Bringing Grimy 16mm To 4k Ultra HD: Maniac

Alright, it's always interesting to see 16mm films brought to HD, and 16mm films don't get much more "interesting" than William Lustig's sleaze classic Maniac. Lustig's been participating in special editions of his horror debut since Elite starting putting it out on laserdisc and DVD in the 90s. It went to Anchor Bay when Lustig was working with them, and it eventually found its natural home at Blue Underground when Lustig founded that label. More recently, in 2010, BU gave the film its HD debut on blu-ray as a special edition 2-disc 30th Anniversary Edition. And you might notice one more cover up top there; we'll get to that one a little later.

Update 5/7/16 - 5/30/20:  When you saw what yesterday's post was, surely most of you guys guessed what today's post would be, yeah?  In 2018, Blue Underground released a newer edition, freshly restored in 4k.  In this case, it was even more warranted than other recent 4k re-releases, because they'd just uncovered Maniac's negatives, as opposed to the prints all previous discs have been culled from.  And now, to top it all of in 2020, we've been given that 4k restoration on a proper 4k Ultra HD disc.
1980 is kind of early to be making big twists to the slasher genre, but that's what Maniac did, effectively turning the genre on its head by telling the film from the perspective of the killer rather than one of the prospective victims. We see the world through his damaged and deranged eyes, where he isn't just a figure of fright but a tragic victim. Which isn't to say that he's terribly empathetic. He's about as creepy and despicable as they come, and so the film is asking to go to some very dark places.
It's pulled off primarily thanks to an incredibly devoted performance by Joe Spinell. This would be an Academy Award winning performance if only it were possible to get Academy members to watch films like Maniac. Lustig shines with some impressive set pieces, thanks also to the great Tom Savini, as well as his mastery at capturing the darker sides of New York City, but it's Spinell who really elevates this film. The film takes some unexpected turns, as high end fashion photographer Caroline Munro is inexplicably charmed by our anti-hero, or when the Maniac starts borrowing from Carrie. But at the end of the day, it's the chilling truthful aspects brought to the film that make it truly effective.
So I've got Blue Underground's 2007 DVD here to see how it stacks up to their subsequent blu-rays. I've seen this film projected live a couple years ago, and I'm not sure the phrase "golf ball-sized grain" could be considered an exaggeration. So it's always interesting to see what the blus bring to the table when there's not really much more detail to be mined. And then to see, after they've gone back to the original negatives in 2018, how much that has or hasn't changed.  And finally now, in 2020, to see how it looks on an actual 4k Ultra HD disc.  Then, just to spice things up a little more, I'm also adding my 2003 DVD from GCTHV, which I originally opted for because it had a unique feature not on any of Elite/ AB/ BU discs. So we'll see how that fits in as well.
1) 2007 US BU DVD; 2) 2003 FR GCTHV DVD; 3) 2010 US BU BD;
4) 2018 US BU BD; 5) 2020 US BU UHD.
The first thing you'll notice is that Blue's 2010 blu is quite, well, blue. You really notice it in the second set of shots, but it's there in the first and throughout the rest of the film, too. I'm thinking this is more a creative, revisionist decision than coming down to the film elements or anything. But given that a BU transfer is a Lustig transfer, I guess that makes it an inherently director approved decision.  If it is, though, it's a decision he reserved in 2018, because the colors are back to naturalistic.  In the end, which looks better? Before, I wrote that the ideal was somewhere in the middle; the DVDs (both of them are pretty much the exact same transfer) are a bit red, the old blu's too blue. Just look at the walls in the background; white walls are either pink or blue... not that perfectly true to life white balance has to be a director's vision. But I guess BU must've agreed with me, because this latest version is that happy medium, without the blue overcast or the excessive red.

As far as detail? There's not much increase between the DVD and old blu, but it did capture more of the grain. Still ultimately a grimy transfer at its core.  Noisy, funky, and sometimes soft. To some degree, that's just the 16mm film itself, but as we see in the 2018 blu, with the OCN on hand, there was a lot more clarity to be mined.  The film is so much clearer, and the grain is both finer and thanks to the 4k, accurately captured.  And yes, substantial detail, like the smile of the girls in the photographs on the wall of the first set of shots, as been restored.  And look at that framing!  While 1.85:1 in every case, the new scan pulls out further revealing substantially more picture, especially in that first set of shots, but throughout the entire film.  In short, the jump from 2010 blu to 2018 blu is even more of an upgrade than the initial jump from DVD to blu.
2018 US BU BD left; 2020 US BU UHD right.
And then we upgrade one more time to UHD.  It's the same restoration at its core, so it's probably not as big an upgrade as the 2010-2018 leap, but there's no denying the increased resolution.  Where you can still see blocking and unnatural digitization when you look closely at the last blu (like in the close-up above), it's now purely smooth curves and authentic film grain.  Of course, this is looking much closer than you would just watching it on your TV - it's a big difference zoomed way in, and something subtler watching it normally.  Colors are also stronger, and deeper with the disc's darker lower range.  In these sets of shots, I'm really noticing it in the little vase of flowers in Munro's apartment, which have a flatter, duller look on the blu.  On the UHD, there's a greater range of colors, and different areas of the flowers are clearly delineated, making them look more real and alive.
Audio-wise, both DVDs featured DTS-ES 6.1, 5.1 EX and Dolby 2.0 Surround tracks. The BU DVD also has French and Spanish dubs plus Spanish subs, and the French disc, naturally, has optional/ removable French subtitles. The 2010 blu has a DTS-HD 7.1 track, and the 5.1 EX, as well as French, German and Italian dubs and subtitles in eight different languages including English HoH. The 2018 blu keeps the 7.1, but swaps out the 5.1 to bring back the 2.0 mix, though now that's in lossless DTS-HD, too.  It has all the foreign language options of the previous blu, plus an additional Spanish dub and seven more subtitle languages.

Now, in 2020, the 5.1 is back, in addition to the Atmos and 2.0 mixes, as well as the foreign dubs.  All seventeen(!) subtitle options are also still here.  I imagine most people will be choosing between the original stereo mix and the highest end mix, so bringing that 5.1 back seems to mostly just serve to make things that much more definitive.
So the picture quality may not be so amazing, but if you want extras, oh boy! The Anchor Bay/ Blue Underground discs were already pretty loaded, with an audio commentary featuring Lustig, Savini, editor Lorenzo Marinelli and Luke Walter (a close friend of Spinell who also helped on this picture). It's a really active, informative talk. Then there's a great, 50 minute documentary called The Joe Spinell Story, which covers his career and unique personality really well. And there's a 20-minute vintage radio interview with Lustig, Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro. There's also a bunch of little stuff like stills galleries, an easter egg of William Friedkin mentioning Maniac, and a whole ton of trailers, TV spots and radio spots.

The French DVD has all of that (except if it has the easter egg, I can't find it), sticking most of the extras on a second disc. But it also has the Mr Robbie footage, which is a mini-film Spinell shot to raise footage for an unmade Maniac 2. That's been around for a while, dating back to the laserdisc and old Elite DVD, but for some reason none of the AB/ BU DVDs had it. The French DVD also had an exclusive 20-minute interview with Caroline Munro, albeit with burnt in subtitles. Apart from the old radio interview, her voice was always absent from the old DVDs, so it was nice to have this new piece on the French disc. Oh, and they had a 10-minute featurette with a couple critics talking about the film, but that's all in French, so it doesn't help us English speakers at all.
The GCTHV exclusive.
But then BU came with their 30th Anniversary release, determined to make a definitive edition. They got all the extras from the past AB/ BU discs, plus Mr. Robbie and a ton of new stuff. They didn't get the French Munro interview, but they got their own, which is every bit as good, without any distracting burnt in subs. And they got new on-camera interviews with Tom Savini and composer Jay Chattaway, plus an all-new audio commentary with Lustig and co-producer Andrew Garroni. The new commentary is fairly redundant, but there's some new stuff mixed in there, too. There's also a really unexpected interview with the two guys who wrote the hit song "Maniac," which was made famous in Flashdance. Apparently, it's been rumored that they named the song after this film, so Lustig tracked them down to ask them about it, and it's kinda true. They even perform a special, original version of the song with lyrics about a mad killer, as opposed to dancing!

The second disc, (which is also a blu), also includes a ton of vintage news footage about the film, including reviews and reports on the controversy, as it was often protested by women's groups where ever it played. There's a 48-minute interview with Lustig on a cable access show called Movie Madness, an old TV interview with Munro, Joe Spinell's appearance on The Joe Franklin Show, and a more recent 22-minute Q&A. It's great how much stuff has been preserved and packed onto here. Oh, and the Friedkin easter egg is back, too.
And yes, it's a Christmas film!
And the 2018 blu even piles more on top of that!  It has all the 2010 stuff from both discs, plus a couple new featurettes.  My favorite has Lustig touring the NY filming locations... wait'll you see how the sleazy hotel has changed!  Then, Lustig provides running commentary for almost 20 minutes worth of outtakes which were newly found with the negatives.  Some of his commentary repeats anecdotes from other special features, but there's some really neat glimpses behind-the-scenes and at some alternate versions of scenes.  This version also includes a soundtrack CD (hence the "3-Disc Limited Edition" banner), a very cool lenticular slipcover, a 20-page booklet with notes by Michael Gingold, another insert for a Maniac comic book and reversible cover art.

The 2020 UHD 2-disc set has everything from the 2018 discs.  It's the commentaries and some short things on the UHD (two of the trailers have also been boosted up to 4k resolution), then all the rest on a separate BD.  But all of the swag, including the soundtrack, lenticular cover, booklet, insert and reversible artwork are gone.  We do still get a slick slipcover, but otherwise it's a slimmer package, emphasizing the actual video content, which is after all, what we're really all here for.
So the first blu was technically an upgrade, sure, but it was fairly minimal. Casual viewers wouldn't care, and the color timing differences were far more noticeable than any bump in quality. But the extras were another story, giving you everything you could want. Super impressive, at least so long as you bought the original 2-disc set (in 2012, BU issued a cheaper, single disc edition of the blu-ray, which is missing a ton of the great features).  But the 4k blu is an upgrade even laymen will appreciate.  And they even coughed up a couple more features, plus some sweet packaging enhancements, to make a nearly ultimate edition.  "Nearly," because the new UHD really seals the deal if you're ready to play it.  Oh, I suppose there's still the French DVD.  It was better than the US DVD at the time, but I really wouldn't recommend double-dipping for it now.  The special features here are already loaded up to overkill.  You're not going to finish watching it all and be hungry for another interview, especially once it starts to get redundant.

The World's Greatest Zombie Just Got Even Greater

We've already looked at Zombi 3, so it only makes sense to cover the good one as well. Lucio Fulci's Zombie has been released tons of time on home video, by tons of labels in tons of countries. But there's really only three, I'd say, that fans really might want to take a serious interest in today, and I've got 'em all sitting on my desk right here. I'll touch on a couple others as well, but the big three are from Shriek Show, Blue Underground and Arrow.

Update 1/14/16 - 5/29/20: First we added Blue Underground's blu-ray of their 2018 4k restoration, and now we're adding that restoration's debut on a genuine 4k disc.  Who would've thought we'd ever see Lucio Fulci on Ultra HD?  Well, this week, it's happened!
I can be a little guilty of overusing the word "classic" at times, but when it comes to Spaghetti horror, 1979's Zombie a.k.a. Zombi 2, Zombie Flesh Eaters or a whole host of alternate titles, absolutely qualifies. One of the original Living Dead knock-offs, Zombie does it with so much style, it out-classes all of its competition from before its time all the way to today, even riding dangerously close to Romero's originals. Just be prepared for some cheesy dubbing and Fulci's natural predilection towards visceral impact over logical storytelling.
Zombie has a fairly impressive cast for its status, including Richard Johnson and Tisa Farrow, cult star Olga Karlatos, and two who would go on to became fan favorites: Ian McCulloch and Al Cliver. But it's really Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti boldly out there story colorfully brought to life by Fulci and the inventive effects of Giannetto De Rossi. Even just the basic look of their zombies was like nothing that had come before. And scene after scene is so outrageous and goes so delightfully far, from the underwater zombie grappling with a shark where a real actor was clearly wrestling a real shark, to the infamous eyeball piercing scene which took the shock factor further than pretty much any gory horror film ever had before. Plus, it's beautifully shot by Sergio Salvati with a catchy score by Fabio Frizzi. Really, it might've started life as a tiny exploitation film, but every department is delivering exceptional results.
Arrow's 2012 Zombie blu-ray on top' 88 Films' 2015 Zombie Holocaust blu-ray below.
And fun fact: 1980's Zombie Holocaust didn't just borrow heavily from Zombie's plot and look, even casting the same leading man; they used many of the same props and locations. But there's something else that seems to have slipped past a lot of genre critics. Even more boldly, Zombie Holocaust also re-uses exact scenes from Zombie. As you can see above, I don't just mean they re-stage similar plot points, but whole shots of Zombie Holocaust are actually footage lifted directly from Fulci's film!
So Zombie debuted on laserdisc all the way back in 1989 from Image, but most of us probably started with Roan's 1998 special edition laser, simultaneously released on DVD by Anchor Bay, which they issued again in 2002. That's when we first got the film in widescreen, with the audio commentary by Ian McCulloch. Then things got a bit weird in 2004, when somehow both Shriek Show and Blue Underground wound up with seemingly legit claims to the US rights, and they agreed to both release it... BU barebones and Shriek Show via a loaded 2-disc special edition. They had the same remastered transfer, except for slight color timing differences. More recently, BU released it again, this time in HD, in 2011. They released a DVD version and a limited 2-disc Ultimate Edition, which was later replaced in 2012 by a standard single disc edition. But by that year, Arrow was also coming out with their own 2-disc blu-ray set with their own transfer. And I have to say their results were pretty surprising.

But in the final months of 2018, all that became history, because Blue Underground released it once again, with an all new 4k restoration of the OCN as a 3-disc limited edition. And then that version became history just week with Blue Underground releasing said restoration on a proper Ultra HD disc - a powerful quadruple-dip!
1) 2004 Blue Underground DVD 2) 2004 Shriek Show DVD
3) 2011 Blue Underground BD 4) 2012 Arrow BD.
5) 2018 Blue Underground BD; 6) 2020 Blue Underground UHD.
So, transfer-wise, the only real competition is between the two older blus. The Shriek Show DVD is really just noteworthy for the extras, which I'll get to later, and the new 4k blu trumps everything. But real quick, the two DVDs are virtually identical, except the Shriek Show DVD is interlaced, while the BU disc is not.  So that was an important distinction at the time; but being in standard definition naturally put them too far behind in the race in the 2010s.  But apart from being in HD, BU's old blu hadn't really advanced much beyond the 2004 days. The color timing is still different and probably preferable (those clouds are actually white), but we're not exactly getting loads of new detail. The grain is messier and the image is a little more generally blurred on the DVDs because they're in SD; but it's a fairly modest boost to BU's HD. You do see the difference when you get up close, though.  Lines are tighter and clearer.

Arrow also went back to the OCN for their transfer, but theirs is a newer scan. We still don't get heaps of new detail, but there is a little; and overall the image seems clearer and more natural. Plus the colors really start to pop with this one. You just want to pick the little people out of your screen and pop them in your mouth (hey, it is called Flesh Eaters, right?). And what really surprised me, despite both blus maintaining the same 2.35:1 aspect ratio (the DVDs are a little more like 2.32), Arrow has managed to uncover more picture on all four sides. It's just slivers along the top and bottom, but on the left and right it's reasonably substantial. One minor flaw: there's a teensy bit of yellow chemical stain in a couple of shots (look around the diver's hand in the shot above), but it's very minor and is only on screen for a matter of seconds. And, actually, you kinda see a hint of it on the earlier discs, too. It's just harder to make out.
1) 2004 Blue Underground DVD 2) 2004 Shriek Show DVD
3) 2011 Blue Underground blu-ray 4) 2012 Arrow blu-ray.
5) 2018 Blue Underground blu-ray; 6) 2020 Blue Underground UHD.
But if you want to talk about colors popping, BU's new color correction for their 2018 restoration takes the cake.  Now, that's a blue sky!  But it never crosses the line into looking over-saturated.  The underwater scene goes for a more muted look, which might be shooting for realism, or just covering up that chemical stain.  Whatever the thinking was behind the scenes, though, this is easily most impressive the film has ever looked.  They've also widened the framing to 2.40:1, which unveils even more previously unseen image along the sides.  And being a modern 4k scan, while we don't really discover additional detail, the film grain is by far the most cleanly captured and filmicly represented.

The UHD is predictably darker (they're almost universally darker because the HDR's greater range of colors can come more to life with a bright display, and their highlights are still brighter).  Besides that, don't expect a new level of detail.  Like in that set of close-ups above, we can't suddenly see the color of Tisa Farrow's eyes.  But where the benefits of the increased resolution become evident is in the grain and edges.  What's still blocky and pixelated on the BD is now smooth and round on the UHD.  That guy's finger ends in a natural curve as opposed to a square.  In total, it all feels more realistic and authentic, definitely less digital.  It's a definite upgrade if you've got the set-up to display it.

Oh, I should mention, though, that Arrow also gives you a unique multi-branching option, where you can choose to watch the film with the opening and closing credits for Zombie, Zombi 2 or Zombie Flesh Eaters. So that's one unique aspect that the Arrow has going for it.
Audio-wise, too, Blue Underground always plays to win. Their 2011 blu's got lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio mixes in 7.1, 5.1 EX and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and the same three options again for the Italian track. Plus, it's got subtitles in Chinese, English, English HoH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai. Arrow keeps things simpler but still thorough with both English and Italian LPCM 2.0 Mono tracks, plus English and English SDH subtitles. Meanwhile, the Shriek Show DVD has 5.1, 2.0 Stereo and mono versions of both the English and Italian tracks, plus English subs.

BU hasn't changed much in 2018.  They've still got the 7.1 and original mono tracks in DTS-HD, though they've ditched the superfluous 5.1s and they've added a French mono mix.  They've also their many subtitle language options and even added a few more: Cantonese, Mandarin, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Russian and Swedish.

Interestingly, in 2020, BU has brought the English 5.1 back.  So they've got that, both the 7.1s and the monos, that French mix, and a new English Dolby Atmos track... I guess they're determined to be definitive, an instinct I can only applaud.  They've also retained all 17(!) subtitle options from their previous release.
Now here's where your head's really going to pop, because, since this is such an important Spaghetti horror title, all three companies have really gone to town in the extras department. And apart from a few items, almost none of them overlap. So if you're prepared to multi-dip, there is a crazy amount of Zombie extras awaiting you. Before listing them all out, however, let me remind you that Blue Underground has two editions out, and almost all of the exciting new extras are on that second disc. So if you're going Blue, make sure you know which version you're getting.

Blue Underground DVD:
  • Several theatrical trailers, TV and radio spots
  • Poster & stills gallery
  • bonus trailers for other Fulci films
That's right; this disc is essentially barebones.

Shriek Show DVD:
  • Audio commentary with actor Ian McCulloch, moderated by Jay Slater, this is the same commentary that dates all the way back to the laserdisc. It's kind of dry, but not bad.
  • On-camera interview with Captain Haggerty, who played the opening zombie on the boat. He's actually a pretty interesting character, so this is a fun one; and Shriek Show are the only people who've talked to him.
  • Building a Better Zombie, a very substantial, 98 minute documentary, featuring interviews with Dardano Sacchetti and Elsa Briganti, Gino and Giannetto de Rossi, and Gianetto's wife, Mirella Sforza, who did more traditional hair and make-up, plus additional FX artists Maurizio Trani and Rosario Prestopino, producer Fabrizio de Angelis, Enzo Castellari, the director originally approached to direct Zombie, Sergio Salvati, cameraman Franco Bruni, Fabio Frizzi, and actors Ottaviano Dell'acqua and Al Cliver
  • An Evening with Dakar, a short performance by actor Dakar who plays us some of his music
  • On-camera interview with costume designer Walter Patriarca
  • Photo gallery
  • Trailer
  • a fun collection of bonus trailers for other zombie films
  • easter egg: Alternate Zombi 2 opening and closing credits
Shriek Show's 25th Anniversary Special Edition 2-disc set also came with a signed, fold-out poster, plus an insert, mini-comic book (not related to Zombie, but a movie Shriek Show produced called Flesh for the Beast) and a cool outer case.

Blue Underground blu:
  • Audio commentary with actor Ian McCulloch, again, this is the same one from all the other editions, including Shriek Show's. 
  • Introduction by Guillermo del Toro
  • On-camera interviews with stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver and Ottaviano Dell’Acqua. BU are the only ones to talk to Richard Johnson, who's a great get.
  • On-camera interviews with Gianetto and Gino De Rossi and Maurizio Trani - edited together into a nice featurette.
  • On-camera interview with co-producer Fabrizio De Angelis
  • On-camera interview with Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti
  • On-camera interviews with Sergio Salvati and Walter Patriarca
  • On-camera interview with Fabio Frizzi
  • On-camera interview with Lucio's daughter, Antonella Fulci
  • On-camera interview with Guillermo del Toro
  • Several theatrical trailers, TV and radio spots
  • Poster & stills gallery
  • easter egg: a bonus clip from the interview with Maurizio Trani, where he talks about the shark scene
Blue Underground doesn't go for any inserts, reversible art or anything. But that's fine, because it's all on the disc(s). All their interviews are especially professional and they've got just about everybody on there.

Arrow blu:
  • Audio commentary with screenwriter Elisa Briganti, moderated by Calum Waddell, this is fun, because we rarely see or hear from Elisa without her husband, mostly just supporting whatever he says. Now we get to hear from Elisa herself, and she's pretty interesting.
  • Audio commentary with Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower, moderated Alan Jones, this is pretty solid. Thrower is very well informed and they never run out of things to say, though fans may find themselves already knowing a lot of what's being said, if only because other extras in this same set told them.
  • Introduction by Ian McCulloch
  • From Romero To Rome: The Rise and Fall Of The Italian Zombie Film, an hour-long documentary that covers zombie films from Night Of the Living Dead to Zombie. It shows a little bit of films after and before these, but it mainly focuses on the Romero and Italian films, including interviews with Russell Streiner from Night, Dardano Sacchetti, Luigi Cozzi, Ruggero Deodato, Antonio Tentori (who wrote several later Fulci films) and a collection of British critics. It feels a little thrown together, like they selected who to include based on whoever they could easily get as opposed to who would be the best interview subject, but it's still very engaging.
  • On-camera interview with Ian McCulloch, this one's pretty long and goes fairly in-depth. They seemed to have some trouble lighting him, but otherwise it's quite a good interview.
  • On-camera interview with Gino De Rossi, where he talks you through how he made many of his effects, in Zombie and other films. He walks you through his workshop and shows you a bunch of original props. Definitely don't skip this one.
  • A bit of a silly, short segment where Dardano Sacchetti shows his original script. They literally just point the hand-held camera at his printed pages and expect you to read it that way, which you probably won't bother to do unless you're watching on your computer and can take screenshots.
  • A Fabio Frizzi Q&A, which is pretty fun, but one of those where they shot a live event with a fixed camera and don't get very good audio. They don't seem to have mic'd his translator, in particular, so it's actually harder to understand him than Frizzi.
  • Theatrical trailers and TV spots
  • easter egg: the deleted scene from Zombie Holocaust. I really don't understand what this is doing here, since it doesn't feature any of the footage lifted from Zombie. So, uh, okay...?
  • easter egg: a short video clip looking at Gino De Rossi's "wall of fame" in his home.
  • easter egg: a fun bonus clip from the Ian McCulloch interview.
Arrow's set comes with a thick, 40-page booklet, with lots of notes by Waddell, Thrower, Slater and Craig Lapper. It also has reversible cover art and Arrow's usual card for another one of their releases (I got Dr. Jeckyll and Miss Osbourne). And if you order it directly from Arrow's site, it comes in an outer slip box.
For their latest limited edition, Blue Underground wasn't left with much room to grow.  Who else could they interview that wasn't already covered above?  Those special editions were already getting a bit repetitive with their anecdotes.  So their new 2018 features might be a little disappointing, but what else could we ask for?  Everything from their 2011 Ultimate Edition has been carried over (so there's no reason to hang onto it once you've upgraded), and we get a new audio commentary by Troy Howarth, and a half hour on-camera interview with Stephen Thrower.  Thrower gives us a nice academic summary, but there's very little in the audio commentary fans wouldn't already be able to voice themselves if roles were reversed.

So BU focused more of their energies in 2018 around on the packaging.  We're given the choice of 3 holographic slip covers (mine is #2), and every edition also includes a 24-page full color booklet, with an essay by Thrower, a complete soundtrack CD (the third of the 3-disc set), an insert promoting the latest Zombie comic book, and reversible artwork with the classic "We are going to eat you!" cover inside.

And in 2020?  No new extras or anything.  Everything's on two discs: the UHD with the feature, commentaries, and a few short extras.  And then all the rest of the extras are on a separate blu-ray.  Packaging-wise, things are slimmer and slicker, sans all the gimmicks and goodies.  No soundtrack CD, booklet, holograms, inserts or reversible artwork.  We do get a cool, traditional slipcover though, which I actually prefer to every cover that's ever come before it.  But open it up, and it's just the two discs.  Suits me.
There aren't too many other editions to concern yourself with, since these guys have made them redundant. Umbrella released a blu-ray with just the old commentary on it, Happinet's blu in Japan seems to be a mirror of Blue Underground's 2011 set, and the German blu just has a short piece on Fulci. The only other disc that might blip your radar is Another World's DVD (the same guys who did that New York Ripper Special Restored Edition). That features a 40+ minute doc on Fulci's films (the first part, in fact, of the doc that's on the New York Ripper DVD), and a 30+ minute feature on Rosario Prestopino. I haven't seen that one, but it sounds pretty interesting, if you really want to go all in.
Now, I'm not necessarily recommending all these special editions unless you're a hardcore fan. There's a lot of redundancy in the interviews by your third Zombie set. I mean, most of the extras are unique, but they're asking the same people the same questions. If you've got Arrow's Contamination blu and 88's Zombie Holocaust, too; you're really going to hear a lot of McCulloch's anecdotes in particular over and over. But the big three - Shriek Show, Arrow and BU - are quite substantial and with some noteworthy treats you won't find in the others. So, you'll definitely want to get BU's 4k restoration for the best transfer - UHD if you've got the player - and for most of you, that will probably already be enough; because it's fairly packed. Then if you're still hungry for more features, since you've already got the ideal presentation of the film, you can just buy cheaper DVD editions of the Shriek Show and Arrow sets, which I'd recommend in that order: Shriek Show > Arrow.  I mean come on, you know you want to see that Captain Haggerty interview.

Mildly Controversial Blus: The Abominable Snowman

Here's a recent release that I resisted purchasing at first because I'd already read about its issues.  But as I dwelled on it, I thought it'd be ideal to cover on this site, and after all, the government sent us all those checks with the specific intent that we use it to stimulate the economy.  So I ordered Scream Factory's new release of the 1957 Hammer chiller The Abominable Snowman on blu-ray - 'twas my patriotic duty!
If you know me well, you know this Hammer flick's of particular interest to me because it's written by Nigel Kneale.  It's a remake of his BBC teleplay The Creature, which to my great dismay as been completely lost - no known recording exists.  But unlike a couple of Hammer's most famous Kneale remakes, The Creature wasn't much longer than their film, so not much material was lost.  The original Quatermass stories were serials, which had to be drastically cut down into a single feature-length screenplay.  And in the case of the original Quatermass, it was also unnecessarily dumbed down... SPOILERS FOR QUATERMASS, the story of the world's first men into space returning with a virus which turns out to be be a parasite that turns them into a destructive monster: when the monster became so indestructibly large it consumes Westminster Abbey, Prof Quatermass walks into the alien itself and addresses the remaining humanity of his fellow scientists it had absorbed.  He convinces them that the toll of life is too great and the creature takes its own life.  Whereas in the film, he goes, "maybe electricity is its weakness!"  And so some soldiers zaps it, causing it to die.  ...I don't hate the movie, but it's definitely a lesser work. /END OF SPOILERS
Here, while some passages have been lost and changes were made (most of which Kneale has expressed approval of), it's largely faithful to the original screenplay.  They've even kept the original star, Peter Cushing, who had already worked with Kneale in their excellent adaptation of 1984.  You may recall Kneale had some rather famous objections to the actor they had play Quatermass as well, so it's great to see everyone on the same page here, and consequently, this work feels much smoother and more cohesive.  Forrest Tucker replaces Stanley Baker as Cushing's co-star because they needed an American, and I wish, wish, wish we could see somehow Baker's original performance, but Tucker's a professional who knows how to portray his brash explorer.
Don't let the lurid posters fool you; this is more a work of science fiction than horror.  Yes, there are some suspenseful moments where the creature is lurking outside of the explorers' camp.  But at the end of the day, this film is more interested in the philosophical exploration of ideas than thrills or kills.  That said, though, the production values are surprisingly high.  Obviously most of this was shot on a sound-stage, but the sets are first class and there was a lot of real, original mountain climbing footage created for this film, as opposed to the generic stock inserts you'd expect from its B-movie peers.  These guys really went out and filmed in remote snowy mountain ranges, seriously elevating the production.  And apart from one obviously rubber glove moment, the creature itself looks pretty great, too.
Anchor Bay gave this film its American debut on DVD back in 2000 as part of their Hammer Collection.  They repackaged it once or twice, but that's been it for this film until December 2019, when Scream Factory got a hold of it and put it out on blu.  There were a few import editions in between, including a Japanese blu (Happinet, 2014), but for the most part, it's been just these two discs.
1) 2000 AB DVD; 2) 2019 SF BD (short cut); 3) 2019 SF BD (long cut).
This is a really attractive transfer.  It's a big leap forward from the DVD, which was already quite good, especially for such an old release.  The ratio is roughly the same, shifting from 2.32:1 to 2.34:1, partially because the DVD is very slightly windowboxed, though the blu also pulls out to reveal slightly more around all four sides.  Besides the standard compression you can't avoid with SD, the DVD does feature some edge enhancement that the BD handsomely cleans up.  It also has a broader range... you can see how around the lamp and the areas of brightest snow where it's flared out on the DVD, but more natural detail on the blu.  And the film grain is clear and distinct.  There are some flecks and other signs of light film damage throughout, but overall it's a beautiful restoration.

All versions here feature the original mono track, in DTS-HD on the blu.  The complete version also includes optional English subtitles, which the short cut and DVD omit.

...But wait a minute.  What's going on with that second shot?  It's in SD on the extended blu-ray cut, but in HD on the shorter cut?
Well, their official release page tells us that, "usable film elements of the complete film no longer exist; approximately five minutes of the film have been upconverted to high definition from a standard definition source."  Okay.  A composite cut in and of itself isn't what makes this release particularly controversial.  Of course, ideally, we'd all love have the complete uncut version of the film in perfect HD quality, but if it can't be helped, a composite cut is the next best thing.  And Scream Factory have also included the shorter version, without the inserts, for those who can't abide the shifts in quality (although I think you're crazy, personally, if you prioritize that over seeing the absolute complete work).  The controversy mostly stems in a find I can't take credit for, but seems to have been initially discovered by user jimqk on the forums.  The longer cut is 1:30:05, and the shorter cut is 1:25:05.  So ((beep, bleep, beep))... that would mean the extended cut has exactly five minutes of SD footage, right?  Well, not exactly, which is the issue.  Also, for a brief second or two (at 1:02:09), the short version even includes a brief moment of SD footage.  But it's the use of SD footage in the extended cut that's the off-putting part.

To be fair, it's not an uncommon practice to leave a little extra SD footage even where a bit more HD footage is available to cover the jump.  In other words, only switching footage on a cut so you don't see the obvious shift in quality right in the middle of a standing shot.  Some people might prefer it the other way around, but it's a judgement call, and you can at least see the reasoning either way.  But that's not what happens here.  The entire, lengthy scene plays all the way through in the shorter cut, from the beginning of the shot to the end; and yet for some reason they swap it out for the SD composite footage in the longer cut anyway.  Is their some obscure reason they made that decision, or is it just a mistake because they were rushing through this edit?  I don't know, but it's a full minute-long stretch we're talking about here that was apparently available in HD, but we got in SD anyway.
Anyway, if you can get past that, the special features should cheer you back up.  Starting with the DVD, we get a terrific audio commentary by director Val Guest and Nigel Kneale.  They were recorded separately and edited together, but still offer a treasure trove of exciting insight for fans.  Also included is a vintage episode of The World of Hammer, focusing on Peter Cushing.  It's basically just a clip show of all of Cushing's Hammer roles, and they like to show the films' climaxes, so beware spoilers abound!  There's actually no original footage to it at all, but they do score a few points by getting Oliver Reed to narrate.  The DVD also has the original theatrical trailer and an insert.

Scream Factory carries all of that over (except the insert), and also adds some exciting stuff of their own.  A new expert audio commentary and on-camera interview are both quite good, but unfortunately, they tell almost all the same facts and details in nearly the exact same way.  So I wouldn't bother watching both.  Personally, I'd opt for the interview, just because it's more efficient, but it's nice to have the choice.  They also add the Trailers From Hell episode, done by Joe Dante himself, and a stills gallery.
So ultimately, I'm not too fussed over the issues with this disc (hence the "mildly" of the title), though it is curious.  Oh, and that Japanese blu?  It's just the shorter cut, plus it's interlaced and barebones, so that's really not a viable contender.  If you want the complete version of the film on blu, this is it.  But even if Indicator or another label does wind up releasing this cut with that stretch of HD footage instead of the SD, I don't think I'd bother replacing just for that.  Watching this on TV, yes, you definitely do see the shifts in quality, but it's not much more distracting than the other flashes of film damage.  And barring discovery of the lost film, The Abominable Snowman's always going to be a composite cut no matter who releases it.  Scream's put together a pretty sweet package, with an attractive transfer and some great extras.  I'm happy with mine.