Be Warned. It's Frankenstein. In 4k!

I don't know about you guys, but I'm in the mood for a classic horror story.  Not just like a popular 80s flick, but something with a little more gravitas.  I've just been re-watching my old Mysteries & Imagination DVDs, and their smart little takes on legendary tales of terror, like Dracula with Denholm Elliot or Frankenstein starring Ian Holm, have left me craving for more.  Yes, maybe more Frankenstein.  Their version was neat but a little abridged.  I think the moment calls for a version of Frankenstein that delves even deeper into the original story, and even to this day, you probably can't do better than Kenneth Branagh's stab at it: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Update 11/7/20 - 3/29/22: There's a new Shelley's in town, gang. Arrow has released Sony's new 4k restoration as an all new special edition UHD and I'm Stokered!  😜
Having watched nearly every version out there, I do believe is the most faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley's original novel, which is, after all, why they added the "Mary Shelley's" to their title.  A quick, though admittedly certainly not definitive, one-question survey I take of every Frankenstein picture is if they attempt the wrap-arounds in the Arctic, and this one really relishes in the opportunity to lay into that spectacle.  But that's not to say it stays 100% true to source.  Branagh makes a very bold third act change, which I can see him (and co-writer Frank Darabont) thinking would heighten the drama by tying the characters even closer together at the time of highest stakes, but I feel like there's a reason Shelley didn't write it that way originally, and not just because she never had the idea.  I'm not sure this change really helps at all (I'm not going to get more specific, since it's so near the end); but don't get me wrong, it's no huge misstep either.  It's just one point where fans of the novel will really pause and say, "oh. That's different." There are also plenty of little historical touches added to the background and the inevitable alterations when adapting across formats.  But Branagh really manages to capture the spirit and themes of Shelley's writing like few if any others.
But forgetting which hues strictest to the source material and just judging the film on its raw cinematic merits, it's a pretty terrific Frankenstein, and still quite possibly the best (though I have an odd fondness for Frankenstein '80).  Robert De Niro does feel like stunt casting, but once you get used to his presence, particularly his distinctive voice, it almost ceases to be distracting; and you can't say he doesn't deliver a fine performance.  And the rest of the cast is particularly superb, with Branagh himself in top form, and an excellent supporting cast including Ian Holm (back for another round!), Amadeus himself Tom Hulce, John Cleese, Helena Bonham Carter and Aidin Quinn.  The production values are high; you can tell Sony was aiming for a definitive show-stopper with operatic visuals and swooping cameras as the music flourishes.  And it's not afraid to get dark and messy, bringing to vivid life both the monster's human drama and the doctor's grisly laboratory.  It's literary and bombastic.  Sure, this film could be tweaked here and there to be even better, but what we got has, I believe, been critically and commercially undervalued since its release.
Columbia Tri-Star has been behind every release of Frankenstein up 'till now, even in foreign regions.  But their handling of it has been a little complicated.  Originally, they released it in 1998 as a flipper disc: widescreen on one side, fullscreen on the other (hand over mouth cover).  Then, in 2003, they reissued it as a single-sided DVD only.  The bad news?  It was only the fullscreen version.  And frustratingly, it had the exact same front cover and UPC number, making it very tricky to guess which version you were getting if you tried to order it online.  They reissued it again as a fullscreen single-sided disc in 2004, this time with the make-out in front of the castle cover, but again with the same UPC.  So, to be clear, if they're smooching in front of the castle, it's definitely a fullscreen-only disc; and if it's the hand over mouth, it could go either way.
Even if you bought the 2005 version that was packaged with Francis Coppola's Dracula, it was the fullscreen-only version.  Although the 1999 Double Feature DVD set with John Carpenter's Vampires did give you the flipper disc.  Very confusing business all around.  That's why I ordered the UK version, which was very clearly just and always the widescreen version.  But now all of that's only an issue to plague those of you who haven't upgraded to blu-rays, because ever since 2009, there's been a superior HD option, that of course is in its proper widescreen ratio.  And now in 2022, there's even a 3840 option, thanks to Arrow's brand new UHD (a 1080p blu of their edition is also available separately).  And this time, they've even made it a special edition.
1) US 1998 DVD (wide); 2) US 1998 DVD (full); 3) US 2004 DVD;
4) UK 2004 DVD; 5) US 2009 BD; 6) 2022 Arrow UHD.

There are some interesting differences to note between the DVDs.  You'd think they'd all be the same, apart from the wide and fullscreen croppings, but they're not.  For a start, the two widescreen framings are different.  The US DVD windowboxes the image slightly to 1.81:1, while the UK DVD pillarboxes it to a taller 1.74:1.  This despite the back covers both touting 1.85:1.  The fullscreen versions are 1.33:1 as they claim, and you can see, they've compromised to both show some additional vertical information while also taking a decent amount off the sides.  Also, the fullscreen version has its own, distinct color timing, turning the doctor's lab from pink to orange.  Only the blu-ray and UHD have been matted to exactly 1.85:1, and naturally they're also the sharpest images.  The blu has stronger color separation, deeper blacks, easily trumping the DVDs.  But it's clearly an old master, with film grain so soft it's more hinted at than made clear, and there's some subtle haloing and similar tinkering that you wouldn't get from a modern transfer.
US 2009 BD left; 2022 Arrow UHD right.
As I said, the UHD is still 1.85:1, but you may've noticed it's pulled out to reveal more picture than any of the previous widescreen editions.  The color timing's much more subtle and naturalistic.  And just look at the close-up above to see the massive gains in grain structure, which is smooth and smeary on the blu-ray.  The blu also has this weirdly pixelated noise running down the left-hand side of the glass, which is of course completely cleared up and perfectly filmic now on the UHD.

Now, all the DVDs give us a choice between the original stereo mix and a new 5.1, plus optional English subtitles.  And the US discs also provide a bevy of sub and dub translations.  The blu happily bumps the audio up to lossless DTS-HD and keeps the subtitles and translations, but unfortunately dumps the stereo track, leaving us with only the revisionist 5.1.  So here's another area where Arrow gets it right, restoring the original stereo track, lossless now for the first time in LPCM.  And they still have the DTS-HD 5.1 mix and optional English subtitles.
There are no extras on any Sony/ Columbia except the theatrical trailer and some bonus trailers on the DVDs.   Disappointingly, the blu even drops the trailer.  But we can obviously take care of Arrow to handle all that.  Actually, when they announced their specs, I was a little underwhelmed: a couple promising crew interviews and a bunch of expert stuff.  Experts can't usually pack the punch of someone who was there first hand.  I mean, I knew it was asking a lot to expect a Branagh commentary as he's busy directing Marvel movies and winning Oscars... but it would've been nice.

Actually, though, I needn't have fretted.  Because the expert stuff is terrific.  Three of 'em - including Gothic screenwriter Stephen Volk! - speak across two featurettes, which is really one longer piece arbitrarily split into two.  But it's/ they're great.  They stumble a little bit out of the gate, wasting a lot of time getting mired in whether Frankenstein technically qualifies as a gothic novel.  But after that, they're running on all cylinders, full of very detailed information about the history of the novel, various other adaptations and how this film conflicts and conforms with them.  Even if you're a serious Frankenstein aficionado, I think you'll learn a bunch.  And then there's the audio commentary, done by two other experts, who pretty much fill in every conceivable gap of information the first three might've missed.
Look how clear the detail is in this 112 year-old film frame!
And those crew interviews are pretty great.  The production designer, composer and effects artist all have lots of fun stories and memories.  And the inclusion of the 1910 Edison Studios production of Frankenstein is another great inclusion.  It helps that the aforementioned experts discussed this version, so you'll have to more to appreciate.  It's a wild, more supernatural version, with a cleverly graphic creation sequence.  It was restored in 2k by the Library of Congress, so it looks great, though the very beginning and final act suffer from a lot of print damage.  It, and all the other extras, are presented in 3840, just like the feature.  There's also two trailers, an image gallery, a full color 36-page booklet by Jon Towlson and Amy C. Chambers, a promo card and reversible artwork, though surprisingly no slipcover.
I took one of those online surveys Sony put out for future UHD titles (surely wasting the write-in opportunity on a long-shot: Friends With Money), and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was one of the possibilities they listed.  I sure would love to see that.  This is a nice blu, but an old blu, and I can imagine it looking stunning in HDR.  Plus, this is a film that calls out for a special edition.  At the very least, they could give us the trailer and the original stereo mix back.  Okay, my head's not big enough to try and take any credit for this release, but it sure feels like the folks at Arrow read what I'd written like a Christmas list and made it all come true.  Maybe I should give thanks to The Spirit Of the Forest.

Scream, Queen! Never Sleep Again... Part III?

Man, this one's been a long time coming.  Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street is the story of Mark Patton, star of 1985's A Nightmare On Elm St. 2: Freddy's Revenge, who left acting after the sequel developed a reputation for its not-so-subtle homosexual themes.  This documentary was announced on Kickstarter in 2015, with the finished film predicted for December 2016.  It had already been shot, and the additional funds were to go to "the last leg of our journey," licensing footage and clearing the rights.  Never the less, 12/16 turned out to be a tad optimistic.  But I'm not interested in griping about the wait, I'm just happy that March 2020 has arrived and we can finally see this thing!

Update 3/5/20 - 3/20/22: I did a lot of kvetching in this post about how we only got a barebones DVD.  Well, two years later, and we've gotten the special edition blu-ray that we should've had two years ago.
I was a little worried in the very beginning.  Scream, Queen starts out with kind of a lame opening explaining what horror and slasher films are, sort of like in the 80s, when before a news reporter could talk about something Public Enemy did, they had to start out by explaining, "rap is a type of poetic, rhythmical talking set to music."  And you're like, yeah yeah, all of us in the audience already know way more about this than you - get to the point!  And then it jumps right into that stupid documentary trend where they play pull-quotes from the rest of the upcoming film, as if the first ten minutes were the trailer.   So you get to hear an interesting line and say, "oh boy, an hour later I'll get to see that same clip of that guy saying that line, but I'll finally have the context to know who he is and what he's talking about!"  But once you get past the intro, and some occasionally clunky narration, this film takes off and never slows down again.
If I Am Nancy is Never Sleep Again Part II, then this is unquestionably Part III.  In this case, Never Sleep Again is the jumping off point.  Patton had taken himself well out of the public eye for decades, never doing Nightmare interviews or anything else in the media, until Never's filmmakers tracked him down for their doc.  In fact, we learn in Scream that they had to hire private investigators who found him living in Mexico.  And so that film talked a lot about the hidden and overt coding in Freddy's Revenge that made it read so gay.  Therefor, this film kind of breezes through that part, which is fine for all of us long-term fans who would've certainly seen it, but might leave new comer viewers who just stumble on this doc a little short-changed in that department.
I was prepared for this film to play a lot like I Am Nancy, in that we'd ostensibly follow the main theme, but most of it would be devoted to lighthearted convention footage of our star interacting with beaming fans and admiring their Freddy tattoos.  And that would be fine; I enjoyed I Am Nancy for what it was.  But there's only a small taste of that here.  Instead this film really digs first into Patton's biography, from his youth to his time in New York and Hollywood and to his time in hiding out of the country.  This man suffered a lot at the hands of the AIDS virus, and they don't shy away from it.  Then, the final and most exciting act isn't just Patton's decision to embrace his role as a minor icon, but his quest to confront the filmmakers - especially screenwriter David Chastin - for whom he bears a serious grudge.
And though at times it seems like the film might not quite get there, yes, we do finally see that confrontation.  Just about everyone from Nightmare 2 appears here, including the director and most of the cast, but some of them, like Clu Gulager, are a little too blink-and-you'll-miss-them.  I would've liked to hear a little more about the conception and filming (we learn that the leather bar scene was filmed in LA's most famous gay bar, and yet the director still claims he never saw anything queer in any of the proceedings) and a little less celebratory theme music extolling what a hero Patton is for telling his story.  But that always happens when the subject of a doc is allowed to be a producer on it (for example, see my review of Harmontown); and if the worst thing about a movie is that it leaves us wanting more, that's a pretty good movie.
So Virgil Films initially released this film as a barebones DVD in 2020, and it kinda felt like that might've been the whole story with this flick on home video.  This is an indie doc, after all, not a Disney Marvel movie.  But now in 2022, Vinegar Syndrome partner label ETR (short for "Enjoy the Ride") Media has come along with a proper special edition blu.
2020 US Virgil Films DVD; 2022 US ETR Media BD.

Both discs are presented in 1.78:1 and are presumably sourced from the same digital master.  But you can definitely see the boost in crispness and clarity in the new blu.  I'm so glad to be rid of the soft fuzziness that plagued the SD transfer (which, to be fair, is the nature of SD, not anything Virgil did wrong mastering the DVD).  Of course, as a doc, a lot of the source material's PQ varies, but when you look at the HD footage they shot for this movie, the HD difference really stands out.  Look at Englund's eyes, for example, above.  Flip between the screenshots, and it's like he's going in and out of focus.

The blu-ray has the same 5.1 remix as the DVD, but now it's in DTS-HD, and both discs offer optional English subtitles.  ETR has one additional nice touch: they've added a second subtitle track for the audio commentary.
Not that the DVD even had a commentary.  Virgil's DVD is completely barebones.  You'd think they could've at least slapped on a couple of the crowd funding videos and the trailer as an easy minimum, but nope.  There isn't even a menu.  Apparently, the filmmakers did record an audio commentary at the time, but they made it a digital Kickstarter exclusive.

ETR's blu-ray, though, comes equipped.  First of all, we get the commentary.  It's the two directors and Mark Patton, and it starts a little dry.  But eventually Mark opens up and the dialogue really gets interesting.  The second best feature is an expansion of the Freddy's Revenge reunion panel we saw clips of in the film.  It's about twelve minutes, and I wish it could've even been longer, but it's good stuff.  After that, though, it starts to feel like filler.  There's a short poem about Freddy's Revenge, read by Patton, a brief montage of behind-the-scenes footage, and an alternate opening.  There's an interview with one of the film studies profs from the doc, which is alright, but then there's also a longer Zoom-style online "panel discussion," which is honestly a chore.  Drink whenever they say, "I definitely agree with that!" to each other and you might just get through it.  There's also a music video, an eight-page booklet, an ad for the soundtrack, and yes, the trailer.  This release comes with reversible cover artwork and the first 1,500 copies come in a limited edition slipcover.
They sold it relatively cheap, so you couldn't be too mad at Virgil.  But I'm so glad to be replacing their DVD now.  ETR has really done it right.

Beware! Children At Play Like You've Never Seen Before

I know it's just March, but I think we may have found the biggest upgrade of the year.  Now, to earn that title really relies on two factors: first, of course, a beautiful transfer that exceeds expectations and all previous editions.  But then, if we're honest, a pretty terrible precursor.  Like, even if Warner Bros releases the world's most beautiful UHD of A Nightmare On Elm St. (and seriously, why haven't they already?), it still wouldn't be a contender, because the existing blu is still pretty respectable.  Not exactly cutting edge 4k, but still a good looking blu.  To elicit viewers to really exclaim, "wow, what a difference," you need the extra advantage of following up something awful.  But that's fair, because it means you're really filling a need.  Like, do we really need another edition of Carpenter's Halloween?  Sure, the mono track could use a good remastering, and maybe they could encode it slightly better.  But the options we already have are pretty strong.  That sure wasn't the case with Beware! Children At Play before Vinegar Syndrome stepped in.
As a long time owner of Troma's DVD, I never imagined this film could look this goodnd the movie looking this good has raised it overall in my estimation.  I believe I've mentioned before that children are my favorite movie monster, so this movie was always going to be in my collection no matter what.  A thoroughly nutty plot with Jersey kids going psycho in the woods?  Sold!  So what if it's a thoroughly no budget junker with terrible acting and no technical merits?  It's no Who Can Kill a Child? or The Children... or even The Children, playing more like MST3K fare than a proper film.  There's a reason this film resides in the house of Troma.  But it's chock full of over-the-top kills, aspirations to medieval poetry and possibly the most deliriously, bloody climax in cinema history, at least in concept.  I had to have it.
But while the performances and costumes (Farmer Braun's fake grey hair and beard were a heck of a choice) are still just waiting to be Rifftrax'd, seeing this film restored, I take back the "no technical merits."  This film was shot on 35mm, and holy crap, is there steadycam in this thing?  Seeing this film matted into its proper widescreen shows that this film wasn't just mindlessly composed to fit the action into the shot; actual care was taken.  It's certainly a flawed, very low budget film, but once you start to see the qualities, you start to realize even some of the unintentional yucks the film provided were actually intentional.  Well, sometimes at least.  And yeah, Troma bought this film and has been distributing it since day 1, but it's not a Troma original.  So isn't mired in that hopelessly juvenile, everything is a Second Grader's dirty joke nature.  It's a silly horror film, sure, and a major part of its charm is its total irreverence regarding its child characters, but this isn't a "Troma movie."
Troma first put this out pretty early, back in 1998, just two years after their VHS release.  Even their tape was a special Tromatic edition, with an introduction by Toxie and the Tromettes.  Their DVD dove even deeper into all that craziness with a ton of Troma clips (though not the Toxie intro), but just barely improved on the VHS; you could certainly be forgiven for believing the film was shot on video.  So Vinegar Syndrome's new 2022 Blu-ray is a total transformation, and a loaded special edition to boot.
1998 Troma DVD top; 2022 Vinegar Syndrome BD bottom.
I mean, just look at this.  Where to start?  The ugly red hue cast over the whole picture, that VS thankfully cleaned up?  The nasty interlacing, which again, really made the old transfer look like a video tape source?  Of course, that's gone now, too, revealing some really deep colors and fine, photo realistic detail.  It's like night and day.  There are still some wonky moments, including a wildly out of focus overhead shot; but that's down to the movie, not the home video transfer, which is scanned in 2k from the 35mm original camera negative.  About the only good thing you can say for the DVD is that it's at least open matte rather than pan & scanned or just cropped to 1.31:1.  Although even then, VS's matting doesn't just restore the proper 1.85:1 framing to reveal the intended compositions, it actually does reveal a little more picture that had been shaved off of both sides.

Naturally, both discs just offer the original English mono, but VS clears it of a lot of hisses and hum while upgrading it to DTS-HD.  They've also included optional English subtitles for the first time.
Now, like I said, Troma's DVD is packed with stuff... just not much about the actual movie.  There's "the first ever interactive Tour of Troma Studios," and a bunch of odds and ends.  It's sometimes a little hard to discern which clips are part of the tour or not, but basically it's a whole ton of tongue-in-cheek video clips.  See the staff throw their papers in the air in their offices, Ron Jeremy interview an actress, a model perform various strip teases, and of course plenty of Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman.  There are trailers and sometimes just random snippets from their films, like a 30 second clip from The Class Of Nuke 'Em High.  But they do have a tiny bit pertaining to what we're actually here for, specifically the trailer and a four minute interview with the director.
Beware! Troma at play
Well, for whatever reason, VS lost the trailer, but they did hang onto that interview.  It's really just for collector's, though, because they also conducted a brand new interview with the director which covers everything he said in the old clip plus a lot more.  And he provides an audio commentary, but oh boy, I'd skip it if I were you.  It's 95% dead air.  At one point, I timed over eight minutes between one single sentence and another.  And that's not me cherry picking the most egregious example; that's just the time I finally decided, "this is madness!" and that timing a break was the only thing that hold my attention long enough to stay in my seat for the excruciating experience.  Although, to be fair, I have to say that there were a two or three points where, when he did speak, he actually dropped an interesting anecdote or observation that you won't find in any of the other extras.  But you'll have to work your way through an awful lot of awkward silence.
But don't get dishearted.  There's also a terrific, nearly hour-long documentary, which interviews a bunch of the cast, the composer and the special effects guys.  They found several of the kids now grown up, and everybody has great memories to share.  It's funny, but it's not just them taking the piss.  If anything, you'll probably come out of it appreciating Beware even more.  This doc is a treasure, and combined with the new director interview, more than takes care of all our fanboy needs.

VS's blu also includes reversible artwork and a limited edition slipcover with the first 5,000 copies.
So there you go.  It's just early March, but I'll be surprised if we see a greater leap in quality between releases this year than we just have.  I'm sure we'll see better looking releases; there are some exciting 4k UHDs I'm looking forward to.  But none of them fill as big a need as this.  Heck, most of 'em are just UHDs of the same 4k restorations released on 1080p blu a couple years ago.  But this one, boy, I had no idea how much Beware! Children At Play was dying for a restoration before I saw it.  It's actually kind of a real movie.

House On the Edge Of the Park: Nailed It This Time

I usually avoid looking at the stats and metrics of my site.  Because once I see that one post has more hits than another, it's an easy slope to slip down, constantly chasing the hints of popularity, forgoing what I want to write about or what I think would be best, caught up in an internet-driven numbers game.  But I looked, and here's what I now believe think people would like to see most from me: a limited edition Code Red blu-ray sleazy Italian horror movie compared to a more broadly released American DVD version.  Happily, that's exactly what I was going to write about today anyway, so here's House On the Edge Of the Park😀

Update 11/6/16 - 12/22/21: I've stuck to my policy of not looking at the numbers, so hopefully what you'd most like to see today is an updated comparison with Severin's brand new special edition, because here it is!
Update 3/8/22: The replacement discs are here! Yes, after the issues with the black levels and crush as reported in the last update, Severin announced they'd be sending replacements to everyone who ordered one directly from their site.  So far, the film's only been available directly from their site, so that means everyone's getting it.  And all retail copies in future will include the replacement disc, so there shouldn't be any risk of winding up with the old disc in future.  Though, just in case you're worried, the photo above shows the difference (it has "V3" at the end of its code, and a purpler background color), so you can contact Severin in the unlikely event an old disc somehow find its way to you.

Anyway, mine just arrived today.  Is everything all better now?
House On the Edge is Italy's answer to Wes Craven's The Last House On the Left, even borrowing its notorious leading villain, David Hess.  I've been reading some debate recently, over which is the sleazier, least comfortable watch, and Craven's seemed to win out, but I definitely feel that dubious honor goes to Ruggero Deodato's flick.  I can see making a case for Last House.  For one, it came first, and it's the more famous, American film, so most horror fans probably saw it first.  And the first time you see something is always the most shocking.  Also, while Last has some unnatural elements, like the comic relief cops, the graphic scenes are very realistic.  Contrast that with the Italian glamour models sitting around in color-coordinated outfits, and it gives you a bit of an "out" in feeling staged and unrealistic.
Casey Scott's liner notes for Shriek Show's insert say this film
has "no flair present in cinematography," but I beg to differ.
But on the other hand, the root sadistically sexual violence feels just as genuine in both films, and in Last, those scenes really just happen in the second act, after which the film switches mode to a karmic revenge thriller, like its Virgin Spring inspiration.  But pretty much the entirety of Park just wallows in it.  It takes the typical Italian exploitation habit of finding the saleable element the original film had - in this case Hess abusing and terrorizing his victims with a knife - and making that the whole movie.  Also, everybody's despicable in this one; there are no decent characters to latch onto.  And its damned effective, if a bit ethereal and stagey at the same time.  Plus, it's got a great disco theme song and finishes up with a nice twist ending that I certainly didn't see coming, and won't spoil here.
We originally only had House On the Edge of the Park on non-anamorphic DVD courtesy of those trashy budget packs from companies like Brentwood and Diamond, but in 2002, Shriek Show rescued it from obscurity with a widescreen special edition.  There have been UK editions, too, from Vipco and the more respectable Shameless Screen Entertainment, but outside of Shriek Show, almost all of those were edited versions.  The uncut DVD went out of print and started getting scarce.  But in 2016, Code Red came to the rescue with an uncut, limited edition (1500 copies) special edition blu-ray.  But now in 2021, Severin reckons they can top it, with a new 4k restoration, dual language options and all new special features.  Let's see how they did.
1) 2002 Shriek Show DVD; 2) 2016 Code Red BD; 3) 2021 Severin BD.
Where to begin?  The Code Red blu is pretty grainy and seems to have some of that infamous Italian scanner noise to boot.  But it's still a far superior image to the old Shriek Show DVD.  The 1.85:1 framing is only marginally different, with slim slivers of differences all around the edges.  But the DVD is flatter, with more limited and less natural colors, some ugly interlacing (a regular issue with Shriek Show releases), and heavy edge enhancement (look at the cards on the table; it's like somebody traced them on the table with a thick sharpie).  Code Red seems to've at least done the best they could with the Italian scan, and it certainly has a very noticeable jump up in quality from the DVD, which itself was a strong improvement over the old grey market junk.  But fans have always been in the market for something better.

And, we kinda got it with their new scan, which is 4k from the original OCN according to the back cover.  No more scanner noise for a start.  I've seen some people suggest Code Red's disc is sharper, but that's all artificial noise not actual detail.  And the framing's still 1.85:1, but it's pulled out a bit to reveal more picture along the edges.  The color timing is also warmer, more in line with Shriek Show's.  But the grain's pretty light for a 4k scan, and the black levels are rather milky.  Not quite to Wax Mask degrees, but less than ideal.  The blacks are actually rather crushed.  Just compare it to the Code Red - for example, look at Hess's left arm in the second set of shots.  We see a lot more of it on the CR disc that gets lost into a sea of blackness on the Severin.  It's a bummer, resulting in a draw PQ-wise, or at best a very slim victory, which should've been an easy win for a fresh 4k scan of a troubled older edition.  Or, at least, that was the case...
2022 Severin replacement BD.
Now, when Severin announced their replacement, I was a little worried that they described "an export error which affected the color density of the feature."  Did this mean they would fix the milky black levels, but leave crush inherent in the scan?  That would still be an improvement, so I'd've been happy to get the replacement regardless; but it's the first thing I checked when my disc arrived.  And I'm relieved to report it fixes both.  The lost detail is restored (Hess's left arm is back!) and the blacks are genuinely black.  This is exactly what we hoped for from the replacement program.

They've also taken advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the disc and added the theatrical trailer as a bonus feature.  So that's fun.
But then Severin pulls ahead.  Neither previous disc has the Italian audio, just the English audio.  This is a case where the English is distinctly preferable, with Hess's real voice on the English track, as opposed to the poor dub on the Italian, but still, it's always nice to have both.  And now we do.  All three discs preserve the original English mono audio in clear 2.0 (in lossless DTS-HD on the blus), but only Severin also includes the original Italian mono (also in DTS-HD).  And it's the only one to provide English subtitles.
Shriek Show did cobble together a pretty nice selection of extras.  They got lengthy interviews with the two most important people, Hess and Deodato, who answer just about all the questions you'd have after seeing this crazy picture.  Plus there's another good interview with Giovanni Lombardo Radice and a feature with Hess's family (watch his son play guitar and his wife refuse to talk about her role in the film).  On top of that, they included the original trailer, a stills gallery, some bonus trailers and an insert.  Code Red doesn't add anything new, but ports all of the Shriek Show stuff over, except for the bonus trailers and the insert, so we can let go of our old DVDs.

But Severin came hard on this one.  They carry over the Hess interview (and include the bit with his wife as an easter egg), which they've given a more professional edit and the gallery - and now the trailer, too - but replaced the Deodato and Radice interviews with newer, HD ones.  Better still, they also conduct new interviews with the cinematographer and set designer.  And they provide an enthusiastic audio commentary by Bruce Holecheck & Art Ettinger.  They've met several of the key players in the making of this film, so they have some nice insight, in addition to some well researched backstory.  I've been listening to a couple Italian horror commentaries recently, where the "experts" are clearly just winging it, and go way off on long, self-indulgent tangents without telling us much of anything that fans wouldn't already know.  So this is a satisfying reminder of how much better these tracks can be.
...And that's just disc 1.  Disc two includes the surprisingly engaging 2019 feature length documentary Deodato Holocaust, which plays a lot like Baumbach's DePalma, except of course it's Deodato, and I'd say it's actually more fun.  Disc 2 also includes the trailer and almost 20 minutes of deleted scenes, some of which are as entertaining and worth watching as the material they left in.  And as Severin has been doing with a lot of their Italian titles, they've included the soundtrack CD.  At first I was thinking I don't know if I care too much about the soundtrack to this one; it's not like a beloved Goblin score or anything.  But when it arrived I realized, of course, this means we finally get the complete "Do It To Me" disco theme - we absolutely need this!  Severin's release also comes in an embossed slipcover with reversible cover art and an insert featuring the CD track-listing.
So Severin's new blu is undeniably the way to go with this film, but problems with the transfer hold it back it from being the distinct triumph it should've been.  Let's face it, we'll all be replacing this edition again a few more years down the line.  Not anymore!  Well, barring a UHD release some day in the future...  But now that Severin's disc has been corrected, it's the definitive blu-ray version we were all expecting.  Best picture, best audio and subtitle options, best extras, including a whole second feature.  I already recommended this, but I'm now very glad to retract any reservations.  Well, barring the sleazy, degenerate nature of the film itself...  But I assume if you've read this far, you know what you're in for.