How About a Little Summer Interlude? (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Let's take a break between all these high-profile new release horror discs (spoiler for our next post!) for a little Bergman film.  I say "little" in that it's one of his lesser known films, which is probably just by virtue of the fact that it's one of his earliest, having been released in 1951.  Still, that makes it like his tenth feature; but the guy has a massive body of work, and 1951 puts it well before Seventh Seal, Persona, and the other really famous ones that always make it onto the important lists.  But this is no roughly hewn "before he figured it all out and became a master" early work.  Like, for me, once you start going into Fellini's pre La Dolce Vita stuff, it starts to feel a little lifeless, more typical of early Hollywood.  But while Bergman's films still do reflect their times, I don't think there's any less interesting period for me.  Revisiting Summer Interlude now, it's as immediate and effective as anything contemporary or from "peak Bergman," whenever that would be said to be.

Update 11/20/18: Criterion has just released a massive 30-disc boxed set of Ingmar Bergman blu-rays simply titled Ingmar Bergman's Cinema.  It includes Summer Interlude, so I'm examining it here.
Summer Interlude goes through a couple of interesting phases.  We start out behind the bustling scenes of a ballet production of Swan Lake, sort of in the style of Topsy Turvy, where we meet the fun colorful characters who work off stage.  A handsome reporter tries and fails to get backstage and meet with one of the young dancers.  She receives a mysterious package which takes her away from the play and the city to a small island, where she flash backs to her youth and first romance.  I'm not going to get into spoilers, but we cut back and forth between the two timelines to slowly uncover the roots of some deep seated tragedy she's now carrying around with her, and she comes back to the city to confront the resulting existential crisis.
There are several times when the film shifts gears, and what at first appears to be a light-hearted, even indulgent flight of nostalgia (yes, the young ingenues do frolic and pick wild strawberries), turns into a serious work of art that confronts some surprisingly weighty issues.  It even tackles some ahead-of-its-time feminist issues, like the misogynistic expectations placed on young working women decades everything from Nine To Five to Dietland got in on the action.  And it's not flippant or preachy; it comes as a bit of a slow moving surprise - thanks in no small part to a versatile performance by Maj-Britt Nilsson, who breathes so much life into the cheery sections, it feels like they might be the entire picture - but ultimately packs a pretty powerful punch to the audience's guts.
One of the reasons I refer to Summer Interlude is the complete indifference it's felt on home video.  For decades, it was only viewable when Tartan released it in their massively inclusive series of DVDs, their Bergman collection, which included many rare titles that had otherwise gone unreleased.  Ultimately, in 2016, Criterion did ultimately bring it to the states with a blu-ray so barebones, it had an MSRP lower than all of their standard discs.  There's not even a trailer on the thing.  But hey, who can argue with a cheap Criterion?
2004 UK Tartan DVD top; 2016 US Criterion blu mid; 2018 US Criterion blu bottom.
They might've cheaped out on the extras (really? they couldn't get Peter Cowie to do a visual essay?), but they didn't cheap out on the new transfer, which looks great and is obviously a whole new master than what Tartan used.  According to the booklet, it's a 2k scan of two 35mm duplicate negative sources edited together, as each were damaged in different places.  It certainly restores the filmic look, replacing a softer more videotape look (detail especially appears washed away in the dark areas) with natural, if feint, film grain and crisper detail.  The aspect ratio shifts from 1.33:1 to 1.37:1, slightly shifting the framing and revealing more information along the sides.

As for the 2018 blu, nothing seems too different.  The book confirms it's still a 2k scan from "35mm duplicate negative."  But they're not 100% identical.  If nothing else, they're necessarily different encodes, not just the same discs with new labels slapped on 'em, because the boxed set puts this and To Joy on the same disc.  More than that, you can see the difference just putting them side by side.  There is a slight vertical shift in the framing, and the 2018 disc is a bit brighter with its grain more distinct.  Information in shadows is definitely easier to make out in the first set of shots, for example.  Or take the light scratch going across Nilsson in the second set of shots.  It kind of disappears when it crosses her dress in the 2016 shot, but is visible all the way across on the 2018.  Not that visible film scratches are a good thing, but it's indicative of how very fine details have become more discernible.  I wouldn't call this updated transfer a dramatic call to double-dip, but I have to admit to a genuine, if subtle, preference for this newer edition.
Both discs feature the original Swedish mono audio (bumped up to lossless LPCM on the blu) with optional English subtitles.  The Tartan DVD is about as barebones as the Criterions, with only two trailers for other Bergman pictures (Persona and Autumn Sonata) as extras, though it does have a stylish four-page insert with notes by Philip Strick.  That's about all Tartan was doing for most of the Bergman Collection, particularly the lesser known titles which I suppose we were just lucky to get at all.  Criterion's 2016 disc is quite barren too, but does at least come with a substantial, 20-page booklet with notes by the aforementioned Cowie.  And their 2018 remains feature-less, except of course for the fact that it comes packaged with all the other Bergman films, and the extras associated with those.  The set includes a bonus disc with several docs and features about Bergman in general, after all, but there's still nothing Summer Interlude-specific.  The same Cowie essay from the 2016 booklet is included in the box's massive 248 page book.
I wasn't in any hurry to upgrade my Tartan DVD, because going from barebones to barebones is pretty joyless.  But I eventually bit the bullet during last year's Criterion sale, and now, seeing the new transfer, I have to say it was worth it.  You're not paying for anything but the upgrade in PQ, so thankfully it's a very distinct upgrade.  And since they did make it cheaper than usual, that took some of the sting out as well.  Of course, if you haven't already got this disc by now, you might want to consider springing for Criterion's massive Ingmar Bergman's Cinema box.  The slight alteration in picture quality is nothing to get excited for in this case (though other films in the box have had bigger transformations), and the price is going to put off all but the very serious Bergman lover; but if you're even thinking of getting that set, there's no point in getting any of their individual titles now.

Controversial Blus: Dagon But Not Daforgotten by Vestron (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Wow, I google'd my title and I can't believe nobody used that terrible pun before me - woohoo!  Unfortunately, that's the end of the good news for today.  Well, maybe not entirely.  But yesterday's post was "Controversial Blus" with a question mark, but today's is with an exclamation point.  Vestron Video's long-awaited release of Stuart Gordon's passion project, Dagon, hits stores tomorrow, and it's not looking as good as we'd hoped.
2002 US Lions Gate DVD top; 2018 US Vestron blu bottom.
Old school Fangoria will remember Gordon was meant to be releasing his third HP Lovecraft adaptation, then titled Shadow Over Innsmouth, for years and years.  Originally written in 1985, it floated from Empire Pictures to Full Moon, great effects artists like David Allen and Dick Smith were attached to it at different times.  They released ads and concept art, first as it was coming, and then in articles about how it never came to be.  Click this link for a taste; I think you'll appreciate it.  But it all fell apart.  But when Brian Yuzna went to Spain and started to find success with his Fantastic Factory, he told Gordon he thought he could finally get it made.  So together, in 2001, they did.  And apart from some unfortunate early generation CGI, it's everything fans always hoped it would be - another thrilling, zealous Lovecraft excursion reuniting the gang: Gordon, Yuzna, Dennis Paoli and, well, some guy who at least resembled Jeffrey Combs enough that fans could pretend.
2002 US Lions Gate DVD top; 2018 US Vestron blu bottom.
Of their three adaptations together, Dagon feels the most Lovecraftian.  It's the story of a young couple who find themselves in an old Spanish fishing village that secretly worships an ancient undersea god.  And it's changed them.  There's a little less humor, especially compared to Re-Animator, which might largely be down to the fact where they're working with a Spanish cast for whom English is a second language at best.  The horror and atmosphere are here in spades, the concept is really cool, and again, apart from some early CGI, the effects are really good, with cool monsters and gruesome gore.  But the basic human scenes, the humor and the drama between the characters, is just not on the same level.  The lead is fine, but you don't really care if he truly loves his girlfriend or this woman he meets, or what any of them feel about anything really.  You just want to watch the plot unfold, which it does, in a pretty satisfactory and entertaining way.  But whatever themes they're trying to set up when they have this big argument early in the film where Ezra Godden can't stop worrying about his company's stocks, and Raquel Meroño is screaming at him... is that all supposed to relate to where the characters wind up at the end somehow, is Godden meant to be learning a lesson, facing a truth or growing somehow?  Do their personalities even matter at all?  Herbert West's personality was the crown jewel of Re-Animator.  Here, it just feels like we're watching a procession of "stuff that happens."  Awesome stuff, but just stuff.
2002 US Lions Gate DVD top; 2018 US Vestron blu bottom.
So, Dagon first came out on DVD from Lions Gate in 2003 with two commentaries, but not much else.  It was released in other regions with other extras, like interviews and EPK stuff; but they lacked the commentaries.  Plus, some weren't entirely English friendly, so the US DVD was the way to go; but it left you hungry for more.  So we waited for a blu-ray... and waited and waited.  There was a German blu, but it's cut, so that rules that out.  Finally, Umbrella announced a blu in Australia and Vestron announced their new special edition, which would hopefully be the ultimate edition.  But if it is, it's only be default.
2002 US Lions Gate DVD top; 2018 US Vestron blu bottom.
So let's talk about this.  You'll notice I've been including extra comparisons throughout this review because there's a lot to digest.  Let's start with the easy part.  Both the DVD and blu are framed at 1.78:1, but what's actually in those frames has shifted a bunch.  For the most part, the blu reveals a bit more on the sides, and more on the bottom, but shifts shot to shot.  Just taking the two comparisons directly above, the the blu has more on the bottom in the first set, and more on the top in the second top.  Almost all of this movie seems to have been shot with a handheld steadycam, so it's always moving and bobbing, so it's hard to really settle on a preferred framing... they're just different.
2002 US Lions Gate DVD top; 2018 US Vestron blu bottom.
also, see what I mean about the cool practical but terrible CGI effects?
Anyway, who cares when the real issues are staring us in the face.  Vestron seems to have an attitude of "why make a new HD master when we've got this old one just waiting for someone to blow the dust off of it?"  Now, this clearly isn't the same old master the used for the DVD; but it's also clearly not up the latest standards.  This is no impressive 4k scan that isolates every single little dot of grain.  In fact, the blu has less grain than the DVD did?  They've clearly used DNR or some similar process to scrub it.  In some scenes it's passable, in others it's really not.  Again, that's why I'm including more comparisons for you guys to judge.  But look at that last comparison - yee gods, that's awful.  And the colors!  You can see in every set of shots they've made big changes... Who's to say which disc's colors are more accurate, though, right?  In the first comparison, of the characters in the church, the blu actually looks better.  But now look at Ezra's bizarrely neon lips in that of him in the stairwell.  That just has to be wrong.  And in that last shot of the mouth tentacles, the entire left half of the picture has been lost to black crush (though maybe that's a deliberate choice to mask the pasted on look of the CGI?  In that sense, it is a bit of an improvement, actually).  And from what people are saying, all this DNR and stuff is on the Umbrella disc, too; which tells me the awful tinkering is inherent to the old master they're using.  This film really needed a new scan.

Audio-wise, it's a simpler situation.  Both discs only have the 5.1 mix, with the blu now in lossless DTS-HD.  And both have English and Spanish subtitles.
And in the special features department, it's an even happier story.  First, all the old stuff is here.  Both the DVD commentaries, one with Gordon and Godden and one with Gordon and Paoli, the latter of which is particularly good.  And the trailer and both stills galleries from the old DVD are here, too.  And those additional interviews and stuff from the foreign DVDs?  We get those, too!  There's a twenty minute collection of on-set interviews (some in Spanish, with subtitles), including Gordon, Godden, Meroño and producer Julio Fernandez, followed by some B-roll footage.  And there's the "vintage EPK featurette," but it isn't your standard five-minute thing filled with mostly film clips.  It's just under half an hour long and talks to just about everybody.  And then there's three new on-camera interviews by Red Shirt.  One with Brian Yuzna, one which is really a conversation between Gordon and Mick Garris, and a really cool one with a Lovecraft expert, who delves into the differences between the film and the original story, etc.  And, as always, Vestron's blu comes in their signature style slip cover.  I really kinda hate their artwork for this picture, though.  Oh well.
2002 US Lions Gate DVD top; 2018 US Vestron blu bottom.
So, what's the bottom line?  Well, the controversy's authentic, all the criticisms are legit.  But there really aren't any better alternatives, and it's definitely a cool ass movie horror fans will want to have in their collections.  I mean, I can see people cancelling their preorders on this one, but what're you gonna do?  No Dagon in your life?  I guess the question, then, has to be: which is better, the DVD or the blu?  And I have to say the blu.  Not in every single shot.  At its worst moments, like Ezra going up the stairs, the DVD actually really does look better than the blu-ray.  But overall, in 2018 on your big screen TV, you're probably going to enjoy watching the blu a smidgen bit more.  And the extras package is awesome - for that reason alone, I'd double-dip.  It's just, ugh, so disappointing, especially given how long we have to wait between Vestron releases.  They obviously weren't spending all that time making this edition look as good as they possibly could.  Like Code Red's The Carrier, it's a deeply flawed release that I'd still buy if I had it all to do over again, but it's a poor show from the label.

Bowling for Columbine Enters the Criterion Collection + The Big One (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Here's a new Criterion release that seems to've come out of left field, in more than one sense.  I'm not even sure why it struck me as odd, to be honest.  It's a very famous documentary, won the Academy Award, broke box office records for documentaries... and of course, if Criterion has important and political docs like Hearts and Minds, The Kennedy Films and The War Room in their collection, why wouldn't they have Bowling for Columbine?  I guess Bowling just sat in my mind as a very particular artifact of an exact moment in time, and it felt strange to see it out of its element fifteen years later.  But of course, revisiting this new restoration, it speaks even more to 2018 than it did to 2003.  Just replace Bush's name with Trump's and add a couple digits to the number of school shootings we've had across the country.  If anything, Michael Moore's mission to discover the root cause of this horrifying trend is more important than ever.
And if you haven't visited Bowling, or any of Moore's work, in a long time; it really holds up.  For me, at least, the quality of his recent work cast a bit of a shadow over his early triumphs.  I mean, I'd never lose sight that he's the guy who practically reinvented documentary filmmaking with Roger & Me.  That while he's not the first documentarian to invite audiences into the filmmaker's situation and make the story of creating the doc the subject, I think it's safe to say he's the one who perfected it to the point that it became a reliable tool in the documentarian's arsenal.  But, you look at his last film and it's just a lecture that he happened to film.  And even if you say Trumpland doesn't "count," Where To Invade Next is just barely opened up any further.  It's like he enlisted a bunch of fans from different countries to say what he wanted to say so he could present his lecture in an interview format.  You could see it when he shifted from TV Nation to The Awful Truth.  Now, instead of being entirely a collection of envelope pushing, man on the street documentary segments, it's a segment or two sandwiched between talks he gives to an in-studio audience or directly to the camera.  Some of the humor and ideas are still there, but the exploratory thrill is dead.
Contrarily, this might be Moore's ultimate masterpiece.  Sure Moore obviously has his political opinions and agendas like anybody who sets out to make a movie ever.  But in Bowling, you really get the feeling he's filming to ask questions and seek answers, not just use the silver screen to pontificate.  In Criterion's new feature, which we'll look at more a bit later, he talks about how they set out with an overall message about control in mind when they started filming, and how that changed as he talked to everybody he met in the filming process.  Just on a more simple, basic level, I think you can see that when he talks to people, from his man-on-the-street and run-and-gun ambush interviews to his scheduled sit downs with celebrities and politicians, he doesn't really know what they're going to say to him in this.  When Charlton Heston stands up and walks out on him during his interview - to go and hide in his own guest house - that's at least as much of a surprising and crazy moment to him as it is to us.  Revisiting Columbine in 2018, I feel like I learned that it's not the times that've changed, or that we've gotten too used to his bag of tricks; it's his material that had the power to surprise, and it's damned effective.
So, I've wound up buying this film a couple times now.  MGM originally released this as a 2-disc special edition DVD in 2003, which I copped right away.  They later substituted it in the marketplace with a cheaper single disc edition, which I never had cause to bother with.  But in 2004, MGM put out another one of his movies, an older one called The Big One, on DVD.  You could get it just by itself, or in a little boxed set where it was packaged with Columbine (the 2-disc version, happily) and an exclusive bonus disc.  So I bought the the same Columbine release twice, so I could get that bonus disc.  And then of course, just now in 2018, I picked up Criterion's new special edition blu-ray, if only for curiosity's sake.
2003 US MGM DVD on top; 2018 US Criterion blu bottom.
So, this isn't exactly a fancy, new 4k restoration.  You don't need to read Criterion's booklet to gather that they just got this HD master from MGM; it looks just like they used for their original DVD.  But that's not terribly disappointing, because at least half of this film is made up of old, vintage footage taken from various, lower quality sources.  Mind you, that's not to say that there's no benefit to be gained in taking this film to HD.  The DVD has all the usual fuzzy compression issues of a 2003 DVD, that the blu-ray smartly clears away in the crisper, original footage.  Take the comparison shots above - the first pair is of some news footage taken at a press conference.  Comparing the DVD to the blu, yes technically the compression's still better, but because it's inherently SD footage, there's basically no appreciable difference.  The level of detail is baked into the source material.  But the second pair shows their original footage that genuinely does clean up nicely.  You can see how much sharper and finer it gets in 1080p.  So it's there.  But I'm not sure how much of an effect it will have on your viewing experience when most of the movie, you're going to be watching shaky, underlit or flat-out duped video footage.  Just something to bear in mind.

Of course, getting the audio bumped up to lossless DTS-HD might be a more concrete reason for some people to upgrade.  Interestingly, the DVD had a 5.1 mix.  So, I did go turn to Criterion's booklet with questions here, and apparently theirs is "the original 2.0 surround soundtrack... remastered from the 35 mm magnetic printmaster."  Both versions also include optional English subtitles, and the DVD also had Spanish.
So, now let's get into the extras.  As you might imagine, the 2-disc DVD set had a bunch of stuff... only about half of which was preserved on the Criterion release.  But, with that said, maybe it's not such a terrible loss.  The first and most obvious MIA extra is the audio commentary.  But as Moore explains elsewhere, he felt like most of what he had to say was already in the film, so he let his "receptionists and interns" do it.  I've seen extras like this get a lot of slack or just treated like jokes - "ha ha the lady who answers the phone is going to do a commentary?!" - but I don't think it's a bad idea on its face.  All these people worked on the film and have plenty of boots on the ground experiences and anecdotes they could share about working on the film you'd never hear otherwise.  What was it like being the actual person trying to convince the survivalists to let you film them out in the woods?  Unfortunately, this is only a little bit like that, and a lot more like a big room full of young people giggling, talking over each other, and talking about things that only amuse each other ("remember when we stayed up all night in your apartment?").  It's not completely without value; there are fun and interesting bits to glean; but for the most part, I think most everyone on both sides of the fence considers it a failed experiment, which is why we don't see any more of these being created.
DVD-only special feature.
So, okay, that's out.  Also missing is Moore's introduction, and it's obvious why Criterion dropped that one.  He talks about the DVD itself, including the special features Criterion didn't include.  How much would it suck to hear Moore say, "watch this great interview" only to have that interview not be there?  So fair enough.  Then there's an interview, followed by an audience Q&A, with Moore and former press secretary Joe Lockhart at a comedy festival.  I'm not sure why they dropped this one, but apparently it was an HBO event, so possibly a rights/ licensing thing.  I'm sure that's why the music video for Marilyn Manson's song from the film was also dropped.  That's basically about all that was entirely cut, apart from like a photo gallery, text and DVD-Rom only features like a "teacher's guide," and a pair of inserts.

I say entirely cut, because there's also one featurette that was shortened.  The "Film Festival Scrapbook" features a collection of moments from Moore at film festivals, including portions of three different press interviews, a speech from David Lynch, Moore on the red carpet and accepting his award from Naomi Watts at Cannes.  Criterion cuts it down to just the three interview segments, removing Lynch and the rest of the bits.  And the rest of what has been carried over is Michael Moore's Academy Award acceptance speech, complete with an intro/ defense filmed in his backyard, an interview with Charlie Rose, a segment from The Awful Truth that we saw glimpses of in Bowling, the trailer, and finally a feature called Return To Denver/ Littleton.  Unfortunately, this sounds like a Pets Or Meat-style follow-up to the doc, where Moore returns to the scene of his documentary to see where the people have progressed or remain the same.  But really it's just a pre-screening speech he gave... not terrible, but kind of a let down.
And speaking of DVD-only let downs, let's get into The Big One.  It's been just as long since I revisited that movie as Columbine, and as much as that one holds up, this one doesn't.  It's explained (eventually) that the title is a reference to a joke Moore made on the radio that America's nickname, given its collective attitude, should be "the big one."  But really, we all know the title, like the entirety of the film, is just hyping up Michael Moore's first book.  This film is a documentary of the book tour he goes on across the country for Random House after writing Downsize This.  And yeah, there are some interesting moments in here, like when the employees of a Borders bookstore he's signing autographs at ask to meet him in secret because they're attempting to unionize.  In another city, he stops by to talk to strikers at a Payday (as in the candy bar) factory.  But really, mostly, it's just about him marketing his book.  Think of comedian's road movies like David Cross's Let America Laugh.  It's one of those, right down to him playing pranks on his security detail and hugging fans.
The only real substantive element comes right at the end, where the CEO of Nike, apparently pressured by his wife who's a big Moore fan, offers to meet with Moore, and winds up looking terrible trying to explain his child labor policies.  That's peak Moore, but it's like ten minutes at the tail end of a feature length film, and would've been better placed in an episode of TV Nation or Awful Truth.  Or he could've just released it as its own, short film.  I think it would've won awards and gotten a lot of praise on its own.  But instead it's a mildly entertaining (it's overall light-hearted and occasionally addresses some genuine, serious issues with a degree of wit) ego wank.  I mean, I get it.  If you're a serious Moore fan, hearing him speak could be its own reward, like An Evening With Kevin Smith.  And there are moments that work like that, including where he basically performs the first chapter of his book, showing prank checks he wrote to various presidential campaigns.  But overall, this is much more Let America Laugh than An Evening With Kevin Smith, with a few highlights spread out across a lot of filler.
2004 US MGM DVD.
As disappointing as the film itself might've been, the DVD presentation was worse.  It's fullscreen, seems to be taken from a tape source, and and badly interlaced.  And you might think it's supposed to be fullscreen, like it's just shot on cheap video cameras while on tour.  But no, this film was released theatrically with a proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio and only looks like it was shot on cheap video cameras because of the way it's been preserved on disc.  The compression is poor, even by DVD standards.  It's just a cheap, no care given disc.  It's also completely barebones apart from the trailer (which you should watch, since it's all original footage created just for the trailer) and some bonus trailers.  The Dolby Stereo track is standard stuff, but at least it has subtitles, in English, French and Spanish.

Oh, and what about that bonus disc?  Ugh.  We're just sliding further and further downhill.  It's an eleven minute featurette of little snippets from one of his later book tours.  It's like a mini-The Big One, except he never talks to any strikers or CEOs; he just promotes his book.  It's basically clips from the talks he give, most cut so short, you never sink your teeth into whatever he's got to say anyway.  You've really got to have your head shoved awfully far up Moore's rear to care much about this.
But after coming down pretty hard on some of this stuff, I'm happy to do a complete 180.  Because, going back to the new Criterion blu-ray, there's one new feature they created that far outshines any of the other specials created for Bowling on any edition.  It's a 35-minute documentary called Michael Moore Makes a Movie, which interviews Moore, his producers and other collaborators on the making of Bowling for Columbine in a much more compelling, candid fashion.  They go through the documentary, basically scene for scene, explaining what each interview and experience was really like.  Why they talked to who they did, changes they made mid-filming, from what really happened when that conspiracy theorist put a gun to Moore's head to how Charlton Heston tried to physically trap them on his property after the interview.  Some of the other features were decent.  Moore and Rose had a smart discussion, and it was interesting to hear him address his little controversy with his Academy Awards speech.  But none of it holds a candle to this; I'd happily throw it all away and just keep Michael Moore Makes a Movie.  Oh, and it also comes with a long fold-out booklet with notes by critic Eric Hynes.
So if you're questioning whether it's worth upgrading your old DVD when maybe you've lost interest in the film, and the PQ gains aren't so impressive... I had my doubts, too.  I had pangs of buyer's remorse before I even completed by purchase.  But now that I've been reminded of just how strong the film is, and how pleased I was with the new feature, I have to say I'm really happy to have it now.  If you're on the fence about this one, I think I can safely say you won't regret it.

Discover the Hidden Secrets Of The Church (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Say, speaking of 90s horror classics that should've had special editions since the early days of DVD but are only just getting them now, how about Michele Soavi's The Church?  Scorpion Releasing's two disc set that's been pending for so long I was seriously beginning to doubt it would ever arrive has finally arrived.  If you're thinking, wait a minute, hasn't it already been out half a year or something, you're thinking of the single disc edition.  Just like with The Sect, Scorpion released a single disc edition first, with a two disc special edition to arrive months later, not just with more extras and better packaging, but both the English and Italian audio tracks (the single disc version only has the English).
If you're looking for something stylish and cool, The Church is it.  There's a bit of a weird schism to it, but depending on your attitude, that can be as much a part of its charm as a critical fault.  You've got the original intention for this film: to be Lamberto Bava's Demons 3, and then you've got Soavi's re-imagining.  And for the first hour or so, while there may be material from the original script active in it, it feels like Soavi's vision.  A historical opening in the 12th century or so, with the Templar Knights committing and then burying their sins.  We then move forward to modern times, where a great gothic church has been built upon the site, and several characters get caught up trying to unlock its mysteries.  Dramatic camerawork of them fetishistically translating cryptic messages, unlocking secret panels, discovering hidden passageways, ultimately leading to a face off with mankind's dark past in a fantastical way.
Then in the last half hour, a whole bunch of extra characters plow into the church and suddenly we're in Bava and Sacchetti's Demons.  A bickering elderly couple, a teacher with an entire class of students, fashion photographers, one of Dario Argento's daughters and a romantic pair of bikers all find themselves trapped inside and desperate to escape as they get killed and possessed one by one.  So ultimately, The Sect is probably the better film; but The Church could be more fun, even upping the giant rubber monster quota of Bava's previous efforts.  The story's maybe a little inconsequential, but hey, who's counting?
So, The Church's story on disc is pretty similar to The Sect's, too, except that The Church at least had a proper US DVD.  Anchor Bay put it out in 2002 as part of their "Dario Argento Collection" (he produced and co-wrote the film), a barebones but anamorphic widescreen release that was later reissued by Blue Underground in 2007.  But on blu, the story is almost exactly the same.  There was a questionable barebones Japanese disc in 2016, and then Shameless released a remastered version later that year, featuring a new interview with Soavi (The Church's first proper special feature).  Oh, and there's an Italian blu, but it's not English friendly.  Anyway, then Scorpion released their single disc edition in the US in early 2018, and now their 2-disc special edition has just come out!
2002 US Anchor Bay DVD top; 2018 US Scorpion 2-disc blu bottom.
What an major improvement!  Where to begin?  Well, the first thing that stood out to be is that sickly yellowish/ greenish hue that seems to hang over the DVD has been scrubbed from the blu, giving it a much more vibrant energy.  Scorpion's packaging tells us this is a "brand new 2017 2k scan with over 45 hours of color correction," and that's certainly paid off.  Being in HD, of course, the detail is a lot clearer - grain appears natural here where before it was utterly invisible.  But really the second biggest thing after the colors is the framing.  The DVD is slightly vertically matted to 1.85:1, while the blu-ray restores it to the filmmakers' presumably preferred ratio of 1.67:1.  So are we trading horizontal information for vertical?  No, the new blu reveals considerably more picture on all four sides.  There's very minimal damage to be spotted if you're paying attention?  See that vertical line running through the first screenshot of the pile of bodies?  That recurs intermittently.  But the overall effect is quite clean and sturdy.

Anchor Bay just gave us the English dub, in our choice of Dolby stereo or 5.1, with no subs.  Scorpion's new blu (again, as opposed to their first single disc release) provides both the English and Italian stereo mixes in DTS-HD, without any of the light hiss we heard on The Sect, and with optional English subtitles "translated from the Italian track."  Now, on The Sect, I preferred the Italian audio, but here, I think the English dub is actually a little more natural.  Neither wins in every department - I'm not a fan of the voice they dub star Barbara Cupisti with in English - but overall, I'd say the English track is the preferable one here.
Now, like I already mentioned, the US DVD is barebones.  All they gave it was the trailer.  Ironically, that's all the Scorpion blu is missing (they list the trailer on the packaging, and it was on their single disc edition, but it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle.  But you won't care once you see all the great stuff they've got.  First of all, there's a pretty great audio commentary by Nathaniel Thompson and Cupisti.  They list him as a moderator, but it's more of an even mix, with Thompson speaking as an expert and Cupisti providing the personal, first hand knowledge.  After that, there's a whole slew of smartly edited, on-camera interviews, averaging 15-20 minutes apiece, with Soavi, Dario Argento, Asia Argento, Cupisti, Tomas Arana, Giovanni Radice, set designer Massimo Geleng, screenwriter Franco Ferrini and makeup artist Franco Casagni.  Between all of them, they pretty much cover everything you could want to know about this film.  Most are in Italian with burnt-in yellow subtitles (as shown above), but a couple are in English.  Scorpion's 2-disc set also features reversible artwork, a slipcover and a poster.
This release is a little pricey, but Scorpion does, after all, feature the more budget-friendly single disc release as an alternative.  This is a limited edition (1500 copies) for us serious fans who've been dying for a Church special edition for decades.  If you're not so fussed about extras, the single disc should do you just fine, especially since the English track is probably the one you'll stick with most of the time anyway.  But me?  I needed this.  😁