A Back Catalog Gem From Kino: Ballast (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Man, the critics were right about 2008's Ballast; I just can't stop watching it. It's taken me three days to get screenshots for this post because every time I start to look at a scene, I let it play out and wind up watching the movie all the way through again. It's one of those film festival darlings that's won a lot of awards, but I tend not to pay attention to, since the press likes to hype those movies whether they deserve it or not. But when I finally saw it, I realized this one's the real deal. In fact, I was mid-way through casually streaming it on Netflix (younger readers will probably have no idea, but they used to have movies!) when I turned it off, because I knew I had to buy the disc and watch it properly.
It's a pretty relaxed story that concentrates on character rather than plot points, and I think that's a large part of what keeps drawing me back in. Particularly the second half, when you get past the set up and the characters really begin to bloom before you. A man commits suicide and his twin brother tries to follow in his footsteps, but survives. As he recovers, his estranged wife and son return to divide the property, including a small thrift store the brothers used to run together. They discover the best way to get by is if they re-open the store and run it together, and they slowly and realistically begin to rebuild a family out of the ashes of their former one and the ruins of a desolate economy.
This is the debut film by writer/ director Lance Hammer, and sadly, still his only one to date. It's an impressive combination of hand-held yet carefully designed cinematography, and long rehearsed improvised drama. The performances are exceptional, and really make a case for film spending more time developing scenes than the standard 3-4 week shooting schedule. And thank goodness he took on the expense of shooting this on 35mm, because the temptation for an indie 2008 film would surely have been not only to shoot on digital, but quite possibly even standard def like Inland Empire. And that would have really diminished this film's striking look, and I think ultimately compromised its emotional power.

Kino released Ballast on DVD and blu-ray in 2009 as a new release. And since I'm so taken with this movie, I thought I'd be thorough and take a look at both today.
Kino's 2009 DVD on top and their 2009 blu-ray beneath.
 So since it was a new film delivered simultaneously on both formats, it's unsurprising that they look very similar. The production company probably delivered finished digital masters to Kino directly, who didn't have to work on the transfer besides slapping them onto discs. Both have identical 2.35 aspect ratios, and yes the DVD's anamorphic. Neither release is interlaced or otherwise troubled, it's simply a question of two excellent transfers, one on SD and one in HD.
Which is not to say that there's no appreciable difference. Zoom in on the details, and you really see how much clearer and distinct the blu is to the more compressed DVD. Small print becomes legible and grain looks natural. Check out how the BC logo looks like a lemniscate (∞) on the DVD. That's  downright weird. So anyway, there's enough of an improvement that blu-ray collectors will be happy with their choice, while casual viewers who are less fussed with finer picture quality will be perfectly satisfied with the DVD.

Both discs have a strong 5.1 mix, though only the blu's is TrueHD. Both are clear, and there's not much music or fancy sound effects in either case. Both discs also offer optional English, Spanish and French subtitles.
There's no fancy, special edition of Ballast, unfortunately, but we do get one fairly substantial extra, on both the DVD and blu. It's a 38-minute collection of rehearsal footage, which you can watch straight through with a "Play All" button, or individually. There's no narration or talk with Hammer, which would've been great; but it is a pretty interesting look at the film's creation and the actors' process, which also works a bit like deleted scenes, as we hear dialogue which didn't make the final cut. There's also the theatrical trailer, and an attractive, fold-out insert featuring an essay by film critic Amy Taubin, but that's it.
Unless Lance Hammer becomes the next Martin Scorsese in the next decade, I don't think we'll ever see another edition of Ballast on home video, so even though it's light on extras, let's be thankful for what we got. In the UK, it was a DVD only release (and no, they didn't get any additional features), and if this film were released today, it would probably be digital download/ streaming only. So here's a highly recommended, lesser known title from Kino's back catalog. Get it and maybe we entice Hammer into making a second feature already. Or, given that he seems to take his time to create things the right way, maybe he's already eight years into the making of it. :)

Serious Upgrades for Silly Movies: Troll and Troll 2

Boy, I can't believe I double-dipped on Troll and Troll 2. You know what? It was the new documentary on Troll 1 that got me. I just had to see it; I couldn't live with my barebones DVD. But actually, now that I've done it, I'm glad I did. I was expecting essentially the old MGM DVD transfers just with better compression because they were being placed on an HD disc, but I was wrong. This is a big improvement.
Troll 2 is downright infamous as one of the better known, "worst movie ever made"s. It's earned a reputation for itself right alongside Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Room and Manos: The Hands of Fate. And it's funny how it's eclipsed the first one, because that was the much bigger film in its day. Troll is a fun Empire Pictures film, with actually some of their biggest production value outside of Re-Animator movies. It's got some top, high end special effects that still hold up to this day (and some cheap ones, too), a great cast including Michael Moriarity, Julia Louise Dreyfus, June Lockhart and even Sonny Bono, and a whimsical story with some genuine laughs.

It's a first time direction by John Carl Buechler, who'd made his rise as a special effects artist (hence the amazing looking troll in this picture), and has gone on to a lengthy career directing low budget films (most famously, probably, would be Friday the 13th part 7, the one with the psychic girl). And I get a big kick out of it. This is really the film I bought the Troll/ Troll 2 combo for, both when I got the original DVD, and now the blu. Sure, it's silly and some of the characters are playing cartoons more than actual humans, but it all somehow works. Or mostly works. Enough works to keep up the whole movie afloat, anyway. Buechler went on to make Ghoulies 3, which has very similar looking creatures, but none of the charm. Troll is actually a good little movie.
Troll 2, on the other hand, is a film you laugh at rather than with. It's an Italian, well, I was going to say Italian knock-off, but to it's credit, it's story is actually fairly original. It's written and directed by Claudio Fragasso and his wife, who gave us Zombie 4 and Monster Dog. But as cheesy as those films were, Troll 2 takes it too unparalleled ridiculous heights. And it has no connection to Troll; it was originally filmed under a different title, and only given the Troll 2 moniker by its US distributor that had the rights to the Troll name. There are no trolls in Troll 2.

I first saw Troll 2 on VHS when it was a brand new release, and too be honest, I got what was funny about it. It largely boils down to the fact that Fragasso was shooting in American with English speaking actors, so their dialogue actually wasn't replaced in post like every other Italian film of its type. And Fragasso didn't speak English, so everyone sounds completely ridiculous. That, plus it's a ridiculous script. But I was pretty much over it after my first viewing. However, it's ever-increasing reputation has lead it to cross my paths multiple times, from double feature DVDs to Rifftrax. It's high camp, it's a goof. But I'd be fine if I never saw it again.
So yeah. Troll's one of those movie I was always asking about on forums, "when's Troll going to come out on DVD?" It seemed like kind of a big movie (by indie horror standards) not to have a release, but it sure took its time coming out. Eventually, MGM released it as a barebones DVD in 2003 as a double-feature with Troll 2, so I snatched it up. Thanks to its rising cult status, Troll 2 got an upgrade to blu-ray in 2010, but I wasn't enough of a fan to bother with it. But when Scream Factory got the pair of them as a blu-ray double feature, and this time with some solid special features, I had to double-dip. And I think I mentioned at the top that this was an impressive upgrade, right? Well, let me show you what I meant.
2003 MGM DVD on top; 2015 Scream Factory blu-ray underneath.
Whoa boy, what a difference! Even after watching the blu-ray, I wasn't expecting that broad a distinction until I went back and looked at my old DVD. It looks like they've laid a thin layer of wax paper over the film or something, it's so soft, dull and smoothed out. It's almost like video tape. Meanwhile the blu is so much bolder, sharper and detailed, with a solid grain pattern. Both versions are slightly matted to 1.85:1, but the one thing you can say for the DVD is that it has a little more picture on all sides. But if that transfer is the price I have to say for those four slivers, no thanks!
2003 MGM DVD on top; 2015 Scream Factory blu-ray underneath.
The difference isn't quite as dynamic on Troll 2, but it's still pretty much the same thing. The DVD looks substantially softer and duller than the blu; it's definitely a lot more than the same master slapped onto a blu. You'll also notice in the second set of shots that someone's clearly adjusted the framing, and for the better, and they've got a little more image on the sides.

MGM's DVD was also a 2-sided disc, so it's nice not to have to live with that hassle any longer. Scream Factory has also boosted the old 2.0 tracks to DTS-HD Master audio tracks, and kept the optional English subtitles for both films, though it dropped the Spanish and French ones.
For extras, the DVD just had trailers (one for each film), but Scream Factory has added a few really nice pieces. They've got the trailers, too; and they added a photo gallery for the first film. But they've also given the film one big new thing apiece. On Troll one, is a substantial, almost hour-long documentary on the making of the film, including interviews with Buechler, producer Charles Band, Richard Band (who made one of his best scores here), the writer Ed Naha (I wish more DVDs would bring the writer into the supplements), and visual effects artists John Vulich, Kevin Kutchaver, Linda Drake, Jim Aupperle, James Belohovek, and Gino Crognale. It's a really great telling of the making of this film; the only thing they could've added is cast interviews, but I imagine this particular cast would be pretty tough to wrangle up.

Then Troll 2 has an all new commentary by stars George Hardy and Deborah Reed. Hardy played the father and the commentary is 90% his; he even calls it "my audio commentary." But they've added it comments from Deborah Reed, who played the goblin queen, during her scenes or when Hardy runs low on steam. It's a little awkwardly edited, you can sometimes hear someone whispering to Hardy during Reed's portions, which I think they just forgot to cut out, and they try to make it sound like the two actors are in the room together, but they're clearly not. That said, however, what they did succeed in doing is making a very affable, entertaining commentary track that stays upbeat and engaging the entire time. And even hardcore fans who've seen the documentary will learn a thing or two.
Did I mention a documentary? Yeah, there was a great one released by Docurama in 2009 called Best Worst Movie. And, if you got one of the first 5000 copies (5000 is a lot for a film like this; I'm sure they're still available as of this writing), you got it as a bonus disc. It's directed by the guy who played the main kid in the movie, and centers primarily on George Hardy, but really talks to just everybody, from the rest of the cast to Fragasso and his wife. Much more than just a DVD feature with talking head interviews, it follows them around the world as they tour with the film and visit the original locations and find the cast in their homes. It's a pretty great little film, even if you have no interest in Troll 2; it's just a really well-made documentary.

Now one real concern I had was whether Scream Factory's DVD of Best Worst Movie was going to include all the extras on the original Docurama DVD, because it had a lot. Some of it went a little overboard (like a music video or a 90 minute audio-only Q&A with the documentary filmmakers). But a lot of the deleted scenes and extra interviews were as entertaining as what was in the film itself. Heck, in the film they never got to talk to Deborah Reed, but she's in the extras and gives a great interview. Well anyway, I'm happy to report, yes it's all here, too.
2010 Docurama DVD on top; 2015 Scream Factory DVD below.
And it's the same transfer on both discs, too. It's literally the exact same disc, with the original label on it and everything. If you put the Docurama disc into your player, watch half the movie, then take it out and put in the one that came with the Scream Factory blu, it will ask if you want to continue where you left off. It's the exact same disc.

By the way, I've read a few grumblings of disappointment that this is just a DVD and not a blu-ray. But this looks to be shot on standard definition digital video, with unfortunate interlacing baked right into the footage and all. So I don't think there'd be much use in putting this on an HD disc. So just enjoy the film; it looks as good as it can.
So, if you're a fan of either of these films (though I'd understand if you weren't), I highly recommend this release. Scream Factory has a done a stellar job, with great new extras and transfers that blow the old DVD out of the water (I understand that barebones Troll 2 blu-ray from MGM uses the same master, though, and looks virtually identical). And definitely try to get one with Best Worst Movie included (the back cover says explicitly that the doc is included, and there's a sticker on the front, so it's easy to tell), because it's probably actually the best of the three films. But if you can't, you can always get this blu-ray and the Docurama DVD separately. As of this writing, it's selling super cheap on Amazon. This is a double-dip I'm really pleased with.

Do You Need a New Room with a View?

How picky are you? That question may be the determining factor as to whether you'll be inclined to upgrade to Criterion's new blu-ray release of James Ivory's A Room With a View. It is the best edition to date, at least strictly in terms of the film itself (you'll see what I mean). So if you're adding the film to your collection for the first time, well, even then you'll have a decision to make. But is it worth replacing a previous edition? A comparison would appear to be in order.

Update 8/13/19: Just randomly happened to get my hands on a different DVD copy of the film, so I'm adding it to the mix.  It's a Region 5 DVD from UTV World Movies and Shemaroo World Cinema.  That should be interesting.
1985's A Room With a View is one of several E.M. Forster adaptations from Merchant Ivory.  In fact, it's their first; but it's no less exquisitely composed and scored as the rest. It also has one of my favorite casts: a young Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands run just a little wild under the influences of Italy and under the auspices of Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliot and Judi Dench. It's a beatific, smart and surprisingly briskly paced production of a deceptively simple story.

In fact, if I had to come up with a criticism, it's that the story is perhaps a little too simple. She loves him, but societal conventions keep them apart and whoops! She winds up getting engaged to Daniel Day Lewis. Guess how it ends. Not that a film needs to be unpredictable. Is there ever any doubt that Frodo's going to melt that ring in the volcano even before Gandalf slips it to him? The joy is in the getting there, but there aren't even very many complications barring their inevitable outcome. That's what drove me to seek out Andrew Davies' 2007 adaptation for Masterpiece Theater, hoping for a slightly richer, more developed plot as Masterpiece Theater tends to deliver; but that turned out to be disappointingly inferior. In fact, this original film is surprisingly thorough in carrying over most everything from the novel except for some period political speeches by Elliot's character. It's just a simple story, and I don't imagine we'll ever see it told better on film than we do here.
So, I've got three editions for today's comparisons: Warner Bros' lavish 2-disc special edition DVD from 2004, a random 2009 Indian DVD from UTV World Movies and Shemaroo World Cinema, and of course Criterion's recent blu. There is an even older US disc, from Image, which you can definitely go ahead and chuck though, as it's feature-less and non-anamorphic. And there's one more release, from 2007 that I haven't got, but which will play an important role in our discussion nonetheless. So let's get begin.
1) 2004 Warner Bros DVD; 2) 2009 UTV DVD; 3) 2015 Criterion BD.
To start with, let's just say UTV seems to have taken a cue from Image, despite coming years after Warner's superior edition: unanamorphic and barebones.  It seems to be using the same master as Warners, with the same framing, colors, etc.  But being 4:3 widescreen means it's even lower resolution than the the 2004 DVD.  So, we can pretty much write that one off and focus on comparing Warner's standard definition to Criterion's high definition, and obviously clarity is on the BD's side. Criterion has given us a fresh 4k scan from the original camera negative. But Warner Bros' transfer was already pretty strong, and I'm not sure we're getting very much additional detail here. Of course, the DVD is considerably more compressed and smudgier when you get in real close (i.e. the Wincarnis poster in the first set of shots). Really, quality-wise, Warner's DVD's greatest short-coming is being interlaced, which is a disappointment to be sure.  Even UTV's DVD isn't interlaced.

But now we come to the missing middle release. In between the 2004 DVD and Criterion's 2015 blu was a 2007 blu-ray from Warner Bros. I haven't got it, but it's an HD upgrade of the transfer we see on the DVD version. Being in HD, it naturally corrects a lot of the compression smudginess, and thankfully fixes the interlacing issue, bringing it fairly close to the Criterion blu. So why bother with the Criterion?

Well, I don't say that the old HD transfer and the new 4k scan are exactly evenly matched. Criterion has done some additional clean-up, removing sporadic flecks, steadying a few loose frames, and tweaking the colors a bit. Those purple flowers pop a little more in that second set of shots, right? But it's hardly night and day. No, the biggest distinction is the aspect ratio. You may've noticed the Criterion screenshots are a little taller than the Warner Bros. Well, when Warner Bros made their transfer, they opened up the old letterboxing of the Image release from 1.85:1 to 1.78.  But Criterion takes it even further, pillarboxing it to 1.66:1. And that does result in a tad more vertical information, even though it loses a sliver on the sides. According to Criterion's booklet, the 1.66 is the director's preferred aspect ratio, so that's a genuine improvement.

Both blus have lossless DTS-HD audio tracks and optional English subtitles. Warner Bros also has Spanish and French options, both in dubbed audio and additional subtitle tracks. Warner's DVD has the same as the Warner Bros blu except it's a lossy 5.1 mix.  UTV (surprisingly) has no foreign language or subtitle options, and just has the same 5.1 mix as Warner's DVD.
But if you're wavering on the fence here, wait, because we haven't even gotten to the biggest distinction between the two releases: the extras. The Warner Bros releases (the 2004 DVDs and 2007 blu-ray are identical in this regard) feature a good deal of stuff, none of which, sadly, is on the Criterion edition. Let's start big: an audio commentary by both Ivory and Merchant, along with  Simon Callow (who played the Reverend Beebe) and the director of photography, Tony Pierce-Roberts. No commentary on the Criterion release at all; it's only here.

And that's just disc 1. On the second DVD of the Warners version, we get a half hour documentary on the author from 1970 called E.M. Forster Remembered, interviews with Callow and Lewis, a featurette on the Merchant/ Ivory production team and a vintage television news report on the film that talks to Merchant, Carter, Elliot and others. There's also a slideshow, though interestingly, no trailer. But none of that is on the Criterion disc. The DVDs are also packaged in a very attractive slip case with an eight-page booklet.
Not that the Criterion is bare-bones, far from it. UTV is, though - they don't even have a trailer.  But Criterion's created some excellent new features. Or, at least two. They've got a pair of roughly 30 minute featurettes (one's longer, one's shorter) called Thought and Passion and The Eternal Yes. The first talks to Ivory, Roberts and costume designer John Bright, and the second talks to Carter, Callow and Sands. These are actually better produced than the Warner Bros stuff, which apart from the commentary, is mostly sourced from television. And it's great to finally hear from Sands. Criterion also has a vintage television news segment of its own, and they do have the trailer. Their release also has a booklet with notes. It's just a shame they didn't or couldn't license Warner Bros' extras to create a strong, definitive package.
So if it sounds like I'm making a case for the Warner Bros over the Criterion, no. If you're in the store with one copy in each hand, even assuming it's Warner's blu-ray rather than the DVDs, I'd recommend the Criterion. They've got the fresh 4k transfer and, hmm... it's really a tough call on the extras. Criterion's featurettes beat Warner's featurettes, but WB has the commentary. Definitely keep the older version if you've got it, because their extras are exclusive and somewhat extensive. Unless you're a high enough roller to buy both for the full set of special features, though, the extras situation is going to be frustrating no matter how you choose. So that tips the scale in favor of the Criterion.

But if you already own the Warner Bros blu, is it worth upgrading to the Criterion? Like I said, it depends how picky you are. Are you really that fussed about the difference between the 1.78 and 1.66 aspect ratios? Because that's really the key difference. Yes, the 4k scan is superior, too; but the previous master wasn't exactly a disaster that needed to be replaced. As the DVDExotica guy, I compare screenshots all day, and one is a clear winner. But being honest, I know that if I watched the Criterion blu-ray with my family, then swapped to the Warner Bros blu for the commentary, none of them would pick up on the fact that I switched discs on them. So I'll label this a low priority upgrade. There's much worse stuff to upgrade ahead of A Room With a View, and the extras won't feel like such a compromise.

The Brood Leading The Brood, Criterion Vs. Second Sight (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Like I was recently saying, I'm interested in these semi-simultaneous blu-ray releases of cult titles in the US and the UK. Here's a fairly recent pairing: The Brood, first released overseas by Second Sight in 2013, and just a couple months ago here in the states by Criterion. Curiously, they share some extras in common, but each also have unique features; and the transfers themselves are different. It raises the question again, which is better?
If you're not familiar with The Brood, you ought to be, as it's one of David Cronenberg's most compelling films. It may even be his greatest, but his catalog is so rich and diverse, it's tempting to call several of his films the best, simply depending on which you've last watched. It's a wild mix of intelligent science fiction and riveting psycho-drama. Art Hindle is a father who suspects his wife, Samantha Eggar, has begun abusing their daughter after joining a cult-like psychotherapy group run by Oliver Reed. These people are into a cutting edge technique called "psychoplasmics," where patients somehow work out their emotional problems biologically. The most unforgettable scene for me isn't a suspenseful scare or complicated special effects sequence, but simply when Hindle finds ex-patient Robert Silverman, who wears a towel around his neck and and gives a brilliant monologue about his routine for exercising his lymphatic system and his class-action lawsuit against Reed's organization. Of course, there's plenty of truly memorable horror scenes as well, including two monstrous little kids conducting a hit in a kindergarten class room and Eggar's gruesome birthing scene.
It's just so successful on so many levels at once: intellectual, visceral, the performances... The only complaint I can see potential viewers have is that it's too talky for fans looking for a fast-moving horror show. And even then, you can't say that this film doesn't present the goods in terms of special effects, shocking imagery and violent deaths, if that's what you're after. It's Cronenberg really successfully bridging the gap between horror/exploitation genre fare and serious, adult films. Even most of his own work tends to pick a site, but I love it when he masters them both at once.
So, like I said, I've got Second Sight's 2013 blu-ray from the UK and Criterion's new 2015 blu-ray. I've also got the 2000 French/ Canadian DVD from DVDY Films, under the title Chromosome 3, which was always the best pre-HD release of the film (though MGM put out a respectable but slim, no frills DVD in 2003, which I used to own for a while). I'll put that one into the comparison mix, too, because it shows us something interesting about the transfers and it includes a little something that makes it still collectible to this day.
DVDY DVD first, Second Sight blu-ray second, Criterion blu-ray third.
Now, if you're very astute, you'll notice that the blu-rays leave the film open at 1.78:1, whereas only the DVD matted it down to 1.85:1. And the framing is slightly shifted on all three transfers, revealing slivers of information on all different sides of each disc. But you don't have to be astute at all to notice the big, glaring difference between them... who turned out the lights on the Criterion disc? It's so much darker and blu/gray, compared to the Second Sight, which is both bright and natural. Okay, if you really scrutinize it, maybe it's a little too bright. When the brights are super high, like in snow or flared out sunlight, there's a teensy bit of white crush, though you can only even be sure by comparing it to the other discs. In terms of just the color-timing and brightness, I actually think the DVD hits the sweet spot, which is super close to the Second Sight blu, but with the brights dialed down just a touch. Look at the highlights in Reed's hair, and you can see detail eaten away in the SS blu that's present in the DVD and Criterion blu.

Of course, the DVD is standard def, and despite being a nice anamorphic disc, can't compete with the blus in terms of detail and clarity. Try reading some of the smaller text on the posters in the first set of shots; it becomes a splotchy illegible mess. So, yeah, you can't really make a case for the DVD.
DVDY DVD first, Second Sight blu-ray second, Criterion blu-ray third.
It's not just certain scenes; it's the whole movie.
And Criterion is no stranger to controversial color-timing when it comes to Cronenberg's work. Remember Scanners? And in both cases, Criterion apparently had Criterion supervise the transfers, so it's hard to challenge their authority in these matters. Maybe Cronenberg just likes it greyer, and he's making an artistic judgement call, even if it's not the most realistic, traditional look. Or, like we found out when he let a cut version of Shivers get out via Arrow, Cronenberg doesn't always seem to even look at the transfers he gives his personal seal of approval to, so maybe Criterion just lacked a guiding hand in how to correct the footage. In the extras, they talk about having shot a lot of night-for-day (or at least dusk-for-day), so I'm thinking Criterion may be giving us a more natural representation of what's on the film, and then Second Sight's shows how it was meant to be timed in post. Unless I get to corner Cronenberg in a hallway some day, we'll probably never know and shall just have to make up our own minds. Me, I prefer watching the Second Sight blu, though again, I wish DVDY's was HDVDY.

Both blus offer uncompressed LPCM mono tracks and optional English subtitles. The DVD has French and English Dolby tracks with semi-forced English subtitles (there's a trick to remove them on most players, but it doesn't work on my Pioneer). They're not burnt in or anything, though. But the DVD is also cut.  It's the R-rated version, trimmed of about 30-40 seconds, really, the only reason to be considering that one is for the extras.
Yes, the extras. The DVD actually has some exclusive stuff, which is why it's worth hanging onto even if you've got one or both of the blu-rays. Some of it's not English-friendly (boo! Though if you speak French, it's a nice bonus), including an introduction by Serge Grunberg (who wrote a book on Cronenberg), and a featurette called Cronenberg On Horror. But there's also a lengthy Q&A with Cronenberg and composer Howard Shore, where they speak in English. No other release has that. I wouldn't double-dip for it, but if you already own it, I wouldn't sell it off either.

Now, to the blus. Second Sight created some great, new special features for their release. Five to be exact. There's a great twenty-minute interview with Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds, and an informative talk with cinematographer Mark Irwin. Then they've got a good one with producer Pierre David who gives us the film's history, and a very welcome talk with Cronenberg regular Robert A. Silverman. Finally, there's an interview with David Cronenberg himself, where he talks about his beginnings as a filmmaker, from how he got started to Rabid. Curiously though, they stop right before getting to The Brood.
Disappointingly, Criterion ports over some of those extras, but not all. Specifically, they use Second Sight's interview with Hindle and Hinds, and the Cronenberg one about his history. But then they also scared up some new stuff of their own, most notably Birth Pains, a thirty minute retrospective on the film that talks to Eggar (who's quite enthusiastic about the film), Mark Irwin, Pierre David, assistant director John Board, and effects artists Rick Baker and Joe Blasco. It's quite good and the inclusion of Irwin and David eases the pain of their missing Second Sight interviews; but it's a bummer they didn't carry over Silverman's. If they could license some of the titles, why not all? Oh well, there's probably a very good and dry reason.

Criterion also includes Crimes of the Future, an early Cronenberg short film that's been included on heaps of Cronenberg DVDs and blu-rays by every company under the sun, but hey, why not have it here, too? They also have an episode of The Merv Griffin Show with Oliver Reed, but he never talks about The Brood on it. It's mostly just celebrity banter between the two of them, plus other guests Orson Welles and Charo: lightly amusing but hardly essential. Criterion also comes with a booklet featuring notes by Carrie Rickey, and they have a radio spot. Curiously, none of this releases feature the theatrical trailer, though the MGM DVD had it.
So hmm, yeah. This is a tough one. In terms of the extras, it's kind of a tie, Second Sight has those exclusive interviews, but Criterion has their featurette which is just as good, but different. And with the transfers, I like Second Sight's better, but a lot of people will argue Criterion's is more authentic, and I can't really disagree with them. I've actually read a little about the Australian blu-ray from Umbrella, and it sounds like their transfer essentially be Second Sight's without the excess brightness, which would be sweet. But really, the brightness thing is very subtle; I'm not going to double (or quintuple)-dip over it. They don't have any of the great extras from these two blus, anyway. So I don't have a firm recommendation here: it boils down to a pretty personal decision. Just look at the evidence here and decide for yourself.