Thursday, May 14

Ruining a Classic: NoShame Shames Fulci

I love the vintage delirium of Fulci's The Gates of Hell (City of the Living Dead). It manages to capture the insane nonsense malaise of the maestro's later work yet be as patently classic as his other work from that era.

This is why I felt the need to point out NoShame's Italian DVD of the film just might be the worst treatment Fulci has received on home video yet. The studio had a good reputation with Horror fans both domestically and abroad until they folded, but here they exhibited the skill of a bunch of fucking amateurs.

The primary culprit with this presentation is a practice known as digital noise reduction or DNR. The Gates of Hell is an extremely grainy film, reflective of the cheap 35mm stock used during fillming. DNR is an algorithm that automatically detects and eliminates instances of dirt and flecks on film. Studios do this to either forgo the expensive process of manual "by-hand" restoration or to appease the general perception that film grain is somehow bad. When done intelligently and with a gentle hand; DNR can be nearly transparent to the eye.

The only problem is that "grain" is inherent to conventional film as a natural reaction to the development process. The resulting image is comprised of tiny specks of silver halide after emulsion--or "grain." The fine detail seen on DVD and especially in HD is grain. In this case, NoShame obviously cranked the grain reduction to 11 to destroy everything.

The DNR makes an amazingly smeary mess of the picture from going nuts trying to keep up with erasing the grain. It's an unwatchable video "stew" that's painful to the eyes. NoShame also artifically boosted the contrast and color, making fleshtones pinkish and black now a grayish hue.

Thankfully, the Anchor Bay DVD from 2000 and Blue Underground's reissue is excellent. Appropriately grainy and drab just like the film has always looked. The film will look absolutely stunning if Blue Underground are smart and utilize this transfer for their eventual (fingers crossed) Blu-ray release without ever letting DNR touch it.

(NoShame Italy Left / Anchor Bay & Blue Underground Right)

So yeah, next time you see DVD Drive-In, A/V Maniacs, or a whole host of other online DVD review sites speak of grain as a bad thing--just smirk at their naive observations knowing you know better.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

That's a shame...

To0 bad actually, I've always liked NoShame's work in the past. Guess this is why they're no longer.

Jayson Kennedy said...

The biggest problem NoShame had with their U.S. DVDs was the ghosting caused by improper PAL-to-NTSC conversion. After this one I swore off getting any other of their Italian discs. Funny thing is Xploited Cinema remarked on their listing (now removed) that this CoTD disc has the best image quality. Nah...

Johnny 666 said...

Wow, thanks for posting this. I have the Anchor Bay dvd, and thought it looked fine, but I had heard about the DNR process, but never understood what it meant. thanks for giving a detailed explanation. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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