In the Mouth of Madness's Wide World of Special Features (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

So I just got my hands on Scream Factory's brand new special edition of John Carpenter's (last great?) movie, In the Mouth of Madness.  I don't have the older blu-ray to compare it to, because I was always annoyed by the lack of special features for such a wild, beloved cult film that obviously cried out for all kinds of fun bonus content.  And, as we now see, my holding out eventualllllllllly paid off.  But here's the thing.  Did you ever look up a movie on DVDCompare and wonder about all those foreign editions of a movie you like that have all these random, exclusive little extras?  Usually short running times, probably EPK (Electronic Press Kit) stuff; but better than the nothing we were getting in the US.  Well, for this film, I decided to break the bank and import a few additional DVD editions to see just what all that stuff was, and maybe scrap together a halfway decent special edition for a film that so deserved one.  Let's see how worthwhile that endeavor was.

Oh, and you're probably wondering how much of that material is on Scream's new Collector's Edition.  We're going to sort all that out, too.
Suggesting this might be Carpenter's last great movie is probably pretty contentious of me.  I imagine most fans would point to Vampires.  That's certainly a good one, but there's just something so much more evocative about the way Carpenter handles his far out apocalyptic horror - especially this one, where he gracefully ties it into our Stephen King-style small town Americana - that elevates it to a much higher level for me.  I'd trade ten Vampires for one In the Mouth of Madness.  Now I'll admit, we're probably sinking pretty deep into personal taste and preference more than any pretense of objective artistic merit at this point.  But I don't know... if nothing else there's a thrilling level of ambition in telling this particular kind of "absolutely anything can happen, and does" story that sets it apart from most other horror films.
And this film has so much else going for it besides.  Carpenter seems to be playing with one of his highest ever budgets, steeping the film in production values that enable him to bounce from one incredible set piece or massive KNB special effect to another.  And he's got a pretty strong all-star cast with Sam Neill, Das Boot's Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner, John Glover, Carpenter staple Peter Jason and Charlton fuckin' Heston.  And even the small roles are filled with great character actors like Bernie Casey, Willhelm von Homburg (Ghostbusters 2's Vigo) and Frances Bay.  You know who played that little paperboy kid at the end of the film?  A pre-Star Wars Hayden Christensen.  I'm not pulling your leg; look it up.  And speaking of looking up the cast, I couldn't place where I new Julie Carmen from until I visited her imdb - she's the head vamp in Fright Night 2!  Top it all off with a rockin' Carpenter score, and you've got one of those great, "anytime I see it's on television; I have to sit down and watch it" movies.
So happy DVDs did I have to scrap together to assemble every single special feature?  Actually, not all that many (the picture at the top was probably a spoiler, huh?), which should be encouraging if anybody else feels compelled to follow in my footsteps.  But I'd suggest waiting until we see how they stack up to the Scream features before committing to any decisions on that front.  So, we start out with the original US New Line DVD from 2000.  That one's not entirely barebones; it actually features an audio commentary by John Carpenter and his DoP Gary B. Kibbe.  But it's infamous as one of the worst audio commentaries of all time... anyway, we'll come back to that.  It's also a flipper with both a widescreen and fullscreen transfer, so it should be interesting to see how they handled that, especially since Carpenter is so famous for shooting in 'scope.

Then we've got the 2002 Italian DVD from Cecchi Gori.  If you're checking my work against the DVDCompare page, you might be thinking I made a mistake.  The German DVD from BMG Video has the same features as the Italian one, plus one more.  But - and I only know this by virtue of having the Italian DVD right here on my desk in front of me - that listing is missing an entry, and the "B-roll featurette" is actually on the Italian DVD as well.  So, at least in terms of special features, they're entirely interchangeable.

Anyway, then I've got the 2006 French DVD from Metropolitan, who you might remember also brought us the exclusive special features for American Psycho.  I'm beginning to realize those guys are an under-appreciated label, because they scared up some really good, all new special features for their edition, not just EPK stuff that New Line, for whatever reason, neglected.  And, of course, now I've got Scream Factory's 2018 Collector's Edition due to be released on July 24th.
1) New Line wide 2) New Line full 3) Cecchi Gori 4) Metropolitan 5) Scream
So, okay, first of all, that's a nasty fullscreen transfer.  I think they actually managed to chop off more than they left in.  I guess Carpenter didn't leave them any vertical matte area to play around with, going from 2.31:1 to 1.33:1.  Woof.  Apart from that, I'm not too mad at the 2000 DVD despite its age.  It's certainly better than the murky 2003 Italian DVD, which I'm guessing taken from the laserdisc.  It's somewhat windowboxed, zooming in a bit to crop all four sides to 2.21:1; and the edges look they were enhanced with a black magic marker.  Even before the days of HD, if you had gotten that disc for the extra extras, you still would've needed at least one other edition to watch the movie.  The French disc looks almost identical to the US disc, except a smidgen greener and slightly more accurately framed at 2.36:1.  The blu is at an even more perfect 2.35:1, but you'll notice manages to uncover more information on the sides than ever seen before.  It also loses that French greenness, and being in HD is naturally sharper and more clearly defined.  This is a new 4k scan of the "original film elements," which I guess is safe to assume isn't the OCN or they would've said so.  Grain is evident but not super distinct; it's obviously an entire class above any of the previous DVDs.

So the original DVD gave us a stereo and 5.1 mix, plus optional subtitles. No one should be using the Italian DVD to watch the movie in 2018, but just for the record, the Italian DVD just gives us the English stereo mix (plus two Italian 5.1 mixes), with English and Italian subtitles.  France gave us English and French 5.1 mixes plus French subtitles which are hard to remove (and no English ones).  Scram just gives us the English 5.1 mix, boosted to DTS-HD, plus optional English subtitles.  The previous US blu-ray didn't keep the stereo mix either, so really the only difference is the Warners blu had a bunch of additional foreign dubs and subs.
So let's talk extras!  And we can begin with that notorious commentary.  Carpenter enjoys a well-earned reputation for doing really good commentaries.  They're lively, easy to listen to, yet still enjoyable.  So I think part of the blow-back for this one was just that expectations were really high.  I've heard plenty worse commentaries, and this one has its share of good information.  But the fact that the DP doesn't seem to want to engage, and Carpenter insists on throwing it back to him routinely even though he seems pretty checked out is a bit of a downer.  Plus, it's just a more technical commentary where they're talking about lights instead of talking about stunts and goofing around on-set like he'd often do with Kurt Russell on other commentaries.  So yeah, it's kind of a dud, but not the unlistenable disaster it seems to be known as.  Anyway, that was all we had on the original 2000 DVD... and the original 2013 blu-ray.  You can see why I wasn't super eager to double-dip.
Cecchi Gori exclusive
So we'll go to the Cecchi Gori disc next, because it's actually not much.  Just three short things, all EPK material.  First is a five-minute promotional featurette, which is heavy on clips from the film and almost more like an extended trailer.  Next is a about four and a half minutes of on-set interview clips, with Sam Neill, Prochnow, Heston and Carpenter.  The best part of that is just getting to hear Heston talk a little about being on a John Carpenter horror movie, which is kinda neat.  Then, finally, there's about five minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, which gives some cool glimpses at how some of the more elaborate special effects sequences were made, and little exchanges captured on set.  Fun little odds and ends, but nothing to make a big deal of.  It also includes the trailer and a full-color insert.
Metropolitan exclusive
France's Metropolitan DVD, on the other hand, actually went out and got the big names to provide brand new content exclusively for their release.  They got new, on camera interviews with both John Carpenter and Julie Carmen, which weren't super long but both quite good and well edited.  Then there's a fairly long, eighteen minute featurette with Greg Nicotero going over the many creature effects of the film.  Honestly, getting this DVD in 2006 was pretty satisfying; the kind of thing that should've always been packaged with the film.  Metropolitan also included the old commentary, plus a couple of bonus trailers.  It was certainly a smarter option compared to the US DVD.
Scream Factory exclusive
But that was then and this is now.  Along comes Scream Factory, with a whole bunch of new, awesome stuff, and some older stuff.  Yes, they have the old commentary; but they also have a brand new commentary with Carpenter and his wife/ producer Sandy King Carpenter.  And this is a more loose kind of commentary, basically what fans were expecting and hoping for the first time around.  If you've heard the old commentary, he does repeat quite a few observations, but Sandy really is a good partner for John on here, keeping things engaging.  Even more fun is another episode of Horror's Hallowed Grounds, which really, I can't get enough of.  Then, there's about a sixteen minute on-camera interview with Greg Nicotero, which is essentially a rehash of the Metropolitan one.  It's not the same, it's brand new; but he covers pretty much all the same things and even shows some of the same video clips.  Similarly, there's a brand new Julie Carmen interview, which stays fairly close to the one she gave Metropolitan.  Besides that, there's about twelve minutes of behind-the-scenes video footage shot by Nicotero, the five minute promo featurette, the trailer, and an impressive ten minutes worth of TV spots.  It also comes with a slip cover, reversible artwork, and if you ordered it from Shout's site directly, a limited edition poster.
So, let's review.  How much of the older extras did Scream carry over?  Unfortunately, not all that much.  The original commentary and the featurette.  Not the EPK interviews or B-roll footage from the Italian DVD, and none of the new(er) interviews from the French disc.  And yes, I checked, and the behind-the-scenes footage from the Italian disc is not included in Scream's behind-the-scenes footage, although they both spend a lot of time covering the same scene of Neill running down the tunnel being chased by monsters.  But it's different footage shot by different people.

With that said, though, Scream did make most of what they didn't carry over fairly redundant.  They came up with their own Carmen and Nicotero interviews, got Carpenter to do the new commentary, and found their own batch of B-roll footage.  So on the one hand, if you're a die-hard collector, yeah, all that other stuff is still out there on the foreign discs.  But for most of us, basically all that content is closely represented here, plus more, making this the only release you really need.  I'm keeping my imports, so when I rewatch this film's extras I can include Heston's soundbites and stuff; but if I didn't already own them, I wouldn't hunt them down now.  At the time, importing was worth it.  But Scream Factory has finally given this film the treatment it always should've had.  Today's an awesome day.

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