Also Importing Lars von Trier's Manderlay

Ever since I covered Lars von Trier's Dogville, I've been meaning to swing back and take a look at Manderlay. It's kind of the same situation, where there is no blu-ray, only DVDs, and the US DVD is missing a bunch of features from the previously released native Denmark set from Zentropa and Nordisk Films. And Zentropa beat them by a large margin of almost a year. I remember people were buzzing about Manderlay opening up in theaters soon, and I was surprised because I already had the DVD at home. But is this import DVD truly 100% superior? Should you track it down and replace your IFC Films DVD?
Manderlay is the second part of his "Land of Opportunities" trilogy (Dogville being the first), and it's interesting to note that both of Trier's narrative trilogies to date - the other being The Kingdom - have only made it to the second chapter. Fortunately, unlike The Kingdom I & II, these are more distinct stand-alone stories, so you don't feel like you're left at a dangling cliffhanger by the end of this film. But the connection to the first film is strong. It's presented in the same style, with all the actors placed on a mostly blank stage with only the props essential to the story and locations marked on the floor. And while Nicole Kidman has been replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard (who isn't quite as compelling in the part, but still more than adequately lives up to the film's dramatic challenges), the lead character persists, having left the town of Dogville and arrived on the estate of Manderlay.  Lauren Bacall, Chloë Sevigny, Jeremy Davies and Udo Kier are all back, and John Hurt once again narrates.
If Dogville offended some Americans, Manderlay doubled-down, this time tackling race issues and slavery, and not necessarily in the most politically correct way. Leaving Dogville, Howard and her gangster family drive into Manderlay and stop to take a rest at what they discover to be a plantation where slavery exists despite the film taking place in the 1930s, long after it had been abolished in this country. Howard is appalled and decides to stay with her lawyer and a few of her family's gunmen long enough to set things right at Manderlay. But obviously things don't fall into place as smoothly as she'd imagined, and we delve into commentary on cultures imposing their way of life on other cultures (i.e. spreading Democracy), the contemporary state of African Americans being in some ways worse than slavery, and of course all the wild layers of interpersonal drama that you can expect in a Trier film.

We've got some great additions to the cast this time around, including Danny GloverIsaach de Bankolé and Willem DaFoe. And while reactions to this film weren't quite as strong as the previous, because the look and style of the film wasn't so new and innovative, I think that actually puts us in a better place to appreciate both films. Now we're left in a position to appreciate the film on its narrative and other qualities, as opposed to its novelty value. And fortunately, it's a pretty smart and engaging film underneath its unusual presentation.
2006 IFC DVD on top; 2005 Zentropa DVD on the bottom.
These transfers look pretty dang similar. Both are anamorphic widescreen images, although IFC's is a smidgen more open, at 2.32:1, giving us a sliver extra vertical information. Although Zentropa's framing is probably the more accurate composition. The main difference, though, is that IFC's DVD is a hair brighter and redder, and Zentropa's is a touch smoother and more yellow. Whether that smoothness is a pro or a con, though, is a tough call, because it's not faithful grain that we're getting on the IFC disc, since this film was shot digitally. So is Zentropa better for having less digital noise, or is it too scrubbed? I'm inclined to say the former, because they both still have digital artifacting and haloing, so it's nothing good that we're losing. And the difference is pretty minimal, anyway, to the point that you'd only notice it in direct close-up comparisons like this anyway. It's basically just like the differences between the two Dogville discs, except they're more subtle and minimal here. Basically, for SD transfers, they're both fine and would rate basically the same grade on a scorecard.

Both discs offer 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks, though only Zentropa also offers a 5.1 DTS mix. On the other hand, only the US disc offers English subtitles, whereas Zentropa has optional Swedish and Danish subs.
Oh, and did I refer to Zentropa's release as a "set" earlier? Yeah, that's because, unlike IFC's release, theirs is a 2-disc set, with an entire second disc devoted to additional special features. And the US DVD has bupkis. Bub. Kis. At least the US DVD of Dogville had the commentary, but not Manderlay. We didn't even get the trailer.

And there is a commentary. Lars von Trier and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle jump onto the Zentropa DVD for a great forthcoming and irreverent discussion, that drifts from the technical to anecdotes with the cast and themes behind the story. You get that, brief interviews with Bryce Dallas Howard, Isaach de Bankolé, Danny Glover and Willem Dafoe, plus, yes, the trailer, all on disc 1. Again, the US DVD has nothing.
And disc 1 is just the beginning! Open up the case for the Zentropa set and staring you in the face is a second disc cheerfully labeled "ADDED VALUE." And I'll certainly go along with that, because this disc is packed. First we get two documentaries, which combined add up to feature length: The Road to Manderlay, a traditional but in-depth 'making of,' and The Cannes Experience: Manderlay, which is pretty self-explanatory. Then there's an excellent featurette showcasing the complex shooting method they used to film this picture using cameras in arrays. There's another featurette on the set design (uniquely important, of course, in the case of Dogville and Manderlay), and a short silly one about actor Jeremy Davies running around fetching coffee for everybody on set.

And don't get up yet, there's plenty more. There are short, on-camera interviews with Danny Glover (not the same one as on disc 1), Willem Dafoe (also different from disc 1), Lauren Bacall, Joseph Mydell, Anthony Dod Mantle and producer Vibeke Windelov, plus a long one (23 minutes) with Trier himself. Then there's a half-hour Danish television piece on Manderlay, which is essentially one giant sit-down interview between Trier and their host. And finally, there's a collection of three filmed press conferences for the film, one with Trier, one with Howard, and one with Bankole, Glover and DaFoe all together, which add up to about 50 minutes of additional interviews. There is so much here, you are not going to want to attempt it in a single evening.
Manderlay was shot with HD cameras, so a blu-ray would be nice to see sometime in the future. But there's nothing on the horizon so far, and I imagine this title's pretty low on anyone's list of priorities. After all, if the studio considered this a high profile title, they would've bothered to at least include the extras that were already created and released for this film. So we'll have to make due with DVDs, but we don't have to make do with a boring, plain old barebones American DVD. The Danish set is the very definition of a fully loaded special edition, and the differences between the two transfers are so subtle you have to push yourself to pick a side. So unless you need English subtitles, there's really no reason to hang onto the cheap native disc. And even then, I'd recommend double-dipping.

Bride of Re-Animator: It Keeps Getting Better

Update 8/13/15 - 6/27/16: Adding Arrow's 3-disc limited edition blu-ray/ DVD set to the mix. Let's see wow does this stacks up against Capelight's own 3-disc limited edition blu-ray/ DVD set. Prepare for a crazy long list of matching screenshots...

A couple months ago, I posted about how the German blu-ray company Capelight brought Re-Animator back to life with a stunning new transfer. Well, they've done an equally definitive job for its delicious sequel, Bride of Re-Animator. Now, they didn't do an "Integral Cut" this time, because that wouldn't really make sense for this film (I'll explain that more later), but they issued Bride a beautiful new transfer that blows all past releases out of the water. It helps, this time, that this is Bride's only blu-ray release, so the competition is weaker. But this new transfer would impress regardless of what else was out there.
Brian Yuzna, producer of the original Re-Animator, takes over for director here, and he does a great job of matching the tone and level of Stuart Gordon's previous work. This never feels cheaper or hackier, although, as with almost any sequel, the story does rely on a little more spectacle and a little less heart. It helps immeasurably that lead actors have all returned to reprise their roles that they'd already mastered in the first film. Even David Gale is back, despite having been decapitated in the previous film. He's now got himself a fresh pair of bat wings to fly his head around in one of the more ingenious touches that make this sequel so worthwhile. He even opens the film by addressing the audience directly, in a macabre homage to the work of old school horror meisters like William Castle. Only Barbara Crampton, disappointingly, missed the reunion, but Yuzna does a good job of writing around her character, so the actress replacing her doesn't face a whole lot of scrutiny. He also goes back to Lovecraft's original story, using a lot of what happened in there that the original film skipped over, giving the film a very legitimate, sturdy groundwork. I can agree with critics that this isn't as great an all-around film as the first one; but I couldn't accept that this isn't another wonderful time at the movies.
So, Bride of Re-Animator has always been in the hands of Artisan and Lions Gate here in the USA, which isn't the most promising set of names. Artisan first released this in 1999 as a pretty nice double-sided special edition, which was a terrific step up from Image's generic, full-screen laserdisc. It had both the R and unrated cuts, in both fullscreen and widescreen, and a huge selection of extras. It was great for 1999, but unfortunately has remained our definitive edition well past its shelf life, when Capelight eventually stepped in last year. What was fine for 1999 looked pretty shoddy after the advent of widescreen televisions - Whoops! This disc isn't even anamorphic.
So there's your non-anamorphic picture, surrounded on all four sides by black, unused space. Artisan did that weird way of using the same encode of the film as both the wide- and full-screen version of the film by making the mattes removable bars like subtitles. So there's just two encodes of the film (R on one side, unrated on the other) on the disc, but the removable matting turns it into four versions of the film. If you look closely at the screenshot above, at the very top and bottom of the image you can actually see the film above and below the matting!

Artisan reissued the film in 2003 as a generic, fullscreen single-sided disc with none of the extras... Gee, thanks for that. And the film eventually became just another title in one of Lions Gate's Horror Collection multipacks in 2012. Suffice to say, this film was very much in need of a new blu-ray edition, but you know Lions Gate doesn't like to let their catalog titles out to breathe. So we have to look overseas for our upgrade. Capelight finally provided that with a fully loaded, 3-disc media book edition in 2014. Then Arrow came out with their own 3-disc set in 2016. So now we've got some dueling HD options to explore.
Capelight's R-rated blu 1st, unrated blu 2nd, and unrated DVD 3rd. Then Artisan's R-rated
matted version is 4th, R-rated unmatted 5th, unrated matted version 6th and unrated unmatted 6th,
Next, Arrow's R-rated blu is 7th, unrated blu is 8th and unrated DVD is 9th.
Whoo, yeah, just a couple versions to compare there. Maybe a bit excessive, but you know me, I've gotta be thorough, so I've included both R and unrated versions of the film in all the ways it's been presented on both the original Artisan DVD, Capelight's 3-disc set and Arrow's 3-disc set. Essentially, Arrow is using the same 2014 restoration transfer as Capelight, so they're awfully similar. They use a new 2k scan of a second generation intermediate interpositive for the R-rated version and almost all of the unrated version, but the excised unrated elements had to be sourced from master print, which looks almost as good, but those moments do wind up looking a bit flatter than the rest of the movie.

But just look at how much sharper and clearer the new blu-ray transfers are. Both Artisan and the newer blus matte the transfer to 1.78:1 (excluding Artisan's fullscreen versions, of course), but the blu-rays' new 2k scan of the original film elements manages to include a little more picture on the top and left sides. Their new color timing seems to be the most natural, as you'd probably expect, but what I was surprised to find out is how different Artisan's colors were between their R and unrated cuts. Look at the buildings in the first collection of shots - is the building red or yellow? Both seem too extreme, pulling in different directions, with Capelight and Arrow having found the happy middle that looks best. They also un-crush some blacks, uncovering hidden detail.
Now, Capelight has provided an uncompressed 2.0 English audio track, but unfortunately it seems a little troubled. There's some of fuzz behind it (on both cuts), that goes away during moments without dialogue or music, which suggests they've cleaned up a bad audio track with a noise gate or something. The German dubs are perfectly fine, if you care about those. The English track isn't unlistenable - it doesn't make dialogue hard to understand or anything - but it's definitely not clean, and therefore a disappointment. Optional English and German subtitles are also included.

So the question for 2016 is: did Arrow fix the audio fuzz? Yes! But their LPCM stereo track still isn't perfect. I guess the original audio elements are just messed up. So Arrow had to clean up noisy audio, which sounds a lot better, but not as clean or dynamic as audio that wasn't damaged in the first place would. It's certainly superior to Capelight's, though. If you have the Arrow set and are curious how the Capelight sounded, listen to the Brian Yuzna solo commentary. There are a few moments where he pauses and they boost the volume of the film to normal, and you can plainly hear that they've got the Capelight fuzzy audio track playing. English subtitles are also included.
Far less trivial is the excellent collection of extras. It's not quite as fully-loaded as the original on the one hand, there's a distinct lack of on-camera interviews, but on the other hand, there are two audio commentaries that bring in pretty much all the relevant personnel: Brian Yuzna, stars Jeffery Combs & Bruce Abbott, and the incredible special effects roster of Tom Rainone, John Buechler, Mike Deak, Bob Kurtzman, Howard Berger & Screaming Mad George. There's also a 23+ minute making of featurette, two behind-the-scenes clips, and the trailer. All of that was on Artisan's disc and all of that has been ported over to Capelight's edition. Capelight has also added a couple extra bits and pieces, including an hour-long radio play of the Lovecraft's original Re-Animator story. There's also a podcast, but that's in German only. Everything on Capelight's 3 discs is English friendly except for this podcast and a couple bonus trailers. Then the only other extra is a restored version of the opening credits of the original Re-Animator, which... yeah, I have no idea why that's here.
And Arrow? Do they have any cool features? Ha ha, what are you nuts? Of course! They have everything Capelight has, except the German podcast, radio play, bonus trailers, and the credits from the original film. For English speaking audiences, the only loss worth noting from that list is the radio play, and even that's not a big hit. But they've also added some cool, new content. First, they have a new audio commentary by Yuzna. Now, he was already on the one older commentary, but he didn't get a lot in compared to all the effects people. So there are a few repeated anecdotes, but most of his commentary his new and insightful - one thing he fills us in on a lot is how Bride compares to the Lovecraft stories. Then there's a new on-camera interview, where he talks a bit about the House of Re-Animator idea and some other interesting tidbits. Again, a little repetition, but also plenty of new content. And finally, there's a featurette on the effects which talks to just about everybody who worked on any of the many wild gags in this film, and any more time spent with Screaming Mad George is a big plus in my book.

So that's it for disc content, but as you can see in the photo above, Arrow also went all-out on the deluxe packaging, including some serious physical content. Primarily, there's an attractively bound copy of the Dawn Of Re-Animator comic books from the 90s, including the full color covers. There's also a 24-page booklet on the film with notes by Michael Blyth, one of Arrow's traditional postcards of the film, and it all comes in a cool (if a un-sturdy) slip-cover box. Plus, if you ordered this from Diabolik, you also got a very neat Bride of Re-Animator pen, designed to look like a hypodermic needle full of green re-animation fluid.
So, why no integral cut this time? Well, for one thing, the original film was an unusual case where both the unrated and R-rated cuts had some exclusive, great - nearly essential - footage. In this case, the two editions are much more similar, with the R just being the traditionally slightly censored version. So the unrated already is the definitive version of the film. Also, what changes that were made for the R-rated cut isn't a question of extra or missing shots, but alternate shots. So scenes wouldn't make sense if you combined all the footage together. So, that's what's cool about the 3-disc media book editions; they give you the R-rated cut for the serious completists who want to have it for the minor variations. But otherwise, the original unrated cut is the only version you need.
Both Bride of Re-Animator's blu-ray releases are pretty sweet, but unless you only speak German, I'd say Arrow's wins. It has better audio and some nice, new extras. Artisan's old DVD still gets minor novelty points for having the open matte transfer, for those curious to see the extra information the film has in the wrong aspect ration. I'm slightly disappointed neither Capelight or Arrow opted to sneak another old VHS version transfer as an easter egg; but of course, it's really a trivial matter either way.

I should also point out that Arrow and Capelight both offer regular versions of their 3-disc limited edition sets. Capelight's is a single disc release of just the unrated version, and all the extras. And Arrow's is a combo-pack of the unrated blu and unrated DVD. That has almost all of the extras (not including the physical stuff, of course), except for the fifteen minute reel of behind the scenes footage, which is only in the limited set.  In both cases, the R-rated cut is only available in the 3-disc sets.

So, ultimately, Arrow's is the superior set, but not by a large margin. The transfers are the same, though they cleaned up the audio a bit better. And their extras package is better, but the older editions were already pretty loaded. Fans should be pleased with either set, and while you might consider replacing your Capelight set with the Arrow set, I'd rate that as a low priority. But if you haven't gotten any yet and are deciding which way to go, Arrow's the easy and correct choice.

Okay, Cronenberg Completists, Let's Go Deep: Blue

So you're a super, die-hard David Cronenberg fan, huh? Well, here's one you don't have. Blue. I know you don't have it, because nobody does. At least not a legit, authorized release. It's never been released, not even on VHS. It might appear to be available for stream online through Amazon, but reading their description, they and imdb seem to have their listings mixed up.

"Blue, Not Just a Color Anymore! Blue's the Friend Everybody Would Love to Have. He's a Floating Blue Ball of Unknown Energy, and He can morph into Anything he Wants! from an Apple Ipod to a Zurich Made Watch and Everything in Between!"

That is definitely not this film. I question if that's even a real film at all... a "Friend Everybody Would Love to Have" that transforms into "an Apple Ipod?" That sounds more like a television commercial. Well, if anybody's curious enough to throw away $1.99 to find out, I'd love to hear what Amazon's actually charging for. But until somebody steps up to take a hit for the team, we'll just have to wonder.
The real film is something a little less corporate. In fact, it was responsible for some rumors that Cronenberg had started his career in porn, like Craven or Lustig. But it really wouldn't be fair to describe this is a porno, despite having a healthy dose of hardcore footage on hand. It's more a movie about pornography; and it's actually a smart, entertaining little film.

And by the way, Cronenberg didn't write or direct Blue. He just stars in it. It's also not some early, experimental short from the cradle of his career. This was made in 1992; and he was probably cast because the director had seen his first starring role in Nightbreed two years prior.

This film was actually written and directed by Don McKellar, a compelling filmmaker in his own right. He's mostly known as an actor, starring in such films as Exotica and Existenz; but he's also written and directed some truly great movies of his own, like Last Night and Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. Apparently, this was his graduate film from his time studying directing at the Canadian Film Centre. Imagine being in class with a guy who got David Cronenberg to star in his student film - hope they didn't grade on a curve! But yeah, McKellar's great. When I first heard he was behind this, that got me more excited to check this out than Cronenberg's involvement.
So what's Blue actually about? Well, it's essentially two separate but thematically connected films that intercut back and forth between each other. One is a traditional, narrative film, where Cronenberg stars as a manager of a carpet factory who makes a ritual out of his dirty magazine habit. It co-stars McKellar's wife and regular actor Tracy Wright, and they make a charming, funny pair. Then the other half is an older, retired porn actress narrating - essentially doing a traditional audio commentary for - one of her old porn scenes where she plays a bored housewife seducing a surprisingly buff bellboy. The whole thing's just over twenty minutes long, but it's full of that light but warm humanity McKellar exhibits in a lot of his more famous work.
So yeah, Blue was never legitimately released, but I always remember seeing it in Video Search of Miami's catalog, and I eventually bit the bullet after they made the jump from VHS to DVD-Rs. So what you're looking at are screenshots of their disc, which is obviously sourced from video tape, right down to the rolling noise at the bottom of the screen. It's terribly grimy, soft and faded, and on top of that, it's got some really strong interlacing problems. Just look at that shot of Cronenberg with Geoff McBridge there; it looks like he's starting to get beamed up, Star Trek style.

Obviously there are no extras or anything to talk about; this is just a VSoM grey market disc. It has a generic, blank menu screen and the disc actually runs for 88 minutes, but everything after the 21 minute mark is just never ending black video noise. Very odd.
So it's too bad Blue is really not available at all; even the Video Search of Miami option is off the table now. Considering how many times Stereo and Crimes of the Future have been packaged and repackaged as bonus features with other Cronenberg films, it would be great to see the net get cast a little wider and include this one of these days. Or, of course, it could go with a McKellar film - Blue would make a great component of a special edition Last Night blu-ray. I can just imagine how much cleaner and nicer this would look taken from the original film elements.

Cronenberg's Fly (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

So, I sat down to grab screenshots for this review earlier today (technically yesterday), and I decided to stick on the latest episode of my favorite horror podcast, Shock Waves, because it can be kinda dry work. It turned out to be a special episode dedicated to 1986's The Fly! Is that kismet or what? ...Seriously, I'm asking. I don't have a firm grasp on what the word "kismet" means.
The Fly is one of the very few remakes that's considered to be superior to the original version. What else is there? Carpenter's The Thing, True Grit, Last Of the Mohicans, maybe the 70's Invasion Of the Body Snatchers... I guess you open the door wider if you allow feature films that remake earlier shorts (12 Monkeys vs. La Jetee or Evil Dead vs. Within the Woods) or subsequent adaptations of novels or plays (is every version of Macbeth a "remake" of the previous release?). The Fly feels like a pretty pure remake, but there is an original short story that both films are taken from, and yes, the 1986 version does claim the story as its source, not the original film. Anyway, David Cronenberg's version is pretty different from either potential source, as both of those have a pretty different story structure.

When I think of the 1958 Fly, the first thing that pops into my mind is the scientist in a while lab coat with a giant fly head looming at the screaming woman, and it feels like a very camp, 50s sci-fi creature feature. But going back to it, it's actually fairly intelligent and plays it very straight. The film starts out at scene of a gruesome murder scene, and the plot unspools backwards, as they try to figure out what dark secrets this death was hiding. That's how it was in the original story, too; but David Cronenberg's version does away with all that, and places the viewer in the perspective of the scientist himself, in this case played by Jeff Goldblum. And we begin right in what would be the flashback of the original, with Goldblum inventing his teleporters, and of course experimenting on himself without first spraying his lab for bugs.
It's Cronenberg, so of course it really amps up the "body horror" aspect of the story. Goldblum isn't just suddenly revealed to have a giant insect noggin; instead he slowly develops and mutates a more organic half-breed. Of course they take advantage of their access to more modern special effects. But surprisingly for Cronenberg - as his early films were often known for being rather "clinical" exposes - this film also really plays up the romance between Goldblum and Geena Davis. In the original, they're a long married couple with a ten year-old running around the house, and that has its own unique resonance in the way the film begins after the fact; but here we see the characters meet and fall in love. The key distinction is that our empathy is placed entirely with Goldblum as he becomes "the fly." In the original, our empathy is always shifting, with the final denouement landing on... Vincent Price's love of his brother's wife? Conveniently for him, she'd just widowed herself with his factory's steam-press and now he's gonna step in as the family patriarch? Yeah, that isn't touching at all. But Cronenberg's Fly strangely is.
So The Fly debuted on DVD in 2000 as a nice, widescreen double-feature with its sequel The Fly II. But this was an important cult film, that was also a major big studio science fiction title, so it deserved a decked out special edition. And it received that in 2005. Then when HD became a thing, The Fly was an early catalog title to come out on blu-ray, which it did in 2007. All from Fox, who produced and have always maintained the film. And that blu is still the most current version there is. I've got all three here, so let's examine it's evolution.
2000 DVD on top; 2005 special edition mid; 2007 blu-ray bottom.
So, we're not seeing any radical changes. All are anamorphic, 1.85:1 with no interlacing problems or anything. A casual viewer who didn't bother to enlarge the screencaps might think they all look identical, but like the character's transformation in the film itself, there is a gradual progression. Even between the two DVDs, the earlier disc is a little fuzzier and less defined than the 2005 reissue. And then, in the step up to HD, the boost might not blow your socks off, but the film does get even more defined. You see it when you get in close.
2000 DVD left; 2005 special edition mid; 2007 blu-ray right.
Each iteration is just a little more clarified and less compressed. It's an old blu-ray, and coming from a DVD that was quite good, so it's subtle, but the HD image is definitely the best. You might also notice that the color timing's gotten a little cooler on the blu, and the framing has shifted a tiny bit; but it's too slim to be significant or even noticeable without a direct comparison like this. Just in terms of clarity however, yes, the blu is the best. Could a modern 4k scan reveal even more of this film's potential? Maybe. But for a 2007 blu-ray, this really stands up rather well.

Audio-wise, there are no surprises. It's an important title from Fox, so it always sounds good. Both DVDs offer 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, as well as a French dub and English and Spanish subtitles. The 2005 reissue also adds a 5.1 DTS track. Then the blu reigns it in to just the one English 5.1 DTS mix, but it's of course lossless. It also has more dub (French and Spanish) and subtitle (English, Spanish, Korean, and Cantonese) options.
We'll just take a quick buzz [sorry!] by The Fly 2, since it's included in the 2000 double feature on a flipper disc.  It's not included with the other releases shown here, but there was also a collector's edition double pack released in 2007, giving the sequel plenty of extras. There has yet to be a blu-ray, though.

Anyway, The Fly 2 kind of follows the sequel to the original, 1959's Return Of the Fly, at least in some very basic ways. Both films follow the son of the original scientist (in this case Eric Stoltz plays Goldblum's son) who himself becomes a scientist and of course also winds up becoming a fly creature. The distinction being that he inherits his condition in this one, because he wasn't born until later, whereas in the 1959 version he was already a fully-grown kid, so he had to duplicate the experiments on himself to become the second monster. But in any case, both work to scientifically reverse their condition, and in this 1989 film, he racks up a gruesome little body count along the way.
Even the 1989 film would rather be watching the 1986 film.
Both sequels are big steps down from their original counterparts. In The Fly 2's case, it's a very typical 80s formula affair. There's a lame romance, evil corporate scientist goons running around with plastic machine guns, and a bigger, less human monster. There are some cool face meltings, John Getz returns to provide a little continuity even though his character doesn't have much to do, and Stoltz is a good actor; but don't come to this film looking for art or a rewarding story. This film did play theatrically, but in its heart, it's direct to video all the way.
So, the film's anamorphic widescreen, but the 2000 DVD is pretty soft and compressed. Like I said, there was a subsequent special edition, but this release only includes the theatrical trailer, plus trailers for the other Fly films. If you like this film, you'll want to track down the later special edition instead, but if you're just accepting this as essentially a bonus feature to the original, this is good enough. It'll satisfy your curiosity.
Now, getting back to the original... well, the original remake, anyway. The 2000 DVD has nothing but the trailers, and a couple bonus trailers. But the 2005 edition, which is a 2-disc set because you could never squeeze all this onto one DVD, brings its A game. First of all, yes, there's a Cronenberg commentary. He always does good ones, and this is right up there: a must-have for fans. Then there is a major, almost three hour long documentary, that walks you through the whole filmmaking process, interviewing pretty much everybody and including plenty of behind-the-scenes footage. Fox really knows how to do killer docs for their A-list titles like the Alien films, and they The Fly is definitely one of their A-listers. Then there are several deleted and extended scenes, sometimes including looks at the storyboards or script when not everything was fully shot. They really get definitive here. They include a whole collection of trailers for this and the other Fly films, a look at a film historian's Fly collection, two vintage EPK featurettes, special effect test footage, and a whole bunch of galleries with posters, photos, articles, the original short story and both versions of the screenplay. It also comes with a nice fold-out insert with notes and a map of the features, a second insert advertising the sequel, and a cool slip cover. You really couldn't ask for more.
The blu-ray carries all of that over, from the commentary and the mega-doc, to all the little features. It's all in SD (so it fits on one disc), but it's all there, including all the little galleries. I guess technically, you do lose the text features, i.e. the story and screenplays; but who reads stuff like that off a disc anyway? The only additions are a trivia subtitle track and a silly interactive game, which I tried out just to be thorough. You use your remote to control a flyswatter or bug zapper to kill animated flies that crawl over footage from the film. It's pretty easy until the last level, which took me a couple tries to beat. Depending whether you win or lose (if you kill enough flies before the time limit expires), you're shown two different clips of the film, like cut-scenes. Anyway, the bottom line is that for all practical intentions and purposes, all the important stuff is here with nothing new to bother over.
Final tally: the blu-ray is the best and recommended release of the film. But if you've got the collector's edition DVD set, you could upgrade or not, depending how important that HD bump is to you. It's a respectable bump, but not huge. And sure, I could imagine somebody like Arrow adding this to their collection of Cronenberg restorations - it's one of his biggest and best titles, after all - and I could see them cooking up a fancier transfer and a few more features. There's room for it, but we don't need it. This film's already pretty well off; and I'd much rather see labels focus on the titles that are in much more dire need than this one. This is widely available pretty cheap, and it's a commendable release. It's a little old, but still in fine shape.