The Impossible Quest for a Proper Tabloid (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Collecting DVDs shouldn't be this hard.  Tabloid is a fairly recent Errol Morris documentary that first debuted on DVD in 2011 from IFC Films.  It's super entertaining.  But here's the thing: the DVD itself?  It's not so great.  So I decided to try my hand at importing, and it turns out - with this title at least - you just can't win.

But you can at least do better than the US DVD.
It goes without saying that an Errol Morris documentary is a great documentary; but in recent years, he's been doing a lot of very serious, sometimes rather depressing, war films.  However, as Morris put it in his director's statement, "Tabloid is a return to my favorite genre - sick, sad and funny."  It's a completely crazy story about a beauty queen who fell in love with a Mormon, hired a pilot and a couple of heavies to sneak into the UK, kidnap him at gunpoint for a weekend of love-making and then smuggle him out of the country.  And there's no way you'd guess all the crazy turns this true story takes.  I certainly won't spoil it for you here, but it's a real "you can't make these things up" kind of show.
The only release we have of this film in the US is that 2011 IFC Films DVD.  I had it pre-ordered well before it came out, but after being disappointed by the disc, I figured there had to be something better in another region.  2012 saw new DVDs in the UK and Australia, so I went with Dogwoof's UK disc, because it promised a unique set of extras.  It was an improvement but still a disappointment, so later on I put out the feelers for another search.  Surely a recent film this good has to be available in HD, right?  And sure enough, there was a 2013 blu-ray released in the Netherlands from Remains In Light (yes, that's the company's name) that even seemed to include the UK special features.  Perfect, right?  Third time's the charm?  Nope.  Here's why.
2011 US DVD top; 2012 UK DVD mid; 2013 NL blu bottom.
Gah!  Look at the interlacing in that first pic!  How does that happen on a modern day release from a legit, mainstream studio?  The answer, of course: it doesn't.  Clearly the devil had to have been involved.  Moving down to Dogwoof's UK disc and thankfully that's fixed.  It's decidedly darker (look at the "Manacled Mormon" block in the second shots), with some slightly crushed blacks; but otherwise it's not too bad. But that's alright, the blu-ray should be the best of both worlds and take care of all of those issues, plus boost us up to a crisper HD image, right?  And it does.  It's pretty great, except... what?  It's in the completely wrong aspect ratio.  The DVDs are in their original, very wide 2.40:1 ratio, but the blu-ray, well, it claims to be 1.85:1 on the case, but is even wrong about that, coming in at 1.78:1.  It's a bit of a split, partially opening up the mattes to give us more vertical information, yet also cutting off some of the sides.

Audio-wise, the US DVD comes through alright, giving us a solid 5.1 mix with optional English and Spanish subs.  Dogwoof gives us the same, minus any subtitle option.  Remains In Light gives us two audio tracks, Dolby 5.1 and DTS-HD 5.1, both in English, so that's nice.  Their only subtitle options are Dutch and French, though.
So let's talk special features.  The US DVD has nothing but the trailer, which is another reason why I was so keen to search elsewhere.  The UK DVD promises multiple things, as you can still see on the label's official page and the back of the case, including:
* Trailer
* Director Statement
* Deleted Scenes
* Extended Interviews
* Additional Trailers
But that's pretty misleading.  The director's statement is just a short bit of text written on the inside of the case, not an on-disc extra of any kind, and the deleted scenes and extended interviews are both referring to the same brief things.  There are four (total) deleted scenes, which are extra little clips from the interviews. The DVD packaging says the extras are "15 min. approx," but they must be including all the bonus trailers and ads, because it really totals five and a half minutes, generously eight including the film's trailer.  I prefer to assume that the DVD was originally going to have more extras that got pulled at the last minute, and just wound up in the disc's notes, rather than Dogwoof deliberately trying to trick buyers into thinking they had more substantial features than they actually did, but either way it's kind of a bummer.
deleted scene
With that said, though, a few extras beat no extras; and I'm always happy to see deleted scenes from Errol Morris films.  The ones included on Standard Operating Procedure and the First Person solo episode DVD were amazing.  These, well, one is quite compelling, but the other three don't add much at all.  I'm glad to have them, though.  And yes, these four extra scenes are also included on the blu, as is the trailer and some more bonus trailers.  I should also point out that the Dogwoof DVD comes in a slim case made entirely of recycled materials.  The design's alright, but it doesn't look too pretty spine-out on a shelf.
Remain In Light's disc is the only blu-ray release of Tabloid in the world, so basically you have to choose.  Which one is going to bother you less: watching this film in SD instead of HD, or watching it in the wrong aspect ratio?  Whatever your answer to that question is will determine whether the Dogwoof or Remain In Light disc is the right one for you.  Whatever you do, though, don't get the US DVD from IFC Films.  That's the worst.

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