Controversial Blus: Tourist Trap

The home video situation with 1979's Tourist Trap has been so murky for the lat ten years or so that, as much as I like the film, and I really do - I've been reluctant to dive into anymore after getting the original 1998 DVD.  But the same reason I've felt reluctant to spend any money on it is probably the same reason this site should weigh in.  And actually, since I've waited until 2021, it turns out things aren't so bad anymore.  They're certainly not ideal, but not so bad.
David Schmoeller's (Puppet Master) Tourist Trap is one of those movies that rises in my estimation with each revisit, and I liked it fine the first time.  It's a weird, supernatural slasher that manages to make so much out of its low budget that it shows up the big studios.  That adds up when you realize they've got Texas Chainsaw Massacre's infamous production designer Bob Burns and much of their crew working behind the scenes, plus they managed to secure a top shelf musical score by Brian De Palma's regular composer, Pino Donaggio.  Add a creepy and fairly original concept, a wild lead performance by The Rifleman's Chuck Connors and a surprisingly consistent cast of newcomers, including a young Tanya Roberts, cleverly directed set pieces and some simple but creepy special effects that still hold up to this day and you can start to understand how this was Schmoeller's first but still best work.
Did I mention that this movie was weird?  It's about an off-the-beaten path wax museum that's so run down they just use department store mannequins.  But they're mechanized, deadly and further enhanced by a madman with telekinesis.  Connors runs the place, but he either has an evil twin or a split personality who keeps capturing and drowning people in plaster so he can add them to his collection of mannequins.  And to add to the chaos, one of the group of seemingly typical American teens who wind up stranded there - Jocelyn Jones, giving a performance to rival Connors' - might be just as insane as anyone they find at the "museum."  It's a lot of crazy dialogue and unsettling images packed into a lean 90 minutes.  At some points, anyone who's seen a Psycho or Carrie flick will probably feel like they're ahead of the story, predicting a few obvious developments and kills; but the twists start flying so fast in the final act there's no way you'll have seen them all coming.  It all culminates in a taught ending with many of the best moments and a very satisfying conclusion.
Cult Video and Koch Vision first released Tourist Trap back in 1998 and it was the best, definitive edition for a long time.  It was better than Full Moon's subsequent barebones DVD in 2013.  Even more surprising: it was superior to Full Moon's and 88 Films' US and UK blu-ray releases in 2014.  Why?  Because these blu-rays were missing roughly five minutes of footage!  What's the story there, you ask?  Well, Full Moon claimed, "they are insignificant such as a scene being a few seconds shorter. Nothing drastic is missing," but I disagree.  Some choice moments are missing, including a sizeable chunk of the climax.  The ever-reliable has a breakdown of exactly what was lost.  As to the why of it, I recommend you read the whole, convoluted story at (just scroll past a few other Charles Band controversies), but here are a couple key quotes to give you the basic idea:
"I was not involved in the editing of the shorter version of TOURIST TRAP which is now on the Bluray version – nor did I know it was being done when I did the commentary. If I were to have done any editorial changes, it would have been called 'The Director’s Cut.' The original theatrical cut of TOURIST TRAP is/was the 'Director’s Cut,' as far as I am concerned." - David Schmoeller

"16 years ago, during my tenure as post-production supervisor at Full Moon, I personally oversaw the first anamorphic telecine from the original negative for the 1998 DVD release. Being a longtime TOURIST TRAP fan and having intimate knowledge of the film from this aforementioned work, it was immediately apparent from the first frame that this version was not produced from the same source material. ...Having now seen the Blu-ray, I’m more confident than ever that Full Moon used an inferior (and obviously shorter) film print for the HD transfer, rather than the original negative." - J.R. Bookwalter
So those were basically the choices until 2016: the old and OOP special edition, a later and inferior 2013 DVD, and two botched blu-rays.  But then '84 Entertainment did the best they could without making a proper, new scan of the negatives: the made a composite cut of the 2014 HD master with SD inserts from the DVD.  Shortly after, Full Moon announced "a new version with those missing minutes added."  And eventually, in 2020, they actually released it, in a limited edition BD/ DVD combo-pack with a Chuck Connors action figure(!) and VHS-themed packaging.  Predictable spoiler: it seems to be a rip of '84's composite.
And now, in 2021, Full Moon has released their "Uncut" (which would be better labeled "Corrected," except apparently they don't want to stop selling their botched 2014 blu-rays) blu-ray in a much more reasonably priced edition without all the attendant swag.  And so they got me; I was finally tempted into replacing my original DVD.  Here are my findings.
1998 Cult Video DVD top; 2021 Full Moon BD bottom.
Thankfully, Cult Video's DVD help up rather well all those years.  It was anamorphic widescreen with no interlacing and some nice extras.  But now it has been thoroughly topped.  It's slightly off aspect ratio of 1.75:1 has been adjusted to a closer but still not perfect AR of 1.78:1.  You can see the framing is much improved, as is the color timing, which had gone a bit red on the DVD.  This is a genuine HD upgrade, with grain clearly represented and much of the dirt and damage cleaned up as well.  Some damage perseveres, including a conspicuous light spot that floats around the bottom of the screen for a good five or so minutes midway through the film.  But this is a much bigger improvement than I was expecting after all the troubles they had along the way.  They even corrected a brief error that occurs at 2.32 on the previous blus (but not the older DVDs), where the film jumps off center for just 2-3 frames.  And it's still a BD-25, but it's a several GB greater encode than the 2014 disc.
1998 Cult Video DVD top; 2021 Full Moon BD bottom.
As for the composite footage, well, you can see above it's still sourced from standard def.  You can see the print damage matches (that black scratch isn't on the soda machine, it's on the frame) and the framing is back to the DVD's, cropping in tighter on the bottom and left-hand side.  But it's been color corrected to match the new HD footage, so it blends pretty painlessly.  Credit should probably go to '84 rather than Full Moon, but the end results are the same.

One point where Full Moon still falls short, unfortunately, is that they stick to lossy audio.  We get the original mono with no caption or subtitle options on the original DVD and the latest blu.  At least 88's UK edition had LPCM.  The blus have added a new 5.1 remix, but it's lossy, too.
1998 Cult Video DVD top; 2021 Full Moon BD bottom.
But I can't let you leave before we've looked at the extras.  The original DVD was pretty sweet.  It had a brief on-camera interview and a full audio commentary, both with Schmoeller.  He runs low on steam by the final act, leaving some silent patches; but otherwise these are great, with some fun anecdotes and lots of fascinating trivia.  There's also the trailer, and as you'd expect, a whole slew of bonus trailers.

For the blu, Full Moon created a new commentary, stills gallery and on-camera interview (this time by Ballyhoo).  Though they dropped the trailer.  So I was curious how they would handle it on the "Uncut" upgrade...  Would they leave the five restored minutes silent, or worse: leave the new commentary unedited so it goes out of sync once the cuts begin to differ?  No, I was surprised they actually went with the more elegant solution of bringing back the old 1998 commentary, and ditching the 2014.  As you can guess, the 2014 commentary did have a few unique anecdotes, like Charles Band's contribution to the script and an incident with glass getting in an actress's eye, but they're both saying nearly all the same things the same way.  The pacing is maybe a little tighter on the new commentary, but then he did have five minutes less to fill, after all.  😉

The latest blu also goes with the Ballyhoo interview, which is better for being longer and richer with more content and stylish editing, plus it's in HD so it looks a lot prettier than the old interlaced one.  And in this case, the old interview doesn't say a single thing that isn't in the new one.  The "Uncut" BD also keeps the stills gallery and brings back the trailer (plus more bonus trailers).
So, to sum up, I'm surprisingly satisfied with this latest blu.  I believe the '84 editions have all the extras from the old and new editions combined, but I wouldn't sweat it, since it's basically Schmoeller saying the same things over and over again.  Plus, those mediabooks were expensive even when you could find them new.  Now you'd have to pay through the nose.  This latest "Uncut" edition is nice and cheap, which is as it should be.  It's still a little dodgy with lossy audio and all, so we shouldn't be expected to pay a lot for it.  But with its solid HD presentation, the missing footage composited back in and the best of - if not all of - the extras, we finally have a Tourist Trap blu worth having in our collections.  And if they ever do find the missing footage's original film elements (AGFA says they have it, but I wonder if that isn't the same composite being slightly misrepresented), and they wind up making a fancy super edition down the road with new extras, subtitles and everything, this was cheap enough that you shouldn't feel burned double-dipping.  Or quintuple-dipping, depending how many times you've gotten sucked in.  There was a lot of junk, but this 2021 release is alright.
...And it's a great, little movie!


  1. Supposedly AGFA did a 4K scan of the film, so I wonder why the re-instated scenes are in SD, instead of HD?

    Have the 1998 DVD, will hold off buying this until they release the entire movie in HD, hopefully on 4K UHD.

  2. Thank you for this informative article. I came across the new BD on Amazon a while back and added it to my long wishlist, but now that I have the details I’m far more eager to buy it. I’ve had the 1998 DVD for years but now Iknow the new BD is a worthy upgrade.