Serious Upgrades for Silly Movies: Troll and Troll 2 (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

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.

2 comments:

  1. Dude I enjoyed reading this..Im 43 and don't know when this came out. Probably late 80's or early 90's.

    -Troll 2 was awesome. I fully grasp why it's soo funny. The creator dude who is Italian has NO IDEA that americans are laughing at his movie and NOT along with.
    ~~That's another reason this movie is awesome.
    ---The acting is soooo awesomely bad. But in a somewhat artistic time capsule kind of way...
    --The family is The 1980's American Suburbia overload..
    ***That reminds me soooo much of the 1980's American Suburbia that I grew up in and am kinda repeating as the fasher/husband..
    -Friday night Blockbuster video. 3 movies and a SuperNintendo game. good time to be 13,14,15 etc..

    --Back to the movie- I only ended up here after I saw
    "Troll and I video game and googled it. And this popped up...

    -The comparison is amazing. and I'm putting it on my Christmas list..(wife never knows what to get me anyways)
    and this is one of those purchases that I will never ever make....
    --Also,,i stopped (a decade ago) buying and displaying movies,DVD's blu reys etc...
    It just looks tacky and desperate and cluttered..So now that sh!ts all digital it doesn't make as much sense buying em B U T every now + then something special comes along that I buy..
    --I bought PROMETHEUS,,Batman Gotham Knight animated movie,and the rest are skate movies(90's skater)

    Thanks for this again bro..Im only posting this cause nobody posted and I wanted you to know I appreciated the write....

    later

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  2. TROLL is an exquisitely wonderful, lovely, fun, lyrical oddball funny, lame-scary, awkward unofficial musical (what the hell else would you call that entire FAIRY PRINCESS/waking of the trolls segment)and actually one of the few truly successful and enjoyable `adult'-intended dark fantasy films of the 1980s.... why it has always been regarded by most with a disappointed moan standing-in for admitted enthusiasm has always escaped my grasp. Everybody in it is just marvelous, esp. June Lockhart... talk about an ignored and unrecognized ultimate comeback role in all of cinema, Eunice St. Clair, ma nigga?? Shit!! People stupid!! Phil Fondacaro is transcendent both as the Troll, but moreso really as the dwarf human-cum-brother-elf...and it's even got Atreyu back from the NEVERENDING STORY as it's main character? Nigga, please!! Absolutely FABULOUS, eternally misunderstood and criminally dissed to the max... but there are a small handful of those of us who proudly recognize an enjoyable 80-minutes at the movies when we see one, and who will always stand up in it's defence whenever duty calls! Nice review! FOUR STARS (****) - Highest Rating... Congratulations!!

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