A Pair of Code Reds #2: Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker

I remember first seeing 1982's Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker's iconic cover on the Pocket Books paperback as a kid and thinking this must be some wild Nightmare On Elm St. type story, with this astral gateway or whatever opening up out of the boy's chest revealing a giant evil eye floating inside.  Turns out it was just a bad drawing of a knife being held in front of the kids, with the killer's eye in the reflection, and this is a completely non-supernatural thriller.  And God only knows how the title's meant to connect to the story.  But, hey, it's still pretty interesting.
I guess you'd say Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker, a.k.a. Night Warning - let's just call it Night Warning - is a character study/ slasher.  Billy Lynch is just a baby when his parents die in a spectacular car accident that was later ripped off in the Final Destination films.  So he's raised by his aunt (Susan Tyrrell, Academy Award nominee for Fat City), who's just a little too over-protective... to the point of homicidal psychosis.  Tyrrell is fascinating to watch, and as the film builds to its demented climax, it's a blast.  It's got a minimal, effective score.  The closing credits mention a proper theme song called "Little Billy Boy" with lyrics and everything, but we don't seem to ever hear it in the movie.
Unfortunately, the film putzes around a lot in the middle.  Bo Svenson's a police detective who's constantly barking up the wrong tree, including persecuting Billy's gay basketball coach.  This whole subplot stumbles clumsily over the line between preachy after-school special and offensively politically incorrect and barely has any connection to the central story either way.  You've got a pretty interesting supporting cast, though, including Julia Duffy from the Newhart show as the girlfriend and Bill Paxton in one of his earliest film roles as Billy's rival.  Horror fans will also immediately recognize Britt Leach, Mr. Sims from Silent Night Deadly Night, as a police officer with more of a clue.
No Code Red release felt more conspicuously absent from this site than this one.  Like Witchmaker, Night Warning had never been available on DVD until CR finally brought it home in 2013 (after having originally been announced back in 2007).  At the time, it was a DVD-only release with CR swearing up and down it would never be re-issued on BD, but we all knew they'd break down eventually.  And in 2017, they finally did, releasing it as a "Diabolik Exclusive Blu-Ray" (in quotes, because you could also get it from sites like Code Red's bigcartel and the Dark Forces Superstore ūü§∑).
2014 Code Red DVD top; 2017 Code Red BD bottom.
The DVD tells us its transfer comes from a "brand new HiDef master from the original camera negatives (that were reported lost by basement dwellers)."  And the blu-ray's transfer comes from a "brand new 2017 2k scan from the original camera negatives (the vault finally found it after misplacing it years ago!)."  And yes, this bears out, because the DVD transfer was a revelation compared to the previous VHS rips and junk fans had been living with for so many years.  The DVD case says it's 1.85:1, but it's actually 1.78.  Regardless, though, it looks great in a surprisingly clear anamorphic widescreen edition.  When the blu was finally announced, I didn't expect anything more than to have the same transfer slapped onto a higher resolution disc.  And I would've been fine with that, just tightening up some of the fuzzy compression of standard definition.  But no, we've got a fresh scan (also 1.78:1) which looks even better, revealing more picture along all four sides, with much sharper and cleaner detail, and even more notably, some very attractive color correction.  The colors weren't bad the first time around, but now this looks like the work of a major studio.
2014 Code Red DVD top; 2017 Code Red BD bottom.
There wasn't much damage on the DVD, but even that has been cleaned up on the blu.  There's still a tiny bit, but this film feels refreshingly clean now.

Both discs just feature the original mono track with no subtitle options.  It's bumped up to lossless DTS-HD on the blu, but it still has a core background hiss, with the occasional crack and pop.  A little noise reduction would've gone a long way, but it's never loud enough to become bothersome.
Code Red's DVD is an impressively endowed special edition.  But if you only see one DVD extra in your life, and I mean on any DVD ever, you've got to watch Susan Tyrrell's on-camera interview.  She tells us right off the bat that she "hated every damn minute of it" and has "a lot of horrifying stories to tell."  It looks like she started out recording an audio commentary, but they wound up with just this perfect, eleven minute piece where she goes from "I'd fuck anybody to get out of this picture... except Bo" to "brilliant!  That's a great scene!"

And if you're disappointed to've missed out on a potential audio commentary, don't worry; we've got still got two.  One by Billy himself, Jimmy McNichol, and one by co-writers Steven Breimer (who also produced) and Alan Jay Glueckman.  We also get on-camera interviews with McNichol, Steve Eastman who played the coach, Breimer and effects artist Allan Apone, plus the original theatrical trailer.  Thankfully, the blu-ray carries over absolutely everything from the DVD and also has reversible cover art with the Night Warning artwork.
I - as I'm sure many of you felt - was quite reluctant to double-dip on this title.  After all, most of us who bought the DVD edition in 2014 only did so after being flat-out guaranteed repeatedly that a blu-ray was impossible.  So seeing a replacement roll out after that felt a bit like being conned.  But looking at the top notch work put into this title, I'd say the second price of admission is perfectly justified.  So I don't regret having this blu in my collection for a second, even if that is just a phony drawing of a knife instead of the cosmic doorway I always imagined.

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