From a Whisper To a Scream Factory Slam Dunk (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Alright, From a Whisper To a Scream has been my most anticipated Scream Factory release of the year. Not of all time, mind you... after all, they did that amazing Nightbreed restoration and gave special edition blu-rays to some DVD debuts like Terrorvision and Without Warning. But for 2015, this is the one I've been watching the calendar for; and man, I am not disappointed.

I wouldn't argue that this is the best film in their line-up, but I do have fond memories of it since the 80s when it was known as The Offspring.  I originally rented it for a sleepover and it left an impression on me, so years later I kept trying to find that movie with the scene where the civil war era kids played pin-the-limb-on-the-corpse. That and the rat scene from Epitaph were two cinematic moments I was always telling my friends they had to see. But I could never quite remember the title. I know I rented Offerings and Burnt Offerings twice apiece because of that. I mean, it doesn't help that The Offspirng's title and box art really didn't match the film, making it look more like Village Of the Damned meets It's Alive. So I was pretty delighted when I checked out MGM's DVD just because it was an anthology horror film by Jeff Burr, and it turned out to be that film. This blu-ray already had that advantage going for it.
But it's a pretty neat film in its own right. Like I said, it's a horror anthology, a la Tales From the Crypt, but with updated blood and 80s sensibilities (for both good and ill). One of its appeals is certainly how ambitious it is. It's full of great, varied special effects and memorable sequences like the "pin the limb" scene. It has a diverse cast including Clu Gulagher, Cameron Mithcell, Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker's Susan Tyrrell and of course Vincent Price in his final horror film, unless you count Dead Heat. And, since the premise of the film is that the town historian of Oldfield is telling a reporter its gruesome past, each sequence of the anthology takes place in a different time period: the 80s, the 50s, the 30s and the 1860s. So it's not just a period piece, it's several. For a low budget independent film by a first-time director, that's especially impressive. And at the same time, it's clearly personal for Burr (in its production if not the content itself), which gives this film an extra resonance most of its peers lack. In other words, it's not a cynically made formula follower that panders to a lowly horror audience; it's a passion project.
Now, I see this movie get a surprising amount of flack for what a fun and creative venture it is. I guess I can think of a couple reasons for that... It's all played in a sort of broad, larger than life style, a la the old EC Comics stories. So I kinda get it when I hear "the acting sucks," but I also think that's kinda crazy. Like, the Gulaghers are great in this; they're just not playing 100% naturalism - but how can you not love their performances? Also, Vincent Price probably draws a lot of the wrong audience, expecting more of a gentler, old time-y kind of horror film. I get that. Scream Factory's put out two big Vincent Price Collection boxed sets, and they didn't include this, presumably because it really doesn't fit in tonally with his other work. If you're looking for another Raven, this isn't really the film for you... although Dr. Phibes is starting to get warmer.

But if you can get past those little hang-ups, I can't imagine many of Scream Factory's audience being disappointed by this. It never fails to deliver the goods.And my anticipation for this release was only somewhat based on the film itself. Honestly, when I saw the announcement last October, I thought I was "fine with my DVD for this one." I didn't get really excited until I heard what an awesome special edition they had lined up. So let's not waste any more time and delve. I've also got my old MGM DVD on hand so we can appreciate the differences.
Scream Factory's 2015 blu-ray on top; MGM's 2005 DVD below.
Whoa! Look how much better that looks. I figured this was just going to be one of those cases of Scream getting the same HD master MGM used for their DVD and just giving it the natural boost of being on blu, which would've been perfectly fine. The case doesn't mention a new scan or anything, but look at the colors, the crispness of the edges, the contrast. Maybe not a whole new scan, but somebody did something good with this transfer. And the detail is great; check out Clu's forehead in the first pair of shots. Not to get too personal, but you can see detail in the top picture there that's washed out of the second. Overall, this title feels like a bigger upgrade than a lot of other blu-rays taken from already high quality DVDs.
The flip side of MGM's 2005 DVD.
One little thing the DVD had going for it, though, is that it was a flipper disc. Yeah, I know you're thinking that's a bad thing, not a good one; but the point is it had an exclusive fullscreen transfer on the other side. And what's more, that version was open matte, so as you can see, it actually has a decent chunk more picture on the top and bottom. Of course, there's no question that the 1.85:1 transfer on the A-side and blu-ray is the preferred, correct and more attractive framing. But it at least gives the DVD a little, special curiosity value for the dedicated fan.
Less appealing is that dreadful "YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A CAR, WOULD YOU?" commercial that autoplays on both sides of the DVD. But that and the trailer are the only extras on MGM's release. Does Scream Factory top that? Oh boy howdy.

First of all, not to be outdone in even the slightest capacity, Scream has both the original theatrical trailer and an annoying autoplay commercial (this time for Shout TV). But now we really get to it. We have two audio commentaries, one by Jeff Burr and one with co-writers and producer Darin Scott and C. Courtney Joyner. Both are a lot of fun, full of very entertaining anecdotes about making this film, and they do a pretty good job of not stepping on each others' toes and repeating all the same stories. You'll be laughing, and yet they work on a dry informational level as well. There is an awkward gap right in the middle of the second commentary, where they took a break or something went wrong on a technical level for a couple minutes worth of dead air; but it's a minor quibble about a great feature.

Then we come to the documentaries. Return To Oldfield fills in every single possible bit you could want about this film, clocking in at just about two hours, making it longer than the feature film itself. All the surviving major players are on hand, even Clu Gulagher and a vintage interview with Cameron Mitchell. When they come to the civil war segment, even a couple of the original children turn up. The second documentary is a little shorter but still feature length, and is all about the humble beginnings of Burr and other local filmmakers as they grew up making super 8 films from youth to college. It's really involved with a surprising amount of participants, including their parents, childhood friends and high school teachers, but it's also more than a little self-indulgent. It's upbeat and cheery, but by the hour mark, you're really starting to ask yourself if you care at all about all these amateur super 8 films made by children you've never heard of. It does set up From a Whisper To a Scream, though, as the ultimate culmination of that journey detailed in this documentary, like he's finally made the ultimate Super 8 movie... on 35mm.

And there are a couple other odds and ends. If you're like me and usually skip the stills galleries, still check this one out. It features a video introduction by Burr and he narrates the rest. So it's actually a neat little featurette that runs over ten minutes. Then there are some extra TV spots that advertise the film as The Offspring; and Scream has included some really cool reversible cover art with the original Offspring title (yes on the spine, too) and poster.
This is a film I really wouldn't have ever expected to see a special edition for. I think we just got lucky that Joyner's Daniel Griffith's Ballyhoo Productions [Oops! Minor correction: see the first comment below] was already regularly making extras for Shout's MST3K sets and stuff; so they already had him "in house" when they acquired his film amongst MGM's massive catalog. So hopefully this blu-ray brings some new fans to this film, because it's a good time, and now looks better than ever.


  1. Thank you for the wonderful review! The documentaries included on this edition were a passion project for everyone involved, especially Jeff Burr. However, I must correct you on your closing statement. It is Daniel Griffith's Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, not Courtney Joyner's. Courtney often appears in the Ballyhoo productions because of his immense knowledge concerning classic cinema. He is also a great friend and ally! Regardless, thank you again for the glowing review!

    Best Regards,

    1. Whoops, that's what I get for assuming! Made the correction. Thanks for posting! =)