Ozploitation Classics: Inn Of the Damned and Night Of Fear

I know it seems like I've been on the Umbrella bandwagon lately, but what can I say? They've been putting out some good stuff. And today's DVD is actually a very old DVD (2005) that's just been reissued, possibly to cash in on a little attention Code Red is drumming up. This is the double feature of two of Australia's earliest horror films by Terry Bourke: Inn Of the Damned and Night of Fear. It's just been released here in the US last month by Code Red, but you might rather import this month's edition from Umbrella instead.  We've already looked at one of Bourke's subsequent horror films, Lady Stay Dead, which debuted on blu-ray from Code Red last year. And you can definitely feel touches of the same director's hand in these two films, though all three are very distinct.

Update 5/11/16 - 11/26/22:
I kind of like updating these very early posts from 2015 to 20166, because it gives me a chance to rewrite them so they're more in keeping with the style I've developed here over the years. But I like it even better because it means we've gotten a long-awaited new release, as in this case where Umbrella has updated both films to blu with all new special features - woot!
1974's Inn Of the Damned is a Western horror, set in the Australian 1800s rather than the American. You get a lot of shifting tones for each act, like you did in Lady Stay Dead, this time switching between a classical-style western and a horror almost like they're two different films with the same characters. The plot, however, very cleverly interweaves them. Australian troopers are having a hard time keeping the peace, so they bring in an American bounty hunter (played by American actor Alex Cord) to play a little tougher with the locals. But none of them suspect that the bulk of their unsolved murders might be taking place at a quiet, little out of the way inn run by Dame Judith Anderson, who's hiding a whole collection of dark secrets.
So yeah, this film goes rather deftly from quiet suspense in a dark old house to high riding action with horses and stage coaches racing through some really impressive locations. If you're looking for lots of blood and Grand Guignol kills, this probably isn't the film for you... although there are one or two nice payoff scenes towards the end. The soundtrack is also a bit clunky, especially when it plays overly comic music over scenes that are actually being played more naturally. Some cinematic influences are also pretty heavy-handed and the last five to ten minutes lose all sense of pace. But it's a good story (possibly based in part on the infamous Bender family of Kansas), well acted and the production values are really high for such an apparently low budget film. I liked this film even more the second time I watched it than the first, which is a very good sign particularly for a horror film.
Night Of Fear, then, was actually made first, in 1972. Unbelievably, it was originally produced and intended for Australian television, as the pilot for a proposed series called Fright. But when you see how dark and shocking it is, you can understand why they wound up rejecting it, and Australian censors even initially banned it from playing in cinema. Not that it's X-rated or anything close to it, but it's a pretty unrelenting, wordless film very much in the line of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which of course this preceded. I say "wordless," because there is no dialogue at all in this hour long film (well, technically there's one), where a killer terrorizes a woman for nearly the entire running time. It's essentially just about the experience of terror.
Sorry, Intruder, it looks like somebody did it first!
But it's a little clunky. Think of other early, cult horror like Eraserhead or Night Of the Living Dead, which has that weird dichotomy of an almost amateur feel to it on one hand. And those two films I've compared this one to are classics, which this isn't. It veers near them at times, and has some great imagery and production values. Plus, its star Carla Hoogeveen (who also had a secondary role in Inn Of the Damned) is convincingly at the end of her rope through most of this film. But even at under an hour, the pace drags, with the camera seemingly determined to give each item of set dressing its own, lengthy close-up. And some of the extras at the end seem to be trying acting for the very first time. Both films actually feature the same move at one point, where a killer chops someone lying in front of them with a big axe, and then it cuts to a solid red frame, which is kind of cool but kind of artificial and jarring. So it's an interesting film and I'm glad I saw it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone expecting a slick entertainment. This is more for the people who attend midnight screenings and collect off-beat VHS tapes.
2016 Umbrella DVD top; 2022 Umbrella BD bottom.

The back cover of the DVD lists Night as 1.66:1 and Inn as 1.85:1, but they're really about 1.69:1 and 1.78:1, respectively.  Now, the BD has clearly made some changes framing-wise.  They've matted Inn to actual 1.85:1, and while Night is still 1.69:1, they've zoomed in tighter this go around.  Otherwise, the DVD was already pretty good: 16x9, non-interlaced, richly colored and clearly taken from a film source. There's occasional dirt and debris, but not to the point of being distracting.  The blu-rays now, well, as you can see in the first two pairs of shots, some of the debris (in this case white flecks) have been cleaned up.  Though as you can see in the third set of shots, some has gotten a little worse, so I suppose it's a tie on that front.  The colors are definitely better separated (the DVDs have a light red cast over them that's been removed) now, so that's a clear improvement.  The increase in clarity with the higher res is real, too, probably more obviously with Inn.  So these are some solid upgrades if not showroom floor HD.

Both films have standard but clean and robust Dolby 2.0 audio tracks, bumped up to DTS-HD on the blu.  The DVD has no subtitle options, but the BD adds them for Inn (not for Night, even though there are a couple of spoken sentences).
So here in the US, the Code Red DVD was barebones, but the Umbrella disc (both the 2005 and 2016 editions) feature full length audio commentaries. Inn of the Damned has producer Rod Hay and actor Tony Bonner giving a very enthusiastic and informative history of the film. Then Night Of Fear has a slightly more defensive Rod Hay commenting with an anonymous moderator and star Hoogeveen (who repeatedly begs them to cut one scene out of the film when it appears on screen!). There's also a cool stills gallery of articles, posters and behind the scenes photos for both films. I usually pass over stills galleries, but I found this one pretty interesting. And there's the trailer for each film, plus some bonus trailers for four other "ozploitation" flicks.

And the BD turns this into even more of a special edition.  The excellent commentaries are still here, but now there's plenty more.  For starters, there's about 45 minutes worth of previously unreleased interviews, filmed for Not Quite Hollywood, with Hay, Hoogeveen (still arguing to have that scene removed!), and fellow Night actors Norman Yemm and Briony Behets, which are first rate.  Then there's a complete episode of Spyforce, which Bourke directed, and stars another cast member from Inn Of the Damned.  It's surprisingly good, and has an introduction by Spyforce star Jack Thompson.  and critic Paul Harris gives us a very informative and engaging video essay overview of Bourke's filmography... even if he fails to appreciate the writing of Lady Stay Dead.  There's also a trailer reel of Bourke's films, which the box says is "introduced by Terry Bourke," which is flat-out untrue.  Bourke has been dead for twenty years, and what I guess they're referring to is a vintage film clip of Bourke promoting one of his early films that they've stuck into the reel[pictured above].  I'm glad to get that clip, but it's not what we were promised.  Anyway, the trailers for the two films are still here (separate from the reel), and the photo gallery has now been broken up into two, divided by film.  This release also comes in a slip cover and includes an exclusive poster if you pre-ordered it direct from Umbrella.
So I was happy when Umbrella re-issued these on DVD, but I'm much happier now that they've really done them justice with a packed special edition on blu.  It's a very satisfying package, rewarding even if you're not a huge fan of either of these films in particular.  But you'll also probably come away with a greater appreciation of them after all this, so you might end up a proper fan anyway if you give this a chance, which you absolutely should.

Orson Welles' Dark Vision of Kafka: The Trial

For me, The Trial is hands down Orson Welles' greatest film. Citizen Kane is certainly his best known, and Touch of Evil seems to be a bigger crowd pleaser; but for my money, The Trial is his greatest work. To be certain, a lot of the reason for that is simply because it's built on the writing of Franz Kafka. But Welles vibrant style is a perfect match for the material. One only has to watch the 1993 remake, starring Kyle MacLachlan, Anthony Hopkins, Jason Robards and Alfred Molina, which was rather good itself, to see how much Welles brought to the material and elevated it. Hell, just Welles' introductory monologue, which has been cut from several DVD editions of this film, works on a level higher than the remake manages to reach.

Update 2/23/15 - 3/18/17: Added Alpha's DVD edition to the mix, which really shows the range of quality this film's been shown in.

Update 11/24/22: It's The Trial's 60th Anniversary, and Studio Canal is celebrating by giving the film an all new, 4k restoration, in a new BD/ UHD combo pack.
Anthony Perkins is perfect as the multifaceted everyman who's woken up in his bedroom by mysterious, gruff officers who interrogate him and tell him he's under arrest but allowed to continue going to work. Perkins remains relatable without even being perfectly likeable as he continually grasps out for some sliver of control or stability as the world around him transforms into a paranoid, bureaucratic nightmare. This film is evocatively photographed, with tone, atmosphere, lighting and space changing mid-shot, shot in huge and claustrophobic locations in both Paris and Yugoslavia. Kafka's writing is the kind that stays with you forever, and Welles marries that with images that stick with you just as long.
The Trial has had a bit of a storied past with its DVD releases. As I mentioned, some versions have been cut. And a few different but not terribly impressive stabs were taken at the transfer. For the most part, you weren't going to do much better than Image's non-anamorphic 1.66:1 DVD from 2000, except it's long out of print and has wound up getting pretty costly. The French import seemed to be slightly better, but for most fans, it was a matter of dealing with even worse fullscreen junkers, like the 2003 DVD from Alpha, while waiting for the eventual blu-ray. And finally, that happened in 2012, when Studio Canal (who'd also released that French DVD I Just mentioned in 2003), released it as a special edition in France, Germany and the UK for its 50th anniversary. That was great, but now it's its 60th anniversary, and Studio Canal is back with an all new restoration from a 4k scan of the original 35mm negative, on both BD and UHD.
1) 2000 Image DVD; 2) 2003 Alpha DVD; 3) 2012 Studio Canal BD;
4) 2022 Studio Canal BD; 5) 2022 Studio Canal UHD.

The Image and first Studio Canal framings (it's a micro-smidgen zoomed in compared to the Image) both claim to be at the OAR of 1.66:1, but are slightly off.  Image is 1.60:1, and SC is closer at 1.64:1, with the blu slightly pillarboxed and the DVD windowboxed, as it's unfortunately non-anamorphic.  The 2022 SCs (the BD includes the new restoration, too, not just the UHD) finally get it exactly right at 1.66:1.  The framing has also been adjusted differently, revealing a little more horizontal and vertical information.  Meanwhile, the Alpha is fullscreen, and even overly skinny for that, coming in at 1.28:1, cutting off the sides something fierce. It's also got a serious interlacing problem that the Image disc doesn't have, and obviously the later HD ones don't.

There's no question that even the old blu is superior to the DVDs, looking cleaner and more defined.  It's definitely more contrasty, as well as brighter with decidedly whiter whites, whereas the Image DVD looks muddier, although you might at first say that the lower contrast is more subtle and natural, even intentionally creepier.  But it's also losing information in the shadows due to black crush.  Of course, the Alpha is the muddiest of all, with very little dynamic range.   The 2022 restoration goes darker again (even the BD, not just the inherently darker nature of HDR discs), returning to Image's more ominous mood but without the crush.  Grain is finer and much more tightly controlled even on the BD, and looks downright perfect on the UHD.
All the discs feature the original English mono (with a little extra hiss on the Alpha), but the Studio Canals bump it up to DTS-HD in 2016 and LPCM in 2022.  Studio Canal also offers optional English subtitles, which the DVDs lacked, plus additional German and French dub and sub tracks, on all three of their discs.

As you could probably predict, the DVDs are nearly barebones except for the trailer, which yes, even the Alpha had.  The only other thing that the Image DVD had, which none of the Studio Canals do, is the alternate opening made for US television. This isn't as much as a loss as it sounds, however, as no original footage was shot for this opening. It's just a narrator introducing the cast and plot over stills from the film. Curiously, he tells us the whole story right up to and including the very ending moment - wow, spoilers! - before bidding us to watch the film. It would've been nice to have this on the special editions as just another little bonus for completists, but it's really not important.
Especially since Studio Canal cooked up a bunch of new goodies for The Trial's 50th anniversary.  We can start with the 'making of' documentary, which is 30 minutes long and features interviews with the film's DoP Edmond Richard and Welles' assistant director Sophie Becker, who have plenty of first-hand memories of making the film and traveling with Welles. It's rounded out by a literature professor to address the Kafka side of things, and filmmaker Andre S. Labarthe (admittedly the first time I've heard of him) to talk about the film's style.  Richard then returns in a separate interview piece that focuses more on the technical side of making the picture and adding some more anecdotes he missed in the first doc.

There's also a great British television episode of a 60s series called Tempo which interviews Welles and takes a retrospective look at his career. It gets into some interesting areas, and Welles is very open and forthcoming. There's an interview with Steven Berkoff, who's a bit of a Kafka historian and gives a lot more information on the original novel and how the film represents it. Finally, there's the theatrical trailer, a 20 page booklet and the film's deleted scene, which has been floating around online, but never properly preserved on disc. I believe the old French DVD may've shown a clip of it, but without any of the words. See, the audio for the deleted scenes has been lost (although you hear a brief clip of it in the trailer), but for this blu-ray, they've used Welles' script to add complete subtitles, so we can finally understand everything the characters are saying.
And for the 60th anniversary?  Well, it's not all good news.  Some of the 50th anniversary features have been lost: specifically the 'making of' and the episode of Tempo.  No booklet this time either.  The Richard and Berkoff interviews are still here, though, as are the deleted scene and the trailer.  And SC kinda makes up for what they lost with what they added: an hour-long TCM original documentary called This Is Orson Welles from 2015.  It includes interviews with Martin Scorsese, Welles' eldest daughter and of course Peter Bogdanovich, among others.  They also added a new trailer for the restoration, if anybody cares, and this release comes in an attractive slipcover.  But I'm particularly disappointed to lose that 'making of,' which I think I'd still rather have over the TCM doc, since it focused specifically on The Trial and offered some unique insight.
Still, it's easily worth it for this new, ultimate presentation of the film.  And you can always pick up a copy of the older version for the additional extras.  The BD came along and erased the need for any of the many DVDs floating around out there, but it was still flawed.  And now those flaws have been erased, while also bringing this film forward into the next generation of physical media.  It's unquestionably cause for celebration.

The Eternal Struggle For the Essential Return Of the Living Dead

Let's talk Return Of the Living Dead. There are a bunch of Return of the Living Dead DVDs out there, but you can really boil it down to just a pair of essential discs. Even if you're serious about owning all of the special features and alternate versions, these are the only two releases you'll ever need. That exact pair has changed since wrote the first version of this post, but it still comes down to two releases.

Update: 3/29/16 - 6/24/16:
Wow, Scream Factory has just released their fully loaded 2-blu-ray... definitive(?) release of Return Of the Living Dead, with all new features, a new transfer and more! And just to make things that little much more interesting, I've also gone back and added the original 2002 MGM DVD, which is interesting because it has an open matte fullscreen version. But mostly the big new thing is comparing Scream Factory's and Second Sight's blus.

Update 11/22/22: It's a new era, and 2k scans ain't gonna cut it anymore. At least not when we're putting them on UHD discs.  So Scream is back with an all new, 3-disc 4k Ultra HD/ BD set in 2022.  But it's still imperfect.
Return Of the Living Dead is definitely in the running for best zombie film of all time. Dan O'Bannon brings a ton of wit and humor to the Romero-style zombie film, but it still works on a completely earnest, genuine horror level as well. In Return, the original Night Of the Living Dead film was based on a true story, and a pair of night shift employees at a medical supply warehouse have a couple of the zombie corpses in barrelled up in the basement. Of course, they wind up setting them loose, as well as reanimating all the bodies in a nearby cemetery where a gang of punk rockers - including Linnea Quigley in the role of a lifetime - are partying down.

This is just one of those situations where everything clicks. It's got a great cast, diverse cast headed by Clu Gulager which clearly benefited from an extended period of rehearsal before filming. Of course there's O'Bannon's clever writing, and thankfully this is one of his films where he really had the budget to see his vision all the way through (as opposed to Bleeders, where you really have to struggle to find the qualities of his material). It's got a great 80s rock soundtrack and top of the line special effects. It's a blast.
So Return Of the Living Dead's been released on DVD several times, including as part of a recalled 4-film set, because of some copyright issue with the movie Frogs. But that's a superfluous release anyway. MGM first put Return out on DVD in 2002, on a pretty respectable special edition flipper disc. It was widescreen on side A, had a director's commentary and a cool making of featurette, and even threw in an open-matte fullscreen version on the B-side. The only bummer of it was that a lot of the audio had been changed compared to the old Image laserdisc, from the effects on zombie voices (yes, they speak here; Return is the film that started the notion that zombies call out for "braaaaiiinnnss") to songs that couldn't be cleared. They released it again 2007, with the same transfer but all new extras, which they updated to HD as a DVD/ BD combo pack in 2010, and repackaged as a single blu in 2011. But that was replaced as the definitive presentation of the film by Second Sight's 2012 blu-ray, which among good other things, finally reinstates the original audio track!

Then came Scream's 2016 blu-ray. I remember before Scream even announced this disc, and people were just discussing the possibility of them putting out RotLD in the USA, saying that after Second Sight's definitive release with the original audio and all, Scream wouldn't be left with anything to add to the discussion unless they somehow dug up the old workprint version of the film. Well, Scream dug up the old workprint version of the film. Check out movie-censorship.com for a detailed breakdown, but in short it has many instances of additional dialogue, alternate takes and even a different ending. Furthermore, they also created an all-new transfer with a fresh 2k scan of the interpositive. And they've... mostly restored the original audio like Second Sight did. They couldn't clear one song ("Dead Beat Dance"), so like Second Sight, they have both audio tracks - the original and the revised - but Scream's original track isn't 100% restored, just mostly.
And now in 2022, Scream is back.  This time they've scanned the original camera negative in 4k, so it's not just a higher res scan but a better source element.  And besides the upgraded BD, they've also included a 3rd disc, a full-on UHD.  Also, yes, they still have the workprint version, and yes, it's still in SD.  But as far as the theatrical cut goes, they've really come to win, at least in terms of PQ.  It's not the fairy tale happy ending fans were hoping for, though, because they still weren't able to clear that song.  You still have to import for that, and even then you wouldn't get the new 4k scan, or even the previous 2k scan SF made.  So what to do?  Well, okay, let's starting by checking how all these varying transfers stack up.
1) MGM 2002 widescreen DVD; 2) MGM 2002 fullscreen DVD; 3) MGM 2007 DVD;
4) Second Sight 2012 BD; 5) Scream Factory 2016 2k BD; 6) Scream Factory 2016 workprint BD;
7) Scream Factory 2022 4k BD; 8) Scream Factory 2022 4k UHD.
[Note: there's no #6 in this first set of screenshots, because the
workprint doesn't include the close-up shots of the canister zombie.]

So you'll see there's not a vast difference between the Second Sight and all the MGMs. Return's always had roughly the same HD master since MGM's initial DVD, so in terms of transfer, it barely matters which edition you get. They're all sightly letterboxed to 1.85:1, anamorphic, non-interlaced, good looking editions, although the 2002 DVD's a bit more saturated and framed a sliver lower. Well, Second Sight's blu also has a super skinny sliver of extra vertical information on the top and bottom. The only really important distinction, of course, is that the blu-rays are in high definition, so they have better compression and clarity. You do get that nice HD bump with the blus, there's absolutely no question of upscaling or anything like that, but otherwise, just in terms of what you see as the film plays, it doesn't matter which of the older editions you get.

But Scream's 2016 blu does look noticeably different. The colors are deeper, while the picture's a bit darker in some scenes and brighter in others... generally I'd describe it as a bit more intense and vibrant. And yes, the new 2k scan does yield a little more clarity. Grain really stands out where it got a little lost on the Second Sight blu. But more importantly, lines are more clearly defined and subtle detail is picked up.

Oh and meanwhile, both the 2002 DVD and the 2016 workprint are fullscreen. The 2002 DVD is open matte, so while it's in the incorrect aspect ratio, at least it's only guilty of showing you extra picture on the top and bottom, rather than losing anything on the sides. The same can't be said for the workprint, which is missing picture on all four sides. But you don't watch the workprint version for the picture quality - it's also clearly duped from video tape, super soft and saturated, missing detail (the checkers have been erased off Chuck's jacket!) and I could go on. It's an Nth generation videotape dub that's just included for archival purposes, so we can see all the differences between it and the final edit.

If you're in it for the PQ, the 2022 release is the obvious way to go.  Actually, though, just comparing the two 1080p BDs, the difference isn't as strong as I would've expected, considering we're not just jumping from 2 to 4k, but from the interpositive to the OCN.  But it does have stronger colors, finer grain, and corrects a slight pinch, yielding extras slivers of picture along the top and bottom in the process.  And of course the UHD with Dolby Vision HDR is even stronger, looking more lifelike with the increased color range and of course less pixelated with the higher resolution.  RotLD has never looked better.

What you hear, on the other hand, is a different story. Now, the DVDs just have your standard 2.0 stereo and mono tracks (plus French and Spanish dubs and optional English and Spanish subtitles), but Second Sight's blu-ray has a DTS 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 of the revised audio, and of course, it has an LPCM 2.0 track of the original, unedited audio as well. Disappointingly, however, it doesn't have subtitles. Scream Factory's about the same - on both the 2016 and 2022 sets - with a DTS 5.1 and DTS 2.0 of the revised track, plus a DTS 2.0 of the mostly original audio ...though it's worth pointing out that they're mislabeled on the menu screen.  All the correct audio options are on the disc, so don't panic, but clicking the 5.1 calls up the revised 2.0 and clicking the revised 2.0 brings up the original mono. Scream Factory does also bring back English subtitles.
So, Second Sight's and Scream Factory's (2016) blu-rays were competing to be the definitive release of the film, with Second Sight still ahead in the audio department, and Scream leading in picture quality... especially now in 2022.  But there are also a ton of great extras now that need to be taken into account. Now, the great thing about the 2007 DVD (and the 2010 blu-ray) from MGM, is that it includes all the extras from the original special edition as well as adding a bunch of new stuff. And the original extras are some of the most essential, because they were made while Dan O'Bannon could still participate. So he provides a solid, informative audio commentary track with production designer William Stout, and they both also appear on-camera in a good (and not too repetitive) featurette called Designing the Dead. These are great to have, and can never be replicated, so we want to hang on to those.

Then, MGM added a bunch of new stuff to their later editions, some of which is kind of silly and disposable. But there's some really good, value-adding content as well, so it only makes sense to go for the 2007 instead of the 2002. Firstly, there's the slightly controversial audio commentary. Stout returns, this time with cast members Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph and Allan Trautman, who played the infamous Tarman. There's a weird little gimmick, where the sound of zombies enters the track, to supposedly remove cast members from the commentary when their characters are killed off on-screen, which the cast doesn't really cooperate with. You can't be mad at MGM for trying to add some fun to the proceedings, but it is kind of a dopey idea. Overall, it group is feels a little low on enthusiasm, but it's still worth the listen.

Still glowing nicely in 2016.
MGM also adds some other silly stuff, like an additional subtitle track that adds commentary by the zombie characters, and an easter egg for a second subtitle track, that supposedly shows their real thoughts. Again, it's not really giving you much, but it's at least nice to see someone at MGM trying to get into the spirit of things. More worthwhile, though, is a new featurette called Return of the Living Dead: The Dead Have Risen, which is an excellent and upbeat 20 minute piece with the cast giving on-camera interviews about their experiences on the film. And there's another featurette which comes from further out of left field, called The Decade of Darkness. It isn't really about Return Of the Living Dead, but just 80s horror in general. But it has some fun interviews with people like Stuart Gordon, John Landis, Joe Dante and Elvira, so you won't want to pass over it. It includes two trailers as well, and comes with a fold-out insert with detailed notes and a glow-in-the-dark slip cover, which is probably the neatest of this DVD's gimmicks.
Unfortunately, the Second Sight blu-ray doesn't have any of that. It doesn't have the original O'Bannon and Stout extras or the newer MGM ones. None of it. Well, except for the trailers. It has those. But it also has a nice collection of other stuff, that both rivals and compliments even the fuller MGM collection.

It's biggest weak point is that it doesn't feature any audio commentaries. That does make it feel a little incomplete. But on the other hand, it has the most comprehensive look at the film yet, the feature length (2-hour) documentary More Brains. This doc interviews everybody minus O'Bannon (except for a little vintage footage, which was nice) and covers everything about this film. Now, More Brains had already been released on a United States DVD as a stand-alone film in 2011, and that DVD had a lot of extras. Like with Best Worst Movie, I was initially worried those extras - essentially special features for a special feature - might be left out, but no, they're all here. And they're excellent, so that was really important. For one thing, it included 30-minute additional documentaries about Return Of the Living Dead 2 and Return of the Living Dead 3. There's a substantial, nearly 30-minute vintage interview with Dan O'Bannon, 15 minutes worth of additional interview footage/ deleted scenes from the doc, a cool feature visiting Return's original filming locations and extended interviews from the doc, with more anecdotes. Plus there's a silly Return Of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes piece and a newly filmed music video for one of the songs, which are more forgettable, but what the heck.

And Second Sight also put together some cool new stuff of their own. They've created three new featurettes, roughly 20 minutes each. One is an interview with John Russo about the original Night Of the Living Dead and the legacy of "Living Dead" films including Return. The second is about the film's soundtrack, including the head of the label and lead singer of one of the bands. That might be the only thing More Brains barely touched on, so it's a great inclusion. And finally, the third one is on the special effects, talking to Bill Munns, William Stout and Tony Gardner, including a lot of concept drawings and behind-the-scenes stills. And there's even more of those to be found in Second Sight's 20-page booklet. And their release is available in a limited edition steelbook [pictured at the top of this post] or standard case [right].
Speaking of limited editions, we've really got to dig into Scream Factory's 2016 release, because they've essentially released this in three different sets. There's the standard version you can get from Amazon or anywhere, which includes the 2-disc set with reversible artwork and the Tarman slipcover [pictured above, left] shrinkwrapped inside. If you order it from Shout Factory directly, you also get the Tarman 18"x24" poster [pictured left, on the right-hand side]. BUT, you could also have pre-ordered the "Deluxe Limited Edition" direct from Shout, which includes both slipcovers [above] and both posters [left]. I personally was hoping they would have made one slip cover a hair bigger than the other, so you could slip one over the other, as opposed to having to store one separately. But that's not what they've done. The case can only wear one at a time, and the other one is shipped flat. Anyway, the Deluxe was limited to 1000 copies and has long since sold out, so if you want that now, you'll have to check EBay or bargain with another collector. There is no difference in disc content, however, in any of these versions. They all have the same extras and everything; the only distinctions are in posters and slipcovers.

The 2022 UHD set also comes in a slip cover [pictured at the top of this page].  Pre-ordering it direct from Shout's site also netted you a limited edition poster.  And there's a deluxe edition which contains all the same stuff, including the poster, plus a limited (to 1000 copies) enamel pin set, which as of this writing, is still available.

So now let's get to the more important stuff, the actual features on the disc. Scream Factory has a whole second blu-ray disc just filled with extras, so there's a lot. First of all, everything from MGM is back in the picture. All the extras from the original DVD, including the commentary and featurettes, plus the newer commentary from MGM's reissues. It even has the silly "what the zombies are saying" subtitle track and alternate easter egg "what the zombies are thinking" track. So you can pretty much chuck your MGM discs now.
Scream also has a lot of what was on the Second Sight blu, including the complete More Brains doc, the O'Bannon interview, the Russo interview, the soundtrack featurette and the special effects featurette. But it's also missing some of the other features, like the More Brains deleted scenes, two half-hour segments on RotLD 2 & 3, the location featurette, the music video and the Return Of the Living Dead in 3 Minutes. It makes up for that, though, with some new, original special features. Of course there's the workprint, which we've discussed a little already. It runs an hour and forty-nine minutes, without any credits. It also features another terrific episode of Horror's Hallowed Grounds, where they explore the filming locations of the movie... so this sort of makes up for the loss of location featurette on Second Sight's blu, though both obviously would have been ideal. Scream Factory also includes two more, all new, audio commentaries: one by Gary Smart, who wrote a book on this movie, and one by actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin and effects artist Tony Gardner. And finally, Scream has added some additional TV spots and two stills galleries.

So, just to be clear, since it gets pretty confusing with each disc sharing some extras and keeping others exclusive, here's a color coded list of which blu-rays have which extras:
  • Audio commentary with Dan O'Bannon and William Stout 
  • Audio commentary with Stout, Dan Calfa, Brian Peck, Linnea Quigley, Allan Trautman and Beverly Randolph
  • Decade Of Darkness featurette
  • The Dead Have Risen featurette
  • Designing the Dead featurette
  • Zombies talking subtitle track
  • Zombies thinking subtitle track
  • Audio commentary with Thom Mathews, John Philbin and Tony Gardner 
  • Audio commentary with Gary Smart and moderator Chris Griffiths
  • The workprint
  • Horror's Hallowed Grounds
  • Stills galleries
  • TV spots
  • Trailers
  • More Brains feature-length documentary
  • The FX Of the Living Dead featurette
  • Party Time featurette
  • Dan O'Bannon interview
  • John A. Russo interview
  • More Brains deleted scenes
  • They Won’t Stay Dead, RotLD 2 doc
  • Love Beyond the Grave, RotLD 3 doc
  • Resurrected Settings featurette
  • Return of the Living Dead In 3 Minutes
  • Stacey Q music video
Blue = Scream Factory exclusive, Red = Second Sight exclusive, Purple = Second Sight & Scream Factory, Dark blue = MGM & Scream, Dark Purple = on all three

Scream Factory's new 2022 set doesn't have any more or less special features than their 2016 set.  In terms of extras, they're identical.  So, in short, the Scream Factory blu pretty much invalidates the MGM. But Second Sight and Scream both have a bunch of exclusive stuff, so you've got some tougher decisions there.
So wow, yeah. Scream Factory really brought the heat. Twice. Even their 2016 scan tops the old ones (which were all pretty equivalent), and their 2022 tops that.  And they recovered at least almost all of the original audio track. Plus, they're the first to give us the workprint, all of MGM's extras (though I'll miss their glow-in-the dark slip), and a solid little batch of new ones. On the other hand, Second Sight is still the only disc with 100% of the original audio, and it has a nice collection of unique extras, too. I imagine most fans will wind up going with the latest Scream set, with hardcore fans opting for both the Scream and Second Sight. Of course, it's not impossible, or even all that unlikely, that another region will be able to license both the new 4k scan and the complete original audio down the road.  Is Second Sight going to come back for another round?  Or could we see an ultimate, perfectly definitive edition down the road, maybe from Australia, Germany or Japan? I wouldn't be surprised, but even then, they might not be able to get all these amazing extras, so we might always wind up with more than one Return Of the Living Dead release in our collections. But that's alright, because it's truly one of the great 80s horror films, so a double-multi-dip isn't so unreasonable.