Modern Family Romance, LLC

I've been kvetching for a while that Werner Herzog's 2019 drama Family Romance, LLC has been overlooked on home video.  But in 2022, it finally happened.  No blu-ray, but it's at least out on DVD now.  It's actually come out in a couple regions, starting with Italy.  But as it's a Japanese-language film, none of them have been English-friendly until the UK-based Modern Films finally coughed up a disc with English subtitles.  This is also my first time covering a Modern Films release, so welcome to the family, guys.
The premise is certainly unique: Family Romance is a company that hires out actors to families in need of a substitute.  Father is too soused to show up at his daughter's wedding?  That would be embarrassing, so the family hires an actor to pretend to be the father.  Apparently this is a real phenomenon (more on that in a bit), but naturally Herzog immediately stumbles on an edgier application for this service.  A woman hires the head of the company to play the father of a 12 year-old girl whose father abandoned them when she was a baby.  Naturally, things get complicated pretty quickly, because the daughter isn't in on the ruse, and ethical issues start flying right and left.
To make matters even more interesting, this film stars Ishii Yuichi as himself.  The real Ishii runs and "acts" for his actual company, Family Romance, just like the character he plays.  And indeed, most if not all of the actors in this film are Family Romance employees.  Here's a Business Insider profile on him from 2017, where he even plays, just like this film, the father to a young girl who doesn't know he's an actor. Except, in the intervening years, there have been some questions about the veracity of how real all of this is.  Was Herzog duped by Yuichi, or is he playing into the legend?  Does it even really matter?  After all, Family Romance, LLC is a scripted drama presenting itself as a work of fiction, not a documentary.  And none of the character exploration or even overt messages really hinge on this stuff being for real outside the confines of the story.  But I do wonder if the popular press story getting at least partially debunked has anything to do with the enthusiasm dropping out of this film's home video release.  It seemed to be getting a bunch of festival buzz and then nothing until I quietly drizzled out onto DVD.
Herzog plays with the other documentary aspects as well.  There's a scene where, completely disconnected from the plot, Ishii visits a robot hotel and interviews the owner, ostensibly to see if robots could be useful for his business.  Like Family Romance, the hotel is a real thing, and I'm not completely certain it isn't an authentic interview inserted into the film... though I'm fairly certain that guy is an actor, too.  But we're definitely playing with fiction and reality in weird ways, as Herzog is wont to do.  Family is certainly filming in one real location after another, with Herzog simply following them as a 1-man camera crew, as they're surrounded by non-actors.  He even brags in an interview on this disc that some critics mistook this film for a doc, although I suspect that was probably just people reporting on the film before they'd seen it.
At the end of the day, what's actually real in either sense isn't super important, though it can add an extra novel little charges through the proceedings.  What counts is Herzog finding another string of fascinating imagery and raising interesting thoughts.  What counts is that the actors are really good (Ishii has great chemistry with the rest of the cast, especially the girl; and if the real Family Romance ever shutters, I think he has a real potential future in other films), and the story is genuinely affecting.  Even if this sort of thing isn't really taking place anywhere in the world, it works as a fascinatingly subtle tale of science fiction.  However much real truth is or isn't on camera, Herzog has again uncovered an ecstatic truth.
2022 Modern Films DVD.
The film is presented in 1.78:1, which is presumably the correct aspect ratio.  It did occur to me that possibly the reason this film is DVD-only is that it was shot on a handheld camcorder, so there'd be no picture quality benefit to releasing it in HD.  But I looked it up, and Family was shot on a Canon XF400, which is a 4k camera, so theoretically, this could be on UHD.  Maybe Herzog edited it in a lower resolution, who knows?  It doesn't look like the image quality would be particularly impressive in any format, but I compared it to the 1080p trailer, and there was a little ground gained.
2022 Modern Films DVD; Youtube trailer bottom.
So, I'm not going to get into a deep comparison with the trailer, because it's just a Youtube rip, and there's no reason to assume it's the best the film would look on a proper blu-ray.  But you can see the differences, especially in the lines of his tie and collar.  And it does go some way towards confirming the DVD's framing and aspect ratio.

Modern presents the film in Dolby Digital 5.1 with optional subtitles.
As far as special features, I was actually surprised to see that yes, we do get something.  There's basically one thing, but it's a worthwhile one: a 50 minute interview hosted by Asif Kapadia (the guy who directed the Amy Winehouse documentary).  It's a little disappointing that Asif asks him a lot of generic questions like "who were the filmmakers you looked up to when you were making movies" and "did you ever make a musical" (it's kinda the interviewer's job to know that going in, isn't it?) rather than anything thoughtful or interesting about this movie, so a lot of it winds up being a general career overview.  But Herzog manages to bring it back to Family Romance, LLC enough to impart some good insight, anyway.  There's no trailer per se, but they basically play the film's trailer as the intro for the interview, so we get it.  Modern's release also comes in a slipcover.

I'd still love to double-dip on this title with a proper Blu-ray edition one day.  But for now, at least Modern have given us something pretty good.

Jurassic Punk Rocks

Jurassic Punk is sort of like a sequel to the recent Phil Tippet documentary, Mad Dreams and Monsters.  Or, more than that, it's like a response film, almost a counter-argument.  Where Mad Dreams was about a great stop motion animator who was once the top of the industry but saw himself pushed out by digital effects, Jurassic Punk comes at it from the perspective of the digital maverick the industry tried to hold back.  His name was Steve "Spaz" Williams.
What makes Jurassic Punk stand out from its peers is that it isn't purely celebratory.  We've all seen heaps of Hollywood spotlights on individual artists and creators where everybody is getting together to tell us how wonderful they and there work are.  There's an endless procession of ninety-minute love fests, and honestly, when it's a talented film artist, I'm interested in those.  But what if one of them actually took a cynical stance?  Even though Mad Dreams and Monsters is sort of sad, because after spending the first two thirds explaining how marvelous Tippet (who is also interviewed in Punk) and his work is, it then delves into how he and stop motion animators like him are being pushed out of the industry.  ...Not for long, though, because the pendulum wings back to show how he's making his own new movie on his own terms and that he still has an undying legion of fans who appreciate his older art forms.
Jurassic Punk starts the same way: showing us Williams' rise and demonstrating what's innovative and exciting about the work he does.  And we also see the decline of his professional career.  But things are considerably more complicated here.  He's not pushed out by the younger generation with new ways of doing things, but by the older heads of the industry.  More than that, not only was he denied credit and later jobs, but they actively stood in his way, trying to prevent him from creating the effects that wound up earning his films their place in history.  Was it simply because the industry is corrupt and unfair, though, or did he bring it on himself?  Probably some of both.  Williams is a proud rebel, and his inability to "be political," as he calls it, is clearly a major stumbling block for him in working with others.  A major figure in Mad Dreams is Tippet's wife, Jules, who co-runs his studio with him.  Punk instead introduces us to two ex-wives who had to leave him because of his drinking.
Honestly, this film is just a deeper, more personal dive, as we see him confront his inner demons, whether it's stories of him being tossed out of George Lucas's ranch by the Skywalker Police (yeah, they have their own police force) or struggling to get sober.  There's a compelling documentary here even if you could care less about special effects, which is not something you could say for many other filmmaker portraits.  I'm not making this comparison to dunk on Mad Dreams, which I think is also pretty great; but there's no way anybody in that film was going to allow the camera crew to follow them into the shower and film them have a nude breakdown.  That's a unique feature of Jurassic Punk.
And this film also addresses another issue films like Mad Dreams don't have to: the downside of Williams' innovations.  Say what you want about Tippet's work: maybe it's old fashioned and you the frame-by-frame animation is creaky to you.  But you can't deny the charming creativity of it, even if you might prefer something different in your favorite blockbusters.  But Williams brought forth the modern era of CGI, and as this documentary openly addresses, a lot of it was bad.  There's a segment in this that shows us a lowlights reel of clips from films like The Scorpion King and American Werewolf In Paris, where the CGI is just tacky and embarrassing.  Now, to be clear, those films were not his work: he developed the CGI in The Abyss, Terminator 2 and (obviously) Jurassic Park, which are older and yet still hold up considerably better.  But he and others in the film acknowledge that he's also fairly responsible for ushering in the new era, and possibly making movies today worse in general.  Plus, the creature they show from his own film Spawn is as cringe-worthy as anything in the films they hold up for contempt.  Not that I, or Jurassic Punk, am trying to write-off CGI as a negative; there's a lot of room for debate on how good and bad CGI has been for the film industry.  But that's the point; this film has a debate with conflicting points of view.  You're not going to see an Edith Head retrospective that's compelled to also show us a bunch of harmful consequences that has reverberated from her art throughout Hollywood.  This is a more complicated picture, and that's a good thing.
When this Jurassic Punk was first announced on disc, I thought it was DVD-only, and I remember thinking, maybe I should wait and see if it gets included as an HD extra on some future Jurassic Park release.  But then, thinking about how bad this film makes Dennis Muren look, I figured that was pretty unlikely.  I consigned myself to just getting the DVD, and then the BD listing popped up on Amazon - hurray!
2022 Gravitas DVDR top; 2022 Gravitas BDR bottom.
Not to get too excited.  These are still completely barebones single layer discs MOD DVDR and BDR discs.  They're being sold by Gravitas Ventures exclusively through Amazon, and yes, they're 81 minutes long (the proper running time of the film), despite saying 93 on the back of the cases.   Both discs present the film in its presumably correct AR of 1.78:1, except for some vintage footage in varying ratios (i.e. that 2.40:1 T2 shot up the page).  There is a very, very slight difference in the framing between the DVD and BD, literally just 4-5 pixels worth, that shifts and pinches the DVD; but you'd never spot it outside of a direct screenshot comparison.  But for the record, the distinction is there.  The more important point, naturally, is the increased definition, which is a genuine bump in clarity and sharpness.  Toggle between those screenshots and it's an obviously more attractive image.

Also, both discs offer a 5.1 Dolby Digital track, but I'm happy to report it's in lossless DTS-HD on the blu (often, BDRs tend to come with lossy audio tracks, but as we see here, they don't have to), and optional English subtitles.
So, sure.  I would've preferred pressed discs.  Some extended interviews or other little extras would've been nice (at least the trailer).  But it's a terrific film, and I'm very happy to have a perfectly respectable physical release of it.  Highly recommended, and it's absolutely worth the extra $2 for the HD.

A Not Quite Definitive Brief History Of Time

For several years, A Brief History of Time was available on DVD exclusively from Discovery as part of their Science Channel line.  I would read people opining for this film's availability on disc on various forums feeling like one of a very few who had any idea it existed.  The generic cover doesn't even demarcate it as an Errol Morris film.  It's honestly one of the discs I was most eager to alert the world to when I started DVDExotica.  But by the time I did, Criterion had rendered it obsolete, releasing it as a DVD/ BD combo pack (or stand-alone DVD) in 2014.  Oh well, it's still a title I'm keen to cover here, so let's get into it.
I used to own a copy but never quite got around to reading Stephen Hawking's 1988 best seller, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang To Black Holes.  When this supposed adaptation came out in 1991, I was surprised to find that the film is a unique, and to some disappointing, blend of your standard biography about the world's most famous theoretical physicist along with the expected exploration of his scientific work.  The book, after all, was intended to be an overview of cosmology and the nature of our world for layman readers.  And Hawking himself apparently battled Morris quite extensively on the inclusion of all his personal history, which make up way more than half of this picture.  But according to Morris, it's all there in the book, if between the lines.  In an interview included on Criterion's release, Morris explains, "I'm not the person comparing the scientific ideas to biography.  It's Stephen Hawking who's doing it... So when Hawking writes about black holes - these regions of space/ time from which nothing can escape - he is making the comparison with himself.  That is what's so fascinating." 
Well, it's certainly eminently watchable, like all of Morris's work.  Hawking is obviously a singularly unique man, but his story can feel rather bog standard: overcoming the adversity of his crippling disease to develop a unique ability with which to distinguish himself.  Far be it for me to dismiss a film for being too personal, but the world could do with far fewer quasi-inspirational Murderball-style docs.*  But Morris makes it all sing.  The interviews are all great, as his always are, and Phillip Glass's lush score makes the film glide over the film's distinguished imagery (every interview location is actually a carefully art-designed set).  It's full of the director's usual eccentricities, intercutting clips from 1979's The Black Hole, early implementation of CGI imagery, or just the decision to open this film with a close-up of a confused chicken floating through outer space.  And you will still come out of the experience having learned something about the leading theories of the origins of the universe and the nature of time.
1) 2009 Discovery DVD; 2) 2014 Criterion DVD; 3) 2014 Criterion BD.
The first thing you've probably noticed is that Discovery's disc looks way over-saturated compared to Criterion's far more authentic and attractive colors.  Also, four out of every nine frames are interlaced.  So it was a nice little stop-gap release, but it's all about the Criterion now.  They've restored the film in 4k from the original camera negative, supervised by DoP John Bailey and approved by Morris.  It's surprisingly gorgeous for a 2014 blu.  They've also properly matted the film, so we technically lose a little picture (mostly along the bottom), it's now properly re-framed from 1.78:1 to 1.85.  There is a tiny bit of film damage (look at the white curtains on the far right in the second set of images) added to the mix that wasn't on the Discovery, but Criterion is still so superior.  I had been fairly happy with my Discovery DVD; and while I was looking forward to the jump to HD, I was not expecting such a decisive upgrade.

Discovery has a basic but perfectly respectable Dolby Digital stereo track.  For whatever reason, Criterion has spread it out to 5.1, but also bumped it up to DTS-HD and included English subtitles.
The Discovery DVD, as you might expect, is completely barebones apart from a couple of Discovery commercials that play on start-up.  Criterion, on the other hand, came up with a couple strong extras, including the excellent Morris interview quoted earlier.  There's also an on-camera interview with Bailey, and a booklet with notes by David Sterritt of the National Society of Film Critics and excerpts from some of Hawking's books.  Good stuff, but not exactly a packed special edition.  It's made all the more frustrating by the fact that when this film was first released on VHS, there was a second tape with an excellent, half-hour documentary called The Making Of a Brief History of Time?  How did that get decoupled from this?  I was also sort of hoping for the excellent, 46 minute IFC documentary, A Brief History Of Errol Morris, but I could see that might be trickier to license.  And despite the titular reference, it's more of an overview on the career of Morris than A Brief History in particular, so it's not as essential as The Making Of, whose absence is felt quite strongly.
A UHD would render the film grain a little more precisely, but I don't see a 4k disc in the cards for a smaller title like this.  Sure, I'd upgrade if it came out, but we really don't need it; this is an exceptional BD.  Well, unless another region could get The Making Of someday.  But this was probably our only shot.  Fortunately they got everything else right.


*SHOTS FIRED!!

The Right and Wrong Fortunes of War

So I've been slowly replacing some of my US DVDs of UK programs... Not all of them arbitrarily, mind you.  I've just been trying to find the ones that are actually better overseas: be it longer cuts (Masterpiece Theater had a bad habit of trimming scenes down for American television), exclusive special features or just better PAL to NTSC transfers.  The problem is, DVDCompare often helps with the extras, but otherwise there's rarely information online detailing the differences between international editions, and when there is, you wind up having to trust one random Amazon reviewer or an ancient post from the IMDB boards.  So there's a lot of rolling the dice, and so far I've been lucky.  In fact, just recently, I landed a great on one I should've bought years ago.
Fortunes of War may go down in history as the first pairing of frequent collaborators and once actually married couple Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, but it's so much more than that.  The word "epic" gets thrown around a little too often, but this 1987 series truly earns it.  It's a seven-episode adaptation of Olivia Manning's semi-autobiographical series of novels about a college professor and his wife traveling to and from the second World War.  The series is filmed in their authentic locations around Yugoslavia/ Romania, Greece and Egypt.  I couldn't help thinking about those awful shots of Branagh and co. standing around in front of phony pyramids for his latest production of Death On the Nile, while watching Ken and Emma actually climbing the very real pyramids in this.  There are truly impressive battle scenes with big explosions and lots of soldiers operating major military equipment.  But that appears quite sporadically, because Fortunes is really about a single marriage trying to survive the horrors of war, and the friends they meet and lose along the way.
This was major event programming when it aired in the 80s, with something like nine BAFTA noms and three wins (Thompson's first).  Rupert Graves gets third billing on all the packaging, and he's great, but he doesn't even turn up until episode 5.  It's Ronald Pickup who really steals the show as the expatriate Prince Yakimov, but the entire cast is spot-on with one brilliant character after another, including actor/writer Alan Bennett as the detestable Lord Pinkrose.  It has a subtle but effective little score.  And thanks both to Manning and adapter Alan Plater, it's sharply written, and apart from one trite plot device in the last act, heartfelt without being sentimental.  And in fairness to Manning, it could be what actually happened to her and her husband in real life. 
I can still remember waiting, watching websites and wondering when Fortunes of War would ever come out on DVD.  It finally did in 2005 as a flipper-disc from Warner Bros and BBC Video.  And since no one's ever seen fit to restore it to HD, that's been my copy for all these years.  But it's never been terribly satisfying.  So this winter, I got curious, and started searching for information on what they had in the UK, and come to find out in 2006, 2 Entertain released a "Collectors Edition" set of 3 dual-layered DVDs.  How much better is it?
2005 US Warner Bros/ BBC DVD top; 2006 UK 2 Entertain DVD bottom.
I was mostly just hoping the interlacing would be fixed, and yes, it is.  So many of these UK programs suffer from lazy ports that don't re-scan the original materials and so just wind up interlacing PAL material in North America, so importing is often the ideal solution, and so it is in this instance.  But I was pleasantly surprised to discover a very distinct and all-around superior transfer.  Both releases are 1.33:1, as indeed a 1987 television program should be.  But the UK edition has additional picture along all four sides.  What really sticks out, though, is the color correction.  The first thing you notice in these comparisons, especially the first set of shots, is that sickly green hue over the US image.  The UK edition looks much more natural and attractive throughout.  I mean, to give credit where it's due, in the second set of shots and other points through-out the series, Warners has boosted the contrast and saturation somewhat, which can sometimes be a little more appealing (although there probably shouldn't be any of that blue on the dog).  But overall, there's no contest, 2 Entertain is much preferable to look at.

Audio- and language-wise, there's not such a gulf.  Both releases have the original stereo track in Dolby Digital with optional English subtitles.
But another reason to avoid Warner Bros' disc is that it's completely barebones, apart from an annoying BBC commercial that plays on start-up on both sides of the disc.  Meanwhile, 2 Entertain, as its Collectors Edition banner implies, has some great stuff.  There's an almost 40-minute documentary on Plater.  Fortunes itself gets very brief coverage, but you come away with a stronger appreciation for what he's done here anyway, just based on what you learn about the rest of his career.  Then, there is a series of vintage BBC television programs from '87 and '88.  One interviews Pickup and series director James Cellan Jones, and another talks to Plater.  They're a bit trivial, taking phone calls from home viewers, with one young lady asking Pickup for acting advice; but there's some good insight in there as well.  There's an interview with Emma Thompson, which is fun but very much the equivalent of a Carson or Fallon appearance.  Then there's one labeled Breakfast Time, but it's actually a pretty traditional behind-the-scenes promo featurette, with on-set interviews and B-roll footage.  And finally, there's a segment with three critics, which feels a bit silly at first, but actually, they make some good points, and have familiarity with the novels, so fans should actually get something out of it.

2 Entertain's set also comes in a more attractive slipbox... not to mention, what is going on with that awful air-brush painting of Thompson on the US DVD cover?  Neither cover design is terribly good (look how both of them slap those airplanes around the pyramid in the background), but at least you can glance at the UK edition without wincing.
So even though we're talking DVD to DVD, I'd still say this is a must-update, even more than many DVDs to BDs or BDs to UHDs have been.  If you own the US DVD, you've gotta swap it out.  I mean, unless the BBC ever sees fit to restore this classic to HD.  You'd think with its massive production values, awards, artistic qualities, critical reception, star power, etc, this would be high on the list.  But for whatever reason, studios interest in putting out these celebrated classics is very low, and the prognosis for a blu is practically nill.  In the meantime, the Hoover dam couldn't stop the flood of Jess Franco, Andy Milligan, Full Moon and Troma titles getting issued and reissued out the wazoo.  And don't get me wrong, I obviously dig my trashy cult titles as much as anyone and more than most, but come on, where are our priorities?  They should be right here.

Vestron's Silent Night, Deadly Night 3-5 Collection

The holidays may be over, but that doesn't mean we have to stop with the Christmas cheer.  Especially since Vestron has dropped this fun, little 3-disc set down our chimneys.  This is the blu-ray debut of the latter three sequels to Silent Night, Deadly Night: Better Watch Out, Initiation and The Toy Maker.  Lions Gate previously collected the three films for a DVD set back in 2009, but I didn't bother.  They were fullscreen, barebones, and while I enjoyed the whole SNDN series as a kid - and despite the involvement of some interesting creative talents - I wasn't too confident these later, direct-to-video flicks would hold up.  But when Vestron brought them back in a nice, very affordable HD special edition set, I couldn't resist.  And now I'm glad I didn't.
When I said I enjoyed the whole series as a kid, what I meant was some more than others.  And 3 was always the one I liked least, even including 2, which is like 50% recycled footage from the first one.  It was just so damn so and boring, and that hasn't really changed.  The killer no longer dresses like Santa, and spends the entire film in a literal coma, shambling around and following our heroine thanks to some under-cooked plot point about a psychic link.  I think the film is deliberately slow-paced in order to feel dreamlike, but that doesn't make it any less of an endurance test.  Fortunately, it's short, a bit silly and now that I'm older, I'm recognizing a lot of the talent involved, all of which helps buoy one's interest.
For starters, the director is Monte Hellman (Two Lane Blacktop, The Shooting).  That might come as a bit of a shock, but it makes sense when you think how he got his start making films like Beast From Haunted Cave and The Terror (which explains why we see it playing on several TVs throughout the film), and how his career had slid back down in by the late 80s.  Anyway, there's not a lot of directorial dynamism on hand here, but it's professionally made, and the film's script problems can't really be laid at Hellman's feet.  Although he does share a co-writing credit, so maybe...
Anyway, just as interesting as its director is its cast.  I Spy's Robert Culp is the marquee name as the cop on the trail of the killer; but he never manages to have anything to do with the main story.  Instead, we have Twin Peaks' Richard Beymar and Eric Da Re, Mulholland Drive's Laura Harring, TCM2's Bill Mosley as Ricky (the killer from the previous film) and prize fighter Carlos Palomino.  Not that the novelty of the line-up means we're getting any great performances, and our ingénue protagonist is as stiff as they come.  The most memorable aspect of this drowsy thriller is the fact that Ricky has a blinking glass dome on his head that shows his brain at all times.  Otherwise, it's a pretty lackluster slasher with uninteresting characters and only a handful of straight-forward kills.
2022 Vestron BD.
Well, it turns out Vestron's blu-rays are full-frame, too.  Of course, that would be the OAR of a direct-to-video film from this period, but often it turns out the directors at least had aspirations of theatrical exhibition and framed for wide.  Apparently, that's not the case here, so this boxy 1.33:1 framing is as it should be.  It's a clear HD image with clearly delineated colors, attractive contrast levels and reasonable but unexceptional grain capture - in other words, about what we've come to expect from Vestron.  It's fine but nothing cutting edge.

The original mono track sounds nice and clear on this DTS-HD track, and we get optional English, English HoH and Spanish subtitles.
More exciting, we get some sweet extras.  First up is an expert audio commentary by Jarret Gahan.  It's informative, but goes off on long tangents.  When he was explaining the difference between Charles Band's Wizard Video and Full Moon companies, I asked myself, how did we get here?  I believe the only connection is that SNDN3 is also a direct-to-video title.  So you'll need a good reserve of patience, but if you can handle it, this is definitely the kind of film that calls for having its backstory explained, and the commentary does the job.  Even better, though, are the on-camera interviews.  Creative Consultant Steven Gaydos was a long-time collaborator of Hellman's, and is able to bring his perspective to the proceedings.  Mosley's is the most fun, with a bunch of personal anecdotes, and executive producer Richard Gladstein provides the first of three interviews talking us through this trilogy of films.  We also get the trailer and a stills gallery.
1990's SNDN4 is a more exciting rediscovery because it's a Brian Yuzna film.  As slow as 3 was, 4 is the one that consistently put me to sleep during sleepovers as a kid.  At least I made it to the end of 3.  Barely if at at all connected to the previous three films (I don't care what anybody says, this Ricky will always be that Ricky to me!) and not even a slasher anymore, 4 is a simplistic and heavy-handed look at feminism through the lens of a woman written by a man who gets caught up with a coven of witches.  Almost nobody gets killed, and most people just sit around yammering about office and relationship politics for most of the run time.  If an actual feminist had written this, it might've had some edge at least.
But revisiting the film now, while my criticisms still hold true, I've found some great sequences to appreciate.  It turns out, you're really rewarded if you make it to the end.  There are reliably inventive special effects sequences by Screaming Mad George and an extreme moment of coitus interruptus by Clint HowardBond girl Maud Adams doesn't work up much enthusiasm for her role as the lead witch, but some of the others, including Jeanne Bates and Moonlighting's Allyce Beasley, get into the spirit of things.  Plus, Phantasm's Reggie Bannister has a neat cameo.  And there's more Christmas in this film than its critics give it credit for.  It's not Yuzna's best work, but it's not his worst.
2022 Vestron BD.
Again the film's 1.33:1, and all this spare headroom makes me think these really should be matted to 1.85:1, but these are just the masters Lions Gate had lying around.  Anyway, it's fine, and at least nice to finally see these films in crisp HD.  If anything, grain is even sparser here, but it's a clean, attractive picture.  This time the original audio is stereo, but otherwise it's the same story as last time, with a clear DTS-HD track and optional English, English HoH & Spanish subtitles.

The extras are even better this time, thanks to another excellent audio commentary by Brian Yuzna.  It's always a treat listening to his talk about his films.  We also get a forthcoming on-camera talk with screenwriter Woody Keith, a stilted look at the special effects with Screaming Mad George, and the next chapter with Richard Gladstein, who helps put these films in context.  And again, there's a stills gallery and the trailer.
1991's 5 was always my favorite, and in 2022, it still is.  Yuzna let his script supervisor Martin Kitrosser direct this one, but Yuzna oversaw it as a producer and co-writer, and it still feels like a Yuzna film.  It's a completely bonkers psycho-sexual tale of a new killer Santa, this time one who kills with twisted, mechanical toys.  It's demented, fast paced, and basically one great set-piece after another.  The cast, from the knowns (including famous SNDN detractor Mickey Rooney!) to the unknowns, all do a great job here, even the kids.  This film improves on the previous two in practically every respect, and the premise is a good time waiting to be unwrapped.
2022 Vestron BD.
Again, the framing is 1.33:1, but like 4, 5 isn't as strong an image capture as 3, which itself wasn't showroom floor stuff.  Grain is barely detectable.  This certainly wasn't restored in 4k, but Vestron fans should be used to older masters by now, and it's a satisfying enough HD transfer if you go in knowing what to expect.  The stereo mix is again presented as a lossless DTS-HD track, and we get another trio of English, English HoH and Spanish subtitles.

Kitrosser does his own commentary, which is nice.  Yuzna does come back, too, this time for an on-camera interview.  Probably the best one is with actor Brian Bremer, who managed to steal the show from an exceptional cast.  We also get another one rough chat with Screaming Mad George and third chapter in our talk with Richard Gladstein.  There's one more still gallery and the trailer.  And the whole package comes in a stylish slipcover.
A lot of us have been waiting for Vestron to tackle these films, and this Christmas, they didn't let us down.  It may not be a massive restorative undertaking, but getting all three films in HD for the first time, with a bunch of truly rewarding extras, is really all you can ask for.  Especially at these prices.  Let's hope the Vestron line lives on for a long, long time.