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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Kino Lorber

Release Date: June 19, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 01:57:14

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 1559 kbps, 16-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.33:1

Bitrate: 35.93 Mbps

Notes:This title was previously given a bare bones DVD release.

Title

Under Capricorn was made for Ingrid Bergman… but if I’d been thinking clearly, I’d never have tackled a costume picture. You’ll notice I’ve never done any since that time. Besides, there wasn’t enough humor in the film. If I were to make another picture in Australia today, I’d have a policeman hop into the pocket of a kangaroo and yell, ‘Follow that car!’” –Alfred Hitchcock (Hitchcock/Truffaut)

Many scholars have pontificated as to why Hitchcock chose to adapt Helen Simpson’s Under Capricorn as what was originally intended to be the première Transatlantic Films production. The major studios had all wisely passed…

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: May 29, 2018

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:27:45

Video: 1080P (AVC, MPEG-4)

Main Audio: 2.0 French Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.66:1

Note: Cohen Media Group is also giving the film a separate DVD release.

Banner

“It’s extraordinary to make a film on such a difficult subject. It’s filled with pitfalls—pitfalls for [Claude Berri] and also pitfalls for me. That hooked me in immediately, plus he was so enthusiastic and such a dreamer. I was thrilled that in 1967 there were still dreamers and poets in the streets.” -Michel Simon (1967)

Sometimes films sneak up on you. Claude Berri’s semi-autobiographical debut effort is such a film. In some ways, The Two of Us seems like a rather simple story about a young eight year old’s connection with his new grandfatherly guardian, but such a reading is overlooking the more interesting aspects of Berri’s poignant film. The devil is in the details, and the story doesn’t seem quite as straightforward when one considers that the eight year old in question is a Jewish refugee hiding in Nazi-occupied France and that the “new grandfatherly guardian” happens to be an anti-Semitic Catholic man who is completely unaware of the boy’s Jewish origins. Michel Simon portrays the guardian with a crusty tenderness throughout the duration, but his diatribes about all things Jewish aren’t lost on the young boy. The result is a loving relationship that is laced with acid—but young Claude is a clever boy. He understands that the old man who cares for him is all thunder and no lightning. His bigotry is based on ignorance and his affection for the boy is based on genuine connection. He’s a human being who simply seems to absorb the propaganda that surrounds him. The fact that his dangerous ideals have never been seriously challenged is also significant. (One doubts if he has ever encountered a Jew in his provincial country environment.)

Berri never tries to vilify Pepe. He’s simply portrayed as an imperfect man in an extremely imperfect world, and his humanist approach to the character is refreshing. In fact, this grandfatherly gentleman ends up being the film’s tragic figure when one fully expects that figure will be young Claude. It is easy to relate to their relationship. Most of us have overheard relatives or someone that they love say shockingly hateful things about one group or another and have to settle their disturbed feelings about their attitudes and come to some sort of compromised acceptance in order to continue their relationship with these people. Luckily, the young eight year old is resilient. In fact, Claude manages to forge his affectionate relationship to this man by forgiving Pepe’s obviously ridiculous beliefs. They are, after all, based on ignorance. He even teases Pepe about these beliefs throughout the film while turning these dangerous attitudes into a game. What else can a child do? He has a sense of humor about the old man’s skewed attitudes and enjoys calling attention to the flaws in Pepe’s logic. There’s something extremely hopeful about Claude’s refusal to let these beliefs define him or corrupt their mutual affection for one another.

The film’s autobiographical origins are worth noting as Claude Berri was also sent to live with gentiles during the occupation of Paris in 1944—although these gentiles knew that he was a Jew and guarded him from the Nazi threat because they felt it was the right thing to do. In some ways, I am reminded of François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Both films are brilliant and affecting debut features, both directors borrow from their own childhoods, and both films reveal unchanging unfortunate truths about humanity. It is no wonder that Truffaut was a great admirer of the film. The Two of Us tackles weighty subjects without dragging the film down with excessive melodrama. Instead, there is a sense of frivolity and fun throughout most of its duration.

French One Sheet

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is protected by the standard Blu-ray case with insert artwork that features the infamous Saul Bass poster framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. It seems poor form to criticize their practice of branding their films by framing their art in this manner, but one does wish that they would have made an exception in this case since the Bass artwork should stand on its own. They could at least have made this cover art reversible—although this would’ve made it impossible for them to feature the still that decorates the interior of the case. Cohen also includes a small booklet that features cast and crew credits and film related photography. One wishes that this booklet could have featured the infamous Truffaut essay about the film, but this is a small complaint.

The disc’s menu features footage from the film and is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Cohen Film Collection is proud to present a gorgeous new 4K restoration of this world cinema classic. This is the sort of transfer that is great enough to speak about it in extremely general terms, because every single aspect of the image is simply gorgeous and beyond reproach. Cohen’s Blu-ray image is as perfect as anyone has any right to expect from the format. Detail, depth, density, and grain resolution, all perfectly represent the original source (which must have been in surprisingly good condition from the outset). This is a huge improvement over the old Criterion DVD.

Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

It’s always a bit more difficult to rate the audio transfer on these older films, because many audiophiles have ridiculously high expectations. They want a dynamic sonic experience that puts their expensive sound systems to good use. However, it is much more important to have a faithful representation of the film’s original audio mix. Cohen’s Linear PCM mono track is an extremely clean and faithful representation that supports Berri’s visuals admirably. This is a narrow track and isn’t at all dynamic, but these really aren’t fair criticisms.

Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

There are a handful of supplements available on Criterion’s DVD release of the film that aren’t included here. The interviews with Claude Berri and his Oscar-winning short, Le poulet (1962), would have added considerable value to this release. Fortunately, the material included in this release is also essential viewing for anyone with an appreciation for French cinema.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Wade Major

Wade Major (film critic with NPR affiliate KPCC-FM and co-host/producer of the IGN DigiGods Podcast) gives a surprisingly instructive commentary that adds to one’s appreciation and enjoyment of the film by contextualizing the film’s story and events, theorizing about certain story elements, providing information about the film’s production, and discussing background information about Claude Berri, Alain Cohen, and Michel Simon.

Michel Simon Discusses The Two of Us – (01:25)

This interview excerpt is too short to provide the viewer with anything more than a few general comments about his involvement with this production and its reception, but it is nice to have it included here as a historical artifact.

Michel Simon and Jean Renoir in Conversation – (06:00)

The same can be said of this excerpt from what looks like a much longer program (though we could be wrong). Simone and Renoir discuss La Chienne in a very vague and general manner while offering each other the credit for the film’s success. Later, we see Simone waxing nostalgic about those he has worked with (with Sacha Guitry receiving and especially affectionate mention). There isn’t anything about the film in question, but fans will probably be glad to have it included here in any case.

Restoration Re-Release Trailer – (01:45)

Cohen rounds out the supplemental package with their restoration re-release trailer. It’s very nice to have it included here, but one wishes that the film’s original trailer could have been features as well.

US One Sheet by Saul Bass

Final Words:

Cohen’s 4K restoration transfer of The Two of Us is a gift to Blu-ray collectors everywhere. It comes highly recommended!

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Digibook Cover

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:50:27

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English Dolby True-HD Audio

Alternate Audio:

5.1 Castilian Spanish Dolby Digital Audio
Mono Latin American Spanish Dolby Digital Audio
5.1 French Dolby Digital Audio
5.1 German Dolby Digital Audio
5.1 Italian Dolby Digital Audio
5.1 Brazilian Portuguese Dolby Digital Audio
2.0 Japanese Dolby Digital Audio
English Descriptive Audio

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Latin American Spanish, Castilian Spanish, French, Italian, German, Swedish, Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish, Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin Traditional, Mandarin Simplified, Korean, and Thai

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes: This title is also available in a ‘40th Anniversary’ UHD/Blu-ray edition. Both the Blu-ray/DVD and the UHD/Blu-ray versions include an Ultraviolet copy of the film. The disc covered in this review is the Blu-ray/DVD edition.

Title

It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning… It’s difficult to imagine anyone needing a primer on Grease—which seems to enjoy the affectionate popularity of millions of viewers both young and old. Featuring an explosion of song and dance, as well as star-making performances from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Grease made an indelible impact on popular culture. Everyone seems to know the film’s plot (and we use this term rather loosely in this particular instance), the characters, and (most importantly) the music. Boasting unforgettable songs including “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” ” “Beauty School Drop Out,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and (of course) “Grease,” the film is a timeless feel-good celebration—but it is rather difficult to figure out the reason behind the film’s continued success.

A subjective appraisal of the film will illuminate an excess of extremely obvious flaws that have been written about for the past 40 years. A review published in Entertainment Weekly at the time of the film’s 1998 theatrical revival read like a scathing diatribe and yet one senses that the reviewer had a grudging respect for the film.

“Don’t sic Rizzo and Kenickie on me for saying this, but Grease  was—and still is—a clunker… [It] is a crummy, crudely put together movie—Kleiser’s camera doesn’t swing, the action doesn’t flow, the big set pieces (the girls with ‘Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,’ the boys with ‘Greased Lightnin,’’ the National Bandstand Dance, the Thunder Road race) look like they were shot on a high school stage. But my oh my, will you get a load of slinky, skinny, sex pistol John Travolta, less than a year out of [Saturday Night] Fever, burning with ambition and possibility (seconds before taking a wrong turn with Moment by Moment)…

Grease, with its catchy-but-mediocre music and busy-but-uninspired dancing, is cheesy and faded—and still, we smile with indulgence… Grease is a creaker, but it’s America’s creaker…” –Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly, April 03, 1998)

Roger Ebert’s review shared Schwarzbaum’s sentiments but still gave the film three out of four stars (which isn’t at all bad).

“…No revival, however joyously promoted, can conceal the fact that this is just an average musical, pleasant and upbeat and plastic. The musical is being revived not because it is invaluable, but because it contains an invaluable cultural icon: the singing, dancing performance of John Travolta.

It is now clear that, slumps or not, comebacks or not, Travolta is an important and enduring movie star whose presence can redeem even a compromised Grease. This is not one of his great films—it lacks the electricity of Saturday Night Fever or the quirky genius of Pulp Fiction—but it has charm. If Travolta lacks the voltage of Elvis Presley (his obvious role model for this film), at least he’s in the same ballpark, and Elvis didn’t make such great movies, either…

…It’s fun, yes, but it doesn’t lift off the screen… Its underlying problem is that it sees the material as silly camp: It neuters it. Romance and breaking up are matters of life and death for teenagers, and a crisis of self-esteem can be a crushing burden. Grease doesn’t seem to remember that. Saturday Night Fever does.” –Roger Ebert (Chicago-Sun Times, March 27, 1998)

Every negative remark written about this film is absolutely fair and usually on target, but for whatever reason, this reviewer is charmed to the core by its vitality and charm. It is good in the same way that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is good. Neither film is a sterling example of great filmmaking but they elicit an overwhelming amount of joy in the viewer if they are willing to submit their minds to their will.

Actually, it might be said that the film is a “good film” since Grease was only ever meant to offer the viewer a few hours of mindless fun. Isn’t a film successful when it meets the filmmaker’s original intentions? This is a film that has been satisfying those intentions for 40 years!

SS01

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Paramount’s Blu-ray and DVD discs are housed inside an attractive Digi-book that looks like a Rydell High yearbook. Better yet, the plastic tray offers adequate protection to the discs (and a good many Digi-books don’t). The book contains several glossy pages of film-related photographs and artwork that adds some aesthetic value to the release (despite a very glaring typo).

40th Anniversary 'Grease' Releases

Paramount’s 40th Anniversary Releases of Grease

The animated Blu-ray menu features footage from the film and is accompanied by a snippet of “You’re the One that I Want.” It is an extremely attractive menu and is easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Paramount worked with director Randal Kleiser to restore Grease to its original vibrancy with the highest quality sound, picture resolution, and color. The original negative was scanned and received extensive cleanup and color correction using previously unavailable digital restoration tools such as high dynamic range technology and the result is a marked improvement from earlier home video releases. The 2009 Blu-ray was acceptable but didn’t really live up the potential of the Blu-ray format. This new 40th Anniversary Edition improves on every aspect of the image—with an especially noticeable spike in fine detail. Colors are gorgeous throughout the duration, and black levels are perfectly within an acceptable range. There are a few shots that come across as soft, flat, and processed but these shots look this way on all of the various releases. This suggests that these issues are inherited from the source elements. It is reasonable to assume that this is very close to the absolute best this film can look. The transfer is nicely handled as well as there aren’t any nasty compression issues to annoy the viewer.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The audio was enhanced from a six-track mix created for an original 70mm release, giving the music more clarity. There doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming difference between the audio transfer on this new release and the mix found on the 2009 disc, but the audio on that earlier release was serviceable and represented the original film adequately and this track follows suit. For a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio mix, the sonic experience isn’t terribly dynamic and might disappoint those hoping for an engulfing musical experience—even if the musical numbers are spaced out around various channels in a pleasing way. It is simply too front-heavy to really amaze the listener. One has the feeling that there were issues in the source audio that keeps the audio from being the perfect experience that fans are no doubt hoping to enjoy. However, it represents the source and this is all it really needs to accomplish.

SS04

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Most of the supplemental material has been carried over from previous releases and are therefore presented in standard definition, but there are three newer features that are blessed with 1080P transfers: Grease: A Chicago Story, Alternate Main Titles, and an Alternate Ending. Nothing on the disc really offers a comprehensive look at the making of this landmark film or any instructive insight into the reasons behind its continuing success, but the sum of all of these features do add up to more than the sum of their individual parts. It is simply too bad that Paramount hasn’t included the Grease Day USA television special that originally aired upon the film’s release (instead of merely presenting excerpts). While, it wouldn’t make for a very informative addition to the package, it an interesting look at the film’s marketing and release (with plenty of disco thrown in for good measure). It seems likely that they would’ve had to license some of the unrelated music in order to include the program in its entirety.

Commentary by Randal Kleiser (Director) and Patricia Birch (Choreographer)

Randal Kleiser and Patricia Birch may not offer a lot of revelatory information or analysis in their comments but they are able to offer quite a bit of fun trivia and details about the production while keeping the commentary interesting throughout the duration. Theirs isn’t the best commentary in the universe but it is far from the worst and is at very least a fun diversion for die-hard Grease fanatics.

Introduction by Randal Kleiser – (00:24)

It’s impossible to understand why these introductions are even made for these home video releases. With the occasional rare exception, they bring absolutely nothing in the way of instructive information to the table. Kleiser’s introduction is not one of these exceptions and its inclusion here brings absolutely nothing of value to the disc. It merely takes up space.

Alternate Animated Main Titles – (03:44)

The original song is included here (in demo form) and is synced to the animated sequence as originally planned before Barry Gibb came up with its replacement. Frankly, it doesn’t work nearly as well—but this is what makes this one of the disc’s better features. It offers a real glimpse at the creation and evolution of the classic. What’s more, there is a contextual introduction offered at the beginning of the feature before playing the titles. This was very much appreciated.

Alternate Ending – (00:45)

Again, it was a blessing in disguise that they were unable to use this alternate ending. The footage used here comes from the original black and white work-print of the film but has been shoddily colorized. In any case, it’s nice to have it here.

Deleted, Extended, and Alternate Scenes – (480i) – (10:17)

It is nice to have the following deleted material in their black-and-white “work-print” form (even if there isn’t any noteworthy or substantial material that was left on the cutting room floor).

The following material is included here:

Introduction by Randal Keiser – (00:17)

“T”-Birds Harass Eugene – (00:38)

Extended: Classroom Announcements – (02:36)

Extended: Pink Ladies and Sandy at Lunch – (00:46)

Extended: She’s Too Pure to Be Pink – (00:46)

Extended: Intro to Summer Nights – (00:21)

Rydell Pep Rally – (00:59)

Extended: Kenickie and Danny Outside Frosty’s – (00:36)

The Stroll – (00:24)

Extended: National Bandstand – (01:15)

Alternate: At the Dance – (01:22)

Thunder Road – (00:12)

Grease: A Chicago Story – (24:30)

‘Grease’: A Chicago Story features new interviews with writer Jim Jacobs and original cast members of the Chicago show. It is probably the most substantial program included in the disc’s supplemental package and certainly the most informative. It covers how the original idea came about, and how the writing originated, the inspiration for location and characters, the collaborative process with Warren Casey, the original Chicago production, and even how it was discovered and became a successful Broadway show.

The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering ‘Grease – (22:27)

This retrospective is an engaging look back at the film and its production and includes quite a bit of raw “behind the scenes” footage throughout its duration (which is really the featurette’s strongest attribute). Unfortunately, the interview content doesn’t probe into the production in any real depth and tends to lean towards the typical navel-gazing and generic complimentary phrases about the others involved. The participants really need to get out of PR-mode and offer real information about the production. There is no need to sell the film at this point. Grease was a massive hit, its decades later, and we own it on home video! However, it is still worth watching for the general information that we are actually given.

2002 ‘Grease’ Reunion: DVD Launch Party – (15:13)

One of the pleasant surprises on the disc is this coverage of the DVD Launch Party held in 2002. Frankly, one doesn’t expect very much from this feature. In fact, it doesn’t seem as if it will offer much of interest to the viewer in its first three minutes. It begins with an E! Entertainment-style montage of various cast and crew members (including John Travolta and Olivia-Newton-John) having their photographs taken and interview snippets that don’t provide any real insight into the film. These consist of statements like, “No one expected the film to be such a phenomenon.” However, this portion of the proceedings takes up less than three minutes of the duration. The rest of the program features three live concert performances with Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, and other cast members. These include, “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and “Summer Nights.” Olivia Newton-John carries these performances as her voice was the strongest after the many years that had passed since the film was originally released, but everyone seems as if they are having a blast and their enthusiasm is really quite charming.

The Moves Behind the Music – (08:14)

The dance numbers are briefly discussed in this featurette featuring Patricia Birch (choreographer), Bill Butler (director of photography), and Randal Kleiser (director). They discuss how the dance sequences were a collaboration that melded camera and dance and also reveal some extremely general information about how some of these dances were conceived and pulled off. I believe Olivia Newton-John makes an extremely brief appearance as well to comment on the film’s lengthy dance contest sequence.

Thunder Roadsters – (05:22)

This short featurette isn’t terribly informative but may be of interest to vintage car and hot rod enthusiasts. The famous “Greased Lightning” car is discussed for a brief period and various people discuss their own vintage car projects.

Grease’ Memories from John & Olivia – (03:25)

This dual interview finds both John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John at the DVD launch party in 2002 and the most interesting thing about this short clip is their rapport with one another. They seem like very close friends with a genuine affection for one another. The interview content is pure fluff and finds them talking generally about the film’s legacy. It’s not particularly instructive but it is kind of charming.

John Travolta and Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview – (01:47)

Perhaps it is the archival nature of this interview with John Travolta more interesting. Taken from footage of the aforementioned Grease Day USA television special, the interview focuses on Travolta’s early career as a stage actor and his history performing Grease on stage (in a much smaller role). It isn’t nearly long enough to offer much in the way of substance, but what is included is worthwhile (if only as a time-capsule of the time the movie was released). As mentioned before, it is a shame that the entire program couldn’t have been included.

Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood “Grease Day” Interview – (02:07)

Another clip from Grease Day USA finds Olivia Newton-John giving her impressions of the film’s reception and is more obviously publicity oriented than Travolta’s interview. However, it is really a very charming addition to the disc.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:09)

Luckily, Paramount has seen fit to include the film’s original theatrical trailer on this release. It’s an interesting artifact that should please fans of the film.

Rydell Sing-Along

This feature offers fans the option of watching the musical numbers separately with the lyrics appearing on the bottom of the screen to create a karaoke video. One can also choose to watch the film in its entirety in this manner.

Photo Galleries

The photos included on the disc are presented in slideshow form and organize into four galleries: Rydell High Year Book, Production, Premiere, and ‘Grease’ Day.

SS05

Final Words:

You owe yourself a night of mindless fun, and this new 40th Anniversary Blu-ray will provide that in abundance!

SS06

Blu-ray Cover Art

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Region: Region A & B

Length: 86 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 English Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 37.57 Mbps

Title

The ridiculous plot (if you can call it that) of Killer Klowns from Outer Space involves a pair of teenagers who look like they are in their twenties named Mike and Debbie. The couple warns the local police that a gang of homicidal alien-clowns have landed in the nearby area (in a spaceship shaped like a circus tent), but the cops are naturally skeptical and borderline retarded. Reports begin coming in from other anxious residents detailing similar run-ins with the large-shoed assailants. There can no longer be any doubt—the “Klowns” have indeed invaded earth and are terrorizing earthlings in increasingly ridiculous and not even remotely scary ways. They’re out to turn the Earth’s population into candy floss, and that might not be such a tragedy if all earthlings have minds similar to the ones behind this movie. Written and produced by the Chiodo brothers—known for their work on a host of special-effects laden hits such as Team America: World Police and the Critters movies—this is a cinematic experience unparalleled in this galaxy as it will eradicate the viewer’s remaining brain cells. Frankly, it does nothing to arouse this reviewer’s involvement or interest. It has every ingredient that shouldn’t be included in a horror film if one wishes to experience an eerie and frightening film. The tonally-confused conglomeration of nonsensical situations might work as a comedy if the filmmakers understood comic timing. There are many people in the universe who adore the film, but one suspects that this is due to some sort of nostalgic memory of seeing it as a small child or while high.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray disc in their usual sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck and artwork based on the original one-sheet design. This case and its artwork are further protected by an O-Card (or slipcover) featuring the new Sara Deck design sweetens a reasonably attractive presentation—but the new design is incredibly busy and doesn’t really suit this reviewer’s aesthetic tastes. The one sheet isn’t particularly great either, but it is marginally superior to the new Arrow art.

One Sheet

There is also an attractively illustrated booklet that includes an essay about the film by James Oliver entitled Circus Bizarro: Killer Klowns, Then and Now along with the usual transfer and production credits. Usually, the perks would stop here, but Arrow also included a reversible poster with the choice of new artwork that bests the Blu-ray’s cover art and the film’s original one sheet. Fans should be thrilled.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet, poster, and O-Card are only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s brand new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative has resulted in excellent image quality that bests earlier transfers of the film. (I borrowed a friend’s Blu-ray of the earlier Blu-ray release for comparison and this one is a significant step up.) For one thing, there is more information in the frame (and this includes all four size of the image). In addition, the compression of the transfer is much better on this disc. Colors are similarly rendered here but seem marginally warmer. Meanwhile, the film’s organic layer of grain looks natural and never inhibits fine detail, which is where this transfer really bests earlier releases. The increase in fine detail is extremely significant as we are able to see textures that weren’t nearly as noticeable on earlier discs. The print has been cleaned of “dirt, debris, scratches, and other examples of film wear” and the image benefits from these efforts. There is also a logo at the beginning of this transfer that was not seen on the previous edition. Killer Klowns fans should be “happy-dancing” to that atrocious theme song right about now.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Both the 2.0 Linear PCM Audio and the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio are fairly solid and well-balanced. There may be some synch issues here, but I would imagine that this is the result of less-than-perfect production methods. The 5.1 track isn’t nearly as dynamic as one might wish, but what can one expect when the original audio was never intended to have a 5.1 mix? Purists may well prefer the 2.0 Linear PCM Audio and shouldn’t find much reason for complaint.

SS04

Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

It is difficult to objectively judge a disc’s supporting supplemental package when the film these features support means less than nothing to you, but it is probably best to give each of them the benefit of the doubt and this was rather easy for us to do for this release, because Arrow has loaded their disc with an extremely generous helping of features that are—at the least—somewhat instructive.

Feature Length Audio Commentary with ‘The Chiodo Brothers’

The included commentary track with the Chiodo Brothers has apparently been carried over from an earlier release and is a loose and casual conversation that does give fans of the film quite a few details about its creation.

Deleted Scenes

Deleted scenes are always a welcome addition to a Blu-ray’s release and these should be no different to those who appreciate the film. Better yet, optional commentary tracks are available for both of these scenes.

Bad Experience – (1080p) – (02:14)

Tight Rope – (1080p) – (02:22)

The Chiodos Walk Among Us – (1080p) – (23:41)

The Chiodos Walk Among Us give the viewer a retrospective examination of the Chiodos early 8mm films that find the brothers learning their filmmaking craft by putting together amateur films with special effects (some paying homage to Ray Harryhausen). It must be said that this feature would be amazingly satisfying if this reviewer had any admiration at all for the filmmakers in question, and one wishes that more Blu-ray titles could include programs about that particular filmmaker’s early amateur work and short student films.

The Early Films

Arrow goes a step farther and actually includes a few of their shorts in their entirety. Why can’t more discs contain a filmmaker’s early shorts? One imagines that those who admire Killer Klowns will be thrilled to see these amateur films made in the Chiodo basement along with their student efforts.

The following shorts are included:

Land of Terror (1967) – (1080p) – (07:38)

This one should recall Ray Harryhausen’s work.

Beast from the Egg (1968) – (1080p) – (07:26)

Beast is a monster piece that also includes an optional commentary track.

Africa Danny (1970) – (1080p) – (16:58)

Eskimo (1971) – (1080p) – (07:03)

Sludge Grubs (1972) – (1080p) – (06:54)

Free Inside (1974) – (1080p) – (12:20)

The Making of Killer Klowns – (1080i) – (21:40)

The Chiodo Brothers head this archival program about the creation of Klowns. It is a little better than a lot of similar featurettes but is probably a far cry from the comprehensive “making of” documentary examination that fans will be hoping for when they see this supplement listed on the disc’s menu. Fortunately, there are quite a few other programs and interviews included on the disc, and the entire package is worth more than the sum of its parts. (Although, a single documentary that examines a film’s production comprehensively and in its entirety is always superior to a huge array of small featurettes that merely skim the surface of a single area of production.)

Behind the Screams with the Chiodos – (1080p) – (29:54)

Fans will certainly enjoy the ‘behind the scenes’ VHS footage glimpsed in this archival piece. It makes a nice companion to the “making of” featurette.

Bringing Life to These Things – (1080p) – (07:58)

Stephen Chiodo gives viewers a guided tour of the Chiodo production house. It will interest die-hard fans, but it is far from being one of the disc’s best supplements.

Visual Effects with Gene Warren, Jr. – (1080i) – (14:52)

Charles Chiodo and Gene Warren, Jr feature in this piece about the visual effects included in the film.

Kreating Klowns – (1080i) – (12:50)

Charles Chiodo and Dwight Roberts discuss creating the “Klowns” seen in the film. It will interest viewers with a fondness for practical special effects.

Tales of Tobacco – (1080p) – (18:01)

This 2014 interview finds Grant Cramer bringing an actor’s perspective to the disc as he reminisces about the film’s production.

Debbie’s Big Night – (1080p) – (10:39)

Debbie’s Big Night is a 2014 interview with Suzanne Snyder that acts as a decent companion to Tales of Tobacco with Grant Cramer.

Let the Show Begin – (1080p) – (10:38)

Let the Show Begin is more interesting than it has any right to be considering that the theme song being discussed is nearly as annoying as the one used for  and just as hokey. It is essentially an interview with the American punk band, The Dickies—including Leonard Graves Phillips and Stan Lee. They discuss the bands origins, the theme’s influences, and its release on an EP that seemed to confuse fans of the band.

Komposing Klowns – (1080i) – (13:15)

Those who have a special interest in film scores will welcome this interview with John Massari as he discusses his score for the film.

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Final Words:

Those who love this film (for whatever reason) will rejoice at the fabulous transfer and the jam-packed supplemental package that has been provided by Arrow. The rest of the world will light a candle for the loss of 86 minutes that they will never have back.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: FilmRise

Release Date: April 10, 2018

Region: Region A

Length: 01:47:32

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English Dolby Digital Audio

2.0 English Dolby Digital Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 2.40:1

Notes: This title is also available in the DVD format.

Festival One Sheet

“There are no great ‘lessons’ in the book. But it is certainly a cautionary tale, because people like Dahmer keep popping up with depressing regularity; Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine, Seung-ho Cho at Virginia Tech, most recently Jared Loughner in Tucson…” –John ‘Derf’ Backderf (Book Reporter)

A lot of critics and audiences seem to be missing the point of My Friend Dahmer. It still surprises me that critics and audiences seem unable to digest certain films that do not answer complicated questions. If one reads reviews for the film, this becomes readily apparent. Carla Meyer’s annoying review for the San Francisco Chronicle is simply one of many examples:

“…Based on ex-schoolmate John “Derf” Backderf’s 2012 graphic novel, this thoughtful, non-sensationalistic film focuses on the nurture-vs-nature argument. Yet filmmaker Marc Meyers does not come down strongly enough on either side — nature or nurture — to establish the film as particularly trenchant, or necessary… Which came first, bullies or dead animals in jars? ‘Friend’ does not say, nor is there a clear link between the discord in Jeff’s home and his behavior… ” –Carla Meyer (San Francisco Chronicle, November 14, 2017)

Graphic Novel

The Marc Meyers script follows Backderf’s original graphic novel with surprising fidelity.               
“I was committed to adapting Derf’s tale as faithfully as possible. The author’s personal narrative is horrifyingly honest, and for me it was of utmost importance to maintain that candidness in my interpretation. I could relate to these characters. They reminded me of my own high school days growing up in a similar rural suburb as Akron, Ohio. Plus, the timeline of Jeff’s family life disintegrating around him oddly mirrored my own parents’ divorce during the end of my high school experience.” –Marc Meyers (Press Book)

It seems clear to me that Carla Meyer would make an extremely pedestrian filmmaker. Her films would be of the “paint-by-numbers” variety—mere trifles that tie up complicated problems with simple naïve solutions. Since when is it a filmmaker’s job to have all the answers to society’s complicated problems? Marc Meyers seems to know better. He simply finds these questions interesting and understands that they are important questions to ask in these times when High School life isn’t terribly different from prison life for certain students. Adolescent alienation is a huge problem with potentially severe consequences, but there are no clear solutions for it. The questions, however, are really rather important—and they are also extremely interesting. However, one can only become engaged in such a film if their expectations are kept in check. One should leave these expectations at the door and allow a film to take any course that it wants to take. Certain audiences have been disappointed—and even infuriated—by the fact that My Friend Dahmer doesn’t have a body count. The customer reviews for the film at Amazon is clear evidence of this. The following review was capitalized in its entirety and contained a number of misspellings. These issues have been corrected:

“This movie sucks. No killing was done. All it talked about was his high school life. No one cares about that. It was so hyped but it sucks.” –Laura

Apparently, “Laura” didn’t pay a lot of attention to the “hype,” because the marketing clearly indicated that the film focused on Dahmer’s formative adolescent years. Common sense would dictate that the film wouldn’t include the typical exploitive content. There are many such reviews scattered across the internet, and this reviewer finds them particularly nauseating. Shouldn’t Marc Meyers and John Backderf be praised for eschewing the obvious and exploitive approach taken by so many films in favor of a their more contemplative slant?

Exploitive 'Friendship'

This page from John “Derf” Backderf’s graphic novel hints at just how faithful the film version is to its original source.

One of the interesting things about this film is that it really doesn’t need the typical expository scenes that establish the situation. The audience already knows that Jeffrey Dahmer grew up to be one of the most notorious serial killers of all time. The filmmakers understand that this informs how the viewer will process the movie, so they can go about telling the tragic story of a young closeted adolescent that may very well resemble someone that the viewer knew in their formative years. In an odd way, Dahmer is an extremely sympathetic character in the film. If we didn’t already know that he became a brutal murderer in later years—and if he didn’t have an odd fascination for bones—this film would be processed much differently.

 Jeff is portrayed as a young man who wants desperately to connect with someone. He seems to have a slight chance of this early in the film when another homosexual boy invites him to attend a concert and he accepts. When the boy is later bullied in front of him, he becomes frightened and blows the date off. Unfortunately, this does not exclude him from being similarly bullied. This subtly shows that his hostile environment is keeping him from forming normal attachments. Like many other young outcasts, he begins showing off as a bid for attention. This comes in the form of mimicking the spastic ticks and slurred speech of his mother’s interior decorator (who has cerebral palsy) and faking epileptic fits.

Dahmer Lonley

Another panel from John “Derf” Backderf’s graphic novel.

This works in an odd way when John Backderf and his group of friends become amused with his shenanigans. They take him under their wing in a superficial way, but it soon becomes clear that they are not really his friends. They are laughing at him as much as with him and are exploiting his need for friendship for their own amusement. In an odd way, the Backderf character is the film’s biggest antagonist. He and his friends only push him deeper into the darkness. He didn’t single-handedly create a monster, but he exacerbated Dahmer’s ongoing problems.

In the midst of all of this, his family life isn’t at all nurturing. He seems to merely recede into the background as his parents fight. His mother clearly has mental health issues, and this only complicates the questions that so many critics seem to want answered so badly. Some questions have no answers. Would Jeffrey Dahmer have become a killer if he lived in an environment that allowed him to connect instead of being alienated by those around him?

How could any filmmaker honestly answer this with any real authority? There is simply no way to know. However, it is clear that things might have gone better if things had gone differently. Alienation and emotional abuse is mentally debilitating. This can be said without question. In an interview with John Backderf, he briefly discussed these issues:

“Everybody did everything wrong. My Friend Dahmer is, at its heart, a story about failure. Across-the-board failure. Particularly the adult world. Everybody, either through incompetence or indifference, just let this kid go. And it’s astonishing to me that nobody noticed or said they didn’t notice a thing… Everybody dropped the ball. And the result was a pile of bodies. And unfortunately, that seems to happen with regularity… Sixteen-year-olds are morons. I mean, that’s really the only way to describe it. I think when I approached this story, my initial decision was, [and] I have to just be brutally honest in telling this story. So I’ve just got to lay it out there, warts and all. I mean, there’s no defense for our sense of humor at age 16 back then. And I don’t try to make a defense for it. I just say, here it is. I don’t think that most people would be very comfortable with trying to explain their behavior at 16, either.” –John “Derf” Backderf (Interview with Abraham Riesman, Vulture, April 20, 2017)

Lack of Friends

Another page from John “Derf” Backderf’s graphic novel.

There is a lot in the film for the viewer to contemplate despite its lack of answers. Even so, one doesn’t wish to suggest that this is a perfect film. There are moments that don’t feel quite as authentic as others (particularly those that depict Dahmer’s family life), and one wishes that the boy that Jeff jilted earlier in the film could have been kept in the periphery of the story to a greater extent as a reminder that Jeff’s swallowed sexuality is constantly festering. It is true that his obsession with an older jogging doctor does this, but this is an inappropriate manifestation of these urges. It would be nice to have the more appropriate alternative that Dahmer rejects due to his fear of further ostracization and abuse to linger in the background throughout the entire duration (though one doesn’t wish for this to be too obvious). Such an approach would make his descent into darkness all the more tragic.

Having said this, none of the flaws bury the virtues of My Friend Dahmer. It is the film that Meyers intended to make, and is therefore a success. What’s more, it is impossible not to be impressed with the film’s tragic and perfectly rendered ending (which should please anyone with a detailed knowledge of Dahmer’s career as a serial killer). It is the only way the film could have ended.

One Sheet #2

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

FilmRise packages the disc in a standard Blu-ray case with a sleeve featuring a slightly altered version of the film’s primary one sheet. We applaud the use of the film’s one sheet artwork, but the film had two other posters that are marginally more interesting. It is too bad that ‘Derf’ Backderf wasn’t engaged to design the one sheet using Ross Lynch’s visage instead of the design utilized in his graphic novel. It really seems like a missed opportunity. He probably could have come up with a simple yet intriguing image. In any case, the “faces of the actors” approach has grown tired. Marketing departments may want to take note of this.

The menus are what one might expect from a DVD disc as the chapters, audio options, and special features are given their own menu on separate screens. However, these are subtly animated utilizing footage from the film while the main menu features the same artwork used on the cover. The end result is reasonably attractive and intuitive to navigate.

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

My Friend Dahmer was shot on an Arri Alexa XT camera which shoots at a 3.2K resolution in the ProRes format. The 1080p AVC encoded transfer seems to reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the original production footage. The image is quite sharp and detail often impresses—with a spike in quality during the exterior sequences, but there are anomalies evident such as aliasing throughout the film. These issues never really distract the viewer, but they do keep the transfer from rising to a more impressive level. The image is also a bit flat much of the time, and there will be those that dislike this aspect of the production photography.

Sound Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

It is a mystery as to why some Blu-ray discs still don’t provide a high definition audio track, but such is the case with this disc. Instead, FilmRise provides a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital track and a 2.0 Dolby Digital mix. It isn’t a bad track, but lossy tracks on a Blu-ray disc usually feel like a cheat. Such tracks don’t take proper advantage of the format.

However, the film’s sound design isn’t exactly dynamic in any case, and the Dolby tracks provided do an adequate job of representing the film in any case. There are some nice separations throughout the film if one chooses the 5.1 mix even if they aren’t particularly showy. It’s a good enough mix to warrant 3 stars despite the fact that neither track is in high definition. Usually, such tracks wouldn’t earn more than two stars.

Special Features:

2 of 5 Stars

Interview with Ross Lynch – (03:06)

One wishes that more effort and thought had been expended for the supplemental featured on the disc, and this particular “interview” with Ross Lynch is a pretty good example of what one is referring to when they use the word “filler” when discussing supplemental features. It is little more than EPK fluff that does more to sell the film than to enlighten the viewer as to what went into the production. Ross does relate some interesting trivia (Example: They shot the film in the actual house where Dahmer grew up). However, there are so many topics that could have been discussed that aren’t. Does anyone really want to hear how all of the cast and crew did a fantastic job? Why are comprehensive documentaries so rare?

Theatrical Trailer – (02:27)

It is nice to see that the trailer has been included here as all discs should at the very least include the film’s original trailer.

Behind the Scenes Slide Show – (00:14)

The disc also features and image gallery in slide show form (only utilizing dissolves rather than straight cuts) that feature a number of ‘behind the scenes’ stills. This is really the only ‘behind the scenes’ material offered in the entire package.

One Sheet

Final Words:

Those with an aversion to deliberately paced films or ambiguity may become agitated while watching My Friend Dahmer, but the very aspects of the film that will irritate these viewers should please certain audiences. Luckily, this Blu-ray edition of the film should only enhance one’s enjoyment as it carries a relatively good image transfer. Some will lament the lack of a high definition audio mix, but the standard definition options really aren’t that bad (especially for a film as quiet as this one). If all of this suits your personal tastes, we recommend that you indulge.

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Spine #909

Blu-ray Cover (No Sticker)

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: February 13, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 01:36:36

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 35.67 Mbps

Title

“Well, the question of race was the furthest thing from my mind. When I was writing that character, I was thinking about the disintegration of family, the whole idea that people can’t cooperate, even when faced with a disastrous situation they just stick to their own agendas, arguing about whether to go upstairs or downstairs instead of facing the problem. When John Russo and I wrote the screenplay, [the character] was a white guy… So when Dwayne [Jones] agreed to play the role, we all had a conversation and decided that it was a bold move to not change the script. That was it. The same things happened to him when he was white. The redneck posse came and shot him, because they thought he was a zombie, not because they knew he was black. It was an accident really, in the end, a happy accident. The night we drove the first print to New York we heard on the radio that King had been assassinated, so of course, the film immediately took on a completely different slant.” –George A. Romero (Little White Lies)

Most of the participants who worked on Night of the Living Dead substantiate Romero’s above quote (and many others like it). George A. Romero and John Russo probably didn’t write an allegorical social document about race relations in the 1960s, but it is impossible to believe that the filmmakers didn’t know what casting Dwayne Jones in the pivotal leading role would do for the material. Frankly, whether the original script was meant as a comment on racism in America or was simply an exercise in macabre suspense is immaterial at this point. The fact is that the film as shot so perfectly reflects the social atmosphere of the time in which it was made that it is impossible to see it as anything else.

The most interesting aspect of the entire film has nothing to do with zombies. The characters could be protecting themselves from anything in the world: zombies, a homicidal cult, aliens from outer space, murderous hillbillies, or any other threat. To be honest, the zombie sub-genre is one of my least favorite brands of horror. The entire concept strikes me as rather ridiculous and not even remotely scary. Night of the Living Dead manages to rise above this personal prejudice against zombie films—and this is because we spend much more time with another kind of threat: paranoid human beings. It ratchets up a good deal of suspense because the zombies gathering outside can represent anything at all. They are abstractions. The social commentary is always on point (whether it was intended or not), and this only adds to the viewer’s sense of dread. The overall effect is simply chilling, and the devastation that we feel has nothing at all to do with flesh eating zombies.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection has given this release special Digipak packaging. Like many other collectors, this reviewer really prefers Criterion’s usual clear case presentations. However, it must be said that the design is overwhelmingly attractive. The artwork by Sean Phillips resembles a graphic novel and should please fans of the film. Also included is a folded pamphlet containing artwork on one side and an essay by Stuart Klawans entitled “Mere Anarchy is Loosed” on the other side. While a booklet in addition to the poster would have been preferable, the text gives the reader contextual information about the cultural climate at the time the film was made and released. Of course, the usual technical credits are also included.

MenuMenu 2

There are two discs contained in the package and both utilize static menus that feature different film specific artwork. It all falls in line with what one has come to expect from Criterion. They are both attractive and fairly intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Night of the Living Dead was restored in 4K by the Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation. Funding was provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation and the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation.

The restoration was overseen by George A. Romero and Image Ten, Inc.—especially Gary R. Streiner, Russell W. Streiner, and John A. Russo. The original 35 mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution by Cineric, Inc., in New York City, with audio digitization performed by Audio Mechanics in Burbank, California.” –Janus Films

The restoration team primarily utilized the original 35mm camera negative but a 35mm fine-grain from 1968 was used for portions of the negative that weren’t usable (approximately 1% of the film). Criterion’s transfer of the film’s immaculate 4K restoration is the best the film has ever looked on home video. It is immediately evident that there is more information on the left and right sides of the 1.37:1 frame. Black levels have also been significantly improved upon when one compares the image to earlier releases as they appear deep without crushing detail. There is an organic layer of grain that adds to the transfer’s filmic presentation without becoming unwieldy. Fine detail also impresses as there is a crispness to the image that hasn’t been evident in any of the previous releases. Depth and clarity are also significantly improved. Frankly, it’s impossible to imagine Night of the Living Dead looking any better on home video.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The film’s audio has also been meticulously restored:

“…After the evaluation of eighteen separate source elements, the original monaural soundtrack was remastered under the supervision of Romero and Gary Streiner from the original quarter-inch mix masters, quarter-inch premix audio tape, a final composite 16mm magnetic track, and the 16mm magnetic mix units. The restoration was performed at Audio Mechanics, led by John Polito.” –Liner Notes

The resulting audio was given a faithful LPCM transfer in the film’s original mono, and the only limitations of the track are those inherent in the original production methods. The dialogue is clearly rendered and the imperfections aren’t at all distracting. Most age-related blemishes have been carefully removed by the restoration team. This is a vast improvement over the 40th Anniversary DVD put out by Sony a decade ago. The film’s library source music is predictably flat, but it would be ridiculous to expect a dynamic sound mix for this particular film. The important thing is to present the original mix in the best possible condition, and this transfer certainly does this quite well.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

There is no denying that Criterion’s supplemental package is superb, and those who focus on what is here while ignoring what has been left off of the disc will be perfectly satisfied. In addition to a feature-length work print of the film (which features an alternative title), there is also a second disc that features over 3 hours and 16 minutes of video-based supplements included here. These features cover a lot of territory and add considerably to one’s appreciation of the film. Unfortunately, there are a few supplements that were feature featured on earlier DVD editions of the film that have not been carried over to this edition. Most of this material is more than adequately replaced here as some of the interviews with Romero covers the same territory as the interviews featured on those discs. However, there was a rather interesting feature-length documentary entitled One for the Fire: The Legacy of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ that would have added a considerable amount of value to Criterion’s edition. Frankly, its absence is the only thing that keeps this supplemental package from earning a 5-star rating.

Introduction to the ‘Night of Anubis’ Workprint

Russell Streiner introduces the work print and this introduction does a truly outstanding job of putting the footage in the proper context. He explains many of the odd blemishes the viewer sees throughout the print. It is an essential ingredient in an outstanding supplemental package. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t have been worth including the entire work print (minus the one reel) without this introduction.

Night of Anubis – (01:25:09)

Night of Anubis

Night of Anubis was the original title of the film (Anubis was the God of mummification in ancient Egypt), but this was changed after it was realized that this esoteric title was unlikely to interest a mainstream public. This never-before-presented 16mm work-print edit still carries this title.

The raw footage is presented here and hasn’t been corrected or restored in any way. It is included here for comparison purposes and is missing the final half of its second reel. However, it should be of great interest to fans and scholars as it features the aforementioned alternate opening title and a zombie shot that the original distributor had them remove. It also shows more information as it includes the negative edges. Unrestored audio from the final edit has been synched as well as it could be to this silent footage. There will be a few viewers who will wish that they had simply included the deleted zombie footage and the credit sequence since these are the only significant changes, but including the entirety of the remaining footage allows one to see how the film was constructed and the hard work that went into it.

Audio Commentary by George Romero, John Russo, Karl Hardman, and Marilyn Eastman

A lot of fans will remember this commentary track from several other home video releases. It was originally recorded in 1994 for the first “official” release of the film on laserdisc. It has since graced a number of DVD editions (including the 40th Anniversary DVD restoration). There’s something about commentaries for low budget independent features that one can’t help but love. They can be even more interesting than listening to brilliant auteurs talk about big budget masterpieces because guerilla films are made with blood, sweat, tears, and compromise. The filmmakers are forced to use what is at their disposal. These tracks truly inspire (especially when the film has become an undisputed classic). Romero seems to take in his mistakes with an admirable sense of humor and an incredible amount of modesty (as none of them hurt the film), and the same can be said of the other participants. Everyone involved seem to remember the communal effort and various idiosyncrasies of the production.

Audio Commentary by Bill Hinzman, Judith O’Dea, Keith Wayne, Kyra Schon, Russell Streiner, and Vince Survinski

Most of what was written about the previous track apply to this track as well—and while the conversational nature of this track is similar, there is not a lot of informational overlap. It is another enjoyable track that should please fans of the film as well as future filmmakers looking for inspiration. It is nice to have both tracks carried over for Criterion’s release.

Introduction to the Dailies Reel – (03:41)

Much like Russell Streiner’s introduction to the work print, Gary Streiner offers contextual information for the dailies presented on the disc. It is an informative preparatory piece that increases one’s appreciation for the dailies and for the film itself.

Never-Before-Seen 16 mm Dailies Reel – (18:04)

It is a rare opportunity to be able to witness the raw dailies of a classic film, so these eighteen minutes are really quite special as they give the viewer the opportunity to compare various takes of shots used in the film. The downside is that the sound elements for these shots no longer exist. What’s more, many of these takes have been flipped and there was no effort made to flip them back to their original state (which would’ve taken only minimal effort). This makes these comparisons slightly more difficult to digest. However, it is remarkable that they are available here in any form at all.

1967 Newsreels – (02:49)

This ‘behind the scenes’ footage from the film’s production was taken from a VHS recording of silent 16mm B-roll shot for a Pittsburgh news broadcast and is said to be the only existing footage of the film’s actual shooting. Jeff Carney provides original music to accompany the footage. The footage largely consists mainly of footage taken during the shooting of some of the film’s television news footage—specifically that which features an interview featuring Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille (who actually saved the footage), and the shooting of the helicopter. There isn’t much here, but it is certainly nice to have included here considering that it is the only footage that offers fans a brief glimpse behind the curtain.

Higher Learning: Interview with George A. Romero – (45:31)

This post-screening Q&A with George A. Romero was held at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and is hosted by Colin Geddes. The conversation is a casual but lively and incredibly informative one and is a pleasure to watch. Romero discusses the film’s production history, his writing habits, dispels a few myths, his embarrassment at the mistakes that he made during the film’s production, and his feelings and confusion about the immense popularity of the so-called “zombie film.” It may very well be the crown jewel in a supplemental package that is full of wonderful treasures.

Tomorrow with Tom Snyder: George A. Romero & Don Coscarelli – (18:18)

This selection from the July 3, 1979 episode of NBC’s Tomorrow pairs Romero with fellow horror director, Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) as Tom Snyder interviews the directors about the horror genre. The downside of the interview is that Coscarelli seems to hog most of the answers, but it is nonetheless an extremely entertaining archival interview.

Interviews with Duane Jones – (21:56)

Some might see this as a carry-over from the 40th Anniversary edition DVD release of the film, but this earlier disc didn’t include as much of Jones’ interesting and extremely rare interview as Criterion includes on this release. What’s more, there are a number of still photographs that illustrate this interview that are exclusive to this release. The interview was conducted and edited by Tim Ferrante on December 13, 1987. Jones discusses why he prefers to distance himself from the film despite the fact that he is grateful to George A. Romero and the crew of Night of the Living Dead for allowing him to be a part of it and to the fans for the acclaim that they give him. He also discusses what he considers a smooth and enjoyable production—and mentions that there were only two incidents that he considers unpleasant memories. One of these incidents wasn’t included on earlier discs, and it is probably the more important of the two as it is an example of the uneasy racial tension that was so prevalent at the time of the production. It is clear that the parallel between the film’s events and that situation isn’t at all lost on Jones.

Interview with Judith Ridley – (10:42)

Those who have the early Elite laserdisc or DVD edition of the film will have seen this interesting interview with Judith Ridley. It is great to have it carried over for this release. It is a decidedly light-hearted reminiscence (although Ridley doesn’t seem completely comfortable). She recalls how she came to be involved in the film and discusses her time on the set as well as why she didn’t continue making movies. It nice to have her perspective included here.

Light in the Darkness – (23:41)

Light in the Darkness is a “featurette” produced by Criterion that features new interviews with Guillermo del Toro, Frank Darabont, and Robert Rodriguez. It is essentially an appreciation of the film that carries a sort of charm due to the admiration shared by the three participants. Guillermo del Toro probably offers the most analytical comments about the film and its legacy, but Darabont and Rodriguez both offer interesting insights as well. One doubts if any of these insights will be new to most die-hard fans, but those who may be new to the film will find that their appreciation is intensified after watching this nice addition to the supplemental package.

Walking Like the Dead – (13:05)

This new featurette focuses on some of the actors (or extras) who portrayed the film’s “ghouls.” Interviewees include Kyra Schon (a.k.a. Karen), William Hinzman (the ghoul at the cemetery), Ella Mae Smith, William Burchinal, as well as a number of other participants. Each of these individuals seem to delight in their memories of the production. The footage was originally shot for Autopsy of the Dead (which covered the making of Night of the Living Dead in some detail). It’s a nice addition to the disc, but one wishes that Autopsy of the Dead could have been included either instead of or in addition to this featurette.

Tones of Terror – (11:15)

Even better is this video essay by Jim Cirronella about the film’s expert utilization of Capitol’s “Hi-Q” prerecorded library music. This subject is covered in more depth than one might expect considering the short duration of the essay. This is truly one of the packages surprise gems as it is certain to increase one’s appreciation of the film and the work that went into making it a reality.

Learning from Scratch – (11:58)

This featurette is based on an extremely interesting interview with John Russo about the Latent Image crew and how they learned by making industrial films and commercials. This piece utilizes quite a bit of footage from some of these commercials in order to illustrate the information being relayed throughout these twelve minutes, and there are even several color stills from the production of Night of the Living Dead to sweeten the deal. There is a lot of background information packed into these twelve minutes and fans are sure to be delighted.

Limitations into Virtues – (11:57)

Those who are familiar with Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos and their Every Frame a Painting videos will know what to expect from this analytical essay that zeros in on how the film was shot due to the limitations of the production. The style of the film is even compared to a clip from a Draft beer commercial that was previously shot by the Latent Image crew. It is an enjoyable and instructive essay that should please fans.

Venus Probe – (00:33)

An interesting addition to the package is this short newsreel clip about the Mariner 5 spacecraft and its findings during a probe of Venus. Those familiar with the film will remember that the subsequent malfunction of the Mariner 5 inspired vague theories as to what causes the dead to rise in the film.

1968 Theatrical Trailer – (01:49)

The heavy-handed nature of the original 1968 trailer makes it an amusing experience. It is interesting to see how far trailers have come since the film’s original release.

2017 Restoration Re-release Trailer – (01:13)

Janus Film’s re-release trailer offers an opportunity to see how the film was marketed to modern audiences, and they really did a wonderful job with it.

TV Spots

Rare television shots give fans a deeper glimpse into the film’s original marketing and both are interesting additions to the disc.

Radio Spots

It is interesting to hear these vintage radio spots from the film’s original release and some of the film’s re-releases. One gathers that at least one of these spots has been mislabeled as being from a 1970 re-release of the film considering that three films mentioned in the ad (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Last House on the Left, and The Exorcist) were released a few years later. However, this is just a bit of nitpicking.

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Final Words:

George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is one of the great stories of independent cinema: a midnight hit turned box-office smash that became one of the most influential films of all time. After decades of poor-quality prints and video transfers, Night of the Living Dead can finally be seen for the immaculately crafted film that it is thanks to a new 4K restoration, scanned from the original camera negative and supervised by Romero himself. Stark, haunting, and more relevant than ever, Night of the Living Dead can finally be seen as it was intended in high definition.

When Mill Creek Entertainment released a sub-standard Blu-ray edition of Night of the Living Dead last October, we recommended that fans wait for Criterion to release this painstaking restoration transfer of the film. Those who followed our advice will be well rewarded with this release as it surpasses our initial expectations.

SS06

Basket Case

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: February 27, 2018

Region: Region A & B

Length: 91 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Title

Basket Case (1982) was the feature film debut of Frank Henenlotter—the mastermind behind a number of schlocky genre titles including Brain Damage (1988), Frankenhooker (1990), and the two completely unnecessary sequels to Basket Case. The most infamous of these is undoubtedly this debut effort. Many will be surprised to learn that the film has earned the privilege of a 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Wonders never cease…

The story is as simple as it is ridiculous as it follows the adventures of an oddball named Duane Bradley (when you see the word “oddball,” read “bat-shit crazy guy”). The back of the Blu-ray case claims that he is a “pretty ordinary guy,” but this is only true if you happen to live in an insane asylum. He carries his formerly conjoined and grossly deformed twin around in a padlocked basket. He and his twin travel around and exact revenge on those responsible for separating them, but the freak in the basket sometimes becomes jealous when Duane’s focus isn’t entirely on him and this causes him to murder anyone that he believes may come between them.

The Twin in the Basket

Belial in his basket.

The film was filmed on 16mm film in 1980s New York with a shoestring budget and became a staple of the 42nd Street grindhouse circuit, and its reputation grew with time (with some help from the home video market). The film’s cult status is especially significant because these films tend to split audiences. Either you love a certain cult film or you hate it… This particular reviewer must confess that he isn’t loving this one. It is simply too campy and outlandish, but these qualities are exactly what endears the film to those who enjoy it.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray disc in their usual sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck and artwork based on the original one-sheet design. This case and its artwork are further protected by an O-Card (or slipcover) with additional artwork that sweetens an already attractive presentation.

One Sheet

The film’s original one-sheet.

There is also an attractively illustrated booklet that includes an essay entitled “Case History” by Michael Gingold and a comic strip by Martin Trafford entitled “Cham-pain in the Park!” Transfer information and production credits are also included.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet and O-Card are only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Limited Edition Display

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate. Supplemental materials are generously described within the menu so that the viewer knows exactly what they are about to watch. This is helpful because some of these features have vague titles.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

By some phenomenon that calls all reason and logic into question, Basket Case has been given an outstanding 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art from the film’s original 16mm negative (with a 35mm interpositive utilized as a secondary source for certain moments in the film). The restoration was approved by Frank Henenlotter and the results are much better than this film deserves. Obviously, the film suffers from its own production methods, but this transfer certainly represents the film in the best possible light. The transfer’s grain structure is kept in check throughout most of the film but can occasionally shift and become more prominent during those moments when the original negative couldn’t be used. Fortunately, this never really becomes problematic or distracting. As a matter of fact, it is preferable to see the format’s heavy grain than to have it scrubbed clean. It adds a filmic texture to the proceedings that actually adds to the film’s gritty atmosphere. This is an extremely clean image for the most part with only occasional instances of dirt and debris. Fine detail, depth, and clarity are about as good as anyone could possibly expect from a low budget 16mm production. The film also looks quite good in motion when compared to other transfers of the film.

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Sound Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s English Mono Linear PCM audio transfer of the restored audio track features clean and clear dialogue and featured reasonably well-rendered effects and music. It suffers from the low rent production methods but these issues aren’t terribly distracting and it is unreasonable to expect anything better than what we are given here.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Frank Henenlotter and Kevin Van Hentenryck

Arrow has seen fit to produce this brand new commentary track that brings the director and primary actor responsible for the film together. This is a light and enjoyable track that fans are sure to enjoy and the duo actually gives the listener some interesting information about the production along the way.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Frank Henenlotter, Edgar Ievins, Beverly Bonner, and Scooter McRae

This archival track has been carried over from one of the film’s other releases and actually covers similar territory as the first. Luckily, this older track is unique enough to offer the listener enough substantial information to make it worth the avid fan’s time.

Basket Case Outtakes – (06:13)

This is a short reel of outtakes from the production.

Slash of the Knife (1976) — with optional Commentary Track – (30:13)

It’s too bad that more supplemental packages don’t include short films by the filmmaker responsible for the main feature. It seems like such additions should be standard by now. This rarely seen black and white short was made by Henenlotter years before Basket Case became a reality. It is mentioned a number of times in some of the other features on this disc, so including it here is more than appropriate. As a matter of fact, many cast members from Basket Case are featured in the short. It is a mock public service announcement of sorts about “America’s Uncircumcised” (no really). The optional commentary track by Frank Henenlotter and Mike Bencivenga offers the viewer a certain amount of background information and sweetens the deal considerably.

Slash of the Knife Outtakes – (05:30)

Surprisingly, Arrow also includes an outtake reel from Slash of the Knife as an adjunct to the short.

Slash of the Knife Image Gallery

As if the commentary track and outtake weren’t enough, fans are also given a still gallery from the Slash of the Knife short.

Belial’s Dream (2017) — with optional Commentary Track – (04:49)

Belial’s Dream is an unusual stop-motion short directed by Robert Morgan. It covers a dream in the mind of the famous deformed twin known as Belial.

Making Belial’s Dream – (02:06)

This extremely short “making of” featurette about the production of Belial’s Dream isn’t particularly comprehensive, but who really expects a two-minute featurette about the making of a five-minute film to be brimming with information?

What’s in the Basket? – (01:18:41)

This feature-length examination of all three of Henenlotter’s Basket Case films is certain to thrill those who admire the series. It is also a good way for those who have not yet seen the sequels to learn a bit about them. Most will agree that this is one of the most substantial supplements on the entire disc.

The Latvian Connection: The Making of Basket Case – (27:33)

The Latvian Connection is presented in sepia and covers the making of Basket Case through interviews with Edgar Ievins (producer), Ilze Balodis (actress and casting), Ugis Nigals (special effects artist and associate producer), and Kika Nigals (Belial handler). The half-hour program covers a lot of territory and is certainly worth seeing if you happen to be a fan of the film.

Basket Case at MoMA – (37:12)

The Museum of Modern Art held a special restoration screening of the film and this feature presents the special Q&A panel that was held at that event. Frank Henenlotter, Kevin Van Hentenryck, Beverly Bonner, Maryellen Schultz, Florence Schultz, and Ugis Nigals were all participants and are featured throughout this footage. The audio quality isn’t always top-notch, but the material discussed is consistently interesting—and will be twice as engaging if one actually enjoys the movie. There is a lot of information here.

The Frisson of Fission: Basket Case, Conjoined Twins, and ‘Freaks’ in Cinema – (23:03)

The Frission of Fission is an instructive visual essay by Travis Crawford that contextualizes Basket Case as one in a line of films about “freaks” and “outcasts.” It adds to one’s appreciation of the film and is an extremely engaging experience.

Me and the Bradley Boys – (16:24)

Kevin Van Hentenryck discusses a number of pertinent areas of interest in regards to Basket Case—including production memories, his approach to portraying the role of Duane, his acting experiences, and secrets about how certain scenes were pulled off by the production team.

Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins – (08:55)

Those who were paying close attention to the film might remember seeing a pair of twin nurses. This short piece focuses in on the actresses who portrayed these nurses (Florence and Maryellen Schultz). The Schultz sisters were Frank Henenlotter’s cousins and have therefore known the director all their lives. They discuss him and their roles in the film. Fans should find it pretty interesting.

Blood, Basket and Beyond – (06:04)

Beverly Bonner discusses her memories of the low budget production and a comedy piece that she wrote about her character for the theatre (Casey: 30 Years Later). It is short and engaging.

Belial Goes to the Drive-In – (06:55)

This featurette consists of an interview with Joe Bob Briggs who discusses his role in building the film’s “cult film” status. Edgar Ievins also chimes in on occasion. He discusses his discovery of the film at Cannes and taking it to Texas for a premiere. It is an interesting glimpse into the history of the film’s reputation.

In Search of the Hotel Broslin – (16:08)

Frank Henenlotter and R.A. “The Rugged Man” Thorburn trace the film’s locations (or they trace those that still exist). The footage was shot in 2001 and offers a chance for comparison.

A Brief Interview with Director Frank Henenlotter – (03:50)

This isn’t really an interview with Frank Henenlotter. It is an interview with a younger nude actor who spouts nothing but nonsense. It is meant to be humorous and it may be mildly amusing. However, it really serves no practical purpose.

Basket Case 3 1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley – (08:30)

This is another tongue-in-cheek featurette that serves as a mockumentary about the fictional Duane Bradley. Again, it may be mildly amusing but doesn’t really earn its place on the disc.

Promo Gallery

The promo gallery contains theatrical trailers, television spots, and radio spots and offers a real look at how the film was marketed upon its release.

Theatrical Trailers – (04:54)

Television Spot – (00:55)

Radio Spot – (01:51)

Image Galleries

The image galleries aren’t unlike those on other releases and offers promotional stills, behind the scenes photos, and ephemera from the release of the film.

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Final Words:

Those who enjoy Basket Case should know that this is the ultimate version of the film on home video. The 4K restoration transfer is masterful and the supplemental package is overwhelming. However, the film isn’t for everyone. Even those who enjoy slasher and splatter films might be less than impressed with this one.

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