Bigger Trouble In Little China From Arrow (DVD/ Blu-Ray Comparison)

Big Trouble In Little China since it first came out in 2001. Anytime John Carpenter does an audio commentary, you wanna pick it up, and Big Trouble is one of my favorite of his anyway. So it was a no-brainer. But I never really felt compelled to bump up to the blu-ray when that came out. Sure, if I ever get rich, I'd like to own every single DVD I own to blu-ray whenever possible. But times being what they are, I really need to be sold on a double-dip. A corrected transfer (i.e. a fullscreen movie finally released widescreen), a cut version uncut, or new all extras. So I held off. And I'm glad I did, because Arrow put out their own blu-ray in 2013, which did meet my upgrade terms.
I've had Fox's 2-disc set of

Update 3/4/16:
But with that said, I've just got my hands on a copy of the US blu-ray, too. So we can have a more thorough, well-rounded set of comparisons.
If you've never seen it, Big Trouble is as fun as its title suggests. It's sort of an Indiana Jones-style modern adventure story, but leaning a little heavier on parody thanks to Kurt Russell's character playing more of a posturing blowhard rather than a straightforward action hero. He winds up getting pulled into Little China's mystical underworld when his buddy and in many ways the film's real hero Dennis Dugan (the guy from Prince of Darkness) finds out his girlfriend was kidnapped. Following her trail, they immediately get caught int he middle of a gang war, which progresses from gun fight to a crazy kung-fu stunt show to the supernatural. From then on, the movie runs breathlessly from spectacle to spectacle, with lavish sets, beautiful cinematography by Dean Cundey, and dozens of great supporting characters.
Fox did a pretty great job with their DVD in 2001, which is part of the reason I was fine not upgrading. It had a great 2.33:1 transfer and some strong extras, including a bevy of deleted scenes and that commentary. Sure, there's always room to grow from SD, so I was confident any blu-ray release would be an upgrade. But when Fox released their blu in 2009, they didn't come up with any new features; and for a 2-disc set, the original release always felt pretty light (honestly, I think it all could've fit onto one disc just fine but they wanted to market a "2 Disc Special Edition"). So when Arrow came out with their version, including all new interviews to fill out the special edition, it was on my radar. And when Arrow had their summer sale the other month, it was in my collection.
Fox's 2002 DVD on top; Fox's 2009 blu middle; Arrow's 2013 blu bottom.
Reading the "About the Transfer" section in their booklet, Arrow basically just says they got their HD transfer from Fox. And that's fine, because even though I never bought their blu, it's not because I ever doubted their HD presentation. It's practically identical to the US blu, and comparing those to the DVD, they're nice upgrades. In the first set of shots, there's all kinds of compression artifacts and junk around those DVD lightning bolts (and everything else), which are nicely cleaned away on the blus. The framing is better, too. Now at 2.37:1, we get noticeably more information on both sides and even a teensy sliver on the bottom.
Fox's 2002 DVD left; Fox's 2009 blu middle; Arrow's 2013 blu right.
Zooming in on James Hong in the second set of shots, we really see how much the finer details have been softened away in the DVD. Now on the blus, we're finally down to the grain and a sharper, clearer image. You can actually, albeit barely, make out the whites of his eyes in the Arrow blu. Maybe not quite on the Fox blu... it's very close to the Arrow, but a hint softer. Maybe a touch more DNR was applied to their disc. But you really need to be zooming in to screenshots to even see the difference.

Arrow's blu also gives up an optional DTS-HD 5.1 mix or a solid, uncompressed 2.0 track. There's also a 5.1 isolated music track, and optional English subtitles. Fox's blu has both the 5.1 audio options, plus a bunch of foreign dubs; but Arrow added the 2.0.
I've gotta be fair to Fox, now; they did have some really good extras. The commentary by Carpenter, joined by star Kurt Russell, is a lot of fun, if a little self-indulgent (get ready to learn whose son is learning to play instruments, and whose just won a high school sports championship!). It's full of great info, as Carpenter's commentaries always are. And the deleted scenes are very thorough, including an extended ending, which I dunno... I kinda think they should've left in the picture. In fact, there's a lot of cut material, and we're sometimes even given the option to watch it from two different sources: 35mm workprint or videotape. There's also a good little interview with special effects man Richard Edlund, the original promotional featurette, and some odds and ends including trailers, TV spots, stills galleries, and Carpenter's music video for the theme song. It didn't quite feel like a "fully loaded" special edition, but all the content that was there was pretty great. And I'm talking about both their DVD and blu, which are identical in the special features department.
And I'm happy to report that Arrow ported everything over. The commentary, the vintage featurette, Richard Edlund... it's all here. They even kept both versions of the deleted scenes that came from workprint and videotape. And they've gone and added some great new interviews which really flesh this release out to a full edition. And, since so much time has passed since the original Fox extras, we get a little extra perspective on things as well. For example, I'm not sure Carpenter's attitudes towards working for a major studio is exactly the same now as it was then, and we're able to refer to his later work, like Ghosts of Mars and The Ward. So, specifically what we get are brand new, on camera interviews with Carpenter, Kurt Russell (who's a pretty impressive "get" for a cult label), Dean Cundey, producer Larry Franco, and stuntman Jeff Imada. Arrow has also upgraded Fox's slim insert to an impressive booklet, which includes interviews with production designer John Lloyd and make-up effects artist Steve Johnson, and an essay by the author of The Films of John Carpenter. So it's another one of those rare cases where I actually bothered to read the book. Oh, and this release features reversible artwork, which I've used above, because I don't really get that mushroom cloud illustration they used for the other side.
So I absolutely recommend this release for anybody who wants this film on blu. As we've seen, it's a notable upgrade over the DVD, and the new extra features easily make this the preferable option compared to other the blu-ray, too. High marks all around. It's such a fun film, I can't image many film fans not being interested in it, but since it's been issued in so many countries, including the US, you may not've thought about importing. But maybe now you should, 'eh?

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