Terry Jones' Monty Python's Life of Brian

Like many of us, I've been revisiting the work of Python/ director Terry Jones since we lost him last week.  So let's do something in his memory and take a look at one of his most beloved films... one that has an interesting history on home video, but could also really use a shot in the arm in 2020: Monty Python's Life of Brian.
1979's Life of Brian is Monty Python's second film... or third, if you want to count And Now For Something Completely Different, but that's really just a compilation of the best skits from their series for the US market before their TV could be seen in the states.  I've read that Holy Grail is the Pythons' most popular film in America and Brian is in the UK.  For their part, the Pythons themselves seem pretty unified that this is their favorite, in large part because it's the film that has the most to say besides just being silly.
Not that it isn't silly, of course.  The premise is that, a baby was born just across from Jesus Christ, and he keeps getting mistaken for a messiah despite not being one.  The Pythons play almost all the major characters, including Graham Chapman as the titular Brian, Terry Jones as his mum, Michael Palin as Pontius Pilate, Terry Jones as Simon the naked holy man, John Cleese as Reg, leader of The Peoples' Front of Judea and Graham Chapman as Biggus Dickus.  This film has more of a cohesive narrative than the other Python films, although you might say that's immaterial so long as it's packed with great comic moments, which Brian absolutely is.  We get a few animated sequences from Terry Gilliam, though not so many as we'd seen in previous Python efforts, taking more on the role of the physical production and art design.  The locations, shot in Tunisia, where they were able to make use of the sets from 1977's Jesus Of Nazareth, are truly impressive and lend the outrageous comedy a remarkably credible backdrop.  And Eric Idle closes out the whole thing with what became his most famous and popular song, "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life."
Life of Brian debuted on DVD in 1999, with a widescreen but non-anamorphic, barebones DVD from Anchor Bay.  Very shortly afterwards, like just a few months later in 1999, Criterion reissued it as a now anamorphic special edition.  And that was the whole deal until it came time for an HD upgrade.  In 2008, Sony released their Immaculate Edition blu-ray, and that's been the sole go-to release ever since, with the same edition essentially replicated in every region around the world.
1) 1999 AB DVD; 2) 1999 Criterion DVD; 3) 2008 Sony BD.
So yeah, Anchor Bay's DVD is a pale, low res 1.84:1 image floating in a sea of non-anamorphic dead space.  I'm actually surprised it's not interlaced; it almost looks like it should be interlaced.  Criterion's DVD, then, is a still pretty pale, properly anamorphic 1.78:1 (despite claiming 1.85:1 on the case), with just the tiniest slivers of dead space in the overscan area.  You can see it includes more picture around all four sides, but particularly the bottom, no doubt due to its lifted 16x9 mattes.  Sony then mattes their blu back down to 1.85:1, losing a little along the sides with it.  It's also, thankfully, no longer so pale, though it looks like some of that's due to some artificial contrast boosting and a side effect of edge enhancement.  It's certainly the best of the three, but it's also clearly an old master that looks like maybe it was never even made to hold up on blu.  I mean, it's a 2008 blu, so what can you expect?  But even by those standards, it looks like detail is light and they tried to make up for that with some unfortunate tinkering.  It's not terribly terrible, I suppose... the grain is mostly, if gingerly, visible, and the haloing isn't super heavy.  But this is a film ready for a remaster if I've ever seen one.

Audio-wise, both films give us your basic mono track, with only Criterion offering optional subtitles.  Sony brings a whole bunch of language options, including French and Hungarian dubs and English, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, Thai (whew!) and Turkish subs.  But they've ditched the original mono track and now only give us 5.1 remixes, in both TrueHD and LPCM.
Anchor Bay just had the trailer, but Criterion packed their edition pretty nicely.   We start out with two audio commentaries, one by Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle, and the other by John Cleese and Michael Palin.  Both provide a good mix of insight and laughs.  Then there's a collection of deleted scenes, one of which solves a small mystery that's always followed the film, and all of which have optional commentary.  And there's an excellent, vintage hour-long documentary, simply called The Pythons.  It's a BBC-made feature ostensibly on the Pythons overall, but it interviews the cast while they're on the set of Brian, so the film winds up being as much about the film as the rest of their career.   They also have the trailer, four radio spots, and an insert with notes by critic George Perry.
The Pythons.
The Pythons is interlaced and pretty fuzzy, presumably just taken from broadcast, which I guess is why Sony dropped it from their Immaculate Edition.  Because they've carried over all of the other Criterion extras.  And to their credit, they've come up with some new goodies as well, the best of which is a new, hour-long retrospective, The Story of Brian.  It's also quite well made, and fairly different from The Pythons.  It's great to have the new one, but I still miss the old one (which, for one major advantage, had access to Graham Chapman).  Some of the other extras are nice to have, but not so exciting.  There's an entire script read-through by the Pythons, which sounds neat, but it's awfully long and essentially all the same material as the film.  To be quite honest, I can't say I listened to the whole thing.  Besides that, they've added a photo gallery and a couple unrelated bonus trailers.
So the new documentary is the best part, but it's not enough to make me not miss the old doc.  For me, at least, it's even worth copping a cheap copy of the old Criterion DVD to supplement the blu, which for all its flaws, is still the best release going.  But twelve years on, it's really time for a new blu, with a remastered transfer, the original mono returned, and all the legacy extras.  And now that peoples' attentions are turned to Jones again, maybe there's a chance?

The Tricky Case Of Cronenberg's Scanners

It's time to look at another classic.  How about David Cronenberg's Scanners?  It's had a troubled history on DVD, thanks primarily to an early botch job from MGM, and has often been one of those titles best imported by those in the know.  But now that The Criterion Collection's taken it over for its HD restoration, is that still the case?  Well, actually...
Scanners has always been the biggest and most well received of Cronenberg's original sci-fi/ horror run until he really cracked the mainstream with The Fly, but it's always had the weakest impact on me.  Compared to the psycho-biological mind fucks of his masterpieces like Shivers, Rabid, The Brood and Videodrome, Scanners feels like a very conventional B-movie thriller.  The kind of thing Michael Caine has made twenty or thirty of, and you could catch them all on cable TV in the 90s.  It's a dry story of industrial espionage between two drug processing corporations with a little bit of very straight-forward ESP thrown in.  I guess, superficially, part of the appeal was just seeing Cronenberg working with slightly higher budgets and production appeal.  This one's got helicopters, exploding gas stations and car chases... you'd never see a bus drive through an operating record store in one of Cronenberg's earlier films.  And certainly, the infamous head explosion scene is one heck of a memorable scene.
But I'd keep returning to this film, only because I'd tell myself there has to be more to it than that.  And to some degree, I'm still puzzling it out, but watching these latest blu-rays has illuminated it for me at least partially.  For one thing, I used to think of star Stephen Lack's performance as very wooden, a shortcoming Scanners has always had to work around.  But now I've come to appreciate it as an asset, a curious but deliberate melancholy kind of state, obviously meant to show the character is almost consistently drugged and/ or dealing with severe internal conflict.  It's such a polar opposite to Michael Ironside's performance, who really knows how to make a low budget role shine, but in a way that's the point.  And the more I think about it, I like that our characters are rather cynically portrayed as unwitting pawns between ConSec and BioCarbon Amalgate.  No matter who double-crosses who, they all live and die under the treads of the great corporate machines.
Scanners III: The Takeover
And if you need a demonstration of how masterfully superior Cronenberg's film is to its direct-to-video thriller peers, just watch any of the Scanners sequels.  They're not terrible, but that only makes it all the more impressive that they're clearly playing on such different levels.  Then throw in Howard Shore's wild score, which swings broadly between dramatically operatic and jazzy sci-fi clanging, plus all of Cronenberg's inspired little touches, like Robert Silverman's artwork or the eye on Ironside's bandage, and you've got a film that doesn't seems like it should be placid on paper, but mysteriously keeps you riveted throughout.  It's a tricky one.
Scanners first came out on DVD in 2001 from MGM.  It was anamorphic widescreen but barebones, and had another problem we'll come to later.  So fans were chomping at the bit by the time Anchor Bay UK came out with their special edition in 2005.  It held us over, anyway, until it was time for a proper blu-ray.  That debuted in Germany from Koch in 2011, but it was barebones and I think most of us were holding out for the 2k restoration, which was released in 2013 by Umbrella in Australia, Subkultur (and later Wicked Vision) in Germany and Second Sight in the UK.  We finally got it here in the US in 2014, courtesy of Criterion, which also included Cronenberg's 1969 short film Stereo as a bonus.
1) 2001 US MGM DVD; 2) 2005 UK AB DVD; 3) 2013 UK SS BD;
4) 2014 US Criterion DVD; 5) 2014 US Criterion BD.
So Criterion and Second Sight's blus are sourced from the same 2k restoration from the 35mm interpositive, but the final results sure aren't the same.  But let's take these in order.  MGM's initial DVD is anamorphic and all around pretty respectable for 2001.  You'll notice it has some odd boxing in the overscan area, matting three of four sides, resulting in a slightly odd 1.87:1 aspect ratio.  Anchor Bay shifted the framing a bit, windowboxing it completely to 1.82:1, but still revealing a bit more vertical information while cropping the right just slightly.  Then the blu-rays open it up slightly to 1.78:1, though again, it's worth noting that they're not identically framed, with the Criterion pointing noticeably lower than Second Sight, which includes more image along the top.

But the framing is just the beginning of Scanners' story.  I have no real preference for the slightly higher or lower framing, but Second Sight pulls ahead in two key areas.  One is more subjective.  This is another case of the ol' Criterion greens, and that sort of works for that first set of shots where they're in the funky train station lights.  But everywhere else, it just looks darker and less natural than the Second Sight timing to my eyes.  Although you could argue that Second Sight's whites are a little too bright.  More objectively, then, is the compression.  Look at Stephen Lack's cheek in the shots directly above.  The grain is and full of macro-blocking and pixelation on the Criterion, while it's all naturally captured and faithful to the source on the Second Sight disc.
So I called the MGM DVD "pretty respectable," but I was talking specifically about the PQ.  In terms of the audio, it's got a big flaw, and a surprising one for a major studio MGM disc: it's out of sync.  It's not way out of sync, but it's bad enough that every layman's gonna notice it.  They also had Spanish and French subs and a French dub, but when the original language track is borked, who cares?  When Anchor Bay came along, it was a very welcome upgrade, just by virtue of fixing the sync.  They also added additional 5.1 remixes and optional English subs, so at the time, it was a pretty sweet deal.

But of course now in the age of HD, we can forget all that and just look at the blus, both of which give us the original track in restored, lossless LPCM.  Second Sight also throws in a 5.1 mix in DTS-HD, and they both include optional English subtitles.
dueling Lack interviews.
Another bummer about the MGM DVD was that it was completely barebones, apart from a fullscreen trailer.  Anchor Bay didn't exactly turn it into a packed special edition, but they did include a brief featurette where critic Alan Jones gives a brief run-through of the story behind Scanners.  Better still, they included the complete David Cronenberg episode of that documentary series, The Directors.  Those have been released on DVD on their own, and often wound up as extras on special editions, but if you didn't already have it, these are nice little retrospectives with a lot of good interview subjects.   They also had the trailer, a photo gallery and bonus trailers for Scanners 2 & 3 and The Brood.

The really good stuff comes, though, when you get to the blu-rays.  Both Second Sight and Criterion have created a proper set of original Scanners special features, and it's all unique stuff.  Second Sight gives us a series of five excellent on-camera interviews with the eccentric Stephen Lack (who also shows us his art), cinematographer Mark Irwin, who's pretty funny, executive producer Pierre David, effects artist Stephan Dupuis and a short but compelling one with co-star Lawrence Dane.  Then Criterion has The Scanners Way, a featurette with special effects artists Dupuis, Chris Walas, Gary Zeller, and a few brief comments by Rick Baker on behalf of Dick Smith.  They also have a Stephen Lack interview which covers a lot of the same ground as Second Sight's, a great interview with Michael Ironside (he was suited for the role because he's had real life experience with psychic powers!), and a vintage television interview with Cronenberg, which is fun but more than a little hammy.  Criterion also has the trailer, 3 Radio Spots, and a fold-out insert with notes by Kim Newman.
One Criterion extra stands out, however: Cronenberg's early short film, Stereo from 1969.  It's an early, experimental work, barely feature-length (63 minutes) and silent, except for post-production narration, so don't get too excited.  But it's still an interesting piece that sees Cronenberg working very creatively with a lot of ideas and themes featured in some of his more mainstream film, including Scanners.  It documents a series of experiments by The Canadian Academy of Erotic Inquiry to put a bunch of telepaths together and see how they evolve.  Or something.  It's a little confusing and undeniably Cronenbergian.  But this isn't Stereo's first time at the rodeo.  Blue Underground released it as a bonus on their Fast Company DVD in 2004 (the limited edition 2-disc version only) and their blu-ray re-release in 2009[left].  Alliance also included it as an extra on their FC DVD in 2005, and most recently Arrow included it as in their 2015 2-disc set of Videodrome.  But there was a reason to be excited about Criterion's inclusion.
1) US 2009 BU BD; 2) US 2014 Criterion DVD; 3) US 2014 Criterion BD.
Criterion's transfer was created from a new 2k scan from a 35mm composite fine-grain element (and for those wondering, yes, Arrow's 2015 BD used Criterion's same restoration).  The result is that even the Criterion DVD is preferable to the Blue Underground blu.  The aspect ratio is almost the same, going from 1.66:1 to 1.67, though the new scan does reveal a bit more around the edges.  The grain is a bit sporadic on Criterion's blu, but it's mostly there, which is plenty more than you can say for Blue Underground's smoothed over, soft transfer.  Pretty sure they've just upscaled their SD transfer, which is better than leaving it in SD like Warner Bros likes to do, but it makes it even easier to notice their haloing and artifacting that surrounds every little detail.  So it really is a much more impressive presentation.  But it's worth noting neither release offers English subtitles - if you need those, you've got to cop Arrow's release.
Both sets of extras are pretty great, and have some good unique stuff.  A lot of it's redundant, too, though - everybody wants to tell the shotgun anecdote, so you're going to hear that over and over until you're sick of it, even on just one disc.  It's up to you if you're a big enough fan to splurge for both copies to have the full set of extras, or if one disc'll do ya.  But if you're just getting one, yeah, I'd recommend the Second Sight.

Fulci's House By the Cemetery, Restored in 4K

In the upper echelon of spaghetti horror films is Lucio Fulci's House By the Cemetery. Consequently, there have been many releases of this film over the years. And today, there's primarily two blu-ray releases of this film, competing for the top spot: Arrow's in the UK and Blue Underground's in the US. They're both pretty fancy special editions with all unique extras, so I'm going to get in close and see which tops which in a proper comparison. I've also got the film's original DVD debut disc, from Diamond Entertainment, so we can see how far we've come. Oh, and I've also got a Mill Creek DVD from one of those 50 film sets, and Anchor Bay's 2001 DVD, so I guess I'll throw those in, too.

Update 1/24/20: It's a whole new ball game, kids, with HBtC now restored in 4k and issued as a fancy, new 3-disc BD set from Blue Underground.  I'll spoil it right up front.  There's no question it's the best edition of the film.  The only questions now are: is it superior enough that it's worth replacing a previous blu, and if you are replacing it, is there any reason to hang onto any of the older releases?

Also, P.S.: I've updated two more pages.  The Hills Have Eyes 2 now has the original Image DVD, and wow, how far we've come!  And Encounters At the End Of the World now includes the original US blu-ray, which turns out to be worse than you'd think.
House By the Cemetery comes right in the sweet spot of Fulci's career, and is all the better for it. Fulci had already just recently experienced the surprise, break out success of Zombie, and made pretty much all of his biggest hits in short succession immediately after, including The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, and this one right here. It stands out in being the only one that takes the time to for a slow build, creating suspense and particularly atmosphere before jumping into most of the wild set pieces that pretty much come at you non-stop, beginning to end, in those others. It's a haunted house film where the new family slowly catches onto the creepy vibes permeating their home. It's something a little different for Fulci.
That said, it's not a subtle film. Awesome special effects create gruesome kills convincing enough for the camera to linger on and ogle. A big film score, dramatic cinematography and a monster named Freudstein carry this film right out of the stratosphere. It still has one of those not entirely logical and certainly not spelled out plots that will have you guessing why characters are making decisions and things are happening. And the answer just might be nothing more than: it looks good on camera. Maybe that's all part of the fun, or maybe it's going to drive you up the wall, but nobody's going to hold your hand through it either way. It's just a crazy 80s horror with bleeding mannequins, werewolf howls taken from dusty old sound effects records, little boys dubbed by grown women, characters who may or may not be supernatural, rack focus, mysterious floating eyes, super strong bats, blood and guts. Sounds like a recipe for a great time to me.
So, yes, House By the Cemetery debuted on DVD from Diamond Entertainment group, one of those no frills grey market DVD labels that's since gone the way of the dodo. But back then, we were just happy to get the film on disc, uncut and widescreen even. But then Anchor Bay jumped in and gave it a nicer disc in 2001, which lead to a whole chain of releases from a Blue Underground reissue in 2007 to a Vipco disc in the UK, Laser Paradise in Germany, and shady grey market labels in the US like Madacy and of course Mill Creek, as part of their 2010 Pure Terror 50 pack [left]. When we got to blu-ray, Blue Underground tackled it first in 2011, followed shortly by Arrow in 2012. Other labels have issued it in their own countries since (Shock in Australia and XT in Germany), but most international buyers were probably deciding between the Arrow and BU.  I say "were," because just this week, Blue Underground has reissued it as a new, 3-disc limited edition set based around a brand new, 4k restoration of the film, rendering everything that came before it more or less obsolete.
Diamond's 2000 DVD first; Mill Creek's 2010 DVD second; Anchor Bay's DVD third;
Arrow's 2012 DVD fourth; Blue Underground's 2011 blu-ray fifth;
Arrow's 2012 BD sixth; Blue Underground's 2020 BD seventh.
So, where to begin. Despite 10 years and many improved DVDs in between them, Mill Creek hasn't improved on the old Diamond disc. They've both got this sickly greenish coloring (though Diamond's is slightly better in some shots), but at least they're 2.35:1. Well, almost... Diamond is 2.25 and Mill Creek is 2.22:1; but regardless, they're non-anamorphic tiny little images floating in the center of your screen, and interlaced to boot. The blu-rays are a comparative revelation, with the Anchor Bay DVD splitting the difference.  It's anamorphic and non-interlaced, with more clarity than the previous discs, but it's still got that greenish color timing and of course standard def compression. The Blue Undergrounds actually are 2.35:1, while Anchor Bay and Arrow's are even slightly wider at 2.39:1.
ltr: BU 2011 BD, Arrow 2012 BD, BU 2020 BD.
Beyond from that, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the initial blus apart. BU's blacks are a hair darker, but I could only tell when I got them into this direct side-by-side comparison. They also suffer from the infamous scanner noise that was plaguing HD transfers coming out of Italy for a while (BU and Arrow seem to be using the same source). It's like a light digital grain floating on top of the actual film grain, giving everything a more static-y feel. I mostly noticed it on tight close-ups, giving a macro-blocking effect to peoples' skin. I've circled a couple egregious spots on Arrow's blu, above.  Thankfully, of course, BU's new 2020 blu-ray clears that right up, giving us the cleanest, most naturally filmic presentation we've ever seen.  It's got a warmer color timing, which, eh, I could go either way on that.  As you can see, though, it even restores a surprising amount of detail that was crushed in the solid black shadows of all previous releases.

The DVDs, of course, feature nothing but your basic English audio stereo track, and pretty hissy ones at that. Both older blus, however, give you the option between the English and Italian (where Bob's dubbed voice is decidedly more natural) audio tracks in much clearer, more robust quality, as well as optional English subtitles.  BU has additional French and Spanish subtitles that Arrow lacks, but it has to be noted the BU's 2011 Italian track is lossy.  They fix that in 2020, though, bumping the Italian track up to DTS-HD just like the English mono, and for those less rigidly adherent to history, throwing in a new DTS-HD 5.1 remix of the English track.  And they now offer two sets of English subtitles: a faithfully accurate translation and dubtitles that match the English dub.
And of course, the old DVDs have nothing. In fact, House By the Cemetery has traditionally been light on extras. The Anchor Bay and Blue Underground DVDs only had a deleted scene, stills gallery and a couple trailers. Obviously Vipco didn't break out the goods. There's an Italian DVD with some interesting extras, but they're not subtitled, so that's no use. But when it came time for blu-ray, both companies decided it was time to stop toying around and play for keeps. Arrow's release is even a 2-disc set (technically 3, but one is just the DVD copy of the main blu), and as of 2020, so is BU's.

Blue Underground (2020 exclusives in blue):
  • Audio commentary by Troy Howarth
  • On-camera interview with stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco
  • On-camera interview with Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina
  • On-camera interview with Dagmar Lassander
  • On-camera interview with Carlo De Mejo
  • On-camera interview with Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti, two of the film's writers
  • On-camera interview with co-writer Giorgio Mariuzzo (the best of the new 2020 stuff)
  • On-camera interview with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, effects artists Maurizio Trani and Gino De Rossi, & Giovanni De Nava, the man inside the monster suit
  • 2014 Q&A with Catriona MacColl, hosted by Calum Waddell (nice, but nothing new)
  • On-camera interview with critic Stephen Thrower
  • The deleted scene 
  • Stills gallery
  • Two Trailers and a TV spot
  • Introduction by Giovanni Frezza
  • Audio commentary by Catriona MacColl, moderated by Calum Waddell
  • Audio commentary by Silvia Collatina, constantly interrupted by Mike Baronas
  • On-camera interview with Giovanni Frezza
  • On-camera interview with Catriona MacColl
  • On-camera interview with with Sergio Stivaletti about directing Wax Mask[?!]
  • On-camera interview with Gianetto De Rossi, a decent little chat, but there's a much better one with him, that covers most of the same ground, on Arrow's Zombie release.
  • On-camera interview Stefania Casini, Barbara Magnolfi and Silvia Collatina. Uh, only one of these actresses was actually in House By the Cemetery (Silvia). But it makes about as much sense as interviewing Stivaletti about the Wax Mask, I guess...
  • Reunion Q&A, an almost 45 minute panel filmed at a Horrorhound convention with Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, and Dagmar Lassander. It's pretty fun, but the sound quality is awful. I had to crank up the volume super loud and even then I kept missing things that were said.
  • The deleted scene
  • Theatrical trailer and TV spot
  • Bonus trailers - this collection of 20 or so Italian horror trailers goes above and beyond your usual stash of 2-4 bonus trailers
  • easter egg: On-camera interview with Sergio Martino about Mountain of the Cannibal God
  • easter egg: On-camera interview with Luigi Cozzi about Contamination
  • easter egg: On-camera interview with Dardanno Sacchetti about Manhattan Baby
  • easter egg: an alternate take of Giovanni Frezza's introduction
  • easter egg: additional snippet Silvia Collatina's interview
  • easter egg: bonus trailer for Lady Oscar, the film Catriona MacColl says she's most proud of during her audio commentary.
Arrow's release also comes with a 20-page booklet by Calum Waddell, including an additional text interview with Catriona MacColl.  It has reversible cover art and if you ordered it directly from Arrow's site, a bonus slip cover. Blue Underground, on the other hand, keeps the packaging basic, with no insert or anything.  At least with their first release.  Their new 2020 set comes in a stylish lenticular slip cover, a 20-page booklet by Michael Gingold, and of course the third disc in the set, the soundtrack CD.
By the way, it's the same deleted scene on all the discs. It's some additional dialogue at the end of the bat attack sequence, though we don't hear what they're saying because the sound has been lost.  And no, it has not been restored in 4k on the 2020 release.  It's funny to see Arrow's introduction to the scene [above], saying they're "presenting here, we believe, for the first time anywhere," when it's the exact same scene that everybody had been been including on their discs for the previous eleven years!

So, Arrow's got the most stuff, though less so since BU beefed up their supplements in 2020.  And Blue Underground hooked up with Red Shirt Pictures to get some top quality interviews with pretty much everybody, including several cast members, Stivaletti and two of the effects guys. Arrow only has one exclusive interview from this film, effects artist Gianetto De Rossi. Also, the more you watch these Arrow releases the more you realize these are all interviews from their other discs. Don't get me wrong, they're not putting the same clips on multiple discs, but they're all wearing the same shirts sitting in front of the same backgrounds. Arrow clearly interviewed everybody for hours on all their films and cuts out whichever part is relevant to that movie.  If they even are.

Because that brings me to the much odder thing: how many of these extras aren't actually related to the movie. Why are there interviews about Mountain Of the Cannibal God, Contamination, etc on here? I feel like they're just trying to fill up space with whatever they had laying around in order to justify the extra disc. Then, when you watch the same actors in the multiple features (i.e. Silvia Collatina on her commentary, her interview and her portion of the Q&A), they repeat the same anecdotes each time. In other words, Arrow has a ton of filler. Not that there's nothing good on here. Catriona's always fun, and Stefania Casini was a good interview if you don't mind the fact that she has nothing to do with House. But there's no way this needed to be two discs. Add to that the irritatingly long animated credits sequences for every single supplement and scenes from the film you've just watched that appear again and again, and it winds up being a slog to get through, which would have actually been a more entertaining viewing with huge chunks edited out. Arrow's list may look more impressive, but Blue Underground's was the finer selection even in 2011. Now, in 2020, it's really no contest.
So, let's answer those questions we proposed at the top.  Is BU's new 2020 edition, while unquestionably the best edition going, superior enough that it's worth replacing a previous blu?  I would say so, yes.  If the previous blus hadn't been plagued by scanner noise, then the new edition would still be an improvement, but possibly subtle enough that many viewers wouldn't mind not quite being on the cutting edge.  More extras and improved language options?  Neat, but probably not enough for a double-dip on their own to most fans.  But the old BD's problems really push the restored, and corrected, 4k disc over the edge - you'll be glad to put that noise behind you.  And if you are replacing it, is there any reason to hang onto any of the older releases?  Certainly none of the DVDs, and there's nothing on the 2011 BU BD that isn't on their 2020 (wouldn't that be annoying?).  Arrow has all the exclusives, but a lot of it's redundant in that you're just going to hear the same people say the exact same things, and a lot of it's just short-ends slapped onto the disc to fill up space.  So I'd say, unless this is your all-time favorite film and you just have to own every single scrap of supplemental content available, the new BU disc is the one and only House By the Cemetery worth bothering with anymore.