The Lost Daughter Is Out On Disc, Actually

You might not think it, but Netflix's brilliant Awards season adaptation of Elena Ferrante's novel The Lost Daughter is actually available to own on physical media.  And I don't just mean an FYC disc.  It's commercially available on Blu-ray (and DVD) from Vertigo and Focus Filmes in Spain, under the title La Hija Oscura.  It's a totally legit, pressed disc; you can order it from or where ever.  But how is it?  Are there any extras?  Did they mess anything up?  Is it fully English friendly?  Why doesn't somebody post a full review of it with proper screenshots of it anywhere on the internet?  Somebody should make a site that...  Oh right.  Okay, fine.
I kid, because actually I was excited to order myself a copy as soon as I saw this existed, waters tested or not.  Just from Film Twitter, a little forum skimming and the podcasts I listen to, I kind of got the impression this is one of those Academy Award nominees that barely anybody actually watched.  The fact that it's actress Maggie Gyllenhaal's directorial debut surely warded off some potential viewers anticipating a self-indulgent vanity project, a la Sonny or The Brave.  And just being a woman-centric drama isn't going to be a strong pull for film bros expecting to roll their eyes at a bunch of weepy performances.  But you're in any part of that camp, oh no no no, you should see this ASAP.  It's so good.
Not only do I firmly believe Oliva Coleman and Jessie Buckley should've won their best Lead and Supporting Actress categories (West Side Story and The Eyes of Tammy Faye, seriously?) last year, it should've won Best frikkin' Picture.  I would've also accepted Drive My Car; but oh boy, this film sure isn't saddled with that film's sentimentality.  It's a darkly brilliant character study that savagely strips the romance away from parenting.  If I had to criticize it, I suppose the back and forth flashback structure feels a little floppy, but seriously, most filmmakers should live long enough to make a film half this powerful, yet alone strike such a nerve on their first outing.  Of course, the two stars carry a lot of that weight, and it certainly helps to have an impressive supporting cast including Ed Harris, Gyllenhaal's real life husband Peter Sarsgaard and a surprising turn from Dakota Johnson (don't let this trick you into giving Persuasion a shot, though... hoo boy).  But I can't imagine having to follow this one up.  I fully expect a big freshman flop, but who cares?  We already got The Lost Daughter.
2022 Netflix FYC DVD top; 2022 Focus BD bottom.
This is a modern film with a ready to use DCP, so there isn't much to worry about Vertigo screwing up in terms of picture.  As you'd expect, the blu's 1.66:1 pillar-boxed image matches Netflix's DVD pretty precisely, apart from the clarity boost that comes with being in HD.  It's sharper, but given the film's soft, handheld style, even that isn't too obvious until you really examine it.  The colors and gamma levels are the same.  The one nice fix is that the FYC disc was interlaced, which the blu happily isn't, so you do notice a considerable improvement in that second set of shots just because of that.  But otherwise it's a legit but subtle upgrade.  The fact that the blu makes the film commercially available at all is the real win.
But not the only win, mind you.  The blu also offers us the original English 5.1 track in lossless DTS-HD, which is a step up over the DVD, of course.  But on the other hand, there is an imperfection.  The blu also offers us a Spanish dub and optional Spanish subtitles, naturally.  But in two brief spots, there are also quick moments with burnt-in subtitles.  There is a single line of Greek dialogue early in the film [pictured above] and four or five later in the film, when Coleman is watching a movie.  Those lines are in English, but for whatever reason, Vertigo decided to cake those lines into the film, too.  For English viewers, we aren't missing anything at all (if you turn the English subtitles on the US DVD, it just says "[speaking in Greek]" for that line above).  But it's just slightly surprising/ distracting to have those couple lines of subtitles pop up on the screen for those two short moments.
There are no extras on either disc, by the way, apart from a couple of bonus trailers that pop up on the blu.  Netflix did make a couple little promo featurettes, so it would've been nice to see them slapped on here at least, or the actual Lost Daughter trailer.  But oh well.  I can't say I was actually expecting any special features here.  Honestly, I was convinced this would just be one of many streaming exclusives to whither on the Netflix vine, and I'm super pleased to now own this on blu at all.  And despite that little subtitle quirk, it's a perfectly fine, strong presentation.  I wish we could find similar imports for all the rest.

The Company of Wolves, Fully Realized

I'm a bit hot and cold when it comes to the films of Neil Jordan... I mean, the guy wrote a "woman has visions through the eyes of a serial killer" script in the nineties. But I love me some Company of Wolves. What a wild, fun, beautiful, creative meditation on the movie monster staple: the werewolf. Unfortunately, it's only available on a barebones, non-anamorphic DVD from well over a decade ago. How could such a distinct and highly regarded film by a highly successful filmmaker be left in home video obscurity by a label called "Hen's Tooth Video?" I mean, this is a horror movie that was nominated for four BAFTAs; how often do you see that? What's it gonna take to get this film the respect it deserves? Oh wait, it has been treated right. There's a special edition blu-ray... only available in the UK.

Update 10/20/15 - 12/27/22: So much for "UK only."  Heck, so much for "blu-ray."  Scream Factory has issued this film the special edition 4k UHD (and yes, there's a BD, too) it's always deserved.
If you haven't seen it, The Company of Wolves is kind of a mash-up of several werewolf stories. Heavy on the Little Red Riding Hood, the plot waves in and out through different werewolf tales, mostly in a sort of fairy-tale period setting. It's got a terrific cast including Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Terrance Stamp, Jordan regular Stephen Rea and the guy from Waiting for God. It's a perfect little storm of smart performances, stylish photography, lavish sets, and still delivering the gruesome goods for horror fans. Maybe the story's a bit confusing in the way it drifts dream-like from one situation to another, and there is the occasional moment of down-right abstract symbolism; but there's enough entertainment here for even the most art-phobic juvenile to let the medicine go down.
So yeah, you'd think every specialty label from Anchor Bay to Criterion would have had this film in their sites, but nope. Just the 2002 Hen's Tooth DVD. Over in the UK however, ITV maybe hasn't quite given it the ultimate Arrow boxed set with 3 discs and a 60-page book on a satin pillow, but in 2007, they managed to scare up a nice, HD transfer and the director's involvement in the extras department. You really can't complain about any release that at least makes it that far. But... you can replace it.  And now that Scream Factory has released this as a UHD/ BD combo with a new 4k restoration and all new special features, that's just what I'm doing.
1) Hen's Tooth DVD; 2) ITV BD; 3) SF BD; 4) SF UHD.

I mentioned that the old DVD was non-anamorphic, so I left the black around it in the first shot to show how that looks on a widescreen TV. To be fair, though, the Hen's Tooth transfer wasn't too bad for an older DVD apart from that. At least it's widescreen. And in fact, the framing is pretty close: 1.73:1 compared to ITV's 1.78:1. It's missing a little picture on three sides: top, bottom and left, with a little extra on the right. Hen's Tooth DVD is also much more yellow, with ITV leaning red.  But now we've got Scream Factory presenting us a fresh 4k scan of the original camera negative, matted down to 1.85:1, so everything that came before is obsolete.  The colors are just slightly warmer and deeper, with fine detail and grain rendered clearly (especially on the UHD), where it was splotchy and inconsistent on the old ITV.

ITV's blu-ray's audio isn't quite lossless either, unfortunately; but it's still an okay 2.0 mix, actually pretty similar to the US DVD. And ITV got the edge for including optional English HoH subtitles. But now Scream Factory is here, finally giving us the 2.0 in lossless DTS-HD, while still providing the subs.
Hen's Tooth DVD was basically extras-less, but they did at least manage to include two trailers (one of which is rather long, and must've been some kind of special one made for promoters or something) and a little photo gallery. The bare minimum at least. But ITV came to play, with an audio commentary by Neil Jordan himself. It's quite informative and engaging, and covers pretty much everything you'd hope he'd address. I was slightly disappointed to see they didn't include the trailer, but stood up against the commentary, who cares?

Not that we have to choose anymore anyway.  I was relieved to see SF have retained Jordan's commentary, plus the trailer and gallery, too.  And they've cooked up some more goodies.  Second is an all new, quite excellent audio commentary with producer Chris Brown, sculptor Dick Budden, Angela Carter's biographer and co-stars Micha Bergese & Kathryn Pogson.  The moderator also reads excerpts from some print interviews with art director Anton Furst.  It's more than a little patched together, with uneven volume levels and a few lines that were presumably meant to be cut out but forgotten; but I'd rather have a consistently engaging heavily edited piece than a dragging free-for-all any day.  We also get a short but engaging on-camera interview with actress Georgia Slowe, and a fuller, audio-only interview with composer George Fenton.  There's a TV spot, too; and Scream's release comes with a slipcover and reversible artwork, plus a rolled 18"x24" poster if you pre-ordered it direct from Shout.
The Company of Wolves is a surprisingly great little werewolf film that's been a bit neglected.  But no more.  ITV's blu-ray was a nice little stop-gap, but now there's only one release that belongs in your collection, and it's Scream Factory's.

The Ultimate Black Christmas Has Arrived

The original Black Christmas is a pretty great Christmas horror classic. In fact, while Silent Night, Deadly Night may be the most popular of them, and Gremlins the most mainstream; I think I'd say Black Christmas is the quintessential Christmas horror flick. A smart, quality, built-to-last holiday scare that's had a long-lasting effect on the genre. Yes, this is the original "we've traced the calls; they're coming from inside the house" movie (When a Stranger Calls ripped it off from here).  And it's an amusingly dark coincidence that it's directed by the same man - Bob Clark - who made one of the world's most beloved family-friendly holiday films shortly after, A Christmas Story. So, I guess it's not surprising, then, that there are a whole bunch of Black Christmas releases out there. Like a lot.

Update 11/24/16 - 1/10/17: Replacement program is now on!  😀

Update:12/25/22: The road might've been a little rocky, but it's smooth sailing now.  Scream Factory is back with a new 4k restoration on UHD and Blu.  And once again, the biggest part of the news is the audio.
First hearing about it, Black Christmas probably sounds like a pretty generic slasher film: a mysterious killer comes out at night to stalk and stab girls living in a sorority house. But two facts should set it apart pretty quick. One, this film is from 1974, and so predating the slasher as an established genre by a good number of years (Scream Factory are releasing two important slasher precursors this winter; this and The House That Screamed), so it's not compelled to follow any of its formulas, and any slasher-like ideas it has are all fresher here. And more importantly, two, this film is smartly written, as well as being well directed and performed, which is what every film needs to be in order to rise above its contemporaries. There's nothing wrong with being a slasher, or a western, rom-com, sex farce, or any other typically dismissed genre of film so long as you've got a demonstrably good film. And that's Black Christmas: a well-crafted mystery with a strong cast including Olivia Hussey, John Saxon, Margot Kidder, 2001's Keir Dullea, Doug McGrath, SCTV's Andrea Martin, Art Hindle and a not very famous but definitely memorable Marian Waldman as the house mother.
So, like I said, there are a whole bunch of Black Christmas discs.  It first came out as a 25th Anniversary edition DVD from Critical Mass.  It was fullscreen and only had an interview with John Saxon, and that was it.  So there was room to grow.  Critical Mass's second go, the 2002 Collector's Edition DVD from Canada, was widescreen and had a bunch of great extras.  Unfortunately it was non-anamorphic and looked pretty grubby; but it became a sought after collectors' item for a long time anyway, after it went OOP with a bunch of great exclusive extras, including a commentary by Bob Clark.  In 2006, Critical Mass released it in the US with their Special Edition, which was anamorphic widescreen and had a bunch of all new extras, but none of the old ones.  In 2008 Critical Mass brought their special edition to blu-ray from Somerville House, but it caught a lot of flack.  Some other labels have released it on blu in other regions - including Cinema Cult in Australia, Happinet in Japan, Anchor Bay in Canada and Capelight in Germany - but they're all taken from the same master.
So for all the Black Christmas releases we'd already gotten, fans kept asking for a new one.  And in 2016 Scream Factory raised their collective hand to accept the challenge.  Could they finally deliver the Black Christmas blu-ray the people had been clamoring for?  Well, being warned by Scream Factory to manage our expectations in their spec announcements didn't exactly fill one with confidence.  But they'd done a whole new 2k scan of the negative, plus included Critical Mass's older master with no DNR or other effects on the second disc.  And... it did look better (more on that below, of course).  But now, just in time for Christmas '22, they're taking another stab at it, this time with an all new 4k scan of the original camera negative, and not just on another BD (although, yes, there is a new 1080p BD with the fresh 4k scan) but on proper 4k UHD with Dolby Vision.
1) CM 2001 DVD; 2) CM 2002 DVD; 3) CM 2006 DVD; 4) CM 2008 BD;
5) SF 2016 BD 2; 6) SF 2016 BD 1; 7) SF 2022 BD 1; 8) SF 2022 UHD.
Hoo-boy, there's a lot to go through here! Let's just start at the beginning.  The original US DVD wasn't so bad for 2001.  It was fullscreen, but at least it was open matte.  I mean, it's not that good.  It's soft and interlaced; but in 2001, they would've just about gotten away with fans only asking for OAR.  And in 2002, they gave that a shot with a slightly widescreen 1.63:1, but it's non-anamorphic, still interlaced and managing to look debatably worse than the previous edition.  The 2006 DVD brings us to our most common transfer, 1.78:1 and looking alright for DVD except that it's interlaced, too.  The 2008 blu, then, brings that transfer to HD, and thankfully corrects the interlacing problem; but it didn't blow up too pretty.  Apparently, the negatives are damaged.  It was an upgrade from the DVD, but nobody was really impressed.  And as I said, all the other blus used the same transfer.  The Capelight blu from Germany, not pictured here, made a slight adjustment, starting from an identical transfer, but then slightly cropping the image on all four sides in order to fix some juddering the other blus had.  Whether the loss of visual information for the steadier image was a worthwhile trade-off is entirely subjective; but Scream Factory newer editions meant we didn't have to think about any of these past editions anymore anyway.

So let's talk SF.  The CM-sourced transfer on disc 2 (and it's still here on disc 3 in the '22 edition, if you still want it for whatever reason) is 1.78:1 and looks pretty flat, color-wise, like the previous editions.  The new 2k scan is more colorful and matted to 1.85:1.  Grain looks more natural than it did on any previous release, and as you can see in the first set of shots, they cleaned up some flecks and noise.  This was no great revelation, and not very far removed from what we've had all along, but it was the best to date.  But now we've got a proper 4k scan, and it's better still.  Grain is better resolved, at least on the UHD.  It's also a genuinely darker image.  And I don't just mean how UHDs with HDR are naturally darker because they expect your set to display it brighter - even the 1080p blu is darker.  I could see a case being made for preferring either the 2016 or 2022 color timings, but I think the brights feel a little over-exposed on the '16, and the '22 feels more natural, especially on the UHD, where the Christmas colors also look more dynamic.
A more important reason to upgrade at this point is probably the audio.  Many of the other blu-rays have only included a 5.1 mix that makes a lot of changes, replacing one sound effect with another, and even misses segments of score.  I picked one scene at random (when the house mother discovers the body upstairs), just to see if I'd "land" on a noticeable difference and yes immediately, the music sting was very different.  They do still have that 5.1 mix if you want it, though; and they've got a third track - a stereo mix with the newer sounds from the 5.1 - to boot.  Critical Mass's 2002 DVD and 2008 BD also included a French dub, while Scream Factory provided English subtitles, which the Anchor Bay blu has as well, but none of the other editions covered on this page bothered to do.

Unfortunately, that mono track had some unfortunate distortion, breaking up on the "s" sounds in much of the dialogue.  Some scenes aren't too bad and just feel a little rough; but at other points it's very noticeable and downright unpleasant.  It was all the more frustrating since the lossy 2008 blu and older DVDs don't sound nearly as bad.  Seeing as how the mono is the strongly preferred way to view this film (i.e. without all the crazy changes), it was a substantial selling point for Scream Factory's first edition over the blus from every other region, and so replacement discs were soon issued.
As you can see in the photo above, the corrected disc looks virtually identical to the initial pressing, but has a "-V2" at the end of the catalog number along the outer edge to distinguish it. The corrected audio track is a DTS-HD with the mono in 2.0, not a lossy version like the old blu-ray.  You can still hear hints of the audio cracks in this version, for example around 7:40 and 9:20 the loudest vocal peaks and hard S's still scratch a bit, but it was a vast improvement over the distortion heard on the original disc, and a very necessary improvement from Shout.

But in 2022, SF has been working hard on that audio, so we can put all this replacement business behind us.  The original film elements are as missing as they ever were (apparently, SF have had to use the audio from a 35mm print), but extensive work has been done to clear up the audio, and it sounds remarkably better now.  Yes, even better than the replacement disc.  They've also done a lot of work to restore original sound effects to the 5.1 mix.  It's still revisionist, but it's a lot closer to the original intent, bringing the 5.1 at least closer to being a viable alternative.  But it's really all about this latest restoration of the mono.
And this doesn't even count the three and a half audio commentaries on disc 1!
And jeez, I could write an entire set of encyclopedias on all the Black Christmas special features.  So I'll try to just cover everything in brief.  First of all, the 2016 release comes in a slipcover, features reversible art and if you pre-order direct from Shout, ships with an 18" x 24" poster[right].  But the important stuff is on the discs themselves.  Now, like I said, the Canadian blu used to be hard to get because it had a bunch of exclusive extras, but they've almost all been ported over to Scream's blu.  So it has all the stuff from Critical Mass's blu-ray, and all the new extras Anchor Bay created for their "Seasons Grievings" blu.  That's a lot of frickin' stuff!  And, naturally, they've come up with a few new, original features, too.  Here, let me break it all down:
  • Audio commentary with Bob Clark from the Canadian DVD
  • Audio commentary with John Saxon and Keir Dullea from the US blu
  • Audio commentary with Nick Mancuso in character as Billy from the Anchor Bay blu (honestly, you can give this one a miss)
  • Audio interview with Bob Clark from the US blu (phone interview which only plays over the first half of the movie)
  • Black Christmas Legacy - documentary from the Anchor Bay blu (featuring lots of critics)
  • 40th Anniversary Panel At Fan Expo 2014 - from the Anchor Bay blu
  • On Screen! - featurette from an old Australian DVD put out by Road Show
  • 12 Days Of Black Christmas - featurette from the US blu
  • Black Christmas Revisited - featurette from the Canadian DVD and US blu where they visit the location
  • On-camera interviews with Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder - from the US blu
  • On-camera interview with Bob Clark - from the Canadian DVD
  • On-camera interview with John Saxon - the only extra from the 25th Anniversary DVD (and carried over to the Canadian DVD); only 3 minutes long
  • Midnight Screening Q&A With Bob Clark, John Saxon and Carl Zittrer - from the US blu
  • On-camera interview with Art Hindle - all new!
  • On-camera interview with Lynne Griffin - all new!
  • Scenes with alternate sound effects (i.e. most changed in the 5.1 mix) - from multiple releases
  • Alternate credits - from multiple releases
  • Trailers
  • TV & radio spots
  • Photo gallery
And yes, the new 2022 has all of that, too.  In fact, disc 3 of the '22 set is an exact copy of disc 2 in the '16 set.  But the new disc 2 also comes with one more, new extra: a roughly 10 minute featurette exploring the newly restored audio tracks.  It's a nice bonus, both giving less informed viewers the chance to appreciate what Scream has done for this release, and fun in letting us hear choice examples of the original and altered sounds.  There's also a new photo gallery of vintage Black Christmas newspaper ads.  This new release comes in a slipcover, and if you pre-ordered direct from Shout, came with an exclusive 18"x24" rolled poster.  Furthermore, if you're feeling wealthy, you can spring for their limited (to 500 copies) version, with everything already mentioned, including the poster, plus an exclusive set of 5 enamel pins.
...So that leaves nothing exclusive on any other blu-ray release.  Everything from the original Critical Mass blu and the Seasons Grievings blu?  All here.  Almost all of the content from the old DVDs is here, too, but there are couple of exceptions.  The Canadian DVD had an episode of a television series called Dark Dreamers that focused on an interview with John Saxon, where he talks about his whole career.  That was not ported over, though you'll notice the Scream blu has a lot of Saxon's input in the other features.  There was also a UK DVD from Tartan that had an 8-minute featurette called And All Through the House, which toured the original shooting location and is not on here.  So if you've got either of those DVDs, you might want to keep them.  But honestly, the amount of special features included in Shout's collection is so vast and comprehensive, it'll be a feat just to watch everything they've got.  You won't need more.  They also tour the original shooting location on the Scream disc.  I mean, the Dark Dreamers thing is kinda cool if you're interested in the rest of Saxon's career outside of Black Christmas, but for this movie, I can't really imagine wanting any more material than everything here.  It's overkill, and I love it.
So throw out your Critical Mass blu-rays.  Even if you prefer that older transfer, Scream's included it, too.  Throw out your Anchor Bay blu-rays; all their new content has been ported over along with everyone else's content and all new stuff.  Throw away most of your old DVDs, and really, don't bother tracking down those last couple featurettes unless you're just collecting for collecting's sake.  And now, you can throw out your old Scream set, too.  Because their '22 release is easily the definitive edition, with the best picture, sound and even the most extras.

Flying The Wings Of the Dove Home

Wasn't The Wings Of the Dove a rather successful and highly critically regarded feature with, like, four Oscar noms and a bunch of BAFTAs?  How is it still only available as an ancient non-anamorphic Miramax DVD and a Lions Gate DV-R here in its home country?  ::flips the DVD over and looks at the Miramax logo::  Oh, yeah.  I guess it wouldn't really work as part of a 4-pack with Prophecy 4-5 and Hellraiser 8.  I suppose we'll have to import.  It's available in a couple regions; I went with Japan.
The Wings Of a Dove is a surprisingly potent Henry James adaptation from the late 90s.  I say surprising only because of the period and, well, look at the director's filmography.  On the one hand, it's beautifully shot, with elegant locations and costuming.  But it's also so much more deeper and more humane than just a frilly costume drama.  The cast is spot on, with stars Helena Bonham Carter, Charlotte Rampling, Ordinary People's Elizabeth McGovern and the great Michael Gambon.  They took a big chance casting the relatively unknown Linus Roache as the male lead, but he completely lives up to his role.  Every element succeeds, from the music to the editing, to putting James up on the screen the way he should be.
1998 US Miramax DVD top; 2012 JP Warner Bros BD bottom.
So, sure, this isn't some fancy 4k restoration, but Warner's disc is a strong boost to HD for an older BD.  Of course, it helps that it's being compared to a lower res, non-anamorphic DVD, but still.  Just look at that close-up; what a difference.  This is a fully respectable image from a major studio, and one a film this lavish deserves.  The aspect ratio has been corrected from 2.29:1 to 2.35:1 (although the DVD actually retains a bit more image around the edges), and the colors/ contrast have been corrected to be less stark.  So this isn't just the same old master given the proper BD treatment.  It's a not a brand new transfer, given this BD is a decade old now, but it's newer than the DVD's, making this a very satisfying upgrade.

Both discs present the film in 5.1, which is lossless on the BD's DTS-HD.  Only the US DVD includes optional English subtitles, though, if you need those.  Warner Bros' naturally includes a Japanese dub (2.0 DTS-HD) and completely optional Japanese subtitles.
At least Miramax's DVD isn't completely barebones.  It has a decent but clip-heavy 17-minute featurette, which starts off as your typical EPK piece including a bit of B-roll and interviews with the director, producer David Parfitt and stars Carter, Roache, Rampling & Alison Elliot.  But then it opens things up, bringing in Mark Rance from Criterion (even though, no, even on laserdisc, this film was never in the Criterion Collection) and English Professors from Princeton, Colorado and UCLA to address the James stuff.  Even Peter Bogdanovich pops up at the end ...I guess because he did Daisy Miller.  So you can see it gets deeper than your standard promo piece, but it's no full-on documentary or anything.  Anyway, there's that and the theatrical trailer.  And no, the blu-ray hasn't come up with any new special features, it has at least hung onto the featurette and the trailer.  Though, as you can see, they've burnt Japanese subtitles onto both.
We shouldn't have to update this title, but we really do.  The blu-ray really transforms this film from its old DVD transfer.  Thankfully, it's a major studio handling it, so they've done it right (dual-layered, properly lossless audio, retaining the extras).  The Wings Of the Dove really should look beautiful, and it does if you're willing to put in the effort for it.