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BDs and DVDs I bought or received in the month of May

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD
  • May 2, 2009: Waltz with Bashir (Region ABC UK, BD)
  • May 7, 2009: Weeds: Season Two (Region ABC USA, BD)
  • May 7, 2009: Weeds: Season Three (Region ABC USA, BD)
  • May 7, 2009: Paris, je t’aime (Region A USA, BD)
  • May 7, 2009: L’important c’est d’aimer (Region 0 USA, DVD) [sample copy]
  • May 8, 2009: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Region A USA, BD)
  • May 14, 2009: A Bug’s Life (Region A USA, BD)
  • May 26, 2009: Revolutionary Road (Region ABC USA, BD)
  • May 27, 2009: Weeds: Season Four (Region A USA, BD)
 
Posted: Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 9:30 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision | TV
 

The colours, man… the colours!

DVD

Last night, I went to a special screening of Suspiria at the Glasgow Film Theatre with Nick from DVD Trash, and we both had a blast. This was the first time I’d ever seen an actual print of the film, having only previously been acquainted with its DVD and BD incarnations, and it was quite the experience. The turn-out was surprisingly good, and while we did have to contend with the usual degree of tittering that accompanies any screening of an Argento film, people seemed to really get into the spirit of it. There was even one guy sitting in front of us who kept whistling along to the music and tapping his walking stick in time with it. Sometimes, the laughter seemed at odds with what was happening on the screen - for some reason, people seemed to think Suzy killing the bat near the end was just hilarious - but on other occasions, it was more justified. Seeing it in the company of new viewers and hearing their reactions reminded me of how funny some of Alida Valli’s mannerisms and reactions are - completely intentional, I’d wager.

Just to continue the never-ending debate surrounding the film’s colours (more specifically, the horribly ganked colours on the new HD master from 2007), what the GFT screened was a UK theatrical print from the 70s, complete with the old BBFC “X” card at the start. The deaths of Pat and Daniel were cut to ribbons, of course, and Sara’s murder was all but obliterated… although, in the case of the latter, I’m not sure whether this was a deliberate edit or simply the result of footage being lost to print damage. While, all things considered, the print was in reasonable shape (it must have seen nigh on three decades of use, after all), tramlines were more or less constant, and there was an abundance of splotches and speckles. There were also a handful of noticeable jumps, mainly around reel changes.

The colours were terrific, however, and it gave me a new-found appreciation for the Anchor Bay DVD, which really is very faithful to how the GFT’s print looked. The DVD may be a little undersaturated, but in terms of brightness, contrast etc. it appears to be pretty much spot on. The overall colour temperature also tallied, although the print we saw did seem to be yellowing slightly - as is only to be expected of an Eastman print of this vintage. Certainly, the lovely presentation I saw last night looked nothing at all like the the nasty Italian Blu-ray release from this year or the equally nasty French and Italian DVDs from 2007… which is what I’ve been saying all along, of course. Still, it was nice to see a genuine print with my own eyes, just so I could confirm that the Anchor Bay DVD really is how the film looked back in the 70s.

Update, May 28th, 2009 11:06 PM: I’ve gone back and rewritten the post slightly after realising that it was a semi-incomprehensible stream-of-consciousness babble. Blame that on my writing it first thing before work after a very unsettled night, in which I got about two and a half hours’ sleep!

 
Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 7:21 AM | Comments: 17 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento
 

Making life easier

Web

Often, I have a deep fear of upgrading software, whether it be my operating system or the publishing platform I use to maintain my web site. From bitter experience, I’ve learned that, if there’s a way of something going wrong, it will. In the case of Movable Type, I’ve had to relearn a lot of what I thought I knew about the platform in the process of switching versions from 3.x to 4.x as I design my new site. (The hours I put in yesterday trying to get the comments function to work would be a case in point.) Today, however, I finally got to try out one of the main reasons I decided to switch to the new edition: custom fields.

Arvind Satyanarayan originally created the Custom Fields plugin for version 3.x of Movable Type, which was then acquired by developer SixApart and fully integrated into the professional edition of Movable Type 4.x. By default, Movable Type only has a limited number of available fields for each post - e.g. title, date, entry body, extended entry, post time. These are generally sufficient if you just want to blog about your pet cat, but if like me you’re doing something slightly different, such as maintaining a DVD database, this sort of thing is woefully inadequate. In the current iteration of the site, each DVD entry essentially consists of an entry body field which contains a massive block of text and code, providing both the data itself and the layout:

<table width=”100%” border=”0” cellspacing=”0” cellpadding=”0” align=”center”> <tr> <td valign=”top”> <h2 class=”heading”>831</h2> <h3 class=”post-title”>Australia <br> <span class=”subhead”>Blu-ray <br> <img src=”http://whiggles.landofwhimsy.com/images/star_1.gif” alt=”*” width=”23” height=”22”><img src=”http://whiggles.landofwhimsy.com/images/star_1.gif” alt=”*” width=”23” height=”22”><img src=”http://whiggles.landofwhimsy.com/images/star_1.gif” alt=”*” width=”23” height=”22”><img src=”http://whiggles.landofwhimsy.com/images/star_1.gif” alt=”*” width=”23” height=”22”><img src=”http://whiggles.landofwhimsy.com/images/star_0.gif” alt=”0” width=”23” height=”22”> </span> </h3> <p>Review: <a href=”http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content/id/70644/australia.html”>DVD Times</a></p> <p><em>Region:</em> B (UK) <br> <em>Director:</em> Baz Luhrmann <br> <em>Label:</em> 20th Century Fox</p> <p class=”small”><em>Added Wednesday April 29th, 2009</em></p> </td> <td width=”10”><p>&nbsp;</p></td> <td width=”120” valign=”top”> <a href=”http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content/id/70644/australia.html”><img src=”http://whiggles.landofwhimsy.com/images/bd-australia.jpg” alt=”BD” width=”116” height=”149” class=”left”></a> </td> </tr> </table>

That code is just for a single entry (the BD of Australia), which really amount to very little on screen at the end of the day. Now, imagine that code duplicated around 830 times for my entire collection. That’s just not efficient. Worse, though, it makes updating the collection to reflect a new site design an incredibly time-consuming process, because so much of the layout is hard-coded into each entry.

This is where the joy of Custom Fields comes in. Now, instead of coding the layout for each individual entry, I can simply create a master layout, give Movable Type the code telling it where to put the data for each field (corresponding to things like region code, director, cover art, rating out of 10, review link where applicable, and so on), and enter the data into the Movable Type database. Here’s the master layout code:

<mt:Entries> <div class=”blockcontainer”> <div class=”leftblock”> <mt:If tag=”EntryDataDvdcover”><img src=”http://www.landofwhimsy.com/images/dvd-<mt:EntryDataDvdcover>.jpg” alt=”DVD” width=”116” height=”165” class=”collection” /></mt:If> <mt:If tag=”EntryDataBdcover”><img src=”http://www.landofwhimsy.com/images/bd-<mt:EntryDataBdcover>.jpg” alt=”BD” width=”116” height=”149” class=”collection” /></mt:If> <mt:If tag=”EntryDataHddvdcover”><img src=”http://www.landofwhimsy.com/images/hd-<mt:EntryDataHddvdcover>.jpg” alt=”HD DVD” width=”116” height=”149” class=”collection” /></mt:If> <mt:If tag=”EntryDataCustomcover”><mt:EntryDataCustomcover></mt:If> <mt:If tag=”EntryDataRating”><br /> <img src=”http://www.landofwhimsy.com/images/stars<mt:EntryDataRating>.gif” width=”118” height=”36” alt=”” /></mt:If> </div> <div class=”rightblock”> <h4 class=”dvdtitle”><span class=”number”>#<mt:EntryDataNumber>.</span> <$mt:EntryTitle$> <img src=”http://www.landofwhimsy.com/images/format-<mt:EntryDataFormat>.gif” alt=”Format” width=”29” height=”8” /><span class=”dvddata”><br /><mt:EntryDataEdition></span></h4> <p><strong>Region:</strong> <mt:EntryDataRegion><br /><strong>Directed by:</strong> <mt:EntryDataDirector><br /><strong>Label:</strong> <mt:EntryDataLabel></p> <mt:If tag=”EntryDataContents”><mt:EntryDataContents></mt:If> <mt:If tag=”EntryDataAlttitle”><p class=”small”><strong>Original title:</strong> <mt:EntryDataAlttitle></p></mt:If> <mt:If tag=”EntryDataReviewlink”><p class=”small”>Read the review at <a href=”<mt:EntryDataReviewlink>”><mt:EntryDataReviewsite></a></p></mt:If> <mt:If tag=”EntryDataAdded”><p class=”small”><em>(Added <mt:EntryDataAdded>)</em></p></mt:If> </div> </div> </mt:Entries>

That’s it. Don’t worry about trying to understand the code above - the point is I entered that once and now simply add the required information into the database for each entry. “<mt:EntryDataDirector>”, for instance, tells Movable Type that I want to display the director associated with this entry, so it calls up that information from the database and places it automatically:

Custom fields

Hardly rocket science, but it’s streets ahead from what I was doing before. Of course, I do have to re-enter all my data, but that’s far more straightforward when you’re just copying text into the correct fields and letting the database worry about where to put it all. You can see the new system in action here (at the time of writing, I’ve entered the first 80 discs in my collection).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some serious button-mashing to do. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Hollywood’s finest thespian, Lindsay Lohan, to tide you over:

Lindsay Lohan

 
Posted: Monday, May 25, 2009 at 6:15 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: DVD | Technology | Web
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

Weeds: Season Two (BD, Lions Gate, Region ABC, USA)

Blu-ray

Weeds: Season Three (BD, Lions Gate, Region ABC, USA)

Blu-ray

Paris, je t’aime (BD, First Look, Region A, USA)

The above three were part of Amazon’s recent “three Blu-ray Discs for the price of two” deal.

And…

DVD

L’important c’est d’aimer: Special Edition (DVD, Mondo Vision, Region 0, USA) [sample copy]

 
Posted: Thursday, May 07, 2009 at 8:47 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision | TV | Web
 

Hooray for Mondo Vision!

Look at the sample copies that just popped through the letterbox:

L'important c'est d'aimer L'important c'est d'aimer

To the left is the standard (single-disc) special edition; to the right is the premium edition, which includes a soundtrack CD and several other collectible goodies. Both are due out on June 16th and are available to pre-order from Amazon:

Here’s the inside of the single-disc edition…

L'important c'est d'aimer

…and the premium edition.

L'important c'est d'aimer

 
Posted: Thursday, May 07, 2009 at 7:41 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision
 

BDs and DVDs I bought or received in the month of April

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD
  • April 2, 2009: Baba Yaga: The Final Cut (Region 0 UK, DVD) [review copy]
  • April 6, 2009: Two Evil Eyes (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 11, 2009: Twilight (Region ABC UK, Blu-ray)
  • April 14, 2009: Lewis: Series Three (Region 2 UK, DVD)
  • April 16, 2009: Final Destination (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 16, 2009: Let the Right One In (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 16, 2009: Inspector Morse: The Complete Case Files (Region 2 UK, DVD)
  • April 20, 2009: Mean Girls (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 25, 2009: The Red Riding Trilogy (Region 2 UK, DVD)
  • April 29, 2009: Australia (Region B UK, Blu-ray) [review copy]
 
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 11:07 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | TV
 

Just arrived…

DVD

The Red Riding Trilogy (DVD, Optimum, Region 2, UK)

I missed this trilogy of made-for-TV films when they aired on Channel 4 last month, but decided to pick up the DVD after reading an excellent review of it written by my fellow DVD Times reviewer, Mike Sutton.

 
Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 6:13 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: DVD | Reviews | TV | Web
 

Coming soon to a DVD player near you

Mondo Vision

Yeah, I know, it’s been a while coming, but a release date has finally been announced for Mondo Vision’s second DVD title, Andrzej Zulawksi’s L’important c’est d’aimer. Both the Special Edition Digipak and Premium Signature Edition box set (limited to 2,000 copies) are due out on June 16th and are available now to pre-order from Amazon.

Also in the pipeline are L’amour braque and, as per pro-bassoonist at the DVD Talk forum, even more Zulawski treats:

  • Trzecia Czesc Nocy (The Third Part Of The Night), 1971
  • Diabel (The Devil), 1972
  • Na Srebrnym Globie (The Silver Globe), 1977/1987
  • Possession, 1981
  • La Note Bleue (The Blue Note), 1992
  • Szamanka (Shaman Woman), 1996

No release dates have been confirmed for any of these yet, but I’d imagine many people will be very pleased to hear that Possession is finally being re-released, Anchor Bay’s considerably less than stellar-looking edition having been out of print for some time.

 
Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 8:01 PM | Comments: 11 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision | Web
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

Final Destination (BD, New Line/Warner, Region ABC, USA)

Blu-ray

Let the Right One In (BD, Magnolia, Region ABC, USA)

DVD

Inspector Morse: The Complete Case Files (DVD, ITV, Region 2, UK)

The latter was something of an impulse buy, although one that I feel is somewhat justified by the fact that I’ve been wanting to pick up the Inspector Morse episodes for some time and happened to come across them by chance on Amazon.co.uk at a very impressive discount. I paid just under £55 for all 33 episodes - a bargain when you consider that the RRP is 200 smackers.

 
Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 7:52 PM | Comments: 13 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | TV | Web
 

Just arrived…

DVD

Lewis: Series Three (DVD, ITV, Region 2, UK)

There’s a bit of a story behind this, actually. A few weeks back, on the day that this series was due to begin airing, I discovered that ITV’s Scottish counterpart, STV, had opted not to pick up the show, instead opting to air a documentary about the Highlands. In addition, the network stated an intention to “pull out of the national ITV1 schedule more frequently to offer a service more relevant to Scottish viewers”.

Well, bollocks to that. Lewis is just about the only respectable programme ITV airs, and for STV to ditch it in favour of some tawdry documentary and yet another rerun of Gregory’s Girl (which was a shit film back in 1981 and is just as shit in 2009) is simply the height of idiocy. All that actions like these achieve is to ensure that, instead of tuning into the channel perhaps four times a year, I won’t tune in at all, and will instead just pick up the DVDs, which in this case were released just days after the final episode aired.

 
Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 10:07 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | TV
 

The early bird catches the worm

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

It seems I’m a little late to the party with this news, but I recently discovered that Disney’s upcoming Blu-ray Disc Platinum Edition of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be arriving on store shelves a full seven weeks ahead of its DVD counterpart.

This to me is very pleasing news and is the sort of thing I hope to see more and more of in the future. Before anyone accuses me of being mean in denying those still restricted to standard definition DVD the right to experience this classic, let me just say that I’m not. The BD release of Snow White also includes a DVD copy of the film, as was the case with the recent BD releases of Bolt (itself released 48 hours ahead of the standalone DVD version) and Pinocchio, among others. My reasoning behind this is that, by adopting this strategy, Disney is ultimately encouraging (whether intentionally or not) those who have yet to adopt BD to pick up a future-proof package, making the eventual path to BD that bit more painless for them. (“Gee, honey, why not get a BD player? We’ve already got this collection of discs just waiting to be played in it.”)

What I’d ultimately like to see is the abolition of stand-alone DVD releases altogether, in favour of these BD/DVD combos. I’m not sure how feasible this is at the moment, but I suspect it will become more so as BD replication and licensing costs decrease. It seems fairly clear that the general public will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into high definition. I suspect that BD is long past the point of being considered a failure, so its survival in the immediate future is not in any jeopardy. Simply surviving, however, is not enough.

My ultimate dream is to be able to obtain a BD copy of any film of my choosing, and that won’t happen until the format at least achieves parity with DVD. At the moment, it’s simply not worth the time and money for smaller labels to release their niche collections on BD, because not enough people will buy them for them to even begin to recoup the costs. I don’t blame them. If you’re struggling to make a profit when you release a title on DVD, the last thing you want to do is pay the astronomical licensing fees to author, press and distribute a BD version that even fewer people will buy.

Therefore, it’s up to the majors - the ones who can afford it - to lead the way by helping to increase market saturation, and personally I think that these combo releases are theoretically an excellent means of doing that. It can only work, though, if sufficient incentive is given for the average (wo)man on the street to buy the BD/DVD combo rather than the standalone DVD. Until the day comes that standalone DVD releases disappear altogether, “BD first” strategies like the one being demonstrated by Snow White seem like the best solution.

Source: Blu-ray.com

 
Posted: Monday, April 06, 2009 at 11:50 PM | Comments: 7 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Technology | Web
 

DVD review: Baba Yaga: The Final Cut

DVD
What transpired in 1973 means that any presentation of Baba Yaga was always going to be severely compromised. As such, Shameless are to be commended for taking the time and trouble to involve Corrado Farina and attempt to restore the film to its intended state. The audio-visual shortcomings of this release mean that those who already own the Blue Underground DVD are going to want to hold on to that version, but this new version represents a valiant effort to bring the film closer to how it was originally meant to be seen. As such, and for the insightful new bonus features, this release gets a thumbs up from me.

Originally hacked to bits by its producer, Corrado Farina’s trippy Baba Yaga has been granted a second chance courtesy of Shameless Screen Entertainment. I review the Final Cut at DVD Times.

 
Posted: Sunday, April 05, 2009 at 11:05 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

Just arrived…

DVD

Baba Yaga: The Final Cut (DVD, Shameless Screen Entertainment, Region 0, UK) [review copy]

 
Posted: Thursday, April 02, 2009 at 7:08 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD
 

BDs and DVDs I bought or received in the month of March

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD
  • March 4, 2009: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • March 7, 2009: Bolt (Region A/1 USA, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy)
  • March 12, 2009: Pinocchio (Region A/1 USA, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy)
  • March 13, 2009: Quantum of Solace (Region A USA, Blu-ray)
  • March 19, 2009: Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Region 0 USA, DVD) [review copy]
  • March 19, 2009: Weeds: Season One (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • March 20, 2009: Rebus (Region 0 UK, DVD)
  • March 20, 2009: Suspiria (Region B Italy, Blu-ray)
  • March 23, 2009: Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (Region ABC UK, Blu-ray)
 
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 8:39 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV
 

DVD review: Four Flies on Grey Velvet

DVD
While the very fact that we finally have an authorised copy of the film with reasonably good image quality is a cause for celebration, Four Flies on Grey Velvet’s official DVD debut is, alas, far from the unmitigated triumph for which many of us were hoping. On the one hand, it’s probably a minor miracle that the film is available and looks as good as it does. The missing footage and audio problems, however, are significant enough for me to suggest that Mya should strongly consider a recall to correct, at the very least, the sound pitch. This disc gets a relatively tepid recommendation from me: it is, on balance, the best release of the film to date, but it is my firm hope that either Mya or another company revisits this title in the future and does it proper justice.

Pigs take to the skies and Satan ice skates to work as Dario Argento’s long-lost third film, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, finally gets an authorised DVD release, courtesy of Mya Communication.

Review at DVD Times.

 
Posted: Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 2:01 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Reviews
 

Four Flies on Shaky Ground (long post)

DVD

So, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, huh? I was going to post about the new DVD from Mya some time ago, but to be honest, every time I was about to actually write something, it seemed as if some new scrap of information emerged. The latest, of course, is that an upcoming Italian DVD release from 01 Distribution has been halted, because the Argentos have cried foul and are taking legal action against the perpetrators. Going by a Google translation of a statement issued by close Argento associate Luigi Cozzi, an “unidentified foreign company” sold the film’s rights to RAI, but Dario and Claudio Argento claimed that these rights were not theirs to sell. Obviously, this is going to take some time to sort out, and in the meantime the question has arisen as to exactly how legitimate the Mya release is. The Argentos claim to own the film’s rights in every territory except the US, where they are held by Paramount, but there can be little doubt that the Mya DVD was put together without any input from Paramount, which in turn raises the possibility that Mya’s release is on ground every bit as shaky as the postponed Italian release. For the time being, I’m going to assume that the Mya is legit, but my advice would be to pick up a copy of it immediately if you want it. You never know - tomorrow we could wake up to find that all remaining copies have been yanked from the shelves.

So, let’s get all this legal farragho out of the way and discuss what really matters: the disc itself. So, the “lost” Argento film that fans have been clamouring for, for the better part of four decades. Presumably, then, Mya pulled out all the stops to make the definitive release of this elusive gem? Well… no, not really. In actual fact, Mya have screwed up this release pretty royally, on two counts:

1. The English audio track is a disaster.

2. Approximately 40 seconds’ worth of material is missing. No, really.

[Continue reading "Four Flies on Shaky Ground (long post)"...]

 
Posted: Friday, March 27, 2009 at 3:08 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV | Technology | Web
 

Suspiria BD (final) impressions

Blu-ray

This is a little later in coming than I would have liked, but I’ve been fighting off the effects of a less than pleasant cold over the last couple of days and have only just got round to catching up on the various matters needing my attention. (A post on the new Four Flies on Grey Velvet DVD from Mya is also in the pipeline.) We watched the BD release of Suspiria on the big screen on Tuesday night, and it proved to be a rather frustrating experience, on two fronts. First of all, because our attempts to synchronise the BD video with the English audio from the Image Entertainment LaserDisc weren’t entirely successful. Secondly, because of the aforementioned video unpleasantness.

Looking through the disc again today, I noticed several other problems with the master, seemingly stemming from the digital noise reduction (DNR) that was applied during the extensive restoration. Well, perhaps “extensive” is the wrong word to use, since, while the budget clearly allowed for scanning the negative, performing an automated dirt and scratch removal pass, and goosing the brightness, contrast and colour values something rotten, it evidently didn’t stretch to decent quality control. I noticed several instances of the DNR machine screwing up during the thunderstorm at the start of the film, this image showing one of the worst affected frames. Gaffes like these serve to highlight how essential it is that, if making use of automated NR tools, you carefully check the output before signing off on it.

I also came across a strange effect whereby, at the start of each new shot, the first frame is perfectly crisp, retaining all of its inherent grain. Thereafter, the second frame has had more or less all of its grain completely eroded and as a result looks like wax. By the third frame, the grain has returned again. See, for example, this instance: (Frame 1), (Frame 2), (Frame 3). Something similar generally happens at the end of each shot too, with the last two frames seeming unnaturally blurry. This process is repeated without fail throughout the entire film, and I suspect it points to yet further careless misuse of the video restoration system.

Finally, we also have that age-old favourite, the DNR machine attempting to repair a damaged frame by taking material from another frame and making matters worse in the process, usually by selecting the wrong piece of visual information. This shot shows a particularly horrific example, where information from the same or a previous frame somehow ends up on the letterboxing at the bottom of the frame. Was anyone actually checking this stuff at all or did someone just his the “Go” button and head off for a leak?

All this has only soured my attitude towards this restoration of Suspiria even more. It has its strengths, don’t get me wrong. Detail is very good indeed, at least until the swimming pool sequence, at which point the film suddenly and inexplicably drops to a lower resolution for the remainder of its duration. Furthermore, barring the almost imperceptible gaffes at the beginning and end of each shot, the grain is well maintained. However, the film has not only been screwed up something rotten by having its values knocked out of whack, it has also clearly been subjected to a botched DNR process. This is, by any stretch of the imagination, a landmark film, but the way it has been treated is utterly indefensible and beggars belief. In my opinion nothing short of a brand new scan of the negative (or access to the initial scan prior to any digital manipulation being performed) and an intensive restoration process supervised by someone who actually knows what they’re doing will suffice. 4/10

Suspiria
studio: CDE; country: Italy; region code: B; codec: VC-1;
file size: 27 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 18.8 Mbit/sec

Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria

 
Posted: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 3:06 PM | Comments: 7 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | General | Technology
 

Revenge, fumetti-style

DVD

One thing I genuinely admire about UK-based distributor of Italian cult films on DVD, Shameless Screen Entertainment, is their willingness to involve the directors of the films they release. Last year, they put out a copy of Piero Schivazappa’s The Frightened Woman, which reassembled the film into a full length cut which the director then went on to approve. This April 27th, they’ll be doing the same again on an even grander scale with their release of Corrado Farina’s Baba Yaga.

This film had a particularly unfortunate history, having been re-edited by its producers behind Farina’s back while he took a few days off after locking the film. When he returned from his holiday, he found that his film had been butchered with the missing elements having seemingly been destroyed, and he had no choice but to attempt to salvage what remained. It was this version that was ultimately released on DVD in the US by Blue Underground in 2003, with the deleted materials presented in poor quality video dupe form as a bonus feature. Now, however, Shameless has gone one step further and it has been (as per the press release) “restored, re-graded, re-edited and re-imagined” by Farrina himself. Time will tell just how significantly different this new cut will be, and whether or not a better quality source has been obtained than what we saw on the Blue Underground DVD, but I suspect I’ll be holding on to that earlier release for posterity purposes.

The specs certainly sound good, offering both English and Italian audio with optional English subtitles (a significant step up from the BU DVD’s English-only presentation), and an array of extras including a new introduction and interview with Farrina, two short films he directed, and a “Shameless Fact Track” by the knowledgeable Wilson Bros. And, on top of all that, you’ve got to love the quote from Farrina on the front cover:

Finally, after 35 years, you can see my film as it was before the producers hacked it to pieces.

The press release also mentions that another little-seen Italian 70s gem, Luigi Bazzoni’s Footprints, will also be coming to DVD courtesy of Shameless.

Source: DVD Times

 
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 at 2:08 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Web
 

Vandalism (long post)

Blu-ray

Here is more painful evidence of how much the new BD release of Suspiria and its 2007 Italian and French DVD counterparts have deviated from previous DVD releases of the film in terms of visuals. Below are, in descending order, (1) the US Anchor Bay DVD from 2001, (2) the Italian Eagle Pictures DVD from 2001, and (3) the Italian CDE BD from 2009. Please note that I am not attempting to claim that any one of these releases looks 100% “right” and that the others look 100% “wrong”. I am well aware that a degree of deviation is to be expected from one master to the next, whether in terms of framing, brightness, contrast, overall colour balance, or any number of other potential variables. However, the new release is “off” by such a wide margin that it’s simply not possible for both it and the two previous releases (which, slight differences aside, are quite similar to one another) to be “right”.

If cinematographer Luciano Tovoli did indeed approve the master used for the new BD release, then I can only conclude that either something went seriously wrong somewhere down the line after he had passed off on it, or he has lost his marbles. It’s not simply a case of this new release looking different: it actually looks downright unpleasant in places and is headache-inducing to look at. (This is especially the case with the first shot, where Daniel is shown approaching the school the morning after the “maggot” incident. Oddly enough, a similar shot far earlier in the film - the morning after the opening double murder - is comparatively less unmolested.) Sadly, this sort of contrast boosting is all too prevalent in newer releases of older films, with technicians working under the ignorant belief that “hotting up” the contrast makes them look somehow “better”. Generally speaking, though, the results are far less destructive than the ones you see here:

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Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 12:52 PM | Comments: 10 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Technology
 

Suspiria BD (initial) impressions (long post)

Aaaaargh! Curse you, Beelzebub!

Suspiria

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

 
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