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Suspiria BD (initial) impressions (long post)

Aaaaargh! Curse you, Beelzebub!

Suspiria

Why

Suspiria

did

Suspiria

you

Suspiria

insist

Suspiria

on

Suspiria

doing

Suspiria

this

Suspiria

to

Suspiria

Suspiria?

Blu-ray

Seriously, this was exactly what I expected from this BD release, but it doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed. Clearly, the same source that was used to mint the horrible new Italian and French DVD releases of the film from 2007 has been trotted out here, and clearly, despite no small amount of wishful thinking, the problems are inherent in the HD master itself rather than a standard definition down-conversion. I suppose we must ultimately accept the fact that, unless someone deems it expedient to haul the negative out of storage and go through the expensive and time-consuming restoration process again, this is the version of Suspiria that will be preserved and will continue to be used as the source for DVD and BD releases in the foreseeable future. Does anyone know what became of the master created for the 2001 Anchor Bay DVD supervised by Bill Lustig? I believe it was HD, and, while it’s not possible to ascertain from a 720x480 DVD how well it would hold up in 1080p, it must surely be preferable to this muck.

Oh, and, just to add insult to injury, at least part of the film appears to have been taken from a source with a resolution of less than 1920x1080, meaning that stair-stepping is apparent, à la New Line’s BD of The Orphanage:

Suspiria
Suspiria

Oddly enough, this only seems to become a problem at around the 57-minute mark (at the start of Suzy and Sara’s bathing excursion). Prior to that, there is no evidence of stair-stepping:

Suspiria

…and detail is on the whole very strong, allowing for the odd unfocused shot and the general aberrations that tend to be associated with anamorphic lenses, particularly of this vintage. It’s worth also pointing out that there is some noticeable colour bleed around the edges of objects, but I attribute this to the three-strip Technicolor printing process (someone please correct me if I’m wrong). Indeed, the 25th anniversary documentary included in the 2001 Anchor Bay Limited Edition set specifically mentions bleeding around the edges of specific hues.

I wish I had better news to report about this title, but the sad fact is that this is as positive a spin as I can put on it. The disc is coded for Region B only and includes only Italian audio (never mind the fact that more or less the entire cast were speaking English and that a significant amount of the English track actually features the on-set vocal performances of Jessica Harper, Joan Bennett and Alida Valli!), so is unlikely to be of interest to all but the most dedicated of collectors. Anyone else is advised to hold out for the film to be released under another label, and to hope against hope that a different master is used. I love this film dearly, and it pains me greatly to see it treated in such a way. They’ve taken something that was a work of beauty and made it unpleasant to look at. Shame on them.

 
Posted: Friday, March 20, 2009 at 3:07 PM | Comments: 22
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Technology

 
Comments

1.

While the Technicolor dye-transfer printing process can lead to some color bleeding if the matrices aren't perfectly in registration, that shouldn't be an issue with the Blu-ray since they scanned from the eastmancolor negative. Can you post some screen grabs of shots that exhibit the bleeding? It's possible that Tavoli intentionally introduced some color bleed during the HD transfer to replicate the look he got in the I.B. Technicolor prints.

Vincent

Posted by: Vincent Pereira, March 20, 2009 4:16 PM

2.

The bleed is fairly noticeable in this shot - look at the woman’s red dress, and also the way the red and yellow wall pattern seems to intrude into the wooden pillar, despite the pillar being in front of it. Or here on the “Automatische Tür” text. It seems almost as if certain hues have shifted to the right - at least that’s my impression of it.

There are also some quite pronounced halos in certain shots, which don’t look to me like typical edge enhancement. Something optically induced?

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, March 20, 2009 4:52 PM

3.

Posted by: David M, March 20, 2009 5:02 PM

4.

That bleeding looks like a less-pronounced version of the color bleed on the wildly recolored Blu-ray of THE FRENCH CONNECTION. I'm going to guess that it's intentional, as Tavoli did note that he liked the effect of the color seeming to almost escape the boundaries of objects on the I.B. Technicolor prints. As for the haloing, it does look like an optical artifact of the original film shoot.

Vincent

Posted by: , March 20, 2009 5:30 PM

5.

I visited your blog, first thing I saw was the first screenshot you put up, and I actually made a small cry of dismay. It looks like the Tanz Akademie has relocated to Disneyworld.

(Walt Disney's Suspiria? That's just too surreal.)

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, March 20, 2009 6:13 PM

6.

Well, Argento did site SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS as a major visual inspiration for SUSPIRIA.

Vincent

Posted by: Vincent Pereira, March 20, 2009 6:19 PM

7.

I don't really think he wanted Minnie Mouse as the heroine, though. You expect the Tanz Akademie to have some sort of fairground ride inside, from that screenshot.

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, March 20, 2009 6:23 PM

8.

The colors and contrast seem boosted too much....Did director Argento supervise this or his DP and if not who did ?

Looks like some studio's seem to enjoy boosting contrast as didn't this happen to a lesser extent with the RoboCop Blu Ray and the last DVD release of Ghostbusters which might unfortunately serve as the new Blu release in a few months time.

Posted by: FoxyMulder, March 20, 2009 6:59 PM

9.

Disney may have used rich colours, but he would never have smeared the screen with anything as unsightly as the pink-red hue in the first shot. It’s not just overly garish, it actually hurts to look at it.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, March 20, 2009 10:33 PM

10.

What the hell is going on in that first shot? It looks like the pianist and his dog were hit with a can of red spray paint! Poor guy, getting re-colored, probably just because he's blind.

Michael, was the Anchor Bay transfer made from the same negative as this mess? I remember you noting that the two transfers have very different credits, though I guess there's nothing preventing Technicolor Rome from splicing them in later. If they really are from the same negative (or at least, both from new interpositives derived from the same) I'd be sorely disappointed. If Tovoli really did sign off on this, he's even crazier than Friedkin, who at the very least acknowledges in full that he's "experimenting" with his own work.

A real shame, too, as that very last shot hints at how sharp and tasty this could have been. I guess I'll finally buy the Blue Underground release and the Image LD, see if I can cut the audio to the DVD transfer. That's just got to be a better use of my money (and time) than importing this... mistake.

Between this and Salo, I'm nearly grateful to have a Region A player... it just prevents me from wasting my money.

Posted by: Kentai, March 21, 2009 6:23 AM

11.

Kentai:

As far as I’m aware, the master used for the new BD transfer was derived from the vault negative, but I’m less certain as to where the Anchor Bay DVD’s master came from - although, given how prestigious a release it was for them, I’d imagine they’d have gone with a source as close to the negative as was within their means, generationally speaking. They have different credits (Italian for the BD, English for the AB DVD), but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything since, as you say, splicing in credits in the language of the distributor’s choosing is as easy as pie, and in the past Bill Lustig does seem to have gone for English language credits wherever possible (to the great detriment of the closing credits to Profondo Rosso).

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, March 21, 2009 11:07 AM

12.

There is something wrong with our pics. I watched this Blu-ray on HTPC and a Sony BDP-S350. On the HTPC this BD has major problems with color wobble and bleeding especially with red. On the S350 all these problems are gone! Contrast and colors are NOT as borked as these screenshots may suggest. The reds are milder and contrast much more balanced. I don't know why this BD looks like sh*t on the HTPC (I suspect bad decoding in combination with extreme HTPC settings and PC Levels colorspace) but if you watch this on a standalone all is well.

So: IMO the BD is definitely worth buying if you don't watch it on a HTPC.

Posted by: Rathbone, March 21, 2009 11:55 AM

13.

Sorry Rathbone, but those shots are what's on the disc. Your display (which display is it, incidentally?) might be doing something to make it more pleasing to look at, but it can't get back the information that's been lost due to clipping in those extreme examples.

Posted by: David Mackenzie, March 21, 2009 5:57 PM

14.

Sorry David but it certainly isn't a display issue cause both HTPC and S350 are connected to the same Samsung 46A786 with same settings. It's even the same HDMI port cause both devices are connected to my Onkyo 605 so I only need to switch the HDMI input. This is definitely a HTPC/codec/hardware issue. On different software players I can see the same color wobble, color noise, artifacts especially with the color red. The BD looks on my HTPC exactly like on your pics. Horribly artificial and blown up. But on the S350 it's perfectly balanced, stable natural reds. I can take some pics if you like.

Posted by: Rathbone, March 21, 2009 11:01 PM

15.

On avmagazine forum we talked with the guy who supervised the authoring of this Bluray and he told us that he received a master supervised by Tovoli, so after all this master is more faithfull compared with the one used by AnchorBay

Posted by: Piero M, March 22, 2009 11:48 AM

16.

Rathbone:

Photographs would serve no discernible purpose as all they’d succeed in doing is further distorting the balance of colour, contrast etc. As for your claim that the horribly artificial and blown out look is only apparent on HTPCs, I’ve just played the disc in a PlayStation 3 and surprise surprise, it looks exactly as it does in the screen captures I posted above. If there was something wrong with my (and your) HTPC’s decoding, don’t you think this problem would be apparent on all BDs? Suspiria is not some sort of special case that is decoded differently from every other disc.

As David said in post #13, these shots show what is on the disc, and a standalone player is not going to somehow magically resolve visual information that isn’t there to begin with. Just like the 2007 Italian and French DVDs before it, the levels on this BD are buggered beyond belief and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that.


Piero:

In that case, I can only assume that either (a) something went seriously wrong along the way or (b) Tovoli has lost his mind - whichever seems more plausible. Oh, and the AB master was also, as per the DVD cover, approved by Tovoli, which suggests that, if the look of the BD is indeed something he gave a thumbs-up to, either his standards are considerably less than exacting or he is indulging in the ugly art of revisionism.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, March 22, 2009 12:03 PM

17.

@Rathbone:
Are both players calibrated to the display? I'm not saying you're imagining what you're seeing, but my point is, we shouldn't have to rely on differences in player video processing or output levels to make the disc look less strange. The benchmark should be a display calibrated as closely as possible to mastering standards.

Posted by: David Mackenzie, March 22, 2009 1:31 PM

18.

Curious diversion: I've tried searching for your comments on the SALO BD but cannot find anything except passing comments ("it's bad"), and the low score on HD Image Comparison page. Could you elaborate a bit?

Posted by: Chris B, March 22, 2009 2:28 PM

19.

Salò is botch job of epic proportions. From the overzealous grain reduction which completely ruins the film’s texture to the wonky colour palette to the almost complete lack of detail, it’s a travesty from start to finish with absolutely nothing to recommend in it. Robert Harris and Torsen Kaiser have commented extensively on the BD’s horrendous image quality over at Blu-ray.com and I don’t really feel I have anything substantial to add to their impressions.

As I understand it, the fault lies with Technicolor’s Rome office rather than with BFI, who were simply handed the master and had no choice but to release it as it stood. Technicolor Rome, you say? The same people responsible for the Suspiria cock-up? Well I never!

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, March 22, 2009 4:09 PM

20.

This breaks my heart. They took one of the most visually striking films ever made, and vandalised it. A shame Blue Underground no longer hold the rights in the US, as they would seem the only hope to do this film justice now.

Posted by: Dean W, March 24, 2009 11:47 PM

21.

Who has the US rights then? A Blue Undergrund release would be nice.

Posted by: BobaFett, March 25, 2009 5:12 PM

22.

Dimension announced that they had the rights to the "Restored" version of Suspiria about 2 years ago. They haven't actually re-released it yet, but I figure it's only a matter of time before we get the same shoddy release in R1 land.

The Blue Underground release is a direct port of the Anchor Bay 2 disc special edition, it just has a different cover and a BU logo at the start of the disc. As I understand it Bill Lustig owned the rights to all of the Argento/Fulci/Bava films personally, so he took the work Anchor Bay had done on them with him to BU a few years ago. (AB also did a "Limited" release which had the OST.)

Posted by: Kentai, March 27, 2009 12:08 AM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 31st 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

http://www.landofwhimsy.com

 

 
 
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