Discover the Hidden Secrets Of The Church (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Say, speaking of 90s horror classics that should've had special editions since the early days of DVD but are only just getting them now, how about Michele Soavi's The Church?  Scorpion Releasing's two disc set that's been pending for so long I was seriously beginning to doubt it would ever arrive has finally arrived.  If you're thinking, wait a minute, hasn't it already been out half a year or something, you're thinking of the single disc edition.  Just like with The Sect, Scorpion released a single disc edition first, with a two disc special edition to arrive months later, not just with more extras and better packaging, but both the English and Italian audio tracks (the single disc version only has the English).
If you're looking for something stylish and cool, The Church is it.  There's a bit of a weird schism to it, but depending on your attitude, that can be as much a part of its charm as a critical fault.  You've got the original intention for this film: to be Lamberto Bava's Demons 3, and then you've got Soavi's re-imagining.  And for the first hour or so, while there may be material from the original script active in it, it feels like Soavi's vision.  A historical opening in the 12th century or so, with the Templar Knights committing and then burying their sins.  We then move forward to modern times, where a great gothic church has been built upon the site, and several characters get caught up trying to unlock its mysteries.  Dramatic camerawork of them fetishistically translating cryptic messages, unlocking secret panels, discovering hidden passageways, ultimately leading to a face off with mankind's dark past in a fantastical way.
Then in the last half hour, a whole bunch of extra characters plow into the church and suddenly we're in Bava and Sacchetti's Demons.  A bickering elderly couple, a teacher with an entire class of students, fashion photographers, one of Dario Argento's daughters and a romantic pair of bikers all find themselves trapped inside and desperate to escape as they get killed and possessed one by one.  So ultimately, The Sect is probably the better film; but The Church could be more fun, even upping the giant rubber monster quota of Bava's previous efforts.  The story's maybe a little inconsequential, but hey, who's counting?
So, The Church's story on disc is pretty similar to The Sect's, too, except that The Church at least had a proper US DVD.  Anchor Bay put it out in 2002 as part of their "Dario Argento Collection" (he produced and co-wrote the film), a barebones but anamorphic widescreen release that was later reissued by Blue Underground in 2007.  But on blu, the story is almost exactly the same.  There was a questionable barebones Japanese disc in 2016, and then Shameless released a remastered version later that year, featuring a new interview with Soavi (The Church's first proper special feature).  Oh, and there's an Italian blu, but it's not English friendly.  Anyway, then Scorpion released their single disc edition in the US in early 2018, and now their 2-disc special edition has just come out!
2002 US Anchor Bay DVD top; 2018 US Scorpion 2-disc blu bottom.
What an major improvement!  Where to begin?  Well, the first thing that stood out to be is that sickly yellowish/ greenish hue that seems to hang over the DVD has been scrubbed from the blu, giving it a much more vibrant energy.  Scorpion's packaging tells us this is a "brand new 2017 2k scan with over 45 hours of color correction," and that's certainly paid off.  Being in HD, of course, the detail is a lot clearer - grain appears natural here where before it was utterly invisible.  But really the second biggest thing after the colors is the framing.  The DVD is slightly vertically matted to 1.85:1, while the blu-ray restores it to the filmmakers' presumably preferred ratio of 1.67:1.  So are we trading horizontal information for vertical?  No, the new blu reveals considerably more picture on all four sides.  There's very minimal damage to be spotted if you're paying attention?  See that vertical line running through the first screenshot of the pile of bodies?  That recurs intermittently.  But the overall effect is quite clean and sturdy.

Anchor Bay just gave us the English dub, in our choice of Dolby stereo or 5.1, with no subs.  Scorpion's new blu (again, as opposed to their first single disc release) provides both the English and Italian stereo mixes in DTS-HD, without any of the light hiss we heard on The Sect, and with optional English subtitles "translated from the Italian track."  Now, on The Sect, I preferred the Italian audio, but here, I think the English dub is actually a little more natural.  Neither wins in every department - I'm not a fan of the voice they dub star Barbara Cupisti with in English - but overall, I'd say the English track is the preferable one here.
Now, like I already mentioned, the US DVD is barebones.  All they gave it was the trailer.  Ironically, that's all the Scorpion blu is missing (they list the trailer on the packaging, and it was on their single disc edition, but it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle.  But you won't care once you see all the great stuff they've got.  First of all, there's a pretty great audio commentary by Nathaniel Thompson and Cupisti.  They list him as a moderator, but it's more of an even mix, with Thompson speaking as an expert and Cupisti providing the personal, first hand knowledge.  After that, there's a whole slew of smartly edited, on-camera interviews, averaging 15-20 minutes apiece, with Soavi, Dario Argento, Asia Argento, Cupisti, Tomas Arana, Giovanni Radice, set designer Massimo Geleng, screenwriter Franco Ferrini and makeup artist Franco Casagni.  Between all of them, they pretty much cover everything you could want to know about this film.  Most are in Italian with burnt-in yellow subtitles (as shown above), but a couple are in English.  Scorpion's 2-disc set also features reversible artwork, a slipcover and a poster.
This release is a little pricey, but Scorpion does, after all, feature the more budget-friendly single disc release as an alternative.  This is a limited edition (1500 copies) for us serious fans who've been dying for a Church special edition for decades.  If you're not so fussed about extras, the single disc should do you just fine, especially since the English track is probably the one you'll stick with most of the time anyway.  But me?  I needed this.  😁

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