Dueling Blus: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Here's a nice, new release from a new DVD/ blu-ray label, Signal One. It's an early Jodie Foster thriller called The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. This is an HD debut of a film that's been released a number of times on DVD, but never before on blu, and it's coming to us from the UK. It's also the first release with any substantial extras. So my hopes were cautiously high when I took a chance and ordered this, now let's see how happy I should be with my purchase.

Update 1/11/16 - 4/30/18: Signal One's UK blu was this film's HD debut, but a few months after I originally posted, it was issued here in the US by Scorpion Releasing, with some exciting special features.  How do the two discs stack up?
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a smart, taught 1976 thriller based on a novel by Laird Koenig. An overwhelming majority of this film takes place in one room, so it's no surprise that this was later adapted into a stage play as well. It's also another one of those great Canadian films made in that tax shelter period where a lot of films, by directors like Bob Clark and David Cronenberg were created with a lot of creative freedom and often made to appear American. In this case, the film's meant to be set in Maine, and it passes fine enough so long as you're not intimately familiar with the locations.
Foster made this the same year as Taxi Driver, and she's perhaps even more impressive here as a 13 year-old girl who's somehow living in a large house all by herself. Naturally, people are immediately suspicious and start snooping around, from the local sheriff's deputy to a sleazy pedophile played expertly by Martin Sheen. But despite her age, Foster appears more than prepared to kill to protect her secret. Then again, she might not be the only one...
Everything about this film is surprisingly effective. The author of the original novel wrote the screenplay, so the story and dialogue is crackling. The score is subtle but effective, and the supporting cast includes 1940s studio star Alexis Smith and a particularly engaging turn by Bad Ronald's Scott Jacoby. It's very Hitchcockian in how it plays with what the audience knows or thinks it knows, and how it gets viewers wholeheartedly on the side of a killer. Horror fans expecting a a high volume of gruesome kills may be disappointed, but this certainly isn't kiddie fare either. In fact, it's pretty interesting how it's generally assumed that our society is ever-increasingly permissive; but I find it hard to imagine that this film could probably only have been made, or at least allowed into the mainstream with a PG rating and high volume of television broadcasts in this day and age. It's a unique product of the 70s.
Which brings me to the point that yes, this is the uncut "international" version on both blu-rays. The primary distinction between the international and US cut version being a brief nude scene of Foster's character (performed by a body double). However, almost all - if not entirely all - of the past DVD releases have also been the uncut version; so this shouldn't be a big revelation to most fans of the film. But it's good to know that this release is uncut.
2015 Signal One UK blu on top; 2016 Scorpion US blu bottom.
2015 Signal One UK blu left; 2016 Scorpion US blu right.
The first thing you'll notice from these screenshots is that they're virtually indistinguishable.  Which is okay, since the transfer they're clearly sharing looks great, with very natural looking colors, blacks and details. The framing is very slightly letterboxed to 1.84:1 in 1080p.  But if you really go pixel hunting, you'll see that they are different.  Signal One's disc is single layer, while Scorpion's is dual-layered.  And while Signal One's transfer takes up almost all of their their space, and Scorpion's just uses 26.1 GB (with the rest devoted to the extras), meaning it's not a very huge gap in file sizes... it still means Scorpion's just edges Signal One's out.  And I'm not just saying that based on the numbers, the grain is clear on both discs, but is just a bit more defined on Scorpion's disc, most visible in clear patches of sky, or in the shot above, pavement.  But honestly, this is a super hardcore nerd distinction I'm drawing here; I really don't believe anyone could spot the difference in motion during a blind taste test.

Signal One's LPCM and Scorpion's DTS-HD 2.0 audio tracks are similarly difficult to tell apart; both are lossless tracks are very clear and bold.  But here's the first place where one disc finally makes a clear step ahead: only the UK blu features optional English HoH subtitles.
No past release has ever had any extras apart from the trailer and/or bonus trailers. Well, the trailer is on these discs, too; and it's worth a watch in how they market this is more of a frightening horror film.  But Signal One finally started to make interesting with the inclusion of their exclusive audio commentary by Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer. Thompson writes for Mondo Digital and is fully prepared with a lot of information on the film, taking almost all of the weight of the commentary. Green chimes in when Thompson starts to run out of steam midway through to help keep things moving and playful. They do get a little lost, veering off onto the occasional self-indulgent tangent or two, but for the most part it's a good listen with a lot of the information viewers would want to know, like how the film differs from the book or what this film introduced to the closing credits of every major motion picture today.

So that commentary was a welcome addition to the film, but of course they couldn't top a commentary by the actual director, Nicolas Gessner, which is exactly what Scorpion managed to secure.  At first his accent feels a little thick, but you soon get used to it, and he has plenty of fun and interesting insight into his movie.  And just as impressive, if not more so, is the on-camera interview with Martin Sheen.  It runs just under a half hour, and while yes, they do kind of slip into that career-overview lazy interview format, Sheen also has a lot of great memories to share The Little Girl.  Then the two are brought together in a brief featurette where Sheen talks to Gessner over Skype, which is nice, but short (about five minutes) and mostly fluff.  Still, it's nice they threw it on here; but the real special features are the commentary and interview.

Also, both blus have reversible artwork, each using the same two poster images.
So both discs are quite good, perfectly viable releases.  The biggest difference is definitely in the extras.  The UK commentary was nice, but Scorpion handily trumped it.  Coupled with the slightly better compression, I'd have to say it's the overall preferable options.  Unless subtitles are important to you, in which case you may be forced to go with Signal One, which again, is still a very fine disc.  For many fans, who don't particularly care about extras and whose hearing is fine, they can honestly just go with whichever release is being marketed on their side of the ocean.  And if you're wondering if it's worth getting both, unless TLGWLDTL is your absolute favorite film of all time (in which case, you'll be getting both no matter what), I'd say don't bother... the commentaries are certainly distinct, but largely redundant, repeating a lot of the same trivia and observations.  But, with that said, I double-dipped for the Scorpion disc after already having the Signal One; and I'm glad I did.

Dueling Blus: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

I was recently writing about a space invasion movie that was essentially created by a team of special effects artists who'd taken the reign to produce, write and direct themselves... which more or less explained why it essentially became sort of a bland, dumb, soulless movie.  Well, here's another case of the same thing.  This time the special effects team in question is The Chiodo Brothers (the brothers are, the team is; don't question me, Autocorrect; I know what I'm doing!), who'd made everything from the claymation Simpsons to the Team America puppets and most importantly, the critters for Critters.  For the first, and to date only, time, they decided to see their creative vision all the way through and write, produce and direct their own thoroughly original alien invasion story.  And it resulted in almost the complete opposite of that other movie.

Update 1/3/18 - 4/25/18: Is it time to throw all previous editions out the window? The new 2018 Arrow special edition blu-ray (not to be confused with the 2012 Arrow special edition blu-ray) is here! And this time, it's no mere reissue...
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a title that evokes a lot of fun, crazy ideas.  But if you've watched a lot of films because of their alluringly outrageous titles, you're probably used to being disappointed.  Cat Women Of the Moon just consists of seven to eight stodgy television actors standing around gabbing in cardboard sets.  The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies is actually an excruciating exercise in tedium.  Gore-Met Zombie Chef from Hell doesn't even have a zombie in it, just boring dialogue and Halloween store special effects.  But Killer Klowns delivers, living up to everything your imagination casts up when it hears the title and taking you so much further than you'd even hoped to go.
First of all, the clowns themselves are a brilliant, iconic series of designs.  We're not talking actors in clown make-up but fantastic (in both senses of the word) clown monsters.  And we don't have to wait until seventy minutes into the film to see them for about ninety seconds of screentime; they're all over the place.  Very early on, we see inside their spaceship tent, and it's a beautiful glass matte shot right out of Forbidden Planet.  And practically every scene is a new idea based on the colorful premise of what if clowns were killer space aliens?  These clowns don't just lurk around dark corners stabbing people with knives, they twist balloon animals into living creatures that can attack, they cocoon victims in cotton candy and suck their blood through crazy straws.  Their popcorn's alive, they trap victims in ball pits, their puppet shows are deadly.  Each moment is another great idea carried out like I haven't seen in a film since the original Phantasm.
But objectively, is it actually a good movie?  Honestly, yes!  Sure, if you're looking for a movie to teach you how to love again, this isn't competing on the same profound level of an emotionally raw Bergman masterpiece; but it really is an all-around great film.  Naturally, the effects are terrific, and the silly plot is a constant pleasure.  But it film is supported just as much by its colorful production design (also by the Chiodos), iconic theme song by The Dickies and cult actor John Vernon expertly playing his role to the hilt.  Okay, a few of the more juvenile gags fall a little flat, and some of our lead actors, while taking cues right from the B-movie classic playbook, are a tad wooden.  But overall, it's just an all-around great film.  Like, this was 1988.  What won the Academy Award in 1988?  The Last Emperor?  I'd put this movie over that!  Maybe.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space wasn't exactly a sleeper hit in the horror community, so we were chomping at the bit for a special edition in the early days of DVD.  And in 2001, MGM gave us one as part of their budget-priced Midnight Movies line.  Often, those were no frills editions paired up as flipper discs; but they knew the fans would eat them alive if they didn't give us a nice, packed special edition DVD, which they did.  And eventually, in 2012, they bumped up the film to HD with an equally low-cost blu-ray, which thankfully retained all the extras from the DVD.  They even re-released it a couple of times with collectible lenticular covers [see mine, right].  Walmart even included a bonus Killer Klowns coloring book!  Meanwhile, that same year, Arrow released the film as a DVD/ blu-ray combo pack in the UK, with slightly different extras (you bet we'll get into that).  And in 2014, they reissued that as a steelbook edition, which is what I've got.  But in 2018, Arrow took a new stab at it, instead of just repackaging the same discs again, they gave the film a brand new restoration with a fresh 4k scan from the original negative, plus additional special features - let's go see!
1) MGM 2001 US DVD; 2) MGM 2012 US blu;
3) Arrow 2014 UK DVD; 4) Arrow 2014 UK blu; 5) Arrow 2018 US blu.
Once you get past the original 2001 DVD, which is distinctly darker with heavier saturation (including a subtle blue filter for some of their night scenes that the later releases seem to have dropped); we're basically looking at the same master all around.  Each release before 2018 is slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1, with slivers of faded matting on the sides... an overscan area thing that really indicates an older master.  But it looks pretty good.  The HD is a nice jump up in clarity over the old MGM DVD, though it's still a little soft.  Arrow is clearly using MGM's master, and happily they didn't do any destructive tinkering to it, so effectively the two blus are tied in terms of PQ.  For whatever reason, though, Arrow's DVD came out a little paler.

But there's a new Sheriff Mooney in town!  Arrow's new 2018 blu is again slightly matted to 1.85:1, but pulls out slightly further, revealing a little extra picture along all four sides.  The first thing you'll notice about this new transfer, though, is the grain.  It's positively dancing in every frame.  Some people might even be a little put off by it; but comparing it to the previous editions, it's clear the older discs are only less grainy by virtue of smudging it away.  Like I said in January, the old blus look a little soft, and that's why.  I mean, giving MGM the benefit of the doubt, that was probably due to older scans being less able to pick the finery out than an attempt to scrub the grain away at the expense of detail.  But either way, the results were and are the same.  This new transfer is super crisp.  And the colors aren't very different from their predecessors (and still no blue filter), but they do look truer.  It's subtle enough, though, that you'd only notice it in a direct comparison like this.  What isn't subtle is that sharper, grainier image.
The old DVD gave us a perfectly fine Stereo mix with optional French and Spanish subtitles.  The MGM has bumped this up to a DTS-HD stereo track, though I only really noticed the difference during the opening theme, and this time they offer optional English and Spanish subs.  Arrow has almost the same lossless audio track, with optional subs, but there is a difference.  The liner notes in their booklet mention "additional sync work" done in London, and with good reason.  Around the 17 minute mark, the dialogue noticeably drifts a little bit off on both the MGM DVD and their later blu and lasts for the duration of the scene.  The Arrow release has corrected it, or at least gotten it substantially closer, as I suspect it was a minor ADR issue in the first place.  So it's a small thing, but definitely an improvement.

And yes, thank goodness, the 2018 blu's blu retains the correct sync.  I was a little nervous about discovering that the problem that reverted, but no, it's all good.  And this time, in addition to the stereo mix (and English subs, which are still here), they've added a DTS-HD 5.1 mix.  I'm not sure how big a deal that is, since it's revisionist as the stereo is the original mix, but it's nice that they added it for those who want it.  And I checked: it doesn't have the sync issue either.
Speaking of improvements and retaining the good stuff, let's talk extras.  Now the original MGM DVD already laid all the serious groundwork: a very fun and thorough audio commentary by all three Chiodo brothers, an over 20-minutes 'making of' doc, multiple featurettes on the visual effects, score, the shooting process & even a look at the Chiodo's early short films, plus two deleted scenes (with optional commentary), bloopers, two galleries, the trailer and several fun easter eggs.  And again, they carried all of that over for their blu, nothing's missing.  It might look like they added a couple things, like "Klown auditions," but those are just the easter eggs from the DVD now laid out plainly on the menu.  Arrow 2012/2014, too, has included all of that great material - including, again, the easter eggs - but they've also created a couple new features.  We get on-camera interviews with stars Grant Cramer and Suzanne Snyder, as well as a short, 8 minute tour of the Chiodo Brothers' models and creations.  Arrow also made a nice little, 24-page booklet with notes by critic Joel Harley.  Oh, and they threw in another one of their postcards for another Arrow release: mine was Mark Of the Devil.

And in 2018, all of that is carried over.  The old MGM stuff, Arrow's 2012 interviews, the easter eggs, even the Harley booklet and postcard (this time, mine was for Don't Torture a Duckling).  And they've whipped up even more stuff.  First, there's a new featurette interviewing The Dickies about their unforgettable theme song, then there's one on the Chido's early experimental Super 8 short films (one of which features an audio commentary by the brothers).  And finally, there's the Super 8 films themselves.  This edition also includes a cool, double-sided Killer Klowns poster, a nice lenticular slipcover and reversible artwork.
So, okay, easy peasy.  The blus naturally trump the old DVD edition, the old Arrow disc is just that little bit better than the MGM for fixing the sound and including those additional features, and now the 2018 blu is the best of all, right?  Yup.  No surprise twists; this new edition is easily the best edition to get.  Simple recommendation there if you don't already own the film.  But the US disc still might be good enough for most fans, especially since it's so cheap (I got mine at Best Buy for $6.99); though for the more serious fan, the latest Arrow is the superior, most collectible option.

But if you're not a super fan, the double-dip may not be the most alluring.  It's a better transfer, yes, but they're not exactly correcting grave problems with the previous HD transfers, and "much grainier" probably isn't a huge selling point for most viewers.  Meanwhile, those new extras add a little bit more, but not much.  I can't say I was ever too involved in the short films the Chiodo brothers made as teenagers, so that only leaves one new interview that's actually about Killer Klowns (although if you have the MGM and not the previous Arrow edition, you'll be getting those Cramer and Snyder interviews, too, which is a bit more of a bump).  So we have an absolutely excellent, top quality release, and an undeniable upgrade, but maybe a low priority double-dip for owners of a previous edition.

Mom and Dad Rocks 'Till the Bitter End (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Reading this blog, you might think I mostly just watch old horror movies.  Actually, I watch more new ones than old films, it's just that they rarely grab me.  Not with a "get off my lawn"/ "modern horror sucks" kind of mentality, but more like watching episode after episode of various Law & Order series.  They're usually fine, decently made, but if one or a hundred of them disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn't even register.  Usually professional looking, going through the motions fine enough (though, of course, many are also exceptionally stupid), but generic unaffecting stories with no exciting new ideas or anything.  You know, nothing that makes me say, "oh man, I need that in my collection!"  So I guess you don't wind up seeing a lot of brand new horror on this site.  But here you go, guys; Mom and Dad is one that made me sit up and say, "oh man, I need that in my collection!"
I didn't race to see Mom and Dad, because it didn't feel like a film I needed to see.  I was over the novelty of Nicholas Cage doing freaky over-the-top wig outs before "the bees" was even a meme.  To me, The Wicker Man remake was just the film that made me finally give up on the promise of Neil LaBute.  And the legacy of Crank 2, Gamer and Ghost Rider 2 was did more to ward me away than draw me in.

And on top of all that, I'd already bought into the hype of Cooties and felt seriously let down.  Not that I'd call that movie terrible, but it felt more like a lame sitcom than the gonzo, envelope pushing tale of zombie children run amok that we were sold.  It turned out to be the Halloween episode of Parks and Rec, not a movie.  Remember they had the guy from 30 Rock doing all those hack effeminate gay man in the closet jokes?  Oy vey.  But even though Mom and Dad really has the inverse premise - adults killing children instead of children killing adults - they both had heavy 70s/80s throwback in the marketing, and it all just felt like another false horror movie promise.  But no, not this time.  Mom and Dad is everything it presents itself as, and more besides.
Because, look, I like Crank.  It's not a favorite; I don't own it on disc.  But it's definitely a film I'd recommend at least seeing once.  It's entertaining in all the ways it's trying to be.  But Mom and Dad, for all the ridiculousness of its premise, where a mysterious virus drives all parents to murder their children, actually has some weight to it.  It's the Crank guys back to deliver another wheelbarrow of cheap thrills, but this time with an actual story to tell, too.  It's not exactly subtle, but it is grounded.  And Nicholas Cage actually gives a solid performance, not just the barking trope you'd expect going into this picture.  The same can be said for his co-stars Selma Blair and Lance Henriksen.  Everybody's pretty great in this, even the kids.  And I've seen the people knock the ending, but I personally don't understand that.  I thought it was perfect.
And I'm not a big fan of nostalgia branding (we get it, Stranger Things, the 80s were full of 80s pop culture), but Mom and Dad has a brilliant 70s-style credits sequence.  And this movie doesn't go as cartoonish as Crank, which thankfully allows for the violence and horror to have a little more impact.  Like the original Night Of the Living Dead, they don't divert a lot of energy into pseudoscience or complicated explanations for the inciting crisis that ensues.  A few background characters speculate for a line or two, but this film just dives right into the heart of the matter and never comes up for air.  Not that this film is perfect... it's got a silky, almost 35mm look to most of it, until it conspicuously switches to GoPro footage for some high action scenes, and I just wanted to say, guys, you already made Crank, let Mom and Dad be Mom and Dad.  But they get past most of that pretty early on.
A more important criticism would be that the underlying themes work, but some of the writing is still a little weak.  Like, rather than completely writing from life experience, some younger writers are just borrowing from past on-screen marriage issues they've watched on TV.  Some of those family flashback moments ring a little false.  And the characters are clearly meant to be genuine and well-rounded, so we care about their conflicts, which they mostly pull off.  But they also go for some cheap laughs that feel like they're trying to parody middle class life rather than relate to it.  I'm thinking about some early bits where Selma Blair mistakenly confuses her Chinese maid for Korean or her shallow best friend at the gym.  She does so much good work making you sincerely relate to the midlife crisis they're undergoing in other scenes, and they risk throwing that away for easy satire.  But none of their little misfires are enough to undo all that they surprisingly get right in this picture.
2018 US Momentum DVD on top; 2018 US Momentum blu-ray bottom.
If you missed it, Momentum Pictures released this film on DVD and blu-ray a month or so ago as either a combo pack or just the DVD by itself.  Presented in a very wide 2.40:1, the aspect ratio kinda jives with the more classic, filmic style the directors were probably going for here.  But the look of scenes varies shot to shot, or at least scene to scene.  Like compare the walls and background in the first set of shots, where it almost looks like natural film grain, to the flat, plain skies in the second shot, which wind up looking more digital.  But that's all down to the original filmmaking, I'm sure, than any issues with the home video transfer, which is all perfectly fine.  You can see a clear boost in sharpness and clarity between the SD DVD and HD blu, just like you'd expect; and the audio is presented in a solid DTS-HD 5.1 mix with optional English subtitles.
That's it, though.  Subtitles on or off is the sole option on the menu.  Momentum has decided to include absolutely no special features whatsoever, not even a trailer.  And that's super disappointing, because I'm sure the behind-the-scenes footage of this movie must be a blast.  And I was very interested to hear what filmmakers had to say about this story, but this is as barebones as it gets.  It does come in a slip cover, at least.  But the discs themselves are depressingly barren.
It's still a must-have, because the film rocks.  And I guess the upshot is that Mom and Dad got a pretty broad release (you can pick it up at Best Buy, etc), so it can be had pretty cheap.  But it's sad, because this is the kind of film where, just a couple years ago, of course it would've been a special edition, with the directors adding a bunch of fun supplements to it.  But now we're watching physical media decline.  I guess we should be happy for even these basic releases while we've still got 'em.

The World's Only Ex Libris Blu-ray Review!

So nobody else on the internet reviews Zipporah releases but me, huh?  I keep looking, but every year I seem to be alone in this.  Hey, I'm a big Frederick Wiseman fan, so I'm happy to cover his films (and yes, one of these days, I'm going to start delving through his extensive back catalog), but I'm starting to feel like I've adopted a social responsibility here.  Hey, folks!  We've got one of the greatest American documentary filmmakers for over 40 years.  He just won a lifetime Academy Award last year, and his latest film just came out on DVD and blu-ray.  Does anybody else care?  No, just me?  Well, alrighty, then.  Enjoy your sole review of Zipporah Films' official blu-ray release of Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, Internet.  I even got my hands on a DVD copy, for the world's only direct comparison.

Update 7/12/18: I've added the DVD edition for comparison.
Admittedly, it's not hard to see why the millennial generation hasn't exactly latched onto Wiseman's work.  Ex Libris is, like the last couple decades worth of Wiseman's output has been... pretty dry.  Things weren't always this way.  In many circles, 1967's Titicut Follies is considered an infamous shockumentary, and films like Primate, Meat and Near Death are certainly not for delicate viewers.  And I think I'm actually glad that we're past that.  It was always a little uncomfortable to have ask a video store clerk to unlock the X-rated mondo trash cabinet while you try to explain that, no, this guy's actually a highly respectable documentarian who just gets mixed in with this stuff sometimes.  But even despite Crazy Horse's recently racy subject matter, those edgy days are long gone.
And that's fine.  What we all really watched Wiseman's work for is still here.  In fact, if anything, Ex Libris feels more like the latest chapter in his epic, million-hour documentary he's assembling that will eventually define the entirety of the human condition.  If you've been following his work, you absolutely know what to expect, another detailed, silent observation of another system mankind has created to enrich our lives: in this case, The New York Public Library.  More behind-the-scenes boardroom meetings, more public interactions, more cutting to exterior shots every twenty or so minutes, and every so often watching day turn to night.  No narration, no score, no narrative throughput, no overt emotional manipulation, no message, no human focal point.  Just a calm, three and a half hour crafted observation.  Now, that might sound ideal, or that might make you want to slit your wrists, but that's our Wiseman.
By no message, I mean we're not being sold a particular agenda (at least not overtly).  This is no cheap "we must save the dolphins!" flick.  But there's certainly heaps to take away from this film.  For those who don't know, The NYPL isn't just one big marble building sitting somewhere around the center of NYC.  It's the sum total of 92 branches across Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island.  It's a massive resource, pulling equally from federal and private funding.  From tiny little inner city outposts packed with children's books and best sellers to packed concert halls.  And we every aspect of how they serve the community, from blind children being taught braille to museum-style art displays, replete with gala dinner.  We see the board members debate their policies, fund raisers, the massive sorting system for returns across the state, the high-tech archival work, even the celebrity speakers who gave a talk or performance during the time the film was shot.  And some of the things I had no idea they were doing... Did you know that the NYPL, in the name of eliminating the digital divide in NY, loans out internet hot spots for years at a time to impoverished residents so they can have free internet access in their homes?  Wow.
Oh, but of course, there's the other big reason most review sites aren't covering this film: it's $50 for an MOD BD-R, which is only available from Zipporah's website.  That's boxed set prices, it's not even a pressed disc, and they even kinda stick ya shipping.  And yes, it's a single disc, all 205 minutes.  Plus, the fact that they stick them in the same DVD-standard cases they use for their DVD-R editions just feels cheaper.  I understand Wiseman can't exactly adopt a mass market business plan for this type of material, but buying one of these will be a very bitter pill for most even the most ardent collectors to swallow.  And unfortunately, the time seems to be past where we could count on foreign markets to release more reasonably priced, professional quality discs like we saw with National Gallery.  Blaq Out has seen fit to make Ex Libris a DVD-only title in France, so if you want this film on blu, this is unfortunately your only option.
2018 US Zipporah Films DVD top; 2018 US Zipporah Films BD-R bottom.
So I can't help but feel compression and clarity would be stronger if they didn't try to jam so much onto a single (thankfully dual-layered) BD-R.  Still, of course, it looks better than the DVD.  Not that there's a super wide gulf, but you do see the extra sharpness when you pick out the fine details.  Older Zipporah titles used to at least spread themselves out across multiple discs, but fans might've been more bothered by having to swap discs (a throwback to the laserdisc days) mid-film than the slight dip in PQ.  And I suppose they free up a lot of that space by including absolutely no special features... yay?  The film is slightly matted to 1.85:1, and for all my BD-R grumblings, it is still an attractive, genuinely high def image.  We're given a choice between two very clean audio options: Dolby Digital 5.1 (in DTS-HD on the blu) and Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 (in PCM on the blu).  That's it for frills, no trailer or nothin'.  But at the end of the day, it's not a bad HD presentation of the film, and that's still the critical thing.
So do I recommend this release?  Ha ha - Obviously not for everybody!  It's definitely a film serious documentary lovers will appreciate, but not the sort of thing I'd go around telling the uninitiated to seek out.  Even if they're ready to start watching four-hour vérité documentaries, I'd suggest starting with High School or Domestic Violence before wading into anything from the last couple decades.  But if you're one of us, or just a profoundly dedicated aficionado of the NYPL... I still wish I could point out a more affordable alternative.  If you're rich and happy to know 75% of the purchase price is really just a donation to the Wiseman cause, then perfect.  Otherwise, you might want to consider importing the Blaq Out DVD?  I know, I know, buying SD in 2018; but it's between that, a $50 BD-R or the option most people will unfortunately wind up selecting: just passing on this and Wiseman's body of work entirely.