The Definitive Tales From the Darkside

"Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality.  But there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit... a dark side."  So spoke the syndicated narration of the notorious horror series Tales From the Darkside every school night after I was supposed to be in bed.  Curiously, however, the words are never uttered in its subsequent, official feature film, 1990's Tales From the Darkside: The Movie.

Update 9/7/20 - 11/30/23: Three years feels a little fast for a double-dip of the same movie from the same movie, but what the heck?  Scream Factory has now updated Tales with to UHD with an all new scan, so let's see how it looks.
Like the show, this film is a horror anthology, very much in the vein of Creepshow.  That's because it's George Romero and co again, still working with Stephen King.  In fact, the Tales series was originally conceived as a Creepshow show, but they dropped the IP and comic book angle due to rights conflicts.  In fact, I'd say this is an even better unofficial follow-up than the proper Creepshow 2.  This time it's three stories, plus a wraparound (deflatingly titled "The Wraparound").  The writing, production values, style, music and cast are all on fire this time around.  The highlight is definitely Romero's adaptation of a King short story where Buster Pointdexter is surprisingly effective as a hitman hired to kill Darkside alum William Hickey's cat.  But the opener, a clever mummy story very much in the EC vein starring Christian Slater (who got his start in an episode of Tales), Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore, is almost as great.  The weakest link is a the last story, which tries and fails to invest you in a flat and very 80s love story, playing like Scorsese's New York Stories segment minus all the drama.  But even that one's got a super cool, life-size animatronic monster and a charming supporting appearance by Robert Klein.  This worst segment could be a lot of movies' best.
Tales From the Darkside: The Movie debuted on DVD from Paramount in 2001.  It's been reissued a few times over the years (there was the burning book cover in 2006 and a 3-disc triple feature with Graveyard Shift and April Fool's Day in 2007), but it's always been the same disc.  Which was actually pretty fine: anamorphic widescreen with an audio commentary by George Romero and director John Harrison.  But it's been calling out for an HD upgrade for a long time, and preferably a more substantial special edition to boot, and Scream Factory finally answered the call in the summer of 2020 with their new collector's edition - the film's long-awaited blu-ray debut.  And now, in 2023, they've already updated it to a new BD/ UHD combo pack with a fresh scan and everything, so even the two 1080p blus should be different.
1) 2001 US Paramount DVD; 2) 2020 US Scream Factory BD;
3) 2023 US Scream Factory BD; 4) 2023 US Scream Factory UHD.

Despite the many years between editions, this isn't that huge a leap in image quality.  Again, for 2001 standards (and despite it's ugly cover), Paramount's DVD was pretty alright.  It's anamorphic but not interlaced.  And Scream's new disc seems to be using an old master, presumably the same old master, so we're not getting any fresh 2 or 4k revelations here.  But that's not to say we haven't gained any ground.  Scream properly mattes the film to 1.85:1, which Paramount had lazily just left at 1.78:1 (or, 1.77:1 strictly speaking, due to a little pillar-boxing on the left-hand side in the overscan area), and the brights are pulled down just a smidgen, making the contrast appear a little more natural.  And we are still talking about the basic step from SD to HD, so compression noise is cleared up (you really see it around Julianne's hair!), edges are cleaner and grain is at least somewhat accounted for.  It's disappointing Scream didn't spring for a new transfer, but it's still definite progress.

Oh look!  Now they have sprung for a new transfer.  I can kinda see why they didn't bother in 2019, since that transfer doesn't look so different from what we have now in 4k.  Like we don't suddenly see a whole bunch of picture information we couldn't before, and the 1.85:1 composition is virtually identical (closely examine the bottom edge, and you'll see it's shifted very slightly).  But there's no denying this is an improvement.  Even when just comparing the two blu-rays, the new one really captures and renders all the grain, which was much spottier in 2019.  The colors look a little more natural, if muted, on the new blu, but they come to life on the UHD.  It's not exactly an explosion of saturation, but even subtle colors like the books on the shelf way behind Moore are more vivid now.  More obvious, though, is detail that had previously been washed out in the brights, like the lampshade in the first set of shots, has been recovered on the new 2023 transfer.

And here's another nice advantage with SF's new edition.  The DVD features a new 5.1 remix that makes a lot of changes to the regular mix (which Harrison made himself and is quite happy with).  So that's cool.  But unfortunately, Paramount forced the choice on us by eliminating the original theatrical stereo track.  But both of Scream's editions includes both, naturally bumping them up to lossless DTS-HD in the process.  All four discs also include optional English subtitles.
Again, Paramount's DVD wasn't completely unsatisfying in terms of special features either.  Besides your basic trailer and chapter insert, they provided an audio commentary with Romero and Harrison.  It starts a little slow, and at first you might be worried this is going to be one of those dry tracks with a lot of dead air.  But soon enough they get into it, become much more conversational, and the insights don't stop until the final credit.

Thankfully, Scream Factory has held onto that commentary (and the trailer).  But they've also come up with a whole bunch more.  The jewel in this crown is a new, feature length documentary from Red Shirt, that talks to pretty much all the major players in the crew (the director, producer, DP, set designer, all three KNB guys, the stunt man who played the monster and the stars of the final segment, James Remar & Rae Dawn Chong).  It's arbitrarily broken up into six segments with no "Play All" option, but that's a tiny nitpick of a thorough and absorbing exploration of this film's origins and production.  Also included is a new audio commentary with producer David R. Kappes, but perhaps should have been an on-camera interview rather than a commentary, since they rarely focus on what's happening on-screen.  Finally, there's a fun collection of behind-the-scenes footage captured by KNB on VHS, a couple stills galleries, radio spots, TV spots, reversible artwork and a slipcover.

Scream's 2023 hangs onto all of that and adds a new audio commentary by podcasters Emily Higgins and Billy Dunham, which I can't say I got much out of.  They mostly just point out all of the things they like, and they liked everything.  Even so, they managed to have consistent gaps of dead air in the back half of the film.  So no real value added there.  But this release does come in a much better slipcover using the classic artwork, so that's a plus.
But before I leave you, I'd also like to talk about the original Tales From the Darkside... the TV series, which ran from 1983-1988.  It was originally released on DVD by Paramount season by season from 2008-2010, eventually combined into a boxed set in 2010.  Paramount's since reissued the full series as a budget set in 2016, but apart from some funky casing (the disc trays don't actually connect to the outer shell, they just float inside it), it's the same 12 discs with the same extras, original disc labels and everything.

As you'd expect from an anthology series, it's uneven.  Some big name directors (Romero, Bob Balaban, Tom Savini) and writers (Stephen King, Clive Barker, Robert Bloch) touch some episodes, but not many others.  The show is surprisingly packed with stars... some stalwart character actors doing their normal runs though 80s television, some rising stars before they were famous, some industry friends, and some flashy "big gets."  The production values are consistently low, though.  Most episodes consist of two to four characters in a single, one-room set, and outside of a few showpiece episodes, even with the good ones, you can feel the crew was just pounding these episodes out at a breakneck pace.  Some episodes go for a scary, horror atmosphere, others are quite silly; you never know what you'll get week to week, ranging from a delightful surprise to something pretty rough and tedious.  Kareem Abdul Jamar could be playing a wacky genie or a young woman could be tormented by a small monster in Fritz Weaver's creepy boarding house.  In general this series wound up playing like a lower budget Twilight Zone than anything, with no particular genre but replete with the big twist endings.
2020 US Paramount/ CBS DVD.
Where to start?  Well, the show's meant to be fullscreen of course, though at 1.30:1, it's probably a smidgen too skinny.  The real problem is that these are clearly ancient masters.  They're problematically interlaced, though the non-interlaced frames are so noisy they barely look any better.  I've seen it suggested that you can't expect much better, since these episodes were shot on video, but there's plenty of print damage on hand to betray this series' filmic origins, so a restoration could do wonders.  If I had to guess, though, the shows were likely edited on tape, which means restoring the whole series would be a major endeavor, which would explain why we haven't been given anything new or improved since the old VHS days.  But as it is, the quality seems below CBS and Paramount's standards even for an old television show.

The audio's alright, though.  A fairly clean and easily listenable Dolby Digital mono track in 2.0.  There are no subtitle options, of course, but there are a few extras.
For starters, we get a George Romero commentary over the pilot.  It's good... during the portions of the show he speaks.  Romero's audio regularly starts and stops, as if the plan was for him to just comment over clips from the episode and make that a featurette.  That would make sense also because, in season two, there's a featurette just like that, where he comments over clips of another episode.  It makes for a bit of a frustrating listening experience, but it's still a treat to get to hear Romero reminisce about his show, even if the presentation is borked.  The season 2 one winds up only running five minutes, but at least it's a lot tighter.  The only other extra consists of two episodes of another anthology (no, not Monsters) made by the same team... an untitled series that never aired.  These episodes are pretty good, with slightly higher production values.  They're not better than the best episodes of TFtD, but they could play in the top 20% or so, and it's a nice treat to see them preserved here (in the same quality as Tales).
So there was no question that Scream's new UHD is now the definitive edition of The Movie, which is a real expectation-exceeding affair.  2020 to 2023 is a short time for a double-dip, but it was sort of asking for a new scan, so I can't say this wasn't welcome, especially since we're moving up to a higher gen release anyway.  And the new commentary didn't do much for me, but hey, more is still better than less.  As for the series, there's no difference between the new and old DVD sets, except that the new budget edition's price makes the show, despite its flaws in content and home video presentation, hard to resist.  Both are easy recommendations from me.  And remember... "The dark side is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us.  Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight."

Ultra High Deviancy: Zombie Holocaust

The rewards of 88 Films' indiegogo campaign have come in... the Zombie Holocaust 2k restoration is here! [Update: 3/6/16: Burial Ground has just arrived, too.] Everyone who supported should have their blus by now, and they're available commercially for the rest of the world. Now it's time to crack these suckers open and see what we've got!

Update 8/2/15 - 7/19/16:
There's a new Butcher in town! Severin has just released their 2-disc blu-ray set of Zombi Holocaust, including both versions of the film: the Italian original and the US Dr. Butcher M.D. version. They've also got a bunch of new special features. But how does this new blu compare to 88 Films' HD restoration from last year? Is it better, worse, or are they totally indistinguishable? Let's find out.

Update 11/29/23: Well, it's the Ultra HD age now, so it's time for a new Zombie Holocaust.  And Severin has released a new, whopping 4-disc BD/ UHD combo-pack.
Zombie Holocaust, of course, is the over-the-top 1980 Italian horror flick that had the crowd-pleasing idea to combine the infamous cannibal and zombie subgenres into one nutty film. It also features Donald O'Brien as a mad scientist, hence the American title Dr. Butcher, M.D. Like Umberto Lenzi's Eaten Alive, this one starts out with a little bloody mayhem in a New York City hospital compelling our investigative leads, including star Ian McCulloch, to venture off into the jungles of the East Indies. Only this time they don't just fall into the path of a lethal cannibal tribe, but zombies as well! It all comes to an exciting climax on the set of Lucio Fulci's Zombie, because this film has three tent poles: thrills, exploitation and saving money. I mean, you saw the movie's title, right? So it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect, and whether that's terrible or glorious is all up to you.
a scene only featured in the Dr. Butcher M.D. version
Now, amongst other things, Severin's sets introduces the alternate, US version of the film Dr. Butcher M.D. to the table, which I don't think had been released on home video since the original VHS tape (which I used to own, back in the days). But are these two cuts significantly unique that it's worth getting both versions - what's the difference between them? Well, primarily, Dr. Butcher features some new, introductory footage shot in the US by Roy Frumkes (director of Document of the Dead), originally intended for an unfinished anthology horror film called Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out. He intercuts that with footage from much later in the movie, to try to establish the whole "mad doctor is making zombies" story-line right from the very beginning. But even with all this extra footage, Dr. Butcher is almost ten minutes shorter, trimming a lot out. Dr. Butcher also has an entirely different all-synth score, although famously, you can still sometimes hear the original soundtrack playing underneath it. Finally, Dr. Butcher includes the scene where Alexandra Delli Colli falls into a pit, and Ian helps her out, which has long been included on discs of Zombi Holocaust as a deleted scene. Interestingly, Severin has also reinstated that scene into the original Zombi Holocaust version of the film.
the deleted pit scene
Shriek Show first released this on DVD in 2002, and they also released the first blu in 2011.  Then we got two competing restorations on blu-ray: 88 Films' 2015 release in the UK, followed quickly by Severin's 2016 release in the USA.  I wound up getting both.  So now in 2023, the film's been restored in 4k ("from original vault elements discovered in Manhattan and Rome," as Severin describes it on the back of their case) and again it was released first by 88 Films.  But this time I knew to be just a little patient and wait for the Severin release that quickly followed, which turned out to be a 2 UHD/ 2 BD combo-pack.  And one thing that distinguishes Severin's releases from the rest is that they include both the Dr. Butcher and Zombie Holocaust cuts, so get ready for a lot of comparison screenshots.
1) 2002 Shriek Show DVD; 2) 2015 88 Film BD; 3) 2016 Severin Dr. Butcher BD;
4) 2016 Severin ZH BD; 5) 2023 Severin
ZH BD; 6) 2023 Severin Dr. Butcher BD;
7) 2023 Severin
ZH UHD; 8) 2023 Severin Dr. Butcher UHD.

So I've included shots of the Dr. Butcher transfers, too, just to be thorough.  But they consistently match Severin's Zombie Holocaust counterpart.  Every transfer here is 1.85:1, except Shriek Show's DVD, which comes close at 1.84:1, and Severin's 2016 BD, which they opened up to 1.78:1 (they matted it back to 1.85 for their 2023 release).  They also adjust the framing slightly lower on their latest release.  The differences that stand out the most are Shriek Show's interlacing - and just generally being a softer SD presentation - and the fact that 88 Film's is a few shades brighter.  There's never exactly a wealth more detail, at least once we jump to HD.  But there's a solid jump in clarity and film grain rendering going from DVD to 88's blu.  And it's much more thorough, still, on the 4k scans, even when just comparing the 2016 BD to the 2023 BD.  On both the earlier blus, grain is there but inconsistent, while it's all captured perfectly on the 2023 release.

The biggest difference between the 2015 and 2016 blus is the color timing. Severin re-timed the levels completely in 2016, and I have to say, their version does look the most attractive and natural. Skies look blue instead of green, etc. You can also see Severin's copy has flecks and damage in spots that 88's doesn't, but it's all quite minor.  Those have all been cleaned up in 2023, anyway.  Comparing the two Severins, the colors come across a bit more faded on the BD, more authentic with slightly lower contrast.  But on the UHD with Dolby Vision enabled, everything's more robust, and the increased resolution keeps finer detail more lifelike.  Each stage from 88's BD to Severin's UHD is like another step forward.  Maybe not major leaps, but visible improvements each time.
Now, 88 did have one nice advantage over Shriek Show's DVD and blu-ray, in that both Shriek Show editions only feature the US dub and no subtitle options. 88 has both the English and Italian audio tracks (in DTS-HD 2.0) and English subtitles, so you can watch it either way.  Severin's 2016 blu, meanwhile, has the English DTS-HD 2.0 and Italian in LPCM 2.0 on the Zombie Holocaust cut, and DTS-HD and LPCM options for the English on the Dr. Butcher cut. But here's the thing: no subtitles on either version! That's right, Severin has no English subtitles when you play the Italian version of Zombie Holocaust, a baffling decision.

But thankfully, they've fixed that in 2023.  They've got the English mono in DTS-HD for Dr. Butcher, and both English and Italian mono tracks in DTS-HD on their Zombie Holocaust disc.  And critically, there are now also optional English subtitles for the English tracks on both cuts, and a second set of translated subs for the Italian audio (in other words, both sub and dubtitles) of Zombie Holocaust, making the Italian track a perfectly viable option for non-Italian viewers.
Now let's talk extras! 88 Film's only has a couple, but they're pretty major. First up is a feature length documentary on Italian cannibal films (also included on Grindhouse's recent Cannibal Ferox blu). And this isn't one of those things where they let one or two "cult film extras" pontificate for the entire time; this interviews the biggest cannibal directors: Ruggero Deodato, Umberto Lenzi and Sergio Martino. There are cannibal film stars like Robert Kerman, Antonio Climati, and the delightfully controversial Giovanni Radice. There's Zombie Holocaust's distributor Terry Levine, and there are modern filmmakers like Joe Dante, Frank Henenlotter, Luigi Cozzi and of course Eli Roth. And yeah, the experts are on hand, too; most notably including Kim Newman. This is definitely not the kind of "extra" one skips; they break down each major cannibal movie film by film (though personally I would've included Deodato's Cut & Run, too, even if technically none of the natives quite managed to take a bite out of anybody) and discuss all the signature elements of the genre.

Their other main extra is a Q&A with Ian McCulloch. That's kind of light for being the only Zombie Holocaust-specific feature on here, but it does run about 50 minutes, so it's pretty substantial. The other extras are the deleted scene that's been on past Zombie Holocaust editions, and the trailer. The booklet's pretty cool... even if you're the type to usually forgo reading the books, this one has an interview with McCulloch, so you might want to check that out - that is if there's anything left to be said after the 50 minute Q&A. Oh, and as you can see up top, 88 has also included some cool, reversible cover art.
Unfortunately 88 didn't or couldn't get Shriek Show's extras. Shriek Show (on both their DVD and blu) had some interesting coverage of the whole Doctor Butcher M.D. thing. They included that footage as an extra, as well as interviewing its director, Roy Frumkes. Plus, they had a Doctor Butcher trailer and Frumkes' personal photo gallery. Still, if you didn't grow up with the old Doctor Butcher VHS tapes like I did, that Frumkes stuff may be of less interest to you anyway. And apart from that stuff, the regular trailer and that deleted scene, Shriek Show just had the one notable extra: an interview with special effects expert Maurizio Trani. That was pretty good, though.  Oh, and they also had a neat fold-out insert with some fairly extensive notes.
Thankfully, Severin did get Shriek Show's extras, so you can finally let go of your copies of those. All of that's been ported over, and they've also added a whole ton more stuff. There is a lengthy, 31+ minute interview with Terry Levine, a featurette with Frumkes talking about 42nd St, an interview with the guy who drove a "Butcher Mobile" van around the city to promote the movie back in the day (this one's pretty fun!), an interview with Jim Markovic, the editor who recut the Dr. Butcher version, a gallery, plus several trailers. And that's just the first disc! Onto disc two, there's a new interview with Ian McCulloch. I think we might've finished mining the depths with him considering the mass amount of interviews we've seen of him on Italian horror DVDs, but it would be disappointing if he wasn't on here. There are also interviews with effects artist Rosario Pretopino, Enzo Castellari (son of director Mario Girolami), and actress Sherry Buchanan. There's also a short but fun featurette looking at the film's shooting locations (I'm a sucker for these), more trailers, and a clip of McCulloch singing a song for us. And in lieu of a typical insert or booklet, Severin includes a charming Dr. Butcher M.D. barf bag [right].
In 2023, Severin has kept almost all of the extras from their 2016 release.  We just technically lost the German trailer for Zombie Holocaust and the second video trailer for Dr. Butcher.  But we've gotten some substantial additions.  First there's a new set of interviews with two of the student filmmakers who were going to have segments in Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out.  Finally, we learn who "Snuff Maximus" was!  Then Michael Gingold gives us a tour of Italian horror NY locations.  You might be thinking: didn't they already have a brief featurette touring Zombie Holocaust's NY locations that you described one paragraph up?  Yes, but this is a substantial, over 45 minute trip through the NY locations of a whole bunch of Italian horror films, like The Gates of Hell and New York Ripper.  It's pretty great, though I suppose it might test your patience at points if you're not a fan of some of the Italian horror flicks he's covering.  Anyway, we also get an additional Dr. Butcher TV spot.  It comes in reversible artwork and an embossed slipcover and yes, the barf bag is back. 
I naively suggested that the 2015/ 2016 BD restorations would be "the best looking editions we're going to get." But home video releases of entered a whole new generation, and so yes, we've stepped even further forward this year with a higher resolution presentation and even more special features.  And before, Severin had one distinct weakness: no subtitles for their Italian audio, which put them behind 88 Films' release in at least one substantial department.  But they've fixed that, making their new set a clear winner.  If you're a super fan, you might still want to pick up 88's release for their exclusive extras, in order to have everything.  But Severin's new set covers all the bases pretty damn well.

Errol Morris's War Trilogy Finally Complete In HD

This isn't necessarily an "official trilogy" demarcated by director Errol Morris, but three of his more recent documentaries do make a pretty neat little, wartime-themed tried of films: 2003's The Fog of War, 2008's Standard Operating Procedure, and 2013's The Unknown Known.  Strictly speaking, they didn't all come out in a perfect row, with his curio Tabloid breaking up the run in 2010.  But never the less, these three films hang together pretty well, with Unknown Known playing like almost a sequel to Fog Of War and Donald Rumsfeld, the focus of Unknown Known, having cast such a looming shadow over the players of Standard Operating Procedure.  In fact, you could get even more pedantic about it if you wanted to, and instead of calling these Morris's war film trilogy, you could call them his United States Secretary of Defense trilogy.

Update 11/21/17 - 11/15/23: Sony has done it!  They've given us The Fog of War on blu-ray, making this entire trilogy now available in HD.
We begin with The Fog Of War, where we see Morris continue in the direction he'd started off with in Mr. Death and developed in First Person: basing an entire documentary around a single interview.  We see glimpses of archival footage, vintage photos and snippets of important audio recordings, but 99% of this film is just former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara talking to the camera - or, for those of us in the know, The Interrotron.  The Interrotron is Morris's unique invention that allows interviewees to look directly into the camera and look the interviewer (Morris) square in the eye at the same time.  It hides the camera directly behind and filming through a screen that projects Morris's face, who is being film by a second camera hidden behind a another screen of the interviewee's face.  I want one, and it allows for a unique style of filming interviews where the subject can feel completely natural in a fluid conversation while consistently looking into the camera.
But what's important here isn't the technology, but the humanity.  This is a fascinating look into the man who saw us through both the Cuban Missile Crisis and The Vietnam War.  McNamara is famous for having come from the world of business rather than the military, and had a bit of a reputation as being a number cruncher rather than a traditional strategist.  One thing this documentary does is use recordings that had just been released to challenge the long-standing historic theory that McNamara had pushed president Johnson to throw hard into the Vietnam conflict.  In fact, it seems he had been on the side of pulling out, but was unable to convince the administration.

So, you know, that's interesting I guess.  But I'm no history buff or politics junkie.  What makes a great documentary is the ability to fascinate audiences regardless of whether the viewer has a preexisting interest in the subject matter.  For instance, I've very into Hip-Hop music, and I've watched and enjoyed some pretty mediocre documentaries, just because they were giving me information I wanted to know and insight into artists I was a particular fan of.  But I wouldn't recommend them to a country/ western fan; they'd be crawling up the walls twenty minutes in.  But Morris is one of the great documentary makers who will rivet anyone.  From the Phillip Glass score, to the editing and just the masterful way Morris mines his interviewees, this is just a great film.  Hell, it won the Academy Award that year.
And that's what makes it all the more disappointing that The Fog of War has never been released in HD.  Sony Pictures Classics released it as a new release DVD in 2004, and it was issued in nearly identical editions in other regions all around the same time.  But that's been it.  No updated transfers, no Criterion commentaries, no blu-rays.  We've still just got the original DVDs.  Fortunately, at least, there's nothing wrong with those.  And now in 2023, they've updated it to a sleek new, blu-ray release.  Let's have a look.
Sony's 2004 DVD top; Sony's 2023 BD bottom.

Sony's DVD presents The Fog Of War in a nice, anamorphic 1.78:1, although things get a tiny bit fuzzy in the overscan edges.  There's no interlacing or other issues.  Sony's blu is also in 1.78:1 (despite saying 1.85:1 on the back of the case) but clears up the overscan edges.  The framing and everything is basically the same, except it fixes a little horizontal inch, resulting in a sliver extra picture along the top.  But the most pertinent fact, of course, is that it's in HD.  Small detail that was once covered in fuzz is now focused and lifelike.  Embedded in this page, the differences may seem slim; but click through to the full size caps and look at, for instance, McNamara's face in the first set of shots, and it's an impressive gain.  Naturally, some of the lower quality vintage footage, like in that last set of shots, doesn't benefit as much as Morris's crisp new footage, but even the old material is a smidgen clearer, thanks to the improved compression.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is nice and clear, with additional French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and English HoH subtitles.  The blu-ray bumps it up to lossless DTS-HD, adds a Spanish dub 2.0 mix, and drops the French, Japanese and Portuguese subtitles, but critically keeps the English ones (as well as the Spanish).
Sony's 2004 DVD top; Sony's 2023 BD bottom.
This isn't exactly a "special edition," but there is some good bonus stuff to be found on both discs, which have roughly the same extras.  Primarily, what we get are the deleted scenes.  But there's almost 40 minutes worth of deleted scenes; it's practically a sequel, though some of the additional anecdotes are a little underwhelming and you can see why they were cut.  But there's still some really good stuff there.  Unfortunately, the DVD's deleted scenes are non-anamorphic and heavily interlaced, as you can see above.  The BD's scenes are still non-anamorphic, but they fixed the interlacing (except in some of the archive footage), so that's a plus.  Also, The Fog Of War is structured in a way that break it up into 11 chapters, labeled as lessons.  Well, apparently that was all Morris's invention, and McNamara wants us to know those aren't his.  So he came up with his own ten life lessons, which is basically just a text-only extra, but McNamara does provide a very brief audio introduction.  And there's the trailer.  The DVD also threw in two TV spots, some bonus trailers and an insert advertising a companion book and teacher's guide for the film that the new blu doesn't bother with.
Next up is 2008's Standard Operating Procedure, Morris documentary on the infamous photographs of prisoner abuse from Abu Ghraib.  There were several documentaries out about the huge Abu Ghraib scandal around that time, including Alex Gibney's Taxi To the Dark Side and the HBO documentary Ghosts Of Abu Ghraib, which even interview a couple of the same people.  They're all good.  Certainly Taxi is very engaging and informative.  But none really cross the line to a higher art like SOPTaxi is a film you should definitely see, and Ghosts is a film worth checking out if you're interested enough in the subject matter.  But SOP is the only one that really belongs in the film lover's collection.
Now, if you've been following Morris, including his articles and books, you could probably guess that Morris is particularly interested in the photographs and what truths they show and which they obscure.  That, and it really winds up delving into the day to day reality of being in that environment and looking at the world outward from the lived experience of the "bad apples."  SOP does go there to some degree, but this isn't political expose about who knew what all the way up the chain.  That's addressed, and it's certainly shocking at the end when you see which photos were eventually deemed by the military as criminal and which were "standard operating procedure."  But SOP really seeks a deeper understanding of those moments in the photographs and to question what they tell us beyond our initial impressions.

For the record, this one isn't a single interview documentary.  It interviews many people, from the most infamous guards, their peers, those who were supposed to be in charge, and contractors who were also on-site.  Conflicting details are allowed to counterpoint each other.  The only conspicuously absent players are one of the key "bad apples" who was still in military prison, the detainees themselves (although Morris talks about how hard he tried to find them in the special features), and Donald Rumsfeld... which might hint at why we would later get The Unknown Known.  And on a more technical level, SOP features some amazing, ultra-high speed photography and an elegant score by Danny Elfman.
Like The Fog Of War, Sony Pictures Classics released Standard Operating Procedure as a new release in most regions around the world, and the film has never since been revisited on disc.  Fortunately, however, by 2009, blu-rays were a thing, so this time we got the film in HD.  In fact, this was the time when Sony was really trying to push blu-rays, so they wound up including a bunch of additional, exclusive material to the BD that they left off the DVD copies.  So if, like me, you weren't buying blu-rays yet in 2009, this is a serious one to consider going back for and double-dipping.
2009 Sony US DVD top; 2009 Sony US blu-ray bottom.
As a concurrent, dual release, naturally the DVD and blu-ray feature the same master.  The very wide 2.39:1 framing is identical, the brightness levels and colors are the same, etc.  And thankfully, neither is interlaced or otherwise troubled.  The difference between them is simply the fundamental difference between an SD and HD release.  But yes, that HD does make a difference.  Look at the full-size shots and you'll see the blu is noticeably sharper and clearer.  There's an inescapable softness when you get in close to the DVD, so you'll appreciate the blu on an large screen set.  There is so much extra footage packed onto the disc, and it's an early blu-ray release, so it was a little bit of a worry that the blu might be overly compressed and not much of an upgrade on the DVD.  But no, it's a very clean, genuine boost to high def.

Both releases feature the same audio options: a strong 5.1 mix, with French and Portuguese dubs also in 5.1.  The only difference being that the blu is able to deliver them in TrueHD.  Both discs also include a whole ton, but slightly different, subtitle options.  I'll bold the ones that are unique to each disc.  The DVD has English, English subs for the commentary, French, Portuguese, Portuguese subs for the commentary, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Thai, while the blu has English, English SDH, German, German subs for the commentary, French, Portuguese, Portuguese subs for the commentary, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Turkish.  I'm not sure if that's going to be of huge importance to anyone, but it's an interesting little detail.
The much more noteworthy distinctions lie in the special features.  The DVD isn't bad, it gives you some good stuff including another insightful commentary by Errol Morris and almost half an hour of deleted scenes.  They also throw in the trailer, a couple bonus trailers, and an annoying commercial for blu-rays on start-up.  The blu includes all of that (even the annoying commercial on start-up, unfortunately), but also has a whole lot more.  Besides the deleted scenes from the DVD, there is also almost two hours of "additional interviews," which basically just amount to a metric ton more deleted scenes.  A few scenes to repeat, but only a few minutes worth.  98% of it is all new material, including some very compelling and dramatic stuff that was surprisingly left out of the feature film itself, and even one or two interviews with people not used in the film at all!  Then you've got two festival Q&As with Errol Morris (one also with his producer), which add up to another 45 minutes.  They're pretty distinct, and only repeat a little bit, although they do cover some ground mentioned in the commentary as well.

And finally, there's a 45 minute panel discussion... If you're keeping track, that's like 4+ hours of bonus content, not counting the commentary, packed onto one disc, with a whole bunch of language options on there, too - you can see why I was concerned that it might be a compressed nightmare.  Anyway, the panel was recorded at the Berlin Film Festival, where a small, fairly random bunch of journalists and politicians discuss the politics addressed in the film.  It's a bit superfluous, and rarely reaches the level I'd genuinely consider an "important" discussion, so it's pretty skippable unless you're a die-hard fan hungry for every drop of content.  But everything else?  Including all those deleted scenes and extended interviews?  Those are essential viewing.  So, unfortunately, the DVD really isn't good enough.
And finally, we end with The Unknown Known.  It took him a while, but he finally got Rumsfeld in the hot seat.  Morris described interviewing Rumsfeld as "one of the strangest things I've ever done, certainly one of the strangest interviews I've ever done," which is really saying something when you remember films like Vernon, Florida.  Like The Fog Of War, this is a single-interview documentary, and to a limited degree, I might concede that this is a slightly misguided attempt to repeat the success of Fog.  It didn't win him his second Academy Award, even though it does feel a little like it's trying to recapture the same magic.  But it certainly stands up as its own film, more than worth watching on its own terms: a unique perspective of an outlandish series of events.
After all, even though they might've shared the same job title, Rumsfeld is a very different man than McNamara.  He's slippery, and you only have to drop by the film's Amazon page to read plenty of annoyed viewers' frustrated reactions to Morris failing to nail him down.  But if you're prepared to read just a little below the barest surface-level of the exchange, it's a fascinating portrait.  "Ask yourself, what he's saying here," Morris says in the audio commentary, "is he lying?  Confused?  Self deceived?  It's at the heart of this movie; that very question."  If you're just looking for a documentary to point a finger and nail Rumsfeld to the wall, well, you should've known by now that Morris really isn't that kind of filmmaker.  He certainly challenges Rumsfeld again and again, but he never falls for the false satisfaction of quick and easy answers.   His subjects are real people and his films are real art, which is why The Unknown Known is more than just a failed replica of Fog.
Morris was no longer making films with Sony by this point, and this one was actually produced by The Weinstein Company (whoa, I felt my traffic rise just typing that name), and surprisingly enough, the home video release wound up falling to Anchor Bay.  They gave it separate DVD and blu-ray releases in 2014.  And unlike SOP, we're back to the traditional method of having matching extras on both versions, so you only need the blu-ray instead of the DVD if you want the HD transfer.
2014 Anchor Bay US DVD top; 2014 Anchor Bay US blu-ray bottom.
Once again, the film is framed at 2.39:1.  In 2014, it would be pretty shocking (although not completely unheard of!) if the DVD was non-anamorphic or interlaced or anything, and thankfully everything's fine.  Get in close, and naturally the DVD is softer and tiny detail is smudged compared to the crisper, more satisfying HD blu-ray.  Both both are perfectly up to snuff, first class transfers for their respective formats.

And both discs feature a robust 5.1 track, in DTS-HD on the blu, plus optional English HOH and Spanish subs.
If you're still not convinced that Unknown Known is something more dramatic and compelling than a quick political puff piece, just listen to the commentary track, where Morris gets pulled right back into the arguments, becoming snarkier and more sarcastic than I've ever heard in an audio commentary.  I'm a fan of this film, so I don't appreciate people selling it short, but I'll concede that the film with the commentary on might be a more rewarding experience than the film with the commentary off.  I'm not sure I've ever felt that way about a film I've owned before.

Besides the commentary, there's a brief on-camera interview with Morris, which works as a nice introduction to the commentary, and an hour-long television piece: The Third Annual Report Of the Secretaries of Defense from 1989.  It's a great historical document, and great to finally see McNamara and Rumsfeld in the same room (as well as five others who've held that position) after this trilogy; but it's a pretty dry viewing experience if you're here as a film fan rather than a politico.  There's also a text-only article by Morris, which contains some interviews; but it's asking a lot to have viewer read pages and pages of on-screen text off the disc... this should've been a booklet, but I guess that would've been too costly.  Unfortunately, there's no trailer, except for a couple of random bonus trailers.
So the good news is two all three of these three films already have pretty ideal releases.  And the Standard Operating Procedure blu was released in the early days when pictures like this were over-produced, so you can get a copy super cheap if you don't already have it.  It was a very painless double-dip for me.  Not that that wraps up Errol's catalog on blu.  We're still in desperate need of Mr. Death, Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, American Dharma, The B-side, Wormwood, My Psychedelic Love Story and his latest, The Pigeon Tunnel.  I'd also love a collection of his short films that he's made for The New Yorker, etc.  Some of those are seriously calling out for a Criterion re-visitation, with upgraded transfers and some retrospective insight from Morris all these years later.  I love it that totally bonkers, under the radar craziness like Demon Wind is getting glorious 4k restorations; but at the same time, it's crazy how the major studio catalog and even some of our most important films are getting ignored, by the labels and fans alike.  Come on, guys, it can't all be cult horror and tent-poles 24/7.