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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:

Example 1 (US 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2009 BD):

Suspiria
Suspiria
Suspiria

 
Example 2 (US 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2009 BD):

Suspiria
Suspiria
Suspiria

 
Example 3 (US 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2009 BD):

Suspiria
Suspiria
Suspiria

 
Example 4 (US 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2009 BD):

Suspiria
Suspiria
Suspiria

 
Example 5 (US 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2001 DVD vs. Italian 2009 BD):

Suspiria
Suspiria
Suspiria

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

 
Comments

1.

Gosh that truly is diabolical.

Posted by: Dom, March 22, 2009 2:54 PM

2.

Although I read about it, in the most recent Italian DVD version by CDE, whose colours are the same as BD version, I cound find no explicit mention of Luciano Tovoli's intervention or approval of new master. In DVD credit list, Sound'n'Vision is credited for production and Francesco Donadel Campbell is credited for "Digital restoration from high definition master, made with Archangel".

Archangel is a software tool for restoration and colour correction in movies.

Posted by: MCP, March 22, 2009 8:40 PM

3.

You wrote that you are not considering one 100% right and the other one 100% wrong,
but why are you absolutely certain that is better the older master?
Someone on avmagazine forum is saying that the BD master was supervised by Tovoli: we can talk about this if it's only a claim for marketing purpose of it's an actual and true fact but we can consider many things about the look we have now from this italian bluray
I cannot speak about the look on the screen because I never saw this movie at cinema, but reading about the history of this film I think the look of the BD could be trustworthy in many ways. I always heard about the bleeding aspect (no pun) of the color and visionary of this film, maybe what we have is what we are supposed to view thinking about Argento and Tovoli approach?
I'm absolutely NOT sure, but maybe...

Posted by: Piero M, March 22, 2009 11:47 PM

4.

Thanks for these, Michael. I knew that poor dog wasn't fire engine red on the Anchor Bay DVD!

The Italian 2001 DVD transfer looks pretty good, without the crushed blacks or slightly over-saturated colors of the AB transfer. If it weren't for the blurry grain reduction and strange tint, I'd say it was the best of the bunch so far. Is there any way to get the 2001 Italian disc still, or has it gone OOP in favor of the 2007 HD de-master?

Posted by: Kentai, March 23, 2009 12:24 AM

5.

Piero:

The bleeding is a minor concern and one that I could believe to be entirely representative of the film’s original look. Likewise, the only reason such bleeding is not visible on the Anchor Bay DVD is, more than likely, the vastly lower resolution of standard definition DVD.

What concerns me is the absurdly boosted colour and contrast values, and to be honest I refuse to believe that the film was ever intended to look like that, with shadow detail completely obliterated and the image “posterised” to a ridiculous extent. In the second example in my post (close-up of Jessica Harper’s face), I refuse to believe that any halfway competent cinematographer would light the actress’ face in such a way if he then intended to overexpose the image and bleach it out completely. Likewise, the entire climax looks positively absurd, with images that once had depth “crushed” so that no shadow detail is visible, only flat washes of colour which end up destroying the composition and balance of the shots, rendering them ugly and incomprehensible. None of this, to me, looks like it is representative of a photochemical process at all but rather what happens when some technician or other sits down in front of a computer and decides to play with the levels in an image manipulation program.

I have seen several releases of the film, including the US and UK Anchor Bay DVDs, the 2001 and 2005 Eagle Pictures/CDE DVDs, the hideous old UK DVD from Nouveaux Pictures, the older French DVD from TF1 and the Image Entertainment LaserDisc. These used a variety of sources and not one of them looked anything like the new master that appeared in 2007.

The Glasgow Film Theatre is screening Suspiria in May, and you can rest assured that I will be in attendance. Assuming that they project an actual print rather than trotting out a DVD (which was what happened at the Dead By Dawn festival in Edinburgh last year), this should take us a step closer to ascertaining how the film might have looked when originally exhibited.


Kentai:

Yes, the 2001 Italian DVD release is unfortunately OOP. My own copy was picked up second hand from eBay a few years back as a curiosity piece. To be honest, if you already have the AB release I’d recommend sticking with it. Although the Italian DVD is pretty good, there’s some DVNR funkiness going on (some very strange effects on detailed patterns), and the English soundtrack is very poor in terms of quality (although it’s more accurate to the theatrical mixes than what’s on the AB disc).

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, March 23, 2009 12:27 AM

6.

"The Italian 2001 DVD transfer looks pretty good, without the crushed blacks or slightly over-saturated colors of the AB transfer."

Now see, I'd say those crushed blacks and slightly over-saturated colors on the AB are likely a pretty fair approximation of the end result of the IB Tech printing process.

The new transfer, on the other hand, looks like me playing with Photoshop. That's not meant as a testament to my skill with the program, either...

-Jeff

Posted by: Jeffrey Allen Rydell, March 23, 2009 2:45 AM

7.

There is a print of Suspiria available in the UK, it was shown in Bradford in 2007, so hopefully Glasgow will show that. Although being a British print it has the old BBFC cuts in the gory scenes but otherwise looks good and from what I recall looks a lot more like the AB disc than the new transfer.

(It sounds amazing too!)

Posted by: Tim R-T-C, March 25, 2009 9:39 AM

8.

Suspiria is crap, go and buy a Jodorowsky film and stop wasting your time with Argento....he's nothing but a magician with one magic trick and that trick is 1000 years old!

Posted by: , March 25, 2009 11:33 PM

9.

March - While I *do* agree with your implied Jodorowsky worship, I don't even see how he and Argento's work are even remotely comparable. They've both made some stylish films... the similarities pretty much stop there. We may as well compare John Woo to Takashi Miike because they've both made period films in the last decade.

Jeff - Excellent point. I fear that I always find it difficult to fathom the want to digitally degrade film when you no longer need to via analog means, but if that was the thought process behind it I suppose it's as good as any.

Posted by: Kentai, March 26, 2009 9:46 AM

10.

I concede that Jodorowsky and Argento are incomparable, the point I was trying to make was that there are more adventurous filmmakers both past and present who deserve blu ray releases.

Fans should stop worrying about whether this is going to be the definative release, as I'm sure once blu ray really takes off there are going to be plethora of releases in the future, from several companies with varying degress of quality.

Argento fan 1994 - 2005


Posted by: , March 26, 2009 12:10 PM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

https://www.landofwhimsy.com

 

 
 
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