Absurd: Anthropophagous Part 2

Exotic BD collectors surely remember when 88 Films ran an Indiegogo campaign in 2015 and netted almost $17,000 to restore two "classic" Italian horror films: Zombie Holocaust and Burial Ground.  Well, this time they've gone even bigger, collecting roughly $105,000 to restore four more dubiously "classic" Italian horror greats: Aenigma, Massacre In Dinosaur Valley, Beyond the Darkness and today's entry, Absurd, the aptly titled sequel to Joe D'Amato's Anthropophagous.  Oh, and there will also be a fresh restoration of that film this summer.  Well, I contributed to that campaign, too, and I've been enjoying the harvest.

Update 1/30/17 - 8/22/19: If we're doing Anthropophagous, it only makes sense to throw Absurd into Update Week, too.  You might be starting to detect a pattern here: 88 Films restores an Italian horror classic for the UK market, and then a year or so later, Severin releases it in the US.  But it's not just a case of more or less identical discs just being demarcated Region A or B; they're always quite different from each other.

Update 7/20/24: 2k is out, 4k is in with 88 Film's new 4k Ultra HD release of Absurd, released in conjunction with Anthropophagous, which we've also updated.
George Eastman is back as Nikos (or is it Mikos?), the crazed Greek killer, here to spread a little nihilistic madness amongst some unwitting victims.  Eastman is also back as scriptwriter, and D'Amato back behind the lens of this off-beat giallo/ slasher hybrid.  This time Nikos has made his way to what the filmmakers would have us believe is America, being pursued by a Dr. Loomis-like priest, who knows the secret to killing the madman.  Yeah, this film makes the leap franchises like Friday the 13th and Halloween would make years later: the killer most be some kind of superhuman monster (hence the alternate title Monster Hunter) to keep coming back in sequel after sequel despite having been killed at the end of the last one.  In our case, he basically has Wolverine-style healing powers and can only be truly killed by destroying his brain.  I guess it's thanks to those powers that he doesn't have the burned, balding look from the first movie; but he does arrive on the scene in a great homage to the finale of the previous film.
So it's a bit of a step down to lose the exotic Greek locations of the original film, and this film is definitely taking a lot from Halloween, from babysitters in peril, the sheriff searching small town streets, to kids referring to Nikos as the boogeyman.  But there are worse films to crib from, and bringing Nikos to America works in a fun, logic-free way.  And Absurd has a lot of things going for it, including some great kills, another bizarre-o little kid dubbed by a grown woman, some notable performances by Annie Belle, who's just beginning to regrow her hair back after House On the Edge Of the Park, and Edmund Purdom.  Oh, which reminds me: listen to a cameo from Pieces' infamous big band music in this film as well!  When I first saw this film, it was on a friend's bootleg DVD, which was a very murky VHS rip.  All I remembered were a few good kills and so much talk about football (to sell us on the fact that they're in America), that the Rams vs the Steelers began to feel like a legit subplot.  I was amused, but it really felt like some bottom of the barrel, shot on video effort, like the Violent Shit films (all the more fitting, then, who would go on to make Anthropophagous 2000).  But now that I've seen it restored, it looks and feels much more like a real movie.
NOT a shot from 88's new blu; don't worry folks!  I found this transfer online
that looks just the way I remember my first viewing experience.

88 Films brings us the HD debut of Absurd, though to be fair, there was a bit of mid-ground between that ugly bootleg I saw and now.  There have been a couple low-quality foreign releases over the years, and finally an official DVD from MYA Communication in 2009.  Even that was non-anamorphic and had to composite in elements from a VHS print to present a fully uncut version of the film.  In 2017, we have a brand new 2k scan of the original film elements, 100% uncut with no compositing.  And we're given two versions: the English and Italian.  And no, that's not just a question of alternate audio, they're two different cuts of the film.  So let me break that down.
A scene only in the English Version.
So to start with the obvious, yes, the English Version has the English dub and the Italian Version has the Italian dub with optional English subtitles.  The two versions also have alternate credits sequences written in their native languages (though both use the fake, Americanized names).  But besides that, the English version is several minutes longer.  And that's not due to credits playing at different speeds or anything dull like that.  It's a longer version of the film with whole scenes only included in that cut.  And it should be noted that the English version has all the exclusive extra scenes; there's nothing in the Italian version that you don't see in the English.  So what's unique to the English Version?

6:40 There's more to the beginning of the scene with the biker punks harassing the drunk.

8:08 Only the English version returns to the operation on Eastman.

11:05 There's a whole scene with the cop visiting the mother and boy after Eastman broke in.

23:20 We have a couple more shots of Eastman running through the streets at night.

45:40 There's an extra scene of the parents' football party.

1:25:30 Katya Berger is chased down a couple extra hallways.

In 88's 2017 audio commentary, they must be watching the Italian Version, as they mention some missing footage but assure us we're not missing any gore.  But the situation's even better than that thanks to the inclusion of the longer, English Version.  Even the footage they specifically cite from the movie-censorship page is in that cut.

Then, of course, we got another contender: 2018's US blu-ray from Severin.  It also has both versions of the film taken from a 2k scan from the original negative.  But now both 2k blus are being pushed out by a 4k UHD from 88 Films 2024 combo-pack, which also includes a 1080p BD of their new transfer.
1) 88 2017 BD; 2) Severin 2018 BD; 3) 88 2024 BD; 4) 88 2024 UHD.




So the two blus seem to have used exactly the same scan and final transfer for both versions, but just to be thorough, I threw in comparisons of the English and Italian cuts.  The framing is slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1 and grain looks very natural.  The color-timing looks great, too, but of course you can see the colors are different, even between the 2017 and 2018 discs.  For one thing, it looks like they've added blue filters to the exterior night scenes, or at least leaned much more heavily into the blues to give them an authentic moonlit look.  But, of course, the bulk of the film is indoors, and even there they differ.  88 generally has paler colors, which Severin deepens.  They also definitely go for blacker blacks, where 88 is content to leave the blackest areas as gray, perhaps to show that they aren't crushing any detail away.  That made it a win for Severin in 2018, but now of course we've got a newer contender.

The 1.85:1 framing shows a sliver more around the edges on the new 4k version.  The colors are more vibrant, even making Severin's disc look flat by comparison.  The brights might feel ever so slightly overly peaked on the BD, but they're perfectly natural on the UHD.  Grain is far more defined here (even on the BD), and fine detail and edges that started to break apart into pixelation on close examination now look rounded and lifelike.  Admittedly, you won't be watching this zoomed in 500% on your TV, but if you did, you'd see that road looks smeary with only patches of grain on the older discs, compared to richly textured presentation on the 4k.
Both the original mono audio tracks are presented in lossless 2.0 on all three discs (LPCM on the first 88, DTS-HD on the later releases) and sound surprisingly good.  Carlo Maria Cordio's soundtrack really rocks.  The Italian version has optional/ removable English subtitles on 88's 2017 disc.  On the 2018 and 2024 discs, both versions have their own subtitles, which match their audio tracks.  So one more reason to upgrade at least from the original BD there.

Oh you want extras, too?  Yeah, 88's got some good stuff.  Starting with their 2017 blu, we have that aforementioned audio commentary.  It's another one by The Hysteria Continues podcast guys, and I'm not usually a big fan of theirs (in terms of audio commentaries, not the podcast itself), but I think they're getting better.  Typically, one of them seems to prepare and know a lot about the film, acting as sort of an expert commentary, and the other guys just interrupt him and annoy the listener.  That dynamic hasn't really changed, but I think they've dialed it down, and at least two of them are plugged in this time.  They provide some good info in the first half, despite the other guys kinda phoning it in, and the jokes-to-commentary ratio is, well, mostly fine.  They do keep the energy up throughout (though the added scenes do force some pauses in the track).  Halfway through the movie, however, they seem to run out of things to say and just go on super long tangents about their favorite slashers or other movies that came out in 1981.  So you could probably turn it off once you start getting into that territory; but the first half is worth a listen and does add some value to the disc.
I SAVED CINEMA!!
Besides there's still more, even better stuff.  The crown jewel is the interview with George Eastman.  He's unfortunately a little dismissive of this film, but is still very interesting as he talks about his working relationship with D'Amato and more.  And there's another, in-depth interview with Michele Soavi, who played a small early role in this film as a biker.  Because his part was so brief, he does start drifting off into more general topics like the decline of the Italian horror scene, but you're definitely not going to want to skip this one.  There is a limited edition booklet, which I think means later printings won't include it, by Calum Waddell.  It's 16-pages and all about the Video Nasties.  Now, as an American, the story of that whole drama never really struck a chord with me, but I really like how this booklet presents each of the 39 Video Nasty titles that were actually prosecuted (out of 72 total films that were branded Nasties) with artwork and a brief description of every single one.  It also features reversible artwork with the film's original, Italian title (Rosso Sangue); and for supporters of the indiegogo campaign, this release also came in a very cool looking slipcover.
So what's Severin brought to the party?  Well, first of all, they carry over 88's interview with Michele Soavi.  But that and the trailer are the only extras the two releases have in common.  But Severin has conducted their own interview with George Eastman, which is almost twice as long.  And while it's certainly not a formula that twice as long = twice as good, this one's nicely focused on the film at hand, and he's even a little more up on the film, this time cheerfully calling it "not bad."  We don't get an audio commentary, we do get a solid 20-minute vintage interview with D'Amato himself.  It's shot on video and has forced subtitles despite the fact that he's speaking in English.  It's a lot of fun, though it's more of a career overview piece.  He basically shares an anecdote or two about each of his many films (including Absurd), actually talking the longest about Anthropophagous.  You'll definitely get a kick out of it.  Anyway, then Severin has their own reversible artwork and slipcover, and the first 3000 copies also include a soundtrack CD.
Circling back to 88 for their newest release, they have all the extras from their 2017 release, though not (unsurprisingly) Severin's additions.  Instead, however, they've crafted a bunch of new goodies of their own.  For starters, there's a new audio commentary by Eugenio Ercolani and Nanni Cobretti, the same experts from their Anthropophagaous disc.  But this time Ercolani doesn't also have a separate interview, making this commentary feel a little less redundant.  There is a new visual essay by another film historian, though, Mike Foster; so if you're looking for some expert insight with a little more brevity, you might want to just go with that.  There's also a new interview with George Eastman (yes, in addition to the old one).  But the real treat is their new interview with  composer Carlo Maria Cordio, who we haven't heard from before on any of these discs.  It's a bit lame that they window-box it in an attempt to mask the lower resolution (it's like releasing a non-anamorphic DVD in 2024; you know, you're not fooling anyone, and nobody wants to watch a tiny image on their screen), but it's still great to get a fresh, first-hand account from the filmmaking.

If you order the "website exclusive edition" direct from 88 films, you also got a slipbox, double-sided poster and a 40-page booklet.  But even if you score this elsewhere, you still get an attractive slipcover and reversible art.
I never really loved Absurd; it was an entertaining watch for me, but not much more.  But the chance to see it fully restored and look like a completely new film made this one of my most anticipated titles.  And I was definitely not disappointed.  In fact, I'd say I've become much more of a fan now having watched this on blu, so I'm really glad.  And now in 2024, we've got an even higher grade version, with more special features to boot.  88's new UHD is the easy choice, and while dedicated fans will want to hang onto their Severin discs for the exclusive extras, I don't think it had enough to make that worth the trouble for anyone other than serious Absurd devotees.  This new set is more than enough.

Anthropophagous, The Ultimate Grim Reaper

And we have another new, restored blu-ray release from 88 Films, this time it's Joe D'Amato's most successful horror flick, spelled here as Anthropophagous. I also have this on DVD, where it's spelled Antropophagous, but the most common spelling seems to meet those two in the middle with Anthropophagous. However the heck you're supposed to spell it, the word apparently means cannibal, which is certainly fitting for this nutty film.

Update 8/6/15 -  8/26/17: And we're back, with an all new Remastered Special Edition blu-ray release of Anthropophagus from 88 Films.  Wait a minute, didn't we just say 88 Films had come out with a blu-ray restoration in 2015?  Yup, but they felt they could do better, so as the final entry in their second indiegogo campaign (which also included the sequel to Anthropophagous, Absurd) we have a new version in 2017 with a fresh 2k scan, "extensive colour correction," new special features and some other improvements.

Update 8/21/19: And we're back again, this time with a US blu-ray from Severin.  It has a different 2k scan, alternate color timing and all new special features.

Update 7/17/24: The pendulum swings back to 88 Films as they take us from 2k to 4k, and on a proper UHD disc, triple layer even.  HDR, new special features... could this be the ultimate, definitive edition?
But this isn't your typical Italian "cannibal film" about a native jungle tribe... This is actually set in a very interesting little Greek island town. A couple of young tourists, including Tisa Farrow, sail over for a short vacation, only to find the entire town abandoned. Eventually they do find one or two inhabitants, or more accurately survivors, who seem to have gone a bit funny since of their locals, George Eastman, has turned into a completely insane and even somewhat monstrous killer. The film can be a bit flat and plodding, with a lot of these bland vacationers wandering around empty locations, but Eastman's character has a perfect, memorably horrible look. And when the film finally does come around to its shock sequences, they're rather effective and a couple are particularly over the top, giving this film a nice touch of infamy. It's one of those movies where people who've seen it probably won't remember it too well, but they'll be like, "was this the film where ____ happened?" And oh yes, it's that movie. Those few moments are certainly etched into the memories of everyone who's seen it and they're really what everybody who's interested in this release are here for. And at least there's some interesting scenery during all that time in between.
Shriek Show's 2006 2-disc DVD is the disc most Anthropophagous fans probably started with, but that's not the one I went with back in the day. I used to have an old German DVD from Astro that was taken from a VHS source, but when I upgraded from that, instead of picking up Shriek Show's cropped 1.78:1 DVD, I imported the Italian DVD from Beat Records. It's a two disc set with some extras, which I'll get into, and kept the film more open at 1.66:1. It's debatable which of the two DVDs is better, but the real question these days is how the newer HD editions look.  Because, at this point, we've had four BD generations in short succession: 88 Films' initial 2015 blu, their 2017 crowd-sourced remaster, Severin's 2018 US edition, and now 88's 2024 BD/ UHD combo-pack, each with all new transfers and features.
1) 2005 Beat Records DVD; 2) 2015 88 Films BD; 3) 2017 88 Films BD;
4) 2018 Severin BD; 5) 2024 88 Films BD; 6) 2024 88 Films UHD.




So 88 and Severin have both kept the more open, 1.66:1 ratio, leaving all six discs slightly pillar-boxed. We do see the framing slightly shifting on each version, though, with tiny and differing slivers of extra picture on each transfer.  But none of it is substantial enough to really label one as better than another.  The colors are kind of flat plus a bit brown on the DVD and green, on the 2015 blu. 88's 2017 color correction really paid off, definitely taking the film forward to a higher quality image with nice shadows and natural, more vivid colors.  I'd say Severin made another improvement in that department, but after 2017,  the differences are more subjective.  To my eye, Severin's seems more natural and more aesthetically pleasing, but you could definitely pick different favorites shot to shot.  In the two sets of shots highlighted here, I think 88's 2017 disc looks like it has too much of a purplish hue, and that Severin pulls a lot more dynamism out of the second shot.  But we're really getting into the realm of guessing what the filmmakers' intentions were.  Is that second shot supposed to be a darker, creepier shot?  Yeah, we can make out faces better in Severin's pass, but 88's makes it look more like a scary, nighttime shot.  And at this stage in the film, it's a stormy night where the power's gone out and people are wandering around in fear as the killer could be lurking around each corner.  So I'd say Severin's screenshot looks better in a vacuum of context, but 88's is telling the story better.  But I still don't think the boat shot should be so purple.  Now, the 2024 kind of pulls the best of all the above.  It's darker, with creepier nighttime segments.  And that boat isn't so purple anymore.

And there's still not a wealth of additional detail in any of these transfers. After all, this is a fairly low budget 16mm film.  It might strike viewers as a little underwhelming, jumping to 2 then 4k. But getting in close, we see maybe not new information, but even the 2015 blu isn't nearly so splotchy and messy as the grungy DVD. It's definitely a crisper, cleaner image.  However the 2015 grain looks weird, somehow smoothed down yet digital.  This is not the case on the subsequent 2017 blu, which has much more natural and distinct film grain.  I feel like maybe the people doing the 2015 master were worried about how grainy the film is and tried to fidget with the settings to tone it down.  Then Severin's blu actually takes a tiny step backward in that department.  Look at the face of the woman on the boat, for example.  It's not as bad as the 2015 or the DVD, but it really looks softer and like grain is missing.  And the enhanced contrast almost seems a little too much, especially now that we can compare it to the 2024 disc, which really shows off how the film is supposed to look.  Grain is thorough, edges look truly natural.  Even the 2024 BD outshines the other discs, but the UHD comes off as truly impressive when you take the time to zoom in and study it.  When you don't?  What you probably notice more is the creepier night shots.  But either way, it's all improvement.
2015 blu left; 2017 blu right.
All four BDs and the UHD have both the original mono English audio and the Italian mono audio with optional English subs. Unlike Zombie Holocaust, that's not so new - both Shriek Show and Beat Records' DVDs already had both options. But it's still the best way to present the film. I should note that the opening scene with the German tourists is not subtitled or dubbed into English on 88's 2015 blu. Beat's DVD subtitles the second half of the scene, after they sit down on the rocks, but not the first half as they walk down the beach. But thankfully, the 2017, 2018 and 2024 releases subtitle the whole thing. Yay! In fact, as you can see in the differences between the two shots above, 88 has gone through and re-translated all the English subtitles for this new version to be more accurate. And, they've also thrown in dubtitles to match the English audio, for anyone who wants to read along to the English dub.  And Severin?  They've got the same pair of re-translated subs and dubtitles as 88's 2017 blu, both of which, yes, have continued onto 88's new 2024 release.  The only little thing that would've been nice, that none of the previous releases have done yet, is a third subtitle track of just the opening German dialogue, so you can watch the English language version with no subs besides that part.  But considering the incredible amount of attention this niche, low budget horror flick as received already, it's hard to gripe.
Now, labels have always had a hard time coming up with extras for Anthropophagous. Shriek Show just had an interview with Eastman and a general featurette on D'Amato's career, and that's pretty much the best anyone's until very recently. The DVD I've got comes close to tying them, however. It has its own Eastman interview, which is pretty fun; and a 12 minute D'Amato featurette, including a brief on-set interview where he's working on a film called The Monk. And since Beat Records is also a record label, there's a feature called "Best Of," which is a collection of music tracks from D'Amato soundtracks. Those are the main things, though there's also a useless photo gallery which just consists of stills from the film, but framed in a small, distorted "TV screen" image making the whole endeavor completely pointless, a text-only filmography and trivia, and the trailer. Oh, and it has a nice double insert with some cool poster images.
42nd St. Memories
And 88? Well, I think this is another one of the reasons they've gotten flack for the 2015 disc. There are practically no extras directly pertaining to the film at hand. There is, however, one big extra, which is pretty cool... it's just not related to Anthropophagous. It's called 42nd Street: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Notorious Block. They don't even mention Anthropophagous as one of the countless films that potentially played on 42nd St. It's also not a topic I was particularly keen on, but it is a feature length film that interviews a heck of a lot of interesting people, including: William Lustig, Joe Dante, Lloyd Kaufman, Roy Frumkes, Frank Henenlotter. Lynn Lowry, Larry Cohen and a bunch more. I would've preferred to hear these guys talk about their films than the street, but it's still worth the watch. Besides that, there's just a couple trailers (including a bonus trailer for Zombie Holocaust, which is unskippable at start-up), an alternate set of opening credits in Italian, four neat little postcards with different poster art, some cool reversible art, and a sweet slipcover.
old left; new right.
So what does the Special Edition add to the proceedings?  Well, first and foremost is a brand new interview with George Eastman.  And I have to admit, after Beyond the Darkness and Absurd sharing the same George Eastman (and Michelle Soavi) interview across both discs, I was worried we'd be getting the same thing a third time.  But happily, no, this is an all new interview... or partially new, anyway.  The interview for Absurd was just under 15 minutes long, and this new one is over half an hour long, of two different interviews (he's shot from different angles and wearing different shirts, so it's obvious) intercut together.  One of those two is new, and the other is the old one, and the editing jumps back and forth between the two.  So basically, we get an all new one inter-spliced with with older content, though the older interview is the only one where he talks about Anthropophagous (as opposed to D'Amato, Laura Gemser and other films), so you can see why they incorporated it.
the deleted scene
Next up is an interview with film historian Alessio di Rocco.  A drier, academic look at Anthropophagous?  No, this is actually a very short (three minutes) set-up of the subsequent extra they have on here, a "never before seen deleted scene."  So Alessi sets up why it was shot and why it's not in the final film, and then the scene itself is quick but pretty cool.  It's not in the same quality as the rest of the film (see the shot above), but also in 1.66, Italian with optional English subtitles.  Then you get the alternate Italian opening and closing credits and a collection of trailers showcasing this film's multiple titles.  This 2017 version also has reversible artwork and a very nice, felt-like slipcover.
But in 2018, Anthropophagus finally got what I'd consider a worthy special edition.  Yeah, the 2017 remaster was called a "Special Edition," and it was a fair way to distinguish it from the 2015 BD, but I'm not sure it really has enough extras to justify that title.  Severin's does.  First of all, yes, there's another new interview with George Eastman, because you've got to have that.  And this might be the best of all of them, because it's focused and charming.  But now, finally, we've got proper interviews with other cast and crew members about this film.  We talk to actors Saverio Vallone and Zora Kerova, editor Bruno Micheli and effects artist Pietro Tenoglio. We also get three trailers and reversible artwork.  What's more, you could've ordered their "maneater" bundle, which included a slipcover, t-shirt, two pins and a Grim Reaper plush doll with "pull out entrails!"

The only disappointment is they didn't include the deleted scene.  I mean, the alternate credits and the Shriek Show piece on D'Amato would've been nice, too.  But the deleted scene feels particularly conspicuous in its absence.
the even newer one
Now, in 2024, 88 Films is back with most of their 2017 extras (42nd Street Memories is still gone; but that's no big deal since it had nothing to do with Anthropophagous anyway), none of Severin's, and some all new stuff.  Now, let's break that down.  When I say "most" of their 2017 extras, yeah, it's almost all here.  The deleted scene, the expert introduction, the trailers and alternate credits are all back.  But you'll notice the Eastman interview is shorter this time around.  That's because, well, remember how I showed it was two different interviews cut together?  Well, now we just get the one: specifically, the older one where he talks about this film.  But don't be disappointed, because they've brought him back for an all new, 2024 interview.  They've really improved on the situation.  They've also done their own interview with Zora Kerova, which takes all the sting of them not having access to Severin's.  Another fun inclusion is an interview with the director of the recent Anthropophagous II.  There's also a pretty good visual essay by Eugenio Ercolani to give put this film in its historical context, though also having him do an audio commentary (along with fellow historian Nanni Cobretti) stretches what he has to say pretty thin.  I'd recommend the essay and skipping the commentary unless you're really thirsting to soak up every tidbit you can about this film.

If you order the "website exclusive edition" direct from 88 films, you also got a slipbox, double-sided poster and a 40-page booklet.  But even if you score this elsewhere, you still get an attractive slipcover and reversible art.
It's a bit crazy how this scrappy little weirdo of a film keeps getting remastered and reissued over and over again in recent years, especially since Severin is sure to keep ping-ponging this title with their own 4k release soon enough.  It could be a little rough on collectors triple-, quadruple-, quintuple-dipping each step of the way.  But it's good news for serious fans, because it keeps improving, and getting more supplementary features each time.  88's new UHD is the reigning definitive edition for sure, though if you appreciate extras, you'll still want to hang onto your Severin blu for their exclusives (and obviously, treasure that plushie).  But you won't want to miss out on this upgrade either way.

Rediscovering American Movie

Hey, folks!  We're back with the classic 1999 documentary, American Movie.  Although, if you haven't been paying attention to the official DVDExotica Twitter/ Bluesky feed (philistine!), you may've missed that I also just did a proper DVD/ blu-ray comparison of Todd Solondz's Storytelling over on the little sister site, since that just came from Shout Factory.  Storytelling is one of the few films Mike Schank appeared in after American Movie.
American Movie is the debut of renowned American documentary filmmaker Chris Smith.  He went on to do the underrated Home Movie, the excellent mini series Bad Vegan and one of the two Fyre Fest docs.  But this tale of small, Midwestern filmmaker Mark Borchardt battling against all odds to complete his short horror flick is still the film he'll be best remembered for.  It's his magnum opus.  And I say that after only having recently revisited this film.  I've owned the DVD since it first came out, but when Sony reissued it to blu, I was hesitant to upgrade.  I had strong memories of funny scenes, like Mark hearing on the set that he might've been mispronouncing the title of his film for years.  But did I really need to return to a documentary making fun of a struggling, independent filmmaker?  Was this something I got a kick out of in the 90s, but had now outgrown?
I wasn't just relieved to learn that wasn't the case with my recent re-watch, but impressed by the fact that it was an even richer, more mature work than I would've appreciated at the time.  And maybe seeing it in HD for the first time helped a little, but really it's the substance of the film.  These guys were embedded with Mark and his family for a long time, and they wound up with a really touching, intimate portrait.  It's almost as important a work for its coverage of Uncle Bill in his last years as it is for Mark and his quirky best friend Mike.  Yes, it's funny at times.  But it runs a lot deeper than that, is affectionate rather than mocking, and it helps that the footage we see Mark capturing is at times genuinely impressive.
Sony originally released American Movie on DVD as a new release in 2000.  It was a nice little special edition, and it was pretty much all we needed and all we got until finally, in late 2022, when Sony came back to take us into the HD era.  Now we have a new blu-ray special edition with... almost all the original features, and of course a brand new transfer.
2000 Sony DVD top; 2022 Sony BD bottom.
Both discs are 1.33:1, with virtually identical framing.  The new scan scales back the overly red hues, though in the process, you could argue it washes things out a bit too much.  For instance, I'd say the first set of shots is an improvement, but in the second set, I miss the deep green of his jacket and the richer colors of the products behind Mike.  Grain is fairly patchy on the blu, which is a little underwhelming, but compared to the smudged compression artifacts on the DVD, it's a big step forward.

The DVD and blu both have the original mono audio in 2.0 with optional English subtitles, but the BD  bumps it up to lossless DTS-HD.  The DVD also has Spanish subs.
2000 Sony DVD top; 2022 Sony BD bottom.
Most of the extras from the DVD were carried over to the blu-ray.  That includes a great audio commentary by the documentary filmmakers Chris Smith & Sarah Price, and the two filmmakers depicted in the documentary, Mark Borchardt & Mike Schank.  And there's a whole host of deleted scenes, over a half hour's worth, that are about as good as the scenes in the final cut.  Curiously they're non-anamorphic widescreen at 1.54:1 on the DVD and 1.74:1 on the blu.  I'm pretty sure the BD is correct and the DVD is vertically stretched.  They're also interlaced on the DVD, which the BD corrects.  Regardless, any fan of the film should definitely check these out in whichever format they've got them, because they're a great addendum to the feature.  There's also the theatrical trailer.
Coven
The DVD also had a couple bonus trailers, which were left off at no great loss.  But considerably more disappointing is the fact that the DVD had, and the blu-ray has dropped, Bprchardt's entire short film Coven, about a diabolical support group, which was completed in the doc.  When I got the DVD, I remember thinking I didn't really need to see the whole Coven, American Movie was its own movie and all I was there for.  But twenty-four years later, I really wanted to watch Coven after the doc.  Good thing I still have the DVD.  Presented in 1.32:1, it pretty much looks just like its presented in American Movie (you can compare it to the shot from the doc posted earlier) except with very milky, elevated blacks.  I was hoping they might fix that on the blu, but instead they just chucked the whole thing.
I presume they didn't want to get into the hassle and expense of re-licensing it, which is understandable, but it's still a bummer and a reason to hang onto your DVD.  But that said, it's not a reason not to double-dip.  American Movie is a great film and deserves to be seen in HD even if it doesn't have all the bonus features one would like.