Scream Factory Catch-Up, Part 1: Halloween 3 (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

So there's a whole bunch of awesome new releases I'm dying to cover in the next couple of months, but before I get swarmed over by those, I thought I'd do a little series of "catch-up" posts.  Basically, the idea is these are all compelling releases I absolutely would have covered Day 1 if DVDExoitca had been around when they came out.  This isn't going to be a long series, but just for the next couple of posts, I'm going to be looking at some really interesting Scream Factory releases, DVD comparisons and the whole nine.  And then some other time I'll come back and do another little "catch-up" series for another great label.
And we're starting out with one of Scream's very first releases, Halloween 3: Season Of the Witch. Literally, their first two releases, on the same day, were Halloween 2 and 3 special edition blu-rays. Ironically, Halloween 2 is a movie I used to think was really good as a kid, but now feels really flat and uninteresting to me; and Halloween 3 is a movie I hated as a kid; but now I love it.  To be fair, though, I mostly just hated it because I, like most viewers, went in with the completely wrong set of expectations - where was Michael Myers?  They totally placated me with Halloween 4 at the time; but now that my tastes are a little more refined, I actually wish they'd gone with John Carpenter's original plan of making Halloween an anthology series, with each new film a different Halloween-themed story.  Oh well.  Anyway, now Halloween 3 is the only film after the original I have any time for.  It's great.  I can't believe I once believed the fact that it's not completely formulaic and pandering was a failing.  But hey, we were all kids once, right?
So if this is the Halloween without Michael Myers, what is it actually about?  How about a Nigel Kneale story where Tom Atkins is a surgeon who stumbles onto a conspiracy by an evil toy company to play the best joke on Halloween night, "a joke on the children" (man, I love that speech).  Through a twisted mix of mass marketing and ancient Celtic magic, the president of Silver Shamrock Novelties (Dan O'Herlihy) has a plan to kill all the children of the world as part of an epic blood sacrifice.  And he's got some evil masks, killer tricks, an army of automaton assassins and even a piece of Stonehenge to help him do it. Slick anamorphic photography by Dean Cundey, who made the original Halloween so stunning, and a great score (I mean, even besides the hauntingly kitschy "happy, happy, Halloween" theme song) really kick in a lot of atmosphere to a fun, wild and occasionally gruesome story.  And look for an early appearance by Joshua John Miller (that kid from River's Edge, Class of 1999 and Near Dark) as one of Tom Atkins' kids, and a cleverly hidden cameo by Jamie Lee Curtis.
Halloween 3 was one of those titles that frustrated me the most because there was never a special edition for it.  I mean, I'd love a special edition of The Willies, too; but I kinda understand why there will probably never be one.  But Halloween 3?  How did the heyday of DVD miss out on that one?  I mean, at least there were uncut, widescreen DVDs from GoodTimes and Universal (non-anamorphic and anamorphic, respectively), but they were barebones.  Not even a trailer.  So I was pretty excited when Sanctuary Visual Entertainment released it on the UK with an audio commentary, but uh, you'll see why I still hung onto my Universal DVD after picking that up.  No, it really wasn't until 2012 when Scream Factory finally gave us what we basically always should have had for years and years, a proper special edition with a solid transfer and loads of goodies. And in HD to boot!
1) 2003 US Universal DVD 2) 2002 UK Sanctuary DVD 3) 2016 US Scream Factory blu-ray.
So you can see why I wasn't too thrilled by that Sanctuary import, huh? What did you notice first? That it's faded, fuzzy, soft, in the wrong aspect ratio? The other releases are in their proper 2.35:1, but Sanctuary is 1.78:1, which to be fair I suppose, is probably the ratio it may've screened in the UK. But it's definitely not the Cundey's ideal composition, and it's not even an open matte situation.  They just chopped off the sides, and look how much picture is lost.  Speaking of lost picture, here's another fun fact about the Sanctuary disc: it's cut. See that shot above the comparison shots, with the guys standing in the moonlit junkyard? That's just one of the moments you won't see on Sanctuary's DVD.
1) 2003 US Universal DVD 2) 2016 US Scream Factory blu-ray.
But ruling that hot mess out, how do the other two compare?  Well, clearly Scream Factory have used the same master provided by Universal.  So colors, framing, etc. are all the same.  And that's fine, because Universal had Halloween 3 looking pretty good already.  But getting in close, the boost to HD really does sharpen and clarify things pretty well.  The blu is was a nice little upgrade, no question.

Interestingly, the UK DVD features both a stereo track and 5.1 mix, while the US DVD and blu both exclusively feature the original mono (the blu in DTS-HD).  Disappointingly, however, across the three releases, only Universal's old DVD includes subtitles.
For special features, like I said, the US DVD had bupkis, as had every preceding release. But Sanctuary's disc, for all its faults, has that exclusive audio commentary.  No, it's not either of the ones on Scream's blu.  It's an expert commentary by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman, two names that you've surely noticed recur with some frequency on this site.  Sure, a good ton of the information they provide is also disclosed across the various extras of Scream Factory's edition, but it's still a good commentary track.  And while I'd never recommend anyone make Sanctuary's DVD their go-to Halloween 3 disc, serious fans might want to pick it up in addition to Scream's blu, just as a neat little supplement.  It sells for well under a £ on AmazonUK these days.
And for all the Universal discs giving us nothing, Scream Factory turned around and gave us everything!  I said "either of the" commentaries on Scream's blu because they have two: one by director Tommy Lee Wallace, and one by Tom Atkins.  The Atkins one is okay, but more of a dry career overview.  The Wallace one, moderated by the Horrors Hallowed Grounds guy, is definitely the better of the two.  And speaking of Horrors Hallowed Grounds, there's an episode of that on here as well, which is up to their usually high level of quality.  But best of all is the original 'making of' documentary, featuring Wallace, Atkins and his co-star Stacey Nelkin, plus Brad Schacter who played the bratty kid, Dean Cundey, Dick Warlock, composer Alan Howarth, producer Irwin Yablans and costume supervisor Jane Ruhm. There's also the trailer (finally!), a couple TV spots and a stills gallery. The case has reversible artwork and a slipcover (too bad you can't reverse slipcovers, as they use their usual and tacky comic book style art), and if you bought it direct from Scream's site when it was new, also came with a poster.
I should also point out, that if you pick up Scream Factory's massive Halloween boxed set, with all the Halloween films, this same disc is included.  But there's also a bonus disc, most of which covers the other films in the series, but it does have an additional, exclusive Halloween 3 extra: an interview with effects artist Tom Burman, who is surprisingly absent from the 'making of' on the H3 blu.  Oh, and there's a Halloween 3 radio spot, too.  Halloween 3 is also covered, along with all the other Halloween films, in the documentary Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror, which I already wrote extensively about here.
Scream Factory has done a ton of terrific releases, and this is still one of their best.  Although they have to share a little credit for that with Universal and all the cult labels who could've licensed this and made a special edition years and years ago but never did.  In 2016, fans might expect a fresh 2 or 4k scan for this title, and yeah I can definitely see how this could look even better.  But Universal's transfer was already pretty solid, helped I imagine by Cundey's photography, which looks great pretty much anytime you include the full scope.  Universal has also subsequently released a barebones edition of their own, which has the same transfer and none of the extras. Arguably, though, the compression looks a little better looking with just the film sitting on a dual-layer disc, and their edition does include subtitles, so die-hard fans might want to keep that edition in mind as well.  But Scream's blu is unquestionably the one for me.  That and my little Sanctuary DVD.

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