Scream, Still Dying To Be Seen Uncut and In HD (Laserdisc/ DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)


Scream is one of the most re-released films that still hasn't managed to get it right. It's frustrating. It's also confusing to fans who aren't patient enough to dig into it all, so I see people just buying low quality discs or cut versions without even realizing. We're talking Dimension Home Video and Lions Gate, so of course the situation's unsatisfying. So I figure I'd tackle it here and do my little bit to try and help tip the scales.
I don't think I even need to talk about the movie itself here. Wes Craven directs then newcomer Kevin Williamson's screenplay that takes the slasher film into the ironic, self-referential teen movie realm. It's filled with stunt casting and pop culture references spilling out of every orifice, but Craven winds up giving us possibly his most powerful, old school horror direction of his entire career. Sure, some of his other films are better for having brilliant ideas and iconic imagery, but just in terms of having really effectively done scare sequences, Scream might be at the top of the list. And Williamson's story structure really works, too. It's tempting to write it off as a teen movie or outdated hipster fare, especially with the mainstream reception it got and the declining sequels; but you'll be invested in the characters and guessing who the killer is right up to the end. So it's worth trying to get this on a really good disc.
So Scream first hit DVD as a new release. The film came out in 1996, and it hit US DVD in 1997. It also hit laserdisc in 1997, with one crucial difference. The laserdisc featured the unrated director's cut, while the DVD had the theatrical, edited R-rated version. And here's where things get complicated, because both the laserdisc and DVD were reissued in 1998. In fact, there's two pressings of the second issue of the DVD, because Scream's a big seller, so they're going to keep putting it out, but don't think that means they're going to start getting it right.
an extended moment from the unrated version, only on the laserdisc.
So let's start with the laserdiscs. Both laserdiscs feature the film in full widescreen 2.35:1 in CLV. They're both the uncut director's cut and they both have the audio commentary by Craven and Williamson. Pretty much every release of Scream has this commentary (except for some foreign discs), but it's interesting because they reference the film being the uncut version... which is just inaccurate when you hear the same commentary on any of the DVD or blu-ray releases, and only adds to the confusion. The difference between the two lasers is just the addition of a DTS track to 1998 version. Reissuing DTS editions of films was a thing for a short time in the late 90s, which I talked a bit about in my Army of Darkness post.
The beginning of this shot is in both versions, where the cameraman gets his throat slit;
but only the unrated stays on him as he looks at the blood on his hand.
Okay, so now for the DVDs. Both the 1997 and 1998 discs feature the R-rated version in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen. The 1998 disc was issued with two different covers, basically with or without that gold "Collector's Series" band across the top. The 1997 has that curved purple "Widescreen" logo across the top. The difference between the 1997 and 1998 versions are the extras. The original disc just has the commentary from the laser, plus the trailer. The 1998s keep those but also add some short featurettes.

Even the 2000 Ultimate Scream Edition, which includes the first two sequels, is still non-anamorphic and the R-rated version. It does feature a couple more short extras on the fourth bonus disc, but that's the only upgrade. And in 2009, the Scream Triple Pack, still only includes the non-anamorphic R-rated cut. It's actually got the exact same disc as the 1998 Collector's Edition inside. And if you can believe it, even the Scream Triple Feature 3-DVD set from 2011 is still the non-anamorphic R-rated cut. Non-Anamorphic in 2011? Jeez Louise! It's a wonder the make the blu-ray 4:3! But they didn't, thank goodness. Of course, it's still the R-rated cut.
1997 Dimension laserdisc on top; 1998 Dimension DVD mid; 2011 Lions Gate blu-ray bottom.
It's kind of shocking that even the later DVDs are non-anamorphic, but here you go. Framing is essentially the same 2.35:1 across all three releases, except the blu-ray actually loses a smidgen along all four sides. We're just talking slivers here, but still; if there's anything to add to the disappointment sandwich here, they throw it in. The blu is a lot clearer and more detailed than the DVD and laser (versus non-anamorphic, how could it not be?), we can finally read that the VHS Jamie Kennedy has on top of his TV is for the 1995 Harvey Keitel movie Smoke. But it still looks kind of flat, and in some scenes significantly edge enhanced. It's a single layer disc that looks like it was taken from an older master and would surely benefit a lot from a fresh 2 or 4k scan. The blu does bump up to a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 mix, so we are talking a decent release for an older blu (though it's not that old), but it's time for a revisit... uncut this time!!
So let's talk extras. The commentary is actually quite good. Again, if you're not watching an uncut version, it'll throw you off a bit; but for the most part it's just fun and informative, with a good rapport between Craven and Williamson. Then the DVD adds several things, including the original promo featurette, which is of course clip heavy and plays like a 6-minute trailer, but it has some interview clips and is nice to have. It does show you how bad the movie looks in 4:3 with so much of the sides chopped off. Then there's two very short (about 3 minutes each) featurettes that give you a little glimpse of the film being shot behind-the-scenes. They're basically just B-roll footage set to music, but they're fun. Then there's about 5 minutes of extended interviews from the promo featurette, plus trailers, TV spots and a stills gallery. Essentially, the sum total is just the press kit, but I'd rather have it than not. And that's all the Blu-ray has, too. It's just the same set of small extras, in SD on the blu, too, except the 1997 and 1998 DVDs also include a single sheet insert with chapter titles, which the blu forgoes.
Again, though, you can get about 45 minutes of additional extras, including a 30-minute featurette, screen-tests and outtakes, if you get the 2000 Ultimate Scream 4-disc set. That's a little underwhelming to double-dip on a boxed set for, but it's something. And there's a 4-disc blu-ray set which includes two far more extensive 90+ minute documentaries, called the Scream 5 Film Set. To be clear, they mean parts 1-3 plus the two docs add up to five films. Scream 4 isn't in that set. But if you really love Scream, that's the best version to get of the R-rated cut, in that it has the HD transfer and the most extras... though NOT the Ultimate Scream bonus disc extras. If you want to be a completist, you'll still need to get that set, too. And even then, you have to figure out a way to get the director's cut.
Ultimately, as many times as Scream has been repackaged and re-sold, it still badly needs a new edition. I'm sure this film could look better on blu, but more importantly, all of these discs are cut! We need the director's cut, which is still essentially only available on laserdisc. Now, if you don't have a laserdisc player, there are a couple of old, foreign DVDs that are comparable. Every single blu-ray in every country is as cut as the USA's, but on DVD there are Korean, Scandinavian and Japanese options. There's plenty of DVD versions in plenty of countries, but they're all cut, too. Korea, Scandinavia or Japan are your only options, and don't get too happy, because they're non-anamorphic, too [Or maybe not??  See the comments below]. Essentially they're just ports of the laserdisc, but there's no other choice.

That's why we still need a new version: to finally have this in HD and uncut, ideally with a fresh scan and all the extras from all the past sets. Because right now, it's all a mess. But on the upside, Scream always sells. So Lions Gate or whoever can license this title can be safe knowing that if they spend the money to restore this film and do it right, they'll definitely get it all back and then some. In fact, the Scream TV series was renewed for a second season, which will be starting Spring 2016, so the iron is hot for striking right now. Come on, guys, let's get Scream finally done right!

3 comments:

  1. The best way to get it now IMHO, it's with Shout! Factory help. They will make it. I know they can do it. They care about they releases

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  2. As someone who does actually own the disc, the Japanese uncut pressing is anamorphic. The image quality is substantially better than the original US DVD release.

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    Replies
    1. Oh really? Nice; I might have to track that down, then!

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