A Pair of Scorpions #1: A Pair of Unseen Blu-rays

In 2013, Scorpion Releasing put out the 1980 cult horror film The Unseen on blu-ray.  And in 2018, Scorpion Releasing put out the 1980 cult horror film The Unseen on blu-ray.  It's not often that a label puts out the same title twice without it being a change in format (i.e. first they released the blu, now they're releasing the UHD), at least not since the days of Anchor Bay pumping out Army of Darkness DVD after Army of Darkness DVD.  What's the story there?  This is a classic Scorpion case I've been meaning to delve into for a while, so here we go.
The Unseen is one of Kim Henkel's few horror movie scripts outside of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, and one of the few other films directed by Friday the 13th Part 5's Danny Steinmann.  It's a smart little thriller with some seriously dark psychology (the Henkel touch!) and an impressive cast, including a delightfully villainous Sydney Lassick of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest fame, Lelia Goldoni, Bond girl Barbara Bach and Animal House's Stephen Furst who really goes for broke and turns would could have easily been a corny B-movie turn into a shocking spectacle.  On the one hand, it's more of a thinker than a gore fest, but on the other, even by today's standards it's pretty twisted and not afraid to get trashy.  It would be hard to sell this film as high-brow, but there's more to it than your generic slasher.
Now, a note on spoilers: it's a big reveal late in the third act what exactly "the unseen" is.  It's been attacking our protagonists and kept secret by our antagonists, and even if you pretty much guess what it is, the actual look and characteristics are a surprise.  The film's trailer teases at it, the posters keep it a secret, but Scorpion seems to delight in stomping through the garden, revealing the film's secrets at all turns.  Katrina shows it very clearly and deliberately in her video introduction, and the 2018 slipcover and artwork draw it explicitly.  I've only shown the reverse artwork here and won't reveal it in this post, but Scorpion is apparently supremely confident that whoever purchases their discs will have already seen the film.  So I'm not a big worrier over spoilers - I don't avoid film trailers, and I rarely feel the viewing experience of a film is ruined if you know any plot points going in.  But this is a rare and true "spoiler" in my book, so if you've never seen the film, I suggest you watch it online or elsewhere before getting either of these discs and having the big reveal ruined for you.
2013 Scorpion BD top; 2018 Scorpion BD bottom.
According to the back of the case, the 2018 blu is a "Brand New 2K Scan of the Original Negatives with Over 45 Hours of Color Correction," and indeed the difference is obvious.  Both discs are presented in 1.78:1, but the framing is different... both from each other and from shot to shot.  In the first set of shots, the new blu is just framed slightly lower, but in the second set, the new blu pulls out to reveal more information along all four sides.  And it's a little weird how Code Red, Scorpion and Dark Force evaluate color correction by hours, but there's no denying the results.  The older blu looks pale and leans pink compared to the more robust 2018 version where each element is more distinct.
2013 Scorpion BD left; 2018 Scorpion BD right.
Grain and fine detail-wise, the new scan doesn't make a huge leap forward.  In some areas, grain is more distinct, but in other areas (say, the red curtains above), it's still smoothed away.  But there are other improvements.  The older blu displays constant areas of blocking and pixelated edges, which has has been cleaned up in the new transfer.  Dirt and damage has also been cleaned up this second time around - look at that white spot on Sydney Lassick's temple in the left-hand image.  A 4k scan on UHD would've really nailed the grain, but this new 2k edition is still much more naturally filmic experience than the earlier, more digitized image on the old blu.

The audio sounds essentially the same, the original mono track in a strong DTS-HD mix.  But another improvement with the 2018 disc is that they've added optional English subtitles, which the original version neglected.
But if we're really determined to find the motivation between the dual blus, I think the answer is to be found here, in the special features department.  Before it fell to Scorpion, Code Red had released the previously definitive 2008 two-disc DVD set of The Unseen.  Until then, it had been nothing but barebones, fullscreen grey market junk.  And when Scorpion took it over for blu-ray, well first of all, they issued it as the longer, uncut version (apparently Code Red's cut was two and a half minutes short).  But Code Red had compiled a pretty packed special edition, and Scorpion carried it all over... with a few issues.
First of all, there's an excellent audio commentary by producer Tony Unger and star Stephen Furst, but on the original blu it skips, goes out of sync, and repeats a couple minutes of footage.  This is probably because they're applying the commentary recorded for the shorter cut to the now longer cut, and nobody really tested the commentary all the way through on the blu.  Well, now this new 2018 blu fixes it, so that's nice.  Second, Code Red had a 38 minute interview with effects artist Craig Reardon, which on the 2013 blu cuts off the last two minutes.  The 2018 blu fixes that, too.  Code Red also had two stills galleries, both of which Scorpion technically ported over, but clicking them on the menu wouldn't work; they were dead links.  Technically, the galleries were on the disc, but you needed to open them on a computer or find another clever work-around.  And, this is a lesser issue, but still one more quirk for the fire: the on-camera interviews on the 2013 disc (there are great ones with Doug Barr, Stephen Furst and effects artist Tom Burman) play in a different order than they're listed on the menu.  Basically, the 2013 menu was hastily compiled and full of errors.
So the 2018 clears up all those embarrassing mistakes... although, one step backwards: they fix the second stills gallery error by dropping it entirely.  Good thing it's just a stills gallery, or that would be really frustrating.  And hey, even as I'mdetailing all these glitches, you have to be picking up on the fact that, hey, this is an impressively packed special edition.  They also include the trailers, and Scorpion added their own Katrina's Nightmare Theater wrap-arounds.  And to entice fans who already copped the 2013 blu to double-dip, the 2018 blu added one more on-camera interview with editor Jonathon Braun.  This is a film with a lot of mysteries behind it: scrapped previous productions, uncredited writers and disputes over who truly designed the final creature, so getting all these interviews and perspectives is uncommonly elucidating.  ...The 2018 blu also comes in the aforementioned spoiler-heavy slipcover and reversible artwork.
So is the double-dip worth it?  I'd say yes if you're a real fan of this film.  Superior transfer, subtitles, new interview and annoying glitches fixed.  That's a lot of upgrade for your buck.  If you're just kind of "meh" about The Unseen, and you only bought it in the first place because you often blind buy every cult horror title labels like Scorpion releases, then maybe it's less crucial.  The 2013 blu is still perfectly watchable and genuinely HD, with an impressive collection of extras.  I've seen the older blu selling for pretty cheap in a few spots, so this might be more of an opportunity to score that one for a nice price.  But if you want the best edition, this is of unquestionably it; and if you do double-dip, you won't feel like it was a waste.

American Dharma, The DVD That Almost Wasn't

Hoo boy!  This disc has traveled a long, hard road to reach us.  It's been highly publicized, at least as far as documentaries get coverage, that Errol Morris's latest documentary, American Dharma, received a lot of political blow-back after premiering at the Venice IFF in 2018.  Here's a good article covering the basics of the story at the time, but the gist of it is that the film is about/ interviews Steve Bannon, very much in the style of Morris' previous The Fog of War and The Unknown Known.  All three are sort of attempts to glean insight into somewhat notorious right-wing political figures of our recent past.  But Dharma screened right after a scheduled interview with Bannon was famously removed from the New Yorker Festival in the name of deplatforming... remember that big brouhaha?  It's an interesting debate whether it's better to challenge or ignore such people, but regardless of where you fall on the issue, it left Errol Morris with his theatrical expectations for his latest feature dashed.  After the initial publicity, no one was going to touch it.

What didn't get so much mention in the press is that this stigma carried on right to home video.  The initial thought was oh well, Dharma would wind up going straight to Netflix after the fiasco, but they didn't want it either.  It couldn't even get on streaming platforms, and it got to the point that, a year later, I spotted Morris exasperatedly announcing to Twitter that, "Fuck 'em. I will distribute the movie myself."  Another year goes by, and everything's still quiet.  But eventually, this summer, some little label called Utopia finally rolled up and was willing/ able to get it on Amazon, Apple TV, etc... and yes, release it on DVD.  No, no blu-ray, but at this point, I'd say we're lucky to see this on disc at all.
It's interesting to note that out of Morris's little political interview trilogy, this is actually is most outwardly, obviously critical.  Rather than using his famous Interrotron, Morris sits in a room (actually an airport hanger) and confronts Bannon face to face, calling him out on falsehoods.  And it's definitely worth pointing out that the other Bannon documentary, The Brink, which came out the following year and is even less confrontational of its subject, had no problem getting immediate streaming and DVD distribution like any normal film.  I've seen that one, too.  It's not bad; it follows the more standard political documentary practice of trailing him around from hotel room to hotel room as he travels around doing press conferences and meetings with his team.  There's no question Dharma is the more fascinating of the two films, though, and I think it all shows Morris was mostly just the victim of unfortunate timing.  Although, I do have some sympathy for the notion that maybe we don't need to hear from characters like this through any more avenues than we already are... especially in Bannon's case (as opposed to McNamara and Rumsfeld), because he's still out trying to effect change, while the other two were essentially retired and looking back at inactive careers.
Plus, I have to admit, Morris isn't exactly screaming and waving his finger in Bannon's face.  Dharma is more confrontational than The Brink, in that we occasionally hear the filmmaker object to some things the subject says; but Morris's style is still largely to draw his subject out and listen rather than argue.  There's no narrator telling us what's right and wrong, and the viewers are trusted to make up their own minds about what they're hearing.  This is not a heavy-handed polemic, like the kind of films Bannon himself makes, but a sincere exploration.  In fact, Morris takes some more circuitous routes to get at what's going on in the man's mind, centering a considerable portion of the film on Bannon's favorite films, and only indirectly questioning what his tastes and interpretations say about him as a person and political actor.  And in the end, I'm not sure Bannon ever lets his guard down to leave us with any particularly surprising revelations or meaningful insights.  He turns out to be exactly who we already thought he was.
In a hundred years, when this doc is informing an audience less intimately familiar with a man who hasn't already been exposed to them in their news cycles and social media six ways from Sunday, this may turn out to be a wilder ride.  Think of how every reveal in Mr. Death was a surprise because we hadn't already witnessed all the twists and turns of Fred Leuchter's story.  But until then, I have to say that Dharma is less compelling than most of Morris's work, and he probably did choose the wrong time to tackle this subject, and not just because of the unfortunate drama it drummed up.  But it's still an Errol Morris film, which is to say a documentary of unusually high quality.  And I don't like the idea of works of art being denied to the public just because they've rubbed one group or another the wrong way.  So I'm excited to finally get this, even if it isn't his very best.  Like, if Morris were John Carpenter, this would be his Someone's Watching Me, not Halloween.  General audiences can probably skip it, but fans will still appreciate it and want a fancy special edition.  And don't worry, it's not his Ghosts of Mars.
2020 US Utopia DVD.
Utopia presents the film in its full scope of 2.39:1, which only occasionally shifts to accommodate vintage footage... for example that second, split shot is actually 3.07:1.  It's a brand new film, so they'd have to go out of their way to screw it up, and fortunately they haven't.  It's anamorphic; there are no interlacing issues.  The sole disappointment is that it's SD, so it's softer and less detailed than readily available streaming versions you could rent or buy for far less.  This is a DVD-only release in 2020 with all the frustration that entails.  But by DVD standards, it looks as good as it possibly can.

The audio, too.  We're given a choice between a 5.1 mix and a Dolby stereo, and optional English subtitles are included.  They're definitely not cheaping out here.  Obviously lossless isn't an option, but again, for a DVD, Utopia's made it as good as can be.
It's not even barebones (something I wish we could've said for The B-Side).  We're treated to a lengthy, 46 minute long Q&A with Morris.  The inclusion makes sense, as they kind of need to throw up the defense that American Dharma isn't a pro-Bannon vehicle in front of the film at every opportunity they can get.  And Morris is absolutely there to make his case for why this film should be allowed to exist and be seen despite the arguments to the contrary.  But at 46 minutes, there's more to it than that.  It's slightly annoying, because this was evidently filmed before a screening, rather than after, which means they had to avoid spoilers and keep the discussion shallow enough for an audience who hadn't seen the film.  A post-screening Q&A would've surely yielded much more interesting, informed audience questions.  But it's still pretty great, if only to revel in Morris's cantankerous mood and the surprising short shrift he gives the moderator, at times challenging the intelligence of the questions she's asking (which, to be clear, were actually perfectly valid).  So you won't want to miss it; and it was a nice surprise when I was almost certain there wouldn't be any special features to be found.
They also remember to throw on the trailer, because again, Utopia went and did a surprisingly good job.  It's just too bad it's DVD only.  But I'm glad to at least have something after it seemed like this was destined to be trapped in limbo.

Dueling Blus: Shivers, Arrow vs Vestron

So Arrow released the HD debut of David Cronenberg's horror debut Shivers in 2014, but whoops! They restored the censored R-rated cut originally released to American theaters. This is where we learned that Cronenberg doesn't actually watch the DVDs he officially signs off on. But, gotta give them full credit here, Arrow came through and repressed new editions with the unrated footage restored in full, equal quality. Now, as of April 2016, if you bought the original cut set, Arrow set up a replacement program, and if you order it now from their site, you get proper shrink-wrapped copies of the 2nd pressing.
If you order this from some place like Amazon and aren't sure which disc you've got, you can see right here along the edge of the discs (this is a combo pack, and the DVD has been corrected, too) where it says "2ND PRESSING." So we finally have this movie in a special edition, uncut and on blu-ray. Happy day for me, because Shivers is still one of my all-time favorite Cronenberg films.

Update 5/14/16 - 9/22/20: Vestron lives!  and they've returned to bring Cronenberg's Shivers into the United States with their latest blu-ray edition.  But is it better or worse than what Arrow's already released?
This movie's like the perfect combination of low brow entertainment and high brow sci-fi/ horror, like he's found the perfect intellectual reasoning to excuse presenting us with exploitation fare by clinically exploring the basest elements of human nature. A futuristic high-rise has to have its own medical facility because it's on an isolated island. But unfortunately, one of their doctors has taken advantage of this situation to get away with some medical experimentation where he implants one of the building's tenants with a parasite that cures them of their sexual inhibitions. Unfortunately, it also turns them dangerously feral, and soon these parasites are spreading from person to person, turning everyone into a violent sex maniac.
It's like Night Of the Living Dead within ultramodern architecture, tackling all the taboo cult film issues Night somehow missed. You've got horror icon Barbara Steele, Lynn Lowry looking like a supermodel and Joe Silver, that great character actor who used to play in all of Cronenberg's old films. You've got some slimy effects work by Joe Blasco - the guy who used to have all those double page ads for his school in Fangoria - including chest bursters years before Alien duplicated them. And of course you've got the clever, subversive imagination of Cronenberg back when he was writing all his original scripts. Forty years later, this movie is one wild ride horror filmmakers today still can't match.
So, like I mentioned, Arrow's 2014/ 2016 Shivers special edition is a combo pack (a steelbook version is also available), so we'll be looking at both their blu-ray and DVD.  I've also got the older 2001 UK DVD from Metrodome, which used to be the best edition of Shivers going - in terms of transfer and special features.  The old 1998 US DVD from Image was fullframe; looking at it here, we can see how far we've come.  And of course, now we have the brand new US blu from Vestron.  All versions are the proper uncut version except the pre-recalled Arrow disc.
Image DVD first, Metrodome DVD second, Arrow DVD third, Arrow BD fourth; Vestron BD fifth.
We start with some big differences right at the outset. Image is fullscreen at about 1.30:1, and open matte, as it has all the same information on the sides, and considerably more on the top and bottom. And the aspect ratio's the same between Metrodome, Arrow and Vestron: 1.78:1, but the two blus manage to find a little more picture on all four sides.  That's nice; but that's probably not what struck your eye first, is it? The newer transfers sure are bright! The whites are really strong, effectively erasing some detail on the papers on Silver's desk in the first set of shots, and turning the whole sky off-white in the second set. Where did the blue sky go? It's there on the Image and Metrodome discs.

Well, Arrow's "ABOUT THE TRANSFER" section of their booklet isn't much help. It just says, "Shivers was restored by the Toronto International Film Festival. Restoration was completed at Technicolor with supervision by David Cronenberg, The restored film was delivered to Arrow Films by Lionsgate." Is it a 2k scan? What elements were used? Don't ask us, TIFF did it. Vestron's packaging is even less illuminating, informing us only that this is a "1080p High Definition" transfer.  Gee, thanks.  Well, I'm guessing the answer lies in the source materials. It looks like they used a print rather than OCN, IP or any other earlier film source. That certainly explains why it would be so contrast-y, just like The Killing Fields blu we looked at recently. And the cigarette burns on the film (see the shot of Allan Kolman at his desk, above) certainly suggest it's a print.
Image DVD first, Metrodome DVD second, Arrow DVD third, Arrow BD fourth; Vestron BD fifth.
All that said, the blus are still the best the film has ever looked. The UK DVD was anamorphic, widescreen and free of the typical interlacing issues we often come across here, but detail is still much clearer and more defined on the blu. Arrow's new DVD is already a clear step up, but it's still soft compared to the more refined blu with distinct grain. Image and Metrodome also look overly blu (surely the papers in the first set of shots are meant to be white not baby blue) and murky in comparison. But were the original film elements lost, or can we expect an even more satisfying restoration some day in the future?

Vestron didn't dig any up, that's for sure, clearly using the same TIFF restoration (and on-screen title cards confirm as much).  Because that's the big question now that there are competing blus on the market: which is better?  Well, the only real notable difference is that Vestron's is a softer encode.  Flipping between screenshots of Vestron and Arrow, grain seems to recede into obscurity.  It's subtle enough that most casual fans won't notice a difference, but if you want to be sure you're getting the best edition possible, Arrow is still champ.  Well, at least in terms of PQ.

Arrow and Vestron also bump up Image and Metrodome's Dolby 2.0 mono tracks to a lossless LPCM and DTS-HD tracks, respectively.  And they also add English HoH subtitles, where the DVDs had none.
But we've got to talk extras, because there's a big distinction there, too. The Image and Metrodome DVDs just have one key extra: an on-camera interview with David Cronenberg. He tells you all the key stories and basic info for the film, in a brisk but informative piece. But that's about all there is, besides a trailer; though technically Metrodome also has a photo gallery and bonus trailer for Cronenberg's second feature: Rabid.

Arrow comes with three major pieces. First up is an all new featurette directed by Calum Waddell, which cross-cuts interviews of Barbara Steele, Lynn Lowry, Allan Kolman, Joe Blasco, and film critic Kier-La Janisse, who ties it all together. This is a great piece that's both fun and gets a lot of details and stories about this film that haven't been covered elsewhere. Then there's an even better featurette, which is more of a comprehensive making of piece that was clearly made for television. It's got some cheesy animated credits, but once you get past that, there's great interviews with Cronenberg (including clips from some vintage TV pieces), producers Ivan Reitman, John Dunning, Alfred Pariser, and Andre Link, cinematographer Robert Saad, plus Joe Blasco, Lynne Lowry, Allan Kolman, plus critics Peter Morris, Bart Testa and Jason Anderson. One or two anecdotes repeat, and some basic history of the film, but they're mostly distinct and work well together.

Arrow also has a video essay, like Criterion does, by critic Caelum Vatnsdal, which is okay. It makes me wish Arrow had licensed the Cronenberg interview from the older DVDs, since I'd rather hear Cronenberg talk about a dream that inspired a scene in this film than this guy telling us second-hand that Cronenberg had a dream that made him feel ___. But it's still better to have it than not. And all the features together (the first two run about 45 minutes apiece) really do give this edition the feel of being a full special edition. Arrow also has the trailer, a stills gallery, reversible artwork (that's kind of a spoiler, if you think about it), a postcard for one of their other releases (I got The Long Good Friday) and a hefty 48-page booklet with notes by three critics and some words from Cronenberg himself, taken from the book Cronenberg On Cronenberg.

But Vestron has brought their A-game, too.  They don't share any extras in common with Arrow, but they did preserve that Cronenberg interview from the DVDs.  More excitingly, they managed to get him to record an audio commentary, which is pretty great.  He admits, though, that he hasn't seen this film in decades, which makes it clear how a cut version was able to get past TIFF and Arrow despite supposedly having been an approved transfer by him.  Anyway, that's the real gem here, but they also sat him down for a new on-camera interview (where he mostly just repeats anecdotes from the commentary... this is the most skippable of all the Shivers extras), and recorded their own interviews with Lowry and Blasco.  They also created a second commentary with producer Don Karmody, which is a nice treat, despite moderator Chris Alexander repeating all of his anecdotes verbatim on both commentaries.  There's also an archival audio-only interview with John Dunning (who's since passed) and a nice, on-camera follow-up piece with his son.  Finally Vestron packs on two trailers, a TV spot, three radio spots and a stills gallery.  Vestron doesn't seem to go in for the booklets, but they do house their release in a sporty slipcover.
Deciding on a winner is going to be come down to a lot of personal taste.  Strictly in terms of image quality, Arrow does win, but with both discs using the same master, it may not be a very important distinction.  The real battle is in the special features, which are very different across releases.  I think I might give the edge to Vestron here, but both have top notch features and both talk to key players that the other disc is missing.  Like, you've gotta have that Cronenberg commentary, but you really hate to lose Ivan Reitman.  Fortunately, Vestron has given their latest releases a very consumer-friendly, budget-conscious price point.  So dedicated fans who already have the Arrow release can happily pick up the Vestron disc "just for the extras" without the usual financial sting of double-dipping.  And more casual viewers can just pick up the Vestron, or hang onto their Arrows, confident that whichever release was easier to obtain is competitively excellent.  In brief, it's good news all around and everybody wins. 👍

Ordinary People's Shocking Debut on Blu

So I've mentioned a couple times now about how some long-awaited Paramount catalog titles have been popping up on blu for the first time in Australia.  I've been praising Via Vision for their work, but they're not the only Ozzie Prometheuses liberating classic films from the ViacomCBS company.  It's hard to dispute that Ordinary People is a great and important film.  It won Best Picture in 1980, along with three other Academy Awards and two additional noms, plus five Golden Globes, based on a best selling novel.   But somehow it's only been available as a barebones DVD the world over... until this summer, thanks to Australia's Shock Entertainment.
I wrote in my last post that the stars of Marriage Story, "never stop digging to reveal intimate truths Hollywood rarely gets near."  Well, Ordinary People is one of those rare exceptions.  Granted, it's hard not to notice that both films' idea of relatable people seems to be the unusually financially privileged, which may strain some viewers' empathy.  But if you can get past that, it's a powerful drama that builds slowly as characters' backstories and the stakes they're playing for are carefully revealed.  As a filmmaker, Robert Redford can always be depended on to deliver a respectable level of mature quality in his work, but I think Judith Guest's writing allows him to reach heights he's never been able to in the rest of his typically more conventional body of work.  But then Redford is able to come back around and compliment that writing by getting performances out of his brilliant cast few other filmmakers could deliver.
Like, obviously veterans like Donald Sutherland and M. Emmet Walsh were always going to be great, but I don't think anybody expected Mary Tyler Moore to jump into the award races so late in her career.  Of course Timothy Hutton was a newcomer who Redford essentially discovered here (though I looked it up, and he had done a couple TV movies already).  And after getting used to him in all those sitcoms and trash roles like Independence Day, this film's a fun reminder that Judd Hirsch actually can act when he's given the opportunity.

If I had one criticism, it's that the film short thrifts Moore's character a bit in the long run, almost concluding with the suggestion that everything would've been fine if she wasn't always such an uptight bitch.  I haven't read the novel, but I bet a little charitability was lost between the original (female) author and the men adapting it for the screen.  But Moore is able to squeeze in some depth between the lines, and of course she's ultimately a supporting character in Hutton's journey, so it's not a crippling flaw.  After all, it's impossible to ignore how moving all the other material is.
Paramount released this as a basic, barebones DVD in 2001, and that's basically been the whole story of Ordinary People on disc this for all time.  The closest thing to any kind of special edition was a 2009 VH1-sponsored "We Love the 80s" edition that came in a colorfully tacky slipcover and included a bonus "Music From the 80s" CD.  The DVD inside is still exactly the same.  It hasn't been until early this summer that it made its HD debut on blu-ray, as we've said, from Shock Entertainment in Australia.  And it's Region B locked, so even this release's potential reach is still limited.
2001 US Paramount DVD top; 2020 AU Shock BD bottom.
Part of the mystery as to how such a successful, critically heralded and truly important film could be relegated to an obscure import is that most labels would look at the current master and say wow, this film needs a restoration before it could be released in HD today.  Sometimes I'll point out how a recent blu doesn't hold up to the modern standard of fresh 4k scans, but looks fine for an older BD.  Well, this one would get low scores even if it came out in 2006.  First of all, this is clearly using the same master as the original DVD, which was at least anamorphic widescreen and free of interlacing issues.  Moreover, the BD's image is hazy, colors are dull, and there's a bit of a "screen door" effect presumably brought on by an attempt to sharpen film grain that is soft and barely captured.  There are also flecks and spots of film damage, but that's a minor complaint.  Want another major complaint?  Obviously some kind of edge enhancement or unsharpening tool has been applied to try and correct this funky old transfer.  To be fair to Shock, this was probably baked into the master by Paramount decades ago, but that fact doesn't help us viewers now.

So does that mean this BD is some kind of worthless side-grade?  No, we have gained ground here.  The DVD is slightly windowboxed to 1.82:1, which the BD corrects to a properly matted 1.85:1.  I left the borders around the first set of shots so you can see the difference, but the most important difference is that it means the blu winds up revealing more information on the right-hand side (and a sliver along the bottom) that the DVD shouldn't have been cropping.  And while the blu appears to be artificially sharpened, we can see that the DVD's compression makes it even softer; so the blu-ray is preserving at least a smidgen extra detail and clarity.  It's a slight boost, but it's still a boost.
Now, the back of the case lists 5.1 audio, but I'm actually happy to report that is incorrect.  They in fact provide the original mono track in Dolby Digital 2.0.  I'm less pleased to tell you that it's lossy, though.  Oh, and there are no subtitles.  The DVD had subtitles (and also a French dub).  Couldn't they just hold onto those, you might ask, but apparently not.

Shock's blu is also completely barebones.  The DVD at least had the trailer, but I guess Shock couldn't hold onto that either.  In fact, there isn't even a menu screen; it's just the one movie file on a single-layer disc.  They've really done the bare minimum.
So yeah, this isn't a blu-ray to get excited about, except for the fundamental fact that it's exciting there's a blu-ray at all.  But the film's a masterpiece, and this is the best edition going.  I imagine most people will prioritize nearly every other title in their wish lists first, but eventually you do need this on your shelf.  So credit where it's due to Shock, for at least giving us something.  Now do Rachel River.  😉