Terry Gilliam Week Day #3: Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life

In between Time Bandits and Brazil, Monty Python made their third (or fourth, if you count And Now For Something Completely Different) and final feature film, 1983's The Meaning of LifeTerry Gilliam did not co-direct this one, leaving that all to Terry Jones, except he directed the short film that takes place before the feature itself (and later invades it).  He also did the few, brief (I dare say perfunctory) animated sequences, gets a writing credit alongside all the other Pythons and plays several roles throughout.
Unlike their previous films, The Meaning Of Life is a sketch film.  Admittedly, their other features are essentially a series of sketches strung together along a fairly thin plot, and this one does have a running theme that unifies these skits more than your average episode of Flying Circus, but there's still less of a through-line here.  This quality is something the troupe themselves frequently point to for its lesser critical and box office reception.  But I daresay it's some of their strongest and most consistent sketch work in their catalog.  Sure, some moments still lay flat; but there's a stronger hit to miss ratio here than in any other sketch show I could name.  And as Run, Ronnie, Run taught us: sometimes sketch comedy is better left as sketch comedy.
The Crimson Permanent Assurance (Gilliam's aforementioned short) encapsulates everything that's right and wrong with Gilliam's filmography.  It's clever and looks beautiful.  And it goes on for way too long.  The novelty of its premise is over in like 90 seconds, but it's committed to following through on an entire beginning, middle and end of the story of its nameless characters who you never come to care about.  It was nominated for a BAFTA, though (yes, the short on its own), so he's clearly doing a lot right.  The production values are impressive - it's no surprise Gilliam made Brazil after this.  But two big battle scenes is one too many; the joke's already been told.  Although ending it with a silly Eric Idle song is a cheerful way to tie it into the rest of the feature.
It doesn't help that the concept of a scene is repeatedly "can you believe we're going this far for one tiny joke?"  There's the waiter who we follow all the way from his restaurant to his family cottage (the deleted scenes show there was an even longer version!), the "Every Sperm Is Sacred" song, which is brilliant for one verse, but after that is just committed to blowing out the spectacle with bigger and bigger crowds or the surreal but meaningless "where did that little fish go" sequence.  That's a problem with joke songs in general, which tend to tell the joke in the first verse but are committed to two more verses and three more choruses before they can move on.  And there are a lot of songs in here - you could honestly classify this as a musical.  But the gags and the performances that work are real "Greatest Hits" material, and the way it follows humanity from life to death (and beyond) and throughout the ages does make it feel its imparting something of substance, even if it's probably not really.
Universal first released Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life on DVD through Image Entertainment back in 1997.  It was widescreen but non-anamorphic and completely barebones.  They didn't dip into the good stuff until 2003, when we got the "Two-Disc Special Edition" which was now anamorphically enhanced and packed with extras, both excellent and ridiculous.  There were a couple basic reissues after that, like a Universal 100th Anniversary edition, which was basically just the first disc from the 2003 set, and a 3-disc "Iconic Comedy" set that packaged it with American Pie and The Big Lebowski.  And if you think that's cheesy, there was a 2-disc set in the UK that paired it with the Alicia Silverstone comedy Scorched.
Have you ever wondered what quality content lay within one of these?
Eventually, 2013 brought us the 30th Anniversary blu-ray, which finally delivered the film in HD with all the trimmings including a new Python reunion.  And that's been reissued on blu a couple times, too.  You can see, I picked up the tacky "1980s: Best Of the Decade" edition, which is the exact same disc but sold in that goofy gatefold slipcover, because it was actually cheaper to get it with that ugly cover than without (it's the same basic artwork underneath).  And that's been the definitive edition until last year, when Sony remastered it in 4k and put it out on UHD.  This film wasn't desperately in need of a remaster like The Life of Brian is, but this is still good news.
1) 2003 DVD; 2) 2014 BD; 3) 2022 BD; 4) 2022 UHD.
The 2022 BD included with the UHD is an exact copy of the 2013 BD.  They didn't even put new labels on it; it still says "2013" right on the front.  But I took screenshots just to confirm for myself, so I added them up above just for the sake of being excessively thorough.  Anyway, the film is consistently presented in 1.85:1 across all three generations, but the BD and UHD unveil a little extra picture along all four sides than the DVD.  There are no problems on any of these with interlacing, DNR or any of the other little gremlins that tend to show their heads on digital video discs.  The DVD is predictably softer, with grain and fine detail smudging out a bit, but captured about as well as you could expect for SD.  And the BD sharpens all of that right up, giving it a very clear and naturally filmic look with a strong grain structure.  Ah, but wait!  There is one little gremlin scampering around... the BD has distinct signs of edge enhancement, creating unnatural halos and glows around people and objects.  Thankfully, the UHD fixes this.  The HDR colors, naturally a shade darker here as all HDR images should be, look at once more authentic and vivid without feeling overdone.  Again, this isn't a transfer I felt needed an upgrade, but we got a good one anyway.

The 2003 DVD gives us a 5.1 remix, plus a French mono dub, with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.  The blu-ray is more or less the same, except it bumps the 5.1 to DTS-HD (yes, the French track is lossy).  The UHD replaces the 5.1 with a new DTS:X mix (plus a million foreign dub and sub options I'm not going to bother listing out).  You know what would've been nice?  The original stereo mix, which was on the original 1997 DVD.  But these remixes don't sound like they're going too crazy.
The extras, starting with the 2003 set (Image's DVD didn't even have the trailer; and worst of all, it came in a snapper case) can be cleanly divided into two categories: Quality and Novelty.  Fortunately, there's plenty of the former.  Gilliam and Jones provided an audio commentary, recorded separately but edited together into one reasonably interesting track.  That's a real value adding special feature you'd follow under Quality.  Then there's another track called "the soundtrack for the lonely," where Michael Palin laughs at the jokes and makes mild small talk comments to make ostensibly make you feel like you're watching the movie with someone.  That's a silly gimmick that's amusing to read on the back cover, but nothing you'd want to sit and listen all the way through for two hours, ergo Novelty.
One thing the special edition DVD has that none of the later, HD discs offer, was the option to watch an extended cut with three deleted sequences reinstated into the film.  They all include the sequences in their deleted scenes, but only the DVD has option to watch it as a longer cut.  I'd say the theatrical cut is the superior film, and I suspect Sony and the Pythons agree, which is why it was subsequently dropped.  But it's a shame, too, because in the deleted scenes, they have forced audio commentary.  So if you want to watch the Martin Luther sequence, for example, and actually hear what the characters are saying, you can only do it on the DVD.  Still, the deleted scenes are a great Quality addition on all the releases.

Other quality stuff includes a roughly 50-minute retrospective featurette, the trailers (be sure to watch the one where the Pythons attempt to sell us the film via telepathy) and some alternate versions of the songs from the films, sung by Idle and Jones.  There's also a nice little featurette on the dance numbers with Jones, the choreographer and one of the original dancers.  Then there's a bunch of novelty nonsense, where the Pythons improve thoughts of fish over footage of a fish tank or a fake restoration featurette where they try to clean the film with soap, and several more, short fake featurettes.  They're all mildly amusing, but require more patience than they're really worth.  That fish tank thing lasts almost twenty minutes - has anyone ever actually watched it all the way to the end?
Anyway, apart from removing the extended cut option, the extras remain the same on all the later editions, up to and including the UHD.  But the HD options do add the reunion, which is fun.  It's an hour-long, directionless chat with the Pythons in meeting up in a hotel room (and Idle calling in remotely via webcam).  They start out just repeating all the Meaning Of Life anecdotes from the other extras, but soon spiral off into a dozen random tangents, about how modern comedy is too PC to their sincere beliefs on life after death.  Fans will enjoy it, but it's nothing amazing; and it doesn't help that I feel like I've watched the Pythons do at least two dozen of these reunion chat panels since the 90s.  The UHD set also comes in a stylish slipcover.
There had been rumors that all of the Python rumors were getting 4k restorations, but somehow we ended up with just this one.  Well, this turned out quite well (though the original stereo mix and the deleted scenes sans commentary would've turned this positive review into a proper rave), so I'm glad.  If you're still deciding whether to double-dip your BD, I'd say definitely go for it.  For Python fans, I feel The Meaning Of Life is really underrated.  And for Gilliam fans, it's a treat to see him break out as a singular filmmaker.

Terry Gilliam Week Day #2: Brazil

For his next film, 1985's Brazil, Terry Gilliam targets his vision of fantasy a little more towards an adult audience.  This time, instead of Michael Palin (who does still co-star) helping out with the script writing, it's renowned playwright Tom Stoppard, best known for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.  It's a bleak dystopian vision of the future where bureaucracy is slightly more domineering than it is today.  It has real 1984 and Kafka vibes, married with Gilliam's penchant for cartoonish imagery.  Many of his Time Bandits cast return, including Ian Holm, Katherine Helmond, Jim Broadbent, Peter Vaughn, Simon Jones and, as we said, Michael Palin.  The big stars they did lose have been replaced by more stellar greats like Robert DeNiro, Bob Hoskins, Ian Richardson and our protagonist, Jonathan Pryce.
The romance that's meant to be driving this story is dead on arrival, the pacing drags and Gilliam's work tends to get stuck in the superficial.  As with Time Bandits, fans hoping for the consistent comedy of a Python film were left grasping.  Brazil doesn't manage to live up to the works it's trying to emulate, but it does at least manage to put a modern (at least for its time) twist on things.  And there's just too much clever stuff and vivid imagery in this movie to dismiss it.  Especially if you're watching the right cut.
A scene only in the director's cut.
"Right cut?"  Yes, there are essentially three versions of Brazil that keep getting released on home video.  There's the American theatrical cut, which is actually a slightly trimmed down version of Gilliam's original director's cut, which is what played theatrically in Europe.  And then there's a shorter TV cut, often referred to as the "Love Conquers All" cut, because it changes the ending and alters the meaning of the whole film.  Not that there's much exclusive content to speak of, but it is true that both shorter cuts do feature a few alternate takes/ lines of dialogue that are not in the original European version.  So there is something for die-hard fans to discover in these alternate versions, though the ideal release would probably just be the European cut along with the deleted/ alternate scenes as extras.
The history of Brazil on home video in the US is pretty easy to grasp.  You've just got its own studio first releasing simple, barebones editions, and then Criterion licensing it and releasing special editions.  So, we start with Universal's widescreen but non-anamorphic DVD of the European cut in 1998, which they described as "FULLY RESTORED With Bonus Footage."  In fact, you could follow this back further to the laserdiscs, where Universal first released the American cut in 1986, and then Criterion released as an impressive 5-disc set in 1996, which debuted Gilliam's director's cut here in the states along with the TV cut, plus heaps of extras.
And it's all of that great content that Criterion released on their still non-anamorphic 3-disc DVD set in 1999.  In 2006, they reissued the same set, but now properly enhanced for 16x9 display.  Then the pendulum swings back to Universal for Brazil's blu-ray debut, a barebones presentation of the American cut (a surprising decision, since even their own DVD had been the director's cut).  This was released in 2011, and just reissued last year.  But in between those, Criterion came out with their 2012 2-disc blu-ray edition, which included both cuts (DC and TV, not the theatrical) and everything else from their DVD set.
1) 1998 Universal DVD; 2) 1999 Criterion DVD; 3) 2012 Criterion BD.
I knew both DVDs had non-anamorphic widescreen transfers, but I was surprised to learn they were identical.  Well, the 1.81:1 was fine for its time, I suppose.  It's not interlaced, the color timing is strong with natural looking flesh tones and solid blacks.  But if you were expecting Criterion to come along and correct the aspect ratio to 1.85:1 for their blu-ray, nope.  Surprisingly, it's 1.78:1.  Universal's 2011 blu is 1.85:1, but not the Criterion.  It's "Terry Gilliam approved," so maybe that was his call?  It does still reveal more picture along all four sides compared to the DVDs, and it's a proper upgrade in many other aspects, of course.  Struck from a 35mm interpositive, it's no longer trapped in a 4:3 frame, it's boosted to HD, replacing compression noise with film grain, and it's highlights are a little more subtle.  They've also cleaned up the print damage (note the black stain above Kim Greist's rear-view mirror in the second set of shots), which wasn't terribly distracting on the DVD, but it's even nicer now that it's not there at all.
2012 Criterion BD.
Criterion's "About the Transfer" booklet doesn't even bother to address their "Love Conquers All" TV cut presentation.  It's full-screen at 1.31:1 and problematically interlaced, even on the blu.  The blacks are all grey and the print damage hasn't been cleaned up on this one.  The framing is largely open-matte, revealing a lot of excess vertical space, but it does lose a little on the sides, too.

All three discs present the director's cut with its original stereo mix and optional English subtitles, in DTS-HD on the blu.  Criterion does not provide subs for the TV cut, and the stereo audio is lossy even on the blu.
Now, no new extras have been produced for the film since the 1996 laserdisc.  So fortunately, they came up with a lot.  Universal's DVD just has the trailer, but Criterion's sets are pretty packed.  Firstly, there's an audio commentary by Gilliam, and a second commentary on the TV edit by expert David Morgan.  There's the original promo featurette, which runs a good half hour, and a collection of odds and ends called The Production Notebook, which is kind of a hold-over from how laserdiscs used to compile extras.  It contains a featurette on the screenwriting, a bunch of animated storyboards, and additional featurettes on the production design, special effects, score and costumes.  Probably the stand-out extra is an hour-long documentary called The Battle Of Brazil that covers the film's alternate cuts and struggles to get a proper home video release.  There's also the trailer and a booklet with notes by critic David Sterritt.  The DVD set had three amary cases in a slipbox and outer semi-transparent slip.
I keep expecting Arrow or someone (but mostly just Arrow) to come around with a fancy new 2k, or now 4k, restoration, with all new special features and, by this point, a UHD disc.  But it keeps not happening (20th Century Fox is the only label to have handled it in the UK), and this 2012 Criterion blu remains the definitive release.  So it's lucky for us that it holds up rather well.

Terry Gilliam Week Day #1: Time Bandits

It's been a long time since we've done a "Week" here at DVDExotica, and Terry Gilliam is one I've had planned since the earliest days.  Actually, if I'm being honest, I'm not a huge Gilliam fan.  I mean, I guess that's a fairly popular stance to take these days regarding his contemporary work.  I don't think cineastes are really bashing down the doors to get into screenings for The Brothers Grimm, Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.  Any who still are probably optimistically clinging to their memories of his early days, holding out hope for a return to form, like Argento fans.  And his latest effort, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, at least reclaimed some respectability, about on par with Dark Glasses.  Even Gilliam's more celebrated work, though, I could often take or leave.  But he's had a good run on home video, so I thought I'd spend the next few days looking at the ones I take.
So let's start with perhaps his most perfect work, 1981's Time Bandits.  The only thing I might hold against Time Bandits is that it's basically a children's film.  And there's nothing at all wrong with children's films; but being an adult, it kind of makes them a little too simple for me to really sink into and get much depth out of.  But Time Bandits is so demented, slightly twisted and delightfully busy on the surface, maybe that's all it needs.  Or maybe it just holds enough moments of treasured childhood memories that the nostalgia magic of the cowboys and the knights, the tank and the spaceship all coming together to fight the evil wizard in his Lego castle is enough to keep suckering me back in.  I might need a more objective younger person to weigh in.  But if I get a kick out of it as much as I do, there's surely enough of you out there who do, too.
Gilliam started out as a cartoonist, and for good or ill, he's pretty much remained one through every stage of his filmmaking career.  It's enabled him to add a million little details to his production design and come up with some memorable imagery of fantasy.  But it might limit him in other departments, which is why it's fortunate he's got such wonderful collaborators here.  Fellow Python Michael Palin co-wrote the script, and also takes a turn as a minor, recurring comic character.  And speaking of the cast, you've got some heavy hitters from Sean Connery to John Cleese, Ian Holm, Shelly Duvall, Jim Broadbent, Peter Vaughn, Ralph Richardson, Katherine Helmond (Who's the Boss) and the great David Warner as the arch villain.  Not to mention the bandits themselves are all terrific, and even the kid manages to hold his own surrounded by such talent.  After a certain point down that list, I think it becomes impossible to make a bad movie.  Is it not as funny as a Python movie?  Is the pacing a little uneven?  Well, so what?  Look at how much you do get!
Time Bandits came out on DVD twice in 1999 in the US alone: Anchor Bay's non-anamorphic barebones DVD, and Criterion's non-anamorphic DVD with a commentary. In 2004, Anchor Bay updated their disc to a Divimax special edition DVD, which is to say it's from an HD master and yes, anamorphic with new extras, albeit without the commentary.  It hit blu in the UK first, from Optimum, in 2009, but we got it here shortly after, in 2010, from Image.  But it got a fancy, updated 2k restoration from Arrow in 2013, with a whole bunch of additional extras.  And finally, Criterion imported that 2k to the US in 2014, with a completely different set of extras, including their original commentary.
1) AB 1999 DVD; 2) AB 2004 DVD; 3) 2010 Image BD;
4) 2013 Arrow BD; 5) 2014 Criterion DVD.

So I did that thing again where I leave the negative space around the first set of shots to demonstrate the shifting aspect ratios over the years.  It also illustrates the smaller image of AB's early non-anamorphic image, which is necessarily lower res than its later reissue.  It's also cropped surprisingly tight to 1.81:1, with less picture around the sides than any of the other releases in this comparison.  Their 2004 disc only shifts ratio ever so slightly to a marginally windowboxed 1.82:1, but pulls out to reveal more and brightens the image significantly.  And despite still being SD, it's a lot clearer with stronger color separation and detail.  Then Image comes along, and despite boosting it to a genuinely HD blu-ray, manages to make things worse.  It's left unmatted at 1.77:1, overcast with a red hue, and interlaced(!), which not even the 1999 DVD was.  Any hint of grain has been smoothed away.

Finally, Arrow comes along with its new 2k restoration from the OCN (we don't know what all the previous editions were taken from, but Criterion's 1999 DVD says it's from the 35mm interpositive).  Of course, it's no longer 1080i, and bumped up to a dual layered disc.  It's still not exactly 1.85:1, but it's the closest we've come, matted to 1.83:1, with roughly the same vertical information as the Image but with more revealed along the sides.  The colors are corrected, and we've finally got a natural, filmic look.  Criterion just uses the same Gilliam-approved restoration Arrow debuted, and I only got the DVD for the extras, so I can't really judge their encode.  But to their credit, they did tweak the framing to actually be 1.85:1.

Originally, Anchor Bay just offered us the Dolby Digital stereo mix, but in 2004 they also added a 5.1 remix.  Neither had subtitles, which is one thing the old Criterion DVD could at least take credit for.  Image's blu doesn't even have subs, though it throws in a French dub.  It also has both English mixes, but only the 5.1 is lossless.  Jeez, what a crummy disc.  Arrow finally gives us both tracks in lossless DTS-HD and LPCM with English subtitles, and Criterion is the same (though their DVD is lossy, of course), except it drops the 5.1, which is fine by me.
Extras for Time Bandits are interesting, because they're always different. The old AB DVD is barebones, apart from the trailer (which is pretty unusual, so don't skip it), but their 2004 DVD has some nice stuff.  There's a new on-camera interview with Gilliam and Palin, which is both informative and amusing.  The trailer's back, and they include the 2000 documentary/ episode of The Directors on Gilliam.  Admittedly, those tend to be available elsewhere (if nothing else, they were all sold separately), but they're still pretty great hour-long overviews that score a lot of big name interviews.  This one gets a bunch of the stars of Bandits, plus Brad Pitt, Amanda Plummer and more.

Surprisingly, Image's blu isn't barebones.  They actually have their own, all new on-camera interview with Terry Gilliam.  Well, not really "their own."  Optimum created for their release, and Image carried it over to the states.  But it's good and covers all the basics, though if you have any of the other special editions, you don't need it, because you can hear him saying all the same stuff on those.  They have the trailer, too.
Image's (of course interlaced) Gilliam interview.
Arrow has the best set of features, though.  They have their own, new interview with Gilliam, plus a solo one with Palin, and more great interviews with David Warner, effects artist Kent Houston, costume designer James Acheson, production designer Milly Burns, a second featurette with Burns showing us behind-the-scenes artwork from the film, a brief restoration featurette and the trailer.  The first pressing also included a booklet and all pressings have reversible cover art.

Criterion has the second best set, and it has nothing in common with Arrow's, Anchor Bay's or Image's (apart from the trailer... they all have that).  Most importantly, they have their old commentary, which actually debuts from their 1998 laserdisc, and is pretty great.  It's one of those spliced together mash-ups, mixing commentary by Gilliam, Palin, John Cleese, David Warner and the kid himself, Craig Warnock.  This is the only place Cleese and Warnock are heard from, and it's the only audio commentary at all, so it's pretty valuable.  They also have a their own featurette with Acheson and Burns called Creating the World of Time Bandits.  Nice, but less essential, are a short vintage television interview with Shelly Duvall and a very lengthy film festival Q&A with Gilliam.  There's also a stills gallery and a fold-out insert/ map of the universe with notes by critic David Sterritt.
So, as far as the film presentation itself, it's absolutely worth updating to one of the 2k releases from any previous edition you might own.  After that, the decision is all about the special features.  They're so diverse, I'd actually recommend both the Criterion and the Arrow together; though you can do like I did and save a few dollars by getting just the DVD of one them (they've both released DVD-only versions of their latest releases).  And serious fans might want to take it even further and pick up the Anchor Bay DVD, but only the most die-hard completists need to bother with the Image/ Optimum.

Brace Yourself For the Dentist 1 & 2

It's a great month for Brian Yuzna fans.  We just had a major new From Beyond upgrade from Vinegar Syndrome, and now we've got all new blu-rays of both Dentist movies from Vestron!  And heck, it was just over a month ago they gave us the blu-ray debuts of his Silent Night, Deadly Night movies, too.  Could this mean Progeny is just around the corner?  Now, these aren't technically The Dentists' HD debuts... there have been German mediabooks and dubious Spanish blus before this (and I wouldn't be surprised if they used the same masters), but The Dentist Collection 2-disc set presents their first official US releases, and Vestron has turned them into proper special editions with a bunch of first-class features.
I hadn't seen The Dentist since it debuted on HBO in 1996, and the sequel since I rented it from Blockbuster in '98.  I've never been super enthusiastic about them, but I remember Corbin Bersen being pretty great in the titular role, and the first film having an entertaining madcap vibe.  And it's a killer premise - who hasn't felt at least slightly terrorized by a trip to the dentist?  Still, I remembered them as largely perfunctory slashers, and I wouldn't have bothered with The Dentist Collection if it wasn't for the extras (if nothing else, the story behind the making of these movies should be interesting) and the great price Vestron sells these at (I got mine on release day for $11.99 at Best Buy).  But having revisited them, and in widescreen for the first time, I have to say I'm quite glad I did.
The original Dentist especially is not just a slasher; it isn't the lower budget Dr. Giggles with dental-specific puns I feared.  For one thing, it's based on a screenplay by Stuart Gordon and Dennis Paoli.  And instead of a bunch of generic partying teens running afoul of a serial killer, it's a real (demented) character study told from the perspective of a dentist obsessed with eradicating decay... from teeth, from his clothing, from his marriage.  Events pile up and eventually he's left trying to cover up a series of murders he's committed at his dental office, from his patients and staff alike.  It's even more madcap than I remember.  The supporting cast is packed with great character actors like Molly Hagan, Earl Boen and a young Mark Ruffalo.
Not that it doesn't have its flaws.  By the third act, it loses its motivation and stops building to a meaningful climax so much as just adds a random series of extra events.  And there's a whole subplot with Ken Foree as a police detective on Bersen's trail that only serves to pull you away from the drama and make you sit in an empty police procedural.  From the extras, we learn that most of these additions were done in a rewrite by another, and it makes me wish they'd stuck more closely to the original story.  I'm not saying all the changes are bad or that they were completely wrong in their assessment that the original script needed work (I've never read it, after all), but I think they've thrown out at least some of the baby with the bathwater.  Still, forgetting about what could have been and just accepting what we actually got: what we have here is a lot of fun and consistently rewarding little horror flick.
The Dentist 2, though, not so much.  Gordon and Paoli didn't have a hand in this one, and it shows.  It's still not a generic slasher - Yuzna and especially Bernsen bring a lot of great energy to the show.  It's nice that they follow the story of the original enough to bring back a second key character besides just Bersen's.  Clint Howard pops in for a good scene.  But this is basically just a generic thriller with the Dentist IP haphazardly poured on top of it, losing most of the magic of the first film to fit the mold of a hundred other DTV little pot boilers, winding up somewhere in between The Stepfather 2 and 3.  It's not a film I'd buy on its own, but it's great to get it in support of the original feature.
2023 Vestron BD.
In one of the audio commentaries, Yuzna mentions looking at this film in 4k, but I really don't believe that's what this is.  Both Dentist movies seem to be from old high def masters (which, after all, is frequently Vestron's MO).  But, still, for the two Dentist movies in a $12 double-feature, it's fine.  They look reasonably good - The first film is ever so slightly pillarboxed to 1.77:1, and the second is windowboxed to 1.90:1.  Both were shot on 35mm, but grain is merely hinted at, represented more by soft digital noise than actually captured grain.  But the image is clear and generally free of defects.  There's light print damage, mostly on the first film, but nothing distracting.

Both discs present the original 2.0 mix in lossless DTS-HD with English, HoH and Spanish subtitle options.
Before I get into the weeds of the features, let me just warn you that the extras on the first movie's disc spoil the Hell out of Part 2, so watch both movies first before coming back to the goodies.  Seriously, that was pretty careless, and I'm frankly a little disappointed in Mr. Felsher.  But that's really my only criticism, because it's all great stuff.  Both films feature audio commentaries by Yuzna and his effects supervisor who are very open about all the pros and cons of their experiences with these films.  Would you believe Chevy Chase and Bruce Campbell both came very close to landing the role of the dentist?  I'd love to see those movies, although I still wouldn't trade what Bersen gave us for them.

Bersen is also quite forthcoming in his on-camera interview.  He's a great sport and I'm glad Vestron was able to get him to come in for this.  We also get the effects team from the first film in a joint featurette, Dennis Paoli who I always love to hear from, Part 2's Jillian McWhirter and producer Pierre David.  They're all great interviews; don't skip any of 'em.  And we get two more of those composer/ isolated score tracks Vestron has consistently crafted, this time also with DoP Levie Isaacks and editor Chris Roth.  I'm happy to see these tracks branch out into more than just the music.  There are also stills galleries and trailers for each film, and the set comes in a glossy slipcover.
The Dentist Collection started out as something I just picked up because it was cheap.  But having watched it now, I'd recommend it at twice the price.  The first movie in particular is better than I expected/ remembered, and Vestron has done a lot to make this a really satisfying package.