Julie Darling: Code Red Catch-Up, Part 4 (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

How do I keep bringing up Julie Darling without actually covering Julie Darling?  Shame on me.  Well, that's about to change because here we go with another messed up Bad Seed story.  There has been take after take of The Bad Seed premise, even an official made-for-TV Bad Seed remake in 1985.  But most of those are pretty bland and generic.  Me, I'm a fan of the more off-book indie interpretations with some edge to them.  And that's Julie Darling, alright.  The Bad Seed with edge.
The opening credits play over our precocious little angel's pet boa constrictor slithers around the house.  Her mother hates it and brings in a handy-man to get rid of it.  So when the handy-man breaks into the house later to rape her mom, Julie gets her gun... but then decides maybe she'd rather just let things play out, and sure enough mommy croaks.  But if she had issues with her mom, Julie really can't stand her new stepmother, The Howling II's Sybil Danning.  But what are the odds that handy-man will break in and inadvertently solve all her problems a second time?  Pretty slim... at least without a little encouragement and a lot of clever planning.
There's a real taste of Richard III in Julie Darling, where we're invited to delight in just how far our wicked protagonist is prepared to go to get what she wants, using the people around her like pieces on a chessboard.  It's also another "only in the 70s," non-PC affair, where about half of the supporting characters are hookers and pimps, and the other half are kids.  The fact that it's oddly foreign may have something to do with that, too, being a Canadian and German co-production.  Most of the cast is speaking English, but Julie's best friend is very clearly dubbed.  So to call this one a bit strange is certainly an understatement, but it's also rather good.  Most of the acting - with the unfortunate exception of the woman playing Julie's mother - is on point, and the story is smart and ambitious.  The girl playing Julie is unquestionably the all-star, Oscar nominee Anthony Franciosa plays her father and even Sybil Danning gives a nice, grounded performance.  Great locations and a minimal but effective score help seal the deal.
Outside of a couple no frills, full frame overseas disc, Code Red is the only company to give this a legit release.  They're far from the only domestic company to give it a release; there's a whole sea of weird, junky bootlegs on Amazon and other sites.  But Code Red is the first legit release here in the states.  Even better, their 2010 DVD is also a nice, loaded special edition.  And just this year they've upgraded that to a special blu-ray edition.
Code Red 2010 US DVD top; Code Red 2017 US blu-ray bottom.
As you can immediately tell, Code Red's blu is an all new transfer.  Specifically, it's a 2k scan of the original 35mm interpositive.  The DVD was taken from the same source - every scratch and fleck of dirt is identical across the two discs.  It's mostly pretty sparse, but a yellow vertical line does like to run through a lot of the picture, as you can see on Sybil in the shot above.  But this new scan is still a big improvement.  The blu is a lot clearer, with the DVD being even softer than your standard DVD/ blu SD/ HD distinction.  It's a really marked boost in sharpness.  The only thing even more noticeable than that is the all new color correction, which makes a world of difference.  Colors are much more robust and distinct, and they're also decidedly more natural, with white walls looking white instead of pink or orange, and just in general like a tinting haze has been lifted from the screen.
Both discs feature nearly identical 1.78:1 framing.  There are tiny shifts vertically and horizontally, but you'd never catch it outside of a direct comparison like this.  But for whatever reason - and this is true of both the DVD and the blu - the opening credits are slightly pillar-boxed for a taller 1.67:1 aspect ratio.  Feel free to speculate on why that is.  Is the film supposed to be in 1.66, and Code Red just likes producing 1.78:1 transfers?  Working my way through the Code Red catalog, there seems to be something to that...  Or were the opening credits shot with different equipment, and it's some kind of weird quirk of the original film?  Only an insider could tell us for sure; but apart from the visible shift when the credits end, neither framing ever looks wrong or troubled.  So if it's a screw up, it's far from a disaster of any kind.

Both discs just give us the original mono, which is fine.  I'm not a fan of revisionist "upgrade" mixes.  There's a little bit of natural hiss throughout and a few crackles that sync with damage on screen.  But the music and dialogue is robust and easy to discern.  And as you should expect by now from Code Red, there are no subtitle options.
Extra features are the same across both discs, but fairly substantial.  Basically, Isabelle Mejias (who plays Julie) and Sybil Danning each give us separate intros to the film, audio commentaries and on-camera interviews.  And boy oh boy, does Isabelle not like this film, and she really wants to make sure we know it.  It can be a little frustrating for fans, who are after all, probably the only people who'll be watching these extras.  But once you get past that, she is a good sport, forthcoming and informative, and even pretty funny.  Sybil Danning is more of an affable supporter all-around; and as is the case with many Code Red special features, when they start to run out of things to say about Julie Darling, the moderators grill them about their entire filmographies.  There's lots of great content here from both women, but over two commentaries and two interviews, it starts to get a little dry and redundant.  I wish they would've edited them together or something to turn them into a single commentary and featurette, which would've been a lot tighter and more fun.  But as it is, it's still a lot of great stuff, and any serious fan who grew up with Julie Darling will lap it all up.

Apart from that, both releases just have different sets of Code Red bonus trailers.
So if you own any of those cheap imports or bootlegs, Code Red's DVD is definitely worth upgrading to.  And if you own the Code Red DVD, the blu is also worth upgrading to.  Yes, double-dipping is a pain, but these releases earn it.  Great extras, strong improvements in picture quality.  I came in with some fairly high expectations and was still impressed.

1 comment:

  1. One of my all time favourite Code Red releases. And it looks terrific. Good work, Bill!