Scream, In 4k But Still Cut... Why, Paramount, Why?!

Scream is one of the most re-released films that still hasn't managed to get it right. It's frustrating. It's also confusing to fans who aren't patient enough to dig into it all, so I see people just buying low quality discs or cut versions without even realizing. We're talking Dimension Home Video and Lions Gate, so of course the situation's unsatisfying. So I figure I'd tackle it here and do my little bit to try and help tip the scales.

Update 1/8/16 - 11/23/21: Scream is back, now available as a 4k Ultra HD release!  But spoilers: they still obstinately refuse to get it right.  It's the cut version once again.  Wah, wah.
I don't think I even need to talk about the movie itself here. Wes Craven directs then newcomer Kevin Williamson's screenplay that takes the slasher film into the ironic, self-referential teen movie realm. It's filled with stunt casting and pop culture references spilling out of every orifice, but Craven winds up giving us possibly his most powerful, old school horror direction of his entire career. Sure, some of his other films are better for having brilliant ideas and iconic imagery, but just in terms of having really effectively done scare sequences, Scream might be at the top of the list. And Williamson's story structure really works, too. It's tempting to write it off as a teen movie or outdated hipster fare, especially with the mainstream reception it got and the declining sequels; but you'll be invested in the characters and guessing who the killer is right up to the end. So it's worth trying to get this on a really good disc.
So Scream first hit DVD as a new release. The film came out in 1996, and it hit US DVD in 1997. It also hit laserdisc in 1997, with one crucial difference. The laserdisc featured the unrated director's cut, while the DVD had the theatrical, edited R-rated version. And here's where things get complicated, because both the laserdisc and DVD were reissued in 1998. In fact, there's two pressings of the second issue of the DVD, because Scream's a big seller, so they're going to keep putting it out, but don't think that means they're going to start getting it right.
an extended moment from the unrated version, only on the laserdisc.
So let's start with the laserdiscs. Both laserdiscs feature the film in full widescreen 2.35:1 in CLV. They're both the uncut director's cut and they both have the audio commentary by Craven and Williamson. Pretty much every release of Scream has this commentary (except for some foreign discs), but it's interesting because they reference the film being the uncut version... which is just inaccurate when you hear the same commentary on any of the DVD or blu-ray releases, and only adds to the confusion. The difference between the two lasers is just the addition of a DTS track to 1998 version. Reissuing DTS editions of films was a thing for a short time in the late 90s, which I talked a bit about in my Army of Darkness post.
The beginning of this shot is in both versions, where the cameraman gets his throat slit;
but only the unrated stays on him as he looks at the blood on his hand.
Okay, so now for the DVDs. Both the 1997 and 1998 discs feature the R-rated version in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen. The 1998 disc was issued with two different covers, basically with or without that gold "Collector's Series" band across the top. The 1997 has that curved purple "Widescreen" logo across the top. The difference between the 1997 and 1998 versions are the extras. The original disc just has the commentary from the laser, plus the trailer. The 1998s keep those but also add some short featurettes.

Even the 2000 Ultimate Scream Edition, which includes the first two sequels, is still non-anamorphic and the R-rated version. It does feature a couple more short extras on the fourth bonus disc, but that's the only upgrade. And in 2009, the Scream Triple Pack, still only includes the non-anamorphic R-rated cut. It's actually got the exact same disc as the 1998 Collector's Edition inside. And if you can believe it, even the Scream Triple Feature 3-DVD set from 2011 is still the non-anamorphic R-rated cut. Non-Anamorphic in 2011? Jeez Louise! It's a wonder the make the blu-ray 4:3! They didn't, but of course it's still the R-rated cut.  And now in 2021, there's a new UHD from Paramount, which is again the R-rated cut.
1) 1997 Dimension laserdisc; 2) 1998 Dimension DVD;
3) 2011 Lions Gate BD; 4) 2021 Paramount UHD.

It's kind of shocking that even the later DVDs are non-anamorphic, but here you go. Framing for all the old releases is essentially the same 2.35:1 across all three releases, except the blu-ray actually loses a smidgen along all four sides. We're just talking slivers here, but still; if there's anything to add to the disappointment sandwich here, they throw it in. The blu is a lot clearer and more detailed than the DVD and laser (versus non-anamorphic, how could it not be?), we can finally read that the VHS Jamie Kennedy has on top of his TV is for the 1995 Harvey Keitel movie Smoke. But it still looks kind of flat, and in some scenes significantly edge enhanced and otherwise tinkered with. It's a single layer disc that looks like it was taken from an older master.

Happily, or perhaps just frustratingly, given that it's still cut, Paramount's UHD looks heaps better.  It's still 2.35:1, but reveals more information along all four sides, and most importantly gets rid of all that ugly image tampering.  Contrast no longer looks over-sharpened to the point where tiny bright spots peak way out, and the washed colors of the BD are restored (look at that lapshade for a quick idea).  Grain still looks a little light and the edges might still be slightly overworked, but this is a substantial improvement over the BD.

The DVD, BD and UHD all feature essentially the same 5.1 mix, though it is lossless DTS-HD on the BD and UHD.  They also all include optional English subtitles, and the UHD has added a slew of additional foreign language dubs and subs.
So let's talk extras. The commentary is actually quite good. Again, if you're not watching an uncut version, it'll throw you off a bit; but for the most part it's just fun and informative, with a good rapport between Craven and Williamson. Then the DVD adds several things, including the original promo featurette, which is of course clip heavy and plays like a 6-minute trailer, but it has some interview clips and is nice to have. It does show you how bad the movie looks in 4:3 with so much of the sides chopped off. Then there's two very short (about 3 minutes each) featurettes that give you a little glimpse of the film being shot behind-the-scenes. They're basically just B-roll footage set to music, but they're fun. Then there's about 5 minutes of extended interviews from the promo featurette, plus trailers, TV spots and a stills gallery. Essentially, the sum total is just the press kit, but I'd rather have it than not. And that's all the Blu-ray has, too. It's just the same set of small extras, in SD on the blu, too, except the 1997 and 1998 DVDs also include a single sheet insert with chapter titles, which the blu forgoes.
Again, though, you can get about 45 minutes of additional extras, including a 30-minute featurette, screen-tests and outtakes, if you get the 2000 Ultimate Scream 4-disc set. That's a little underwhelming to double-dip on a boxed set for, but it's something. And there's a 4-disc blu-ray set which includes two far more extensive 90+ minute documentaries, called the Scream 5 Film Set. To be clear, they mean parts 1-3 plus the two docs add up to five films. Scream 4 isn't in that set. But if you really love Scream, that's the best version to get of the R-rated cut, in that it has the HD transfer and the most extras... though NOT the Ultimate Scream bonus disc extras. If you want to be a completist, you'll still need to get that set, too. And even then, you have to figure out a way to get the director's cut.

And the new UHD? Pretty much the same deal, with the same limited extras package as the blu, where you'll need to delve into box sets and all for longer docs.  It does add one new, brief (just under seven and a half minutes) featurette that takes a look back at the film, 25 years later with brand new cast and crew interviews.  It's worth a look, but its running tells you all you need to know about how substantive it is, hampered further by the fact that they give a good chunk of that time to the young stars of the upcoming 2022 reboot.  It's as underwhelming as it sounds, but it's not worthless.
Ultimately, as many times as Scream has been repackaged and re-sold, it still badly needs a new edition.  At least it looks better now, but critically, all of these discs are cut! We need the director's cut, which is still essentially only available on laserdisc. Now, if you don't have a laserdisc player, there are a couple of old, foreign DVDs that are comparable. Every single blu-ray in every country is as cut as the USA's, but on DVD there are Korean, Scandinavian and Japanese options. There's plenty of DVD versions in plenty of countries, but they're all cut, too. Korea, Scandinavia and Japan are your only options, and don't get too happy, because they're non-anamorphic, too. Essentially they're just ports of the laserdisc; but there's no other choice [Or maybe not??  See the comments below about a possibly slightly better, but very difficult to track down, German DVD].  Because, for whatever reason, the studios just refuse to give fans what we want.


  1. The best way to get it now IMHO, it's with Shout! Factory help. They will make it. I know they can do it. They care about they releases

  2. As someone who does actually own the disc, the Japanese uncut pressing is anamorphic. The image quality is substantially better than the original US DVD release.

    1. Oh really? Nice; I might have to track that down, then!

  3. This does have a German blu release now, fully uncut HD (obviously), although I still wish we'd get it in the US.

    1. Actually (unless you know about a more obscure release I haven't heard of), even the German "Uncut" blu is actually cut. My understanding is that, in Germany, Scream was released even more cut, with more footage missing than the R-rated cut. So the German "Uncut" doesn't refer to the original, unrated director's cut, but just that they've restored it to the theatrical R-rated version that's on most blu-rays.

    2. The only 'uncut' German release is a 2005 DVD from Kinowelt, marketed 'Special Edition'. This is (as far as I know) the only release of the unrated NC-17 cut on DVD.

  4. Yeah, the German DVD release by Kinowelt is completely uncut. I've recently bought this edition from Amazon. It contains everything Craven had to cut to please the moronic MPAA. It's about 6 seconds longer (and contains several seconds of alternate, gorier shots as well) but it's still nice to see it the way it was supposed to be shown.

  5. Apparently 6.6 seconds more of a victim's guts hanging out, a squashed head under garage doors, and a few additional 0.2 second frames added to show more blood etc. Typical MPAA bs forced cuts to make an R rating.

  6. My best guess as to why they won't give us the director's cut is that Miramax insists that they live up to the "EXCLUSIVE" part of "EXCLUSIVE WIDESCREEN DIRECTOR'S CUT." But you never know. Maybe if Paramount retains the rights into 2026, they can put out a fancy 30th anniversary franchise collection with every movie on 4K UHD, plus this elusive cut.

    But at least you can SEE the director's cut if you know where to look, which is more than can be said for the pre-Weinstein cut of "Cursed," which Miramax won't let out at all. Seriously, even Shout! Factory's Blu-ray doesn't have a trace of it, which killed any and all interest for me. That would hurt enough, but one of the actors they replaced just happens to be Mandy frickin' Moore.

  7. The Japanese DVD contains both cuts of the film but the image quality is pretty bad. Way too much compression.

  8. what the this isn't paramount this is miramax although paramount is the current parent company so where is miramax company now?

    1. Miramax has been pretty quiet since Harvey Weinstein was convicted (though they've never completely quit and have been revamping operations more in the last couple years). Paramount's been the one releasing this film on disc, and making the unfortunate decision to go with the cut version every time.