Shadow Of the Hawk, Now With More Nightwing (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Of course, ideally every movie we're interested in will have an loaded, 2-disc blu-ray special edition. But we don't live in that world. In our world, some pretty cool movies are only available on MOD (Made On Demand... official releases put out on invariably single-layer burned DVD-R discs). But hey, at least we have that! After all, plenty of stuff has never been released on any format at all. And so today's cool MOD is Shadow Of the Hawk, a highly entertaining made-for-television American Indian-themed horror film from 1976. It originally aired on ABC [or not, see the comments!], and is being bought to us now on disc by Sony and Columbia Pictures.

Update 7/9/15 - 10/27/18: We can forget all about MOD DVD-Rs now; it's out on blu!  And it even comes paired with the 70's vampire bat thriller Nightwing as a double-feature.  But can Mill Creek deliver the quality we've come to expect from the major and cult labels?
Shadow stars Jan Michael Vincent as a half-Indian; and if you can wrap your suspension of disbelief around that, you'll have no problem with the ghost and witch doctor stuff coming up. He lives in the city, but his medicine man grandfather (Chief Dan George) leaves his reservation to come find him, and just in time, because Vincent is getting violent visitations from an evil ghost in a white mask. Apparently an evil sorceress is using her powers to wipe out the two of them and all of their remaining people, and George is too weak to fight her on his own. So somehow a freelance reporter lady gets caught up in all of this, and the three of them set off on a road trip back to their village. Vincent has to learn to both accept and master his ancestral powers before the witch becomes too strong.
If you're looking for authentic lore that respects real Native American history and even teaches you a thing or two about another culture, forget it. This just feels like the writers wrote every spooky or wild Indian-themed supernatural concept they could come up with on note-cards, spilled them onto a table, and that was their script. Chief Dan George is the only true Native American involved in this film, but that's okay. This movie isn't trying to educate, just entertain, and that it does. There are genuinely effective ghost moments and campy magic attacks. There's a really impressive effect where a car crashes into an invisible wall, and a pretty fake looking snake that bursts into flames. Jan Michael Vincent wrestles a bear in this movie! Someone turns into a wolf (of course), a black ghost car chases our heroes (which tribe had those in their legends again?), and there's an evil snake dance ritual with lesbians making out... Yeah, this movie does have that made-for-TV feel at times, and that also restricts the amount of sex and blood they can play with, but if you can't find something to enjoy in this picture, you ain't lookin'!
Sony/ Columbia 2011 MOD DVD-R top; Mill Creek 2018 blu bottom.
The made-for-TV look is reduced considerably thanks to the fact that this film has been remastered in widescreen and looks great even on the DVD. It's a bit fuzzy and soft, but you're going to get that with the compressed MODs. Shadow was shot on 35mm, and for the first time ever (including, I'm sure, its original broadcast), looks the part. It's nice and anamorphic, with no interlacing issues or anything like that. The picture's in a much nicer state better than I ever expected to see it. They even slightly letterboxed it to 1.85, rather than leaving it at 1.78. Somebody involved cared. And the Dolby 2.0 audio is pretty clear and robust, too.

But things get even better this October with the new blu.  For those skeptical of Mill Creek, I'm happy to start out by reporting that this is a pressed, dual-layered disc and the audio is lossless (LPCM).  Of course, it's the same exact 1.85:1 master being used here, but that's just fine as it seems to be a genuinely high quality Sony scan, and it makes a genuine difference getting it in HD.  Instead of compression artifacts, we see real film grain.  And yes, small detail lost in the SD transfer are restored on the blu.  You might be worried about squeezing two films onto one disc, but again it's dual-layered, and there are no features (disappointing but expected) weighing it down.  So in the end, it's just a little over three hours on a 50 GB disc, which is better than plenty of single movie blus.
So like I said, and as is usually the case (though not always!) with MOD releases, there are no special features included with this film, not even a trailer.  And the same goes for the blu.  A trailer does exist - it was featured on one of Synapse's 42nd St. Forever compilations - but you don't get anything here.  At least Mill Creek's blu has a menu screen, which I guess is technically a step forward. And that's disappointing, because I'm sure there are some interesting stories to go along with this movie, from shooting all this wild stuff out on location to selling ABC on a Native American-themed horror film in the first place. And if you look Shadow up on the imdb, they list a second, uncredited director - I'd love to know what the deal is there.  Another label would've surely given us something, plus probably subtitles which are also MIA on both versions, but you can't argue with Mill Creek's pricing (less than half of what Sony wanted for their burned DVD!), especially since it comes with a whole, second feature.
Nightwing is a good choice for the double-bill, because both films have a lot in common.  It's a late 70s PG horror, which also used to only be available as a Sony DVD-R.  But more than that, it's another film about Native Americans dealing with mystical dark forces rooted loosely in their folklore.  And yes, we've got another white man in the lead role as the son of a powerful shaman, this time not even trying to play it off as "half Indian."  Nick Mancuso, star of the NBC series Stingray, is supposedly a full-blooded Native sheriff living on a reservation, which is also populated by a couple other white actors in the lead roles and authentic Native Americans in the older and supporting roles.  So they do kind of feel like sister movies.
And this one has a lot of strong points to draw you in.  Henry Mancini gives it a first class, stylish score, and the cast is rather interesting, with notables like David Warner and Modern Romance's Kathryn Harrold.  The acting is quite strong all around and they're delivering fairly respectable material, as the script is based on a novel by Martin Cruz Smith.  The locations and special effects are often quite good, though there are some very dated and even messy for the time composites thrown in the mix, too.  Really, the only major drawback is that it's so damn boring.  This is a movie I saw as a kid at least a dozen times on TV.  Because it's PG, they could play it in the afternoon.  And every time I'd revisit it, I'd think there have to be more bat attacks than I'd remembered.  But nope.  There's really just one midway through the film that really delivers the goods, and then the heroes deal with the bat horde at the end.  Otherwise, it's just an endless stream of exposition.
You've got two stories, basically, that wind up dovetailing at the end.  Mancuso's the reservation's sheriff who's shaman father, uncle or whatever has decided to end the world by casting one last spell.  And this spell is either just superstition or the cause of a rash of mysterious vampire bat attacks (most of which we don't see).  He battles with a big business owner on the reservation who wants to hush it all up so he can bring in some big business deals, a la the mayor in Jaws.  Then, on the other hand, you've got David Warner as a cross between Richard Dreyfuss' character in Jaws and Donald Pleasance's in Halloween.  He's devoted his life to hunting and killing vampire bats ("I kill them because they're the quintessence of evil!"), and followed them to this community.  So, basically, Warner represents the scientific explanation, and Mancuso represents the spiritual, with Harrold kinda floating in the middle.  Hope you find this talk fascinating, because that's what you get in lieu of bat action.  But then again, I have to say, the brief bat moments they have made a pretty big impression on me as a kid that were just as I remembered them with this recent rewatch as an adult.  The thrills are effective, there's just so damned few of them, and the movie isn't that short.
Mill Creek 2018 blu-ray.
Once again, it's another great scan, very filmic.  Grain is natural and crisp in HD, and it's a trip seeing this in widescreen (slightly matted to 1.85:1) after having grown up with terrible fullscreen television broadcasts.  The cinematography's a little on the flat side, but the landscapes definitely benefit from the proper composition.  Even the dark night skies look great.  No blocks, the colors look natural and authentic.  The audio is another lossless LPCM stereo track, and again there are no subtitles or features of any kind.  You just pick the movie you want to watch on the menu screen and off you go.
This is definitely the version to own for both films.  Of course, that's obvious given this is each film's debut in HD.  But this is more than just a bare minimum incremental upgrade, this is an unexpectedly high quality release, to a downright surprising degree for a budget disc.  Certainly some "frills" would have been nice, like subtitles and special features.  We can only imagine what the Scream Factory treatment would've looked like here.  But if you're in it for "just the movie," this is a pleasant surprise.

Bad Ronald As You've Never Seen Him Before (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

I've been planning to tackle the central and most infamous in the rather demented trilogy of psychological horror films of the underrated young actor Scott Jacoby for a while now.  But when Warner Archives announced their intention to reissue the film on blu, I decided to wait.  And boy am I glad I did, because this new version, released just in time for the Halloween film, opens up a whole new chapter in Bad Ronald's life.
For those who don't know, which is surely most of the film-going world, the trilogy starts with Rivals and ends with The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.  Of course, these aren't Jacoby's only forays into the horror genre - he's pretty good in the To Die For movies - but these three are joined together by a common theme of taboo-twisting murder.  They'd actually be more aptly described as dark cult films rather than horror.  And what makes Bad Ronald all the more infamous is that it was filmed and released as a made for network TV movie of the week.  What a weird thing to throw in front of mainstream viewers, but hey, it was the 70s; filmmakers were bold back then.
Bad Ronald's actually based on a book, of the same title, written by Jack Vance, which is even darker.  It tells the story of a boy who accidentally (purposefully in the novel) kills a young neighborhood girl, so his mother keeps him hidden when the police come for him.  She builds a secret room for him so he can live at home without anyone finding out, and it's just the two of them for years until one day she goes out and never comes home again.  So he lives alone, inventing a fantasy world he calls Atranta, and hiding from reality in a home everyone comes to believe is abandoned.  Until one day the property is sold and a new family moves in, replete with three young daughters, none of whom have any idea that they're surrounded by concealed doorways, tunnels, peep holes and a very lonely, homicidal occupant.
If you're looking for high production values, thrilling set pieces or glossy gore, this isn't the film for you.  There are at least as many horror aficionados baffled by the appeal of this film as enamored with it.  For one thing, this is an old TV movie, which means no R-rated sequences or bad language and a boxy, fullscreen aesthetic.  And as great as Dabney Coleman always is, he and much of the rest of the supporting cast feel out of place here, like they've accidentally wandered off their sitcom set for the day.  But on the other hand, casting couldn't get much more perfect than Jacoby and Kim Hunter as his mother.  And the girls do have a bit of classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre victim vibe to them.  Just know that this isn't about being suspenseful and scary so much as creepy and unsettling.

By the way, apparently this film was remade about twenty years later in France under the title Méchant Garçon.  As far as I know, that film's never even been translated into English; but I'd sure love to see it some day.
Anyway, unsurprisingly, this film was unavailable on home video for a long time.  It was the just the kind of neglected, off-beat flick fans traded memories and VHS bootlegs of on news boards and conventions.  So it was a very welcome surprise when Warner Archives included it in their series of MOD DVDs in 2009.  It was completely no frills, of course (just look at their zero effort DVD menu, pictured right!); but just to have an official copy was a major win for fans.  But now, presumably in recognition of Bad Ronald's immortal cult status, Warners have taken another stab at it, this time in HD, and oh man, they really got it right!
2009 US Warner Bros DVD top; 2018 US Warner Bros blu-ray bottom.
Warner's DVD was clearly taken from an old tape master; though admittedly, it's not like it would've looked much better when it first aired in '74.  But clearly, for the blu, they were able to locate some original film elements and give them an entirely fresh scan.  Where to even begin?  The DVD is dreadfully interlaced.  We're not even talking intermittent frames like most interlaced DVDs we come across... every single frame is interlaced.  Thankfully, that's completely fixed.  And the drained, sapped colors have been fully restored and brought back to full vibrancy.  The weird aspect ratio of 1.28:1 has been corrected, too, to 1.33:1, adding picture to the sides and especially the previously cramped bottom, which had been giving the DVD an odd, misframed look to it.  There's still some headroom on the blu, suggesting perhaps that the filmmakers were keeping the possibility of a widescreen transfer open, but now we've finally got a correct 1.33:1.  Film grain is soft and hard to discern, but it's a real HD image, and compared to what we had before, practically a whole new movie.
The DVD's audio was surprisingly clear given the picture, but the blu still improves things by restoring the original mono tracks in lossless 2.0 DTS-HD.  Neither edition has any special features at all (there wouldn't have even been a theatrical trailer, after all), but you can still see the extra care put into this release.  I mean, they actually bothered to make a menu this time, and chapter stops are thoughtfully placed at key scenes and commercial break fade-outs rather than arbitrary ten minute increments.  Even better, they've created English SDH subtitles, another feature the DVD sorely lacked.
I wasn't expecting much from this release... I figured I'd be getting the same old video transfer just without the SD compression.  And I only bothered because crazy little film has such cut out its only little niche in my heart.  So I was delighted to pop it in and discover Warners had done this total restoration job on it.  So if you had similar thoughts, like why bother replacing a barebones DVD with a barebones blu-ray, well, now you see why.  This one gets a huge DVDExotica stamp of approval!

Controversial Blus: Predator, With and Without Grain (DVD/ Blu-ray/ UHD Comparison)

You know it was only a matter of time before I covered Predator on here, considering it's one of, if not the very most, infamous blu-rays in the history of the medium, regarding botched transfers.  Happily, however, I may have waited long enough to be able to report happier news of Fox finally fixing this fiasco.  Thanks to the latest sequel (itself a huge, dumb mess; but thanks possibly to the return of Fred Dekker, it at least has it moments, which is more than I could say for the previous two or three), there's a host of new releases of the Predator films out there on store shelves.  So unless Fox has really double-down on there mistakes, we should finally have our true "ultimate Predator."

Update 10/11/18 - 11/1/18: As was pointed out in the comments below, the difference between the main two Predator blu-ray releases come down to more than just the special features and language options.  There's a distinct difference in PQ.  Crazily, the 2010 blu actually got worse.  So I decided to stop being lazy and actually throw a copy of the 2008 blu into the comparisons.
If you're not already familiar with 1987's Predator, then uh, I'm surprised you found your way to this site, but welcome.  I mean, if this early summer blockbuster vehicle didn't embed itself deeply enough into American culture in its own right, then certainly the endless series of sequels, reboots, comic books, toys and video games should have secured its status as perfectly indelible.  But a question more of you might genuinely have is: does it hold up to your childhood memories of the super bad-ass sci-fi/ horror/ action hybrid that once rocked all of our worlds?
And I'd say the answer to that is, well, mostly.  When it kicks in, the atmosphere mostly holds up, but it does sink a bit deep into the cheese at times.  And fans will rightly argue that the over-the-top machismo is meant to be exaggerated, a commentary on both the foibles of that part of ourselves and the popular films of its day.  But I don't imagine the eye-rolling one-liners, like pushing into a quick close-up of Schwarzenegger quipping "stick around" after throwing his oversized knife into an enemy soldier, is meant to steer that far into what feels like Saturday Night Live parody today.  And the celebrity of a couple of its stars, wouldn't have been so distracting at that stage in their careers as it is now.  Like, I remember Jesse Ventura striking me as just a big, intimidating dude, not a cartoonish pop culture icon. And sure, while 90% percent of the special effects still look ideal, there are a few patchy rubbery predator fingers and chintzy cloaking opticals.
But it still draws you in.  And I have to say, seeing it in its latest iteration really makes a difference in grounding it in its original, dark side.  Because the HD transfer we've been living with for over a decade really lets the film down.  Most of you guys are probably familiar and way ahead of where I'm going with this, but the original blu-ray, released in early 2008, and all subsequent releases prior to this year, are drenched in DNR.  That's Digital Noise Reduction - software designed to scrub grain and noise from an image - and I there's been debate over how much, if any, is acceptable.  I'd tend to say none at all; it's revisionist, but admittedly very mild amounts and subtle usage aren't too destructive.  And unfortunately, many casual viewers have a visceral negative reaction to film grain like they do to "black bars" on letterboxed film.  But no matter where you stand on whether a little or how much is okay; I think just about everybody can agree, Fox went way too far.  The HD print they released everywhere (not just the blus, but streaming, etc) looks like somebody set an "Oil Painting" filter over their Instagram photos.

And thank goodness, Fox has done away with that disaster for their new 4k Ultra HD release.  Grain is back in full effect; the film is literally gritty again, and that really does affect the entire mood of the picture.  And now, if you're like me, your next question is whether the blu-ray included in the combo-pack has the new scan or the old DNR version, and nope, it's the same old disc.  That's good for me, though, because I always held onto my 2004 special edition DVD (itself an upgrade over the original, non-anamorphic 1999 DVD) when I saw reviews of the messed up blu.  But I was about to go back and buy an old blu if I had to just for the sake of this article.  But nope, I got it right here in my new 2018 set.  It's the same old transfer because it's exactly the same old 2010 disc.  Yes, 2010, because technically there are two Fox blu-rays, a barebones 2008 edition and the special "Ultimate Hunter" edition, which had the special features.  But they both feature the same waxy transfer.  And that later 2010 edition actually features a distinctly worse transfer.  Anyway, that's bad news for fans who can't play 4k discs; there's no upgraded 1080p blu-ray for them.  But before I go any further, let's see what we're talking about.
1) 2004 US Fox DVD; 2) 2008 US Fox blu-ray;
3) 2010/ 2018 US Fox blu-ray; 4) 2018 US Fox UHD.
Other reviews love using the scene with that red shirt, and I couldn't help it either.  It really stands out like an oddly smooth, neon swath on the DNR's transfer.  But as you can see in the second set of shots, of course, the problem plagues every single frame of this film.  Yes, the colors pop more (even a bit too bright, if you ask me) and it's at least free of the messy compression of the DVD, but click through and look at those shots fullscreen if you're not convinced.  It's a disaster, frustratingly worse than the previous blu-ray edition, which looks to be the same master but with film grain still retained!  So the special edition was a distinct step backwards.  Honestly, the DVD was better.

This new UHD is darker, which is probably more accurate and definitely fits the tone of the film and much grainier.  Like, even compared to other non-DNR'd films of its day, it's pretty grainy.  Otherwise, not a whole lot has changed... the 1.84:1 framing of the DVD (which is also ever so slightly horizontally stretched) shifts just a smidgen to a more correct (and un-stretched) 1.85:1 on the blu and UHD.  The DVD was basically missing a sliver on the right-hand side that would've been lost to the overscan area anyway back in its time, but that's restored on both HD versions.  There's just a nearly infinitesimal vertical shift between the blu and UHD's framing, like a few pixels high.  And of course, the UHD naturally benefits from the extra resolution.  Even with all its edges smoothed away, the blu breaks down into blocks when you upconvert it to the size of the more natural 4k.  But the key, ultra-important distinction is the restoration of the natural film grain and the fine detail along with it.

So, the original DVD gave you the fairly similar options of either 5.1 DTS or 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks, plus French and Spanish dubs and English and Spanish subs.  The blus bump those up to lossless 5.1 DTS-HD and Dolby Digital 4.0, though the foreign language options differ between them.  The 2008 blu has French and Spanish dubs with English, Chinese, Spanish and Korean subs, while the 2010 blu has all of those plus with Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Castilian dubs and Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Castilian and Swedish subs (but losing the Chinese and Korean ones).  Whew.  Then the UHD carries over basically all the same audio (no new fancy Atmos track or anything) and language options as the 2010 blu, except it also adds Japanese dubs and subtitles.
In terms of special features, things are pretty straight forward.  The 2004 DVD was actually a 2-disc set packed full of some really good stuff.  Director John McTiernan does an audio commentary, and there's a solid half hour 'making of' doc that talks to just about all the major players.  Then there's a bunch of featurettes, like eight, mostly featuring on stuff like the effects and predator design.  There's four deleted scenes and outtakes, a photo gallery, some bonus trailers, and a collection of four, fun easter eggs of additional interview clips.

And that's pretty much the definitive special features package that's lived with the film ever since.  The 2008 blu-ray was had nothing but the trailer, but the 2010 one had everything, even the easter eggs, which are now just listed openly on the menu.  It also added one new featurette, which is more a promo for the latest sequel at the time, Predators, interviewing its director and some other crew members.  They do talk at first about the original Predator, but surprise surprise, they wind up turning that into how excited they are for their follow-up.  Hey, I'll take it.  And it also has the trailer, oddly absent from the DVD, plus trailers for two of the sequels.

What's new for the 4k?  Nothin'.  The 4k disc itself just has the commentary; but because the 2010 blu is in the package, you get the full collection of oldies.  Something new would've been fun, but then there's not much that feels lacking.  We don't need it to turn into one of those discs where the same people are interviewed and re-interviewed, saying the same things each time, so alright.  It also comes in a cool slipcover.
So yeah, this is a very satisfying release on its own terms.  And due to the fact that the original blu-rays are so borked, it's downright essential.  Admittedly, I suppose, the 2008 blu isn't so terrible if you're willing to live with a completely barebones edition.  But this is the first real upgrade that manages to improve one thing without screwing up another.  And it's a really appealing transfer.  It would be somewhat recommended, depending how big a fan you were of the film, on its own terms.  But given the issues with the previous blu-rays, it's a must upgrade.  Though, if you've never seen it, it's kind of fun that they give you the waxy DNR version, too, just for the novelty.

Dueling Blus: Harlequin a.k.a. Dark Forces

Harlequin's a pretty puzzling little film, though you'll feel on more familiar footing if you're versed in the history of RasputinDavid Hemmings (Deep Red) plays a rising political star who seems to have it all: wealth, influence, a beautiful and devoted family.  But all that fortune is overshadowed by the fact that his young and only son is dying of leukemia, and no doctor can save him.  Enter Robert Powell (Mahler, Tommy), a mysterious man who claims to be a magician able to cure the boy.  He's swiftly welcomed into their home, but it could be a dangerous problem if this powerful figure's motivations prove to be less than purely altruistic.
I'd hesitate to even file it under horror, though it's certainly horror adjacent, at least at times.  Harlequin's as much a drama or even a bizarre political thriller as it is anything else.  There's some tension at the end, but I wouldn't say this film is ever trying to scare you.  It's probably easiest to just call it Ozploitation.  It's another 80s import penned by screenwriter Everett De Roche, the man behind of the biggest and best Ozploitation titles like Patrick, Long Weekend, Razorback one of my favorites: Fortress, but it's not almost not even fair to the "exploitation" half of the "Ozploitation" label.  I mean, it has its moments of brief nudity and a more than satisfying amount of unnatural spectacle.  It's certainly fun and weird, but its meter leans more towards Classy than Trashy.  It's smartly assembled and very well acted; you could almost pass it off as a classic Dennis Potter teleplay for the BBC except maybe for what happens to the maid.  If you can imagine a combination of The Visitor and Brimstone and Treacle, you've pretty much arrived at this movie.
In the special features they talk about how they originally wanted David Bowie for the lead role, which makes perfect sense... but they might've actually been better off with Powell.  Well at least in terms of artistic product, maybe not box office.  And speaking of performances, he might've had these types of roles on speed dial by now, but Oscar winner Broderick Crawford (All the King's Men, The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover) is still pretty unforgettable as the political heavy who'd grown used to pulling everyone's strings.  Even the kid is pretty good.  I just saw A Simple Favor yesterday, and boy, was that a rough reminder of how child performances can be a serious sand trap even for the major Hollywood players.  This isn't one for the gore hounds, but if you get this movie and don't dig it, try showing it to your parents.
This film's seen a couple of interesting releases, all sort of half special editions.  Image first put it out on DVD here in the US, with a nice widescreen transfer and audio commentary in 2004.  And naturally Umbrella/ Shock put it out in Australia shortly after.  Then Synapse re-released it as a special edition in 2008, albeit with no new features or anything.  Scorpion Releasing finally gave it its HD debut in 2013 with their limited edition blu-ray, which still basically just had the commentary and little else to demarcate it a special edition.  But now 88 Films aims to top them all with their limited and more genuinely special edition blu next week.  Have they pulled it off?
2013 US Scorpion blu on top; 2018 UK 88 Films blu bottom.
Scorpion left; 88 right. Also, I had this exact Godzilla toy growing up!
Well, here's what they didn't do: come up with a new transfer.  But I don't mean to sound too disappointed because I can't say I was counting on one - if they'd paid for a new scan, they'd've been spelling it out in the marketing.  No, I was expecting something pretty close, and this is nothing if not close to the Scorpion blu.  I was able to match very slow-moving frame grabs by spotting identical flecks; they're virtually identical.  And the original transfer wasn't exactly showroom floor material in the first place.  But I'm not sure that's so much anything the labels are doing wrong so much as just the source material being a little dodgy.  Like, look at how smeary the letters are on the title card, with the whites of the small print bleed into each other.
2013 US Scorpion blu on top; 2018 UK 88 Films blu bottom.
This isn't a cutting edge Sony 4k new release, that's for sure.  But maybe that's just the way the filmmakers made that optical.  There's a softness to the photography throughout, which is clearly intrinsic to the film.  I guess our first question really should be, what are we even looking at here?  Well, Scorpion's packaging describes the transfer as "Brand New 16 x 9 (2.35:1) Widescreen Master in HD from Original Vault Elements," which leaves things leaves things a bit vague.  Interestingly, 88 get a bit bolder, touting "Restored HD master from the Original Negatives."  Anyway, it looks like old 35mm film.  Grain is evident, and light damage is persistent but never to the point of distraction.  Colors look a little faded.  And that brings us to the only real distinction between the two blus.  88's is a shade darker, which I prefer, because again, the film looks a bit faded.  It's a minor distinction you'd never notice outside of a direct comparison like this, and certainly not a reason to double-dip, but the slim edge so far goes to 88.

Audio-wise, both discs seem to have the same mix, the original mono track, in DTS-HD 2.0 on Scorpion and LPCM on 88.  But here's where 88 takes a bigger step forward.  They include English subtitles where Scorpion had none.
The real competition takes place in the special features department, though.  So let's start with Scorpion.  Their main feature is the same audio commentary that's been around since the Image days with director Simon Wincer and producer Anthony I. Ginnane.  It's quite good, though.  They're very involved and have a lot to say.  The other bits are mainly hold-overs from the DVDs, too.  There's an isolated musical score track, and the original theatrical trailer under the alternate title, Dark Forces.  Scorpion adds one thing, though, a Katrina featurette where she gives her usual overview on the film details, and even dresses up in a harlequin costume for some, uh, interpretive dance?  There's also a couple bonus trailers and some cool interior artwork showcasing Harlequin's many colorful posters.
Now, I wasn't expecting 88 to mess with the Katrina skit, but I'm a little surprised they dropped the isolated music track, since that's also been a staple of all the past DVD releases.  But they got the important thing - the commentary.  And most importantly, they got a bunch more that no previous release has ever had.  They have a new, on-camera interview with everyone's favorite critic Kim Newman, who mostly gives a general overview of Ozploitation in general, but does touch on Harlequin specifically as well.  And there's a brief, vintage television interview with Hemmings and Powell, which is rather silly.  The host keeps talking about how she's so taken with the two of them and doesn't ask them much about the film except how it must be hard to shoot a film out of sequence.  But I'm glad 88 uncovered it; it's fun.

Most significantly, however, is a roughly hour long collection of on-camera interviews with Wincer, Ginnane, De Roche and actor Gus Mercurio.  Now, the interviews start with a bit of disclaimer that, "[t]he following interviews were conducted by director Mark Hartley for his documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (2008)."  It's been a long time since I've watched that film, but to be clear, while these interviews were surely for that doc as described, I'm fairly certain these are not just clips lifted from that film (or its many DVD special features).  These are in-depth interviews all about Harlequin, not just Australian horror in general, and really just what a Harlequin special edition calls for.  They're very forthcoming about everything from the commercial aspects of making this film for an international market to working around some of the cast members' alcoholism.  Also, instead of the Dark Forces trailer, they have a Harlequin-titled trailer.  88's blu comes with reversible artwork, the other side matching Scorpion's.  And limited initial pressings also include an 8-page full color booklet with notes by Calum Waddell and some cool poster art, plus an attractive slipcover.
Just back from The Phantom Zone, apparently.
So I'm a fan of this film and was excited to double-dip for the new special features.  And now that I've got it here, I don't regret it at all.  Sure, it's the same old master, but we pretty much knew that going in.  It is a little bit of a shame to lose the isolated music track, just because it's frustrating to ever take any step backwards.  But I'll happily trade it for all the new stuff.  With that said, though, if you're not a big extras person, and don't have a use for subtitles, these releases are pretty interchangeable.