scene, which you can see in the top set of shots above, and that of course the blu fixes right up. But even comparing Shriek Show's best frames, 88 still has a much more attractive, detailed image. The LPCM mono track sounds a little fuller, too.
2003 Shriek Show DVD on top; 2015 88 Films blu-ray bottom.
The aspect ratios are a bit different, too. Shriek Show's is essentially 16x9 (it's actually slightly window-boxed, at least on top, left and right sides) to 1.78:1. And 88 says it's 1.85 on the back of their case, but it's really slightly pillar-boxed to 1.66:1, which ultimately gives us a little more on the top and bottom, and a little less on the sides. But Shriek Show sometimes seems to have a little black, negative space along the sides in some shots, so I think they may've been pushing it a bit too far.
So, now let's talk extras. We knew 88 was going to have an on-camera interview with co-star Ottaviano Dell'Acqua and a Q&A with Catriona MacColl... which is a little odd, since she wasn't in this film. The Q&A is a solid half hour long and moderated by Callum Waddell. She at least talks about Fulci. I guess 88 had it and realized they weren't going to be releasing any of MacColl's films anytime soon, so they such slapped it on here. Okay.

And of course there's Paura. I've already reviewed that on its own separate disc, so go ahead and follow this link to read all about it, see screenshots etc. I can tell you now, the version with Zombi 3 is exactly the same disc, same menus, with the easter egg in the same location. All they've updated is the outer label on the actual physical disc, to make it match with the rest of 88's Italian Collection line-up. It's included inside the Zombi 3 case, as a 2-disc set.

And now let's talk about the pleasant surprises - more extras that turned out to be on this disc! There's an all new interview with Claudio Fragasso, and an audio-only interview with star Beatrice Rice. 88 has also included the alternate, Italian language opening and closing credits. And besides the aforementioned slipcover, this release has reversible cover art and an insert card with alternate Zombi 3 artwork.
Not that Shriek Show came up short in extras, especially if you made sure to get the second issue. Yeah, this is a unique thing that takes a little explaining. See, Shriek Show, like some other labels I'm sure we can all name, had a little trouble meeting their release dates. So they'd announce something, it wouldn't come out, then they'd announce a new date, and so on. Zombi 3 had been pushed back a couple times and fans were getting frustrated. Shriek Show said they were still waiting on the commentary, but they would release this without it just to get it out there. That's the 2002 disc. Then a few months later, the disc with the commentary would start being sold in an identical case. To tell the difference, you have to look for the sticker that I show above.

And it's worth putting in the effort to sort it out, because the commentary, by Rice and Deran Serafian is quite good. They're both funny, being silly, while still being informative and answering a lot of the questions fans have long had about this movie. It reminds me a lot of the commentary MaColl and David Warbeck did for The Beyond. The second edition also included a video introduction by the pair, and a rarely mentioned on camera interview with makeup effects artist Franco Di Girolamo. Add to that all the interviews the 2002 disc already had: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso, Ottaviano Dell`Acqua and Massimo Vanni (they're interviewed together) and Marina Loi, plus a photo gallery, theatrical trailer and some bonus trailers. And you've got a loaded special edition that's well worth adding to your collection if you've got 88's blu or not.
This is the new, definitive Zombi 3, and by a good margin. It looks much better than we've ever seen it look before, it's fully uncut, and it's got some solid special features. If you're a big fan of this admitted mess of a film, though, you should also pick up that 2003 edition DVD from Shriek Show and combined have the mother-load of special features. But if you've already got this on DVD and are wondering whether it's worth upgrading, just look at those comparisons.

1 comment:

  1. FYI, the second-press version (with the commentary) is also included in Shriek Show's "Zombie Pack" set, which includes this film + Zombi 4 and Zombi 5. Selling for about 12 bucks on Amazon right now.