A Watchable Vanity Fair?

I've had some surprisingly good luck upgrading to these Mapetac blus recently, so I thought I'd roll the dice one more time.  This time it's for one of my absolute personal favorites: 1998's Vanity Fair.  Yes, it's the Andrew Davies version, but even most of his other work falls short of this epic miniseries, especially if you're expecting just another delicate comedy of manners about a 17th century woman who narrowly avoids marrying the wrong man instead of the right one.  Thackeray is quite a sharp turn from Jane Austen.  And speaking of sharp turns, well, we all know the reputation these Llamentol discs have; but when it's the only BD option, and the DVD is fairly borked, well... like I said, we're rolling the dice.
This is the best of all the Vanity Fairs.  It's a true marriage of society's elegance and grotesqueries in every aspect, from its photography to the brilliant soundtrack.  The more recent version has some strengths: adding Michael Palin as narrator lets them include some of Thackeray's non-dialogue text, but it tries way too hard to appeal to modern sensibilities.  It feels like it was made for high school students who couldn't be expected to wrap their heads around a different time period with alternate sensibilities and values so it takes all kind of silly liberties.  At my old job, people always used to ask me about the Reese Witherspoon Vanity Fair, and I would try to warn them against going that route.  It's alright, don't get me wrong.  The production values are admittedly higher, Reese isn't the problem and some of the supporting cast, like Jim Broadbent, are first class.  But chopping the story down to two hours is such an abridgement it loses so many great scenes and consequently cuts the wit and humanity out of those that remain.  It's the same problem all the 1930's versions had, though at least Mira Nair successfully recreated the period.
Actually, I used to be a pretty big proponent of the BBC's 1967 version, which certainly was at one time the definitive VF going, but now comparing the two, I see how much of the heart and subtext has been thrown away compared to the 90s version, almost as harshly as the Witherspoon despite being substantially longer.  Original Masterpiece Theater darling Susan Hampshire and the rest of the cast are all quite smart, and the drama does still build to a beguiling boil by the second half.  It's been a while since I've seen the 80's version (also a BBC miniseries, with Freddie Jones as Sir Pitt Crawley), but I remember feeling it was pretty stiff following this one, which was fairly tied for faithfulness to the novel, but possessed more of the spirit.

If you're looking for a quick way to judge Vanity Fair adaptations, the dictionary scene early on makes it easy.  A number of versions throw it away, quickly depicting the moment without conveying its delicious spirit or the necessary set-up.  Becky Sharp over-did it, adding a hokey little "let this speak volumes" speech to it.  The 2018 version shows us they're determined to botch the Amelia character, and thus the film's central relationship, by changing the scene so they both throw their dictionaries and scream "viva la Napoleon!"  The 90s version remains the only one to get it right.  Plus, the home video situation for this one is pretty dreary.  In the US, it's only ever been released on VHS... at least in the UK, there's a 2-disc DVD set from Acorn.
2004 Acorn DVD.
I assume this was shot on video, so there are no negatives to go back to.  But the interlacing is out of control; it's not intermittent frames like usual, but every frame.  And I gather that's some kind of edge enhancement making their collars flair out in the second shot - it certainly looks like it - but their are so many potential flaws in SD transfers of broadcasts from tape I can't say for sure.  It's murky, the colors are bleeding, really the only thing that seems to have gone right is that the 1.32 AR is probably about right, although as you can see, there's some unusual dead space along the top.  The audio has some background hiss but is reasonably clear.  There are no subtitles and the only extra is a nice behind-the-scenes photo gallery.
But we're not here for that Vanity Fair; we're here for THIS Vanity Fair.  So let us move on. A&E Home Video released the 90's Vanity Fair here on DVD in 2003 as a 2-disc set, in two amaray cases and a slipbox.  Looking at it now, it doesn't hold up (as we'll detail below), but the only blu-ray option is the infamous Llamentol disc released in Spain in 2013, and repackaged as a Mapetac in 2016.  I've bought the latter.
2003 A&E DVD top; 2016 Mapetac BD bottom.
Yes, once again this is the 2011 Llamentol disc, right down to the old label, housed inside the newer 2016 sleeve.  I was initially encouraged by the fact that this is a pressed disc (dual-layer even), not a BDR, like Middlemarch.  On the other hand, I was skeptical of the 16x9 aspect ratio; would this made for television series be widescreen?  In 1998, it's on the bubble.  But comparing the shots, no, this 1.74:1 is correct... or at least close to it.  The fullscreen DVD not only brusquely chops off the sides, and a sliver along the top and bottom, but I caught it doing some ghastly pan and scanning to try and preserve key characters who had been cropped out of shot.  So yeah, this is a big fix of the 1.32, though ideally, sure, we probably want it to be 1.78, or maybe even 1.85:1, without that weird left-hand pillarbox (return of the unusual dead space!).  In fact, we briefly get a glimpse of it.
For one shot early in the final episode, the edges flicker, the left-hand bar disappears and the resulting framing corrects itself to unmatted widescreen, and then snaps right back in the next shot.  During this brief glimpse, there's only very slight negative space along the overscan area, the most being about 7 pixels along the top, opening the shot to 1.79:1.  Oh well.  The 1.74 will do.  Especially when there are other improvements as well.  Most notably: the interlacing is gone!  It was really bad on the DVD, again not intermittent but every frame.  It's hard to say if the blu's HD is any natural improvement in terms of clarity or detail - the patterns on that soft, say - because the interlacing ruins the DVD's picture too much to judge.  But what that means, practically speaking, is that the BD's a huge improvement because we finally get a non-distorted look at the image.  Of course there's no pan & scanning here, and the colors are also cooler, seemingly to correct for an overly pink hue to the DVD, which I'd call another mild improvement, though I suspect a proper restoration could do an even better job of the colors.

Both discs feature the same decent but lossy stereo mix.  The blu also has a stereo Spanish dub.  The one thing the DVD had going for it was optional English subtitles, which the blu predictably replaces with Spanish ones.  So that's a small step backwards.  Neither release has any special features at all, though, so that's a draw.
It's the same story: a low-quality (and quite possibly unlicensed) blu as predicted; but it's all I was hoping for given my expectations.  I knew this wasn't going to look "blu-ray quality," but it did turn out to be a substantial upgrade.  Granted, that's not due to any great qualities of the blu's so much as the DVD having such poor ones, but I've finally got a watchable copy on my shelf that I can live with.  That's a win in my book, and I'm both happy and relieved.

Be Sure To Grab The Good Girl

I love the wild, cult films being released by all the popular boutique labels as much as the next guy, but it feels like the pendulum has swung so far in their direction that we're losing sight of all the great catalog titles we still need from the studios.  So it's great when I get to shine my little spotlight on something like this: an under-represented overseas label coming out with a long-awaited BD debut that none of the other review sites seem interested in.  In this case it's Germany's Spirit Media releasing 2002's The Good Girl, the second film from the Chuck & Buck team Miguel Arteta and Mike White, and one that I daresay surpasses all the Best Picture nominees it would've competed with that year, had it not been relegated to the Independent Spirit Awards like most of the best films from that era.
Writer Mike White stepped back into a supporting role for this one, as the filmmakers' break-out success allowed them to rope in some serious star power this time around.  So Jennifer Aniston - right at the peak of her post-Friends fame - stars as the titular good girl, an honorific we learn might be deeply ironic in this earnest dark comedy.  In fact, everything's at their peak in this film: the script, several of the performances including Aniston's - they've yet to top their work here.  And this is a stellar cast, with John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tim Blake Nelson, Deborah Rush, John Carroll Lynch and Zooey Deschanel all in top form.  This is one of those rare comedies that's equally poignant as a drama, and it's a shame so many of the people who made this film went on to mostly blander, commercial fare.
20th Century Fox released this as a new release in 2003.  That's a little before blu-ray's time, so fans had no complaints about the special edition flipper disc that gave us anamorphic widescreen transfer on one side and fullscreen on the other.  But in the ensuing years, this is one of those key titles I'd look at on my shelf and think, "oh, come on already!"  And it only just now has, in Germany only.  With its major stars, you'd think somebody would've stuck a blu into Best Buys and Walmarts long before now.  But looking at the master, maybe I can see why home video companies were reluctant to spring for it.
1) 2003 Fox fullscreen DVD; 2) 2003 Fox widescreen DVD; 3) 2020 Spirit BD.
Not that Spirit Media's blu is a disaster; don't get me wrong.  Their new HD release is a much-needed boost in clarity that I recommend anyone upgrade to.  Fox's old DVD was quite good for its time, not much unfortunate image manipulation or dead space in the overscan areas, gently matted to 1.82:1 (or an unattractively re-framed 1.33:1, depending which side of the disc you're watching).  It's just soft, which the BD happily improves, and slightly vertically, pinched, which the BD also corrects to an exact 1.85:1.  There is a bit of edge enhancement, which made sense for a master meant to be compressed to SD, but is a little disappointing now.

2020 Spirit BD.
But the real issue is in the black levels, which as you can see in the second set of shots, sometimes glows blue.  It reminds me of Sony's Eat Drink Man Woman blu, although in this case, we can see that the problem dates back to the equally guilty DVD.  It's not consistent; it comes and goes depending on the scene.  You can see in the shot to the left, the blacks look perfectly fine.  At its worst moments, though, it is distracting, and it almost looks worse on the blu not because it actually is any worse, but because the rest of the picture quality looking so much nicer makes it stand out more.  But again, it is just as present in the DVD, so there's no escaping it, making Spirit's blu still easily the best option.

That includes lossless audio as well.  The DVD had the original English 5.1 in Dolby with a Spanish dub and English and Spanish subtitles.  The blu bumps the English track up to DTS-HD and (naturally) swaps the Spanish dub for a German one, with optional German subtitles.  We do lose the English subs, however.
An area Spirit didn't need to improve on Fox was the extras; the DVD was already a pretty rewarding special edition.  Arteta and White to a smart and sometimes funny (White anguishes every time he realizes Arteta removed a line of dialogue) audio commentary, and they even got Aniston to do her own, partial commentary (it's just select scenes, but it's informative and of course rare to get a major star to participate).  Then there's a collection of deleted scenes, many of which could've stayed in the picture, including a slightly different ending, and those all also have optional commentary by Arteta and White.  The only thing it was missing was the trailer, which Spirit has added (fullscreen, in English) as well as a new stills gallery.
In an ideal world, this would get a remaster for a fancy Criterion, with all the little flaws ironed out and a 20th anniversary retrospective.  But considering this is The Good Girl's first blu-ray release in all these many years, I wouldn't count on anything more than what we've just gotten, which is still a solid upgrade for an essential film.  I mean, what're you gonna do, watch the DVD in 2021?

Defending Your Life Forever

Oh man, I really love that, after an excruciating period of neglect, we finally seem to be in the heyday of Albert Brooks' films getting released in HD.  Modern Romance, The Muse, Lost In America and now Defending Your Life.  I only hope this trends holds up long enough for us to get the remaining three, because every one of his movies is one to treasure and revisit.  But whatever happens, for now I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth; I'm just relishing my dive into this new release from Criterion.
You could accuse Albert Brooks of getting sappy with his fourth film.  But Brooks has always been a master of meshing heart with his satire, and you can't begrudge a writer letting the pendulum swing a little to the sentimental side every once in a while.  And there has to still be a little healthy cynicism to be found in a depiction of a world where, when you die, you're transported to another, larger bureaucracy of just slightly more advanced people who condescend and placate everyone into conformity.  And while passing through to the other side only to find your life is on trial is hardly an original concept in Hollywood - we've all heard of "Judgement Day," after all - the idea that you're not judged on morality or piety but your ability to overcome your personal fears so that you may become your further realized self is a very creative and thoughtful spin.
The hallmark of Albert Brooks' films is that of course they're very funny, but they would also work as smart, touching films even if all of his comedy was removed.  But rather than feeling joke his schtick has been squeezed in where it doesn't belong, he manages to make it thrive.  We all know what it's like to be stuck in the middle of a picture pulling us in two directions at once, but his work is so special because he manages to fully pull off both, where most filmmakers are lucky to manage one, and not have them feel discordant.  So on the one hand, it's always "The Albert Brooks Show," but at the same time, it's a Capra classic.  In this case, we've also got Meryl Streep, who's sweet and brings the degree of effervescent star power the story demands, but Lee Grant and especially Rip Torn take the reigns with far more impressive supporting roles.  There's also a funny celebrity cameo I won't spoil and some surprisingly good performances by the child actors.  How has this movie not hit blu-ray until now?
Warner Bros first released Defending on DVD in a snapper case in 2001.  They've repackaged it a few times with different covers - as a double bill with Looking for Comedy in 2008, again in 2010 and just recently this past December (on DVD-R) for Warner's Archives collection.  But Criterion's new blu is the first time it's been actually updated on disc, not just to HD but with a new 4k restoration from the original 35mm negative.
2001 WB DVD top; 2021 Criterion BD bottom.
As you might expect, Warner Brothers frame their DVD at a lazy 1.78:1, while Criterion apply the little mattes to make it exactly 1.85:1.  But what I was surprised to discover is that Criterion actually zooms in and crops information along all four sides.  Being "director-approved," one can only hope this tighter framing is more correct; but I think we've all learned over the years how little a director's stamp of approval necessarily means.  Still, it's minor enough that it doesn't hurt the viewing experience any either way; and after all, it very well might be the more accurate representation of the filmmaker's photography.
2001 WB DVD left; 2021 Criterion BD right.
Besides that, the colors are gently corrected and differentiated.  WB's DVD was actually rather good, especially for an older disc, so there wasn't that much to fix.  It's not interlaced, non-anamorphic or hideously compressed.  We're not suddenly discovering tons of small details.  This film always had a soft, gentle look anyhow.  But with that said, this is a nice healthy step forward to HD, with compression artifacts transformed into actual film grain.  Look at that colorful packet on the coffee machine behind Albert.  I don't know what that is, but it's much more distinct on the blu.  A very slight vertical pinch is also fixed.

The DVD already had the original English stereo mix with optional English subtitles, plus French, Portuguese and Spanish subs and a French dub.  Criterion dumps the foreign language options, but restores the English mix from the original elements for a bolder DTS-HD track.
Now, when Criterion announced a "new interview on the afterlife with theologian and critic Donna Bowman," I thought alrighty.  They're going to present us with some crazy incense-toting crackpot who was was going to explain to us what Brooks got right and wrong about the afterlife, because she's visited it personally a number of times.  But happily, no, it's an intelligent comparison of Hollywood's history of afterlife comparisons and the existentialist and Kierkegaardian concepts Brooks depicts in his script.  But more important than that is the all new retrospective interview with Albert Brooks, who takes a thoughtful look back the film.  Also included appears to be a re-edit of a promotional featurette with vintage interviews from Brooks (who thankfully says all different things from his separate interview), Torn and Lee.  And we get the trailer (Brooks is known for making creative, original theatrical trailers for his films... but this is just a regular one) and a fold-out insert with notes by horror director Ari Aster.
After I watch this movie, I think wow, this is his best film.  But then I watch Lost In America, or Real Life, or Mother and I think the same thing.  How has Netflix, Amazon, or any of the others not tapped this man for one of those "small budget and full creative freedom" deals yet?  Well, hopefully releases like this show that the world is finally catching on.

An American Werewolf In London, The 4k Ultra HD

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.

Updated 4/12/21: I'm getting a little tired of updating this movie, but if we're being honest with ourselves, we all knew a proper UHD couldn't be too far behind those 4k BDs, right?  And this Turbine set should be the final chapter for a long time to comee now.  Right?
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 before finally handing the property over to someone who knew what to do with it for Arrow's 2019 Limited Edition 4k remaster.  It was pretty much the definitive BD edition, but now BDs aren't the definitive discs anymore.  So at the end of 2020, Turbine released it on UHD as an "Ultimate Edition" 4-disc set (if you count the soundtrack CD).  And now in 2021, they've just reissued it as a Limited Special Edition 3-disc set, with all the same video content, but minus the swag.
1) 2001 DVD, 2) 2009 DVD, 3) 2009 BD, 4) 2016 BD;
5) 2019 BD; 6) 2021 BD; 7) 2021 UHD.
So, all seven 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?
l to r: 2009 BD; 2016 BD; 2019 BD; 2021 UHD.
Apparently, the film was given a brand new, 6k(!) scan for this restoration, and my best guess is they figured if they scanned it that 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!
l to r: 2019 BD; 2021 UHD.
Now, just comparing BDs, I actually still prefer Arrow's, with an encode that thoroughly captures every speck of grain.  But of course, we didn't buy Turbine's set for the 1080 blu, we bought it for the UHD.  And there's just no competing with that boost in resolution.  Let's zoom in even further, and you can see where the eyeball, for example, breaks down into blocky pixels on the blu while it's still smooth and lifelike on the UHD.  That's not a knock on Arrow; it's just a fact of life when we're dealing with a superior format.  Grain looks a little gentler on the Turbine disc, but again, when you really zoom in, there's no question it's more authentically represented and less pixelated.  And of course now you've got the new HDR color timing, which is what you're really going to notice on your television, as opposed to an academic screenshot comparison, and it really does give the image a more alive, sometimes creepier, feel without ever becoming over saturated or tacky.  It's actually more subtle and nuanced.
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 on the Arrow in DTS-HD, along with optional English subs.  and as for the Turbine?  Yes, they're pitch corrected, too.  Whew!  They've also got both the 2.0 and 5.1 mixes in DTS-HD, plus the German dub in same, with optional English and German subtitles.
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!).
It's a little confusing, because the title of several featurettes were arbitrarily changed, but having gone through it all now, I'm happy to report that every single special feature from the Arrow set has been carried over to the Turbine.  And even better, though you wouldn't have thought it was possible, Turbine have included even more new stuff: five features totaling up to roughly another hour of content.  A nice start is a brief look at Piccadilly Circus today, with the film's first AD.  The longest is a Post Mortem retrospective with Mick Garris interviewing Landis, originally recorded, I believe, for his podcast series.  There's also a 2011 interview with David Naughton and a round-table discussion with Garris, Landis, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg, which has popped up on a few discs before, including Criterion's Videodrome and Turbine's edition of The Thing.  But it's nice to finally get it on a Landis release - a welcome addition to anyone who hasn't had a chance to see it yet.  And finally, there's a brief featurette with a fan who's collected a number of impressive props and memorabilia from the film that was created for the Arrow BD, but ultimately left off.  Now we finally get to see it.

Turbine's Limited Special Edition comes in a very stylish, embossed slipbox, and the inner case also includes reversible artwork.  Their initial 2020 Ultimate Edition also came with a soundtrack CD, double-sided poster, a 100-page book, art cards, stickers, and a Slaughtered Lamb "beer lid," whatever that is.  All the extras are completely English-friendly (except the book?  I just got the LSE, not the UE), and two of the trailers have also been boosted up to 4k resolution.
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 brought 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.  And now Turbine have come along, and kicked it forward a generation, with a few more new extras to boot.  American Werewolf fans have nothing to complain about any more, it's one of the best served films on home video!