Scalps! New, Limited Edition Blu From Retromedia (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Oh boy, Scalps. Several fond memories of late night sleepover rentals date back to the old, big box double-bill VHS tape of Slayer and Scalps. Slayer was super slow and boring, nothing happened until right up to the very end, which was admittedly cool. But it would always put at least half the camp to sleep. But if you stayed up past it, oh man, Scalps was the best! A crazy old Indian spirit sets upon a group of archaeology students excavating an ancient burial ground, possessing and scalping them left and right. It probably helped Scalps a lot that it had the perfect, standard-lowering lead in to make it look its best, but our local Blockbuster easily earned back the cost of buying that tape just from me and my friends taking it out year after year. And now, as a grown man in 2016, I just got the new, special limited edition blu-ray.
Admittedly, seeing it as an adult, its flaws are a bit more obvious. Hokey writing, atrocious acting. It's not kind of movie I could ever recommend to "normal" people. haha  Only if I knew they were deeply entrenched horror fans who were familiar with early 80s, low budget video fare. But if you are, I have to say, a lot of the film's effectiveness remains. It sounds like they're using stock library Indian drums, but it's still atmospheric as the characters hear the sound off in the distance around the lone campfire in the middle of the night. The special effects are cool, the pacing is strong, and the fact that the film pushes the line in terms of brutal mean-spiritedness. I haven't seen this film with a theatrical audience, but I imagine the girl hysterically insisting from very early on that, "we're all gonna DIE," gets a lot of laughs. But by the fourth or fifth vicious death, they've probably stopped laughing. Add to all that some ambitious animatronic visions and an inflated cameo by Forrest J. Ackerman, walking around with a copy of his Mr. Monsters book in-hand, and you've got a pretty neat little horror flick if you dig that sort of thing.
We're gonna diiiiiiie!!!
So director Fred Olen Ray put out a special 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition DVD through his own company, Retromedia in 2004. It had an audio commentary, lost footage restored and a widescreen transfer, so you can believe I was all over that! But it's an old, fairly out dated DVD by today's standards, ready for an upgrade. So I was just as ready to jump on this new 2016, limited edition blu-ray, also from Retromedia. So you bet, we're going to compare them both right now!
2004 DVD on top; 2016 blu-ray beneath.
So, two conflicting thoughts ran through my mind as soon as I started comparing these discs. Boy, this blu-ray doesn't look so great and boy, what an improvement it is over the DVD! I called the DVD out dated, and now you can see for yourself. It's non-anamorphic, it's interlaced. The brights are flared out. The blu-ray gives us a new 2k scan mostly from the original 35mm negative, giving us more detail, more natural colors... but it sure doesn't look 35mm quality, does it? Well, that's because this is a 16mm film blown up to 35. So it's awash in big, chunky grain. Plus, the cinematography itself is flawed, so some of the lack of detail is down to scenes in this film being literally out of focus.

The aspect ratio is also improved upon. The DVD has a 1.74:1 image floating in its giant, non-anamorphic windowbox. The blu-ray, meanwhile, slightly letterboxes its widescreen image to 1.85:1, giving the film a little more picture on both sides and along the top. It doesn't look like this has been DNR'd or otherwise adversely tampered with. You're not going to play this blu-ray on the showroom floor of your high-end fancy television storefront, but it's still leagues ahead of the DVD.
2004 DVD on top; 2016 blu-ray beneath.
Oh, and did I say this was "mostly" scanned from the original 35mm negative? Yeah, that's because some of the censored scenes had to be restored via tape sources. So it's a composite, and yes, those scenes are of lesser quality. This was the case on the DVD, too. So, yeah, the video-sourced scenes look worse than the rest of the movie, but they do look better here then on the DVD, and it's easier to tell what's going on in the darkness.
Another big improvement from the DVD to blu are the extras. Not that the DVD was too shabby. It's main feature was a very open and honest audio commentary by Fred Olen Ray and producer Lee Lankford. It's full of great info about the film, even if the filmmakers seem rather ashamed of their own film. But they're funny, have lots of memories and behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and answer some of the questions you've probably been wondering since you first saw the film. But besides the commentary, there's not much else: just the trailer and a still gallery.

By the way, on the old commentary, Ray talks about how the distributors took the film after he sold it to them and re-edited it using their outtakes and extra footage. He mentioned he was thinking of recutting it the way it should be, but didn't have the original audio tracks to properly restore it. Well, just in case you were wondering (since I was), the blu-ray is the same cut with the extra lion-man footage and other stuff the director didn't like. I actually like that footage, so I don't mind; but yeah, it's the same version of the film. I guess you could call it the distributors' cut with restored gore.

Anyway, onto the blu, the first thing I noticed is the case says "New audio commentary track by Fred Olen Ray." And yes, this is an all new, completely different audio commentary from what was on the DVD. Certainly a lot of facts are repeated on both, but Ray has taken a whole new pass on the commentary, this time on his own. But then the blu-ray goes much further, starting with a great 20+ minute featurette called Remembering Scalps, featuring interviews with Richard Hench, Frank McDonald, his son Chris Olen Ray and of course Fred himself. Ray repeats a lot of anecdotes from the commentary verbatim, but once it gets to the actors, things pick up considerably and it's a pretty fun little retrospective.
Scalps II: non-anamorphic, just like the original DVD.
After that, there's a 20+ minute fan film by a guy named Dustin Ferguson in 2009. You may remember the closing credits of the original film ended with the gag: "Next Summer watch for SCALPS II THE RETURN OF D.J." Well, somebody made it. Scalps II is about what you'd expect from a homemade fan film, but it uses the original film's score and pays close homage to the original. And along those lines, there's also a clip from a 2004 unauthorized remake of Scalps called Blood Desert. It's just one minute-long scene re-enacting Scalps' first death, and feels like a more professional made effort. You probably won't be revisiting either after your first watch, but they're amusing to have on here as bonuses.

The only other extra on here is the trailer. The stills gallery stayed with the DVD, I guess.
This blu is limited to 2000 copies, and it's all region; so if you're interested, probably don't wait too long. Of course, the film's got another release pending in the UK from 88 Films. That's due sometime in April, and while I'd guess it's using the same transfer, extras haven't been finalized apart from a director's commentary, a booklet and the trailer. So that's a question mark on the horizon still. But regardless of what happens with that, this blu is a huge, very welcome improvement over the old DVD. If you've got it, double-dip, though maybe hang onto it still anyway just for the exclusive commentary track. At the moment, however, there's no question that Retromedia's blu-ray is the definitive version to own.

Uncut? Widescreen? How About Just the Least Worst DVD of Ken Russell's Whore Available?

Alright, readers, get your Ken Russell Completist hats on again, and I'll get my Obscure, Foreign DVD hat on. I've spent a considerable amount of time researching DVD releases of Whore, one of the more controversial films by Russell. And, the situation is pretty dire; just look at its dvdcompare page... all more or less fullscreen, all cut. Presumably all taken from VHS. Just one low quality, dodgy import after another. And many of those don't have the original English audio track. Of course, it's never been released at all in the US or UK. Well, I've dug deeper, and I believe I've found... the least worst DVD option available.
Whore is based off a theatrical monologue called Bondage by English writer David Hines. Here, Theresa Russell (no relation) talks to the audience directly, telling us her unglamorized account of her life as a prostitute. But rather than being on stage, she's out on the streets, in peoples' homes, and everywhere else during the the course of her story, while constantly breaking the fourth wall. She has scenes with other characters, and during one uncharacteristic moment, another character is even allowed to monologue to the audience. It's actually a rather unique and effective combination of the faithful, theatrical piece and the additional opportunity afforded to the cinematic medium: a play that moves out into the world. And as it's Ken Russell, it's also rather provocative.
The cut/ uncut nature of this film is so complex, movie-censorship has had to create two separate articles on this film. But the short version of it is that there are essentially three cuts of this film. The original, uncut version, the heavily censored R-rated cut and the less censored NC-17 cut. The completely uncut version doesn't seem to be available anywhere outside of VHS. Believe me, I'm looked into it, so just give up on trying to find a copy of that. But, at least, it seems like almost every DVD release includes the NC-17 cut as opposed to the R-rated. The difference between the unrated and NC-17 is mostly dialogue, actually, and seems to have been cut for pacing rather than censorship. As opposed to the R-rated version, which is all about cutting down the sex, violence and swearing. So the R is to be avoided, but the NC-17 isn't so bad.
Now, the dvdcompare article I linked to earlier mentions several foreign discs, including an Italian one. But the DVD I've landed on is actually a newer Italian disc from a label called Pulp Video (this one, not this more common one). It's still cut, but at least it's the NC-17 cut, and like all the others, it looks like it's sourced from VHS. So it's very soft and washed out, but so is every disc. It's also 1.33, and I know a couple of the other DVDs are 1.56:1. But I believe those are just cropped versions of the 1.33, and who ever heard of 1.56? I don't buy that as a more accurate representation; at least Russell probably had the 1.33 in mind as a secondary ratio. Still, so far, compared to other editions, it's basically a dead tie.
The reason I've latched onto this disc as opposed to any other is that it actually has extras. None of the others can say that (beyond bonus trailers and other fluff). Now, don't get me wrong; there's no Ken Russell commentary... this isn't exactly The Lord Of the Ring extended appendixes here. But there's some stuff; an effort was made. And looking back at the transfer, it's not interlaced. The menus are animated. I feel like with this release, they at least tried to make the best disc possible given the materials they were limited to, which is more than you can say for most of their competitors.

This disc has 2.0 English audio, plus 2.0 and a 5.1 mix of the Italian dub. It also has optional Italian subtitles, which also work on the extras, but they're removable.
So what we get is essentially the film's original electronic press kit. You get a four minute featurette of on-set interviews with Ken and Theresa Russell, Benjamin Mouton and producer Dan Ireland, plus some behind the scenes footage. Then there's another four minute interview featurette just with Theresa, and a four minute (four was the magic number for Trimark, apparently) collection of promo scenes. They're like deleted scenes except they're in the movie (even the R-rated cut), just meant to be like talk show clips or other press looking for clips of the film. There's also the film's original, misleading theatrical trailer (making Whore sound like a titillating male fantasy rather than an expose of how women are mistreated) and a photo gallery. So yeah, nothing to run and alert the neighbors about; but it does add a little value.
So obviously what's really needed is some serious company like Criterion or Arrow to give Whore the respect Russell's work deserves, and release a high quality special edition of the uncut version taken from an HD scan of the original film elements. But this movie is locked behind the Lions Gate, so don't hold your breath. Instead, at least I've found you the best edition of this film you can get. It's NC-17, English audio without any forced subs, not interlaced, open matte and even has a few little extras. Recommended, if only because of how dire the situation is.

Kubrick Compliant: Eyes Wide Shut (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

It occurred to me that if DVDExotica were ever to be audited, I'd come up 0% Kubrick. And then, I don't know if they'd come take me away or what, but I'm getting out ahead of any such eventuality with an in-depth look at his final film, Eyes Wide Shut. One of the reasons I chose this one is because, for the longest time, it was only available censored in the US, and if you wanted to see it uncut, you had to import a foreign region release. Fortunately, Warner Bros has since corrected that, and reissued it on both DVD and blu. And now I've got both versions here, ready to be scrutinized.
I didn't just pick it because of the censorship thing. Eyes Wide Shut has an interesting appeal for me. In some ways, it's his most delicate, human story, thanks probably to the source material (it's an adaptation of a 1920's Austrian novel called Dream Story). It's also fantastic and unnatural, elusive in how it's meaning isn't made explicitly clear. You don't even really know whether Tom Cruise's journey through the bulk of this film actually happened or was a dream. Although as a psychological exploration, that doesn't really matter much. Just like Nicole Kidman's infidelity, it emotionally affected her partner just as though it had happened, even though there's no question her story was anything but a dream. The characters and the audience feel the effects of experience regardless. And because it's Kubrick, it's a vivid, stirring experience... even if it's a bit tawdry and ridiculous on the surface. I'd say this is Stanley Kubrick's most exotic film.
So this 1999 film was a new released when it debuted on DVD in 2000 by Warner Bros. It was quickly repackaged in 2001 as part of The Stanly Kubrick Collection. As I say, it was cut, and you had to order a disc from... well, pretty much any other country, to get a copy of the film uncut. So what's missing from the cut film? Well, in terms of screen time, technically nothing. No shots were removed or trimmed. Instead, they opted for a more dubious, sneaky method of adding CGI characters to shots to basically block the camera's POV from the sex, Here, I'll show you.
Warner Bros 2001 censored DVD on top; Warner Bros's unrated blu-ray bottom.
This is just one example, there are multiple shots where multiple couples are blocked by multiple CGI characters in robes. This one particular example I've chosen is funny because not only do they add another hooded figure, but another naked woman on the couch in front of him, making the unseen sex going on in front of him in the R-rated cut decidedly kinkier than what we see taking place in the unrated version. Anyway, movie-censorship.com actually does a great job breaking down every single shot that's been tinkered with. But in short, all the blocking takes place in this one brief section of the film. Nothing else was changed throughout the movie.
So, right. That's the 2000/ 2001 DVD. Eventually, Warner Bros re-released it on DVD and blu in 2007. The DVD is a 2-disc set, with new extras added to the second disc, whereas it's all fit onto the one double-layer blu. This also gets us into the open matte widescreen debate that's heatedly followed all of Kubrick's DVD releases around, although it isn't really any different than with most any other film. Kubrick shot for a widescreen theatrical framing in mind, but also kept the rest of the frame in mind for future television/ home video screenings. So both are valid in their way, but especially with the switch to widescreen TVs, I think fullscreen ultimately lost out. This is evidenced by how the 2000 and 2001 DVDs are fullscreen, and the 2007 discs went wide.
WB 2001 DVD on top; WB 2007 DVD mid; WB 2007 blu bottom.
So yes, I guess I follow the mainstream majority in preferring the widescreen 1.78:1 theatrical framing. But it's nice to know that the 1.33:1 fullscreen version is available on the older discs for those who want it. It's a question of open/closed mattes, so the fullscreen actually has additional vertical information, and both have the same amount on the sides.

Transfer-wise, there isn't a huge deal of difference across any of these discs. If you look at the earlier set of shots I showed of the censorship, you'll notice the lamps have a purple discoloration on the 2001 DVD which is nicely corrected on the 2007 blu. And the HD blu is naturally a bit cleaner and better compressed. But all three discs look like they're taken from the same old master to me, and there's probably some serious room for improvement if someone were to take a fresh scan of the OCN today. Ultimately, sure the blu looks best, but I'd put this very low on the priority list of DVDs to upgrade.
Audio-wise, things have improved a little better.  The original DVD does have a 5.1 audio track, but that's it. No subs or anything. The 2007 DVD has the same 5.1 track, but adds optional English subs, plus other language options, specifically a 5.1 mix of the French dub, plus French and Spanish subs. The blu-ray goes a good bit farther, though, including the English and French 5.1 mixes, plus additional 5.1 dubs in Spanish, Japanese, German and Italian. But of more interest is its additional uncompressed PCM 5.1 mix of the audio track, giving us two English options for the first time. Plus, it has a whole host of subtitles options: English, English HoH, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish.

It's here that I should point out, too, that the 2007 DVD packaging lies. It reads on the back, "Selectable in Both Rated and - and for the First Time Ever in North America - Unrated Versions." But this is simply not true. The 2007 DVD only features the unrated version.  If you had to leave off one version, at least they went the right way. But still, you should know, it ain't true. You are never given the option to watch the R-rated cut, and I ripped the whole disc just to check: the censored version isn't even on the disc. Not that I can imagine any fan wanting to go back to the censored cut, but it would've been neat if they included the shots with the extra CGI people as a deleted scene, just for the novelty value.
They didn't include any deleted scenes, but they do have some decent supplements. Even the old DVD featured some superficial but still worthwhile on-camera interviews with Cruise, Kidman and Steven Speilberg, plus some trailers and TV spots.

Those are carried over to the 2007 discs, plus a bunch more. The main feature is a 3-part British television documentary called The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut. Really only one of the three parts focuses on Eyes Wide Shut, but it's all interesting for fans of Kubrick as it delves into the rest of his life and career. Then there's Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick, which is a 20+ minute featurette on some of his work that never got made, including a Napoleon biopic. And finally, there's a short clip of Kubrick's speech accepting a DGA award.
Warner Bros blu-ray is unarguably the best available edition of Eyes Wide Shut. And Eyes Wide Shut, in turn, is a compelling film that deserves a spot in your collection. It's just not a particularly impressive blu. It's almost tempting to suggest holding out for a better release down the road, but I don't imagine we'll see one anytime soon unless UHD discs wind up becoming popular. So this is the best we've got, and really, it's good. It sells for very cheap, too, so you really can't make a case against it. It could be better, but you wouldn't want to be caught without it, would you?

The House By the Cemetery (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

In the upper echelon of spaghetti horror films is Lucio Fulci's House By the Cemetery. Consequently, there have been many releases of this film over the years. And today, there's primarily two blu-ray releases of this film, competing for the top spot: Arrow's in the UK and Blue Underground's in the US. They're both pretty fancy special editions with all unique extras, so I'm going to get in close and see which tops which in a proper comparison. I've also got the film's original DVD debut disc, from Diamond Entertainment, so we can see how far we've come. Oh, and I've also got a Mill Creek DVD from one of those 50 film sets, so I guess I'll throw that in, too.

Update 4/5/17: Added the 2001 Anchor Bay DVD so we can see the full range from Diamond to the blu-rays.
House By the Cemetery comes right in the sweet spot of Fulci's career, and is all the better for it. Fulci had already just recently experienced the surprise, break out success of Zombie, and made pretty much all of his biggest hits in short succession immediately after, including The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, and this one right here. It stands out in being the only one that takes the time to for a slow build, creating suspense and particularly atmosphere before jumping into most of the wild set pieces that pretty much come at you non-stop, beginning to end, in those others. It's a haunted house film where the new family slowly catches onto the creepy vibes permeating their home. It's something a little different for Fulci.
That said, it's not a subtle film. Awesome special effects create gruesome kills convincing enough for the camera to linger on and ogle. A big film score, dramatic cinematography and a monster named Freudstein carry this film right out of the stratosphere. It still has one of those not entirely logical and certainly not spelled out plots that will have you guessing why characters are making decisions and things are happening. And the answer just might be nothing more than: it looks good on camera. Maybe that's all part of the fun, or maybe it's going to drive you up the wall, but nobody's going to hold your hand through it either way. It's just a crazy 80s horror with bleeding mannequins, werewolf howls taken from dusty old sound effects records, little boys dubbed by grown women, characters who may or may not be supernatural, rack focus, mysterious floating eyes, super strong bats, blood and guts. Sounds like a recipe for a great time to me.
So, yes, House By the Cemetery debuted on DVD from Diamond Entertainment group, one of those no frills grey market DVD labels that's since gone the way of the dodo. But back then, we were just happy to get the film on disc, uncut and widescreen even. But then Anchor Bay jumped in and gave it a nicer disc in 2001, which lead to a whole chain of releases from a Blue Underground reissue in 2007 to a Vipco disc in the UK, Laser Paradise in Germany, and shady grey market labels in the US like Madacy and of course Mill Creek (as part of their 2010 Pure Terror 50 pack). When we got to blu-ray, Blue Underground tackled it first in 2011, followed shortly by Arrow in 2012. Other labels have issued it in their own countries since (Shock in Australia and XT in Germany), but for most international buyers, you're probably deciding between the Arrow and BU. Oh, and since Arrow's is a blu-ray/ DVD combo pack, I've putting their standard def disc into the mix, too.
Diamond's 2000 DVD first; Mill Creek's 2010 DVD second; Anchor Bay's DVD third;
Arrow's 2012 DVD fourth; Blue Underground's 2011 blu-ray fifth; Arrow's 2012 blu-ray sixth.
So, where to begin. Despite 10 years and many improved DVDs in between them, Mill Creek hasn't improved on the old Diamond disc. They've both got this sickly greenish coloring (though Diamond's is slightly better in some shots), but at least they're 2.35:1. Well, almost... Diamond is 2.25 and Mill Creek is 2.22:1; but regardless, they're non-anamorphic tiny little images floating in the center of your screen, and interlaced to boot. The blu-rays are a comparative revelation, with Anchor Bay splitting the difference.  It's anamorphic and non-interlaced, with more clarity than the previous discs, but it's still got that greenish color timing and of course standard def compression. The Blue Underground actually is 2.35:1, but it's slightly letterboxed to achieve that ratio. Anchor Bay and Arrow's are even slightly wider at 2.39:1, lifting the pillar-boxing to reveal a bit more picture on the left and right sides.

Beyond from that, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the blus apart. BU's blacks are a hair darker, but I could only tell when I got them into this direct side-by-side comparison. They also suffer from the infamous scanner noise that was plaguing HD transfers coming out of Italy for a while (BU and Arrow seem to be using the same source). And yes, you can make it out on Arrow's DVD, too. It's mild, though; there's a good chance you'll never notice it unless you have an especially large TV or are looking for it like I was. But it is there. It's like a light digital grain floating on top of the actual film grain, giving everything a more static-y feel. I mostly noticed it on tight close-ups, giving a macro-blocking effect to peoples' skin. It's not heinous, but it is a flaw, and it would be nice if it weren't there. I wouldn't let it put you off picking this up, though, if you're a fan of the movie. I mean, you certainly won't be getting a better image by hanging onto your DVD.

The DVDs, of course, feature nothing but your basic English audio stereo track, and pretty hissy ones at that. Both blus, however, give you the option between the English and Italian (where Bob's dubbed voice is decidedly more natural) audio tracks in much clearer, more robust quality, as well as optional English subtitles. BU also offers Spanish and French subs.
And of course, the old DVDs have nothing. In fact, House By the Cemetery has traditionally been light on extras. The Anchor Bay and Blue Underground DVDs only had a deleted scene, stills gallery and a couple trailers. Obviously Vipco didn't break out the goods. There's an Italian DVD with some interesting extras, but they're not subtitled, so that's no use. But when it came time for blu-ray, both companies decided it was time to stop toying around and play for keeps. Arrow's release is even a 2-disc set (technically 3, but one is just the DVD copy of the main blu).

Blue Underground:
  • On-camera interview with stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco
  • On-camera interview with Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina
  • On-camera interview with Dagmar Lassander
  • On-camera interview with Carlo De Mejo
  • On-camera interview with Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti, the film's writers
  • On-camera interview with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, effects artists Maurizio Trani and Gino De Rossi, & Giovanni De Nava, the man inside the monster suit
  • The deleted scene 
  • Stills gallery
  • Trailers and  TV spot
Arrow:
  • Introduction by Giovanni Frezza
  • Audio commentary by Catriona MacColl, moderated by Calum Waddell
  • Audio commentary by Silvia Collatina, constantly interrupted by Mike Baronas
  • On-camera interview with Giovanni Frezza
  • On-camera interview with Catriona MacColl
  • On-camera interview with with Sergio Stivaletti about directing Wax Mask
  • On-camera interview with Gianetto De Rossi, a decent little chat, but there's a much better one with him, that covers most of the same ground, on Arrow's Zombie release.
  • On-camera interview Stefania Casini, Barbara Magnolfi and Silvia Collatina. Uh, only one of these actresses was actually in House By the Cemetery (Silvia). But it makes about as much sense as interviewing Stivaletti about the Wax Mask, I guess...
  • Reunion Q&A, an almost 45 minute panel filmed at a Horrorhound convention with Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, and Dagmar Lassander. It's pretty fun, but the sound quality is awful. I had to crank up the volume super loud and even then I kept missing things that were said.
  • The deleted scene
  • Theatrical trailer and TV spot
  • Bonus trailers - this collection of 20 or so Italian horror trailers goes above and beyond your usual stash of 2-4 bonus trailers
  • easter egg: On-camera interview with Sergio Martino about Mountain of the Cannibal God
  • easter egg: On-camera interview with Luigi Cozzi about Contamination
  • easter egg: On-camera interview with Dardanno Sacchetti about Manhattan Baby
  • easter egg: an alternate take of Giovanni Frezza's introduction
  • easter egg: additional snippet Silvia Collatina's interview
  • easter egg: bonus trailer for Lady Oscar, the film Catriona MacColl says she's most proud of during her audio commentary.
Arrow's release also comes with a 20-page booklet by Calum Waddell, including an additional text interview with Catriona MacColl. It has reversible cover art and if you ordered it directly from Arrow's site, a bonus slip cover. Blue Underground, on the other hand, keeps the packaging basic, with no insert or anything.
By the way, it's the same deleted scene on all the discs. It's some additional dialogue at the end of the bat attack sequence, though we don't hear what they're saying because the sound has been lost. It's funny to see Arrow's introduction to the scene [above], saying they're "presenting here, we believe, for the first time anywhere," when it's the exact same scene that everybody had been been including on their discs for the previous eleven years!

So, Arrow's got the most stuff, undoubtedly. But Blue Underground hooked up with Red Shirt Pictures to get some top quality interviews with pretty much everybody, including several cast members, Stivaletti and two of the effects guys. Arrow only has one exclusive interview from this film, effects artist Gianetto De Rossi. Also, the more you watch these Arrow releases the more you realize these are all interviews from their other discs. Don't get me wrong, they're not putting the same clips on multiple discs, but they're all wearing the same shirts sitting in front of the same backgrounds. Arrow clearly interviewed everybody for hours on all their films and cuts out whichever part is relevant to that movie.

And that brings me to the much odder thing, how many of these extras aren't actually related to the movie. Why are there interviews about Mountain Of the Cannibal God, Contamination, etc on here? I feel like they're just trying to fill up space with whatever they had laying around in order to justify the extra disc. Then, when you watch the same actors in the multiple features (i.e. Silvia Collatina on her commentary, her interview and her portion of the Q&A), they repeat the same anecdotes each time. In other words, Arrow has a ton of filler. Not that there's nothing good on here; a lot of it's great. Catriona's always fun, Stefania Casini was a good interview if you don't mind the fact that she has nothing to do with House, and I was actually grateful for the Wax Mask interview, since that film has no special edition. But there's no way this needed to be two discs. Add to that the long animated credits sequences for every little supplement and clips from the film you've just watched that appear again and again, and it winds up being a lot to slog through, and would have actually been a more entertaining viewing with huge chunks edited out. Arrow's list may look more impressive, but Blue Underground's is the finer selection.
So at the end of the day, where are we? Well, we're a lot better off than we were in 2000! Between the two discs, I'd say go for Blue Underground. It wins in the supplements department with a fair lead, although it is cool that Arrow has a bit more info on the sides. BU's 2.35 might be more correct, but it's no Hellraiser 3 situation where we're seeing crew members and other stuff that shouldn't be in the frame; and I actually think I prefer the slightly wider look. But I've imported a bunch of Arrow discs of movies I already had in the US because of their additional extras, and felt let down almost every time. They've gotten better lately, though. But anyway, for House By the Cemetery, it's a close enough call that everybody should probably just be happy with whichever disc is being released in their country and save their money to import something more worthwhile.