Update Week Concludes... Beyond All the Doors! The Beyond the Door Trilogy

It's time to go beyond all the doors!  The Beyond the Door movies are three unrelated Italian horror films that just so happen to be sequels to each other.  Ones a pretty well made Exorcist knock-off, one's an atmospheric ghost story, and one's about a coven of Yugoslavian witches on a train.  They're all a good time, though; and they do share some coincidental themes.  Thankfully, they also have pretty decent DVD releases.

Update 9/4/15 - 8/23/19: And one of them even has a blu-ray release.  Amazingly, the sequels still don't, but in 2017 Code Red upgraded their DVD to BD.  It's been requested a couple of times, so I just had to include it before I closed out Update Week.  Otherwise, could we really say we went beyond all the doors?  😜
The original Beyond the Door, released in 1974, is the directorial debut of Ovidio G. Assonitis, who also directed a couple other films we've looked at here on DVD Exotica: Super Stooges vs the Wonder Women and The Visitor. Like I said, it's a pretty blatant Exorcist rip-off - it's got the head spin gag and everything - but it also goes in some pretty original directions. Where Exorcist was about a mother whose little girl becomes demonically possessed, here the mother is possessed by Satan himself, who actually opens the film by directly addressing the audience. While the bulk of the film focuses on the possession and following in the Exorcist's footsteps, the plot goes off in some different directions towards the end, which I won't spoil, but definitely doesn't march in line with Friedkin's film. I also don't remember him having any scenes with an aggressive nose flutist.
Beyond the Door's pretty well made. It's got high production values, is stylishly shot, and stars two very credible British actors: Juliet Mills and Richard Johnson. It's got some effective sequences, only about half of which are derivative, and it easily out-classes most of the Exorcist clones that popped up around its time. It might strike viewers as boring, as it can get a bit dry in the middle considering so much is entirely "seen it before" stuff; but it's held aloft by the novelty value of some two badly dubbed children who curse like sailors.
Beyond the Door debuted on DVD in Japan, from JVD, which was a pretty nice import. It was widescreen and featured an international cut about ten minutes longer than what had been released on VHS in the US. Unfortunately, it wasn't anamorphic, and the only extra was a trailer. But Code Red took care of that, releasing a loaded special edition in 2008. I used to own the JVD disc, and I think it had the same core transfer, but Code Red made it anamorphic, and like I said, had a bunch of extras. But that's not all. Code Red made a 2-Disc Collector's Edition exclusive for Best Buy with some bonus goodies.  And that was all until 2017, when Code Red reissued the film on blu with a "Brand New 2016 HD Master."
1) 2008 Code Red DVD; 2) 2017 Code Red BD bottom.
So this master starts off correcting the slightly off 1.83:1 of the DVD to a proper 1.85:1, and the newer framing is actually slightly tighter around all four sides.  Film grain on the blu is still a bit light, but generally present and film-like, and it clears away the unfortunate compression artifacts and combing that was present on the DVD.  You can read much more of the lettering on the book behind the kids now in this clearer HD presentation.  The colors have also been re-timed, and overall it's a nice improvement, but at some points, like that first set of shots with Gabriel Lavia crossing the street, I prefer the color timing of the DVD.  But there's no way anyone in their right mind is going to look at that close-up and say, "no thanks, I prefer the standard def version."

Both editions only offer the English mono track, with no subtitles, but the blu-ray does bump its track up to uncompressed DTS-HD.
Before we get into the extras proper, one of the goodies the Best Buy 2-disc set features is the shorter, US theatrical cut, taken from a funky looking, fullscreen (1.32:1) source. There's nothing exclusive to the US cut, it's only missing stuff, so this version only really has curiosity value. Especially considering the quality of the print, you're definitely going to choose to watch the main version on disc 1.  I think this was only included to show off how much better Code Red's main transfer looked.

Now as far the regular extras, there are two audio commentaries, one with Juliet Mills and a really good one by Ovidio himself. Both have multiple moderators to help things along. There's also a terrific 35 Years Later featurette, which includes interviews with just about everybody and is very engaging. There's also a fun, on camera interview with Richard Johnson, plus the trailer, a TV spot, stills gallery and some bonus trailers. And the first 2500 copies pressed featured a cool looking slip cover, pictured above. The Best Buy edition never came in the slip, but did feature an on-camera interview with Juliet Mills (who was seen on disc 1 in the 35 Years Later featurette), where the focus is on the rest of her career rather than Beyond the Door.
And the blu?  That's got everything from the single-disc DVD, but not the Best Buy exclusive stuff.  The fullscreen, edited version of the film is no loss, but it's a shame they didn't squeeze on Juliet Mills' interview, if only so we don't feel like we're moving backwards when we upgrade.  But if I had to lose one of the old DVD's extras, that would be it.  And for our one step backwards, we get to take two forward, because we also get something new and better: an on-camera interview with co-star Gabriel Lavia, in Italian with dense English subtitles.  He's funny and has some unique anecdotes we haven't heard in the previous extras.  The blu-ray also includes reversible artwork and a cheesy, illustrated slipcover.
Ovidio had nothing to do with 1977's Beyond the Door 2, released on DVD in the US under the title Shock, and has said in interviews that he doesn't approve of the title borrowing. This Beyond the Door is actually the final film by Mario Bava, and it's based on an original script by Dardano Sacchetti and Mario's son, Lamberto Bava, who also got his start directing by shooting a few scenes in this movie. It's the story of a small family who move into a new house, which turns out to be sort of haunted. Everything seems great at first, of course, but we soon learn the father isn't the real father, he's just "mom's new boyfriend," because the real father killed himself years before, in this very house. And somehow that's causing their young son to behave pretty horribly towards his mother, who's having enough problems dealing with flying furniture and visions of the dead.
Unsurprisingly for Bava fans, Beyond 2 is a very well crafted film. It's well shot and full of the the kind of ingenious camera tricks he's known for. It also has a bold score by Goblin and stars Dario Argento's former wife and collaborator, Daria Nicolodi and Ivan Rassimov, who was unforgettable as the devil in The Eerie Midnight Horror Show. And by sheer coincidence, the possessed child in this film is the young actor who played Juliet Mills' son in the first Beyond the Door. He never acted in anything else before or since, just these two movies, and he's definitely not playing the same character. But once again he's badly dubbed and behaving diabolically. In fact, that's this film's greatest weakness or appeal, depending on your attitude. The child is basically this film's Freddy Krueger, but he's so badly dubbed, running around cursing and things, that he's downright comical. Only a really die-hard Bava fan will be able to see past it and take this film seriously as the atmospheric horror it's meant to be. But on the other hand, he's a real hoot (like he was in the first film) if you take it all as camp. But this is a film that wants you to take it very seriously.

There had been a couple underwhelming international DVDs of this title out there for years (i.e. barebones, non-anamorphic), but the first worthwhile release came from Anchor Bay in 2000. This featured a high-end 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer and an interview with Lamberto Bava, as well as a couple trailers and this cool insert[right] with the Beyond the Door 2 poster art. Blue Underground re-issued it in 2007 when the rights went to them; but it's the same disc. It also featured English, Italian and French audio tracks, which was great except for one problem: no subtitles! So, unless you're fluent in the other languages, you're still stuck with the English audio. And that's a real shame, because I checked out the other tracks, and the kid is dubbed much better in the other versions. In the US version, he's dubbed by an adult attempting to sound like a little boy, and it comes off as really cheesy; but with the other tracks, you could finally take this film seriously. That's how this film needs to be seen!
I'm actually really surprised, this being the final Bava film and all, that we've yet to see a blu-ray release of this anywhere in the world. The DVD print isn't bad, as far as DVD prints go, but it could still benefit nicely from an HD transfer. That, plus the Italian and English audio options (I could take or leave the French dub; but the kid sounds much better than the American voice actor there, too) with subtitles would be terrific. Interview Daria, get a Tim Lucas commentary... how isn't this a thing already? It's a no-brainer! But, in the meantime, this DVD isn't so bad so long as you're on board for the kids' dubbing. And frankly, if they released a version without the US audio, no sale! As hokey as it is, I'd really miss it; it's become a critical part of the film's history. But we need the Italian version, too.
Anyway, after that, it took another twelve years to get another unconnected sequel. Except the series returned to Ovidio Assonitis. This time he's just the producer, but based on interviews, he seemed to be the driving force behind this project. But his original title for the film was Train, and he says it was the distributors' idea to use the Beyond the Door title, an idea he was against. Because, once again, it has nothing to do with the other movies,
Bo Svenson stars in this one, a story of a bunch of American college kids who travel to Yugoslavia and run afoul of a coven of witches who want to sacrifice them all.  The bulk of the film takes place on a runaway train, hence the film's original title.  This movie's from a whole different generation than the first two and feels very different. It's very 80s, less serious but gorier. and much less interested in psychology than kills.  But it's got a good look to it, and at least someone gets possessed in this, so there's a thematic connection to the other Doors.

It's kind of a dumb movie.  It has dialogue like:
"What is it you love about me?"
"I don't know, your hair?"
...But it delivers the goods.  There's plenty of special effects, exotic locations, action, production values (they got extensive use of that train), and a whole bunch of crazy, entertaining stuff happening at all times.  The cinematography's back to workman-like after the Bava entry, but it's well shot and there's plenty of interesting stuff in front of the camera, so it still looks pretty impressive.
There was a cheap Dragon DVD first, but the Shriek Show release is the one to own. It's got a nice, anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer... although, to be honest, the framing looks pretty tight. I wonder if it wasn't really meant to be 1.85? Anyway, Dragon's wasn't even anamorphic, so I'd say Shriek Show wins whatever the case. It's also got some nice extras, including a long interview with Assonitis and another interview with the cinematographer. There's also a couple trailers, and an easter egg of an alternate title card with the title Amok Train, which is also what's on the case (the on-screen title is Beyond the Door III).
I'm actually surprised none only one of these films have hit HD yet, since the first two at least are some pretty major horror titles, especially in the annals of Italian genre history. But for now, these Code Red, Anchor Bay/ Blue Underground and Shriek Show editions are pretty satisfying. And you know, maybe these labels will be nudged into upgrading their titles on that fateful day the long-rumored Beyond the Door 4 finally appears.

Update #6, Absurd: Anthropophagus Part 2

Exotic blu-ray collectors surely remember when 88 Films ran an Indiegogo campaign in 2015 and netted almost $17,000 to restore two "classic" Italian horror films: Zombie Holocaust and Burial Ground.  Well, this time they've gone even bigger, collecting roughly $105,000 to restore four more dubiously "classic" Italian horror greats: Aenigma, Massacre In Dinosaur Valley, Beyond the Darkness and today's entry, Absurd, the aptly titled sequel to Joe D'Amato's Anthropophagus.  Oh, and there will also be a fresh restoration of that film, too, this summer.  Well, I contributed to that campaign, too, and I've been enjoying the harvest.

Update 1/30/17 - 8/22/19: If we're doing Anthropophagus, it only makes sense throw Absurd into Update Week, too.  You might be starting to detect a pattern here: 88 Films restores an Italian horror classic for the UK market, and then a year or so later, Severin releases it in the US.  But it's not just a case of more or less identical discs just being demarcated Region A or B; they're always quite different from each other.
George Eastman is back as Nikos (or is it Mikos?), the crazed Greek killer, here to spread a little nihilistic madness amongst some unwitting victims.  Eastman is also back as scriptwriter, and D'Amato back behind the lens of this off-beat giallo/ slasher hybrid.  This time Nikos has made his way to what the filmmakers would have us believe is America, being pursued by a Dr. Loomis-like priest, who knows the secret to killing the madman.  Yeah, this film makes the leap franchises like Friday the 13th and Halloween would make years later: the killer most be some kind of superhuman monster (hence the alternate title Monster Hunter) to keep coming back in sequel after sequel despite having been killed at the end of the last one.  In our case, he basically has Wolverine-style healing powers and can only be truly killed by destroying his brain.  I guess it's thanks to those powers that he doesn't have the burned, balding look from the first movie; but he does arrive on the scene in a great homage to the finale of the previous film.
So it's a bit of a step down to lose the exotic Greek locations of the original film, and this film is definitely taking a lot from Halloween, from babysitters in peril, the sheriff searching small town streets, to kids referring to Nikos as the boogeyman.  But there are worse films to crib from, and bringing Nikos to America works in a fun, logic-free way.  And Absurd has a lot of things going for it, including some great kills, another bizarre-o little kid dubbed by a grown woman, some notable performances by Annie Belle, who's just beginning to regrow her hair back after House On the Edge Of the Park, and Edmund Purdom.  Oh, which reminds me: listen to a cameo from Pieces' infamous big band music in this film as well!  When I first saw this film, it was on a friend's bootleg DVD, which was a very murky VHS rip.  All I remembered were a few good kills and so much talk about football (to sell us on the fact that they're in America), that the Rams vs the Steelers began to feel like a legit subplot.  I was amused, but it really felt like some bottom of the barrel, shot on video effort, like the Violent Shit films (all the more fitting, then, who would go on to make Anthropophagus 2000).  But now that I've seen it restored, it looks and feels much more like a real movie.
NOT a shot from 88's new blu; don't worry folks!  I found this transfer online
that looks just the way I remember my first viewing experience.

88 Films brings us the HD debut of Absurd, though to be fair, there was a bit of mid-ground between that ugly bootleg I saw and now.  There have been a couple low-quality foreign releases over the years, and finally an official DVD from MYA Communication in 2009.  Even that was non-anamorphic and had to composite in elements from a VHS print to present a fully uncut version of the film.  In 2017, we have a brand new 2k scan of the original film elements, 100% uncut with no compositing.  And we're given two versions: the English and Italian.  And no, that's not just a question of alternate audio, they're two different cuts of the film.  So let me break that down.
A scene only in the English Version.
So to start with the obvious, yes, the English Version has the English dub and the Italian Version has the Italian dub with optional English subtitles.  The two versions also have alternate credits sequences written in their native languages (though both use the fake, Americanized names).  But besides that, the English version is several minutes longer.  And that's not due to credits playing at different speeds or anything dull like that.  It's a longer version of the film with whole scenes only included in that cut.  And it should be noted that the English version has all the exclusive extra scenes; there's nothing in the Italian version that you don't see in the English.  So what's unique to the English Version?

6:40 There's more to the beginning of the scene with the biker punks harassing the drunk.

8:08 Only the English version returns to the operation on Eastman.

11:05 There's a whole scene with the cop visiting the mother and boy after Eastman broke in.

23:20 We have a couple more shots of Eastman running through the streets at night.

45:40 There's an extra scene of the parents' football party.

1:25:30 Katya Berger is chased down a couple extra hallways.

In 88's audio commentary, they must be watching the Italian Version, as they mention some missing footage but assure us we're not missing any gore.  But the situation's even better than that thanks to inclusion of the longer, English Version.  Even the footage they specifically cite from the movie-censorship page is in that cut.

And of course now we have another contender: 2018's US blu-ray from Severin.  It also has both versions of the film taken from a 2k scan from the original negative.  The same one?  We'll have to check.
1) 88 Films 2017 English BD; 2) 88 Films 2017 Italian BD;
3) Severin 2018 English BD; 4) Severin 2018 Italian BD.
So they seem to have used exactly the same scan and final transfer for both versions, but just to be thorough, I threw in comparisons of the English and Italian cuts.  The framing is slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1 and grain looks very natural.  The color-timing looks great, too; so I don't see any reason to wait for a label in another region to pick this up and tweak it.  I did spot an instance of dirt in the lens (in another screenshot below), but overall this film is very clean and steady.  It's really a trip to think Absurd has wound up looking this good.

But now we need to put our glasses on, because we have dueling restored blu-rays to compare.  Severin's blu is also 1.85:1 and unlike with Anthropophagus, the framing seems to be identical to 88's.  And detail seems to be the same right down to individual specs of grain.  I'm guessing they used the same scan.  But of course you can see the colors are quite different.  It looks like they've added blue night filters to these scenes, or at least leaned much more heavily into the blues to give them an authentic moonlit look.  But, of course, the bulk of the film is indoors, so let's do another quick comparison to see if those colors differ, too.
2017 88 Films BD top; 2018 Severin BD bottom.
Yup, they sure do!  88 generally has paler colors, which Severin deepens.  They also definitely go for blacker blacks, where 88 is content to leave the blackest areas as gray, perhaps to show that they aren't crushing any detail away.  88's remaster already looked pretty terrific, but I'd say Severin has made it even a little more attractive.

Both the original mono audio tracks are presented in lossless LPCM 2.0 on both discs and sound surprisingly good.  Carlo Maria Cordio's soundtrack really rocks.  And the Italian version has optional/ removable English subtitles on 88's disc.  On Severin, both versions have subtitles, which match their audio tracks.  So one bonus point to Severin there.
Oh you want extras, too?  Yeah, this film's got some good stuff.  First up is that aforementioned audio commentary.  It's another one by The Hysteria Continues podcast guys, and I'm not usually a big fan of theirs (in terms of audio commentaries, not the podcast itself), but I think they're getting better.  Typically, one of them seems to prepare and know a lot about the film, acting as sort of an expert commentary, and the other guys just interrupt him and annoy the listener.  That dynamic hasn't really changed, but I think they've dialed it down, and at least two of them are plugged in this time.  They provide some good info in the first half, despite the other guys kinda phoning it in, and the jokes-to-commentary ratio is, well, mostly fine.  They do keep the energy up throughout (though the added scenes do force some pauses in the track).  Halfway through the movie, though, they seem to run out of things to say and just go on super long tangents about their favorite slashers or other movies that came out in 1981.  So you could probably turn it off once you start getting into that territory; but the first half is worth a listen and does add some value to the disc.
I SAVED CINEMA!!
Besides there's still more, even better stuff.  The crown jewel is the interview with George Eastman.  He's unfortunately a little dismissive of this film, but is still very interesting as he talks about his working relationship with D'Amato and more.  And there's another, in-depth interview with Michele Soavi, who played a small early role in this film as a biker.  Because his part was so brief, he does start drifting off into more general topics like the decline of the Italian horror scene, but you're definitely not going to want to skip this one.  There is a limited edition booklet, which I think means later printings won't include it, by Calum Waddell.  It's 16-pages and all about the Video Nasties.  Now, as an American, the story of that whole drama never really struck a chord with me, but I really like how this booklet presents each of the 39 Video Nasty titles that were actually prosecuted (out of 72 total films that were branded Nasties) with artwork and a brief description of every single one.  It also features reversible artwork with the film's original, Italian title (Rosso Sangue); and for supporters of the indiegogo campaign, this release also came in a very cool looking slipcover.
So what's Severin brought to the party?  Well, first of all, they carry over 88's interview with Michele Soavi.  But that and the trailer are the only extras the two releases have in common.  But Severin has conducted their own interview with George Eastman, which is almost twice as long.  And while it's certainly not a formula that twice as long = twice as good, this one's nicely focused on the film at hand, and he's even a little more up on the film, this time cheerfully calling it "not bad."  We don't get an audio commentary, we do get a solid 20-minute vintage interview with D'Amato himself.  It's shot on video and has forced subtitles despite the fact that he's speaking in English.  It's a lot of fun, though it's more of a career overview piece.  He basically shares an anecdote or two about each of his many films (including Absurd), actually talking the longest about Anthropophagus.  You'll definitely get a kick out of it.  Anyway, then Severin has their own reversible artwork and slipcover, and the first 3000 copies also include a soundtrack CD.
I never really loved Absurd; it was an entertaining watch for me, but not much more.  But the chance to see it fully restored and look like a completely new film made this one of my most anticipated titles.  And I am definitely not disappointed.  In fact, I'd say I've become much more of a fan now having watched this on blu, so I'm really glad.  And now in 2018, we've got options.  Between the two, I'd go with the Severin, it looks slightly better and I'll always take interviews with the filmmakers over experts/ fans.  But I definitely wouldn't bother replacing one disc with the other, and the new unique extras are slim enough that you really don't need both.  If you're deciding between the two, yeah go with Severin; but you really won't be going wrong with either one.

Update #5, Dueling Anthropophagous 2k Scans

And we have another new, restored blu-ray release from 88 Films, this time it's Joe D'Amato's most successful horror flick, spelled here as Anthropophagous. I also have this on DVD, where it's spelled Antropophagus, but the most common spelling seems to meet those two in the middle with Anthropophagus. However the heck you're supposed to spell it, the word apparently means cannibal, which is certainly fitting for this nutty film.

Update 8/6/15 -  8/26/17: And we're back, with an all new Remastered Special Edition blu-ray release of Anthropophagus from 88 Films.  Wait a minute, didn't we just say 88 Films had come out with a blu-ray restoration in 2015?  Yup, but they felt they could do better, so as the final entry in their second indiegogo campaign (which also included the sequel to Anthropophagus, Absurd) we have a new version in 2017 with a fresh 2k scan, "extensive colour correction," new special features and some other improvements.

Update 8/21/19: And we're back again, this time with a US blu-ray from Severin.  It has a different 2k scan, alternate color timing and all new special features.
But this isn't your typical Italian "cannibal film" about a native jungle tribe... This is actually set in a very interesting little Greek island town. A couple of young tourists, including Tisa Farrow, sail over for a short vacation, only to find the entire town abandoned. Eventually they do find one or two inhabitants, or more accurately survivors, who seem to have gone a bit funny since of their locals, George Eastman, has turned into a completely insane and even somewhat monstrous killer. The film can be a bit flat and plodding, with a lot of these bland vacationers wandering around empty locations, but Eastman's character has a perfect, memorably horrible look. And when the film finally does come around to its shock sequences, they're rather effective and a couple are particularly over the top, giving this film a nice touch of infamy. It's one of those movies where people who've seen it probably won't remember it too well, but they'll be like, "was this the film where ____ happened?" And oh yes, it's that movie. Those few moments are certainly etched into the memories of everyone who's seen it and they're really what everybody who's interested in this release are here for. And at least there's some interesting scenery during all that time in between.
Now, a lot of people were naturally comparing it to Shriek Show's previous release of the film; but that's not the one I went with back in the day. I used to have an old German DVD from Astro that was taken from a VHS source, but when I upgraded from that, instead of picking up Shriek Show's cropped 1.78:1 DVD, I imported the Italian DVD from Beat Records. It's a two disc set with some extras, which I'll get into, and kept the film more open at 1.66:1. It's debatable which of the two DVDs is better, but the real question these days is how the modern blus rate against the older DVD - how much ground did we gain?  And then, of course, how do the blus stack against each other?  Because, at this point, we've had three BD generations in short succession: 88 Films' initial 2015 blu, their 2017 crowd-sourced remaster and Severin's 2018 US edition, each with all new transfers and features.
1) 2005 Beat Records DVD; 2) 2015 88 Films BD;
3) 2017 88 Films BD 4) 2018 Severin BD.
So 88 and Severin have both kept the more open, 1.66:1 ratio (or, to be more accurate, the DVD is 1.66 and all three blus are 1.67), leaving all four discs slightly pillar-boxed. Despite having the same ratio, however, we see the framing is slightly shifted on each version, with tiny, and differing, slivers of extra picture on the blu-rays. The colors are kind of flat plus a bit brown on the DVD and green, on the 2015 blu. 88's new color correction really paid off, definitely making this the best the film had ever looked up to that time, with nice shadows and natural, more vivid colors.  But then Severin came along and decided to take their own pass at it, and... I think it's even better?

The improvements are more objective leading up to the 2017 blu, and the differences between the two latest are more subjective.  The colors are flatter on the older discs, and both the 2017 and 2018 releases have had quality color correction jobs.  To my eye, Severin's seems more natural and more aesthetically pleasing, though you could definitely pick different favorites shot to shot.  In the two sets of shots highlighted here, I think 88's looks like it has too much of a purplish hue, and that Severin pulls a lot more dynamism out of the second shot.  But we're really getting into the realm of guessing what the filmmakers' intentions were.  Is that second shot supposed to be a darker, creepier shot?  Yeah, we can make out faces better in Severin's pass, but 88's makes it look more like a scary, nighttime shot.  And at this stage in the film, it's a stormy night where the power's gone out and people are wandering around in fear as the killer could be lurking around each corner.  88's second blu is also the only where you can see the lightbulb in the electric lantern... in every other shot, the brights are too flared out.  So I'd say Severin's screenshot looks better in a vacuum of context, but 88's is telling the story better.  But I still don't think the boat shot should be so purple.  The point is: we're getting into very subjective judgment calls here.
1) 2005 Beat Records DVD; 2) 2015 88 Films BD;
3) 2017 88 Films BD 4) 2018 Severin BD.
And there's still not a wealth of additional detail in any of these blus. After all, this is a fairly low budget 16mm film.  It might strike viewers as a little underwhelming. But getting in close, we see maybe not new information, but even the 2015 blu isn't nearly so splotchy and messy as the grungy DVD. It's definitely a crisper, cleaner image.  However the 2015 grain looks weird, somehow smoothed down yet digital.  This is definitely not the case on the newer 2017 and 2018 blus, which have very natural and distinct film grain.  I feel like maybe the people doing the 2015 master were worried about how grainy the film is and tried to fidget with the settings to tone it down.  Both the new blus are 2k scans of the original 16mm negative and are properly film-like.  This does allow small details to pull through a little more, or at least clarifies what was already there on the previous versions.
2015 blu left; 2017 blu right.
All three blus have both the original mono English audio and the Italian mono audio with optional English subs. Unlike Zombie Holocaust, that's not so new - both Shriek Show and Beat Records' DVDs already had both options. But it's still the best way to present the film. I should note that the opening scene with the German tourists is not subtitled or dubbed into English on 88's 2015 blu. Beat's DVD subtitles the second half of the scene, after they sit down on the rocks, but not the first half as they walk down the beach. But thankfully, the 2017 and 2018 blus subtitle the whole thing. Yay! In fact, as you can see in the differences between the two shots above, 88 has gone through and re-translated all the English subtitles for this new version to be more accurate. And, they've also thrown in dubtitles to match the English audio, for anyone who wants to read along to the English dub.  And Severin?  They've got the same pair of retranslated subs and dubtitles as 88's 2017 blu.
Now, labels have always had a hard time coming up with extras for Anthropophagus. Shriek Show just had an interview with Eastman and a general featurette on D'Amato's career, and that's pretty much the best anyone's until very recently. The DVD I've got comes close to tying them, however. It has its own Eastman interview, which is pretty fun; and a 12 minute D'Amato featurette, including a brief on-set interview where he's working on a film called The Monk. And since Beat Records is also a record label, there's a feature called "Best Of," which is a collection of music tracks from D'Amato soundtracks. Those are the main things, though there's also a useless photo gallery which just consists of stills from the film, but framed in a small, distorted "TV screen" image making the whole endeavor completely pointless, a text-only filmography and trivia, and the trailer. Oh, and it has a nice double insert with some cool poster images.
42nd St. Memories
And 88? Well, I think this is another one of the reasons they've gotten flack for the 2015 disc. There are practically no extras directly pertaining to the film at hand. There is, however, one big extra, which is pretty cool... it's just not related to Anthropophagus. It's called 42nd Street: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Notorious Block. They don't even mention Anthropophagus as one of the countless films that potentially played on 42nd St. It's also not a topic I was particularly keen on, but it is a feature length film that interviews a heck of a lot of interesting people, including: William Lustig, Joe Dante, Lloyd Kaufman, Roy Frumkes, Frank Henenlotter. Lynn Lowry, Larry Cohen and a bunch more. I would've preferred to hear these guys talk about their films than the street, but it's still worth the watch. Besides that, there's just a couple trailers (including a bonus trailer for Zombie Holocaust, which is unskippable at start-up), an alternate set of opening credits in Italian, four neat little postcards with different poster art, some cool reversible art, and a sweet slipcover.
old content left; new content right.
So what does the Special Edition add to the proceedings?  Well, first and foremost is a brand new interview with George Eastman.  And I have to admit, after Beyond the Darkness and Absurd sharing the same George Eastman (and Michelle Soavi) interview across both discs, I was worried we'd be getting the same thing a third time.  But happily, no, this is an all new interview... or partially new, anyway.  The interview for Absurd was just under 15 minutes long, and this new one is over half an hour long, of two different interviews (he's shot from different angles and wearing different shirts, so it's obvious) intercut together.  One of those two is new, and the other is the old one, and the editing jumps back and forth between the two.  So basically, we get an all new one inter-spliced with with older content, though the older interview is the only one where he talks about Anthropophagus (as opposed to D'Amato, Laura Gemser and other films), so you can see why they incorporated it.
the deleted scene
Next up is an interview with film historian Alessio di Rocco.  A drier, academic look at Anthropophagus?  No, this is actually a very short (three minutes) set-up of the subsequent extra they have on here, a "never before seen deleted scene."  So Alessi sets up why it was shot and why it's not in the final film, and then the scene itself is quick but pretty cool.  It's not in the same quality as the rest of the film (see the shot above), but also in 1.66, Italian with optional English subtitles.  Then you get the alternate Italian opening and closing credits and a collection of trailers showcasing this film's multiple titles.  This 2017 version also has reversible artwork and a very nice, felt-like slipcover.
But in 2018, Anthropophagus finally got what I'd consider a worthy special edition.  Yeah, the 2017 remaster was called a "Special Edition," and it was a fair way to distinguish it from the 2015 BD, but I'm not sure it really has enough extras to justify that title.  Severin's does.  First of all, yes, there's another new interview with George Eastman, because you've got to have that.  And this might be the best of all of them, because it's focused and charming.  But now, finally, we've got proper interviews with other cast and crew members about this film.  We talk to actors Saverio Vallone and Zora Kerova, editor Bruno Micheli and effects artist Pietro Tenoglio. We also get three trailers and reversible artwork.  What's more, you could've ordered their "maneater" bundle, which included a slipcover, t-shirt, two pins and a Grim Reaper plush doll with "pull out entrails!"

The only disappointment is they didn't include the deleted scene.  I mean, the alternate credits and the Shriek Show piece on D'Amato would've been nice, too.  But the deleted scene feels particularly conspicuous in its absence.
So, the two newer blus are a real improvement on everything we've had before in pretty much every department.  Some of us were definitely questioning why 88 chose to remaster a title they'd just recently released as opposed to one of so many titles still needing a release, but the results speak for themselves.  Between the 2017 and 2018 blus, it's a closer call.  It will depend on factors like how much you care about extras, and how much of a hassle you find importing.  Just about every release of this film has something unique going for it, though, including the DVD featurettes and the 42nd St. doc, which to be clear is not on the 2017 release (you can also find it on the Grindhouse blu-ray release of Pieces, though).  So this is one of those films die-hard collectors could be going nuts on.  But if you're just in the market for a single version, it's easily between the 2017 and 2018 editions.  Personally, I'd go with Severin's, but a strong case could be made for either, so follow your pull-out entrails... I mean "gut."