Kooky Cozzi Paganini Horror! ...Now In HD!

If you like your stylish Italian horror flicks cheap, silly and weird, then you should already have this movie!  But if you haven't been collecting horror DVDs over a decade ago, you probably missed out on Luigi Cozzi's Paganini Horror. But unless you're hung up on your movies being, you know, good by some kind of objective or reasonable standard like a normal person, in which case you'll probably absolutely hate this movie. But assuming you're not one of those people, then I'm here to tell ya, this German import's worth tracking down.

Update 1/10/17 - 10/29/19:  Better yet, just buy the blu-ray!  Because Paganini Horror's been restored in HD for a new special edition from 88 and Severin Films.
If you're not familiar with this one, the plot is real simple. A guy buys a long lost score by the famous composer Niccolo Paganini from Donald Pleasance, who's also the devil or something along those lines. He gives it to his girlfriend, an aspiring rock star, to turn into a modern pop song with her band.  Their manager, Daria Nicolodi, who also might be evil, wants them to shoot their music video in an old mansion that's stuck in a time loop, where some little girl once killed her mother just like Paganini killed his bride and used her intestines to string his violin as part of his pact with the devil.  Plus, Paganini will be summoned in the flesh when the band plays his song, or maybe he's just a masked slasher, but either way his victims come back as ghosts and hmm, okay.  Maybe the plot's not so simple, or even quite comprehensible if you really stop to think about it.  But why would you do that?
It's a fun, attractive and charmingly daft little horror movie about a famous violinist come back from the dead to chase young people around a colorful music video set.  It's attractively shot, Paganini has a violin with a knife that shoots out of it, there are a couple gnarly kills, everybody's running around in silly costumes, the music is upbeat and catchy - including a couple, full blown pop rock performances - and they've got some great location photography.  On the other hand, the whole production is clearly low budget, and set pieces often look very cheap and the impressive casting of Pleasance is wasted with some bland third party dubbing (on the Italian and English audio tracks) and not terribly interesting dialogue... I mean, come on, he's the devil!  Plus, the story really is a mess.  It's co-written by three people, including Nicolodi, which should put this on par with Suspiria, right?  Yeah, no.
So, the cult German label put this out twice on DVD in the early 2000s; all the cool sites like Xploited and Diabolik used to have this in spades.  But now its long OOP.  The first version was a 2-disc set, with the uncut widescreen version and a slightly trimmed 4:3 Italian television cut.  The second disc with the TV cut doesn't have English language options, though, and there are many differences between the two versions except some blood has been trimmed and the picture's open matte.  So I just got the single disc edition, which is completely English friendly, and also happens to be a fully loaded special edition.  It's pretty awesome, except for one little thing: it's woefully non-anamorphic.

But that's not an issue anymore!  Paganini Horror has been restored in 2k from the original negative for blu-rays in both the UK (88 Films) and the US (Severin).  I went with the Severin for a reason I'll get into below, but as you'd expect, they both trample the non-anamorphic concerns with full 1080p HD transfers.
2003 X-Rated DVD top; 2019 Severin BD bottom.
The DVD's non-anamorphic, but at least it's not interlaced, taken from film elements (occasional flecks and dust pop up; but for the most part it's pretty clean) and in the director's presumably preferred 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  But yeah, it looks awfully compressed and low on detail in that tiny window.  The non-anamorphic presentation is a real bummer, because this is a film that relies a lot on its look. And now that we see the film in HD, well, it still looks a little on the grungy side.  I'd put that down more to a reflection of the film itself than its home video representation, except grain does appear pretty pixelated and artificial, so I'm not so sure.  It's unquestionably an improvement over the DVD, don't get me wrong; but I wonder if some Italian company's been sitting on this scan for a long time.  I suppose we're facing "how much money can we be expected to spend on a low-key Cozzi oddity?  We're lucky to get this in HD at all" deal, which is admittedly understandable.  Swinging the pendulum back to the positive side, Severin retains the 1.66:1 ratio with some pillar-boxing, but in comparison to the DVD, we see that they've unveiled more information along all four sides, which is good because the DVD always did feel a little tight.

And audio-wise, X-Rated provide the English, Italian and German mono 2.0 tracks, which is great because you get to hear the alternate voices.  But unfortunately, the only subtitles on-hand were in German, so us English speakers had to stick to the English track unless you're multilingual.  So score some more points for Severin, who include both the English and Italian (they did ditch the German dub), now in DTS-HD with optional English subtitles.  In fact, they include two subtitle options: the proper subtitles (faithful translation of the original Italian) and dubtitles (transcription of the English dub).  Researching it online, 88 also seems to have both audio tracks (in LPCM) with just the one subtitle track.
And did I mention packed special editions? Yes!  X-Rated starts out with a very informative audio commentary by director Luigi Cozzi.  He also provides an hour-long on-camera interview.  Plus, there's a brief clip of him speaking at a film festival.  So you really get his full story across all of that.  There's also a short video clip of him recording the commentary, for a little peek behind the curtain.  But then you have probably the most important extras of all: the deleted scenes.  Some of the deleted scenes aren't much, but others are really out there, because contrary to his producers, Cozzi wanted this to be a sci-fi film; so some of these scenes are pretty freakin' weird and out of left field.  They're not translated, but I'd say 90% percent of what's on sale here is visual spectacle, and the puzzling aspect of them being untranslated adds to the fun almost as much as it detracts.  This release also comes in a very cool looking "hardbox," which is essentially an oversized clamshell case, like those classic horror VHS boxes from the 80s.

Oh, and by the way, if you did get that 2-disc version, the only additional extras you'd receive are a couple trailers and a small photo gallery.  All the extras of substance are on the single-disc version.
2003 X-Rated DVD top; 2019 Severin BD bottom.
And now we get to why I opted for the Severin edition: the two blus have differing special features, and only Severin included those wild deleted scenes and alternate ending.  What's that?  Oh, why yes, that is an hour glass floating through outer space like some crazy Dr. Who acid flashback.  Somehow that fit into Cozzi's original vision about the devil and a house haunted by a famous violinist.  Yeah, so one little disappointment is that I was hoping Severin would drum up subtitles for these, but oh well.  These still look like they're ripped from a VHS tape, but the image is a little clearer than X-Rated, which was interlaced.

Severin also has the trailer, which was only on the 2-disc DVD set, and it's in HD here.  But they lost of the DVD's other extras, so die-hard fans may still want to track the X-Rated DVD down.  But only die-hard fans, because Severin has conducted their own 30+ minute interview with Cozzi, which really does a more than acceptable job presenting his insight and memories of the film that the DVD extras did.  Both releases also got an on-camera interview with Pietro Genuardi who played Mark, the music video director in the film.  Too bad neither party seems to have reached out to Maria Cristina Mastrangeli, who's been gracious enough to drop by in the comments here, but oh well.  Anyway, both Severin and 88 Films share the interviews, which were done by Freak-O-Rama - who I can't help but notice are starting to become one of the top guys in I-horror interviewing - and the trailer.  Where they diff is that 88 has an audio commentary by Troy Howarth, while Severin has those deleted scenes.  Also, if you bought their limited editions, 88 comes with a slip cover and booklet Eugenio Ercolani, while Severin's comes with a soundtrack CD.
I originally concluded this post by saying that, "Paganini Horror seems like an ideal candidate for a label like 88 Films," and hey, look what happened!  This is another one in what's becoming a regular pattern of 88 releasing it in the UK and Severin in the US.  Again, the deleted scenes were the deciding factor for me between the two, but the good news is that you can't go wrong either way, and casual buyers may want to just opt for whichever version doesn't require them to pay for overseas shipping.  It's great to see this film back in print so hopefully it can find its audience again.

Vestron's C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the Chud - This Chud's for You!

Well, I had another film lined up for today's post, but then I noticed how close to Halloween we are, and I figured I should stick with horror flicks until the end month.  So what's one I've been meaning to cover?  Oh, how about C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the Chud?  I mean, I've got to do a post about it sometime, just to justify the fact that I bought this goofy sequel multiple times.  And oh boy, goofy is the word.
This film really has nothing to do with the surprisingly smart little horror flick that preceded it, except that they call their zombies "chuds" in this movie. The creatures in C.H.U.D. looked and behaved nothing like the zombies here, to the point where it feels more like this film started out as a script with no connection to C.H.U.D. at all (though they at least make a passing reference to them having previously been kept underground). Two students: Head of the Class's Brian Robbins (this was actually released while the show was still on the air) and his buddy steal a corpse from a military installation. Just like Night Of the Creeps, basically. And of course that corpse is really a chud who comes back to life and builds an undead army in their little suburban town. Robbins and his buddy try to keep everything under wraps and recover Bud before they get into trouble, which is made a little easier by the fact that its developed a crush on Brian's girlfriend Katie.  Yes, this is the kind of movie where a zombie gets a crush on a girl.
What works about this movie is that everybody really commits.  I'm not saying the performances are good, or the jokes are funny, but still, everybody's really throwing what they've got their characters.  Like, the "kids" are fine, but you know guys like Robert Vaughn and Gerrit Graham could totally sleep walk through a movie like this and no one would hold it against them.  But instead they're really giving it their all to make this film fun for their limited audience.  They're very big performances.  In fact, as I write this, I'm realizing what this basically is: an R-rated kids movie.  The violence is pretty mild, really.  This probably could've gotten the MPAA to give them a PG if they asked nicely.  It's like if you adapted Return Of the Living Dead for the Nickelodeon station, the same broad deliveries and simple, overdrawn humor.  It really feels like it's made for kids.  In fact, the screenwriter wrote Honey, I Shrunk the Kids the same year.  And it helps a lot that this film is packed with recognizable character actors and famous personalities that bring something extra to their roles, including television icon June Lockhart, Sniglet inventor Rich Hall, Bianca Jagger (Mick's ex), stand-up Ritch Shydner, M.A.S.H.'s Larry Linville, Norman Fell and an uncredited cameo by Robert Englund.  Plus it has a real ear worm of a theme song.
I used to own both C.H.U.D. films on VHS, and I upgraded it to the 2007 UK DVD on a whim.  Unfortunately, I sold it off long before I started this site, so I can't post any screenshots, but it was fullscreen, presumably taken from a videotape master, and completely barebones.  Then it kind of blew everybody's minds in 2012 when Lions Gate unceremoniously released a bunch of previously unseen widescreen masters in a couple of generic, sell-through compilation Horror Collection DVDs.  Wow, suddenly we had a respectable looking edition of Bud the Chud, along with a bunch of others.  I think the unexpected wave of fans who went out, filling forums with which Walmarts had which $5 discs in stock, seeking and buying those collections prompted Lions Gate to start their Vestron line.   And so that strange confluence of events gave way to something I don't think any of us expected to see: a fancy, special edition blu-ray of C.H.U.D. 2
2012 Lions Gate DVD top; 2017 Vestron blu-ray bottom.
The Horror Collection's DVD actually had a pretty nice looking transfer in its original widescreen AR, or at least close (1.78:1).  So it seemed like a safe assumption that Vestron would just present us with that same transfer slapped onto an HD disc.  But no, this seems to be a whole new master.  It's still framed in 1.78:1, but it's pulled out further, revealing a little more information along all four sides.  And the colors are corrected, getting rid of the reddish hue that was cast over the older edition, not to mention pulling a ton of information out of the shadows that was lost to black crush on the DVD.  It's still not a stellar presentation; the image is soft and the shifty grain tells us this film could still benefit from a new scan.  Plus it's low contrast, with no true blacks, giving the movie an overall washed out look.  But there's no debating this is the best the film has ever looked, and I can't imagine anyone's going to go back and give this title yet another HD pass.  So not top shelf but a pleasant surprise none the less.

Both discs just give us the original stereo mix, but it's clean; and really, what else would you need?  Vestron bumps it up to lossless DTS-HD and adds optional English subtitles, so we're all set.
Director David Irving provides an audio commentary that answers pretty much all the C.H.U.D. 2 questions those of us who grew up with the film have had over the years.  In fact, I think I might stick to just watching it with the commentary on whenever I revisit this film from now on.  We also get a couple great on-camera interviews with Bud himself, Gerrit Graham, Katie: Tricia Leigh and special effects artist Allan Apone.  There's also the theatrical trailer and an extensive stills gallery that shows someone (Red Shirt Pictures) put a surprising amount of attention into this title.  Plus, like every Vestron release, it comes in a shiny slipcover.  My first thought was just hoping that Vestron didn't lose too much money on this one and pull out of Vestron before they got to the higher ticket films in their catalog.
Well, fortunately it didn't stop them just as they got started.  I don't know if there's a lot of displeased blind buyers out there, or if this film has built up more of a nostalgic cult audience over the years than I realized.  But it has been a worryingly long time now since the last Vestron release, so my fingers are tautly crossed.  I mean, they still haven't gotten to Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor, Eyes of Fire, or Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat!  But on the other hand, look at all the special editions they've given us that I never thought we'd get to see.  I mean, can you believe Bud the Chud has a director's commentary?

Oh Thank Heaven, They Finally Got An American Werewolf In London Right

It's time for another edition of Controversial Blus!  Just released today is the brand new Restored Edition of An American Werewolf In London blu-ray from Paramount.  According to the sticker on the slip, it's "NEWLY RESTORED FOR IMPROVED HD PICTURE," so we're not just talking about a reissue of the previous release with different art masquerading as a new version to trap enthusiastic double-dippers like some other releases I can think of.  This is actually an all new transfer.  But is it actually better?  The new blu seems to be receiving more than its fair share criticisms...  I think it's time I did a direct comparison.  And as you can see from the picture above, I'll be looking at some of the older DVDs at the same time.

Update 9/28/16 - 10/22/19: And I'll also be looking at the even more recently restored and improved HD release from Arrow, scheduled to be released at the end of this month.  Spoiler alert: the controversy is now behind us.
An American Werewolf In London is a pretty great movie, with a modern appeal yet a very traditional, throwback werewolf plot at its core.  Two friends go hiking across England and get attacked by a werewolf after being warned by the creepy locals to not go out on a full moon.  The survivor, of course, wakes up back in the city hospital with a nasty, lycanthropic curse.  While he falls in love with his nurse and tries to get on with his life, his primal nature breaks free as he transforms, spectacularly, into a werewolf and begins terrorizing London.  His doctor suspects and begins to investigate, and even his dead best friend returns(!) to warn him, but true love may be the only thing that can save our tragic protagonist.
John Landis has created one of the most successful blends of horror and comedy, where neither aspect spoils the other.  And it holds up really well, thanks largely to the well-crafted characters, not to mention the famous, cutting edge effects, which still look better than anything coming out today.  It's also a clever story with great use of music and some terrific locations.  Having a healthy budget clearly helped in all the right places, from big set pieces to music licensing.  American Werewolf is one of those rare horror movies that manages to appeal to mainstream audiences without losing the core genre fans.  They've tried to recapture the magic with some success - Landis with a vampire tale called Innocent Blood and the studio with a sequel: An American Werewolf In Paris, which wasn't terrible - but An American Werewolf In London still stands head and furry shoulders above.
Paramount has released An American Werewolf In London a number of times.  I don't it would be too cynical to say that they see this film as a cash cow that can always take a little more milking.  Even limiting it to just the United States, Paramount has issued it on disc an awful lot of times.  actually, Artisan put it out on DVD first in 1997, with a barebones fullscreen disc.  So Universal's widescreen Collector's Edition was a welcome upgrade in 2001.  There was also a bundle release in 2004 with the 2001 disc and the remake of Cat People.  Then the two-disc Full Moon edition added a couple more features, and also came out with a blu-ray edition, both in 2009, so that was a good upgrade.  Then they re-released the 2-disc set as a single disc release, shaving off some extras for a more budget release in 2012.  Okay.  Then in 2014, the blu-ray was released with a gold "Academy Award" winner cover, but it was the same disc as the original blu-ray.  That same year, they also released it in a limited edition steelbook.  In 2016, Universal released their Restored Edition.  And now they've finally handed the property over to someone who knew what to do with it for Arrow's upcoming Limited Edition 4k remaster.
1) 2001 DVD, 2) 2009 DVD, 3) 2009 BD, 4) 2016 BD; 5) 2019 BD.
So, all five releases are 1.85:1, but you'll notice the old 2001 DVD is missing a little around all four sides, particularly the left.  Actually, measuring it, that first DVD is more like 1.82:1.  Even just comparing the two DVDs, you can see the later one is sharper with more naturalistic colors, too, if maybe a tiny bit on the yellow side.  And then the old blu-ray is that same 2009 DVD transfer - note the white hole in the picture around the wolfman's wrist; it looks like he's wearing a fancy diamond bracelet - but a little cleaner because it's in HD.  The grain is really strong there, and it was definitely the best looking version up 'till then.  But then we come to the Restored Edition, and... where'd the grain go?
2009 Blu-ray left, 2016 Blu-ray mid; 2019 Blu-ray right.
Apparently, the film was given a brand new, 6k(!) scan for this restoration, and my best guess is they figured if they scanned it they close, they could apply some DNR (digital noise reduction) and not lose all the usual detail that tends to go with heavy DNR application.  That's why seeing "DNR" is a bad sign in a blu-ray review.  It means the picture is going to be unnaturally smooth and waxy, with detail erased.  Peoples' hair will look like clear plastic helmets, etc.  So bye-bye American Werewolf grain, and it does look a little bit softer, but... they seem to have been right in that the actual detail has pretty much remained.  I've seen some people say there's even more detail than the old blu, but I wouldn't go that far.  Universal's 2016 BD is the most successful attempt I think I've ever seen to remove grain without smoothing away much of the image.  Still, it was a little weird to look knowing film grain should be there, and now that we can see the results of Arrow's even more recent 4k scan (finished in 2k), we see Universal's job wasn't perfect.  I've read allegations that the grain on the 2009 edition is "fake," or artificially enhanced (it was even brought up in the comments, below), and I was reluctant to buy into that notion, but Arrow's new scan seems to bear it out.  Now we finally see the natural levels of grain you'd expect to see in a 35mm film, making the 2009's look chunky and unnatural.  The 2019 image seems even more nuanced, and a tiny bit sharper, than even the 2016 blu, and it still has the clean-up (i.e. no diamond bracelet!).  How could a 4k scan look better than a 6k scan?  When you don't futz with it afterwards!
For audio, both Universal blus pretty give us the same English DTS-HD 5.1 mix, plus both have a Spanish DTS dub in 5.1, and French, German and Italian DTS dubs in mono.  Both blus also have 16(!) subtitle options, which I won't bother to list out, but that's pretty much every language including both English and English SDH.  A number of fans were hoping for the original English mono track, but we didn't get that.  Landis created the updated 5.1 mix himself, so I imagine there was little interest in putting the old track back on the film.  Sorry, purists.  The older DVDs also only have the English in 5.1 (plus, English, Spanish and French subs), though I've read that the mix on the old Artisan DVD at least sounds closer to the original audio, with a higher pitch.  But you had to go all the way back to the old laserdiscs (there's a fullscreen one from Image and a widescreen one from Live) for the original mono audio.

I say "had," because Arrow have once again swooped in to save the day, because they've also restored and remastered the original mono from the original mag reels for their new disc!  So the pitch is finally correct.  That and the 5.1 mix are both included here in DTS-HD, along with optional English subs.
For extras, once Universal got it, things were looking good.  The original 2001 DVD had a light but not too informative audio commentary by the two leads David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, a substantial on-camera interview with John Landis, another with Rick Baker, outtakes, a vintage 'making of' feature, and some archival footage of Baker working on the famous werewolf transformation.  Plus it had a photo gallery, storyboards, text bios, a bonus trailer for The Wolfman (the remake) and a nice little insert with notes.  The 2009 DVD and every subsequent release carried all of that over (except the bios, bonus trailer and junk), but also added a full length documentary on the film called Beware the Moon (that's the second disc of the 2-disc set that was dropped from the budget version in 2012), which is great and very thorough.  The blu also added Universal's usual junk like BD-Live and D-Box support for the two people who use that.  And no, the new 2016 doesn't have anything new to add, and even ditches the BD-Live and D-Box stuff.  It does come in a nice, shiny slipcover, though.

But who does have something new to add?  Arrow, of course!  First of all, yes, everything from all the past editions (except the D-Box and junk) has been carried over.  And what's new?  First and foremost an excellent full-length documentary on Universal's history with werewolf films by Ballyhoo, who really hit it out of the park.  This was clearly made with AAWIL in mind, because it starts out with Landis and never loses site of how all of this history is eventually leading to his film.  But it's a great look at the whole story (and even a bit of a postscript on the Del Toro film), interviewing a surprisingly vast collection of filmmakers and artists.  Beyond that, there's a new interview with Landis, which isn't too redundant because they ask him about British cinema and bits he hasn't touched on too much in the previous extras.  Then there's a new audio commentary by the director of Beware the Moon (who also wrote a book on AAWIL), which is rather good.  He's an undeniable expert on the film and manages to find new trivia info to share despite the wealth of content in all the other extras.  Plus, he does a pretty funny Landis impression.  But he does also slip into repeating a bunch of anecdotes we've heard elsewhere on the disc, often more than once.

Still want more?  Whew, okay!  There's a brief but quite neat look at surviving props from the film, including one of Baker's legendary "change-o heads."  There's a video essay on the Jewish aspects of this film, which are mostly quite interesting and well observed, though he does spend a chunk of time unwittingly repeating some Wolfman history that was already spelled out in the Ballyhoo doc, and he exaggerates a bit.   Then there's an interview with Corin Hardy, director of The Nun, which starts out kind of bland and uninteresting as he just shares his appreciation of the film.  But then he gets more interesting when he starts applying his own experience in filmmaking to discuss the hurdles he'd have trying to replicate what Landis achieved today.  Oh, and I even saw some forum guy post a strange video teaser for the film that he was disappointed never made it onto any of the Universal blus.  Well, that's on here, too, along with the main theatrical trailer and a TV spot.

The limited edition comes in a clear amary case with reversible artwork housed inside an attractive, thick slipbox.  It includes a two-sided poster, six lobby cards, a full-color 60-page book with notes by Travis Crawford and Simon Ward and one of Arrow's standard insert cards (mine's for Why Don't You Just Die!).
So the old debate of which blu is best is now handily closed: Arrow's beats all those that came before it with a long lead.  It has the best picture, finally looking natural after all of Universal's odd experiments, the proper original audio (and the 5.1 remix, too, for those who still want that), and the fullest, most well-rounded set of extras.  It's not even missing some little thing where a die-hard collector might say, well, you might want to still hang onto your old copy...  This is a definitive, close-the-books case.  Arrow nailed it.

The Latest Evolution In Gremlins 1 & 2

Warner Bros originally released Gremlins as a no-frills DVD in 1999, again in 2001 and finally as a special edition in 2002. That was a pretty strong special edition with a nice transfer, two commentaries, deleted scenes and a few more bits and bobs. But it still felt like it was missing something compared to most special editions. The commentaries were great, but there really wasn't any interviews or documentary features. Still, it was a pretty great disc for Gremlins lovers, and when it came time to port it over to blu-ray in 2009 as the 25th Anniversary Edition, they pretty much ported it over to HD without any changes. It already had a solid transfer, so it still looked pretty good - now obviously in 1080p - and the extras were just the same ones carried over. But last month (just squeezing in on time for the film's 30th anniversary), they've finally re-released it as part of their new Diamond Luxe Edition line.

Update 1/23/15 - 10/21/19: Gremlins has just taken the plunge into the next generation of home video: 4k Ultra HD.  But hey, let's sweeten the pot even further, and add coverage of its delightful sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch!  Oh, and since this was one of my oldest posts, all the comparison shots were jpgs, so I've swapped those out with fresh pngs, too.
It's not surprising that this keeps getting reissued, as Gremlins is one of the early summer blockbusters, produced by Steven Speilberg, no less. Joe Dante brings us his always welcome combination of horror, nostalgia and yucks in this tale of a Rockwell-esque small town that gets overrun with gremlins. As Dante says in the extras, the film starts off almost like Son of E.T., with affable Zach Galligan getting a magical, cuddly pet for Christmas from his father who was passing through Chinatown.  But it takes a turn for the dark when that pet winds up giving birth to an army of nasty, little green monsters who delight in causing mayhem and murder. Hoyt Axton, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Keye Luke, Judge Rheinhold and Corey Feldman co-star in this wild ride that's almost fun for the whole family. This and the other film Speilberg made that year, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, were key films in the MPAA's decision to create the PG-13 rating.
Gremlins debuted on DVD as a barebones flipper disc back in 1999.  That was followed up in 2001 with a single-sided (widescreen-only), equally barebones disc in 2001.  Personally, I held out for the subsequent special edition that came out in 2002, which is the first disc we'll be looking at here.  So DVD-wise, third time was the charm.  Gremlins first hit blu-ray, then, in 2009, with all of the extras from that 2002 special edition.  But Warner Bros didn't get me to double-dip until they came out with their fancy Diamond Luxe Edition in 2014.
The scuttlebutt of that two-disc Luxe set is that disc 1 is exactly the same as the 2009 blu-ray. No new scan, no improvements in the transfer, even the menus are identical. It's the same disc in new packaging. Nice packaging, mind you... My scan here doesn't do it justice, since it's a cool metallic packaging. Gizmo's shadow that just looks like a solid dark gray is actually reflective like a mirror and the logo looks much redder when it's reflecting light. So in terms of the main film disc, it's another case of the ol' double-dip.  But with disc 2, it became more of an enticing upgrade, at least if you're interested in special features.  And there have been other reissues along the way: double-bills with Gremlins 2, releases in other regions, or sometimes it was re-packaged with Goonies.  But for those of us interested in an actual upgrade of the film presentation itself (after all, 2009 is pretty old for a BD), there was nothing until this month, when Warner Bros gave us a new, 4k restoration for a 35th Anniversary Ultra HD release.  It also comes packed with a blu-ray, which again, is exactly the same 2009 BD that was also included in the 2014 Luxe Edition.
2002 DVD top; 2014 BD middle; 2019 UHD bottom.
If you're looking for vast leaps forward in detail and clarity, Gremlins upgrades might be a little too subtle for some fans.  To be fair, part of that says more about the quality of the 2002, improved SD transfer than a problem with the blu-ray.  It's a damn good looking DVD.  But you can see how the movie posters are a little easier to read starting with the BD.  It just still feels a bit soft in places, though this is likely down to the film itself as it varies scene by scene... i.e. not just detail, but film grain seems light in the snowy scene above (which might be due to the opticals of the opening credits, which obviously aren't on-screen in this particular frame, but do appear around this sequence); but it looks very accurate and filmic, especially on the UHD, in the previous comparison shot of Billy and Gizmo.

Another interesting point is the framing.  First of all, none of these are 1.85:1 like you'd think they should be (and like the cases all claim they are).  The DVD is 1.78:1, and then the BD is slightly hemmed in to 1.77:1.  Despite that, however, the blu-ray has pulled out to display considerably more information along the edges, particularly the sides.  The UHD gets rid of BD's slight (we're literally talking 4 pixels wide) pillar-boxing, but surprisingly zooms back in, losing the extra information the BD revealed and showing even a bit less than the DVD.  Mind you, I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing - the BD might've revealed more than the filmmakers' intended - but it's certainly surprising.
2002 DVD top; 2014 BD middle; 2019 UHD bottom.
But as for what you're really going to notice in motion as you watch the film? It's the stronger colors more than anything. Now, the BD actually "pops" more than the DVD or the UHD, but don't mistake that for a good thing.  It pops because lights are flaring out and color contrast is souped up.  For example, you can only make out the light-bulb in the streetlamp with the Christmas wreath on the UHD.  Remember, the benefit of HDR isn't necessarily more extreme colors, it's the ability to display a much broader range.  In other words, a ton more shades of reds, greens, etc in between the polar extremes rather than just pushing the extremes much further out.  I don't want to go too far off into the weeds on this one, or become "that guy" who links you out to a technical webpage full of color spectrum graphs.  But in brief, the result is that the image captured on film may not look more and more candy-colored, but instead appears more photo realistic, a more accurate representation of the reality the cameras were pointed at.

Audio-wise, I'm not quite as pleased, but it's fine... Let's start with the DVD.  It gave us a choice of the original Dolby stereo mix or a 5.1 remix, plus French and Spanish dubs and English, French and Spanish subtitles.  The BD does right by the 5.1 mix, upgrading it to Dolby TrueHD, not to mention adding even more dubs (German, Italian, Japanese, and an additional Spanish dialect) and subs (Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, two Portuguese dialects, a second Spanish dialect and Swedish).  But they leave the original stereo mix in lossy compression.  And the UHD?  It's basically the same as the blu, though they add even more dubs (Russian, Czech and Hungarian) and subs (Chinese, Czech, Hungarian, Russian and Thai).  But they drop the Portuguese subs and worst of all, instead of boosting the original stereo mix to something lossless like I expected, they drop it entirely.  Not that there's anything wrong with the 5.1 mix per se, but come on.
Now let's get into the special features, because I have a lot to say here, too.  The 2002 special edition introduced a lot of great stuff, and thankfully all of that has stayed with us across every iteration to follow.  There are two audio commentaries: one with Dante, producer Mike Finnell, and effects artist Chris Walas, and one with Dante, Galligan, Cates, Miller, and Howie Mandel (the voice of Gizmo).  If you've ever heard a Dante commentary before, you know they're an ideal mix of entertaining good humor and informative insight.  And the additional cast of characters just helps to liven things further.  There's also a few deleted scenes, with optional commentary, a vintage featurette, and a couple of trailers.  Good stuff, but light in the video features.  Something they finally came along to flesh out in the Diamond Luxe with their new bonus disc. 
The first doc is a half hour long and brings in a lot of the key, missing people from the old extras. We finally get to hear from Steven Speilberg and writer Chris Columbus, as well as producers Frank Marshall. It's impressive they got Speilberg in for this, and Columbus has a lot of interesting insight. And a documentary on a Dante film without Joe Dante himself just wouldn't be right, so he's back, as are Finnel and Galligan. These guys do repeat a couple of anecdotes from the commentaries, but overall it's a really nice piece. Then the second feature comes in just a little under twenty minutes and focuses on the special effects, especially the design and puppetry of the creatures. Pretty much everybody from the last doc is back again, but they've also added Walas and Mandell.  Both docs focus on the new interviews, but also include a nice helping of behind-the-scenes footage - it's fun to see all the crewmen operating Gizmo through a huge mess of controls and cables running through Galligan's clothes that was always just out of frame in the final film.

There's a final third featurette, which is just about five minutes long, but focuses on Hoyt Axton. It's all vintage footage of him clowning around on the set and talking about his music. It's fun, and all three of these new extras make you wonder why, if they had all this great footage, they never included it on past editions. Oh, and there's a weird pair of digital comics, where sections of the plot are retold through drawings and sound effects. I think they're based on old tie-in children's books and/ or records that came out back in the 80s, so that's a bit of extra fun for the super dedicated fan.

And none of that new stuff is included in the new UHD set.  Blahhhhhhhh  It's just the original 2002 extras, much of which is only on the 1080 BD.  At least it comes in a slipcover?
Anyway, by the time Gremlins 2: The New Batch came out, it was a whole new decade.  A lot had changed from 1984 to 1990, and one thing sequels tend to fail at is adapting.  You might argue Gremlins 2 did, too; and it's not the stand-out film the original was, with a lot of goofy awkward moments, heavy-handed comedy and blatant retreads of set pieces from the original.  But its saving grace is they let Dante back at the helm, and seemingly let him go completely wild and indulge nearly every whim.  All of his favorite actors are back - even those who died in the first film - and chaos reigns.  The effects are bigger, with new mutant gremlins, a fresh big city locale and John Glover as a new corporate villain.  Sometimes this film is straight-up parodying its predecessor.  Paul Bartel and Hulk Hogan break the fourth wall, Christopher Lee plays a character named Doctor Catheter and Leonard Maltin cameos as himself, delivering the critical panning he really gave to the first film, only to be killed this time by the vengeful critters.  Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck even appear in the opening sequence, animated by Chuck Jones himself.  It's madness!  And as such, it winds up meriting its own existence, perhaps not a truly worthy sequel, but certainly a spectacle that won't want to have missed.
Gremlins 2 didn't hit DVD as quickly as the original.  Its first debut was in conjunction with Gremlins 1's third DVD, the 2002 special edition.  So happily, they made that one a special edition, too; and that's one of the discs we've got here.  Then it kind of gently rolled out onto blu-ray in 2012, the other disc we'll be looking at today.  There have been some repackagings since then, including double and triple features, and some alternate cover art.  But there's really just the two versions so far, with no fancy Diamond Luxe or UHD editions in sight yet.
2002 DVD top; 2012 BD bottom.
As you might expect, there's a much less complicated story to tell here.  Once again, they claim to be 1.85:1 on the cases but are actually 1.78:1.  The DVD is slightly pinched, which the BD corrects, but otherwise it looks like they're using the same master.  That said, the HD boost is very clear, with a sharper image and natural grain which is smudged and blurry on the DVD.  The colors are separated a little better, too.

Unfortunately, the story of the audio is a disappointing retread of the first film.  The original DVD gave us the choice of the original stereo mix and a new 5.1, plus French and Spanish dubs and subs.  The blu-ray bumps the 5.1 up to DTS-HD, adds some more dubs (German, Japanese and Portuguese) and subs (Danish, Finnish, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish and a second Spanish dialect).  But once again, they dump the original stereo mix.
The special features are simpler but reasonably satisfying this time around.  First we get another first class Dante commentary, backed up by Finnell, co-writer Charlie Haas, and Zach Galligan.  There's another collection of deleted scenes, also with optional commentary, a gag reel, a vintage promotional featurette, an alternate scene shot for the VHS release (hidden as an easter egg on the DVD, but it's on there) and the trailer.  A retrospective or something would be great, but I guess my expectations are bit more tempered given this isn't the Speilbergian blockbuster the original film was.  Oh, and this set of extras is the exact same on the DVD and Blu-ray.
So things are pretty alright with the Gremlins films, though they could be better.  I'd love to see the original audio mixes restored for HD, and I'm particularly annoyed that this new Gremlins UHD dropped the Diamond Luxe extras.  They could've stuck 'em on the UHD, since the film only takes up 56 GB.  But if you're a big enough fan of the film to want everything, I guess you won't mind copping both the Diamond Luxe, UHD and the standard BD of The New Batch.  Considering how many films are still missing proper DVD or blu-ray releases at all, I guess it's hard to complain.  But I wish we could enjoy the sweet 4k step forward without these annoying steps back that have come along with it.