Tuesday, April 26

Impressions of Second Sight's new British DVD of Warlock (1989)

Just to recap how I felt about Steve Miner's Warlock, here's an excerpt of my previous thoughts: "Warlock only dips its toes into the horror genre while primarily focusing on the more fantastic aspects of sorcery and mythology surrounding its battling characters from long ago...every twist feels like a bloom of creativity instead of posturing hyperbole or plot convenience...these little touches act as great propellant to keep watching and the lack of grisly violence is more than made up for by Julian Sands's ruthlessly menacing performance...far more I expected going in and easily outclasses similar films like Necronomicon: Book of Dead (1993) or even Wishmaster (1997). Definitely one to either revisit or see for the first time like myself."

So I was pretty excited to see Warlock finally released on DVD outside of the States. To my knowledge, until now the film has only seen a disc release in its native country. Unforunately, Second Sight's debut is two steps forward and one back. The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced, progressive, boasts strong color, and shows very little damage. On the other hand, Trimark's U.S. DVD was taken from an old unmatted full frame video master that was quite dark. Essentially a slightly better-than-LaserDisc transfer.

There's a 20th Century Fox logo on the Second Sight's back cover and on the opening of the film. I'm assuming Second Sight got the source tape from the giant studio. Fox probably isn't too invested in Warlock, so I have to again assume Second Sight are responsible for the issue that plagues this new transfer--digital noise reduction. Its typical smoothed over appearance and smeary edges remain throughout the duration.

It's certainly not the worst example I've seen on the standard def format, but it's sad to see still applied in 2011. Finer textures, like hair and clothing, tend to clump together in a silky mass. As par the course with noise reduction, image "lag" intensifies with how intense the motion is on-screen. Grain structure is, of course, gone along with fine detail even in close-ups. The disc is only single-layer and I can only believe the distributor lazily applied the DNR to ease any compression problems (which pop up anyway). Yes, this presentation does look better than Trimark's DVD; however, it's still not up to snuff. Even if some blocking occurred, Second Sight should have just thrown Warlock onto disc untouched, it would have looked noticeably better.

As for supplements, there are exactly zero (unlike the Trimark's trailer) along with only Dolby stereo audio (like the Trimark). The Second Sight still might be worth picking up if you're a big fan, but wait until the disc drops in price. Given how basic the whole thing is, that's bound to occur soon.

(direct disc captures, saved as uncompressed .pngs, click for full size)


Craig Edwards said...

I wasn't expecting all that much when I planted my tushie in a theater seat 20-ish years ago - but Warlock proved to be a delightfully nasty bit of cinema - totally agree with you there! (The sequel, sadly, does not match even sequel-reduced expectations). I would like to own this - but I'll wait until it gets a proper release here Stateside. Thanks for the heads-up!

Svante said...

Even the HDTV version I saw a while back had some pretty heavy DNR to it, so this DVD might come from that source.

Though compared to the horrible Trimark DVD (even my old swedish VHS looks way better) this is a huge upgrade ;)

Hope to see a BD someday with the filmgrain intact, as this is one of my favorites from the 80:s :)

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?

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