Julie Darling a.k.a. Daughter Of Death

How do I keep bringing up Julie Darling without actually covering Julie Darling?  Shame on me.  Well, that's about to change because here we go with another messed up Bad Seed story.  There has been take after take of The Bad Seed premise, even an official made-for-TV Bad Seed remake in 1985.  But most of those are pretty bland and generic.  Me, I'm a fan of the more off-book indie interpretations with some edge to them.  And that's Julie Darling, alright.  The Bad Seed with edge.

Update 12/4/17 - 10/20/23: Julie Darling is back in 4k thanks to a new BD/ UHD combo pack from Dark Force Entertainment.
The opening credits play over our precocious little angel's pet boa constrictor slithers around the house.  Her mother hates it and brings in a handy-man to get rid of it.  So when the handy-man breaks into the house later to rape her mom, Julie gets her gun... but then decides maybe she'd rather just let things play out, and sure enough mommy croaks.  But if she had issues with her mom, Julie really can't stand her new stepmother, The Howling II's Sybil Danning.  But what are the odds that handy-man will break in and inadvertently solve all her problems a second time?  Pretty slim... at least without a little encouragement and a lot of clever planning.
There's a real taste of Richard III in Julie Darling, where we're invited to delight in just how far our wicked protagonist is prepared to go to get what she wants, using the people around her like pieces on a chessboard.  It's also another "only in the 70s," non-PC affair, where about half of the supporting characters are hookers and pimps, and the other half are kids.  The fact that it's oddly foreign may have something to do with that, too, being a Canadian and German co-production.  Most of the cast is speaking English, but Julie's best friend is very clearly dubbed.  So to call this one a bit strange is certainly an understatement, but it's also rather good.  Most of the acting - with the unfortunate exception of the woman playing Julie's mother - is on point, and the story is smart and ambitious.  The girl playing Julie is unquestionably the all-star, Oscar nominee Anthony Franciosa plays her father and even Sybil Danning gives a nice, grounded performance.  Great locations and a minimal but effective score help seal the deal.
Outside of a couple no frills, full frame overseas discs, Code Red is the only company to give this a legit DVD release.  They're far from the only domestic company to give it any kind of release; there's a whole sea of weird, junky bootlegs on Amazon and other sites.  But Code Red's was the first legit release here in the states.  Even better, their 2010 DVD was also a nice, loaded special edition.  Then, in 2017, Code Red upgraded that to blu, and now in 2023, it's been upgraded to a new BD/ UHD combo pack from Dark Force.
1) Code Red 2010 DVD; 2) Code Red 2017 BD;
3) Dark Force 2023 BD; 4) Dark Force 2023 UHD.

As you can immediately tell, each release is taken from an all new master.  Specifically, the DVD is a "HiDef transfer from the original 35mm interpositive," the 2017 blu is a "2016 2k scan from the original interpositive" and the new Dark Force discs are using a "new 2023 HD 4k master from the original 35mm internegative," "with HDR" in the case of the UHD.  Damage across all four discs is mostly pretty sparse, but a yellow vertical line does like to run through a lot of the picture, as you can see on Sybil in the first set of shots above.  But the new scans are genuine improvements.  The 2017 blu is a lot clearer, with the DVD being even softer than your standard DVD/BD, SD/HD distinction.  It's a really marked boost in sharpness.  The only thing even more noticeable than that is the all new color correction, which makes a world of difference.  Colors are much more robust and distinct, and they're also decidedly more natural, with white walls looking white instead of pink or orange, and just in general like a tinting haze has been lifted from the screen.

And the colors were redone again in 2023, and the improvement isn't quite as marked, because we're starting from a better position, but things do look more authentic now, especially on the 4k, where the brights look a little more natural, yet the primary colors are somewhat stronger.  Small detail and grain look pretty similar between the 2017 and 2023 editions, with just a slight improvement to rounded on the UHD and a little less noise throughout (note the film dirt on Sybil's lip on the 2017 release that's removed from the 2023).
All three cases list a 1.85:1 aspect ratio on the back, and that's wrong every time.  Both Code Red discs feature nearly identical 1.78:1 framing.  There are tiny shifts vertically and horizontally, but you'd never catch it outside of a direct comparison like this.  But for whatever reason - and this is true of both the DVD and the first blu - the opening credits are slightly pillar-boxed for a taller 1.67:1 aspect ratio.  Feel free to speculate on why that is.  Is the film supposed to be in 1.66, and Code Red just likes producing 1.78:1 transfers?  Working my way through the Code Red catalog, there seems to be something to that...  Supported by the fact that Dark Force has kept the film at 1.67:1 throughout the entire film.  This gives us more vertical information, but is a little tighter on the sides.

All four discs just give us the original mono, which is great.  The last thing we'd need here is some attempt at a revisionist "upgrade" mix, and it's presented losslessly in DTS-HD on both BDs and the UHD.  There's a little bit of natural hiss throughout and a few crackles that sync with damage on screen.  But the music and dialogue is robust and easy to discern.  And for a pleasant surprise from Dark Force, they've added optional English subtitles to the film for the first time.
Extra features are essentially the same across all three releases, but fairly substantial.  Basically, Isabelle Mejias (who plays Julie) and Sybil Danning each give us separate intros to the film, audio commentaries and on-camera interviews.  And boy oh boy, does Isabelle not like this film, and she really wants to make sure we know it.  It can be a little frustrating for fans, who are after all, probably the only people who'll be watching these extras.  But once you get past that, she is a good sport, forthcoming and informative, and even pretty funny.  Sybil Danning is more of an affable supporter all-around; and as is the case with many Code Red special features, when they start to run out of things to say about Julie Darling, the moderators grill them about their entire filmographies.  There's lots of great content here from both women, but over two commentaries and two interviews, it starts to get a little dry and redundant.  I wish they would've edited them together or something to turn them into a single commentary and featurette, which would've been a lot tighter and more fun.  But as it is, it's still a lot of great stuff, and any serious fan who grew up with Julie Darling will lap it all up.

Apart from that, both Code Red discs have different sets of bonus trailers, and Dark Force's comes in a stylish slipcover.
So if you own any of those cheap imports or bootlegs, or even Code Red's DVD, it's definitely worth upgrading to at least the 2017 blu.  If you already have that, triple-dipping to the UHD could be a lower priority, since the difference in PQ isn't as vast now as it was in previous generations.  But if you're upgrading from an older version, or just need the very best there is, there's no question that the latest DF release is the definitive way to go, especially if you have a use for subtitles.

1 comment:

  1. One of my all time favourite Code Red releases. And it looks terrific. Good work, Bill!