She Dies Tomorrow on Video Disc!

You might think it's crazy to be stuck buying a barebones new release DVD of one of 2020's best films.  720x480, still, in the age of 3840x2160?  Madness!  Well, let me reassure you, dear reader, this is no DVD... it's a DVD-R!  That's right, one of those M.O.D. video discs that's not even allowed to use the traditional DVD logo on its packaging.  Whomp, whomp.  But, yes, alright.  Something's still better than nothing.  I'm taking it.  She Dies Tomorrow is a literal must-have film; and considering how many other new films are simply being planted in various streaming service's walled gardens and left to rot these days, I guess I am still grateful to have an official, packaged release for my shelf, even if it is in SD.  I mean, it isn't like we're not still stuck with even worse editions of our other favorites.
If you're not familiar with this one, though, and you're reading me saying things like "one of 2020's best films," "literal must-have" and calling it a favorite, maybe don't give it a blind-buy just yet.  First of all, I would not consider this a horror film, but it's being marketed as such.  The Indiewire quote on the front of the box calls this a "gripping apocalyptic thriller," and while I know what they mean, I don't think I could come up with more misleading marketing copy without overtly lying.  This film never once, for a split second even attempts to be thrilling.  If there's anything remotely scary about it, it's a sense of morose existential dread.  The closest film I can come up with to it, I guess, would be Lars von Trier's Melancholia?  Except even that film had its characters facing the ostensible threat of an on-coming planetary collision.  No such danger exists here.  And that's not a criticism, at least anymore than saying Schindler's List doesn't have any big belly laughs in it - it's just not that kind of movie.  I've heard a lot of frustrated comments from people expecting the next Babadook or Midsommar (ugh, thank you for not being another Midsommar), in entirely the wrong disposition to respond to a darkly witty drama whose strengths lie in subtle, sympathetic observations of human behavior.
I'm going to give you the quite concise, official description of She Dies Tomorrow right from the back of the box, because I watched this with someone who wound up feeling frustrated because they assumed this film was leading up to some kind of big reveal.  This is definitely a "journey not the destination" story, and I think being on the same page as the storytellers (because I'd read a bit about the film before diving in) really freed me up to engage with it right from the start.  So here it is:
"After waking up convinced that she is going to die tomorrow, Amy’s carefully mended life begins to unravel.  As her delusions of certain death become contagious to those around her, Amy and her friends’ lives spiral out of control in a tantalizing descent into madness."
See, because this film is being presented as a sort of elevated horror film, you can get stuck watching this film thinking all the dialogue and character work is some sort of slow burn building up to a big shock.  Like, at the end, aliens will be revealed.  Or even an ominous presence left vague, like It Comes At Night or (lol) Bird Box.  But the whole point this time is that there's nothing out there; this film's just about what people think is going to happen.  And that's not a spoiler.  The film tries to tell us that early and repeatedly.  It's right there in the two-sentence pitch that's also on the official film's webpage and everywhere else they can sow it.  They did their bit to let us know.
Writer/ director Amy Seimetz apparently agreed to star in the recent Pet Sematary remake to finance this film.  Who would've guessed in 2019 that something good would've come of that?  But here we are!  Kate Lyn Sheil, of Kate Plays Christine and Seimetz's excellent first film, Sun Don't Shine stars alongside the always wonderful Jane Adams (Happiness, Twin Peaks) as two friends who go on distinctly individual journeys during what they believe to be their last day on Earth.  This film swings easily from cutting to sympathetic and back as the film alternatively watches maudlin Kate self-indulgently replay the same Mozart record over and over and Jane overrun her sister-in-law's birthday party with her disengaged preoccupations to them finding joy and peace in the perfect ways to spend their final hours.  And we're treated to more and more perspectives and possibilities as everyone they come into contact with also become perfectly convinced that they will die tomorrow.  Fortunately, it's both too clever and sweet to become depressing, helped immeasurably by the cast, which also includes Josh Lucas, Jorge/ Jump Tomorrow's Tunde Adebimpe (boy, there's someone I haven't thought about in years!  But apparently he was in the last Spider-Man flick), horror director Adam Wingard and a refreshingly non-violent Michelle Rodriguez.
2020 Neon DVD-R.
This film is left open at 1.78:1, but seeing as how the Neon Film Company seems to be releasing this directly through an MOD service themselves, I'm going to assume all matters of presentation are correct.  Like, if it was meant to be matted to 1.85:1, they'd have no one to blame but themselves.  And like I said in the intro, I've seen far worse DVDs.  This is not interlaced, pan & scan, censored, or troubled in any of the ways many of the films still stuck on old discs are.  And it was shot on digital, so film grain's not really an issue, though there are certainly some grain effect going on that could be clearer in HD.  Many scenes I'd say have an intentionally soft look to it.  But this disc is soft above and beyond that.  A single-layered standard def disc crushing the film down to 4GB is gonna do that.  Some scenes pass fairly well, but others drift from gentle to murky.

The audio is unavoidably lossy, but at least it's a nice, clear 5.1 mix, and they did include optional English HoH subtitles.  And they even threw in the trailer, which MOD DVD-R's don't typically bother with.
So it's something.  Something's better than nothing.  But it's not enough to keep us from requesting this title from Criterion, now is it?

You Could Do a Lot Worse Than A Night In Casablanca

So this is my first ClassicFlix release - it's always great to introduce a new label to the site.  Not that they're brand new.  For a good decade, ClassicFlix was an independent competitor of Netflix, renting DVDs of: you guessed it, classic films by mail.  Then, in 2017, they became a boutique label licensing and releasing films on home video.  Their latest release is 1946's A Night In Casablanca, one of the surprisingly many Marx Brothers movies that were still in need of decent HD releases.
Apparently, A Night In Casablanca was at one time intended to be a pretty direct parody of Casablanca.  But what we've got here, funded by the brothers themselves, barely resembles the 1942 classic outside of the general location.  Rather than a gin joint, we're at a hotel, where the managers keep getting murdered under mysterious circumstances.  Things get so desperate, they employ Groucho, a conman who winds up getting romantically entangled with one of the murderers.  The plot, such as it is, follows a post-war Nazi who's hidden treasure somewhere in the hotel.  As was the norm in these films, there's a young romantic couple who serve to tie the Brothers into the rest of the story (Chico and Harpo decide to help them just because they seem nice), but they're so side-lined here they practically disappear until the finale.
Groucho's one-liners aren't quite in top-form, but we still get a fast-paced send-up full of amusing comic set-pieces and yes, musical numbers.  This film feels very tightly edited, scenes seem to end before their last line and our femme fatale just gets to sing a short snippet of her big song, the one announced in the opening credits.  It seems like the filmmakers lacked a little faith in the material and decided the only way to save the film was to cut, cut, cut!  And they may've been right.  A few plot points probably held together better in the rough cut, but for the most part, the breakneck pace works in the brothers' favor, restoring a bit of the madcap feel of their earlier work, albeit with an obvious slapdash bent as well.  At least until the climax where dogged stuntmen pursue a real airplane with various cars and hectic high-jinks, when we see finally where the film's money was spent.  Overall, it's not one of the Marx's best, but it holds up as more consistently entertaining than most of their tail-end features.
A Night In Casablanca was released on DVD by Warner Bros in 2004, in part of their impressive 5-disc, nine film The Marx Brothers Collection boxed set, which is still the best way to see those eight other films.  But in the last year or so, it started appearing on blu in other countries, including France and Germany.  And now, by way of ClassicFlix, it's arrived in the US, and we can only hope all the remaining Marx Bros' films are soon to follow.
2004 WB DVD top; 2020 CF BD bottom.
My first observation is that appears to be the same master Warner Bros used bumped up to HD (and presumably the same on the French and German blus), which isn't a bad thing, since WB's scan was quite attractive.  And it's not like they haven't made any changes.  For one thing, the aspect ratio's widen from 1.33:1 to a probably more correct 1.36:1.  Part of that is a very slight un-squishing of the image, making it a little tall.  And the other part is that they're now showing a tiny bit more around the edges of the frame - although there are a handful of shots where I wondered if they revealed too much.  For example, in that shot of Harpo dueling above, is that the edge of the set we see along the top?  But it was very rare when I even questioned anything that was revealed, and it's never overt enough to be distracting, and definitely no reason to miss out on the HD bump, which makes the image immediately sharper and clearer.  Grain is soft, which you'd expect from an older master, but it's everything you'd expect in the jump from DVD to BD, if not an all new restoration.

Warner Bros included the original mono track in Dolby Digital with English, French and Spanish subtitles.  ClassicFlix dumped the foreign language options but kept the English subtitles (despite any online reports to the contrary), and bumped the audio up to DTS-HD.
You wouldn't expect much by way of extras for this movie, but happily there's more than none.  Warner Bros just featured two vintage WB shorts, which they were in the habit of including with their classic films at the time.  The idea was that they were replicating the feel of how films of that time played with such shorts before the film in the theaters, which makes me wonder if these two actually ran with A Night In Casablanca back in '46.  They're certainly both '46 films.  One is a silly Joe McDoakes comedy called So You Think You're a Nervous Wreck?, and the other's Acrobatty Bunny, a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Anyway, ClassicFlix doesn't have the shorts, but does have a few bits actually directly connected to A Night In Casablanca.  First, and most excitingly, they have an audio recording of the Marx Bros trying out material for the film live on stage, as they were wont to do.  The best part about it is that most of the material didn't make it to the final film, so they're essentially deleted scenes.  ClassicFlix has also scared up the trailer, a stills gallery and a series of radio spots, some of which get include new gags by the Marx Brothers and get pretty bizarre.  There's also a collection of ClassicFlix bonus trailers, including one that plays on start-up.
It's a little crazy to be getting this while their most famous film, A Night At the Opera, and many of their other big hits remain relegated to SD.  But hey, I'll take it!  Especially since, with each iteration, my appreciation of this notoriously post-retirement film increases a little bit more.

THE Dawn Of the Dead

It's been a long time coming, but I'm now looking at easily the most anticipated cult home video release of 2020 here, ladies and gentlemen: Second Sight's massive 4-disc (7 if count the bonus soundtrack CDs) 4k Ultra HD boxed set of George Romero's 1978 classic Dawn Of the DeadAnnounced back in January of 2019 and originally slated for release that summer, it's been delayed again and again, though largely for the right reasons ("we are giving the restoration team as much time as they need to do the most thorough job possible").  It's also been rough getting this imported properly into the United States, but if you've hung in through it all, I dare say you're happy now.
What's interesting about Night Of the Living Dead is that, as famous and powerful as it was, it didn't really kick off a sea of imitators.  It wasn't really until Dawn that zombie films became the genre onto itself as we know it today.  This is where Romero solidified his reputation for mixing social and political themes with his horror... not just for the simple observation that people can be mindless consumers like the zombies wandering the shopping mall, though that's clearly here, and the sort of thing films like The Dead Don't Die still seem to be patting themselves on the back for restating.  I think the real commentary is derived from reflecting on the human behavior, the ones we identify with as they attempt and fail to imitate a traditional way of life, ultimately taking up arms to defend their valueless merchandise from actual other survivors.
Not that we really come to these films to be taught a civics lesson.  We're here for the thrills and scares.  But what's interesting is that those don't really come from the zombies either.  They did in Night, where flesh eating ghouls surrounding your home really is the source of terror.  And they were made so again in the mindless remake.  But here, the most frightening aspect is the breakdown of civilization.  I mean, this film has a scene where a zombie is literally smacked in the face with a cream pie - they're the most helpless faction in this struggle for survival, which has transformed from an overnight siege to a savage war of attrition.  What's harrowing is right from the opening scene, authority is failing, scientists are shouting in futility on a television program that's being abandoned by everyone still working on it.  The police's last stand is a raid on an inner city apartment complex where they're shooting the lower class residents and each other.  And while they're still potentially dangerous, we see the zombies are easily managed, but that doesn't make everyone any less doomed.
The health of this film on disc went from vital and active to shockingly dry.  I used to own the 3-disc special edition of laserdisc from Elite and remember specifically not replacing it with Anchor Bay's original '97 and '99 non-anamorphic and nearly barebones DVDs.  It wasn't until their 2004 Special Divimax Edition that I finally found the jump worthwhile (a trend we'll see repeat with this film).  That was nice, but in 2006, Anchor Bay blew that and any other option out of the water with their definitive Ultimate Edition, a 4-disc set loaded with new and legacy extras and three cuts of the film (the theatrical - Romero's director's cut, an extended cut full of deleted scenes and extra footage, and the Italian cut, edited by none other than Dario Argento, who actually co-produced Dawn).  That was the go-to set for the DVD age and almost for the BD age.  Anchor Bay released a very early blu in 2007, which was a decent bump to HD for its time, but sacrificed the alternate cuts and a ton of special features.  It seemed clear that was for the early adapters and the obvious move for most fans was to wait for a BD equivalent of the Ultimate Edition.

Except the movie sort of slipped into a bit of a limbo when producer Richard P. Rubinstein paid a ton of money to convert the film into 3D, and then apparently expected a massive licensing fee that priced out any boutique label looking to release a update on home video.  The original blu (and an equivalent 2010 Arrow blu that at least restored more extras with a bonus DVD) went out of print and started fetching exorbitant prices, despite looking more and more in need of an upgrade itself.  Americans are still waiting, but in the last couple years, Koch took a stab at it with an Italian 4k edition, later expanded into a few other regions.  But people had issues with it, and eventually Second Sight announced plans for a massive, multi-cut 4k restoration that would carefully address every issue and also out-do even the Ultimate Edition in terms of features.  It took them a long time, but they've finally released separate BD and UHD boxed sets in the UK; and once again, I'm glad I waited to make the jump.  They're limited, but thankfully not too narrowly, having pressed 12,000 of the 4k box and 6,000 of the blu-rays.
Theatrical: 1) AB 2004 DVD; 2) AB 2006 DVD; 3) SS 2020 UHD.
Extended: 1) AB 2006 DVD; 2) SS 2020 UHD.

Argento: 1) AB 2006 DVD; 2) SS 2020 UHD.

Before I delve into this, I can't help but say wowww, look how gorgeous Dawn looks now.  But okay, let me compose myself.  I suppose the first serious thing I'll draw your attention to is that the theatrical and extended cuts tend to be consistently using the same transfer.  The DVDs look like each other (and the 2004 and 2006 DVDs are for all intents and purposes identical) and the the two UHDs look like each other.  That's because they're both taken from the original 35mm negatives, with inserts for the extended cut.  But in both cases, the Argento cut has a distinctly different look, taken from the Italian interpositive and featuring very distinct color timing, and in the cases of the 2006 DVD, is also slightly windowboxed.  Segueing into the framing, then, all the DVDs are 1.84:1, which the UHDs slightly correct to 1.85:1, except the DVD of the Argento cut, which is 1.83:1.  In fact, Anchor Bay's DVD of the Argento cut is zoomed in far more than any of the other transfers, although that's not to say all the rest are the same.

Looking at the two sets above, we see that the UHDs are consistently (across all cuts) zoomed in tighter on the exterior shots, though they hue pretty closely to the DVDs on the interior shots. What this tells us (and me checking comparing other points in the film confirms) is that the film's been constantly re-framed between the new and old versions.  This pretty much leaves us to trust that SS is the correct framing, though they do assure us that their work was supervised by DoP Michael Gornick.  And indeed framing issues had been a complaint with the previous 4k releases of this film, and working to fix them was one of the reasons Second Sight's edition took so long in the first place.
Extended: 1) AB 2006 DVD; 2) SS 2020 UHD.
One last thing, while we're still examining the PQ, is the extended inserts.  Like I said, the theatrical and extended cuts are, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same... except when they're not.  So above is a shot only seen in the extended version, which isn't taken from the same negative, but rather the color reversal internegative.  And it holds up rather well.  You won't notice every time an added bit appears onscreen because it stands out from the rest of the film, the grain still looks fine and perfectly filmic in 4k, and the image is still quite strong.  Maybe the detail is slightly less clear and the grain a little more scattershot, but considering how things like focus vary throughout the film (an aspect of the original filmmaking, not the disc transfers), it doesn't snag in motion.  On AB's DVD, that footage looked a little overly contrasty, but Second Sight have made an ideal, transition-less blend with the rest of the film.

A nice thing you can say about the Anchor Bay's later DVDs is that they decked the film out with audio options, even to the point of overkill: mono, stereo, and two 5.1 mixes.  But surprisingly, they never included any subtitles, even for the Ultimate Edition.  Well, Second Sight of course bumps them up to lossless DTS-HD tracks for the mono, stereo and 5.1 tracks, except the extended cut, which just has the original mono in DTS-HD.  And yes, Second Sight has added optional English subtitles to all three cuts.
In terms of special features, I'm happy to report that everything from the Ultimate Edition has been carried over to the Second Sight box except the easter eggs.  I'd long assumed I'd be holding onto the DVDs for some of the special features, but I'm happy to report there's no need to bother.  It's all here, plus there's a bunch of great, new stuff.

To start with, the 2004 DVD doesn't have a lot, but it does have the excellent audio commentary by Romero, Tom Savini and associate producer Christine Forrest (a.k.a. Christine Romero) from the laserdisc.  Besides that, it has some trailers, galleries and two easter egg interview snippets, but it's mostly all about the commentary.  The Ultimate Edition has that commentary (plus all those trailers, the easter eggs, etc), plus two more commentaries, giving each cut its own commentary.  That's pretty great, because it's a good way to watch the different cuts without getting bored watching what is still by and large the same movie three times in a row.  So the extended cut has Rubenstein and the Argento cut has a more fun, relaxed take with cast members David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger and Gaylen Ross.  It also has a great, feature-length retrospective documentary called The Dead Will Walk, plus on-set home videos with commentary by the zombie extra who filmed them, Robert Langer, and a tour of the Monroeville Mall location with Ken Foree.  Plus there are even more trailers, galleries, radio spots and even a vintage commercial for the mall.  And there's Document Of the Dead.

Possibly the most important extra of all is really a feature film that's been deemed worthy of its own individual release several times in the past: Roy Frumkes' 1980 Document Of the Dead.  Synapse first released it in 1998 - in fact, I still have that DVD, for reasons we'll elucidate a little further down the page.  Then it was expanded into a longer cut (now getting into Land and the later Dead films) and restored in HD, which Synapse put out as the "Definitive" release in 2012.  And it's such a crucial history of the film, with tons of exclusive footage filmed on location and behind the shooting of Dawn, that it's been included in both the Ultimate Edition set and Second Sight's latest box.  In fact, Second Sight again has really gone all-out with this.  Because the Ultimate Edition features the original 1998 cut again, though it's a little longer, because they took some of the deleted scenes from Synapse's DVD and tacked it onto the end of the film as an addendum.  But then Second Sight, in the interest of being thorough and completist, has included that DVD cut (with the addendum) and the longer "Definitive" version.

And just for the record, yes I know there are even more cuts floating around out there.  There's the short, roughly hour long original film school version from '79, and an "'89" cut with a couple minutes of different footage, though still running far shorter than the latest "Definitive" cut.  Frumkes just keeps Lucasing it, and those are available on some foreign DVDs if you really feel the need for the perfect Document collection.  But honestly, I think even two cuts is overkill.  Basically, it's a great hour on Dawn with varying degrees of bonus footage tacked onto it and re-redited each time.
1) 1998 Synapse DVD; 2) 2004 AB DVD; 3) 2020 SS original cut BD;
4) 2020 SS "Definitive" cut BD.

So as you can see, the original cut never got restored, but the expanded version has and it looks heaps better.  Synapse's original DVD was interlaced, though (hey, it was all the way back in 1998) so the subsequent releases at least fix that.  It's also a little bit greener.  But otherwise, even on the blu (and I understand this was the case on Synapse's blu-ray as well), the original cut is always presented as just upscaled SD.  There is unique footage to both cuts, so I can see the reasoning for continuing to release both besides just historical preservation, but by and large, the extended cut is the one fans are going to want to watch, and the difference in quality is extreme.  Sure, it's some pretty rugged looking 16mm stuff, but on blu it finally looks like film, with authentic grain, greatly clarified detail, no funky video noise or compression, and much more authentic colors.  Also, the DVDs (yes, both) are a bit squished at 1.29:1.  Second Sight corrects this for both cuts, restoring the original cut to a more natural 1.33:1, and the extended cut to 1.34:1.  And more notably, the extended cut also reveals more information along all four sides.  The only slight disappointment: the audio is lossy on every version.

And Document Of the Dead, even though it's included here as an extra, brings with it its own extras.  The original DVD had three (which, yes, is the reason I've held onto it).  The first is the 7-8 minutes of extra footage, which has since been tacked onto the end of the original cut on the Ultimate and Second Sight releases.  But the other two are exclusive to Synapse.  There's an additional twenty minutes of "Lost interviews," including a portion with Adrienne Barbeau, and an audio commentary with Frumkes and his DoP Reeves Lehmann.  Now, Frumkes recorded an updated commentary for his expanded version, which yes is on the Second Sight disc, but neither they nor Anchor Bay carried over the old one.  Of course, it has to be said, the two commentaries repeat a lot, and you have to be pretty die-hard to need the commentaries for both cuts.  But if you've already got the Synapse DVD, that and the extra interview footage might be worth hanging onto.
But we're not done talking about extras yet, because there's still all the new stuff created by Second Sight!  And there's a bunch.  We get a fourth audio commentary (for the theatrical cut) this time by expert Travis Crawford, to give the outsider historical perspective.  Then there's a new, hour-long feature called Zombies and Bikers, talking to a ton of the cast and crew.  There's also a half-hour tour of the original mall location with Gornick, Savini, the assistant cameraman and a stunt man, nearly half-hour featurette on the production of the film, a new interview with Tom Savini, a vintage interview with Romero and an interview with actor Richard France.  And those on-set home videos?  They have a new commentary by Langer, yes, in addition to the old one, which is still there as well.  And there are three soundtrack CDs - one of the Goblin score and two of the library music.  And there are two hefty books inside: a 160-page hardcover collection of essays and photos about the film, and the complete Dawn Of the Dead novelization. The discs are carried in two digipacks, all bundled together in a very thick, sturdy box.  And, if you ordered directly from Second Sight, they also included four exclusive art cards.
This is one of those movies that's such a staple, so revered and something I've consumed so much growing up, that I haven't wanted to watch it again for a very long time.  That's partly why I was satisfied just holding onto my DVDs even when I could've kept triple- and quadruple-dipping on the HD discs from Anchor Bay, Arrow and Koch.  But I don't think I'm being hyperbolic to say Second Sight has reinvigorated Dawn Of the Dead.  I'm back in love.  And I don't know if, given the availability of this restoration, a US release is around the corner.  But I also don't know what more anyone could ask for - what further supplements could do anymore than repeat what's already been presented here?  So if you were thinking of holding off, I'd say don't.

The Two Third Mothers: The Black Cat and Mother of Tears

We've done Suspiria... We've done Inferno... Now I suppose it's time to do the final film in the trilogy.  Both of 'em.  Yes, Dario Argento and his then-wife Daria Nicolodi (R.I.P.) collaborated on the first of the Three Mothers films, about Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs, in 1977, and it's become world renowned as a horror classic.  So they channeled that success into the even grander 1980 tale of Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness.  And naturally, right after Inferno, they wrote the third film about the final mother, Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother of Tears.  Dino De Laurentiis was going to produce it, but because of financing problems, Argento instead went to work on the less ambitious giallo Tenebrae.  And then Argento and Nicolodi divorced, leaving the trilogy's conclusion in a vague state of mystery fans spent decades asking the director to resolve.
And he eventually did.  But Daria tried it first, giving their original script to Luigi Cozzi, they created what wound up becoming 1989's Edgar Allen Poe's The Black Cat, a.k.a. Demons 6, a.k.a. De Profundis, despite having no legit connection to the Demons films.  There is at least a tenuous connection to the Poe story, as it relates to a line that black cats are witches in disguise and features a black cat in a few scenes.  But in actual fact, this is the story of the third mother, rewritten by Cozzi to the point that Daria quit the film.  So now it's a bizarre, convoluted story that's sort of all over the place.  Like Paganini Horror, Cozzi inserts his sci-fi interests into a horror story, so we get some rather out-of-place feeling shots of outer space and disconnected dialogue about mutants and time travel.  It's a real mess of a movie, but it's full of non-stop wild set pieces, wacky effects, vivid colors, cult actors, and some surprisingly impressive photography.
It's also a fascinating puzzle to try and discern what does and doesn't come from Dario and Daria's original story.  What we're presented with is a group of famous Italian horror filmmakers (including Michael Soavi) making a film called The Black Cat.  It's taking it's psychological toll on their lead actress, a problem only exasperated when they introduce her to their next film: the third film in the Three Mothers trilogy.  Yes, it's a film within a film thing, where they actually talk about Dario Argento by name,  the fictional filmmakers find the ancient tome from Inferno during their research, and they even play Goblin's main Suspiria theme during key scenes.  The idea is that by carelessly invoking the final mother, they are inadvertently summoning her, as she tries to take over the lead actress's body and sacrifice her baby.  The witch also pops into existence on her own to make others do her bidding, including jealous co-star Caroline Munro, an evil film producer played way over-the-top by Brett Halsey and a teenage ghost named Michael who casts illusions and of course that evil cat lurking around.  There's also a good ghost who lives inside our hero and occasionally pops out to give advice, which will ring familiar later.  A surprising amount of the evil is centered around our protagonist's refrigerator.  It may be an objectively bad film by most units of measure, but it sure is a kick, with gross-out gore, explosions, laser beams, a disintegrating fetus, catchy music themes, cars crashing into houses (okay, just one of those) and green slime.
Given its cult pedigree, it's been startling how the film has managed to go all these decades completely unreleased.  There's been no previous DVDs, let alone blu-rays - not even a dodgy VHS rip from an obscure region.  No laserdisc either.  But Severin has finally arrived to fill this gaping hole in our collections, even restoring it in 2k from "pristine vault elements," with their Black Friday 2020 blu.
2020 US Severin BD.
Pillarboxed to 1.67:1, Severin's new transfer looks great.  The colors are bold and strong without looking artificially saturated, blacks are deep and the grain is nicely preserved.  The encode is clean and satisfyingly free of digital artifacting.  I daresay this is one of the best transfers I've seen from Severin in a while.  And all of this really helps restore The Black Cat's good name as a legitimate film after existing only in the form of ugly, fullframe bootlegs all ripped, I believe, from an old Hong Kong VHS - the only home video release this film had previously received.  The English audio (there's only one language track on this one) is presented in lossless DTS-HD stereo with optional English subs.
The only extras are the trailer (with some fun narration) and a brief (under ten minutes) featurette interviewing Cozzi and Munro.  It's alright but too short to answer many of the bajillion questions this film raises. Subtract the opening and closing credits, plus all the clips from the film, and we get maybe four minutes from each of them?  Munro doesn't even touch on the famous problems she had with this film.  The most publicity this film ever got is when Fangoria ran a hefty, 6-page spread called "Ripped Off In Rome" all about how she got scammed by the producers.  And Cozzi never tells the story of why this film was turned into a Poe flick, the Demons thing, and just shares a tiny bit of the Three Mothers debacle.  And that's surprising, because this interview was done by the same people who conducted a much better interview with Cozzi about The Black Cat on Arrow's Inferno blu, addressing much more of this stuff, so it's not like they didn't know what to ask about.  It feels like we just got previews of longer interviews that exist somewhere else.  Still, it's a lot nicer to have than nothing.
De Profundis stood as the only closing chapter for The Three Mothers, as unofficial as it may've been, for decades.  It wasn't until 2007 that Argento hired the American team behind Tobe Hooper's Mortuary and the Crocodile movies to pen his true conclusion, Mother Of Tears.  It starred his now quite famous daughter Asia, and they even talked Daria into appearing as a good ghost who lives inside our hero and occasionally pops out to give advice.  Again, it makes you wonder how much, if anything, of Dario and Daria's original Third Mother plans made its way into this.
This movie gets knocked about pretty hard by fans and critics.  It's got a 5.1 on the IMDB (actually pretty high for that writing team), but like The Black Cat, it's a blast.  It's super uneven in terms of quality, which definitely contributes to the "it's awful but I love it" vibe.  Take the special effects: the CGI is pure Sharknado, but it's paired with some genuinely kick-ass physical effects by Sergio Stivaletti.  Impressive fire stunts are intercut with pasted-on CGI flames.  The music never even gets near the genius of Suspiria's famous score, but Goblin's Claudio Simonetti is back and he does provide a score that would out-do most genre films of its time.  Although the title song might've benefited by not having its lyrics in English.  Instead of a black cat we get a nasty monkey, which is a definite improvement, and as the film travels from location to location, you can feel how much money was spent on the film.  The photography looks nothing like the technicolor fantasy of the previous chapters, but it still has an elegant, stylish look to it.  And it's a non-stop thrill ride full of extreme over-the-top kills, magical surprises, and a strong cast.  Asia gives as strong a performance as possible given the material, it's charming to have Daria back even if having her play a Force Ghost was a huge tonal miscalculation, and Udo Kier shows up to get killed.
But it's also a disaster.  The sinister witches of the past films are now presented as Hot Topic goth girls with fake boobs.  The end of the world is mostly illustrated by pairs of middle-aged men in business suits having a shoving match behind the protagonists.  One of the most memorable scenes, again to show just how mankind has descended into evil and madness, is watching these two random dudes in leather jackets and sunglasses bash a car with baseball bats.  The script spends most of its time ripping off The Da Vinci Code, except there's no mystery for Asia to solve, so she just shows up to various locales, meeting new strangers who explain what we already knew from the onset and then predictably die.  The historical exposition is displayed with comic book style illustrations.  It's kind of like the talent is still evident, but they keep making one wrong decision after the next.  But in a way, they're delightfully wrong.  If you go in looking for a respectable film to stand alongside Suspiria and Inferno, you're going to be super disappointed.  But if you're just looking for an unserious good time, The Black Cat's good and this one's even better.
Mother Of Tears came out on DVD as a new release in 2008 from The Weinstein Brothers' as part of their low-brow Dimension Extreme line.  And since the Weinsteins' have the rights, American blu-rays and 4k remasters are probably forever off the table.  Fortunately, it keeps on getting released and re-released overseas.  Yeah, they're stuck using the same old master, but at least you can import a nice, if dated, HD edition pretty easily.  Personally, I went with the recent Happinet blu from Japan, but really there's a ton of fairly equivalent options, so have at it.
2008 US Dimension DVD top; 2020 JP Happinet BD bottom.
Shot in 'scope, Dimension presents the film in a slightly pinched 2.32:1, which the blu corrects to 2.35:1.  Otherwise, as you can see, it's still the same master in 2020: same colors, framing, lighting.  Admittedly, with all its CGI, that would make a new scan even more difficult and expensive, so even though the film grain is soft and haloing to suggest unwise digital tweaking, I think we're going to have to get used to it.  It's a bit crazy, though, that it means The Black Cat winds up with a much higher end, fancier blu.  But it's sharper and clearer than the DVD.  It's just looks like an old blu despite having come out in 2020.

Another plus is that the audio is now lossless.  The English (there's only one language track for this one, too) Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is bumped up to DTS-HD on Happinet's blu.  One step backwards, though, is that Dimension offered English and Spanish subtitles, while Happinet only has Japanese subs.
And that language disappointment carries over into the extras.  The original DVD had a nice, roughly 30-minutes 'making of' with lots of good interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.  They didn't get much from Dario, but they made up for that with a separate on-camera interview.  And there were two trailers.  Not the loaded special edition you'd want, but pleasing enough. 

Happinet carries all of that over, but doesn't offer any English subs, just Japanese ones.  And that's a bummer, since most of the extras are in Italian.  They also included some new special features, including an interview with Argento's friend Vivien Villani who was on set during the shoot, and a new interview with Argento.  But those are all in Italian, too.  The original Argento interview, which is on both discs, is in English though, and both offer an English trailer.  So it's a little disappointing not being able to watch it all, but you could do worse.  Plus, they might win you over with their fancy packaging.  Besides including reversible cover art, a stylish slipcover and an obo, it also comes in a fancy Three Mothers box, designed like the E. Varelli book, to house the whole trilogy.  You can of course put the other Happinet blus in there, but you get the whole box with just this disc, so you can just as easily put in whatever versions of Suspiria and Inferno you own (though the Camera Obscura mediabook doesn't fit, natch), and they even provide custom slipcovers so your editions will match.  It's pretty neat.
So say what you will, but I get a heap of pleasure out of both films, and the fact that they're rather artlessly tacked onto two masterpieces just adds to the cheekiness.  I'll certainly take either one of 'em over Amazon's competently dull Suspiria remake.  And Severin and Happinet have given us some nice new options to take advantage of.