To hell and back again
For a considerable length of time, Anchor Bay’s US release of Dario Argento’s Inferno was the only legitimate copy of the film on DVD (a German company also released an unauthorised version which was merely a port of the Anchor Bay version). It was a good release for what it was, but suffered from a couple of notable flaws. First of all, the transfer, while reasonably good, was slightly soft and suffered from some compression artefacts, probably due to cramming this visually sumptuous 107-minute film on to a single layer disc. Secondly, although a 2.0 surround option was provided, this was in fact a downmix from Anchor Bay’s own 5.1 remix rather than the original stereo recording in which the film was originally released.
Finally, however, the Anchor Bay release has some competition. Released in Japan with some horrible cover art on October 5th, the exact specifications are unclear, and I’m not going to chance it and order a copy, given how expensive Japanese DVDs invariably are. Luckily, however, I don’t have to, as it has also been released in its native Italy (with the same horrible cover art) by its original theatrical distributor, 20th Century Fox. A scan of the full front and rear cover art was recently posted at Dark Discussion by member Opera 1987, and the eagled-eyed among us will be able to spot that it contains two audio options: “Italiano 2.0 mono” and “Inglese [English] 2.0 stereo”. Italian and English subtitles are also listed.
This release seems to check all the boxes for me: not only does it include an English stereo track (presumably the original recording rather than a remix), but it also provides the option to watch the film in Italian with English subtitles. I’ve always wondered how the film would play in Italian, with Argento’s own narration during the opening credits, and now it looks as if I’ll have the opportunity to find out. I’ve ordered a copy from DVD.it.
Coincidentally (or not), Inferno’s predecessor in the Three Mothers trilogy, Suspiria, is also seeing two re-releases this year, both derived from a new high definition master supervised by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli. CDE has already released a special tin box edition in Italy (artwork again sourced by Opera 1987), which looks to be fairly similar in terms of bonus content to the two previous DVD releases of the film in that country. In France, however, Wild Side is going all out, having recorded two hours’ worth of new interview material, featuring everyone from Argento to Tovoli to the restoration team. You can read an exclusive preview (in French) at DVDRama (thanks to Mannfan at Dark Discussion for the link).
The full list of bonus features, by the way, is as follows:
- The restoration of Suspiria - discussions with the restoration team
- Interview with Dario Argento
- Dario Argento: The Master of the Form - new interview with the director
- The Argento Connection - colleagues reveal their collaborations with the filmmaker
- Interview with Luciano Tovoli, director of photography
- Interview with Claudio Simonetti, composer
- Interview with Davide Bassan, son and assistant to production designer Guiseppe Bassan
- Interview with Dario Nicolodi, co-writer
- Argento as seen by: Pascal Laugier, Alain Schlokoff, Jean-Baptist Thoret
- Photo gallery
According to Amazon.fr, this release also includes a CD containing the original soundtrack, much like the Anchor Bay 3-disc limited edition.
DVDRama’s preview also includes screen captures from the release, which reveal a colour palette much closer to the two Italian DVD releases of the film than to the darker and more contrasty (but, by many, preferred) Anchor Bay release. Given that this transfer was supervised by Tovoli, it should be the definitive presentation of the film on DVD, although these small screenshots unfortunately fail to provide much of an idea of how the DVD measures up in the all-important areas of detail and encoding. Additionally, the preview fails to provide any information on audio and subtitle options. As many people will know by now, the audio on Anchor Bay’s Suspiria DVD is viciously mangled, and, if Wild Side have included English audio at all, it is to be hoped that they have gone back to the original 4-channel recording, or at the very least created a new mix based on it, rather than simply porting over Anchor Bay’s mangling.
This new edition is due out at some point in December (the 4th, according to the not necessarily reliable Amazon, and I’m sorely tempted to pick up a copy, although, knowing my luck, an HD release will be announced almost as soon as I do so (perhaps by the Weinstein Company, who recently acquired the US rights to the title, but have been quiet on the issue of HD DVD releases recently). Either way, I don’t think I could ever have too many copies of one of my favourite films of all time, and, if the hype is to be believed, then this new French edition could just render the much-vaunted Anchor Bay version obsolete.