The One and Only True Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Well, gee, somehow I've done all the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre films, even "Part 5," but not the original original.  Some of those other films are cool (The Beginning, 3D and 2017's Leatherface?  Not so much), but Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel's 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a legit horror classic; a great film that holds up perfectly to this day.  So we're going to correct this egregious oversight.  From Pioneer's non-anamorphic DVD to Turbine's UHD, this is THE Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Update 2/28/20 - 5/31/23: This kind of reminds me of when Blue Underground said there was no point in releasing Shock Waves on blu because it was 16mm, so it wouldn't benefit from being upgraded to HD.  Of course, years later, their eventual blu wound up looking observably better than the DVD.  After Turbine's TCM UHD sans-HDR, fan demand has lead to new 4k Ultra HD discs with it.  Do they similarly disprove the notion that this low budget 16mm wouldn't benefit from it?  Let's take a look!
Every time I rewatch this one, I'm surprised how strong every element of this film is.  The performances, the production design, the music, the writing, the editing and direction are all so damn good.  This isn't just effective because it got in early and managed to shock audiences before they were desensitized; this is an excellently crafted films made by virtual amateurs that all the major studios consistently fail to match, decade after decade.  A genuine masterpiece.
Chain Saw is, I suppose, the next step after Psycho: a disturbing film that takes loose, tabloid-esque inspiration from true crime horror and turns it into twisted psychological theater.  Both films capture mental illnesses in a more raw, realistic film than any of their peers and mix it up with an over-the-top exploitative thrill ride.  And both famously pushed the envelope of what was acceptable to put on screen; the difference is that decades later, Hitchcock's shock pieces now feel quaint, whereas most horror even today is afraid to go as far as Hooper went.  But they wind up closer together than further apart, since both are more than capable of standing up as compelling art pieces once you get past their initial shock value.  They're great twisted tales.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre debuted on DVD back in 1998, with a barebones, non-anamorphic DVD from Pioneer.  They re-released it in 2003 with new artwork, but it was the same disc, which is the first one we'll be looking at here.  Then Dark Sky got the rights, remastered the film and proper, 2-disc special edition in 2006.  We've got that one, too.  They put that same transfer on blu in 2008, but they replaced that with an even more loaded 40th Anniversary edition blu with a 4k remaster in 2014, which we've also got on hand.  And in the US, that's still the definitive edition.  They've re-issued it multiple times, in limited steelbooks, Best Buy and FYE exclusives, and even a special 5-disc set that comes in a box shaped like the truck from the film's finale, but it's all basically that same 40th edition.  In Germany, however, Turbine took it one step farther, giving us the 4k master in actual 4k with a BD/ UHD combo-pack in 2016.  That 3-disc set was later repackaged as a steelbook release in 2019, which we'll be looking at here.  And most recently, it's been remastered, again in 4k, but this time with HDR.  It was released in the US by Dark Sky, Germany by Turbine (yes, again) and the UK be Second Light, the last of which I've got for us today.
1) 2003 Pioneer DVD; 2) 2006 Dark Sky DVD; 3) 2014 Dark Sky BD;
4) 2019 Turbine BD; 5) 2019 Turbine UHD; 6) 2023 Second Sight UHD.

Pioneer's DVD insert describes their initial release as a "letterboxed high-definition SuperScan... painstakingly restored from the original 16mm ECO negatives."  Unfortunately, compressed into non-anamorphic 520x300 resolution, it's hard to appreciate that.  It's soft and riddled with compression noise, which is only worsened by the fact that it's interlaced.  It's also missing some picture along the left, because they've framed it at an unusual 1.72:1, which Dark Sky restores to 1.78:1.  They also make an interesting point about the film's colors and levels saying that the look they're presenting was "redesigned to reflect Hooper's original vision of higher contrast images and color. The hot sun now casts an amber hue upon the dry Texas landscape."  So, looking at the different color timings above, this makes me guess that the Dark Sky DVD might be the most authentic scan of the elements, but the warmer tones and yellower skies of the other editions might be Hooper's preference?

At any rate, this film was shot on 16mm, which means detail is inherently low, and so there's some question how useful higher-def presentations are.  Well, one look at the DVD makes it obvious that the original DVD isn't high enough.  But the gains going from the Dark Sky DVD to the BDs and eventually to the UHD are more subtle.  Every iteration after the first has more detail and life to the image.  But even looking at the Dark Sky DVD, it's clearly softer, with the film grain just semi-visible as smoothed over blotches.  Despite being just 16, the new 4k scan really is a beautiful upgrade.  If you're still holding onto a DVD thinking this film doesn't need an upgrade, think again.  But how about the UHD?  It has no HDR and uses the same 4k master, so the only real distinction is in the still higher resolution disc.  And there the difference really is hard to spot on first glance.
2014 Dark Sky BD left; 2019 Turbine UHD right.
It is there, though.   Well, first of all, they also matte their UHD (but not their blu-ray) to a slightly tighter 1.85:1.  But moving beyond that, if you get in real close, you can see areas on the blus where individual specks of grain are unresolved, and we get tiny macroblocks.  Even the UHD does if you really scour, but much less and more grain is more clearly defined.  But are you ever going to see this in motion?  I'm going to say probably not, especially if you don't have a huge TV.  But you might get a less direct sense of watching something more authentically filmic.  To put it in real terms, yes, the UHD is the best edition and objectively superior to the blu.  But if you've got a blu, I'd say it's a very slim upgrade, and just in terms of PQ, should be a low priority upgrade.

And the new Dolby Vision/ HDR10 version?  Well, first of all, the Second Sight shots will, like any HDR shot, look darker on an SD display.  But viewed on a proper HD screen, I'd say the colors look a little more saturated, particularly in the reds, but not much.  It's still 1.85:1 with virtually identical framing (it shifts about one pixel's worth to the right).  Grain is slightly better captured now, especially in areas like the sky of the first set of shots, or the orange reflector, where it's washed out on the Turbine.  This gives it a slightly sharper look.  And actually, some film damage has been cleaned up (note the spot on the van door, for example, above the front handle, that's present on the Turbine but not the SS in the second set of shots).  Most viewers probably won't notice the difference outside of a direct comparison like this, so I'm not sure if the distinction is important, but it is there.  For the record, Second Sight has the best transfer.
As far as audio, the original DVDs used the original audio elements "to create a digitally remastered stereo surround soundtrack."  They had no subtitle options.  Dark Sky, then and went and recovered the original mono track... but, it turned out, with a few sound effects missing.  They also included the newer stereo mix as well as their own 5.1 mix.  And yes, they created optional English and Spanish subtitles.  For their 40th blu, then, they kept all three sound mixes and also made a newer 7.1 mix, in lossless DTS-HD and LPCM, and kept the subtitles.  Because the mono track was flawed, though, they replaced it with a downmix of their 7.1 track, which made things less authentic, not more.  In the Turbine set, we get mono, stereo and 7.1 in DTS-HD, plus newer Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D 13.1 mixes.  It's a bit of overkill, but as you'll soon see, that's the name of the game with that set.  They also have four versions of the German track, plus optional English and German subs.  And finally, Second Sight has the original mono in LPCM, a Dolby Atmos mix and English subtitles.
The extras for this film just keep getting to the point of being overwhelming, but happily, not too redundant. The original DVDs basically bring us the extras package from the Elite laserdisc: a great audio commentary by Hooper, Gunnar Hansen and cinematographer Daniel Pearl, a brief featurette on the sets and props, deleted/ alternate scenes, a brief gag reel, and a bunch of trailers, TV spots and stills galleries.  Then Dark Sky kept all of that but added a bunch more including a second audio commentary by stars Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danziger and infamous production designer Robert A. Burns, which is more of a light-hearted chatty affair.  They also include a brief featurette where Hansen revisits the house they filmed in and two feature length documentaries.  The first, The Shocking Truth, made by Blue Underground, is still the definitive, over-all TCM doc.  Then the second, Flesh Wounds, made by Red Shirt's Michael Felsher, seems deliberately designed to compliment the other pre-existing special features, and present only new, additional info about TCM rather than retelling all the stories and anecdotes from the other docs and commentaries.  That helps a lot.  Dark Sky's DVD set also includes additional outtakes from The Shocking Truth, some additional bonus trailers, and came in a cool steelbook.

For their 40th Anniversary blu-ray, Dark Sky kept everything and also cooked up a few more nice treats.  There're two additional audio commentaries, including a new Hooper one, where the director of Shocking Truth quizzes him for for the few remaining niggling answers he's been left wondering over the years, and an interesting crew commentary by Pearl, editor J. Larry Carroll and sound recordist Ted Nicolaou.  During their new 4k scan, they uncovered some more deleted scenes and outtakes, different from the ones already released on the DVDs, though most are without sound.  And they conducted new, on-camera interviews with actress Teri McMinn, who up 'till now had never participated in TCM interviews and such, "grandpa" actor John Dugan, J. Carroll and production manager Ron Bozman.  Felsher did these as well, and they again seemed specifically designed to fill in the gaps of the existing Chain Saw coverage, which I really appreciate.  Plus they add some vintage radio spots.  Also, if you bought the limited edition "Black Maria" version, the one in truck packaging, you got an additional bonus disc that consists of an hour long discussion between Hooper and William Friedkin.
Teri McMinn happily rejoins the family.
And Turbine?  Happily, they also retain all the legacy extras we've covered so far, except for that exclusive Hooper/ Friedkin talk.  And they add some more, too.  There's an isolated music and effects track, in DTS-HD 7.1, and a brief featurette that compares key scenes from the original film to the 2003 remake, which is more valuable if you don't already own the remake.  Even better, they include the Horror's Hallowed Grounds TCM episode, which blows the old house tour featurette away (although that's still on here, too).  And best of all, they include the original TCM documentary: 1988's Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A Family Portrait, which specifically interviews all the cast members who played members of the killer family.  And is most valuable because that includes Jim Siedow, who passed away before he could be included in most of the other TCM special features.

Now, I read on DVDCompare that on the Turbine release, "'A Family Portrait' is in a mix of German and English audio, with German subtitles for the English portions," which is correct, so I hung onto my 2000 MTI Home Video DVD.  But, while that quote did turn out to be true, it's misleading by omission since Turbine also includes a second audio track of the complete, original English audio.  That German/ English mix thing is just a second, alternate language option for German audiences we English natives don't need to bother with.  Oh and yes, both are the extended "Revisited" version.  I don't think there's any way to get the original version, which was originally actually ten minutes longer and included an interview with Chief Gorehound #1 Chas Balun, outside of the original VHS release.  So yeah, there's no reason to hang onto the separate DVD, unless... the picture quality's any better on the blu?
1) 2000 MTI DVD; 2) 2019 Turbine BD.
Nope, it's just the same.  The film was shot on video tape, so there's no real room to grow.  MTI released this as a standalone on blu (or BD-R, strictly speaking) in 2016 and caught a lot of flack for the PQ, but it's not like there was a negative to go back to or anything.  Anyway, the discs aren't 100% identical.  They're both fullscreen, of course, but the DVD is 1.32:1 while the blu is slightly wider at 1.36:1.  That's partially because Turbine cropped the bar of random video noise along the bottom edge, and but it's also a teensy bit squished, which the blu corrects.  Both versions are interlaced and soft to the point of downright blurriness, which again I'm sure goes right back to the original tapes, but the colors are slightly, like 1%, more robust and attractive.  So not only is the quality of the stand-alone not any preferable, it's actually a smidgen better on Turbine's release.  And there are no extras apart from a couple trailers; so go ahead and chuck those DVDs, kids.

When you look at the massive list of extras that've piled up over the decades, it can look overwhelming and you'll probably be tempted to skim through a lot, if not skip things completely.  But it's all surprisingly watchable as a massive whole.  Sure, you'll hear a few of the most famous anecdotes two or three times.  But in general, it all works well together.  The only little one I'd recommend maybe jumping over is the house tour, since the Hallowed Grounds and two documentaries also revisit the same house.  Some talk to different people - Flesh Wounds talks to the head of the TCM fan club and Hallowed Grounds talks to one of the owners who's embraced the fanbase coming to visit the home - so they all feel fresh and original.  But one of the docs even uses footage from the Gunnar house tour featurette, so that's really the one you can save yourself a few minutes by passing over.

And Second Sight's new set?  It's equally stacked.  Almost everything that's on the Turbine is carried over, but not absolutely everything.  Lost, unfortunately, is Family Portrait, the newer set of silent deleted scenes, the brief blooper/ outtake reel and that little comparison video between this and the remake.  And no, this doesn't have that Friedkin/ Henkel interview either - that seems to be a tightly held Dark Sky exclusive.  But Second Sight has come up with a bunch of new stuff, actually making this release flusher than ever.
First of all, there's a new audio commentary by experts Amanda Reyes and Bill Ackerman, who do a pretty good job of finding eclectic information to add that hasn't already been covered by the slew of pre-existing extras.  They're pretty high energy and fun to listen to, too.  Then there's an all new, feature-length documentary called The Legacy Of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  This one focuses on critics and other filmmakers rather than participants of the original film, again I believe it's because they were conscious of not just repeating what the other extras already cover... and they do an okay job.  A lot of this is just sharing uninteresting "I was _ years old when I saw Chain Saw"-style memories and obvious opinions, but they got some interesting people, including the co-directors of the 2013 remake.  It's borderline: an easy one to skip if you've already watched a ton of TCM features, but perfectly watchable if you've still got the patience.

There's also a new video essay by critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, which is honestly kind of weak.  Apparently she's written a book about masks in horror films, so she's hear to talk about masks in TCM; but it's just a few minutes long, so it feels like she's just briefly outlining the basic fundamentals before it's already over.  They should've given her more time to really dig into some of the more interesting ideas that are presumably found in her book or just skipped it.  More rewarding are two vintage on-camera interviews with Hooper and Henkel, which are extended pieces from their interviews in Shocking Truth.  More Henkel is always a boon.

If you sprung for their limited edition, you also got a hefty 190-page hardcover book, six art cards and a slipcase, plus blu-ray copies of the film and extras.  Or you can just get the single UHD edition, which includes all of the on-disc extras, but none of the swag.
So, does this crazy, old 16mm film need a 4k Ultra HD edition with HDR?  Well, there's no doubt Second Sight's latest transfer is the best yet.  But even coupled with the new special features, fans might question if it's reason enough to re-buy this film once again.  I mean, definitely if you still have the old Pioneer DVD or something.  But otherwise, it depends if you're just one of those people who needs to have the absolute best version of this film in heir collection.  It turns out I was.  Of course, it helps that it's a masterpiece.

Walt's Monster Club

Sadly, news has come that Walter Olsen, head of Scorpion Releasing and brother of Code Red's Bill Olsen, has passed away, just a few months since we lost Bill.  So today I thought we could go back and look at a great Scorpion blu that would make a fine addition to anybody's collection: 1981's Monster Club.

In the clear tradition of the beloved Amicus anthologies comes one that is technically not by Amicus, but otherwise the clear next step in their sequence.  It's directed by Roy Ward Baker (Asylum, Quatermass & the Pit) and stars horror icons Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasence, Britt Ekland and Patrick Magee, and admittedly, it's in the running for worst of the lot, but not by a wide margin.  The wrap-around is sillier than the others - Price is a vampire who attacks Carradine, playing a famous horror author, who Price turns out to be a fan of.  So instead of finishing him off, he invites Carradine to the "Monster Club," where monsters gather, boogie down to rock songs like "Monsters Rule O.K." and drink blood.  Price tells him "real" monster stories, which comprise the meat of the anthology.  This wrap-around is pure tongue-in-cheek camp, the likes of which these anthologies have never sunk to, exemplified by this famous speech of Price's:
"You see, first we have the primary monsters: vampires, werewolves and ghouls.  Now, a vampire and a werewolf would produce a werevamp, but a werewolf and a ghoul would produce a weregoo.  But a vampire and a ghoul would produce a vamgoo.  A weregoo and a werevamp would produce a shaddy.  Now a weregoo and a vamgoo would produce a maddy.  But a werevamp and a vamgoo would produce a raddy.  Now, if a shaddy were to mate with a raddy or a maddy, the results would be a mock.  (A mock?)  Frankly, that's just a polite name for a mongrel.  You know it's quite simple really.  All you have to do is remember the basic rules of monsterdom: vampires suck, werewolves hunt, the ghouls tear, shaddies lick, maddies yawn, mocks blow but shadmocks only whistle.  (Shadmocks?)  If a mock were to mate with any of the other hybrids, their off-springs would be called shadmocks.  (And they only whistle?)  Well, they don't do it very often.  (Some do.  Terrifying?)  Oh, but you should see the results of a shadmock's whistling.  Shadmocks are the lowest in the monster hierarchy, yet they have this power.  (What happens when a shadmock whistles?)  I heard of a man once who saw the results of a shadmock's whistle.  That's all he saw, and yet..."
But the stories within are played relatively straight and in perfect keeping with the past.  The production values are impressive, with a lush score (the first story subtly invokes Gabriel Fauré's Pavane, and even the interstitial pop songs are well produced and catchy), colorful lighting and beautiful locations.  Baker certainly knows how to shoot a horror story.  There's certainly still some comedy, especially in Pleasence's middle segment, but not like the overt goofiness of the wrap-around, which feels inspired by Adam West's Batman more than anything from the house of Hammer.  And yes, they do reveal the ghastly results of a shadmock's whistling.

Monster Club had previously only been available as a non-anamorphic widescreen DVD from Pathfinder.  But in 2013, Scorpion issued a brand new, HD transfer on blu with a fun collection of new special features.  Network released it in the UK a year later, using the same master, but without any of Scorpion's extras.
2013 US Scorpion BD.
Scorpion presents Monster Club in 1.78:1, a nod I assume to its British theatrical origins.  They don't share any information about the transfer, but we know it's from "original film elements" and looks surprisingly bright and clean.  Film grain is light and sporadic when it isn't missing entirely, this isn't a modern 2 or 4k scan.  But it's a very clean and satisfying picture with solid blacks and clean lines.  The original mono track is presented in lossless DTS-HD, along with an isolated music and effects track, also in DTS-HD.  Disappointingly, there are no subtitle options.
Extras start off with a typically silly Katrina wrap-around, which I suppose is fitting for this film on paper, but still doesn't really mesh with the film's atmosphere.  She also conducts an interview with Price expert David Del Valle, who's refreshingly enthusiastic about this film.  Then he shares with us two vintage Price interviews he's conducted, a video one that's over an hour, and an audio-only one that's over 40 more minutes.  They cover Price's career overall, rather than Monster Club specifically; but most fans should appreciate these.  Also included is the original theatrical trailer, a couple bonus trailers and liner notes by George Reis.
The whole thing's just a good time.  They even get Price and Carradine to dance at the end.  And there's still no better release than Scorpion's.  R.I.P. Walt.

Must-Have Mahler

It's been a while since we've tackled a Ken Russell film here at DVDExotica, and I've been sitting on a doozy.  Mahler is from 1974, and yes it's another one of his surprisingly vast number of films about famous composers.  And hey, I love all of Russell's eras, but the 70's is really the peak, where he's got the budgets and the creative freedom to fully live up to his imagination.  Mahler is definitely taking full advantage.  And while there's only been one old, cruddy DVD released in the United States, there have been far superior, underappreciated editions overseas... just the sort of thing this site was born to tell you all about.
Mahler is one of the later composer biopics, so it's not quite as out there as Lisztomania or Dance Of the Seven Veils, but it's sure not one of his staid BBC documentaries.  I mean, you do see that sexy SS officer nailed to a burning cross on the DVD cover up there, don't you?  This film comes out swinging, with a small cottage by the sea bursting into flames.  It's the beginning of one of Russell's brief, impressionistic interpretations of Gustav Mahler's life and music.  Then it settles into more of a traditional biopic, framed by a deathly ill Robert Powell (Harlequin, Tommy) on a train to Vienna, where he encounters people from his life who trigger a series of flashbacks.  Cinematically, the device might read as a bit trite, but it really doesn't matter here, with Russell and Powell using it collaborate on a fascinating characterization, uniquely exploring the man's life and work even when it isn't producing more of Russell's signature prototypical music videos set to Mahler's greatest compositions.
Mahler originally came out as a barren, full-screen DVD from Image back in 1998.  Fremantle released a similar UK edition in 2005; but eventually word got around that the smart move was to import a later reissue from Odeon Entertainment, which had the anamorphic widescreen version.  But that's old news now.  We're in the HD era, and Paramount themselves have come out with a proper blu-ray edition, but only in Japan.  It's been available since 2012, actually the same year the Odeon came out, and there's been no sign of a Western release, so we have to import.  Luckily, it's completely English friendly.
2012 Odeon DVD top; 2012 Paramount BD bottom.
Coming out, as they did, in the same year, one might expect the Odeon and Paramount discs to have the same master, one just given a higher resolution disc.  But no, these aren't even in the same aspect ratio.  The DVD is 1.77:1 and as I said, anamorphic.  It's also non-interlaced and a rather satisfying DVD for its time.  But it's still a very scrunchy image, which is to say ruffled all over by messy compression artifacts and aching for a clearer HD image.  And we get it.  Now framed at 1.66:1, revealing substantially more picture around all four images, Paramount's version is infinitely cleaner, with finer lines and far more lifelike detail and colors.  Admittedly, grain is a little light and inconsistent - this is a 2012 BD, after all, not a modern 4k job - but wow, it's a whole different world compared to the DVD.  Print damage (like the black spot over the boy's cap in the first set of shots) has been cleaned up on the blu, too.  Clearly a full-on remaster was done, which Odeon was not let in on.
Both discs offer the original stereo track, but it's in lossless LPCM on the blu.  Neither offer any subtitles, unfortunately, though the blu does throw in an equally lossless Japanese dub for its native buyers.  There are no special features on these or any releases of Mahler except the fullscreen trailer, which is included on both the discs we're looking at today.  Everyone really ought to be region free, but this is region A anyway, and it belongs in more people's collections.

All the Children Of the Corn You'll Ever Need

Children Of the Corn is the killer kids movie.  It's not the first, or the best, but somehow it's the definitive one.  Anyway, it has its moments.  And it's still better than the eleven(!) other Children Of the Corn movies.  I mean, you should see Part 3 once just for its epic climax, but otherwise, this is the only one worth bothering with.  Strangely, it still kinda holds up.  You can't really be a fan of this twisted subgenre and not have it in your collection.  And I certainly couldn't not have it on this site.
In my case, it helps that I grew up a Thirtysomething devotee, so Peter Horton always helps sell me on this.  But even if you didn't roll hard for The Michael and Elliot Company, the cast is elevating this movie to places it normally couldn't reach.  A pre-fame Linda Hamilton does an above average turn, but it's the "kids" (in quotes, because one actor was actually in his 20s) who play Isaac and Malachai who really carry this film.  Otherwise, it's shot and scored like a TV movie, the effects are mixed and as good as the aforementioned kids are, most of the other child actors are entirely unconvincing.  But the premise of a ghost town populated only by its children who murdered all the adults is powerful (even if another movie beat them to the punch).  All the "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" mythos undercuts what works about this film more than enhances it, but the corn husk imagery is at least a little interesting and gives the movie a valuable sense of personality.
I suppose it's worth mentioning that there's possibly a longer director's cut out there.  It's described on the film's imdb page, and people have posted on forums (so take that for what it's worth) claiming to have seen it on television.  Check out the lengthy discussion in the comments of this blog post, for example.  Apparently, the prologue is more elaborate, with additional characters and kills, and a few additional moments.  But it seems to be seriously lost, if it ever existed at all.  I remember 88 Films delaying their release to search for it, and ultimately coming up empty-handed.  I'd certainly love to see it restored if possible, and I wonder if it would actually make for a superior film; but I don't hold out a lot of hope anymore.
Children Of the Corn has had an extensive history on disc, starting out with an Anchor Bay 2001 DVD, followed by a 2004 Divimax edition, which also turned it into a special edition adding a bunch of extras.  Then, in the HD era, AB released it as a 25th Anniversary Edition blu-ray, which is the first one we've got here.  Then the rights shifted to Image, who released it on DVD and BD in 2011.  88 Films released it in the UK in 2016, but it was quickly overshadowed by Arrow's 4k restoration in 2017, which was released in both the US and UK markets.  But, of course, it was only a matter of time until that BD was reissued on UHD, and that's what happened in 2021 in the US, and 2022 in the UK.
1) 2009 AB BD; 2) 2011 Image DVD; 3) 2017 Arrow BD; 4) 2021 Arrow UHD.
For starters, all of these are 1.85:1, except the Image, which is 1.78:1.  You can see the Image is essentially the same framing as the Anchor Bay just with the slim vertical mattes removed.  But then Arrow doesn't just restore mattes; they keep the extra vertical information from the Image disc and instead restore the 1.85 AR by revealing more on the sides.  The colors and general look of the picture is rather consistent across all releases - I think they're all from the original 35mm negative (Arrow's definitely is; their booklet tells us so).  But the grain is soft even on Anchor Bay's blu.  Arrow really captures it well for the first time on blu with their fresh scan, which smartens up detail as well.  The backwards "B" is distinct for the first time on the Arrow discs in that second set of shots.

The UHD is barely even an upgrade in that regard, because their BD encodes it all so well.  But the UHD, graded as it is in HDR/ Dolby Vision, is more vibrant.  The older releases look a bit washed, which Arrow's blu emboldens nicely, while still separating them.  Notice their naturally bluer sky.  And then the UHD pushes the colors even further.  The mechanic's yellow hat, and even the red on his color, are deeper and richer.  This is definitely a case where the UHD's upgrade is in the HDR.  You really have to zoom into the shots to appreciate the boost in resolution (though if you're looking for that, check out the car door handle and gas cap at five or six hundred percent to really appreciate it).

And here's another reason to upgrade to the Arrow: Anchor Bay and Image both just have a 5.1 remix track (despite earlier AB DVDs having the original track, too), but Arrow has both the original mono and the 5.1 remix in LPCM and DTS-HD, respectively.  Image also doesn't have any subtitle options, though the other three all have proper English ones (AB also has Spanish).
Straight outta Gatlin
Anchor Bay already had some solid extras in their pocket by the time they of their 25th Anniversary edition, starting with a really strong audio commentary by the director, producer Terrence Kirby, and the actors who play Isaac and Malachai.  This diverse quartet have a lot of memories, good information and keep the discussion lively.  There's a good 30+ minute featurette that sits the commentary gang in front of the camera, and yeah, they repeat some stuff, but it's still worth the watch.  They also had the trailer and some galleries.  ...And when AB came up with their blu, they kept all that and added some more.  They also added three great new interview featurettes, one with Linda Hamilton, one with the composer and production designer and one with producer Donald Borchers.

Image, meanwhile, has nothing but the trailer.
Disciples Of the Crow
Arrow happily went in the complete opposite direction.  They carry over everything from Anchor Bay, old and new.  And they came up with a bunch of new stuff.  There's a second, expert audio commentary, which is okay.  They do have some new pieces of good info sprinkled throughout the track.  Of even more value, though, they have new interviews with the screenwriter, the actors who played the two good kids, the actor who played "the blue man" and a visit to the original filming locations.  And I was very happy to see they threw in the original adaptation of King's short story, Disciple Of the Crow, a short film from 1983 that was originally released on VHS as part of The Nightshift Collection.  It's presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p and does not appear to have been restored in 4k like the feature, but it looks a lot better than a VHS rip.  It's a lot lower budget, cruder and under 20 minutes long, but it's creepy enough and I daresay better than some of the later CotC sequels.
The UHD doesn't have anything the BD 2017 release didn't have, but it keeps everything.  And both releases come with a full-color 28-page collectors' booklet, in a slipcover with reversible artwork.  For whatever mysterious reason, you definitely can't seem to keep this series of films down, but it seems like this will be the final, definitive chapter on this film for a good long time.