Beyond Grindhouse's The Beyond (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

There have been a few delays and push backs, but Grindhouse's new blu-ray special edition set of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond has finally reached my doorstep. But it's been worth it, because you know what they say about rushing greatness. Grindhouse originally released this on DVD through Anchor Bay in a very cool, special edition collector's tin in 2000. But now, fifteen years later, it's time to see how they've topped themselves.
The Beyond, of course, is pretty much THE Lucio Fulci film. I mean, hardcore zombie or giallo fans might prefer Zombi or Don't Torture a Duckling. And serious long-term fans who've watched all his classics a dozen or more times might have slowly edged City Of the Living Dead up over this through the years. But by and large, The Beyond is generally considered his masterpiece. Set in New Orleans, the plot is practically indescribable. Hell just literally breaks loose and every horrific supernatural thing that can go wrong does go wrong, from spider attacks to psychics to zombies. It's very gruesome and thankfully takes itself entirely seriously; but it's still got a very colorful, fantastic tone that gives the proceedings a soft, inoffensive edge. It's just great music and great lighting capturing one captivating set-piece after another. And giving this film almost an action here with David Warbeck gives the film a bit of adventure film flavor.  It's pretty much the ultimate.
2000 DVD on top' 2015 blu-ray bottom.
The 2.35 anamorphic DVD looked pretty fantastic when it was released in 2000, but as time passed and technology improved, it was starting to look a little stiff. And while there's no denying us fans were hoping for a new 2k or 4k scan for this title, since it is pretty much the crown jewel in Grindhouse's catalog, and for that matter Italian horror overall. But even using the old HD master, this shows us how much better the film could look. A color rebalance certainly helps a lot here, but it's just a cleaner, more natural and detailed image all around. We also seem to have a little extra picture information on all four sides.

By the way, it's been pointed out by an astute member of the blu-ray forums that there are little pops in the audio of the original English mono track. I've listened for myself and yup, I do hear them. And I can also confirm that they're not there on the DVD's mono track. It's a little disappointing, and I do wish they weren't there; but it feels very minor especially within the context of the audio track generally feeling much fuller and stronger overall. A lot of people will be choosing the 5.1 remix, 2.0 remix, or the Italian track anyway, so it won't be an issue at all for them (I suppose here's where I should point out that this film has optional English subtitles as well). But yeah, I'm an original mono man myself, so it is a minor quibble for me.
But let's talk about extras! If you weren't impressed with Grindhouse's updated presentation of the extras, you certainly will be by the massive amount and quality of features they've delivered. This new 2-disc set isn't one of those DVD/blu-ray combo deals; they've got a whole second blu-ray disc just filled with extras. To clarify things, I've decided to break down everything on the original DVD and the new set:

DVD extras:
  • Commentary by David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl
  • Images From the Beyond: a collection of stills galleries (less interesting) and video (more interesting), including a short interview with Fulci, a short clip of David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl at a convention, Darvid Warbeck speaking at a convention, and Lucio and Warbeck doing a Q&A
  • US, International and German trailers
  • The opening sequence in color
  • Necrophagia music video
  • Easter Eggs) 7 Doors of Death trailer and another trailer for Cat In the Brain (there also seems to be another highlight-able link for a third easter egg on the second page of special features that doesn't actually work)
Blu-ray extras:
  • Commentary by David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl
  • Intro by Catriona MacColl
  • 48 minute documentary on the making of The Beyond
  • A 2-part phone interview with Fulci
  • Interview with Larry Ray
  • Interview with Catrina MacColl
  • Interview with Cinzea Monreale
  • Interview with Gianetto DeRossi and Manrizio Trani
  • Footage of Catriona MacColl speaking at a convention
  • Footage of David Warbeck speaking at a convention
  • Interview with Terry Levene
  • The opening sequence in color
  • US, International and German trailers + US rerelease trailer
  • US TV spots
  • US re-release radio spot
  • An overwhelming number of stills galleries
  • 14 bonus trailers for Grindhouse's other titles (including the Cat In the Brain one)
  • Easter Eggs) the full set of Images From the Beyond extras (some of which are duplicated on disc 2 of this blu as well), a series of brief interviews (23 minutes worth) from Paura, the 7 Doors of Death trailer, a 10+ minute audio track of whispering and moaning(?), the Necrophagia music video, and a brief but nice featurette comparing location shots from the films to footage of them as they look now.
Everything in purple is new to the blu-ray.  That is a huge, awesome load of new features. And that documentary interviews some important contributors you don't see mentioned in the list individual interviews, like Sergio Salvati and Dardano Sacchetti. Many of the interviews are quite lengthy and they're all substantial. This is a real everything-you-could-possibly-want special edition. Honestly, if Grindhouse had only issued disc 2 and released that without the actual movie, I would still absolutely recommend purchasing this for the full price.
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Update 7/14/15: If you appreciate special features like I appreciate special features, then even with this incredible 2-disc set, you can't help but keep the Arrow's 2-disc set in the corner of your eye. Sure, the Grindhouse has the (slightly) superior transfer, and the more comprehensive collection of extras; but the Arrow disc still has a whole bunch of stuff that Grindhouse doesn't. Well, in cases like these, you can do what I did: just buy the DVD version. You've already got the best version of the film (the Grindhouse) to watch on blu, so it doesn't really matter if you're only getting an SD transfer this time around. Heck, it doesn't even matter if the actual movie's included or not. The DVD's just a cheaper, convenient way to get the rest of the special features.
  • Commentary by David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl
  • A second commentary by Antonella Fulci (Fulci's daughter) and moderator Callum Waddell, which I'd recommend to hardcore fans only.
  • Intro by Cinzea Monreale
  • Interview with Cinzea Monreale
  • Q&A session with Catriona MacColl
  • Interview with Terry Levene
  • Interview with Gianetto Di Rossi
  • 25 minute featurette where Roberto Forges Davanzati, Daria Nicolodi, Antonella Fulci, Dario Argento, Giannetto de Rossi and Sergio Stivaletti remember Fulci
  • Interview with Catriona MacColl
  • The opening sequence in color
  • International trailer
  • Easter Egg) Darren Ward Remembers David Warbeck - a brief (4+ minutes) interview with the director of Warbeck's final film, Sudden Fury.

And what an impressive collection they have. Some of what's here stems from the old Anchor Bay release, and some of what originated here got ported to the Grindhouse set. But still everything in purple is exclusive to the Arrow release. Admittedly, some of it is pretty redundant. Both discs interview Cinzae Monreale, for example, the actress who played the blind woman. They're both different interviews, filmed at different times in different locations; but naturally she winds up saying a lot of the same stuff in both. You'll hear some of the same anecdotes almost word for word from Catriona MacColl - her stuff was already a little redundant on the Grindhouse disc. But other features, like the exclusive interviews with cameraman Roberto Forges Davanzati or the Darren Ward easter egg, are obviously more original and rewarding even if you've already got the Grindhouse set. The Arrow set comes in their usual windowpane slipcover with reversible artwork inside, a substantial, 32-page blu-ray sized booklet and a fold-out poster.

Okay, and just for the record, I'll throw in comparison screenshots. But bear in mind I'm comparing Arrow's DVD to Grindhouse's blu-ray, so it's not exactly a fair fight. Arrow did also release an HD blu-ray, which comes closer to matching the Grindhouse release. Oh, and if anybody's wondering. I bought this DVD direct from Arrow just this July and they did ship a corrected version, not the original recalled one with the black & white intro. ūüėÉ
Grindhouse blu on top; Arrow DVD on bottom.
So, again, we're giving Arrow a pass here on compression and fine detail because we're comparing their DVD to Grindhouse's blu. And from what I've seen online, they're fairly evenly matched, with just a bit of an edge towards Grindhouse, but not to the point where anyone with either copy should feel like they're missing out. But it's interesting to note the color timing differences - the leaning towards red is more reminiscent of the Anchor Bay transfer we looked at before. Personally, I prefer Grindhouse's.
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That cover on top of this post?
Here's how it looks in the dark.
And usually I don't bother to write much about the packaging, but how can I not here? The original DVD release came in a very cool tin case. Inside, it also had six international poster replicas and a chapter insert of cardstock, and a fat, 48-page booklet. And it was a numbered limited edition of 20,000 copies. Holy cow, it's crazy to think 20,000 was a tight limited pressing in the days of Twilight Time making 3000 of even their Oscar-winning titles, and Code Red still shifting units of a blu they only made 1000 editions of two years ago.

Anyway, but it might seem hard to top that DVD tin, but I think Grindhouse as at least equaled it. This blu-ray set comes in a very cool, glow in the dark slipcover. You've gotta charge it up under some strong light; but when you do, it looks pretty great. It also comes with a slimmer booklet and a bonus CD of the film's soundtrack, which has also been remastered. That's something a lot of fans would pay the cost of this blu for all on its own.
So, at the end of the day, could we have pushed the image a little further with a fresh 4k scan? Sure. And it would be nice if those little pops weren't in the audio either.  But this is still an excellent set, the best the film has ever looked on home video (and likely to remain that way for a long time), and a terrific collection of extra features that would be worth the price of admission entirely on their own. So I'm very happy over here with my copy on the shelf. And it's one of the absolute best horror films of all time, so there's that.

3 comments:

  1. Hope you weren't disappointed with the 1996 David Warbeck interview, John. The film festival had forgotten to actually arrange for someone to host the event, grabbed me in the foyer (with less than an hour's notice) and I agreed to step in despite not having the opportunity for conducting the proper background research. David had only just got out of hospital, but Catriona (who I'd met the previous day) buoyed his confidence and I'd like to think everyone had a good time.

    stevegreen@livejournal.com

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    1. Not at all; David's a lot of fun to listen to, so I don't think you could've gone wrong. It really made you want to know more about the people who attacked him just a few days prior. 0_o

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  2. More recently, watching Catriona's interview at the same event, realised I'd also asked a few of the questions she took from the floor. To be frank, if she hadn't put David so much at ease just before he and I went on stage, not sure it would have been anything like as much fun.

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