The Ultimate Sense & Sensibility

Boy, I've gotta get in gear - my list of discs I plan to cover on this site is outpacing the posts I actually get done.  I've got so much I want to do here!  There are so many compelling new releases coming out, but I don't want to get trapped into only covering new releases.  So let's jump right into A Pair of Twilight Times, starting with Sense & Sensibility.  Specifically, this is the 1995 Academy Award winning feature film version adapted by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee.

Update 6/21/19 - 10/20/21: I never would've thought we'd see the day where Jane Austen made it to 4K Ultra HD (well, barring Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, I suppose...), but here we are!  Sony have included 1995's Sense & Sensibility in their impressive 'Columbia Classics Volume 2' 14-disc set.  And is my reviewing this a spoiler of five other Ultra HD discs in the very near future?  Ohhh, could be.  😉
Sense & Sensibility is Jane Austen's first novel with surprisingly clear themes - one sister represents the sense (pragmatism) and the other the sensibility (romanticism).  You don't exactly need an advanced degree in literature.  But it's still such a rich, layered and funny story, and Thompson expertly compresses the novel to feature length without compromising any of the wit or heart, while Lee presents us with sweeping vistas and gorgeous locales.  The cast is perfectly charming and marvelous, from leads Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and of course Thompson herself, to the brilliantly selected supporting players like Imelda Staunton, Hugh Laurie, Robert Hardy and Elizabeth Spriggs.  I could go on and on about the merits about this film, but I don't think I need to.  1995's Sense & Sensibility is pretty widely recognized as classic desert island material.  You know, for a while a thought my DVD would be good enough, but no, this requires a proper upgrade.
Sense and Sensibility debuted on DVD all the way back in 1999 with an anamorphic special edition which held up well throughout all of the SD days.  As such, the DVD was reissued multiple times over the years, once packaged with a paperback copy of the novel, once with a hokey Sense and Sensibility-branded diary and pen, and once as a double-feature with Remains Of the Day.  But it was always the same DVD.  It's the HD era now, though, so we needed a blu-ray.  And this was just the kind of high-profile title you could count on Twilight Time to license from Sony.  And so in 2015, thankfully, instead of their standard barebones editions, they came through with a proper special edition.  It seemed like that would be the final, definitive release for this title, but not so!  In 2021, it's been updated to UHD in a new, even fancier 2-disc set, available (to date) only as a part of the 'Columbia Classics Volume 2' 14-disc boxed set.
1) 1999 Columbia Tri-Star DVD; 2) 2015 Twilight Time BD;
3) 2021 Columbia Tri-Star BD; 4) 2021 Columbia Tri-Star UHD.




Twilight Time's blu turned out to be an even bigger bump than I was expecting.  Naturally, the DVD being from the 90s has a lot of chunky compression that I was confident our 2015 BD would tidy up neatly.  And we advance from a slightly pillar-boxed 1.76:1 to a letterboxed 1.85:1.  That amounts to us losing a dollop along the top; but gaining a sliver on the right.  It's really less about picture information than just graduating to a proper, more natural AR.  But beyond those predicted improvements, we can also see that the DVD had a red hue over the whole image, which the blu lifts off, allowing the colors to really pop as a result.  Whites are now truly white instead of pink, and the sky is gently blue instead of scary purple. Grain is rather finely captured.  Say whatever else you want about 'em; you always get good scans when you deal with Sony.

Which is why they apparently didn't feel the need to re-scan it in 2021.  According to accompanying book, this the new BD and UHD are taken from the same 2012 4k scan of the original picture negative as the previous blu.  But they have re-color timed it for HDR, with input from the editor and final approval by Lee, plus additional dirt and scratch clean-up.  That means, for the two BDs, there's barely any difference at all.  But the colors are richer on the UHD, and the higher resolution means a more natural, less blocky/ pixelated image, though it's the sort of thing you'll need a big screen to appreciate.

Columbia actually gave us a choice between the original Dolby stereo mix and a newly created 5.1, not to mention Portuguese and Spanish dubs.  It also had English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai subtitles.  Twilight Time has kept both audio tracks, and bumped them up to DTS-HD in the process, but cut the subtitles down to just English.  And the new UHD?  Oh boy, it has an all new Atmos mix, and the previous 5.1 DTS-HD plus a bajillion dubs (Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Turkish) and even more subtitle options... I'm not going to list them all out, but yes, English and English SDH are amongst them.
So one reason I held onto the DVD for so long was because it is nicely furnished with extras.  We get two audio commentaries: one with Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran, and the other with Lee and producer James Schamus - and they're both very good.  Not enough discs let us hear from the screenwriters, and it's all the more rewarding when said screenwriter is Emma Thompson.  We also get two brief but amusing deleted scenes, Thompson's clever acceptance speech at The Golden Globes, the trailer, a four-page insert with notes by an uncredited author and some bonus trailers.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Twilight Time not only carried over all the old DVD extras, which they definitely don't always do (*cough, cough* As Good As It Gets *cough*).  But I was even more delighted when I realized that they were also including several vintage but previously unreleased featurettes.  There are five in total, and grant us interviews with many of the cast and crew, and some tantalizing glimpses behind-the-scenes.  There's also Twilight Time's ever reliable isolated score track, an additional international trailer and an 8-page booklet with notes by Julie Kirgo.

The Columbia Classics retains nearly all of that, including the additional Twilight Time featurettes, except they seem to have misplaced the Golden Globes speech.  Whoops!  I can't complain, though, since in its place they've added a 25th Anniversary Reunion, where the Lee, Thompson, Winslet, Doran, Staunton, Imogen Stubbs, Greg Wise and Myriam Francois all jump on their webcams for a roughly half-hour conversation.  The set includes an impressive, full-color hardcover book about all the included films, but specifically with notes on Sense & Sensibility by Den of Geek's Kayti Burt and an excerpt from the screenplay.  It's an elaborate fold-out box with all the other films and their extras, of course, and the case for each of the individual features, including Sense, comes in an elegant slipcover.
Hey!  While I'm here, why don't we take a quick look at all the other versions of Sense & Sensibility out there.  Yes, I know... this is why my "plan to cover"s are outpacing my "covered"s, but let's do it anyway.  All told, there are four direct adaptations of Sense & Sensibility, not including this ridiculous thing and the modernized Kollywood adaptation.  Memorably, there is one for each decade.  We've just been over the 90's one, so here are the other three.
2009 2 Entertain/ Warner Bros/ BBC DVD.
The 70's Version - Originally aired in 1971 and divided into four 45-minute long episodes.  Being a series rather than a single film, the expectation is that now we're finally going to see all the parts cut out book for the film's screenplay in this much longer version.  And there is a little of that, but really, this is only about 40 minutes longer, so it's not a revelation of restored characters and plot points.  Indeed, this version trims out Margaret, the youngest of the three main sisters.  The additional bits we do get are nice, but hampered by the far more constrained production.  Sir John is played by an actor too young for the part, hamming it up like a school play's Mr. Fezziwig, and pretty much every scene is necessarily "stagey."  Certainly, there's enough here to recommend it to the committed Austenphiles - Keeping Up Appearance's Patrica Routledge steals every scene she's in.  But this is certainly the most forgettable entry out of the lot, remarkable mainly only for being the first.

The BBC's DVD is appropriately full-frame (it was a 70's television production, after all), at 1.31:1.  It's also interlaced, though that may be less of a PAL to NTSC conversion thing than just a baked-in trait of a vintage TV tape master.  But less forgivable is the strong edge enhancement, which would've been the sort of thing you could get away with more easily in the smaller screen days of standard definition, but really looks poor on modern televisions.  The disc is completely barebones, though it does offer optional English subtitles.
2004 Warner Bros/ BBC DVD.
The 80's Version - First broadcast in 1981, this adaptation is broken up into seven short (22-23 minutes long) episodes.  When you consider the fact that means we're getting seven sets of opening and closing credits, that makes it only slightly longer than the movie.  Indeed, poor Margaret gets the chop here, too.  Still, they manage to find some excellent moments and memorable exchanges the 90's version neglected, and generally does a much better job of drawing out the comedy than the 70's version.  For instance, they get some of the best use out of secondary characters like Robert Ferrars and Mr. Palmer.  Admittedly, a handful of moments get overwrought in this one, but the way it's broken into such shorter pieces, make it uniquely pleasant to casually graze on over time rather then binge in a single run.

Curiously, this release is a flipper disc with a blank side.  It's fullscreen, too, as it should be, at 1.32:1, but it's also interlaced and a bit hazy, though at least not as tampered with as the 70's version.  I assume this was shot on tape, too, so there are no film elements to go back to, meaning this is probably about as good as it possibly could look.  Showing this off on your big-screen TV definitely won't impress your neighbors, but Warner describes this as "lovingly remastered" and I believe them.  Optional English subtitles are included, but nothing else.  This one's available separately, but if you're a fan, I'd recommend getting it as part of the 6-disc Jane Austen Collection, which includes a strong 70s-80s BBC adaptation of each of Austen's novels.
2008 2 Entertain/ WGBH/ BBC DVD.
The 2000's Version - From 2008.  I was excited for this one, as it's by Andrew Davies, the man who gave us the ultimate Pride & Prejudice, not to mention a wealth of terrific Dickens and other masterpiece adaptations.  It might sound corny, and admittedly he's had one or two misfires in his storied career, but I'd say his name is a genuine hallmark of quality.  Well, I can't say he quite matched his Pride, but this is a strong version in its own right, with some slightly shameless attempts to make this production a little more risque.  It opens with a sexy fireplace love scene and features a fit Edward chopping wood in a wet, transparent shirt.  Comprising just three, longer episodes, this series' noteworthy casting includes The Walking Dead's notorious Governor as Colonel Brandon and an excellent Sir John, plus it's also got a very seductive score that sticks with you.  In a vacuum, I'd recommend this version, but living in a world that's already presented us with three previous Sense and Sensibilities, this one doesn't give us too much that we don't already have.  I'd say the 90s version is the most engaging watch, and the 80s adds a lot from the book that the later editions let slip away.  So once you've got those two, there isn't so much value left to extract from the 70s and 2000s versions.

Still, it's good enough that you may well want to pick this up.  And if you do, well, it definitely looks more modern with its widescreen 1.78:1 framing and clearly high def source.  But of course it's been brought down to a standard def DVD, and an unfortunately interlaced one at that  And a film this new really has no excuse to be interlaced, so it doesn't get the pass I'm giving to the previous to editions.  Apart from that, though, it looks nice enough.  The colors are vivid, and it doesn't feel like we're many generations removed from the source film.  Oh, and yes, English subtitles are an option here, too.
Miss Austen Regrets
In fact, this is also a nice little special edition.  Each episode gets an audio commentary by a revolving team of cast and crew: director John Alexander, producer Anne Pivcevic, Hattie Morahan who plays Elinor and Dan Stevens who plays Edward on episode 1, then Alexander, Charity Wakefield who played Marianne and Dominic Cooper who played Willoughby on episode 2, and finally the episode 1 team again for the last one.  Then there's a half-hour interview with interview Davies and Pivcevic, who spend a surprising amount of time talking about the Thompson film, and a photo gallery.  And that's just disc 1.  A second bonus disc includes the fine, feature-length dramatization of Jane Austen's real life, Miss Austen Regrets.  It's letterboxed to an unusual 1.81:1 and is also interlaced, looking generally as good as Sense, and also includes English subtitles.  In addition, there's a substantial audio-only extra: Remembering Jane Austen, a 70-minute, four-part radio play based on the memoir of James Austen-Leigh, the only written account of somebody who personally knew her.

This 2-disc set is available separately or in an attractively boxed Collector's Set box that pairs it with the 2007 adaptation of Persuasion.   There is also a Japanese 2-disc blu-ray release, which hopefully(!) clears up the interlacing issue and sharpens up some of the fine detail, but it's hard to find any concrete information about it online, and from what I gather is missing all of the special features, apart from the Davies/ Pivcevic interview and the photo gallery.
So the 90's version has been given an essential blu-ray release by Twilight Time.  And then they topped it with the new 2021 UHD.  But unless you're prepared to spring for the whole Columbia Classics Collection, the TT might still be your best bet (and used copies will probably start pouring into the market as people who did upgrade offload their previous edition).  As for the other Sense & Sensibilities?  Well, I'd start with the one from the 80's, then possibly add the 2000's and 1970's versions, in that order, depending how Austen-mad you are.  Oh, and actually you could squeeze that Kollywood version in there ahead of the 70's version, too.  It's pretty neat and the musical numbers are beautifully filmed.  The Kino DVD has English subs.

Watching Halloween Just Got a Little Less Complicated...

I've got a bunch of new releases and updates to cover this month, but before I do that, I'd like to squeeze in just one more post where I get fairly definitive about an important horror classic.  This one's been a long time coming, and as you read on, you'll see why.  Today I'd like to look at the dueling blus, the controversially color-timed DVDs, the MIA mono track and of course the latest 4K UHD of John Carpenter's original masterpiece: 1978's Halloween, surely the second the greatest horror flick ever written about the most frightening of holidays.

Update 5/8/19 - 10/14/21: The original title of this post was "Watching Halloween Shouldn't Be This Complicated!"  But Scream Factory has just made it a little simpler with their latest 3-disc Collector's Edition set... though it's anything but uncomplicated.
Halloween is interesting because of course it's the original, trend-setting slasher film that defined the horror genre for at least the next decade.  ...And yeah I know, the same case could pretty much be made for Psycho, which came well before it; and the slasher film could be argued to date at least as far back as 1932's Thirteen Women.  It's complicated if you really want to clarify historic firsts and lock down specific precursors.  But there's no question that Halloween introduced a massive sea change into the horror genre and specifically spawned a horde imitators and sequels, which are still continuing on to this day (not to mention the official sequel, Halloween 12, comes out later this month).
But the interesting point I was getting at is what's not interesting about it.  Essentially, it's a very basic, unenlightening color-by-number plot.  A flat, faceless character walks around and kills a bunch of horny teenagers until he's stopped by the virginal one.  Okay, Halloween came "first" (again; it's complicated).  But apart from having staked that little flag in the ground, what makes Halloween better than the bajillion and one other slasher films that tell nearly the exact same story in the exact same way?  Okay, Donald Pleasance's character provided an exciting and original twist to the formula: a hero character who's almost as mad as the villain.  But still, lots of knock offs were able to replicate that to one degree or another.  So what makes Halloween better than, say, Halloween 4 that tells virtually the identical story including the returning Loomis character and everything?  It has updated special effects, so that one should be even be, like, .5 percent better than the original, right?
Of course it's not.  And Halloween can certainly point to a lot of positive points it has going in its favor: the performances are universally strong across the board (a real sinking point for a gross number of slasher clones), Dean Cundy's 'scope panagliding is positively haunting and Carpenter's iconic score is absolutely perfect.  But really, I think it comes down to Carpenter's clever direction; each new scare is like a fresh pull from a Hitchcockian bag of tricks, like: 1) the killer's infamous POV tracking shot as he stalks his victims, 2) the moment where he's clearly standing there in an open shot then vanishes after a quick cut, 3) having a character in the foreground move to reveal the killer had been in the background all along, or 4) slowly dialing up a soft light to reveal the killer had been hidden in the darkness of a single shot all along.  Sure, films have done these things before and particularly since; but even to this day, I can't think of a more slickly performed collection of inventive suspense moments in such an expert, single package.
I should pause to point out, by the way, that we're only really looking at the proper, theatrical version of the film, but there is also an extended TV cut.  In features some of the usual censorship for network television, but it's noteworthy because it also includes several unique, and fairly long scenes, adding roughly twelve minutes to the total running time.  These were never part of the original artistic intention, and weren't even filmed until the shooting of Halloween 2, so I feel confident in saying there's only one definitive cut of the film and the TV version ain't it.  But they do include Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis and PJ Soles; so while they might detract more than they add to the pacing and thrust of the picture, they should certainly still be of at least some nominal interest to serious fans who're already intimately familiar with the proper theatrical cut.
So, Anchor Bay released it as part of a "limited edition" 2-disc set with the THX version (more on that in a minute) in 1999, and as a stand-alone DVD in 2001 [left].  I put limited edition in quotes because they released 40,000 copies of that set, so even today, it's not exactly super rare.  Anchor Bay UK also put out a version of the 2-disc set in 2001, and it was included as a standard def bonus in AB's original, 2008 blu-ray boxed set of the franchise.  Scream Factory has given it the best edition to date as part of their massive, 2014 15-BD boxed set (also included in their 2021 3-disc set).  But even there, while the bulk of the TV cut is in HD for the first time, it's still a composite cut with all the added TV footage in SD.  It's basically just one of many extras on the bonus disc, and they didn't bother to create subtitles for it or anything.  Rather than pushing the entire alternate cut, the 35th Anniversary blu-ray and Lions Gate's UHD just include the TV footage as an extra, like deleted scenes; and honestly, I'm perfectly happy with that.
Now, the five cases along the top of this post may seem like I'm coming up a little shy of "definitive;" but actually, except for the oldest, 1997 Anchor Bay DVD - which wasn't even anamorphic - I believe I'm about to represent every significant transfer on the market.  And I'm showing the first two a little out of order here, because the first DVD in my collection is a repressing.  I'll get into all big debate of the alternate color timings in a bit, but in brief, Anchor Bay's 1999 DVD (a.k.a. the THX edition) featured a new transfer, timed and supervised by Dean Cundy himself.  Then, in 2003, they made a new version for their 25th Anniversary edition (a.k.a. the Divimax edition) with different timing that a lot of people objected to.  Therefore, in 2007, they re-issued the 1999 THX version.  So first up we've got the 1999/ 2007 DVD, which includes both full and widescreen versions, then the 2003 DVD.  Then we've got Anchor Bay's first blu-ray, also from 2007, which essentially doubled down on the 2003 DVD's timing, followed by the 35th Anniversary blu (also supervised by Cundy), which was released separately in 2013, and slightly adjusted for Scream Factory's big Halloween collection boxed sets.  I've got the boxed set version (and specifically, I have the 10 box set, not the 15), but all 35th Anniversary editions feature the same transfer... it's just the special features that are different.

Then, of course, we've got the Lions Gate UHD, which also includes the 2007 Anchor Bay blu-ray packaged with it.  It has a new, Lions Gate label on it, but the actual disc contents are exactly the same, right down to the opening Anchor Bay logo and Starz autoplay ad.  Finally, we have Scream Factory's brand new 2021 Collector's Edition UHD set, with an all new 2021 4k scan of the original camera negative.  So yes, this is a whole new, updated transfer even over the first UHD.  And it's packaged with a 1080p version of the same scan, the "Original Color Timing Presentation" in HD (a.k.a. the Anchor Bay/ Lions Gate 2018 transfer), the extended cut (still in HD with the SD footage composited in) and - it's not even mentioned on the back, but it's also included - the original, TV version as it was broadcast on TV, in all it's SD, fullscreen, censored glory.

Getting confused?  Yeah, I did say this was all a bit complicated, but let's try and unpack it.
1) 2007 Anchor Bay fullscreen DVD.
2) 2007 Anchor Bay widescreen DVD.
3) 2003 Anchor Bay DVD.
4) 2018 Anchor Bay/ Lions Gate BD.
5) 2013 Anchor Bay/ Scream Factory BD.
6) 2018 Lions Gate UHD.
7) 2021 Scream Factory UHD.
8) 2021 Scream Factory BD.
9) 2021 Scream Factory "Original Colors" BD.
10) 2021 Scream Factory extended BD.
11) 2021 Scream Factory TV broadcast BD.
1) 2007 Anchor Bay fullscreen DVD
2) 2007 Anchor Bay widescreen DVD.
3) 2003 Anchor Bay DVD.
4) 2018 Anchor Bay/ Lions Gate BD.
5) 2013 Anchor Bay/ Scream Factory BD.
6) 2018 Lions Gate UHD.
7) 2021 Scream Factory UHD.
8) 2021 Scream Factory BD.
9) 2021 Scream Factory "Original Colors" BD.
10) 2021 Scream Factory extended BD.
11) 2021 Scream Factory TV broadcast BD.
Where to begin?  Okay, well, the 2007 1.31:1 version is a pan and scan travesty that chops off the sides and only reveals a thin patch of additional vertical information.  Thankfully, the days of having to take transfers like this seriously are far behind us.  Then, the 2.31:1 widescreen version of that same disc is far better framing wise, despite still being slightly off and a bit window-boxed.  It's still pretty heavily artifact-laden and over-compressed, though, even for a DVD.  Putting aside the question of color-timing for a moment, the 2003 DVD was a definite improvement, ditching the window-boxing, correcting the AR a bit more to 2.37:1 (pulling in a smidgen more picture info in the process) and cleaning up detail.  It's still a little smudgy, but perfectly fine for SD.

And that takes us to HD.  Every version from now on is an even 2.35:1, until Scream Factory's 2021 release, which is 2.39:1.  Yes, that does mean SF unveils a little more along the sides than even the previous UHD.  The 2007/ 2018 blu-ray is definitely a boost in clarity compared to the DVD, but by blu-ray standards, it's pretty lackluster.  There's no film grain and fine detail seems washed out, while edges look nastily pixelated.  When the camera pans, the image jerks as if the image were 1080i.  This image was definitely tampered with, presumably because the master they were using was sub-par, but what they did to it only made it worse, like they DNR'd it (even the grass looks like a smooth, flat plane) and then put sharpening on top of that.  So the 35th Anniversary is the first one that really starts to look like a decent HD presentation of a film.  Grain is light, but it's definitely, finally there; and now the camera can pan without stuttering the picture.  But the grain is really well captured on the UHDs.  Now it looks properly filmic, and fine detail is much more natural in the new, maximum resolution.  The 2013 blu was quite nice for its time, but it still wasn't a contemporary 2 or 4k scan, which left a lot of room to step forward.  In other words, compared to the 2018 releases with same day BD and UHD releases, where you might need to work to really spot the difference in the UHD resolution, here you can easily see and appreciate the difference, which will be rewarding for fans who've already purchased and re-purchased this film a half dozen times or more over the years.

And between the two UHDs, the grain looks even sharper on the 2021 than the 2018... though it also feels a little more digital?  Overall, in terms of resolution and clarity, I give the 2021 the edge, where individual specks of grain are more defined.  But for the "zoom in to 400% crowd," both UHDs have their pros and cons, depending on the particular screenshot, and even where on the screen you're looking.
1) 2007 Anchor Bay fullscreen DVD.
2) 2007 Anchor Bay widescreen DVD.
3) 2003 Anchor Bay DVD.
4) 2018 Anchor Bay/ Lions Gate BD.
5) 2013 Anchor Bay/ Scream Factory BD.
6) 2018 Lions Gate UHD.
7) 2021 Scream Factory UHD.
8) 2021 Scream Factory BD.
9) 2021 Scream Factory "Original Colors" BD.
10) 2021 Scream Factory extended BD.
11) 2021 Scream Factory TV broadcast BD.
Okay, so I took some extra comparison shots, specifically selected for the color issues.  Of course, the varying color timings affect every single frame of each transfer, but the two biggest points of contention seem to be how sometimes the grass and leaves could be said to be too green, and the heavy blues of the nighttime scenes being stripped away.  Now, Cundy is credited with supervising two of different versions: the 1999 THX DVD, and the 2013 35th Anniversary blu-ray, plus he's approved the new 2021 version.  The fact that he co-signs multiple, varying color timings, then, means it's up to us to make our own determinations.  And looking at the nighttime scenes feels like an easy call.  The versions he didn't supervise work hard to bring out the reds and skintones, stripping away its cool, blue shading.  The 2003 DVD took the most flack, but that shot of the 2007 BD looks even worse.  I mean, yeah, the characters stand boldly out and the colors really pop (also check out the kid's red coat in the earlier set of shots... it's almost like the little girl from Schindler's List), which is clearly the effect AB was going for; but it's a very different effect.  One that Cundy obviously switched right back from on his next pass.  Happily, the LG UHD sticks with that look for their version, though the pendulum has possibly swung back a little too far towards the dark and muted.  Scream Factory's 2021 edition probably finds the happiest medium, with more contrast and color separation to keep the action from sinking into the background, but not looking over saturated.
1) 2007 Anchor Bay fullscreen DVD.
2) 2007 Anchor Bay widescreen DVD.
3) 2003 Anchor Bay DVD.
4) 2018 Anchor Bay/ Lions Gate BD.
5) 2013 Anchor Bay/ Scream Factory BD.
6) 2018 Lions Gate UHD.
7) 2021 Scream Factory UHD.
8) 2021 Scream Factory BD.
9) 2021 Scream Factory "Original Colors" BD.
10) 2021 Scream Factory extended BD.
11) 2021 Scream Factory TV broadcast BD.
But now onto the daytime footage, where it gets a little stickier.  It's interesting that Cundy seems to have changed his mind this time around, giving us the orange leaves in 1999, but going back to green in 2013.  I know it's supposed to take place in the fall, and plenty of reviewers before me have made a case for the leaves appearing appropriately orange on the THX DVD.  The Divimax DVD got a lot of heat for showing them so bright and green.  But those don't look like aging leaves about to drop in the THX version; they look like healthy green leaves being presented in an unnaturally yellowish hue.  It's just a minor but inherent flaw in the film... they filmed in California when the grass and leaves were fresh.  Trying to change it in post-production just made all the colors look weird (i.e. the flesh tones got all flattened out and the street looks red).  It's also inconsistent.  Here's one more shot from the 1999/ 2007 THX version...
...where the leaves don't look yellowed at all.  So even if the autumn effect works for you, it comes and goes in the versions that attempt it.  Plus the sky looks yellow and the whole shot seems washed in a single, overly heavy lean towards one color.  Here's the same shot from the 2013 35th Anniversary blu - the other transfer Cundy directly approved...
...where everything looks more vibrant and photo-realistic.  Now, to be fair, the second shot has the advantage of being HD, while the DVD is of course crushed to SD.  But the colors just feel more honest.  The previous shot looks like it has one of those old Instagram filters nobody uses anymore.  I imagine, in 1999, still the early days of DVD, AB and Cundy may've gotten a little over-ambitious with the way you can "fix everything digitally," and his 2013 pass is a more mature, refined pass.  And okay, maybe I'm starting to overreach, but bottom line: I think the THX version has become a tad romanticized over the years, and I prefer Newer Cundy's vision.  And thankfully, that's more or less what we get with the UHDs.  Sure, the colors are a bit darker and more subtle, which seems to be the trend in HDR, but essentially we get the bluer nights and cooler tones that do suggest the season, even if nature doesn't want to play along.

As for the TV broadcast version, congratulations, gang; it's the worst looking version here, even seedier than the old 2003 and 2007 DVDs.  But that's part of the novelty, I suppose; it looks like it did when it aired on TV decades ago.  So yes, back to fullscreen (1.35:1), but it's stretched so the framing is even worse.  The image is noisier and washed out.  But again, that's the point, at least in so far as there's any point to including it at all.
And the audio?  Oh yeah, that's complicated, too.  There's a lot more to report than just the BDs having lossless versions of the mixes from the DVDs (and, by the way, all of the BDs and the UHD have optional English subtitles, but none of the DVDs do).  Halloween has a recurring issue on home video, where the original track seems to get lost, and we're only given the updated, remixed 5.1 mix.  Now, I don't have anything against releases taking advantage of modern sound systems, but the problem is, with older films like this one, that were only mixed in mono, liberties have to be taken.  In this case, because modern sound-mixers can't separate audio elements that are "burned" into the same track, in order to create separation (i.e. sounds that only come out of the left or right speaker), they have to replace them with brand new sounds that weren't part of the original film.  Ideally, they pick ones that sound very similar, but not to get off too much further on a tangent, I'll say that with Halloween, the new audio and the original sound distinctly, noticeably quite different.
There are changes throughout the entire movie of course, but if you want a quick, easily identifiable way to tell which version you're listening to, go to 9:08 in the film, with the nurse driving Loomis and asking, "you mean you actually never want him to get out?"  When Loomis replies, "never.  Never.  Never," there's a subtle rumble of thunder in the background of the original mono track.  In the remixes, that sound has been replaced by a loud thunder crack (though you can still hear the original mix in the background of the audio commentaries)!  The 1999 and 2007 DVDs have that mono track (on both the full and widescreen versions).  Several subsequent versions, like the Lions Gate UHD, have a mono track, but it's still the 5.1 remix, just "folded down" to a mono track.  So, in other words, it has all the new sounds, like the thunder crack, just crushed back into mono (2.0) audio.  The new UHD mixes (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 on the 2018 and Dolby Atmos on the 2021) use the new sounds, too.

The only versions that restore the original mono are the 2007, the 35th Anniversary blus and now the 2021 Scream Factory release.  And I should clarify, that there are really two 35th Anniversary blus: the one sold separately in 2013 and the one included in the 2014 boxed sets.  I've been referring to them interchangeably, because they use the same transfer, but they're actually different discs.  The solo disc features two audio tracks: a new (at the time) 7.1 lossless mix, and the mono.  The boxed set version features four: the 7.1, a lossy 5.1, and two versions of the mono.  See, the mono version on the first two blu-rays, unfortunately, is lossy: essentially a direct port from the DVD.  Only the boxed set version and the 2021 release also includes a lossless version (which is still a little thin/ compressed, but by far the best option in town).  Not even the LG UHD has it!  So hey, okay, it took a while but we finally got it!  Sure, you can hear the (lossy) mono on the blu-ray included in the combo pack; but who buys a UHD just to watch the movie on blu anyway?  And the worse looking blu at that?  This mono issue is actually possibly the biggest reason to replace the first UHD with the new one.
Oh boy!  We've gone this long and we're just starting on the extras now?  Well, actually for such a popular and critically acclaimed, unchallenged horror classic, things aren't all that flush.  Much smaller flicks have had lusher special editions.  I guess that's partially because some of the most definitive, full-length documentaries like Halloween: The Inside Story and 25 Years of Terror have been sold on their own, as opposed to being bundled with the film.  So let's look at what has been included.

The 1999/ 2007 DVD kept it pretty light, with basically just the 20+ minute featurette Halloween Unmasked.  By the way, I've already covered all the Halloween docs in my post dedicated to them, so if you want detailed coverage of those, just click here, or their respective links.  Anyway, besides that, you just got the trailer, some radio and TV spots, and a couple galleries.  Plus the extended cut if you bought the 2-disc version, or a cool holographic cover if you bought the 1999 edition.  The 2007 repress had a slipcover.  Then the 25th Anniversary DVD from 2003 added a bunch more: the audio commentary with Carpenter, Curtis and producer Debra Hill from the Criterion laserdisc, the feature-length documentary A Cut Above the Rest, and a ten minute featurette called On Location where Hill and Soles visit the old Myers house.  They lost Unmasked, though.
The first blu from 2007, matched the 2003 DVD.  Then the solo 35th Anniversary blu lost Cut Above the Rest, but added the hour long Curtis doc, The Night She Came Home, and the TV footage presented as deleted scenes.  It also came packaged in a nice digibook with notes by Stef Hutchinson.  The boxed set version of the 35th blu also included an all new, second audio commentary by Cundy, Tommy Lee Wallace and Nick Castle.  It's pretty breezy, but doesn't really tell you much you haven't heard in the all the previous extras (and Wallace is eating the whole time).  Plus, if you got the 15-disc set, the bonus disc includes the Horror's Hallowed Grounds episode, a bus tour featurette and the extended cut again... not to mention all the stuff related to the sequels, of course!  You can also find that Horror's Hallowed Grounds episode on the 25 Years of Terror DVD, by the way.

And the UHDs?  Well, Lions Gate has most of the stuff: the original audio commentary, The Night She Came Home, On Location, the TV deleted scenes, plus all the trailers & spots.  And because it's a combo pack with the old blu-ray, you also get A Cut Above the Rest.   It also comes in a slick slipcover.  Scream Factory doesn't cook up anything new, but reaches back to include everything from the last UHD and almost everything from the prior releases.  Even the stuff from the 15-disc boxed set's bonus disc.  So not just the Horror's Hallowed Ground, but the bus tour as well.  Trailers From Hell.  That short Akkad interview.  Cut Above, The Night She Came Home, Unmasked, the Carpenter/ Curtis and Wallace/ Cundy/ Castle commentaries, the TV footage.  All that's missing is that old, short On Location featurette and the Criterion commentary.  So it really blows the LG UHD away in that regard, too.  Oh, and it comes in a nice and thick slipbox (though I kinda hate the art) and includes a reversible cover.  Plus, if you pre-ordered it direct from Shout, it also came with a (rolled) poster, an enamel pin and a 7" record of new John Carpenter music.
A large part of what makes Halloween so effective is how straight-forward and simple a tale it.  Unfortunately, it's life on home video disc has been anything but.  But at least now, we can point to a "best" version fairly easily.  SF wins in PQ (with best the colors, 2.39 framing and detail), AQ (the mono's back! It could maybe be a bit bolder, but at least it's here, lossless, and attached to a 4k transfer), and special features.  The 2018's price point might still make it the preferred option for casual fans, but actually SF's decked out 3-disc UHD set isn't too expensive.  So if you're on board with this movie enough buy it (as opposed to just streaming it or catching it on cable), then I'd say the 2021 Collector's Edition is worth it, even if you don't count this film among your personal faves.