The Favourite's a Delight (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

The Favourite is pretty great.  I don't place a lot of stock in the Academy Awards (with "Best Pictures" like Crash, Forrest Gump, The Greatest Show On Earth and Gladiator, the terrible habit of giving awards to actors for mediocre performances because they were "due" from years of routinely overlooked roles, etc etc), but this is one I was pleased to see nominated for multiple Oscars, and Olivia Colman taking one home.  I thought The Killing Of a Sacred Deer was interesting and definitely worth watching once, but this is the first Yorgos Lanthimos film I've really been taken with and needed to add to my collection.  And now, this March we can finally do just that, with a DVD/ blu-ray combo pack courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
I've seen people get bent out of shape for the liberties this film takes with historical accuracy, but that couldn't be further from the point.  I was actually surprised how rooted in real events so much of this story was, as it's a delightfully wicked melodrama, in the vein of Amadeus, Dangerous Liasons or Gothic.  Arguing how unlikely it is that Lord Byron ever showed Percy Shelley an Asian stripping robot is probably correct but really failing to get into the proper spirit of the thing.  Lanthimos hasn't come to teach us a history lesson; Shakespearian-level liberties are being freely taken, and I think experience has proven there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.  If you need to, think of this as another Gormenghast.  Heck, I was impressed to learn there even was an actual Lady Abigail at all.
The set-up is fairly simple: said Abigail (Emma Stone) is a former aristocrat who's lost her station in life and come to serve at the palace.  Hoping to be employed some sort of nanny for the queen (Colman), she's instead put to work in the nasty dungeonous kitchens with the lower servants.  She's going to have to muster up all of her cunning and treachery to rise up back up to a livable social status in a court that's given sway to corruption and debauchery.  Winning the queen's favor seems easy at first, but she's soon at odds with the queen's best friend, advisor and lover (Rachel Weisz).  It's a delectable film, full of cutting dialogue, the fate of the country dangling on royal whims and eye candy filmed with crazily wide-angled lenses.  It's literally often fish-eyed.  Oh, and the soundtrack's brilliant.
2019 Fox DVD top; 2019 Fox blu-ray bottom.
2019 Fox DVD left; 2019 Fox blu-ray right.
I'll start off simply by saying this release looks great.  The colors are bold and the HD detail is rich, which is especially good news in a film such as this, that was photographed to to relish an endless castle full of rich details and lovely colors.  The DVD naturally suffers from further compression with grain and sharp edges being washed away, fines lines becoming blocky and black levels being slightly greyer.

There can be a lot less to discuss in terms of PQ of a modern release.  Labels have learned a lot over the years, and films tend to be shot digitally, so there are far fewer issues of conversion taking place between the original footage and your TV.  In this case, The Favourite was actually shot on 35mm film; but they still delivered a final DCP, as in a single digital file to be sent to theaters, streaming sites and DVD labels.  So I was surprised to notice an anomaly here where Fox did seem to make a little mistake.  First of all, the DVD and blu-ray are presented in slightly different aspect ratios: 1.82 and 1.84 respectively.  And it's not a case of the mattes being slightly opened, like we've sometimes seen Vinegar Syndrome do.  Instead, the DVD is a bit vertically stretched.  It's not a huge amount, and fortunately it's just the DVD in the combo pack, a.k.a. the coaster disc, so it's no great tragedy.

For audio, we're given the rich options of English, French, Spanish and English descriptive audio in 5.1 (in lossless DTS-HD on the blu), with additional English, French and Spanish subs.
Extras are a little on the light side, but don't totally leave us hanging.  First and foremost is a 22-minute 'making of' featurette.  They talk to just about everybody in the cast and crew, and tackle all aspects of the production.  I just wish it was longer, to give some of those people more time to talk.  For instance, it would have been great if the historical advisor were given a couple minutes to break down all the key points where the film adheres to and parts from the actual history.  But otherwise it's a pretty nice look behind the scenes and gives some insight into the decisions the director made throughout.  We also get three minutes of brief deleted scenes, the trailer and a couple of bonus trailers.  This release also comes in an attractive slipcover.
So, ultimately, I was quite satisfied with this release.  They could've extended that featurette out to be more of a documentary, but what we got was still rather good, and the film looks great.  As is the film itself.  Honestly, I couldn't have been less interested in an Emma Stone movie about Queen Anne when I first heard about it, but boy am I glad I gave it a chance.  And it probably should've won Best Picture, at least given the other nominees.  But let's not think about that.

Shoah: The Four Sisters, Lanzmann's Final Words

Claude Lanzmann was interviewed in 2013 for the release of The Last Of the Unjust, his fifth film returning to his seemingly endless collection of footage shot for what is surely the ultimate documentary on the Holocaust, Shoah.  He was asked if that would now be his final word on the subject, and he replied, "I don’t know.  Maybe I can make some other film."  It turned out, in 2018 - the last year of his life - he would make four more.  The Hippocratic Oath, The Merry Flea, Baluty and Noah's Ark, a themed quartet of women's survivor stories collectively titled Shoah: The Four Sisters, first aired on French television and have now been made available on DVD and blu in the UK from Eureka! Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema series.
Each of these films, which range in length from 55 minutes to 93, essentially consist of a single interview with a single female survivor.  Again, these interviews were filmed back in the 70s for Shoah, but only two of these women made the final cut of that film, and then, only briefly.  Paula Biren of Baluty appears in the first chapter of Shoah for just over one minute, and Ruth Elias of The Hippocratic Oath appears in the second chapter just over two.  Unlike The Last Of the Unjust, nothing new has been shot, only a handful of photographs have been added into two of the stories.  This is all, previously unseen Shoah material.  And yes, to be clear, it's completely unseen.  Even the brief clips of the two women who were in Shoah do not repeat here, although they're clearly from the same recorded sessions.  To really get into the weeds of it, there's a cut at 37.06 in The Hippocratic Oath where I believe Ruth's section from Shoah originates from.
Criterion's 2013 Shoah blu top; Eureka's 2019 Four Sisters blu bottom.
But these films are no less effective for being "deleted scenes" from the 1985 masterpiece.  In fact, they may be the most powerful of all of them, by virtue of being completely personal and undiluted recollections of their tragedies.  Where Lanzmann previously intercut between different subjects, mixed new footage and old, included outsiders and even Nazis, often focusing on establishing historical record by detailing dates and locations, here he just sits with each woman and we listen to their harrowing journeys from beginning to end.  And they're far from redundant.  One woman was the subject of medical experiments while another became a police officer in a Jewish ghetto.  So you'll be just as riveted by the fourth story as the first.
Criterion's 2013 Shoah blu top; Eureka's 2019 Four Sisters blu lower two.
Eureka presents Shoah: The Four Sisters in 1.33:1, a slight shift in aspect ratio from Criterion's 1.37:1, but I presume that discrepancy is less an inaccuracy of either disc and more a perfectly fair distinction between two entirely different movies.  Of course, it's highly unusual to compare two different films like this, but I think in this rare case, it could be useful.  More than the framing, you're probably noticing the extreme shift in color timing of the same footage in the two instances.  Is this the result of Criterion and Eureka taking two different approaches to the same footage, or more likely: a creative approach by the filmmakers forging new films from what just so happens to be the same source?  Fair enough; the two projects aren't obligated to look exactly alike, and Four Sisters includes a color grader and multiple post-production crew members in its closing credits.  So presumably, this film has crafted its own entirely deliberate look, and in fact the new timing looks both more natural and aesthetically pleasing.  I daresay you could call the colors here "corrected."  Eureka's not wrong for not matching Criterion's Shoah blu.  But now look at the third shot.  We see some serious ghosting... what looks like an attempt to correct some nasty interlacing.  And the thing is: the original film footage isn't interlaced.
Shoah left; Baluty right.
See, here's why I've dragged a Criterion comparison into this: that interlacing problem isn't present on their blu, and unlike the new color timing or slightly different AR, I feel comfortable saying this is a flaw that shouldn't be here.  I highly doubt Lanzmann said, "can you corrupt the digital image so it stutters whenever there's any motion?"  So, sure, I don't know if this is Eureka's error.  They seem to be taking a lot of care, in providing these relatively short film two dual-layered, 1080p discs despite this looking like a blu-ray/ DVD comparison.  It may well be that Lanzmann himself used an interlaced encode of his footage to edit Four Sisters with, one of those post production guys may've not known the finer points of his job, or perhaps Eureka had to use the television broadcast, which is typically interlaced, as their source.  Either way, it's unfortunate.  The footage here is also noticeably softer than Criterion's, which is presumably a result of the de-interlacing that somebody at some stage must've applied to this footage... Sometimes some pulldown software can cleanly remove interlacing from video situationally; but usually the only thing to be done is try to "smush" the frames together to hide the combing effect, which softens the image and still leaves the distracting ghosting and stuttering.  The above isn't an exact frame match - because again, the footage doesn't repeat across both films - but in this close-up, you can clearly see the sharpness and clean lines that have been smeared over in this new transfer.  Again, I suspect this isn't so much Eureka's fault, and might even be a perfectly accurate representation of the finished film after Lanzmann and co. presented it to the world.  But it's a shame.
Audio-wise, the news is simpler and happier.  All four films present the original mono in uncompressed LPCM 2.0, and provide optional English subtitles.  English is spoken in two of the four films, but even then, it's clearly not a first language, so viewers may welcome them in all cases.  Otherwise, there are no special features or anything.  An interview or two might've been nice, to talk about the decision to go back to these shelved interviews so many years later and the process involved, but Lanzmann is no longer with us, and these aren't exactly the kind of films you expect a lot of gimmicky bells and whistles with.  We do get a substantial, 48-page booklet, with insightful notes by Stuart Liebman, as well as reproduced statements from the director, producer and broadcaster.  And it comes in a nice slipcover.
Anyway, the issues with the picture quality are annoying, but they shouldn't be deal breaking.  Unfortunately, these are probably generally considered to be "TV movies," so nobody's likely to go back to the original negatives and give them another 4k scan.  Even if these do wind up coming out on blu in another part of the world, I'll be surprised if they get them looking any better.  And these are truly great and important films that more than earn their place in the Masters of Cinema series.  Honestly, it's a bit demented to divert the important subject matter on hand into questions of video quality and presentation at all.  Now we finally do have Lanzmann's final words on the Holocaust, and they should be heard no matter what.

A Pair of Vincent Prices #2: The Last Man On Earth (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Now we come to the movie that made me spring for The Vincent Price Collection (Part 2) in the first place, a real horror gem: 1964's The Last Man On Earth.  Not to say that every other Vincent Price film in the set is junk or anything... The Comedy of Terrors is always amusing, and Dr. Phibes 2 would've been a much bigger draw if it was packaged with Part 1, but it's still pretty far out in its own right.  But The Last Man On Earth, now there's a film we all need in our horror collections.
Based on Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, Last Man On Earth is an obvious, very strong inspiration for George Romero's Night Of the Living Dead and its follow-ups.  Price is the titular last man, after the civilization has been brought down by monsters.  Technically, they're vampires, but as shambling, moaning, corpse-like shells of the people they once were, with limited intelligence and abilities, compulsorily drawn to consume the last remaining human life... they're basically Romero zombies with a handful of distinctions.  The most important of those, I suppose, is that these creatures only come out at night, because, as vampires, they shun the sunlight.  This means Price's nights are spent in classic NotLD-mode, boarded up in his house as the creatures lay clumsy siege, banging weakly at the doors and windows.  Then in the days, he's free to go out and explore the ravaged cities, pillage abandoned storefronts and homes for food and supplies, more along the lines of the later Dead films, Walking Dead, etc.
But this film doesn't just earn its credit by beating Romero to the punch of many of his key concepts and set pieces; it's a pretty great little sci-fi/ horror flick on its own terms.  Last Man is actually an Italian production, but thankfully, with Price doing his own voice and the bulk of the film centering on one man painfully alone in the world, it gets away with its dubbing except for a few, brief moments.  Honestly, it took me owning the film on various films for years to even realize it wasn't all-American, striking me instead as maybe just a little extra low budget.  But it got over any production value-related concerns by being a surprisingly faithful adaptation of a great little book (Matheson is an excellent genre writer, whose only fault might've been spreading himself a little too thin; and that's one trait that doesn't show in I Am Legend).  It's smart and surprisingly effective dramatically.  There have been much bigger, showier, major studio shots at the book, and this one remains the comfortably seated as the best.
1971's Omega Man, with Charlton Heston, takes some bold liberties with the story, making the vampires much more lucid and letting us into their point of view early on.  They have philosophical discussions with each other and concoct plans to get at Heston.  I'm willing to overlook the central conceit that an entire, fully intelligent society of people have spent years unable to roust one determined man out of his LA apartment; but you can't overlook how the second half of the film gives up on most of its ideas halfway through.  It slowly fizzles away into an excuse for big, doofy action sequences, like Heston riding around a football stadium in a stunt-filled motorcycle chase with everybody waving around machine guns and leaping over explosions.  We keep racking up the flat-out dumb moments (Rosalind Cash avoids capture by posing like a mannequin in a clothing store?  Is this Scooby Doo?) and eventually stall out in a silly, sappy conclusion that just fails to deliver on the messages of the original story.

Then, I used to have trouble putting my finger on what rubbed me the wrong way with 2007's I Am Legend starring Will Smith.  Sure, it made some pointless alterations and is plagued with unfortunate CGI of its time - and it has that shameless Shrek ad dumped into the middle of the film - but it's relatively faithful and ambitious.  I think lately I've decided that it just comes off as a lighter, more shallow retelling... sort of the typical post-apocalyptic teenlit flick that have come into vogue in the 2010s, except it just happens to star a grown man.  I'm sure when it started out, somebody had earnest intentions of finally crafting the perfect on-screen depiction of Matheson's novel; but it quickly Frankenstein'd into a star vehicle with alternate endings happily throwing away the story's ultimate irony in search of a crowd-pleasing, Hollywood conclusion.  It's like a Twilight Zone without the final twist to give it all its meaning.  "Audiences felt the guy's glasses breaking was a bummer, so now it's just a quick tale of a guy who gets to read a lot of books!"
So there isn't a bunch of Rifftrax DVDs this time around (although, yes, there is a Legend Films colorized edition out there), but otherwise its the same line-up of suspects as last time.  Like I've said, I've owned a couple previous editions of this film, including a VHS tape and an old Diamond double-feature.  But the first Mill Creek DVD from the Chilling 20 movie pack will give you a rough idea of what pretty much every old, gray market edition looked like.  Then we have Scream Factory's fancy, 2014 HD restoration from their Vincent Price Collection II boxes set.  And finally we have Mill Creek's most recent edition, from their own 2017 Vincent Price Collection.
1) 2005 Mill Creek DVD; 2) 2014 Scream Factory blu;
3) 2017 Mill Creek DVD.
Part of what's worked against The Last Man On Earth, especially in comparison to the other Legend adaptations, is how awful its typically looked on home video.  This is a very wide, 2.35:1 film (or technically 2.34:1 as it appears on Scream's blu), presented in a boxy, full frame transfer that doesn't open up the vertical mattes, but just hacks off the sides.  Specifically, the 2005 DVD chooses the unusual aspect ratio of 1.42:1, which hey, just add it to the endless list of flaws.  I mean, could a DVD transfer be any worse without intentional sabotage?  The framing is also non-anamorphic, interlaced (of course!), and even the non-interlaced frames are so heavily plagued with digitization and who knows what else that every moment is littered with noise and interference.  The film almost looks cross-hatched.  It's also washed and over exposed, giving it a pale, hard-to-look-at feel, and it's full of print damage, from constant flecks and spots to vertical lines running through entire scenes.  The opening credit scenes are also horizontally crushed to try and fit all the writing on screen, though amusingly it still fails and cuts off a lot of the text.  It's just ghastly.

Anyway, the new Mill Creek DVD has essentially the same widescreen transfer as the blu, just a bit worse.  It has a sliver less info on the right-hand side, and more importantly is vertically stretched to 2.22:1.  It's not interlaced, but it is heavily compressed, even for SD, which winds up scrubbing detail and adding a lot of jpg-style artifacting.  Also the darks are a bit light and everything's a bit greyer and flatter.  The blu-ray itself nicely retains film grain, and I have to say, finally seeing it in this condition has genuinely increased by appreciation of the movie as a whole.  Growing up with PQ like the old Mill Creek DVD really added to the feeling that this was a cheap, well intentioned but junky picture.  Seeing it restored to 2.35 (or okay, 2.34) with clearly high end 35mm detail, professional lighting and composition, etc, you suddenly realize no, this is a real movie.
But there's more than just the technical picture quality to consider.  There are slightly different running times, which I at first attributed to just alternate opening logos.  After all, only the 2005 DVD includes the original American International Television logo and music.  The 2017 DVD just starts with the fade-in after that, and Scream replaces it with a modern MGM lion logo.  The 2005 also ends with another AIT logo, and the blu with another from MGM.  But there's a much bigger difference.  The 2005 DVD also cuts out the final lines of the picture!  And if you're familiar wit the film, they're pretty key to the entire point of the story.  So that just makes the older disc even less desirable compared to later editions, except it's such a dramatic editorial change, I think you could say it's effectively a different cut of the film, and possibly also worth owning for serious fans, if only for a bit of novelty value.  But yes, for most of us, it's just one more very compelling reason to upgrade if you've just got one of the old editions.

Anyway, the sound quality on the 2005 DVD is about as abysmal as the picture.  Of course both DVDs just include the basic mono in 2.0 with no subtitles or any kind of options, but the 2005 is much noisier, with crackles, hiss and even the sound of reels turning embedded in the sound.  The 2017 DVD clears all that up.  It's a bit tinny, but generally fine.  Then Scream rounds that out even better, in lossless DTS-HD of course, with even more robust sound and more distinct dialogue.  Scream also adds optional English subtitles.
Naturally, the DVDs are just as unhelpful in terms of special features.  They have absolutely nothing.  But the blu-ray has a couple choice goodies that add some genuine value.  First up is an audio commentary by two critics.  They have a lot of good info, and the interplay between them keeps things lively.  They do have a habit of pointing out how unvampire-like the film's vampire's are, which actually speaks more to their ignorance of vampire lore than a flaw in the film, since what they call mistakes are sometimes actually rather thoughtful references.  But that's a real nitpick of an overall very worthwhile commentary.  Still, experts are one thing and the actual filmmakers are quite another, and to that end we get vintage interview with Matheson himself.  It's a bit short but tightly edited and rather candid.  Definitely worth the watch.  There's also a stills gallery of some nice, vintage promo shots and colorized lobby cards; and the set itself includes a nice, full-color, 32 page booklet, which touches on Last Man in addition to everything else.
So this disc isn't as impressive as Criterion's Night Of the Living Dead, but it feels almost as essential.  And as I said with The House On Haunted Hill, it's a shame you can't buy this edition on its own.  Also, as with House, this is also available in Umbrella's Vincent Price Collection; however, this time it is available separately.  So that might be an option, but it's barebones.  And the only other blu-rays seem to be a rather poorly reviewed German disc and a couple of those "fake" SD upconverts.  So Scream's the ideal choice, except you're forced to buy the whole collection.  And unfortunately, the end result of that seems to be more horror fans are just going without and this film isn't getting the contemporary recognition it really deserves.

A Pair of Vincent Prices #1: House On Haunted Hill (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Woo!  Only two label Pairs down, and I'm already breaking the rules.  What an outlaw, what a rebel!  Even other rebels can't believe how much I disregard the laws.  Alright, I'll stop.  But yeah, I thought I'd mix things up a little and do two classic Vincent Price vehicles.  And I'm starting with William Castle's most famous successful horror outing - well, unless you want to count Rosemary's Baby - The far sillier House On Haunted Hill.
Mind you, when I call this film silly, it's meant to be silly.  I'm not putting down a dead serious horror film that's failing to illicit drama or suspense.  The House On Haunted Hill is a tongue-in-cheek lark.  Vincent Price is a millionaire married to his sixth wife who seems to want him dead even more than he wants her see her that way.  Still, he's invited an eclectic mix of six strangers to a party in her honor: a party in his famously haunted mansion (a distractingly strange looking Frank Lloyd Wright creation).  Each guest will receive ten thousand dollars if they agree to stay over night... and live to collect.  Does he plan to murder one or all of them?  Is one of them there to murder him?  Are there really ghosts?  Or should everyone really be wary of the ghoulish servants who lurk the corridors?

House is awfully short for a feature, clocking it at just under 75 minutes, no doubt taking its cue from Shakespeare: "brevity is the soul of wit."  If you're worried about this being an old, boring movie, have no fear of that.  The pacing is electric, zipping from plot twist to plot twist, especially when you consider this film is packed with main characters.  When the film does briefly pause to take a breath, its only to allow Price and his wife to trade sharp barbs in delectable camp fashion or build up suspense for one of its big scare set pieces.  Not that this film's genuinely scary at all; but it knows how to capture that haunted house thrill ride spirit.  In fact, being a William Castle film; The House On Haunted Hill had a famous in-theater gimmick where a skeleton would fly over the audiences' heads during a key scene in the film.  Fortunately, this film entertains just as well when viewed at home without it.
I used to own a junky, old public domain DVD of this from Diamond.  But I've since chucked it, since I replaced it with other public domain versions, specifically in a 2005 Mill Creek 20 Movie Pack called chilling, and in the various Rifftrax editions.  Those include the original Legend Films DVD, which featured a non-Rifftrax Mike Nelson commentary, and most notably colorized the film, the official Rifftrax DVD (which does allow the option of watching the film sans riffing) and their live show DVD.  Now, House has been out on blu a few times, as parts of classic horror sets, but those early releases were just "fakes," slapping basic SD transfers onto blu-ray discs.  House made its debut in genuine HD with Scream Factory's Vincent Price Collection II, the second of three blu-ray boxed sets of Price films.  Like the other films in those collections, it's not available separately, and is almost only available in that box... Umbrella has also issued it own barebones Vincent Price blu-ray collection in Australia, which also includes this film.  Either way, you're not getting this film on blu without purchasing a slew of other VP titles, too, which is frustrating if you just happen to like this one film.  Interestingly, the most recent release is another Mill Creek DVD, this time from 2017, so we can see how far they've come, if at all.
1) 2005 Mill Creek DVD; 2) 2005 Legend DVD (B&W);
3) 2005 Legend (color) DVD; 4) 2009 Rifftrax DVD;
5) 2011 Rifftrax live DVD; 6) 2014 Scream Factory blu;
7) 2017 Mill Creek DVD.
So, I was expecting Mill Creek to either have some SD transfer closer to Scream's remaster, or maybe still the same old one from 2005.  But I was sure surprised to see them actually move backwards.  Their first DVD is still non-anamorphic, soft and interlaced, but at least it was sort of widescreen, at the unusual ratio of 1.57:1.  Their 2017 is just as interlaced, possibly even softer, now murky yellow, and now framed at 1.31:1.  Well, I'm assuming this film is meant to be matted wide... that's certainly what Scream Factory did for their HD restoration, lowering it to 1.77:1.  The fullscreen versions are all open matte, though, so they're mostly shaving off vertical information... but they do reveal something new to the sides as well.  In between the polar extremes of Mill Creek and Scream we have the Legend/ Rifftrax DVDs.  All utilize the same transfer (apart from the B&W/ colorized distinction), fullframe at 1.33:1 and happily not interlaced.  Well, except there is some jagged combing visible throughout the 2009 disc, but they don't have entirely interlaced frames.  I think they just made a mistake in the compression of the plain Rifftrax disc.  The colorization isn't too bad for what it is (i.e. revisionist and undesirable), but it at least refrains from crazy, unnatural color choices like they did with Reefer Madness.
It was perhaps a bit silly of me to include the Rifftrax Live DVD in this comparison, because unlike the other Legend/ Rifftrax discs, it doesn't offer you the option of watching the film with just the original audio.  It also, naturally, includes other segments of the live show, including two short films and occasionally pushes the picture to one side in order to show the guys performing.  It's really only watchable as an episode of Rifftrax.  But, to be clear, the other editions, including the official 2009 Rifftrax DVD, do allow you to watch the film "plain," without their interference, and so work as proper House On Haunted Hill DVDs if you so desire.  And since the 2009 one is the janky one visually, that makes the 2005 Legend DVD the preferable option.

Anyway, that Legend disc might've been one of the better ones back when all we had were mediocre DVDs of this public domain title, but the blu is playing on an entirely different level.  Questions about the AR aside (even if it should be widescreen, surely 1.77:1 is slightly off for the sake of catering to 16x9 TVs), this is the first time House really looks like film.  Grain is rich and downright vibrant in motion, the contrast is bold and pleasing, image is sharp and detail is restored.  And, of course, none of these DVDs offer anything more than the rough mono audio, but Scream has boosted it to DTS-HD and killed most of the hiss of past editions.  Foley sounds crisp and naturalistic for once.  They've also included optional English subtitles for the first time.
In terms of special features, as you can imagine, those Mill Creek collections are completely barren.  And the main extras on the Rifftrax discs are just the riff tracks themselves.  The 2005 one was made and released before Rifftrax was a thing, and is just described as a "hilarious audio commentary by Mike Nelson of TV's Mystery Science Theater 3000."  It's a bit more of Mike by himself going off the cuff, as opposed to the 2009 and 2011, which are properly written, and decidedly funnier, performances by the trio.  The 2005 DVD also has a short video of press book stills, the theatrical trailer, an insert, and an ad for their other colorized discs.  The live DVD also includes two comic Rifftrax commercials and the trivia track they would show before the show when it was broadcast in theaters.

Scream finally gives the film some real extras, though it's a little disappointing that, as a part of their Vincent Price Collection, it seems to be made from the perspective that we're all die-hard Price lovers rather than interested in the film in general.  By that I mean, we get a bunch of featurettes that really get into the weeds of Price's life and career, even delving into his private art collection and taste in wine, and none about the Castle, the film itself, or the rest of the cast and crew.  Introductory Price, Working With Vincent Price, Vincent Price: Renaissance Man...  Hey, I enjoy Price's work and am interested to learn more, but I don't need to root through his drawers, if you know what I mean.  So yeah, there's the four featurettes, the trailer, a bunch of other Price trailers, the stills gallery, and the one feature that dares to broaden the field, an audio commentary by film historian Steve Haberman.  Of course he talks about Price, too, but he's the only one here to get into all the other fun stuff about this film, Castle, other cast members and of course the flying skeleton.
So yeah, even the special features suggest this disc was never intended to be released on its own, outside of the Vincent Price collection.  But that's a shame, because thanks to its pacing if nothing else, this film stands the test of time, and has a broader appeal than many of the other films in this set.  You know, I don't see anyone but Price completists beating down the door for Return Of the Fly.  But there really ought to be a stand-alone option for The House On Haunted Hill, and I mean one with the HD quality and audio commentary.  It's a great disc, and I think it's being blockaded off from some of its audience.