The Black Hawk Down of the Battle of Agincourt: Kenneth Branagh's Henry V

Okay, New Release Summer has officially come to an end.  Not that A Return To Salem's Lot was the last new release you're going to see featured on this site or anything so dramatic - I've already got some exciting stuff pre-ordered - but I've also got interesting back catalog titles I'm dying to address backing up and spilling over.  I even went and hooked my laserdisc player back up to my 'puter for this one.  I'm fired up; let's gooOoo!
1989's Henry V is... sort of Kenneth Branagh's feature debut, and... sort of the first of his prestigious Shakespeare adaptations.  He'd been a member of The Royal Shakespeare Academy for almost a decade, and in 1988, his production (which he directed but does not appear in) of Twelfth Night was filmed for British television.  It's far flatter and more theatrical than this, which makes a point of being as vibrant and dynamic as possible; but it's more than just a static camera pointed at a stage.  It's not one of those, and it is available on DVD if you're an enthusiast.  But this is a movie made for broad, mainstream audiences, even the people who hear "high school homework" whenever Shakespeare's name is uttered.  Big action scenes... dramatic lighting... bombastic music... violence!  The Black Hawk Down of the Battle of Agincourt.
But he was also determined to bring authentic Shakespeare to the masses: to produce it all in the original language, as opposed to the typically modernized vernacular in Hollywood adaptations.  Which is not to say that there were no liberties taken.  The screenplay edits things to be a little more palatable to first timers, and he inserts a few quick lines and bits from Henry IV, which mostly serve to make the clarify some of the plot points and motivations to newcomers.  Olivier did similar things with his version of Henry V; and both wound up with several Oscar noms and lasting critical acclaim.  This determination did, however, also result in a faithful, extended epilogue (no spoilers!) that mainstream audiences not used to the stage play surely find downright baffling in its implausibility.
But at that point, I guess it didn't matter.  He'd succeeded in impressing film-goers with his grandiose production values, and impeccable cast.  Besides taking on the role of King Henry himself, he called in a whole murderer's row of exceptional English actors, most of whom would effectively become his stock players, including Emma Thompson (who also married Branagh in '89), I, Claudis himself, Derek Jacobi, Paul Scofield, the delightful Brian Blessed, Ian Holm, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane and a young Christian Bale.  It's a hell of a production.  It's not one of my favorite plays - partly, I think, because it doesn't fully stand on its own; without the previous Henry plays, it feels a little shallow - but you can see why it would be a great one to come out of the gate with.  It's a massive battle scene with one of Shakespeare's most famous speeches, and a lot of great supporting characters.  And Branagh nails all of those elements perfectly.
CBS Fox released Henry V on laserdisc back in 1991, and there's a reason I'm calling up the old laser here, which I'll get into a little further on.  Suffice to say, it still hasn't been fully rendered obsolete by modern DVD and BD releases.  And there have been both.  In the US, it was released on DVD by MGM in 2000, and on blu by Shout Factory in 2015.  Visually, it's a steady progression.

Oh, and it's been a long time since I've posted any laserdisc shots, so I'll open the comparisons with the old disclaimer: laserdiscs are analog, and therefor imported through a converter, as opposed to digital discs, which can be ripped directly into the PC. That means there can be a little signal loss from the laser to these screenshots, though I'd say it's always pretty close to how they look on my TV (which, after all, takes the same composite cable journey from the player).  I'd say the contrast is a little higher, but you pretty well get the picture.
1) 1999 CBS Fox LD; 2) 2000 MGM DVD; 3) 2015 Shout Factory BD.
So, the story starts out with an aspect ratio shift, from, according to their back covers, 1.66:1 to 1.85:1.  Precisely measured, it's more like 1.61:1 to 1.81:1 on the DVD and then 1.85:1 on the blu.  That basically means the laser shows more along the top and bottom, though it loses a tad along the right.  And the blu reveals just teensy slivers more along the edges than the DVD, but the difference mostly just comes from correcting a slight pinch.  Colors and shadows are fairly consistent, with the laser looking a bit pale even if you account for the contrast you see in these shots getting a boost.  The BD reveals a little more nuance than the DVD, and also has finer detail.  The laser has a dupey softness, and each generation benefits from the enhanced resolution.  The BD's still a little soft, and grain is light, suggesting a decent but older master.  None of the discs suggest any unwanted tinkering, i.e. DNR, sharpening effects, etc., and they all display minor, sporadic dirt and print damage.  The DVD is anamorphic and there are no interlacing troubles.  Essentially, it was a perfectly solid DVD for its time; and the blu is alright, though a fresh scan would've been very welcome.

All three discs have the original stereo mix in Dolby, with the blu bumping it up to DTS-HD. The laser has no proper subtitles but includes English captions, while the DVD only has French and Spanish subtitles.  The blu drops those foreign options, but adds English HoH subtitles.
It's definitely been worth the upgrade each time.  But here's why the laserdisc is still worth hanging on to, or tracking down if you haven't got it: a making of documentary called A Little Touch of Harry.  Now, it's not feature-length, Lord Of the Rings "appendices"-level coverage.  It runs just over half an hour, but it's a lot better than your standard promotional featurette.  Narrated by Judi Dench, it's full of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, without a lot of the usual padding.  It's quite good, and has been curiously and frustratingly dropped from all subsequent releases (not just the ones covered here, but all foreign editions as well... I've looked into it).  And in its place?  Nothing.  So it's a serious loss.

The laserdisc also has the trailer, which the DVD and BD retain, but that's it.  The laser came in a stylish gatefold cover and the DVD had a little insert with notes.  But the only important extra is trapped on the old laserdisc.
So this is a great film.  People have griped about the blu since it came out, and I wouldn't say they're wrong.  Single layer disc, barebones, and a fresh scan really would've made a nice difference.  But it is worth upgrading from the DVD.  But yeah, this is one of those cases where, frustratingly, you still can't let go of your laserdisc either.  It would've been great if Shout budgeted higher for this title and really given it the treatment it deserved, but oh well.  At least between the blu and the laser you can compile a fairly respectable edition, which is still more than you can say for many films.

ALL the Salem's Lots!

I've never owned Salem's Lot before.  I always appreciated it.  I even saw a few scenes as a little kid when it aired on TV and they were some of the few really scary horror moments for me.  But the fact that it was made for TV did put me off a little in the prime days of DVD.  Couple that with the fact that it never got a special edition, or even could quite decide whether it should be the shorter theatrical cut or widescreen or the TV version or what, and I just never felt compelled to pull the trigger.  But now that Warner Bros has released a killer new HD restoration blu with an all-new audio commentary by Tobe Hooper at a sell-through price, and who could pass that up?  Especially since I've already got the sequel.

Update 12/3/16 - 1/27/17:
I figured instead of just having a little, throw-away paragraph about the remake, I'd give that one proper DVD coverage, too, and make this a definitive Salem's Lot post - enjoy!

Update 8/23/21:  I originally ended my post by hoping Scream Factory would give us A Return To Salem's Lot on blu, and now they have.  Ergo, full credit goes to me. 😎  You're welcome, world!
Stephen King novels don't exactly have a spotless track record for being adapted to film, especially not on television (remember The Langoliers?).  But this one nails it pretty hard, being genuinely creepy and atmospheric with some great, inspired vampire scenes.  If you want an idea of how influential this was, watch Salem's Lot and Fright Night back to back and count all the times they cribbed from it.  James Mason is one cool customer of a villain and David Soul (Hutch of Starsky and Hutch) is surprisingly good as the leading man.  Except for airing in fullscreen with a little extra reliance of close-ups, Hooper does a great job of making this feel like a big-budget film, with a sweeping score and some great effects.  In its full 3+ hour version, Salem's Lot takes it's time building a whole little world of characters to then revel in ransacking.
Is it perfect? Well, no.  As much as I enjoyed seeing Fred Willard perform (well) in a rare, serious part, we do spend the first ninety minutes or so following a sub-plot of him having an affair with Bonnie Bedelia behind George (Law & Order) Dzundza's back, only to have it make absolutely no difference to the overall story (spoilers, I guess? lol).  King likes his over-the-top Norman Rockwell meets broad satire style ensembles, and while Hooper thankfully plays that down and keeps most of the characters real, there are definitely hints poking through.  Plus, the story's Mexican wrap-around does come from the novel, but it just doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the picture.  And a lot of camera set-ups have a cheaper, flatter feel than we probably would've gotten from an actual movie.  ...But for all of that, it's still pretty great.
Like I said, I've never owned it, but Salem's Lot has been available on DVD since 1999.  You know, one of those crappy snapper cases and everything.  It was full-screen, but in this case that's acceptable.  But as you'll see, for a 2016 blu-ray, the master was too old to just slap onto an HD disc like the major studios do with a lot of their catalog titles.  So we get a brand new transfer.  And which version of the film?  The same one as the DVD (and the 1993 laserdisc before it): a hybrid of the longer television version but including some of the extra violent bits shot exclusively for the foreign theatrical version.  So for fans wondering: Willard puts the shotgun to his head, not in his mouth; and yes, Ed Flanders gets gruesomely impaled.  And it's all edited into one long movie, as opposed to being in two parts with their own opening and closing credits like it originally aired.
Warner Bros 1999 DVD top; Warner Bros 2016 blu-ray below.
And boy does it look great!  The detail is so fresh and naturally film-like.  Look at the pores on Kenneth McMillan's skin in the last shot!  Warner Bros hasn't put out much information on what they've done that I've seen, but it looks like they've made taken a fresh scan of the original negatives.  I definitely wasn't expecting it to look this good.  There has also clearly been some color-timing work done, or undone, as you can see in the blue tint removed from the nighttime shot above.  Once again, they've opted for fullscreen, which does feel a little boxy with a lot of free space sometimes; but you really can't fault them for going with the OAR.  And, in fact, it's actually a little zoomed in compared to the DVD.  But before you bemoan any lost slivers of picture, you can briefly catch glimpses of boom mics on the DVD, so the slightly tighter framing is surely more correct.
Warner Bros 1999 DVD top; Warner Bros 2016 blu-ray below.
Just look how much clearer the new transfer is and how much more you can make out of Lew Ayres in this extreme zoom-in.  The DVD just looks soft, smudgy and washed in comparison.  And reviewers often talk about being able to read small text and other detail that wasn't visible in the old transfer, and usually I find that not to be the case.  What was too far away and out of focus on the DVD is still a tiny blur on the blu-ray.  But look back up at McMillan's badge; you can actually read the "POLICE" on it, which you definitely can't make out on the old disc.

The DTS-HD audio is also pretty full and clear, so Salem's Lot doesn't feel creaky at all here.  Warner Bros has also included optional English subtitles, plus subs in 13(!) other languages and five audio dubs.  They really went all-out in that regard.
But is this a special edition?  Ehh... it's right on the edge.  It's main extra, and the first substantial extra this film's ever gotten, is a brand new audio commentary by Tobe Hooper.  And it's pretty good.  On one hand, it's actually great, with Hooper answering a lot of questions that come up as a viewer, plus some interesting anecdotes you never would've thought to wonder about.  But on the other hand, presumably to pace himself for a commentary that's over three hours long with no moderator, he pauses.  Like all the time.  He basically says a paragraph's worth of stuff, pauses, then another paragraph's worth, and so on.  So when he does talk, he's not stretching for things to say or low on energy, but that leaves a lot of dead air interspersed throughout.  So it's definitely worth the listen, but also takes patience.  But unlike some other slow commentaries, that patience is rewarded.  That and the theatrical trailer are all that's here, but that's still a big step forward.
And why, yes!  There was a 2004 remake starring Rob Lowe, as well.  To its credit, it's also a two-part TV series, meaning it didn't have to compress the characters and details into 90 minutes.  It updates the story to 2004, forsaking the scary atmosphere for internet references, lame quips and rapping, but it's got an interesting supporting cast, including Donald Sutherland, Andre Braugher and Rutger Hauer.  Some scenes are new, while others are direct re-stagings of the 1979 film.  The scene where the two men wait in the morgue for the dead wife to rise from under her sheet while the one tapes together a cross out of tongue depressors is a beat-for-beat reproduction of the original scene, right up until the end, where some awful CGI takes over, covering up the actress's face and then she flies up into the ceiling and turns into sparkly computer dust.  But then, there's a whole new subplot about a hunchback who works at a garbage dump and has a crush on a high school girl, which to be fair does actually come right from the book.
So I guess the idea is that this is a more faithful "return to the book," which I appreciate.  It at least justifies this version's existence and gives serious King devotees something to pout through.  But like The Shining and its 1997 remake, it really just shows that talented filmmakers tend to know better than literary purists what works best on screen.  And it doesn't help that a lot of the acting and staging is awfully stilted, sometimes to the point of being downright embarrassing.  You've never seen so many over-the-shoulder dialogue shots in your life, Lowe's narration is downright painful, and the CGI looks like cartoonish garbage, unlike the effects from the 1970s that still pack quite a punch.  So give it a pass unless you're a serious fan who just wants to see what's been changed or kept faithful between this, the original film, and the novel.  The most notable being that the vampire Barlowe is back to being a speaking part instead of a snarling blue monster, some major scenes take place in a different order, the priest plays more of a role and there's no Mexico material.  And as I said, that Mexico stuff was in the book.  Plus with the film's need to modernize, I'm not really sure it can be called more faithful.  It's just... differently faithful.
2004 Warner Bros DVD.
But if you are determined to see for yourself, Warner Bros did at least put it out as a no frills, widescreen DVD in late 2004.  And I mean really no frills.  No trailer, no nuffin'.  The film looks fine, though, presented in 1.78:1, which is presumably just how it originally aired on the TNT network.  It's alright for a TV show on an older DVD, suffering a bit in the compression department but otherwise fine.  It's anamorphic, has a 5.1 mix and optional English, Spanish and French subtitles.  Apparently though, this was shot on 35mm, so in theory a fresh HD scan of the negatives could yield a nice improvement.  But that would require people taking an interest in 2004's Salem's Lot, which doesn't seem to be in its future.  And I'm fine with that; I wouldn't buy a blu-ray special edition of this anyway.
A Return To Salem's Lot cannot be said to be a true sequel to Salem's Lot.  Not only do none of the characters return or get a mention, but the history of the Salem's Lot vampires as told in Return directly contradicts what we saw in the original.  This cannot be the same town after the vampires took over in the first one.  But, having watched them back to back for the first time after previously only having seen them years apart, there are enough similarities that I'm sure Cohen was at least making intentional nods back besides placing more vamps in the same town.  Both have a middle-aged man and a teenage boy for protagonists.  Both films' opening scenes are in Mexico, which is an odd choice each time.  There's a scene in Return of a child vampire hovering outside a window beckoning the teenage boy to let them in, a clear reprisal of one of the original's most iconic scenes.  Of course, in both films, the vampires mostly look like typical humans with fangs, but the biggest baddest one is a blue, monstrous one.  And there are plenty more I could list, including this fun fact: because they couldn't afford to burn a whole house down, Hooper took B-roll footage that wasn't used in Eli Kazan's 1969 film, The Arrangement. And when a completely different house burns down in A Return To Salem's Lot, Cohen clearly used the same Kazan footage.
2016 Blu of Salem's Lot on top; 2006 DVD of A Return to Salem's Lot below.
Salem's Lot fans looking for more of the same are surely disappointed by this film.  Scary vampires really aren't what's for sale this time around.  But if you're a Larry Cohen fan, you should be happy.  There are his usual clever moments, there's Michael Moriarity giving another great and quirky lead performance, and just as you think maybe you're getting a little bored with his character and he's becoming too much of a generic, straight leading man... in comes Samuel Fuller as one of the most entertaining characters in any vampire movie ever.  Also look for Tara Reid looking lovely in her first acting role, Andrew Duggan in his final role and Cohen regular James Dixon, who this time also gets a co-writing credit.  This isn't a terribly ambitious picture; and Cohen's let it be known that he only made the film as part of a contract so Warner Bros would fund It's Alive 3.  It's no passion project.  But if you want a low-key enjoyable watch, hey, here ya go.
For ages, A Return To Salem's Lot was unavailable on DVD, which was awfully frustrating for a Cohen fan like myself.  But in 2006, Warner Bros released it in Germany under the title Salem II: Die Ruckkehr, as an anamorphic widescreen disc to boot!  More recently, in 2010, Warner Archives finally released it, and that's anamorphic widescreen, too.  It's an MOD DV-R, though, so I'd still stick with the import.  But none of that matters now, because this week, Scream Factory is releasing the film on blu for the first time, with an all new 4k scan of the OCN!
2006 Warner Bros DVD top; 2021 Scream Factory BD below.
Yeah, it's a little soft and obviously standard def, but I just fired the DVD up on my 65" television and it still looks surprisingly good.  Solid darks, no interlacing.  It's basically 16x9 exactly, but with a little bit of blank space in what would've been the over-scan area, giving us a 1.79:1 aspect ratio.  For a plain old DVD, you couldn't really ask for much more.  But for a blu-ray, of course you can.  And Scream Factory delivers.  Now framed in a proper 1.85:1, it's actually surprisingly tighter not just along the bottom, but on the left.  So, I'll call that just a slim improvement.  But otherwise, the new scan is a strong improvement, with the new scan bringing fine detail grain to fresh, authentic life.  The encode could be a little more natural, with grain getting a little pixelated, especially for a barebones disc (more on that in a sec), but this ain't a UHD.  For a BD, this is quite satisfying and we've clearly come a long way.  Colors are more vibrant and restored to authentic tones (the DVD was a bit on the purple side).  Honestly, I would've taken the old master slapped onto a BD disc, just for the extra clarity.  So this new 4k transfer is a treat.
Yes, the German DVD is English friendly.  It has optional German subtitles, but they're removable directly from the menu or the remote, and it gives you the choice of the original English audio (mono in 2.0) or a German dub.  Unfortunately, it has no extras, not even the trailer (neither does the Warner Archives disc), except for a slightly amusing commercial that plays on start-up.  But it does come in a cool, red case.

Scream Factory boosts the 2.0 track to DTS-HD (though it's still a bit hissy) and adds optional English subtitles, making this the definitive presentation of the film by every count.  The sole disappointment is the extras.  There basically aren't any, apart from the trailer ...though even just that does technically put it ahead of the previous discs.  I felt sure we'd at least get a commentary from the King Cohen guy, but oh well.
So, Warner Bros finally did Salem's Lot justice.  They also released great new and affordable blus of Stephen King's It and Cat's Eye at the same time.  And now, Scream Factory has done justice to A Return To Salem's Lot, too, closing the book on this series (did I mention they can keep the remake?), so we can finally rest peacefully in our coffins.

Sundown: The Vampire In Retreat Advances

The summer of new releases continues with a long awaited arrival from Vestron Video.  Really, any release from Vestron has been long awaited... it's been essentially a full year since their last pair of releases, which in turn had been two years since the previous.  But this release has been particularly long awaited for yours truly, since Sundown: the Vampire In Retreat felt like a shoe-in for the line since it started up in 2016.  My DVD replacin' trigger finger's been a-itchin'!
Plus, you know, I like this movie.  I'm a fan of Anthony Hickox's work, at least from this peak period in his horror comedy career.  Admittedly, Sundown isn't my favorite.  It's too silly.  I think the original Waxwork really hits the sweet spot between the light-hearted and the genuinely dark atmosphere.  But Warlock 2, Waxwork 2, Hellraiser 3... I'm on board for that whole run, and Sundown's right smack in the middle of that.  It's a vampire western, a genre mash-up that sells itself.  But it sacrifices the atmosphere of both of those rather cheerfully and frequently for corny Saturday the 14th-style gags.
Yes, those bottles are labeled "Necktarine."
But there's still so much to like about this movie.  I mean, first of all, Saturday the 14th was amusing.  Secondly, this movie's awfully ambitious in its production values with big explosions, posses on horseback, rousing western theme music, little stop motion bat creatures, and while the vampire make-up usually consists of a pair of a fangs, there are a few moments of really cool prosthetics.  Then third, there's the cast.  It's a veritable Who's Who of cult cinema: David Carradine, Bruce CampbellJohn Ireland, scream queen Deborah Foreman, Brendan Hughes who'd just come off another good vampire flick the year before, To Die ForM. Emmet Walsh, Twin Peaks' Dana Ashbrook, Buck Flower, Dallas' Morgan Brittany... there's even a bonafide Miss America in there.  Everybody's a likeable, rounded character you get invested in.
So, in 2008, Lions Gate surprised us not just by issuing Sundown on DVD for the first time, but by giving it a truly impressive, widescreen special edition.  Honestly, for the SD era, it was all you could ask for.  In 2015, Lions Gate released their series of Horror Collection budget DVD sets, which were noteworthy because they actually included versions of several of their films that were superior to any version that had ever been released before.  Sundown was on one of them alright, but it sure wasn't superior to the 2008 DVD.  We haven't had a real reason upgrade until this week, when Vestron gives the film its HD debut (tomorrow, as of this writing!), with even more special features to boot.
1) 2008 LG DVD; 2) 2015 LG DVD; 3) 2021 Vestron BD.
Lions Gate's initial DVD is an impressive, anamorphic 2.35:1, and woo, their 2015 1.33:1 Horror Collection release is a huge step backwards.  It almost cuts more picture off the sides than it leaves in the middle!  It also looks a little softer and less defined, but that's just because it's essentially zooming in on the SD limits of the original image by zooming it up to fullscreen.  Yikes.  So Vestron's new blu seems to be using the same old master as the 2008 DVD.  Grain is... faintly hinted at, but virtually not visible at all on the dated scan.  Edge enhancement and haloing is all over the place, and fine detail is still soft.  Still, it is in HD and looks clearer and more pleasing than the DVDs.  The framing's also been tweaked ever so slightly to 2.36:1, which is an improvement, but one so slight you could only spot it in a direct comparison like this.  The main benefit is just the cleaner lines thanks to the compression smudging that's been cleared away... but that's not nothing.  Basically, it's on par with your average 2008 blu.

The original DVD gave us the choice between 5.1 and 2.0 mixes, but the Horror Collection dropped the 5.1.  The blu doesn't bring it back, which is fine.  This low budget 80's flick was never born with a 5.1 mix; that's revisionist nonsense, though it might've been a nice bonus for the die-hard surround sound home theater geeks.  Vestron has bumped the original stereo mix up to lossless DTS-HD, though, which is the important thing.  Oh, and the DVDs and blu include both English and Spanish subtitles.
One of the reasons, besides the fact that it's a Vestron Pictures film and it had been in those Horror Collection sets that Vestron's been plundering for releases, that I was so sure Sundown would hit Vestron blu is that they'd already pulled Hickox in for extras on a couple prior releases of his films.  So if they were smart, they would've already interviewed him for this then and had it at the ready.  Not that they needed him for a commentary this time - he'd already recorded one for the 2008 DVD.  That disc also had fan pleasing interviews with Carradine, Campbell and Walsh, plus a photo gallery, so they were starting from a good place.

And yes, thankfully Vestron retained all of that good stuff for their new blu.  But you know Red Shirt isn't just going to leave it at that.  So yes, they have a brand new interview with Hickox.  They also have an interview with special effects artist Tony Gardner, and one of their patented isolated score + audio interview track specials, this time with a music expert and producer Jefferson Richard.  Personally, I found it a bit of a slog, since the producer's a good listen, but it feels like a lot of dead air to wait through when they "cut" away from him for long chunks.  Anyway, they included the trailer, too, which had been slightly conspicuous in its absence on the DVD.  It has some quirky narration, so I'm glad to finally get it.  And, like always, Vestron's blu comes in a nice, glossy slipcover.
So overall, it's not Vestron's most impressive release.  It's another one of their older masters, and it shows.  And Red Shirt cooked up some nice new treats, but it's as not as massive a collection of extras as they've cooked up for some past discs.  It does feel like it's buoyed up by the old DVD, the work for which is still doing most of the heavy lifting.  But I can't be too cynical.  This is a neat film that's long been in need of a blu, and this is the best edition going, with the boost to HD, lossless audio, proper subtitle options and a couple good new extras in addition to all the legacy stuff.  It won't blow your socks off, but if you're fond of this vampire curio, it's still a satisfying must have.

Werner Herzog's Invincible: NOW We're Talkin'!

In 2001's Invincible, Werner Herzog tells the more or less true story of "the strongest man in the world," Zishe Breitbart (no relation to Andrew Breitbart or his conservative news oped site), who Superman was actually inspired by, and his time with the infamous Nazi occultist Erik Jan Hanussen.  Body builder Jouko Ahola plays Breitbart... he's since gone on to appear in a number of films, but this was his acting debut.  Herzog recreates the most famous moments of Breitbart's life, including the tragic way he passed.  Tim Roth has the much more dramatic role of Hanussen, who yes, is the same man depicted in Istvan Szabo's Academy Award nominated Hanussen from 1988.  Naturally, Herzog extrapolates historical details and conversations we'd have no way validating today, but his biggest liberty is bumping Breitbart's experience forward in time about a decade, and amplifying his conflict with the Nazi party as Hitler was seizing power in the 1930s.  In real life, Breitbart died in 1925, and Hanussen's fall came many years after, rather than due to the strongman's noble influence.

Update 7/21/20 - 8/10/21:  This one caught me by surprise!  Forget the French disc, PowerHouse/ Indicator gave Invincible a proper special edition.  Read on.
So yes, this is the story of a Jewish folk hero, and they're pumping up the heroism.  Breitbart has a little brother who looks up to him with wide-eyed idealism, as much for his I-cannot-tell-a-lie purity of character as his physical strength.  He naively wanders into the employ of the most unambiguously evil Nazi ever to twirl a mustache and his incorruptible topples a corrupt institution.  But Herzog's artistic flourishes (yes, there are abstract dream sequences with hordes of crabs, and Roth's secret chamber is surrounded by angelic jellyfish that go well beyond the fish tanks the real Hanussen surrounded himself with) break this film out of Hollywood's typical trappings, and there's enough fascinating truth to the these men's stories to keep things touching and fascinating beyond conventional expectations.  Udo Kier has a perfectly nasty supporting role and Hans Zimmer provides the score.  This definitely isn't a film to casually write off.
New Line first put it out as a widescreen but barebones DVD in 2003.  Warner Brothers reissued it in their Archives line as a DV-R more recently, 2017, but of course still barebones.  In the meantime, there was a 2014 DVD with an audio commentary by Werner Herzog, which I would've been fascinated by, but unfortunately, it isn't English friendly.  "If any boutique labels are reading this, that sure would be an ideal thing to license and subtitle for a new blu-ray edition," I wrote, "we know there's already a respectable HD master available, as it's already been released in France by Rimini Editions."  Well, holy crap!  Indicator/ Powerhouse have now licensed and subtitled that commentary.  And that's just the beginning.  Rather than using that old HD master I referenced, their version has a new 2k restoration.
1) 2003 US New Line DVD; 2) 2013 FR Rimini BD; 3) 2021 UK Indicator BD.


Both previous aspect ratios are a little off, with the DVD at a slightly windowboxed 1.81:1 and the Rimini's BD in a lazy 1.78:1.  The DVD's mattes would've basically been hidden by older televisions' overscan area, but the blu lifts them away revealing more picture mostly along the top and bottom.  It also removes some murky color casting and cleans up New Line's unfortunate compression smudging, giving us a distinctly sharper and cleaner HD image.  Grain's a little light; I won't say a fresh scan wouldn't yield an even better picture, but it's an attractive blu and a substantial improvement over the DVD.

But that's all academic now, thanks to the new UK BD.  It's a way more attractive image, where detail really pops.  Grain is much clearer and sharper, and the colors are much better defined.  Look at Jouko's wig in that second set of shots; the boosted contrast really brings it, and his whole face, to life.  Indicator mattes the image to a proper 1.85:1, pulling out further to reveal more information along the left hand side.  The framing's been adjusted a little, too, shifting vertically towards the top.  It's a tough call whether that's an improvement or not (in that second set of shots, the old lower framing actually seems to make more sense), but we're told the DP supervised this new transfer, so it's presumably more accurate.  And it certainly blows the previous editions out of the water in every other regard, so...

New Line's DVD gave us choices between the original English audio in stereo and DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, with optional English subtitles.  Rimini's blu isn't quite so replete, but thankfully, besides two French dubs (stereo and 5.1), it features the original English 5.1 audio; and its French subtitles are removable.  Those French dubs are lossy, but the original English mix is in DTS-HD, so unless you need English subs, it's all good.  Even better, though, is the Indicator blu, which gives us both the English and German dub audio tracks in 5.1 DTS, plus an English LPCM stereo mix.  And this time, English subtitles are an option.
Again, the DVD is barren apart from the trailer and some bonus ones.  Rimini's blu, however, isn't actually barebones; it has two interesting-sounding featurettes where three experts discuss the film and its historical roots.  I say "interesting-sounding," though, because disappointingly they're spoken in French with no subtitles.  D'oh!  Woulda been nice.  As far as English-friendly extras, all we get is the trailer, looking worse than the old DVD's, and with burnt in French subs.

But who cares about those experts now that we've got proper special features from the filmmakers themselves?  First and foremost, again, that Werner Herzog commentary is here and subtitled into English.  As any fan should know, Herzog's commentaries are always great, so this is very exciting.  Still, Indicator's taken things substantially further with cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger.  There's a new, almost half-hour commentary with him, a vintage 2001 interview with him, and a short clip of his on-set footage.  And an extra treat for Zeitlinger fans: this release includes his three early short films from the 70's.  They've also got the trailer looking much better in proper HD widescreen.  Three versions, in fact: the US, UK and German (with optional subtitles) theatrical trailers.  And there's a stills gallery of promo images.  The booklet is a substantial 36 pages with notes by Jason Wood, vintage written interviews with Herzog and Roth, and more.  The artwork is reversible, too.
That French blu was a neat find; it was great not to be stuck with that out of date DVD anymore.  But it's a whole new story now.  This isn't just the best edition going by some narrow margin, it's a must upgrade, even if you went to the trouble of importing the previous blu like I did.