I Drink Your Stigma: Code Red Catch-Up, Part 2 (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

I Drink Your Blood is a screwy, demented horror romp I dig more and more each time I revisit it.  It might be a bad movie, but it's also a great movie.  And if you're anything like me (and I hate to tell you, but if you've found yourself on this site, it's almost certainly too late to pull out of it now), you want to find more, some other film that taps all the same veins.  And what better place to search than the filmography the same writer/ director, David E. Durston?  Durston was a television writer in the 1950s, who graduated(?) into filming his own independent films in the 60s and 70s, including I Drink Your Blood, and another film very much like it almost immediately after: Stigma.
A lot of break-out filmmakers wind up imitating their initial successes.  Think of David Cronenberg following up Shivers with Rabid, or George Romero presenting The Crazies like a re-imagining of Night Of the Living Dead.  In fact, there's a lot of influence from all four of those films in Durston's Blood and Stigma pairing.  Really, Stigma just has one key detail that separates it out from the pack: it's not a horror movie.  There are a few moments laid out to instill tension or unease, and plenty designed to shock.  And, just by virtue of retreading so much of I Drink Your Blood's structure, it retains some of the trappings of a horror film.  But really, this is not a scary film - or a film trying and failing to be scary - and it's not a body count film.  It's absolutely an exploitation film, and I stand by my claim that if you really like I Drink Your Blood you're bound to like Stigma.  Just don't come in expecting horror or you're honestly going to bummed out.
So, if it's not horror, what is it?  Well, again like Blood, it's a genre-bending "something of everything" kind of flick.  It often gets lumped in with blaxploitation films, and it's certainly got some of that.  Philip Michael Thomas, Tubbs of Miami Vice, is a big city doctor who takes over a practice in a small, racist town, where everybody, including a very Boss Hog-like sheriff, is against him.  So there's a lot of that element.  But nearly as soon as he arrives, a powerful strain of syphilis breaks out, and much like the rabies in Blood, it starts making everybody in town go crazy... just a little less homicidal.  So Thomas has to investigate, who's spreading it and who's covering it up?  The crazy old lighthouse keeper?  The veteran just back home from the war?  The madam and her brothel?  The crooked cops or the hippy teens with their unbridled free love?  So that gives us sexploitation, action, melodrama... the film even stops to show us an educational film strip with gross-out medical photos.  Several members of the supporting cast of Blood and all of the wacky sensibilities Durston displayed in that film are on hand here, just with less of a violent edge.
Stigma used to be relegated to cheap, fullscreen DVD compilation packs of public domain, blaxploitation flicks from labels like Brentwood, Platinum and Echo Bridge.  But Code Red did it right in 2011 with a special edition DVD sporting a brand new, high def master from the original CRI, as well as some very cool extras.  Then, this time last year, Code Red did it even righter with a blu-ray upgrade sporting an even new 2k scan of the original CRI.  Just how much righter?
2011 US Code Red DVD on top; 2016 US Code Red blu-ray underneath.
With the way the descriptions were worded, and the fact that they both came from the same source, I was expecting a nearly identical transfer of the DVD on the blu-ray with just that subtle boost in clarity that comes naturally with HD.  You know, like Trick Or Treats.  Especially since - also like Trick Or Treats - Code Red's DVD was quite good, and not exactly in need of extensive repairs like a lot of DVD upgrades we tend to see here.  But no, Code Red has done more here, taking the opportunity to further improve the already strong PQ.  First of all, both editions are presented in strong, anamorphic 1.78:1 ratios.  But that doesn't mean the framing is identical.  It's actually shifted vertically, and comparing the two, the blu looks much more correct, with the DVD cropping very tightly along the bottom.
^See how the DVD crops chins and blows out the reds of skin tones?
The colors, which again already looked pretty well corrected, have been further improved on the blu, toning down areas that looked just a little over-saturated before, and making skin tones more authentic.  Plus, of course, it's that extra sharpness and clarity that comes with HD replacing SD.  In short, the DVD wasn't exactly calling out for any fixes, but it got some good ones anyway.

Audio-wise, things aren't too different, but it sounds like the background hiss on the DVD has been reduced for the blu.  Both disc's tracks are reasonably clean and robust, though.  And of course, neither have subtitle options.
But one of the most exciting aspects of Code Red's restoration of Stigma is the fact he's given it a special edition in collaboration with David Durston.  If you watched either of Grindhouse's I Drink Your Blood releases, you know that he's quite a character.  And while he doesn't go quite so far as to sing an impromptu song about thrilling audiences as a horror director, he certainly comes off as a charmingly eccentric personality here, helpfully explaining things like, "you are born with so many female hormones, and so many male hormones.  And if it's a little over the top on the female hormones, you become a homosexual."  He provides a very fun and genuinely informative on-camera interview that's just under twenty minutes long, and a fun audio commentary track where he chuckles along with moderator Jeff McKay.  The DVD also included two trailers, a TV spot, and some bonus trailers.  The blu-ray retained everything except one of the trailers, the TV spot and the bonus trailers (despite still listing them on the back of the case).  It's no crushing loss, but it seems like an arbitrary disappointment to drop off the TV spot and second trailer.  What for?  Oh well.  It's a minor nitpick; we're just talking about secondary trailers.
Stigma is certainly not for everybody, including horror purists.  It's downright goofy and you can find its picture in the dictionary next to the word "dated."  But there's an audience out there for this picture, and they should really know about it.  And in particular, they should know about the excellent treatment Code Red's given it.

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