Lars von Trier's Darkly Demented The House That Jack Built, Now Stateside

As with practically every new film by Lars von Trier, you can wait indefinitely for a US release, or just import The House That Jack Built today.  Yes, Artificial Eye's UK blu has landed on somebody's shores, and it looks promising: uncut, HD, and even some special features.  "Uncut" is important to clarify, because apparently IFC in the US have been putzing around, putting out both the original director's cut and an R-rated edit in theaters.  And considering they've only mentioned a subsequent digital release this summer, who knows what if anything, they plan to eventually release on disc?  So you suckers can wait.  Me, I've imported!  It's paid off pretty consistently in the past, so hopefully the lucky streak continues...

Update 3/3/19 - 8/30/20: Okay, we no longer have to import, as Shout Factory has put this out here in the States for 2020.  Do I still feel glad that I imported, or is it now cause for regret?  Find out below...
If you're wondering, no, I wouldn't classify this as a horror film; though it certainly has its effects-heavy gruesome moments that would satisfy a proper gore hound.  It's more of a dramatic character study.  The fact that we're following a serial killer rather than some sort of "final girl" does put this somewhat close in tone to films like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or Angst, though.  But then it diverges farther into topics like art and existentialism, which will bore anyone who thought the Halloween reboot was the best film of last year.  Still, I suppose, as with those other films or American Psycho, it's at least horror adjacent.

An interesting fact about this movie, is that it was originally planned and announced as, "an ensemble TV series... shot in English and due to air in 2016. It marks his first foray into long-form TV drama and is being developed for Danish public broadcaster DR."  Instead it's wound up as a feature film, structured very much like his previous film, Nymphomaniac.  It's a long story, told in the form of a conversation, where the protagonist is narrating his/ her experience to another character in distinct chapters, with digressions for lecture-style explanations of their philosophies, replete with mixed media including stock footage and animation.  An interesting thing about the series concept is that it wouldn't have an ending; just an indefinite saga (and you can feel some of that energy still in the film's writing).  But this film, oh boy, it has one of the most definitive endings possible.
Performance-wise, this is really a one-man show, and thankfully Matt Dillon is up to the challenge.  Yes, Uma Thurman gets high billing, and you may notice Jeremy Davies' name in the mix.  But really, everybody comes and goes rather quickly; Dillon is the only character we stay with, and he's in nearly every frame.  In an interview, Trier describes this film as being his most Hitchcockian yet, and I definitely agree with that.  But to me that's more of a con than he probably thought of it, as it means the characters are a bit more superficial, following a plot for the sake of the plot and even more for the sake of set pieces.  But it's a bit light on humanity and drama, instead watching the characters go through their paces as a lighter entertainment than anything that'll touch you or resonate.  I definitely wouldn't place this quite as highly as Trier's many masterpieces, like Dogville, Melancholia or Antichrist.  But I found it did hold together a little better than Nymphomaniac.
The House That Jack Built was released on blu in the UK in 2019 by Artificial Eye.  It's "the full uncensored version," as the giant red band across the cover attests, and has some nice special features.  It took us until 2020 to get it here in the US, but we finally have thanks to Shout Factory. Their release is a 2-disc set, but don't get too excited. It actually has fewer extras than AE, and is just using that second disc for the "theatrical cut." The theatrical cut is missing about 90 seconds of violent footage, so I don't know why anybody would want to bother with it; no other country is. But Shout has also included the Director's Cut (same version as everywhere else), so it's all academic.
1) 2019 AE UK BD; 2) 2020 SF US BD theatrical; 3) 2020 SF US BD uncensored.
The House That Jack Built is framed at a very wide 2.39:1, and looks quite attractive on AE's disc.  This is a digital film, so there's natural grain to search for (except for a few instances of vintage footage taken from various, older sources), but it's clearly a fine, HD image with detail and slim compression you could never get from a DVD.  You might be looking at some of the shots above and thinking: well, I see grain, particularly in that last shot.  But that's presumably an effect added in post... after all, Lars is certainly one to digitally tinker with his images in post.  Anyway, being a new, digital release, you'd also expect the transfers to be essentially the same, with just the minor variances in encoding, seeing as how they're taken from the same DCP source.  And Shout's mostly are... except for one thing.  Shout's are distinctly brighter.  On the plus side, this reveals a little more information in some shadowy areas, but on the minus side, it makes the colors look a little more washed.  I guess the edge goes ever so slightly to Shout, but it's subtle enough that it'll just come down to your personal taste for most viewers.

Artificial Eye gives the choice between a stereo mix in LPCM or a 5.1 in DTS-HD, and Shout does the same except theirs are both DTS-HD.  I was a little surprised and disappointed to see there were no subtitle options on AE's disc, however.  Shout provides optional English and Spanish subs, definitely taking the edge there.
The extras package isn't quite as loaded as we've come to expect from some of the awesome Zentropa releases of Trier's past, but what we get is rather satisfying.  Artificial Eye starts us off with a super brief "introduction" by Trier.  I added the quotation marks because it's not really an introduction to the film; it's the announcement he posted online three years ago that Jack was going to be his next film.  Pretty insignificant, but a nice touch to have it on here. And if you want significance, all you have to do is move onto the next feature, the interview, where they go head on at most of the questions you'll have immediately after watching the film.  Here, Trier sits down with an old friend (he's not credited, but they're clearly quite familiar with each other) who puts some very thoughtful, and sometimes rather tough, questions to Trier, for over half an hour.  For example, he doesn't just challenge Trier on the possible misogyny in the film, after Trier gives his answer, he continues to challenge and press him on it.  And then he goes into questioning the meaning and purposes of various film elements, and is able to dig a little deeper thanks to some inside information on Trier's inspirations and processes.

Then there's a featurette which is rather good... It features another interview with Trier that isn't afraid to challenge him, getting into his banning from Cannes and his controversial Nazi comment.  It also features a bit from Dillon and Thurman by way of footage of a press Q&A.  The only downside is that it sources a lot of its material from the first interview on this disc; so yes, we watch several question and answer clips twice, verbatim, in short succession.  But the featurette's still definitely worth it for all the new content.  Finally, there's the trailer.

Shout doesn't have AE's extras, except the intro and the trailer.  But they do have their own Trier interview, which covers most of the same ground.  So at the end of the day, there's no real winner or any reason to double-dip.  Either disc'll do.  Oh, and Shout also includes a couple extra teasers, some bonus trailers, and comes in a slipcover.
So ultimately, I'm still happy with my AE disc.  This film isn't quite one of Trier's best, but it's still very much worth your time and impressive in many ways.  And AE's blu is strong, including more special features than I was expecting.  If I was buying it for the first time now, yeah I'd get the Shout Factory, if only for the subtitles. But there's definitely no grounds for replacement or regrets. Most Trier fans should feel comfortable buying whichever disc is available in their region.

Fulci's Last Gory Hold-Out, Demonia

Well, it only took us thirty years, but we finally have a proper special edition of Lucio Fulci's Demonia, pretty much the last of Fulci's must-have horror titles.  Of course, there are still more titles awaiting HD restorations for completists and die-hard fans.  Personally, I've always had a fondness for The House of Clocks (nudge nudge, if any boutique labels are reading this).  But of the staple horror titles, the ones we all used to trades bootleg VHS tapes of before Fulci became recognized by the Image Entertainments and Anchor Bays of the world, 1990's Demonia was the final hold-out.  Until this summer, that is, as Severin has just issued it on blu - and as a special edition on any format - for the first time.
I'm not sure if the home video availability-issues has resulted in lower fan recognition for this title, or vice versa.  Probably a bit of both.  But I'm genuinely surprised there hasn't been more vocal outcry for Demonia over the years.  First of all, it's a real out and out supernatural horror, with a perfectly lurid premise.  A bunch of Satan-worshipping nuns in ancient Sicily were crucified and burned alive many years ago for holding orgies and burning babies.  But now a couple of Canadian archeologists, including Brett Halsey and sexy psychic Meg Register, have started poking around and stirring up their lust for vengeance.  I mean, if you want pure Fulci, try this scene on for size: Al Cliver comes stumbling home drunk onto his house boat when a naked nun materializes in his cabin, laughing, and shoots him point blank with a harpoon gun.  And that's not even close to the best kill in this movie.
If Demonia only had a rousing Fabio Frizzi score, I think we'd all be juggling fancy editions from Grindhouse, Blue Underground and Arrow.  Not that this score is bad, but it is fairly understated, leaving the whole film feeling a bit slow.  But it's got a supporting cast full of familiar faces, some ideal locations including a real labyrinthine tomb, gothic dream sequences, and some of the most ambitious/ goriest set pieces in Fulci's catalog.  Fulci himself also has a surprisingly substantial role, second only to his starring turn in Cat In the Brain.  Sure, it's uneven with plot threads that seem to come and go for no reason - this is still Fulci we're talkin' here; and its DTV budget and limited shooting schedule give it rougher edges than Zombie or The Beyond.  But if you love Fulci, Demonia has everything you love him for.
So it's crazy to me that this has previously only been available via a mostly barebones 2001 non-anamorphic, interlaced, Shriek Show DVD.  There should've been dozens of competing special editions of this around the world.  But only now in 2020, do we finally have our first.  Maybe there's a behind-the-scenes reason involving licensing or lost film elements, but whatever the case was, Severin has finally solved it with Demonia's first ever blu-ray release.  If you bought this direct from them during their mid-year sale, it came in an exclusive slipcover, which was limited to 2000 copies.  But that's the only thing separating it from the retail version that was just released this week.
2020 US Severin BD.
Severin pillar-boxes Demonia to its original 1.66:1, with their new 4k scan freshly taken from the original negatives.  The presentation looks nearly flawless, or at least as flawless as the original film allows itself to look.  Fulci uses a lot of light-diffusing scrim on this picture (as he famously did with Conquest), which hey, is a deliberate style choice, and sometimes rather effective.  But he kind of goes out of control with it, to the point that there are even a few shots where you can see the netting between the lens and the image!  And the inconsistency of its usage, or the differing effects indoor and outdoor lighting have on, make the film look a little troubled.  But that's an issue with the film itself, not Severin's handling of the film on home video.  You can't hold anything like that against them anymore than you can the cast's acting.  This is a healthy dual-layer disc, but there are still some compression weak points, where film grain gets a little lost.  But detail and color certainly look more alive and natural than I remember the old DVD being, and actually exceeded my expectations of how this funky little film could look.

Another nice aspect of Severin's release is that they give us both audio options, English and Italian mono tracks in DTS-HD, with optional English sub- and dub-titles.  Shriek Show only gave us the English mono with no subs.  I suggest you take advantage of this opportunity to watch with the Italian track, as the English dub gives one character the most ridiculous, exaggerated Scottish accent, straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon.  In the Italian mix, he sounds perfectly normal.  And the campfire song (if you've seen the film, you know the one) is the same performance in English either way.
Fulci Lives !!!
Now, I called Shriek Show's DVD "mostly" barebones, because strictly speaking, it did have one little extra.  A brief (under five minutes), candid interview with Fulci himself, filmed by Massimo Lavagnini on location of the film's most famous kill.  Being one of Lucio's few surviving video interviews, you've probably seen it before on a bunch of previous Fulci DVDs and laserdiscs.  But since it was filmed during Demonia, it's particularly appropriate to have it on here.  And happily, Severin includes it, too.  They also cough up substantially more.

We start with an audio commentary by Fulci's always reliable chronicler Stephen Thrower, and there's a very good on camera interview with camera operator Sandro Grossi.  But the centerpiece is unquestionably their interview with assistant director Antonio Tentori, who also wrote the original short story the film is based on.  He was involved every step of the way and remembers all the behind the scenes stories you could've wondered about.  Because Covid forced them to record it over low-quality Zoom, Freak-O-Rama - who are rapidly becoming the definitive go-to guys for Italian horror features - took the opportunity to edit the piece into a mini-documentary.  The other extras are pretty great, too, but once you've watched the Tentori piece, the others don't have too much information left to share.  Severin also throws in a brief trailer.
So go on, Fulci freaks, this one belongs in your collection!  It's not just the only viable edition of an essential Fulci horror, it's a pretty terrific release by any standard.  We've waited too long already.

Two Stunning Tales of Corruption Restored In 4K

Man, it has been a long wait for to upgrade my old Anchor Bay DVDs of Istvan Szabo's masterpieces Mephisto and Colonel Redl.  The nice thing about it, though, is it took so many years, leaving them sought after and out of print for so long, that selling them was enough to pay for Kino's new 4k restorations on blu, with more leftover.  But before you get too jealous, that may have actually backfired on me, because it turns out there's a good reason to hang onto those DVDs... Whoops!
You don't get much better than either of these films.  Both were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the first Hungarian films to make it to the Oscars, and Mephisto won.  Szabo made them in a row in 1981 and 1985, both with dynamic lead performances by Klaus Maria Brandauer, who's continued to work but really hasn't had the career he earns here.  Thematically, they have a lot in common, too, due to some issues of guilt and regret in the director's past.  This despite the fact that both films are based on other men's, real historical figures', lives, and Mephisto specifically is also an adaptation of a novel but another writer, Klaus Mann (son of Thomas Mann).
 
In the case of Mephisto, Brandauer is a German actor during the early days of World War II.  As most of his peers flee the country, he stays and achieves extreme success under the Nazi government, telling himself he he's uniquely positioned to help people from within the regime, but becoming increasingly unable to break from the dangerous world he's built around himself.  Meanwhile, Redl is a young man who turns in a friend to curry favor in cadet school and ultimately rises through the ranks to the head of counter-intelligence in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I.  He's mistrusted by, and spies on, everyone even within his own ranks, becoming both one of the revered and hated military figures of his time.  I've called both of these films tales of corruption, but these are more than morality tales pointing out the evils of ambition, but very complicated portraits of men who are both victims of a corrupting system and master manipulators of their environments that leave us with no easy answers, but many haunting memories.
I'm actually surprised they didn't complete the trilogy.  And you might respond, no they did!  Kino have released three Szabo 4k restorations on blu on the same day this summer, the third one being 1980's Confidence.  But more famously, Szabo did three films starring Brandauer all in a row, the third one being 1988's Hanussen.  And it's another character study of a relatable historical figure harboring a deep personal secret who rises to power and ultimately corrupted to fail during a world war.  This time Brandauer played Erik Jan Hanussen who became the infamous Nazi occultist portrayed by Tim Roth in Werner Herzog's Invincible.  Admittedly, I didn't find it quite as powerful as their previous two collaborations, but it's still very good and was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in its year.  There have been several non-English friendly DVDs, including an anamorphic one from Sweden, but all we've gotten in English are ancient fullscreen VHS and laserdisc releases.  I'm glad we get Confidence, and obviously the ideal is that we wouldn't have to choose and every movie would be issued on high-quality blus, but I think Hanussen would've been a far more rewarding capper to Kino's trio.  Oh well.
2001 US Anchor Bay DVD top; 2020 US Kino BD bottom.
So Anchor Bay matted their DVD tighter at 1.78:1; Kino's new blu opens it up to 1.66:1.  But besides opening the picture up vertically like you'd expect, the new scan also finds a bit more on the sides.  Colors are softer and more natural in general; look at the general's uniform above, or better yet, the woman on the right.  Grain is a little patchy in spots on the blu (these new restorations would surely benefit from UHDs... but I'm psyched to be getting them in HD at all), but it's mostly strong and filmic, while the DVD only hints at it with compression noise.

Both discs give us the German mono track with optional English subtitles, but Kino goes the extra mile and throws in the Hungarian mono track as well (and bumps both up to DTS-HD).  Still, I prefer the German, not just be because I've grown familiar with that version over the years, but because it's what the actors are actually speaking.  Plus, it is set in Germany.
2001 US Anchor Bay DVD top; 2020 US Kino BD bottom.
As for Colonel Redl, Kino's blu is an even bigger improvement, since Anchor Bay only offered us a fullscreen option.  To be fair, it was open matte, as Kino's new 1.66:1 transfer mostly just crops the old 1.31:1, even losing a slight sliver along the left-hand side.  But this new restoration is surely the correct, originally intended framing, looking more attractive and carefully composed than the boxy DVD.  And colors are again a bit more down to earth and warm, though a few shots (like that first set) make some bold decisions.  None I object to, mind you, but it's hard not to notice the differences.

The audio situation is little bit different from Mephisto's.  This time the BD only has the Hungarian track... which makes sense in a way, as this one is set in Hungary.  On the other hand, while the DVD only has the German, that audio actually matches their lip movements.  Anyway, both discs include optional English subtitles, and the BD kicks its sound up to DTS-HD.
deleted scene restored for the new blu.
And here's an aspect I have no mention that nobody seems to be talking about.  Kino's Colondel Redl is longer!  I mean, Mephisto's blu-ray is about three minutes longer, too.  But that's only because of additional logos and additional closing credits that list everyone who worked on the Hungarian restoration.  And Colonel Redl has that, too.  But Redl's blu is roughly ten minutes longer, because it also has a handful of deleted footage that was missing from the DVD restored into the film.  The first of which is a minute-ling scene with a young Redl confronting his best friend about his jealousy of other friends.  The other scenes appear throughout the film, and clearly weren't cut for censorship reasons.  There's no sex, violence, language or anything like that; it's just additional character moments that enrich the story.  So I'm delighted to have them reinstated, even though I had no idea anything had been missing until now.
So if we're talking better picture, audio, and at least in Redl's case, a more complete edit of the film... what was that at the top about a reason to hang onto the DVDs?  Yup, it's about the extras.  Kino's blus aren't packed, but they do have some goodies.  Mephisto, particularly, for having an all new audio commentary by Samm Deighan.  She really knows her stuff, and is packed with information about autobiographical themes Szabo has laced into the film, the novel it's based on, the life of the author, and the various people the characters in this film are likely based on.  You will be impressed and learn a ton.  Besides that, both films feature a little eight minute documentary (yes, the same doc is on both discs), about production designer Jozsef Romvari by his granddaughter Sophy Romvari.  It's nice, but a little light on substance, and feels like it was made more for fellow members of the Romvari family than the general public, but it's nice to see it here as a bonus.  Each disc also has its theatrical trailer, an ad for a film festival's Szabo retrospective, and attractive full color 16-page booklets with notes by Szabo himself and New York Times editor Bilge Ebiri.  All told, not a lot, but reasonably satisfying in Mephisto's case, at least.
But it's also a disappointing step backwards, because Anchor Bay's DVDs (yes, the same doc is on both discs in this instance, too) had an excellent featurette interviewing both Szabo himself and star Brandauer.  It's not super long, clocking in at about twenty-two minutes, but it's all meat and no filler, with all serious discussion rather than lots of frilly film clips, etc.  They talk about both films at roughly equal length, and as impressed as I was with Deighan's commentary, nothing tops getting to hear directly from the artists themselves.  It's the best extra, and the only real one of substance for Redl.  I don't know if they tried to license it or what, but it's a shame they couldn't get it or commission new interviews (they're both still alive and working in 2020).  So, yeah, you're going to want to hang onto a DVD if you can.
So okay, everything isn't tippy-top perfect.  We lost the important feature, and more curiously, we lost Redl's German audio track.  But they're still pretty excellent.  They're two truly great films, debuting not just in HD but with new 4k restorations.  And while they're not really full special editions, they do have some noteworthy features (and they can be enhanced just by keeping a DVD in your collection).  So they may be imperfect, but they're still essentials.  And maybe if enough of us cop these, Kino will follow-through with Hanussen sometime soonish.

The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue, Resurrected

1974's The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue, a.k.a. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, a.k.a. Don't Open the Window, and even briefly as Zombi 3, is just a good zombie film.  It's not an important zombie film; it didn't break any new ground, push any envelopes or launch any careers.  And in this time of zombie saturation, where we're swimming in everything from mainstream zombie parodies to a billion seasons of The Walking Dead, it may not even be noteworthy.  But for its time, five years even before Lucio Fulci's classic Zombie, it was a real treat.  And if you can look past the fatigue or elevated expectations (nothing in this film is going to shock or surprise audiences in 2019) brought about by the insane glut of hangers-on and knock-offs, it actually holds up quite well.

Update 1/16/19 - 8/15/20: You might well ask, does the world need another blu-ray release of this film when Blue Underground's special edition is still readily available?  You might be surprised.
Plot-wise, this one's pretty straight forward.  The careless, ecologically unfriendly government is recklessly misusing radiation (message!), and inadvertently wakes up a few corpses who've developed a taste for human flesh in the process.  A generic leading man type crosses path with a generic leading lady type, and they wind up getting accused of committing a murder, and the police just won't take their "a dead man did it" explanation seriously.  So they wind up on the run together, trying to figure out what's going on as the zombie menace expands across the country-side.  It takes an awfully long time to arrive at Manchester Morgue, but eventually both man and zombie meet up there for a final showdown.
It's a bit slow moving, and feels all the more so when everybody who's ever heard of a zombie movie before knows full well where it's all going, but it's got some strong atmosphere and well directed scenes.  It's a Spanish/ Italian co-production, but makes great use of its attractive English locations.  It's not as gory or effects heavy as genre fans would probably like, but when it gets to the main horror set-pieces, they still perform really well.  The "lead" zombie (think Bill Hinzman in Night Of the Living Dead), strikes a pretty imposing figure, a man who drowned himself in a lake by tying himself to a large rock, now still wrapped in his rope, coming for victims with a menacing lurch.  It's also got to be one of the first zombie films to delve into zombie babies (sorry, Zack Snyder), and it all comes to a tidy, satisfying conclusion.
Anchor Bay first released this film as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie on DVD back in 2000, as a standard release and in a limited edition tin (mine's #1726 of 5000).  Blue Underground reissued it on DVD in 2007, but then quickly rendered that edition obsolete less than a year later by putting out a 2008 2-disc special edition under the Living Dead At Manchester Morgue title.  And in another single year, they rendered that version obsolete by issuing it on blu-ray in 2009.  Next month, September first, Synapse walks onto the field with the goal of rendering them all obsolete, with their 3-disc (albeit only in a world where we allow soundtrack CDs and duplicate DVD editions into that count... it's really just one blu-ray disc of video content) limited (albeit to a very healthy 6000 copies) edition steelbook.
1) 2000 AB DVD; 2) 2009 BU BD; 3) 2020 Synapse DVD; 4) 2020 Synapse BD.
Well, BU's blu-ray is certainly a modest upgrade; though in its defense, 2009 is quite old for a BD.  The colors look a bit flatter, but they bring down the flashy highlights, which I'd say is a good thing.  The framing shifts ever so slightly from 1.84:1 to 1.86:1.  Artifact noise on the DVD has been cleaned up, which is the biggest appreciable upgrade.  But grain and fine detail is all over the place.  Look at the first shot... not of the comparisons, but the first screenshot in this write-up, where they're testing their weird device on the countryside.  The film grain in the sky there is very distinct and authentic, especially for an older blu.  But then look at the sky in the first set of comparison shots: the grain looks just about as smoothed away on the blu as on the DVD.  Now, let's get in close to the second set of shots.
2000 Anchor Bay DVD left; 2009 Blue Underground BD right.
Yikes!  Here, I actually prefer the DVD (and this is the old Anchor Bay DVD, remember) to the blu.  Clearly, there's artificial smoothing at play here, as well as some effect that really makes that guy's one eyeball pop.  I was just talking about how Dead & Buried could possibly benefit from a new 4k transfer, but we might've found an even better candidate here.

And boy, oh boy, has Synapse answered the call.  Their blu is from a brand new, 4k scan of the original 35mm negative.  Now precisely matted to 1.85:1, the colors are more vibrant and distinct, which helps bring up the clash between the film's beautiful countryside landscapes and the horror happening on it.  But the real star is the badly needed boost in resolution.  That smoothed-out nonsense revealed in the previous close-up is cleared right up.  Grain is consistent and fine detail is crisp for the first time in the film's history.

Audio-wise, Anchor Bay offered us the original mono track in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, and a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track.  Blue Underground... well, the case says it has three tracks: 7.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Ex and the original mono track.  But the 5.1 doesn't seem to actually be on the disc.  Anyway, the 7.1 seems to be roughly the same as the old 5.1 except now it's lossless and mixed for the extra channels.  I'm just glad the mono's still there.  To make it more of an upgrade, however, the old DVD lacked subtitles, while the blu adds English, French and Spanish.  Now Synapse has remastered the original mono (and fixed the syncing a little), and kept the 5.1 remix, both in DTS-HD.  They've dropped the foreign options, but kept the optional English subtitles.
Here's the best thing about the BU disc - new and better extras.  Actually, strictly speaking, these were introduced with the 2007 2-disc special edition DVD; but they're all still here on the blu and a substantial step forward from the original DVD.  Not that the old DVD was barebones.  It had a brief introduction by the director and then a nice on-camera interview with him after.  It also had the trailer, a couple radio spots and a stills gallery.  Plus, if you got the tin, you got a nice 24-page booklet with notes by Nigel J. Burrell, a pair of inserts, an amusing Manchester Morgue toe tag, and of course the fancy looking tin itself.

The 2009 blu-ray carries over everything except the hard copy stuff from the tin (in other words, everything actually on the disc), but also adds some new features which flesh things out substantially more.  First of all, there's an all new, much longer interview with the director, where he tours the English shooting locations of the film and shares a lot more memories of the filmmaking.  Then there are new on-camera interviews with star Raymond Lovelock and Giannetto De Rossi, who of course went on to do Fulci's zombie films.  They also dug up two more trailers for the film.
And the 2020 blu?  Well, the bad news is that they chucked all the legacy extras.  I remember looking at the announced extras, and since Grau passed away in 2018, I thought we were going to be left with nothing but experts.  And indeed, there are a lot of experts.  That includes two new audio commentaries, one by Troy Howarth and one by Nathaniel Thompson & Bruce Holecheck.  With all of the experts repeating much of the same information (I can't imagine anyone needed to be told this was based on George Romero's film once, but here it's explained a half dozen times), I'd recommend the latter.  Not that Howarth's is bad, but I've listened to a lot of his commentaries by now, and this is not his best work: atypically rambly and spending a very long time in the old imdb sand trap, where he just endlessly lists off everybody's credits, one by one.

Then the biggest new addition is the "extensive new feature-length documentary explor[ing] the life and films of Jorge Grau" by Calum Waddell and Naomi Holwill.  And the first and happiest surprise is that they did get Jorge Grau, whose excellent new interview is the centerpiece for this doc.  There's also a slew of experts, Giannetto De Rossi, and composer Giuliano Sorgini, who's a first for a Manchester Morgue disc.  And as much as the official description might lead you to believe we're going to be listening endlessly about how Grau grew up on a farm someplace, it's actually rather strongly focused on this film, and touching just enough on his other films.  Also on hand is a separate interview and Q&A with De Rossi, which is a little redundant at times (he does repeat some anecdotes pretty much verbatim), but there's a lot of great exclusive content in them, too.  The Q&A is especially worth your time, where he shares great stories about his time on Rambo 3, Emanuelle In America, etc.  The trailer, TV and radio spots are also on hand.
Also of note is the swag.  I do believe this is the first time I've seen a steelbook come in a slipcover.  And yes, there's a soundtrack CD, a booklet with notes by Dr. Nicholas Schlegel and even a page about the restoration by Don May Jr. himself.  There's a DVD copy of the blu and a poster, too.  I'd happily give all of that up for a couple of those BU extras to have been carried over, though.  The Grau and De Rossi interviews are no great losses, since Synapse covered most of that with their new stuff (though in a few cases, Grau's personal anecdotes are still better told in the original featurettes than by Synapse's experts paraphrasing them), but the location visits and the Lovelock piece were still great exclusives.  So fans will want to hang onto their old discs.  But there's no question which release is the definitive one: the PQ upgrade is massive, and the new extras exceeded my expectations, so it's worth the double-dip.  Shop around, though, I've seen retailers with pre-order prices literally double what other retailers are selling it for, and even the lowest prices are inflated by all the swag.