Update Week Begins and Competition Has Heated Up For Zombi 3

Here's a release that just kept getting better and better: 88 Film's brand new blu-ray of Lucio Fulci's (maybe) Zombi 3. When they first announced it, it was pretty light on extras, but I was still interested in upgrading it to HD, especially since what had long been best release of this film, the Shriek Show DVD, only had the opening sequence via a composite from some old Japanese laserdisc source and looked like crud. But when pre-orders went up, it was announced that 88's elements didn't include that prologue, and they'd have to use the same low quality footage for that scene. That was pretty disappointing, but to try and make up for it, they added that anyone ordering this direct from their site would get an exclusive slipcover and a bonus disc of Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered Vol. 1. Right on. But then the release date got pushed back, because... 35mm footage of the opening sequence was found at the eleventh hour! Oh hey, and guess what? This release turns out to have more last minute extras than they'd announced, turning this into a pretty fleshed out special edition.

Update 12/13/15 - 8/17/19: Let Update Week begin!  I've got a bunch of long-awaited updates to some popular, and even requested titles dying for me to do and share the research on 'em.  So for an entire week+'s worth of posts, it's going to be big updates to older comparisons.  By "important," I mean newer, dueling BDs (I've added a couple older DVDs to past posts, too, like A Room With a View and Big Business, but I don't bump those lesser updates to the top of the site) like this one.  A post comparing the brand new 88 Films BD of Zombi 3 to the old DVD was exciting news at the time; but it hardly feels relevant in 2019 without talking about Severin's more recent US release.  Now, everyone looking into Zombi 3 pretty much just wants to know, between the two blus, which has the better transfer and special features.  So strap in for a bunch of updates!
I put "maybe" after Fulci's name, because it comes towards the end of his career, and poor health forced him to leave the project before it was complete.  And so it's always been a mystery just how much of the film did he actually complete, vs how much was ghost directed by Bruno Mattei and/ or Claudio Fragasso. Regardless of who's responsible for how much, though, it's definitely a lesser Fulci horror film that does feel closer to some of Mattei and Fragasso's goofier zombie flicks than Fulci's. It's got plenty of zombie action, guts, explosions, helicopters, undead birds and flying heads, though, so as long as you're up for a campier experience, and are prepared for this to not be up to the same level of quality as Zombie, you're still in for a good time here.
So Zombi 3 more or less debuted on DVD in 2002 from Shriek Show... There had been a lower quality Japanese DVD and a "Red Edition" from Laser Paradise with no English language options the year before in 2001. And there have been plenty of international DVD releases since - some cut, some uncut - but none of which improved on the Shriek Show disc. It took until 2015 when 88 Films gave Zombi 3 its blu-ray debut. And in 2018, Severin brought it to the US.  But it's not just a quick port; it has a distinctly different transfer and set of extras.  So it's time to see how they stack up.
1) 2003 Shriek Show DVD; 2) 2015 88 Films BD; 3) 2018 Severin BD.
Well, the HD prologue is much better than the DVD - so happy to see this! Shriek Show's footage looks even worse in motion, with it's weird digital noise moving all over the image. They sort of got away with it at the time, since the opening sequence is shot so dark and mono-chromatically, but anyone trying to watch it in HD would've cried.  With 88's blu it looks much cleaner and clearer.  But thanks to Severin, I now see that calling this sequence mono-chromatic may've been a mistake.  Their new transfer really brings colors to life.  We see the bright red contrasting with the heavy green, and even the natural flesh tones of the doctors despite their unnaturally lighting.

The framing is also different.  The DVD is at about 1.77:1, but 88 opens it up to an unusual 1.67:1.  Severin then mounts it back down to a more traditional 1.78:1.  This mostly results with 88 showing a sliver more vertically and Severin showing having more along the sides.  But let's take a look at a couple more screenshots.
1) 2003 Shriek Show DVD; 2) 2015 88 Films BD; 3) 2018 Severin BD.
First of all, again, either HD transfer really blows away the SD!  I was expecting a big improvement on the opening scene, which was rumored to have been ported from a Japanese laserdisc, but not so much everywhere else.  Part of it seems to be that SS maybe took other scenes from the same lower quality source as the opening? Because the quality seems to dip in and out (notice how much worse this shot of the girls at the bed looks than the shot of the soldier escaping the zombies on the stairway), while of course remaining constant on the BDs. Another part of it is definitely that Shriek Show's disc is interlaced, in every scene, which you can see in the top set of shots above, and that of course the blus fix right up as well. But even comparing Shriek Show's best frames, 88 still has a much more attractive, detailed image.
2015 88 Films BD left; 2018 Severin BD right.
And Severin?  Well, they certainly smarten up the colors, don't they?  You can make out more in their shadows, too.  That alone would make this the most pleasing edition for any layman.  Their grain looks a tad sharper, too.  Still, though it seems like they're using the same master scan.  I suspect 88 added a very gentle layer of DNR on top of the grain, which Severin didn't.  Overall, either edition is a massive leap from the DVD, but I'd say Severin has taken the advantage of letting 88 go first to quietly improve on their BD as well.
1) 2003 Shriek Show DVD; 2) 2015 88 Films BD; 3) 2018 Severin BD.
Oh, and the aspect ratios, right.  Yeah, it's not just the opening sequence, all three films stay the same throughout.  Shriek Show's is anamorphic and almost exactly 16x9, but it's actually slightly window-boxed, at least on top, left and right sides to 1.77:1.  And 88 says it's 1.85 on the back of their case, but it's really slightly pillar-boxed to 1.67:1, which ultimately gives us a little more on the top and bottom, and a little less on the sides compared to Shriek Show.  Severin, then, takes us back to a classic 1.78:1, with no windowboxing, revealing slightly more along the sides and slightly less vertically, compared to 88.  Compared to Shriek Show, it's interesting... sometimes they're a little more zoomed in and sometimes they're a little more zoomed out.  Again, this could be due to Shriek Show having made their transfer from more than one source.

All three discs only include the English mono track, though the LPCM on 88's disc and DTS-HD on Severin's both sound fuller than Shriek Show's DVD.  Only Severin also includes optional English subtitle options.
So, now let's talk extras. We knew 88 was going to have an on-camera interview with co-star Ottaviano Dell'Acqua and a Q&A with Catriona MacColl... which is a little odd, since she wasn't in this film. The Q&A is a solid half hour long and moderated by Callum Waddell. She at least talks about Fulci. I guess 88 had it and realized they weren't going to be releasing any of MacColl's films anytime soon, so they slapped it on here. Okay.

And of course there's Paura. I've already reviewed that on its own separate disc, so go ahead and follow this link to read all about it, see screenshots etc. I can tell you now, the version with Zombi 3 is exactly the same disc, same menus, with the easter egg in the same location. All they've updated is the outer label on the actual physical disc, to make it match with the rest of 88's Italian Collection line-up. It's included inside the Zombi 3 case, as a 2-disc set.

And now let's talk about the pleasant surprises - more extras that turned out to be on this disc! There's an all new interview with Claudio Fragasso, and an audio-only interview with star Beatrice Rice. 88 has also included the alternate, Italian language opening and closing credits. And besides the aforementioned slipcover, this release has reversible cover art and an insert card with alternate Zombi 3 artwork.
Not that Shriek Show came up short in extras, especially if you made sure to get the second issue. Yeah, this is a unique thing that takes a little explaining. See, Shriek Show, like some other labels I'm sure we can all name, had a little trouble meeting their release dates. So they'd announce something, it wouldn't come out, then they'd announce a new date, and so on. Zombi 3 had been pushed back a couple times and fans were getting frustrated. Shriek Show said they were still waiting on the commentary, but they would release this without it just to get it out there. That's the 2002 disc. Then a few months later, the disc with the commentary would start being sold in an identical case. To tell the difference, you have to look for the sticker that I show above.

And it was worth putting in the effort to sort it out, because the commentary, by Rice and Deran Serafian is quite good. They're both funny, being silly, while still being informative and answering a lot of the questions fans have long had about this movie. It reminds me a lot of the commentary MaColl and David Warbeck did for The Beyond. The second edition also included a video introduction by the pair, and a rarely mentioned on camera interview with makeup effects artist Franco Di Girolamo. Add to that all the interviews the 2002 disc already had: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso, Ottaviano Dell`Acqua and Massimo Vanni (they're interviewed together) and Marina Loi, plus a photo gallery, theatrical trailer and some bonus trailers, and you've got a loaded special edition that was well worth adding to your collection whether you've got 88's blu or not.
And Severin?  This is interesting.  First of all, they... mostly carry over everything from the Shriek Show disc.  They do lose the video introduction by the audio commentators, and they lose the on-camera interview with Claudio Fragasso.  But don't let that disappoint you, because they replace it with their own, new on-camera interview with Fragasso and his wife/ co-writer Rossella Drudi.  And they thankfully have the audio commentary and all of Shriek Show's other video interviews, including Franco Di Girolamo.  But they're all a bit shorter, because they edit out the interviewers asking them questions, and just leave in the answers.  I don't know if this was an editorial or licensing fee-based decision, but nine times out of ten, I'd say it's an improvement that tightens up the pacing, but every once in a while it can be confusing not hearing what the person is responding to.

Anyway, that's basically it for Severin; they have their re-vamped Shriek Show package.  The first 3000 copies also include a soundtrack CD.  But they don't have any of 88's extras.
Pushed to pick a winner, I'd say Severin has both the superior transfer and the more rewarding special features package.  Plus it's the only one with subtitles.  But 88's still got some nice, unique extras going for it, especially if you don't already own Paura on DVD.  Both interview Fragasso and Dell`Acqua (and the inclusion of that MacColl chat is just silly), but 88 is the only one that talks to Beatrice Rice.  So if you're a big enough fan, this might be one those cases where it's getting both blu-rays to combine into a super special edition. 

1 comment:

  1. FYI, the second-press version (with the commentary) is also included in Shriek Show's "Zombie Pack" set, which includes this film + Zombi 4 and Zombi 5. Selling for about 12 bucks on Amazon right now.